Jack Merlin Watling, 16 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAQ: Security forces accused of war crimes as images emerge of beheadings. The Iraqi army and Shiite militias are pushing into Tikrit, but fears of reprisals against local Sunnis appear to have been confirmed after images emerged of Iraqi soldiers posing with severed heads. These revelations could jeopardise Western support for Baghdad, possibly prompting the Iraqi government to seek further aid from Iran.
SYRIA: Kerry says US will negotiate with Assad. The US has previously made Assad’s resignation a condition of any settlement, but Kerry told CBS News on Sunday that Assad would need to be a part any solution to the fighting. The shift comes after a French delegation visited Damascus, raising concerns that world powers are coming to see Assad as a lesser of two evils.
EGYPT: BP promises $12 Billion investment into Egyptian energy sector. President Sisi’s investment conference at Sharm El-Sheikh appears to have been a success, with billions of dollars worth of aid and investment promised by foreign governments and corporations. The Egyptian government will be hoping to reverse the country’s recent transition from a net energy exporter to a net energy importer.
MONDAY, 16 MARCH 2015
RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin to meet president of Kyrgyzstan after mysterious absence. The Russian President has not been seen in public since 5 March. He has been variously reported as suffering from flu, being treated for back problems, having a facelift, dying, and attending the birth of a secret lovechild. His scheduled meeting with Almazbek Atambayev in St. Petersburg is likely to draw widespread attention.
SOUTH AFRICA: Opposition asks court to review Zuma fraud charges. The National Prosecuting Authority had dropped a case involving 783 counts of fraud, corruption and money-laundering against President Jacob Zuma. The opposition Democratic Alliance party will lodge an appeal at the North Gauteng High Court to see the key charges reinstated.
IRAN: EU foreign ministers meet Zarif to shore up nuclear deal. Diplomats have been stressing the good will on both sides of the negotiations, but with a deadline for a political agreement set for 31 March, all parties are likely to step up efforts towards a comprehensive deal.
GERMANY: Poroshenko on state visit to Berlin. The Ukrainian president is meeting with Angela Merkel to discuss EU efforts to support Ukraine’s government amidst an economic crisis and fighting against Russian-backed separatists. Poroshenko said on Sunday that he wanted sanctions expanded against Russia, while EU officials have said they may be relaxed if Russia complies with the Minsk II agreement.
NORTH KOREA: U.N. presents strategy on international abductions. Defectors from the totalitarian state often disappear or are killed in their destination countries. Pyongyang has also been accused of abducting hundreds of Japanese citizens. The U.N. will outline an international strategy to address the issue.
NIGERIA: Oil and Gas conference in Abuja while African Union tackles Boko Haram. The conference will allow Nigeria to exhibit investment opportunities and share developments in the energy industry. Ongoing insecurity in the north and widespread corruption may dampen enthusiasm, but an African Union offensive against Boko Haram has made considerable gains in the last week. Nigeria’s energy industry is centred in the Niger delta in the South where Boko Haram does not have an active presence.
INDIA: Head of International Monetary Fund meets Modi to discuss outlook. Christine Lagarde meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior officials to discuss India’s economic outlook after the government presented its budget. Modi has been carrying out serious economic reforms and will be keen to strengthen relations with the IMF. Lagarde will travel on to China for similar talks after the Communist Party National Congress.
TUESDAY, 17 MARCH 2015
ISRAEL: Knesset elections. The election campaign has centred upon relations with Washington and nuclear negotiations with Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned on a national security platform, but is by no means certain to win: the opposition Labour Party has seen a sudden surge in support. The results of the election are just the first step in the process of forming a government. Israeli administrations are traditionally coalitions formed after a long process of wrangling.
UAE: US Citizen may face five years in prison for “cyber-slander” of employer. Ryan Pate, a helicopter mechanic at Abu Dhabi based Global Aerospace Logistics, will stand trial for comments made on his Facebook page while visiting family in Florida.
WEDNESDAY, 18 MARCH 2015
ISRAEL: Election results announced.
INDIA: Appeal against the ban of BBC documentary on rape in India. The documentary, India’s Daughter, features interviews with rapists, including one of the rapists involved in a gang rape and murder of a 23 year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi in 2012. The documentary was controversial and the ban has sparked fierce debate in the local press.
UK: Chancellor delivers final budget ahead of May elections. George Osborne will present his annual budget to the House of Commons at 12:30 GMT. Just weeks before the General Election, the budget is likely to be used to increase recent Conservative gains in the polls. Most analysts expect a hung Parliament.
Editing by Paul Raymond.