Jack Merlin Watling, 23 February 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
SOUTH AFRICA: Scores remain trapped after fire at gold mine. Hundreds of miners were rescued on Sunday following the disaster at the Kusasalethu Gold Mine near Carletonville, about an hour from Johannesburg. The fire raises further questions about safety in the country’s mines following similar accidents. Concerns in the mining sector are a key political battleground in South Africa, and this could cause more problems for the ruling ANC.
PALESTINE / ISRAEL: Will the Palestinians end security cooperation with Israel? President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to do so if Israel continues to withhold tax money it owes the Palestinian Authority. So far Israel has blocked $280 million in transfers to Ramallah following the Palestinians’ bid to join the International Criminal Court. But the Palestinians are unlikely to make a decision prior to Israel’s March 17 elections, after which the money could be released.
MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY
GREECE: Will creditors give Athens four months’ grace? The leftist Syriza government has until late Monday night to come up with a list of structural reforms such as deregulation and measures to tackle tax evasion, which could see creditors extend its bailout programme by four months.
SOUTH SUDAN: Peace talks hit crisis point. Ahead of a midnight deadline for a peace deal, South Sudan’s warring parties are gathering in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. NewsFixed sources say former Vice-President Riek Machar is already in town, but President Salva Kirr is still refusing to come, saying he can't keep on talking to rebels indefinitely. The war has left over 10,000 dead and 1.5 million internally displaced.
UKRAINE: Parliament debates reforms to win international loan. Ukraine’s finances are looking increasingly precarious as another ceasefire unravels in the east. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan would help - but only on the condition the government improves transparency and tackles corruption.
EGYPT: Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy in court. The two journalists were released on bail but will face a re-trial on charges of “spreading false news”. Indications are that the regime is trying to draw the widely-criticised case to a close, especially as it seeks international support for its operations in Libya.
AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister faces more criticism on national security. Tony Abbott addresses parliament after it emerged that the gunman in the Sydney cafe siege was on bail at the time, prompting growing concerns over national security procedures.
LIBYA: Rival parties meet for peace talks in Morocco. The country’s two rival de facto governments, based out of Tripoli and Tobruk respectively, meet for UN-backed talks in Morocco. The UN has been trying to organise talks inside Libya, but the deteriorating security situation makes that unlikely in the short term.
UK: HSBC announces annual results following tax scandal. HSBC has been beset by scandal over a subsidiary in Switzerland that assisted in widespread tax avoidance and evasion. Enormous profits would likely trigger further criticism.
TUESDAY 24 FEBRUARY
ALGERIA: Anti-fracking protesters call for national day of action. Residents of Ain Salah province have mounted ongoing protests against fracking, but are trying to expand their opposition to the national level after the government pressed ahead with the controversial plans.
GHANA: Opposition parties demonstrate over fuel costs and power supply. The government has come under increasing pressure to reduce the cost of fuel in line with plummeting international oil prices and stabilise the country’s erratic power supply.
WEDNESDAY 25 FEBRUARY
RUSSIA: President of Cyprus visits Vladimir Putin to sign cooperation agreements. Cyprus has long been a key destination for Russian capital and investment. Rumours abound that Cyprus will give Russia access to an airbase on the island, alongside cooperation agreements on shipping, trade and banking. Russia is seeking to evade US and EU attempts to diplomatically isolate the Kremlin.
LIBYA: UN Security Council receives latest report from UN Support Mission in Libya. After Egyptian calls for an intervention were rebuffed the UN has a number of options including a proposal from Egypt, Russia and Jordan to end the arms embargo on Libya and build a national army. This risks escalating a proxy conflict between Egypt and Qatar.
Editing by Paul Raymond.