Jack Merlin Watling, 23 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Houthis go on offensive after suicide bombings in Sanaa. As Yemen teeters on the edge of civil war, Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa are advancing on forces loyal to President Hadi. They captured the strategic Taiz airport on Sunday, as the UN Security Council met to debate the crisis. Many foreign embassies have moved to Aden and fears are rising of a full-blown civil war between proxies of Iran and the Sunni Arab states.
NATO: Russia threatens to aim nukes at Danish ships if Denmark offers radar assistance to NATO. The Russian ambassador in Copenhagen dealt a further blow to Russian relations with Europe, saying that if Danish ships contributed their radar systems to the NATO Shield missile defence system, “Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles."
TUNISIA: Third gunman on the run. Security services are hunting for a third suspect in the Bardo Museum massacre in which 23 people were killed. Authorities have so far arrested twenty suspects in connection with the attack, ten of whom are believed to be directly involved. Two gunmen were shot by security forces after taking hostages.
MONDAY 23 MARCH 2015
GAZA: UN inquiry reports on 2015 Gaza war. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the conflict, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians. The Independent Commission of Inquiry has been examining violations by both sides, including accusations of indiscriminate shelling and Israeli attacks against U.N. schools. The report comes amid increasing criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his bullish rhetoric over Palestine prior to Israel’s recent election. Netanyahu has requested that the report not be released.
GERMANY: Tsipras confronts Merkel on first official visit to Berlin. The Greek Prime Minister has been in tense negotiations with Germany over economic support for Greece, especially since the EU halted bailout payments pending economic reforms by the Greek government. Talks are likely to be heated, but Merkel has admitted that expectations from the meeting are low.
CHINA / INDIA: Will Asia’s biggest powers finally solve their border issues? A dispute over the 2,500-mile frontier between India and China has long been a source of tension, and the last 17 rounds of negotiation have yielded scant results. However many analysts are hopeful that India’s new administration under Narendra Modi may be able to push things forward.
BOTSWANA: African Elephant Summit aims to halt the Ivory trade. Representatives and heads of state from over 30 African countries have been making preparations to burn their confiscated stocks of ivory. The dramatic decline in the numbers of African elephants is an ecological disaster and a serious blow to the tourism industry in several states, notably Tanzania. The ability of African governments to police the illegal trade in ivory is also a key test of governance.
NIGERIA: Lagos hosts Pan-African investment conference. The three day annual meet-up brings together business leaders and investors from across the continent to seek new opportunities in emerging markets.
CUBA: EU Foreign Affairs chief visits Havana (until 24th). Europe’s relations with Cuba have been less fraught than ties between Washington and Havana, but economic relations have been minimal. With a thaw in Cuban-US relations, the EU will seek new opportunities for economic and development cooperation. Federica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign affairs, will be meeting with president Raul Castro.
PAKISTAN: Chinese president attends Pakistan Day celebrations. The public holiday commemorates the Lahore Resolution of 1940, which demanded the creation of a Muslim state within the subcontinent. China, the biggest exporter of arms to Pakistan, is working to expand its influence there as the United States steps back. The Emir of Qatar will also attend.
TUESDAY 24 MARCH 2015
THAILAND: Court decides fate of Uyghur family fleeing China. An escalating crackdown by Chinese authorities has prompted many members of this Muslim minority from North East China to flee, mostly via Turkey. The Teklimakan family, including 13 children, has been detained in Thailand for over eleven months. Beijing takes a hard line against countries supporting Uyghur refugees.
VIETNAM: Last round of talks in Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement. A free trade deal would be a boost to Vietnam’s economy, but many details still need to be worked out covering taxation, intellectual property laws and protection of certain industries.
KENYA: Trial of alleged ivory smuggler. Kenya recently burnt stocks of ivory in a public demonstration of the government’s commitment to stamp out the trade (see above), but poaching remains widespread. Feisal Mohammed Ali is believed to have had killed at least 114 elephants, and his trial will be seen as a test of progress in tackling the crisis that is causing both ecological and economic damage to East Africa.
WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH 2015
GREECE: Independence Day exposes political divisions. A mass parade is planned in Athens, but domestic tensions are running high in the shadow of the economic crisis. Demonstrators from the far left may clash with ethno-nationalist Golden Dawn supporters, and both groups could clash with police.
ITALY: Court begins appeal hearing in Amanda Knox murder trial. Convicted of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, Knox was acquitted on appeal in 2011, only to be re-convicted in absentia in 2014. Media coverage of the trial, particularly in the United States, has caused considerable embarrassment for Italy’s judiciary. Knox is currently in the US but could face a battle against extradition.
BAHRAIN: Trial of opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman. The leader of the Shiite Al-Wefaq movement is accused of inciting his followers to violence against the government. His supporters are likely to protest against the hearings, prompting a heavy police clampdown.
Editing by Paul Raymond.