Jack Merlin Watling, 12 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAQ: Military begins offensive on Tikrit. After liberating the strategic town of Al-Alam, Iraq’s military supported by Shiite militias is battling to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown from Islamic State. If successful the attack will be the first time a city has been recaptured from IS control.
PAKISTAN: Paramilitaries storm HQ of Pakistan’s fourth largest political party. Protests broke out after the armed raid at the MQM’s party headquarters, seizing arms and detaining party members on accusations of orchestrating extortion and murder. MQM is the leading party in Karachi and with many parties wielding paramilitary wings the incident may spark an increase in political violence. MQM has called for a national non-violent protest.
SWEDEN: 10 year arms deal with Saudi Arabia torn up after diplomatic dispute. Sweden’s foreign minister was due to speak to a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo this week, but after it emerged she would speak about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, the gulf monarchy vetoed her address. Sweden has consequently scrapped a ten year arms deal, causing outcry among Sweden’s business community.
THURSDAY, 12 MARCH 2015
INDONESIA: Australian drug traffickers make final appeal to escape execution. Indonesia has refused to pardon the two Australians believed to be leaders of the ‘Bali Nine’ drug smugglers. Indonesia, along with fellow South East Asian states, maintains a hard line on drug trafficking and the appeal is unlikely to be successful.
SLOVAKIA: Eastern European countries meet to discuss conflict in Ukraine. Foreign ministers from the Ukraine, the Baltic and Nordic states and the Visegrad group of Eastern European states meet to discuss the security threat posed by Russia, including energy security. Russia’s state gas company Gazprom has demanded that Kiev pay for gas supplies to Russian-backed rebels.
FRIDAY, 13 MARCH 2015
SRI LANKA: Modi state visit signals major shift in foreign policy. Strong connections between the Sri Lankan government and China, as well as repression of the Hindu Tamil minority had led to tense relations with India. President Maithripala Sirisena won elections in January on promises of a strategic pivot towards India. Mr Modi’s visit will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister since 1987 and is expected to bring investment and bilateral trade treaties.
SOUTH AFRICA: Prosecutors start appeal against Pistorius culpable homicide sentence. Many were outraged when the Olympian was not found guilty of murder over the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors will be seeking to extend his sentence.
EGYPT: Government woos prospective investors. US Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India are expected to attend the conference at a luxury Red Sea resort, aiming to put the Egyptian economy back on track after four years of political instability. Despite ongoing violence, particularly in the Sinai region, investor confidence in Egypt is growing after a series of reforms which pushed annual GDP growth to over 4%.
ETHIOPIA: UN Security Council and African Union discuss sanctions against South Sudan. In the face of growing optimism after a provisional peace agreement, continued clashes have prompted the US to back sanctions against the government. The UN delegation will also likely discuss Boko Haram’s growth in West Africa.
GREECE: Tsipras meets European president to seek poverty relief. As Greece seeks European support in tackling its debt crisis, Alexis Tsipras is also hoping to receive European Commission grants to help the government boost job growth and tackle spiraling poverty. The EU has not confirmed that the meeting will take place.
SATURDAY, 14 MARCH 2015
JAPAN: UN hosts conference on dealing with major disasters. The conference takes place in Tohoku, a region that was badly hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and will look to agree a joint policy on dealing with natural disasters.
SUNDAY, 15 MARCH 2015
IRAN: P5+1 nuclear talks in Geneva. This round will be the first since Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to the United States Congress and an attempt by Republicans in the Senate to undermine the talks with a letter campaign to Tehran. Most analysts expect that neither Israel nor the Republicans will have much effect after IAEA inspectors found Iran to be cooperative on a visit to Tehran earlier this week.
BRAZIL: Protesters call for President Dilma Rousseff to be impeached. The Petrobras scandal is likely to ensnare the government after accusations emerged of a massive kickback scheme on contracts with the state oil company. The scandal has already knocked over $100 billion from the company’s value.
BAHRAIN: Court rules on appeal against travel ban and prison sentence for human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. Rajab is a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East advisory board and is president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He was sentenced with a travel ban, a six month suspended sentence and a large fine in January.
QATAR: Institute of International Finance meets to discuss “global energy at a turning point.” With a glut of available oil and slowing demand, prices are set to stay low, while Apple, Citigroup and the Gulf States invest heavily in solar energy. The result is a dramatic change in the global energy market and the conference, which will host representatives of central banks, may result in further commitments to invest in renewables.
Editing by Paul Raymond.