Jack Merlin Watling, 23 April 2015
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Bombing continues despite Saudi declared halt and backroom negotiations. The Saudi-led Coalition announced on Tuesday night an end to Operation Decisive Storm. Within twelve hours however bombing had resumed. Negotiations are ongoing between the Houthis allied to former President Saleh, the Saudi Coalition and President Hadi. Any proposals are not expected to satisfy Yemen’s Southern separatist Hirak movement which is battling Saleh and the Houthis in Aden. Meanwhile Al Qaeda and other militant groups continue to gain ground, exacerbating the situation.
UKRAINE: Russia massing troops and weapons on Ukrainian border. US officials have accused Russia of deploying air defence systems inside separatist regions of eastern Ukraine raising the scale of their military involvement in the conflict and breaching the terms of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement. The Russians have also been accused of carrying out training exercises for Ukrainian separatists, including in the use of drones, while US and UK military personnel train Ukraine’s military.
SOUTH SUDAN: Peace deal in jeopardy after violence leaves nearly 40 dead. Army spokespeople have claimed the situation is under control but aid groups on the ground have suspended operations and anticipate the situation to deteriorate further.
THURSDAY 23 APRIL 2015
ANGOLA: Renowned investigative journalist on trial for corruption allegations. Rafael Marques de Morais, an award winning journalist, praised for his detailed and determined reporting on corruption, faces charges of defamation against seven generals and business leaders in relation to his reporting on the diamond industry in Angola. If convicted Rafael faces nine years in prison and up to a $1.2 million fine. The trial has been denounced as an attempt by the regime of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to silence press criticism.
MEDITERRANEAN: Europe rethinks policy on migrants at sea. An emergency meeting of the European Council is to be held in Brussels to clarify European policy on migrant boats in the Mediterranean after almost 2000 migrants died at sea over the past week. They are expected to double the cash for EU border authorities and discuss plans to target people smugglers in North Africa. A fierce debate divides the council over search and rescue priorities in the mediterranean however.
GREECE: Tsipras meets Merkel as Greece stalls on pledged reforms. Greece has continued to test the patience of its creditors, increasing the likelihood of its exit from the Euro, as the government delays implementing promised reforms. The EU has consequently withheld access to over €7.2 billion in bailout funds. Tsipras will meet with Merkel ahead of a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers which will convene to assess Greece’s progress.
GEORGIA: President of Belarus brings business to Georgia on state visit. President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Tbilisi on Wednesday evening and will meet his Georgian counterpart on Thursday to discuss bilateral agreements to support trade, particularly in the agricultural sector. However the visit will also see a number of less publicised agreements aimed at tackling organized and financial crime.
IRAN: Nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 continue. Both parties are pushing ahead to work out the detailed wording of a treaty to be completed by the end of June.
FRIDAY 24 APRIL 2015
TURKEY: Protests mark Centenary anniversary of Armenian genocide. Mass demonstrations are expected in Taksim square in Istanbul two days after the President of Armenia called for a normalisation of relations with Turkey. The Turkish government remains bullish however and has withdrawn its ambassador from Austria after the Austrian Parliament affirmed that it recognised the Armenian genocide.
ASEAN: Showdown over Chinese ‘expansionism’ expected at summit in Malaysia. Many member states feel threatened by China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea and led by the Philippines are attempting to force a diplomatic confrontation. Chinese diplomats have been frantically trying to avoid the topic from becoming an ASEAN issue.
GREECE: Riga gathering of EU finance ministers as Greece runs out of cash. Greece must secure a deal in Riga or the Greek government could be forced to choose between paying its employees or its creditors. Each course could prove disastrous, either causing a domestic backlash, or its departure from the Eurozone.
US: Sentencing of CIA officer convicted of leaking information to the New York Times. Jeffrey Sterling was found guilty of nine counts, including six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defence information and one count of obstruction of justice after he handed the New York Times documents relating to a failed American espionage operation targeting Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. The Obama administration has come under widespread criticism for its targeting of whistleblowers.
CANADA: Arctic Council meet ahead of Paris 2015 Climate Conference. The loss of sea ice in the Arctic has raised serious environmental concerns. The Arctic Council, which meets every two years, aims to improve cooperation among its members to promote the environment and economy of the North Sea. Negotiations between Russia and the US could be uncomfortable however as the US assumes chairmanship of the council.
SATURDAY 25 APRIL 2015
TOGO: Presidential Election. The election was originally postponed after the opposition accused the incumbent’s supporters of registering multiple times to vote. The government has also faced criticism from human rights groups for preventing anti-government demonstrations in the run up to the election. President Gnassingbe has ruled Togo for a decade and is expected to win, although he faces serious opposition including from a former colleague of French President Mitterrand.
TURKEY: 100th anniversary of the First World War Gallipoli campaign. Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia and the British Royal family will attend the commemorations for those who died serving in the Australia New Zealand Army Corps during World War One. The ANZAC commemorations, with recognitions of mutual suffering, have proved significant in fostering warm relations between Turkey and the Australasian states.
SUNDAY 26 APRIL 2015
US: Japanese Prime Minister on state visit, seeking progress on free trade deal. Japan is pushing for a lucrative trans-Pacific free trade partnership. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to meet with Obama on 28 April after negotiations in Boston with John Kerry. He is also expected to visit a WWII memorial. Japan has come under international censure for its failure to recognise Japanese war crimes during the conflict, especially the forcing of women into prostitution.
KAZAKHSTAN: Presidential ‘election.’ The decision of incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev to hold early elections, originally scheduled for 2016, is puzzling in the absence of any opposition. Nazarbayev has been widely condemned for his authoritarian rule. In the previous election he attained 95% of the vote and, despite the Kazakh constitution limiting Presidents to two five-year terms in office, Nazarbayev has a personal dispensation to run as many times as he wishes.