Jack Merlin Watling, 6 April, 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Battle for Aden as medical aid flown in. Houthi rebels are pushing for total control of Aden, having claimed they had taken the port on Sunday. They have also threatened attacks across the Saudi border. The Red Cross said on Sunday that it was planning to fly two aeroplanes into Yemen on Monday carrying medical supplies and aid workers. Meanwhile protests and a deadly attack on security forces have been reported in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-dominated Eastern Province, likely in response to Saudi operations in Yemen.
TURKEY: British troops begin training Syrian opposition forces. The US led initiative, set to start this week, will put thousands of Syrians through training, equip them and deploy them inside Syria. The fighters taking part have been ‘screened’ but the effectiveness of this screening will be watched carefully.
EGYPT: Ongoing anti-state violence. After a policeman was killed in Sunday’s bombing of the May 15th Bridge in Cairo’s upmarket Zamalek neighbourhood, a further security crackdown is expected in and around Cairo. Violence has also been flaring in Sinai and may prompt additional military action.
MONDAY 6 APRIL 2015
PAKISTAN / YEMEN: Special parliamentary session to decide whether to join Saudis bombing Yemen. Pakistan has close military ties to Saudi Arabia but is being careful not to provoke the Houthi rebels’ Iranian backers, who have plans to pipe natural gas to their southern neighbour.
RUSSIA: Next round of Syrian peace talks. Previous peace talks held by Russia have been denounced by opposition groups because of Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. US diplomatic chief John Kerry’s comments that the US would be willing to negotiate with Assad have increased expectations of diplomatic efforts, and the Moscow talks could lead to further negotiations.
INDONESIA: Verdict in case of Australian drug traffickers on death row. Postponed several times amid frantic diplomatic efforts to obtain their release, the two Australians, accused of being in the “Bali 9” drug trafficking ring are to hear their final verdict on Monday after President Joko Widodo rejected their plea for clemency.
VIETNAM: Russian PM on state visit to Vietnam and Thailand. Dimitri Medvedev will hold negotiations with President Truong Tan Sang immediately after Vietnam signed a free trade agreement with the EU. Russia has been seeking economic and strategic allies to mitigate the effect of western economic sanctions and is also working to strengthen China’s position in Asia.
TUESDAY 7 APRIL 2015
ISRAEL: Hacker group Anonymous threaten “electronic holocaust” against Israel. The internet activists have threatened to bring down government websites and web infrastructure for Israeli banks on Tuesday in protest against “crimes in the Palestinian territories.” Anonymous brought down many Israeli websites during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2012.
IRAN: Turkish President on state visit despite tensions. President Erdogan is set to sign twelve bilateral agreements to boost trade and cooperation. Meanwhile Turkey and Iran back opposing sides in Syria. An Iranian MP called for the visit to be cancelled after Erdogan’s comments that “Iran is trying to dominate the region,” and that it “cannot be tolerated.”
INDIA: Government vaccination programme gets under way. The Indian government is launching a massive campaign to vaccinate children across rural communities in a bid to tackle diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, TB, polio, hepatitis B and measles.
NEPAL: Mass protests planned by opposition pushing for new constitution. Government negotiations with opposition groups have been in deadlock for months. The opposition once again plans to take to the streets to bring the capital to a standstill.
WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL 2015
NIGERIA: West African leaders discuss Boko Haram. A summit in Abuja will bring together military commanders from the African states contributing to an anti-Boko Haram task force. Success in fighting the extremist group, which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, will be a crucial test for Nigeria’s President Elect, Muhammadu Buhari.
RUSSIA: Greek PM on state visit to Moscow. Alexis Tsipras has expressed sympathy for Russia as the EU imposes sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine. The Greek PM is also seeking alternative funding options for Greek loans. Russia meanwhile is seeking to break its economic isolation, and friendly relations with a state that controls access to the Mediterranean are an attractive proposition.
INDIA: Former PM Manmohan Singh in the dock over corruption charges. The Central Bureau of Investigation’s wavering over whether the evidence merited a prosecution has already raised concerns that Singh’s supporters may put political pressure on the judiciary. The charges relate to accusations of corruption in the coal industry.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 2 April 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAN: Will Kerry walk away from nuclear talks? The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry would stay at the talks in Switzerland until today, but was prepared to leave if a deal could not be reached. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius left the talks early on Wednesday, saying they had not advanced enough for “an immediate deal”.
TURKEY: Courthouse shootout raises fears of further street violence. A deadly attack on a courthouse by left-wing militants has raised the spectre of further violence between police and protesters. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said authorities will not let people stage unauthorized protests “for even one minute”. More violence between protestors and police is likely.
YEMEN: Foreign nationals prepare for evacuation as Saudi mulls ground invasion. A senior Saudi military official hinted that a ground invasion could happen in days to crush Houthi militants. Meanwhile India, Britain and America, which all have significant populations in Yemen, are expected to evacuate them in the coming days.
NIGERIA: Aftermath of Presidential election. Incoming President Mohamadou Buhari said he wishes to meet with incumbent Goodluck Jonathan to ensure good will between the two camps. The last election resulted in widespread ethnic violence. Buhari also said he would spare no effort to fight Boko Haram.
ISRAEL / PALESTINE / FRANCE: French efforts to revive Israel / Palestine peace process. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he expected discussions to begin at the UN in the coming days over a resolution that would address borders, Jerusalem and refugees as a basis for renewed talks between the two parties.
THURSDAY 2 APRIL 2015
UNITED KINGDOM: Televised leaders’ debates ahead of May election. The leaders of seven parties will debate their policies on live TV after prolonged wrangling over who could take part. All eyes are on opposition leader Ed Miliband, who has so far failed to convincingly connect with the public.
ARGENTINA: President’s speech likely to reassert Falklands claim. Cristina Fernandez, who has repeatedly clashed with the UK over the islands, will address veterans of the Falklands War as part of “Malvinas Day” commemorations. Last year she accused the UK of “obsolete military colonialism” over the islands.
MALAWI: Government burns ivory stockpiles. Malawi will become the latest African country to burn its inventory of ivory in a public campaign to discourage poaching. Over 46 states are currently implementing an agreement to tackle the killing of almost 30,000 elephants annually that is causing elephant populations to rapidly decline.
HONG KONG: British banker accused of murder and mutilation of two women enters plea. Rurik Jutting, a 29 year old Cambridge graduate, is charged with killing two Indonesians in his apartment in November 2014. One of the bodies was found in a suitcase on his balcony. The trial is expected to begin on 6 July.
FRIDAY 3 APRIL 2015
NEPAL: Opposition closes down government. As part of the ongoing protests regarding Nepal's new constitution, opposition parties said they will shut down all government institutions across the country for four days. Meanwhile, thousands of doctors went on strike this week to support a colleague who has been on a hunger strike for 10 days demanding reforms in medical education and services.
GHANA: IMF expected to approve $940 million loan. The extended credit facility is intended to salvage Ghana’s troubled economy, which has been hit by falling commodity prices and the currency’s depreciation. The crisis has led to severe power shortages.
TURKEY: Trial of teenager on charges of insulting the President. The 16-year-old, known by his initials of M.E.A., is part of an online group called “Democratic High School Students”. He reportedly addressed a public gathering to say that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was “the leader of corruption, bribery and theft”.
KYRGYZSTAN: Putin tests waters for his Eurasian Dream. A meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose grouping of post-Soviet states, could give clues as to whether those states are willing to bind themselves closer to the Kremlin as Russia’s economy struggles. Notably, Ukraine will be in attendance.
SATURDAY 4 APRIL 2015
SIERRA LEONE: Lockdown to tackle spread of Ebola. The “Zero Ebola” campaign is aimed to keep 2.5 million people at home on set dates “to reflect and to pray for the eradication of this disease from our country," in the words of President Ernest Bai Koroma. While the outbreak appears to have peaked, the virus remains a serious threat.
EGYPT: Feminist leader on trial for unauthorised protests. Azza Soliman was having lunch with friends when she witnessed the shooting of activist Shaima Sabbagh and went to the prosecutor’s office to give evidence. She was then detained, but later posted her testimony on Facebook. She is accused of protesting illegally and of breaching public order and security.
SUNDAY 5 APRIL 2015
INDIA: Anti-graft helpline returns. The anti-corruption service lets people report demands for bribes by government workers in the Indian capital. It received more than 4,000 calls in the first few hours of its launch in 2014, and is now to be re-instated by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 30 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Will Saudis and Egyptians send in ground troops? Officials say ground forces could be deployed within days. Arab leaders in Egypt agreed on an Arab military force to counter regional threats and said Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen will continue until Shia Houthi rebels “withdraw and surrender their weapons”.
NIGERIA: Results of Presidential election. Polling was extended for a second day on Sunday following technical problems with electronic poll booths. The poll was the first in which an opposition candidate has a serious chance of unseating the incumbent, but it has already triggered violence, which could spread.
MONDAY 30 MARCH 2015
KUWAIT / SYRIA: Humanitarian conference for Syria. UN head Ban Ki-Moon and Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos host a meeting to rally vital international financial support to meet the vast humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees. Over 12 million people, including 5.6 million children, now need assistance inside Syria, while some 3.9 million people are registered as refugees across the region. Last year the conference raised pledges of US $2.4 Billion.
JAPAN: Indian defence minister visits for bilateral talks. Manohar Parrikar is seeking to strengthen a strategic defence partnership with Japan and to boost Indian exports. Asia’s second- and third-largest economies agreed in September to strengthen defence ties, a move not welcomed by China, which has expressed concerns over ‘encirclement’.
UKRAINE: European Commission President and EU Foreign Policy chief visit. Jean-Claude Junker and Federica Mogherini visit Kiev as Ukraine tries to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, expanding the breach between Russia and Europe.
UK: Litvinenko inquiry resumes. The inquiry is reviewing evidence to establish whether Litvinenko was assassinated by the Russian government in 2006. The inquiry had been halted for eleven days while witnesses were asked to provide evidence.
TANZANIA: Will a new constitution strengthen moves for Zanzibar’s independence? A referendum set for 30 April could scrap the 1977 constitution, which was written during one-party rule. But while supporters say the new version would strengthen democratic institutions, some fear it could put wind in the sails of the island of Zanzibar’s campaign for full independence.
TUESDAY 31 MARCH 2015
IRAN: Deadline for political framework agreement in P5+1 nuclear negotiations. All sides have sought to raise expectations ahead of the deadline, thereby increasing the stakes for any side that walks away from the deal. A two to three-page agreement is expected to be released. Iran has said that it will only agree if all economic sanctions are removed.
JAPAN: Fukushima nuclear cleanup expected to miss target. Over 20,000 tons of radioactive water is expected to remain untreated beyond the Japanese government’s self-imposed 31 March deadline.
US: Man faces trial for shooting police in Ferguson. Jeffrey Williams admits to firing shots that killed two officers, but claims that he was beaten while being taken into custody. After a report denounced the Fergusson police department for institutional racism and police shootings sparked riots in 2014, this trial will further raise racial tensions across the United States.
WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL 2015
PALESTINE / ISRAEL: Palestine joins International Criminal Court. Much to Israel’s discomfort, Palestine’s membership of the court opens up the possibility of war crimes charges against Israel. Notably, the agreement could also intensify intra-Palestinian rifts, as the PLO could also use the court against their Hamas rivals. A UN report recently accused Hamas of committing war crimes.
QATAR: Hosts talks between warring Yemeni factions. President Hadi of Yemen requested that Qatar host talks between the government and Houthi rebels who have seized much of the country including the capital. The various sides had agreed in principle to talks in Doha. Since a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes last week it is unclear if, or when, any talks will take place.
RUSSIA: Appeals of five men accused of Nemtsov assassination. The five Chechens were arrested after Putin said he would personally oversee the investigation into Nemtsov’s murder. The Kremlin has a long history of blaming Chechens for acts of political violence and many consider the trial to be a farce.
IRAN: Revolution Day. The anniversary of the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran will see speeches from senior politicians that will bear careful scrutiny, irrespective of whether a nuclear deal is met the day before.
UKRAINE: Energy Minister says Ukraine will stop buying Russian gas. Falling prices have allowed Ukraine to increase gas imports from the EU, attempting to end its dependency on Russia as Russia has sought to use gas as an economic weapon to win concessions for Russian backed rebels in East Ukraine.
SOUTH SUDAN: Pre-transitional period begins as agreed in peace talks. This would see negotiations for the formation of a national unity government before 9 July, attempting to end a bitter civil war.
INTERNATIONAL: April Fools’ Day. The tradition of playing practical jokes on the first of April goes back to the Middle Ages. Watch out for prank news stories! Create a free website Powered by Start your own free website A surprisingly easy drag & drop site creator. Learn more.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 26 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
YEMEN: Houthis advance on Aden as Saudi forces gather at border. The Shiite rebels have been trading threats with Riyadh as they gain more territory. Meanwhile, senior Yemeni officials have denied claims that President Hadi has fled the country and his military leaders are under arrest.
ISRAEL: President gives Netanyahu mandate to form government. After talks with the main parties following last week’s legislative elections, Reuven Rivlin has officially asked former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to form the next coalition government. A right-wing coalition is almost inevitable, but negotiations on its exact form could take weeks.
THURSDAY 26 MARCH 2015
YEMEN: Arab League discusses intervention. Arab Foreign Ministers meet in Egypt to discuss Yemeni President Hadi’s plea for the 22-nation body "to provide immediately all means necessary, including military intervention, to protect Yemen and its people."
CHINA: International forum promotes “solidarity and cooperation” among Asian nations. Chinese President Xi Jingping will give a keynote address at the annual Boao Forum, which brings together leaders from across Asia. Talks between Xi and his Sri Lankan counterpart are of particular interest - Sri Lanka has started to warm its ties with China’s rival India since elections earlier this year.
BRUSSELS: President of Kyrgyzstan meets senior EU officials. Kyrgyzstan is a key Russian ally and a leading supporter of the Eurasian Union, in part due to Kyrgyzstan’s economic dependence on Russian trade. Almazbek Atambayev will meet with the Presidents of the European Parliament and European Commission as relations with the EU and Russia deteriorate over Ukraine.
FRIDAY 27 MARCH 2015
SIERRA LEONE: Government imposes new curfew to tackle Ebola. Although the epidemic is slowing, an uptick in new cases through March has forced the government to impose a three day lock down throughout the country, including in the capital of Freetown. Approximately 3,700 people are believed to have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone within the last year.
US: Hillary Clinton faces subpoena deadline. After it emerged that Clinton had used her private email while secretary of state, the House Committee on Benghazi - responsible for investigating the death of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens in September 2012 - has ordered her to hand over private emails. The scandal may be costly for Clinton should she decide to run for President.
US: Greek defence minister on week long tour of US, visiting diaspora. Although the visit is in part to participate in Independence Day celebrations organized by the Greek community, the US may seek to obtain assurances that Greece will back the EU in Ukraine after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed sympathy for Russia’s position.
UK: North Sea oil workers decide whether to strike. Members of Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, may decide to strike after talks collapsed over decreasing pay and holiday. The strike could deliver a serious blow to Britain’s aging oil industry.
SATURDAY 28 MARCH 2015
NIGERIA: Presidential elections. President Goodluck Jonathan faces down former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, in a closely-fought election. Concerns have been raised about vote-buying and other forms of electoral fraud. If Jonathan’s supporters are seen as having cheated, the opposition backlash could lead to a serious deterioration in an already dire security situation.
EGYPT: Tense Arab League summit to discuss Libya, Yemen and Islamic State. Arab heads of state are meeting in Cairo to discuss regional stability and security, but with members of the league backing opposing factions in Libya, Syria and Yemen, negotiations are likely to be very heated. Qatar will find itself isolated after withdrawing its ambassador from Egypt earlier this year following Egypt’s push for an international intervention in Libya.
TANZANIA: Indian foreign minister visits to boost economic ties. India has been slow to invest across Africa but is now seeking to expand bilateral ties with Tanzania and South Africa. Both countries are in desperate need of investment as key infrastructure deteriorates. South Africa in particular faces power shortages due to its ageing electricity network.
SUNDAY 29 MARCH 2015
SINGAPORE: State funeral for “Father of Singapore” Lee Kuan Yew. The funeral will take place at the National University of Singapore before a private cremation. The public have been able to pay their respects since Monday, when the body was laid in state before Parliament.
TUNISIA: World leaders invited to march against terrorism. The Bardo museum in Tunis reopened on Wednesday following the death of 22 civilians in a terror attack on March 18. Salma Elloumi Rekik, Minister for Tourism, will lead a commemorative march through central Tunis. World leaders are expected to attend.
UZBEKISTAN: President “re-elected” amid speculation of succession. Dictator Islam Karimov has led Uzbekistan since 1989. His three “opponents” are unknown and have largely used their campaigns to praise Karimov’s record. Nevertheless at the age of 77, questions are being raised about a succession. A power struggle appears to be unfolding with the President’s daughter under house arrest.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
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.
Jack Merlin Watling, 19 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
TUNISIA: Test of resilience as tourists massacred in prominent museum. Masked gunmen in military uniform killed at least 19 people on Wednesday, most of them foreign tourists. The attackers were shot by security forces. The attack will have a serious impact on tourism, a crucial industry, and has raised concerns that Islamic State-linked groups are operating in the country. Tunisians have viewed it as an attack on their democracy, and the government will likely respond with further operations against militant cells.
ISRAEL: Netanyahu victory meets cold reception in Washington. Defying predictions of a leftist surge, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won around a quarter of the seats in parliamentary elections, likely giving him the mandate to form a government. The White House condemned his use of “divisive” rhetoric about Arabs and rejection of a Palestinian state, further underlining Likud’s sour relations with the Obama administration.
GERMANY: Anarchists protest opening of European Central Bank HQ. Over ninety officers were injured after protesters hurled stones and tear gas at police during the opening of the new European Central Bank building in Frankfurt. Cars and barricades were set on fire and several hundred protesters were detained.
THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2015
THAILAND: High Court decides whether to prosecute former Prime Minister. The attorney general pressed criminal charges against Yingluck Shinawatra in February, alleging negligence related to a rice subsidy programme. Shinawatra was forced out of office by a military coup in May last year. If convicted she could face ten years in prison.
MOROCCO: Libyan rivals meet for UN-backed talks. Indirect negotiations between Libya’s House of Representatives and the General National Congress have so far made little progress towards a political settlement. On the ground, both sides have taken to tit-for-tat bombing of infrastructure.
RUSSIA: Iraq’s foreign minister visits Moscow. Iraq is looking for more support as its army, backed by Shiite militias, continues an offensive against the Islamic State. Russia is the second largest exporter of arms in the world, and broadly backs Baghdad’s allies in the region.
EGYPT: Al Jazeera journalists appear in court. Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed face their second trial for “aiding a terrorist organization” and “spreading false news”.
JAPAN: Bilateral security talks with China. One of Asia’s key rivalries has been particularly tense of late, with shows of force and anti-Japanese protests in China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. This meeting of Foreign Ministers is the first of its kind in four years and may herald easing tensions in the South China Sea.
INDONESIA: Australian drug traffickers make final appeal against execution. Indonesia has refused to pardon two Australians believed to be leaders of the ‘Bali Nine’ drug gang. Along with fellow South East Asian states, it maintains a hard line on drug trafficking and the appeal is unlikely to be successful. This hearing was scheduled for 12 March but was delayed by one week.
UNITED STATES: House Foreign Affairs Committee debates negotiations with Iran. The hearing, amid repeated Republic attempts to undermine the Obama administration's talks with the Iranians in Geneva, is likely to be a robust exchange of views.
FRIDAY, 20 MARCH 2015
AUSTRIA: Summit on tracking Jihadis travelling through Europe. Balkan foreign and interior ministers meet to coordinate their departments’ efforts to prevent foreign fighters from travelling to Syria. Italy is also expected to attend.
KAZAKHSTAN: President meets Russian, Belarussian counterparts to discuss security cooperation. The three founders of the Eurasian Customs Union will address problems in integration created by ongoing fighting in Ukraine. The Eurasian project is widely seen as an attempt by Putin to rebuild Russian political control over former Soviet states.
SOUTH SUDAN: Supreme Court reviews legality of elections. Political wrangling in South Sudan continues as the opposition seeks to challenge the legality of scheduled elections. The challenge is fraught with political dangers as fighting has lessened during AU mediated peace talks in Addis Ababa.
SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2015
INTERNATIONAL: Persian New Year “Nowruz”. Celebrations are held worldwide for the Persian New Year, with national festivities in Iran and Kurdish areas. Attempts by minorities in Crimea, Waziristan and North West China to celebrate Nowruz could provoke a reaction from local authorities. President Obama’s Nowruz message, at a sensitive time in Iran-US relations will also be worth watching.
TURKEY: PKK Leader expected to give Nowruz message. Nowruz celebrations will be politically sensitive, especially in Diyarbakir (Turkey). The imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, is expected to deliver a speech to his supporters as peace talks between Turkey and the PKK have stalled. Turkish security forces will respond severely if protests mount.
SOUTH KOREA: South Korea meets Japan and China for security talks. In a busy week for East Asian diplomacy, these talks aim to alleviate tensions between the three states and to pave the way for increased economic cooperation.
SUNDAY 22 MARCH 2015
PAKISTAN: Chinese President on state visit. China has placed considerable pressure on Pakistan to tackle extremists operating out of North Waziristan and crossing into China. This culminated in a costly and ineffective offensive by the Pakistani military in the summer of 2014. Bilateral relations have been unstable, but China is Pakistan’s main arms supplier. Beijing will be aiming to increase its influence as the US reduces its involvement.
US: Afghan President on state visit to extend US troop deployment in Afghanistan. The US has planned to withdraw large numbers of troops from Afghanistan, but President Ghani has said that these troops are essential and will be addressing a joint session of Congress on 24 March to encourage policymakers to extend US commitments in his country.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
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.
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.
Jack Merlin Watling, 9 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
IRAQ: Government and militias advance on Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The national army, backed by largely Shiite militias and the national air force along with Iranian advisors, has recaptured parts of Tikrit and surrounding villages from Islamic State. The campaign is the government’s biggest push so far against the extremist group, and its success or failure could affect plans for an assault on Mosul. Meanwhile Baghdad has asked for international air support to protect Iraq’s cultural treasures from the group.
MALI: Attacks over weekend threaten to destabilise peace agreement. A rocket attack against of a UN base in the north and a shooting in the capital Bamako appear to be an attempt to destabilise a peace settlement reached between the government and Tuareg rebels in Algiers. The preliminary deal was meant to end fighting with northern separatists, but some rebels have demanded more time before joining the accord.
GREECE: Finance Minister warns of new elections if EU rejects debt restructuring. Yanis Varoufakis told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera on Sunday that Greece would need to consider a referendum or election if the EU did not accept Greek proposals. This is likely to be seen as a threat as the ECB begins its largest ever round of government bond purchases.
MONDAY, 9 MARCH 2015
IRAN: International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visit Iran. If the IAEA’s push to secure access to Iran’s nuclear facilities fails, it could raise suspicions Iran is negotiating in bad faith in the P5+1 talks. On Sunday President Obama said his administration would walk away from negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program unless the United States can verify that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.
TURKEY: Erdogan chairs second cabinet meeting, replacing Prime Minister. Turkey’s first directly elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been accused of trying to establish presidential rule in Turkey. Presidents have historically stepped away from the day to day operation of government. Erdogan has also stepped up measures against journalists and political opponents.
JAPAN: Angela Merkel seeks stronger bilateral ties on state visit. The trip is Merkel’s first visit to Japan since the G8 summit in 2008. After the execution by Islamic State militants of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, Japan has sought to strengthen its partnerships in counterterrorism. Merkel is also likely to discuss Ukraine as the EU considers strengthening sanctions against Russia.
EU: European Central Bank expected to push €1.1 trillion into circulation. The ECB announced in Cyprus last week that they would be buying government bonds in a long term programme of quantitative easing to reinvigorate the Eurozone. The programme will last until September 2016. On the same day Greece is expected to provide the details of planned governmental reforms.
US: Barack Obama meets European Council president to discuss Ukraine and TTIP. Donald Tusk will seek to coordinate European plans to expand sanctions against Russia as a potential alternative to American intentions of arming the Ukrainian military. The US and UK have already deployed military advisers but have not yet supplied lethal aid. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a US-EU Free Trade agreement, will also be on the agenda.
TUESDAY, 10 MARCH 2015
EGYPT: Fate of elections in the balance after final decision on constitutionality. The Supreme Court last week postponed parliamentary elections set for 22 March, ruling the elections law unconstitutional. A final decision could push elections back indefinitely. Egypt has been ruled by presidential decree since July 2013.
RUSSIA: EU-Russia showdown at World Trade Organization over treaty breaches. The EU sought WTO arbitration after accusing Russia of violating agreed tariffs on imported goods. The WTO may require Russia to pay compensation. At the hearing on Tuesday the WTO will decide on whether to convene an arbitration panel. Russia will push to have the case dropped.
TURKMENISTAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on state visit to boost trade. Against the backdrop of the P5+1 nuclear talks which could lead to the lifting of sanctions on Iran, President Rouhani is attempting to double Iran’s trade with Turkmenistan through a new bilateral agreement.
POLAND: Minister of Defence debates threat posed by Russia. Tomasz Siemoniak will use a public debate to discuss the security situation in Eastern Europe.
WEDNESDAY, 11 MARCH 2015
ISRAEL: Citizens abroad begin to cast their votes. Postal votes kick off parliamentary elections to be held domestically on 17 March. Despite a boost in the polls after Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech to the US Congress last week, the election is expected to be tightly fought. Up to 35,000 people attended an anti-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday at which former Mossad chief Meir Dagan strongly criticised the Prime Minister.
UKRAINE: IMF expected to approve $17.5 billion bailout for Ukraine. The Ukrainian economy is disintegrating and the IMF is expected to approve a loan to assist Ukraine in prosecuting the war ravaging the East of the country. The bailout was dependent upon a reform programme.
Editing by Paul Raymond.
Jack Merlin Watling, 5 March 2015.
ONES TO WATCH
US: Race relations in the spotlight as Selma anniversary approaches. The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, at which Barack Obama will speak, has been overshadowed by the killing of a homeless man by police in LA and the release of a scathing report on the “culture of racism” in the Ferguson, Missouri police dept. Sunday marks half a century since the Bloody Sunday clashes between civil rights activists and state troopers.
WEST BANK: Palestinian Liberation Organisation discusses ending security co-operation with Israel. In exchange for security assistance, Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. However Netanyahu refused to hand over these funds in late 2014 prompting the PA to threaten to withdraw their cooperation ahead of the Israeli election on 17 March. Most analysts expect that they will continue to co-operate with Israel.
THURSDAY, 5 MARCH 2015
VENEZUELA: Anniversary of the death of Hugo Chavez. Ongoing clashes between the police and opposition groups may escalate on the anniversary of Chavez’s death. Venezuela’s economy is also suffering as the low price of oil slashes government revenue and scarcity of basic goods pushes the price of a packet of 36 condoms to $755.
LIBYA: House of Representatives returns to peace talks in Morocco. The internationally recognised government has agreed to return to the negotiation table after pulling out last week because of a suicide bombing. However, just hours before the peace talks, both sides have engaged in “tit-for-tat” airstrikes against oil infrastructure.
SYRIA / FRANCE: Syrian National Council chairman Khaled Khoja visits Francois Hollande. The visit by the Syrian opposition-in-exile’s chief follows France stepping up its role in attacks against Islamic State. After French politicians made an unofficial visit to Damascus, the Syrian opposition is lobbying against European countries opening diplomatic relations with Assad in response to the Islamic State.
CHINA: Increased military spending to be announced at National People’s Congress. China now has the second largest military budget in the world. China is trying to expand its influence in Southern and South East Asia. With the US “pivot” of its military forces to the Pacific under the Obama administration, this increase in spending may prompt the US to focus even more resources on that part of the world.
RUSSIA: Italian PM meets with Vladimir Putin. Matteo Renzi visits Moscow to discuss Ukraine and in particular the vulnerability of the port city of Mariupol. Intermittent clashes continue in spite of an EU brokered ceasefire, although the agreement appears to be stabilising. Ukraine’s economy meanwhile is unravelling under significant pressure from Russia.
SOUTH SUDAN: Optimism as South Sudan power-sharing agreement signed. The agreement, reached by President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar in Addis Ababa has prompted hopes for an end to a war that has killed over ten thousand South Sudanese people in the last fifteen months. The agreement will bring in a transitional government on 1 April, and a unity government by 9 July.
GREECE: European Central Bank likely to decide on whether to accept Greek government bonds. If it doesn’t, more injections of liquidity will be needed to keep Greece afloat.
FRIDAY, 6 MARCH 2015
RUSSIA: Alexei Navalny expected to be released from Prison. The opposition leader was jailed on 19 February, preventing him from attending protests. His reaction to the assassination of Boris Nemtsov may play a significant role in the future of the Russian opposition. Many expect a harsh crackdown on dissent as the Russian economy slides towards collapse and the war continues in Ukraine.
GULF/SOUTH KOREA: South Korean president visits rulers of United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Park Geun-hye is on a tour of the Middle East to boost Korean business opportunities. South Korea is a major arms exporter and is seeking to expand its customers beyond the Asian market.
UNITED KINGDOM: John Kerry visits to meet Gulf foreign ministers. The visit aims to coordinate joint efforts against the Islamic State with the US stepping up operations in Syria.
SATURDAY, 7 MARCH 2015
UNITED KINGDOM: Large Climate march to take place in London. As Green Party membership surges and in the run up to the UK general election, the march is entitled “Time to Act.”
EGYPT: Premier League gets underway with no one to watch. After 19 people were killed at a football match on 8 February the Egyptian government banned fans from attending matches. The Premier League was suspended, but will now resume without spectators. This may cause protests - away from the stadiums.
MALAYSIA: Department of Civil Aviation release report on disappearance of MH370 a day before the anniversary. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared with 227 passengers and caused outcry from relatives. The wreckage has still not been located. The report could prompt further criticism of how the government dealt with the crisis.
UKRAINE: Deadline for withdrawal of heavy weapons from vaguely defined de-militarised zone. The original deadline of 3 March, established by the Minsk II agreement, was postponed after fighting continued. Many are now more optimistic that the extended deadline will be met after several days with no significant fighting.
SUNDAY, 8 MARCH 2015
EGYPT: Al Jazeera journalists face trial... again. International pressure continues for the acquittal of Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, released on bail on 13 February after spending over four hundred days behind bars. The journalists are accused of “spreading false news” and being members of a terrorist organisation.
Editing by Paul Raymond.