Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 5 July 2011


News Summary

NORTH AFRICA

Tripoli (Libya). France’s Minister of Defence Gerard Lounge said in a statement quoted by AFP that French arms’ delivery to the opposition in Libya is no longer necessary. He pointed out that a political organisation is emerging different from the one in Tripoli. Due to this reason, there is no need any more for parachuting arms to the insurgents. In Lounge’s opinion, now the territories in Libya organize their autonomy and this will further allow them to build up their external relations with partners outside the country.

Benghazi (Libya). En route to Benghazi’s airport after a successful trip to northeastern Libya, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, made a sudden change of plans and got out of his official car and marched into “Liberation” Square to demonstrate his support for a group of local citizens shouting for more freedom and democracy, Huriyet Daily News reports.

Proceeding to a podium with dozens of journalists amid a crowd shouting, “Thank you, Turkey” and “Erdoğan, Turkey, Muslim,” Davutoğlu told the Libyan people in Arabic: “I salute you all, the sons of Omar Mukhtar.” The foreign minister was referring to Libya’s legendary opposition figure, Omar Mukhtar, who organized and led the domestic resistance to Italy’s colonization of Libya, which began in 1912, for nearly 20 years.

MIDDLE EAST

Aden (Yemen). Fierce battles broke out on Monday evening between al-Qaeda militants and army forces in Yemen ‘s southern province of Abyan, killing at least 12 al-Qaeda militants and seven soldiers and injuring dozens of others from both sides, local army officers told Xinhua.

al-Qaeda militants waged offensive armed attacks from three directions targeting the besieged 25th Mechanized Brigade in Zinjibar city, the provincial capital of Abyan, killing seven soldiers, the officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Xinhua, adding that clashes were still going on across the northeastern outskirts of the al-Qaeda-seized Zinjibar.

Manama (Bahrain). Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a seat at Bahrain’s crisis talks, but it carries a critical voice in everything from the tone of debate to the eventual offers on the table, Al Arabiya reports. The Agency elaborates that after four months of Shiite-led protests and harsh crackdowns, Saudi Arabia has become the protector, patron and political gatekeeper for Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy in the Gulf leadership’s front-line fight against the Arab Spring.

How Bahrain’s rulers approach the talks – whose first official session is scheduled for today – largely depends on how far Saudi Arabia is willing to allow concessions on its tiny Gulf neighbor. For the powerful Saudi royal family and its Gulf partners, Bahrain represents a line that cannot be crossed. Al Arabiya predicts that protest demonstrations against the regime in Bahrain will continue whatever the outcome of the national dialogue on political change that begins on 5 July.

Amman (Jordan). The Arab Spring protests in Jordan will continue during the summer as a weekly demonstration and people will march out to the streets every Friday after the regular prayer, Al Arabiya writes. Jordan has a badly troubled economy, but its overall issues are more complex: a divide between the king’s Bedouin allies and the Palestinian refugee families who want more political power; worries over nearby Israel, which many Jordanians see as a frightening presence; grumbling discontent over Queen Rania, whose beauty and fashion sense make her popular in the West, but who is seen with suspicion in conservative Bedouin circles.

Damascus (Syria). Riots in Syria’s central province of Hama is escalating as young protestors blocked roads and sabotaged facilities, the private-owned al-Watan newspaper reported. The protesters, mostly aging between 15 and 25, blocked all the roads leading to the Hama city and set fire to trash containers and tires. Some of them broke into a recruitment department and were confronted by guards. The paper quoted residents as saying that the escalation was triggered by the demonstrators’ resentment with the sacking of Hama’s governor and the arrest of rioters by security agents. The city of Hama was the scene of a huge anti-government protest last Friday, in which activists said around 400,000 people flooded the streets calling for the removal of the government.

Diyarbakir (Turkey). Two soldiers were shot dead Tuesday in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in an attack believed to be the work of Kurdish rebels, security sources said, cited by AFP.The soldiers, wearing civilian clothes, came under fire while walking on the main street of Yuksekova town, a hotbed of Kurdish militancy in the province of Hakkari, which borders Iran and Iraq, the sources said. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), fighting for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast, was believed to be behind the attack.

Ankara (Turkey). Mission term of Turkish troops working within the scope of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) will be extended, Xinhua informed. Turkish Parliamentary General Assembly on Tuesday will discuss a Prime Ministry motion, authorizing the government to extend the mission term of Turkish troops in Lebanon for another year, according to the report.

The decision to send Turkish troops to Lebanon was adopted on 5 September 2006, in the Parliament and the mission term of Turkish troops has been extended for four times since then.

Ankara (Turkey). Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek was elected as new speaker of Parliament in legislative elections following three rounds of voting, Huriyet daily wrote. Responding to questions from the media after Çiçek’s election, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said they could fulfill their promise to draft a new constitution if they reached a consensus with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Erdoğan also said he wanted the CHP to be involved in the work on a new constitution as the main opposition party, but added that they were on the wrong path. All deputies of the CHP, including party chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, joined Parliament for the election, but remained seated in silence without voting.

BALKANS

Athens (Greece). Germany will contribute 5.05 billion Euro ($7.3 billion) to a fifth slice of aid for Greece provided by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, a press report, quoted by AFP, says . “By mid July, Greece is to receive 12 billion Euro in loans, including 5.05 billion in German credits,” the German tabloid Bild said, without identifying its source. Payment is to be made by the state-owned bank KfW in response to a request from the government, the newspaper added.

Belgrade (Serbia). Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger has welcomed the deal between Belgrade and Pristina, Serbian newspaper Blic reports. “The agreement is the first good step towards the two countries’ future and it will affect Serbia’s European integration positively,” said Spindelegger. According to Austria’s first diplomat the deal aims at giving Kosovo’s residents an opportunity to travel across Serbia.

Sofia (Bulgaria). “When I assumed the entire responsibility and Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) formed a government, we saved Bulgaria from a Greek – Portuguese scenario”, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told journalists, commenting on the government’s performance two years after the party’s election victory, the German news magazine FOCUS reported.

(Middle East & Balkans News, 5 July 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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