Tag Archives: Palestine

West Asia Round up-July 2022

Abstract:

After 19 months into his Presidency the US Administration decided that President Joe Biden embark on a ‘mending fences’ visit to West Asia including Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia to interact bilaterally and regionally with GCC++ leaders in Jeddah at the Security and Development Summit . While Khashoggi’s assassination and Biden’s berating of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his election campaign were the bitter pills both sides decided to swallow. Saudi Arabia and the US will cooperate on a range of future industries including 5G networks, enhanced cyber security, and space exploration, in addition to public health for which several agreements were signed.

Russia-Ukraine war was the backdrop as higher energy production to ease supply constraints especially to Europe remained a priority. So did update on the status of negotiations on the Iranian Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) while assuring its Gulf and Middle East partners of USA’s continued support and interest in their security. He said ‘USA was not going anywhere’. Biden also made greater efforts to persuade the Saudi’s to near- normalize ties with Tel Aviv even as Riyadh opened up its airspace for all airlines including El AL. Saudi FM, however, clarified that no normalization possible until the two state solution with Palestine is reached and opening of the air space was not a precursor either.

Biden also attended the I2U2 Summit leaders from India, Israel and UAE; it is considered to be a techno-economic extension of the Abraham Accords. It was agreed by all four sides to expedite the mutually beneficial projects in the six designated areas to begin with. This QUAD in once year with the appointed Sherpas and experts at beck and call as well as PPP enterprise seems to have achieved much more in less than a year including a Virtual Summit of leaders.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz claimed that Israel could use Abraham Accords and normalization of relations with Arab countries to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and develop confidence building measures. Even Biden asked Palestinian President Abbas to cooperate but the Palestinians feel that the Abraham Accords are a mechanism to bypass their cause. Meanwhile, interim Israeli PM Yair Lapid met with Jordanian King Abdullah II to discuss the regional situation as Israeli leadership was getting ready for an eventual confrontation with Iran if the various reports are to be believed.

One of the outcomes of the Biden visit was that U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of C-17 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to the United Arab Emirates for an estimated cost of $980.4 million, according to Pentagon.

Saudi Crown Prince visited France and held discussions in a more charming manner with Macron. Saudi Arabia and France agreed to boost cooperation on renewable energy including solar, wind and clean hydrogen following the guidelines of the Paris Climate Accords. France -UAE also signed an Energy Cooperation Deal.

As the Russia -US contest via Kiev continues, Tehran hosted Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan under the Astana Format on Syria. President Ebrahim Raisi reiterated “We stress the importance of implementing the previous agreements among the guarantor states – Russia, Iran and Turkey- on Syria and announce our support for the political resolution in the country along with combating terrorism till eliminating it completely”. He however beseeched his Turkish counterpart not to attack on Northern Syrians as this will embolden the terrorist groups. Erdogan and Raisi also co-chaired the 7th Meeting of the Türkiye-Iran High Level Cooperation Council.

Prime Minister Modi virtually participated in the I2 U2 Summit

A trilateral meeting of focal points of France, India and UAE was held in which the three sides exchanged perspectives on the Indo-Pacific region and explored the potential areas of trilateral cooperation including Maritime Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Blue Economy, Regional Connectivity, Cooperation in Multilateral Fora, Energy and Food Security, Innovation and Startups, Supply Chain Resilience and Cultural and People-to-People Cooperation. They also discussed the next steps to be taken for furthering trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
India strongly condemned the recent killings in the Zakho district of Dohuk Governatorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which is a clear violation of the country’s sovereignty and a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra spoke with Dr. Ali Bagheri Kani, Deputy Minister for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran and discussed various elements of bilateral relations including progress on the Chabahar Port. Foreign Secretary underscored India’s commitment to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Iran in addressing shared opportunities and challenges. Both sides also discussed international and regional issues including Afghanistan as per MEA.

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US President’s visit to Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia

US President Joe Biden made his first trip to the West Asian region after coming to power. In Israel, he called himself as a fellow Zionist and claimed that the connection between US and Israel is bone deep. Biden during his two days stay in Jerusalem met with Prime Minister Yair Lapid and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden’s interactions and speeches were largely concentrated to his personal ties and bilateral relations with minimal reference to solving Israel-Palestine conflict. He however expressed support for two-state solution without referring to Palestinians by name. Moreover, any discussion on new US initiated peace plan was muted. Biden briefly met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and discussed about economic incentives. Joe Biden administration is keen to re-open its consulate in East Jerusalem.

In Saudi Arabia, Biden met with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman indicating re-acceptance of the controversial leader after his involvement in killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The US through the visit is seeking to solidify the alliance against Iran. Biden during his interaction with nine Arab leaders assured that the US will not de-prioritise the region that could expand the influence of Russia, China and Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to France

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the last week of July met with French President Emmanuel Macron. The visit is seen as a diplomatic rehabilitation of the Saudi Crown Prince who became infamous for his role in killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The efforts by France and other western states to court Saudi Arabia should be seen in the context of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict; slow progress to revive the nuclear deal with Iran and the recent visit by the US President Joe Biden to Jeddah. The western states are seeking to reset engagement with Saudi Arabia to counter the rising regional influence of Iran, Russia and China. Emmanuel Macron’s office dismissing criticism to meet the controversial Saudi leader argued that meeting is important at a time of global energy and food crisis. Macron’s office assured that the subject of human rights would be raised. Macron during his meeting requested Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to help in bringing down crude oil prices. Saudi Arabia is seen as integral for the diversification of energy supplies for European states. Both leaders expressed the need for ending Russia-Ukraine conflict as well as intensify cooperation to ease the effects in Europe. In case of Yemen, the French President appreciated the efforts by Saudi Arabia to find a political, global and inclusive solution under UN and hoped that the truce continues.

The Saudi Crown Prince prior to reaching France made a stop in Greece and met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on 26 July. Saudi Arabia and Greece signed agreement on renewable energy. Both leaders also talked about expanding engagement in security and promote investments. Earlier in May 2022, both states agreed to set up a joint venture to build a data cable i.e. East to Med Data Corridor which will be built by MENA HUB owned by Saudi Arabia’s STC and Greek firm, TTSA.

Protest in Iraq

The supporters of influential Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr entered the highly secure Green Zone on multiple occasions in July 2022. The protestors stormed the parliament building to prevent MPs from electing Mohammad al-Sudani who was nominated by Al-Sadr’s opponents as Prime Minister. The supporters of the Sadrist Movement also set up tents to prepare for a long sit-in at the parliament. The Sadrists are demanding fresh election to resolve the political stalemate.
Notably, during the October 2021 election, none of the political groups managed to win majority. Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sadrist Movement secured the highest number of seats winning 73 out of 329 seats. The Sadrist Movement’s political platform is based on Iraqi nationalism and opposition to foreign interference from the US as well as Iran. Al-Fatah alliance that includes Iran supported Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) managed to secure only 17 seats. The Sadrist Movement led coalition Saving the Homeland coalition that includes Al-Siyada or Sovereign Alliance and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) failed to form the government. Eventually on 13 June, MPs from the Sadrist movement resigned deepening the political chaos. It led to coordination Framework becoming the largest bloc in parliament. However, there was no agreement on appointing a new Prime Minister, President and cabinet.

Iran-Taliban Clashes

Iranian forces during clashes with Taliban killed one fighter in Kong district of Nimroz province on 31 July. According to Taliban sources, Iranian forces initiated the attack which has been denied by the Iranian government. Tasnim news agency and Iran’s state run IRNA claimed that Taliban forces entered Iranian territory in Hirmand in Sistan and Balochistan province and tried to raise their own flag. Iranian government defended the military action by suggesting that Taliban fighters had mistaken a wall constructed within Iranian territory to prevent smugglers. Taliban fighters despite repeated explanations by Iranian government have considered the wall as the borderline. Earlier in 2021, similar border incident had occurred due to the confusion over the border.

Iran’s relation with Taliban has been difficult due to harassment and persecution of Shiite Hazara community. Tehran has refused to officially recognise the Taliban that took control over Kabul in August 2021 until it is willing to accommodate other political factions and form an “inclusive” government.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s meeting with Jordanian King in Amman

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid visited Jordan on 27 July and met with Jordanian King Abdullah II. King Abdullah II mentioned that Palestinians should be part of US sponsored regional economic projects necessary for stability in the region. Jordan has urged Israel to include Palestinians in water for energy deals between both states which could be financed by Gulf States. Historically, Jordan-Israel ties were marked by hostility and both states fought wars in 1947 and 1967. During the 1967 war, Israeli forces captured West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordanian control. Jordan eventually signed peace treaty with Israel in 1994 in the aftermath of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord. Despite the peace treaty, the subject of Palestine continues to weigh on their bilateral relations. King Abdullah II during the current meeting stressed that Palestinian statehood and comprehensive and lasting peace is essential for reaching lasting peace. Moreover, he asked Israelis to honour the religious sanctity of the Al Aqsa Mosque and maintain calm in occupied East Jerusalem. On bilateral level, both states discussed about increasing economic projects in water, energy, food security and transport sectors. Amman also asked Tel Aviv to relax its grip on the flow of Jordanian exports to the occupied West Bank. Both sides also discussed about US President Joe Biden’s initiative to further normalise Israel-Arab relations to build a front against Iran.

Iran arrests Mossad Spies

Iranian police on 28 July arrested five spies allegedly linked to Israel’s external intelligence agency, Mossad. Iranian authorities did not reveal the nationality of those arrested and hinted that arrested individuals had received training for armed operations and sabotage. The individuals were reportedly given pledges from Mossad including financial promises to gather information about strategic sites from Iranian territory. Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office that oversees Mossad has refused to comment on the reported arrests. Israel in the recent months has carried out number of killings of Iranian military officials and scientists. Israel on official level did not confirm or deny their actions. Earlier on 24 July, Iranian intelligence forces arrested members of an Israeli cell who were planning to cause explosion in Isfahan. These individuals reportedly entered the state through Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Isfahan hosts some of the prominent nuclear facilities including Natanz that was targeted in 2020 and 2021.

Clash in Syria

On 26 and 27 July, clashes between local armed fighters and gangs aligned with the government security forces led to 17 deaths in the Druze majority province of Sweida in Syria. Reportedly, ten government loyalists from the Falhout faction and seven local fighters were killed. Moreover, at least 40 people were injured during the clashes. The latest violence was triggered after the abduction of two people close to local armed groups. Bashar Al Assad since 2011 has been facing domestic discontent backed by external powers to overthrow his rule. Assad however managed to retain his power due to military assistance from Russia and Iran. Assad backed fighters have gained significant ground in recent years and ordinary Syrians have complained about arbitrary detentions, roadblocks and kidnappings for ransom by these fighters. The two day long clashes finally subsided after local fighters surrounded the village headquarters of the pro-Damascus faction. The abducted locals were finally released after the violence.

Grain Silos in Beirut Port Damaged Again

Part of grain silos at Beirut port collapsed after week long fire caused by summer heat burning the grains. The northern block of the silos feel out on 31 July. The General Director of the Beirut Port Silos, Assad Haddad assured that the situation was under control. The Civil Defence Department however warned that other parts of the silos’ northern block were at high risk. The explosion at the port on 4 August 2020 had rocked the state killing 200 and injuring more than 6000 people.

The recent fire has raised criticism about the government’s ineffectiveness to manage the grain silos and overall incompetence in governance. In the aftermath of the August 20202 blast, the investigation by Lebanese authorities revealed that senior government and security officials were aware of the presence of dangerous material including ammonium nitrate stored at the port. However, none of officials have been convicted and the investigation was suspended after the implicated officials brought legal challenges against the judge who was leading the investigation.

West Asia – Review- June, 2021

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As the US decided to withdraw some of its defence equipment like Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia and some other countries, it conducted Falcon Claws 4 joint exercises with Saudi land forces. It also retaliated against Hezbollah and Iraqi militia groups justifying that the US military targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one in Iraq in response to drone attacks by the militia against US personnel and facilities in Iraq. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed “We took necessary, appropriate, deliberate action that is designed to limit the risk of escalation, but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message”. Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran in a statement named four members of the Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada faction who were killed in the attack on the Syria-Iraq border. They vowed to retaliate. Iraq’s government, wary of getting dragged into a US-Iran conflict, condemned the strikes on its territory and said it would “study all legal options” to prevent such action being repeated. Syria called the strikes a “flagrant violation of the sanctity of Syrian and Iraqi lands.” However, observers believe that these actions could have been taken within the knowledge of the Iraqi establishment. Iraq’s military issued a condemnation of the US strikes. US forces came under fire after the attacks.

On June 28-29, US and Italy organised an anti-ISIS Coalition conference which was attended by a large number of countries from the region including Saudi and Qatari and Israeli foreign ministers and the Arab League. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stressed “we must not ignore the fact that the organization is still a threat. This demands that all sides continue efforts and coordination to contain and eliminate ISIS completely.” On the sidelines of the meeting, Prince Faisal met with United Nations envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, and his counterparts from the Netherlands, Sigrid Kaag; France, Jean-Yves Le Drian; Libya, Najla al-Mangoush; Iraq, Dr. Fuad Hussein; and Jordan, Ayman al-Safadi and Joseph Borrel of EU.

Palestinian Authority faced continuous demonstrations pursuant to the death of a video blogger and activist Nizar Banat in police custody. Officials in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Fatah party accused the Gaza-ruling Hamas of plotting chaos in the West Bank and a coup against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Hamas has felt emboldened after the recent Gaza-Israel war.
President Sisi, who brokered peace between Israel and Hamas spoke to the new Israeli Pm Naftali bennet urging that reconstruction of Gaza should be the priority along with finding a permanent solution for the Israel-Palestine issue. Bennet thanked Egypt for help find two missing Israeli soldiers since 2014 Gaza and wants them back as a precondition. However, it allowed passage of relief material as well as fuel supplies. Egypt and Qatar have pledged $500 million each for reconstruction in Gaza, where two-thirds of 2 million residents are dependent on aid.

Arch enemies Iran and Israel had new leadership. While Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party could not muster enough seats the “Coalition for Change” with eight political parties across the spectrum led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet formed the government with a margin of only one seat (61 to 59) in the parliament. Netanyahu, who after his recent show of strength in the Israel -Hamas war hoped for the 5th election in two years, vowed to return to power. While Bennet became the new PM for half the term Yair Lapid became the new Foreign Minister as Benny Gantz retained his portfolio of defence ministry. First the Arab “Ra’am” Party supported the government in Israel and cut a deal to look after the interests of the Israeli Arabs and hopefully act as mediator with the Palestinians who are facing their own leadership crisis.

On the other hand the Iranians had a preconceived outcome as the ultra-conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi, head of judiciary and closer to Ayatollah, won the Presidential election by 62% votes. Economy, unemployment and spiralling inflation as well as the pandemic will be the main priority for him when he takes over in mid-August. Meanwhile, he extended his full support to the resumption of the JCPOA nuclear deal and Vienna talks. Obviously Israel is unhappy with his election and the US efforts to re-join the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) without addressing the issues of Iranian missiles and proxy militias across the region.

After his visit to Rome and meeting with Bahraini counterpart as well as Secy Blinken and others, Israeli FM Lapid visited UAE for inaugurating their Embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai while carrying forward the dialogue and to address some of the concerns regarding the Palestinian conflict with his counterpart.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Palestinian Authority have submitted a 30 items list to the Biden Administration for reviving the Peace deal with Israel. But whether those will be acceptable to Tel Aviv is a big question apart from how far US is willing to get involved, although Washington has agreed to restore its consulate in Jerusalem for maintaining relations with Ramallah.

The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq met in Baghdad to discuss the developments in the region from Israel-Palestine conflict to economic cooperation. This was their 4th meeting. First Trilateral Summit was held in Cairo in March 2019. This was also the first visit by an Egyptian President to Iraq since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 when ties broke between Egypt and Iraq. In February, the two countries had signed 12 MoUs including Iraq supplying 12 mn barrels of light crude in 2021. Jordanian FM Safadi said that Iraq must be isolated from regional interventions referring to Iranian influence. US welcomed this Arab Alliance that might help in security and economic cooperation and stability in the region. Meanwhile, Egypt has agreed to supply 700 MW of electricity to Iraq to tide over the immediate crisis.

Sudan was approved for debt relief of $2.5 bn by IMF as US sanctions had been lifted.

75 Libyan delegates met in Geneva under the aegis of UNSMIL to discuss and iron out differences over the December 24 elections. The Berlin II process also began to address security issues and to ensure steady movement forward. Holding elections and removal of foreign forces, militias and mercenaries were fundamental to the success of stability in Libya.

Post rapprochement between Qatar and Saudi led Quartet at Al Ula Summit, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani received the credentials of the new Saudi Ambassador to Doha, Prince Mansour bin Khalid bin Farhan. Likewise, Egypt has appointed a veteran diplomat, Amr el-Sherbini previously, ambassador at large at the Egyptian foreign ministry. Normalisation of Qatar’s relations with UAE and Bahrain are still moving at a slow pace.

PM Modi congratulated both Prime Minister Bennet and President elect Ebrahim Raisi hoping for continued good relations with both the countries.

Dr S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister visited Kuwait and held discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues with their leadership. In Rome he also met his Saudi counterpart among others. He also chaired a meeting with the Heads of Missions in the Gulf region and asked them to explore possibilities of early and smoother return of Indian work force which had to be evacuated under ‘Vande Bharat” missions due to pandemic and economic downturn.

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Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi emerges winner in Iranian Presidential Race

The current Chief Justice, Ebrahim Raisi appeared as the clear winner in the Presidential election held on 18 June securing 61.95 percent of total votes. The presidential election held on 18 June 2021 saw the lowest turnout at 48.8 percent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Interestingly, the no vote option received more votes than the first runner up, Mohsen Rezaei followed by the only moderate candidate; Abdolnasswer Hemmati.1 Raisi would join office in August 2021.

Raisi’s victory has consolidated the gains for the conservative faction that already controls the parliament. He enjoys good relationship with the clerical hierarchy, intelligence, security forces and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Critics have expressed concerns over possibility of renewed social oppression including arrests of journalists and activists and further curbs in the already restricted cyber space. Amnesty International has called for investigation for crime against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance against Raisi during his long tenure within the judiciary.

On the nuclear issue, the Iranian delegation made some progress to renew the JCPOA with the US. Raisi has supported the nuclear deal however, sceptics have raised concern that the new president could complicate the possible US return to the nuclear deal. The US during the talks has insisted on extending the dialogue not only on nuclear issue but also on missile programme and IRGC’s activities in the region. The new Iranian President is not likely to concede to the new demands. Meanwhile, Joe Biden administration on 10 June lifted sanctions on three former Iranian oil executives and two companies indicating US’ willingness to carry forward dialogue.

In second week of June, it was widely reported that an Iranian destroyer, Sahand and intelligence gathering vessel, Makran are sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. Iran’s Deputy Army chief, Habibollah Sayyari called the expedition as navy’s longest and most challenging voyage. Iran is hoping that it would improve its navy’s seafaring capacity and provide long term durability in facing unfavourable weather conditions in the Atlantic Ocean. The goal of the mission is inconclusive however, the US officials have concluded that the vessel may be headed to Venezuela.

Anti-Netanyahu coalition takes control over Israel

Israel since 2019 has witnessed four elections to form a stable government. Due to the fracture in the right wing coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu despite receiving highest number of seats failed to present a stable government. Netanyahu after third election in 2020 managed to form a unity government with Benny Gantz led Kahol Lavan. The unity government eventually dissolved in December 2020 leading to fourth election in March 2021. The new government led by Naftali Bennet was formed after weeks of negotiations among right wing, centrist, leftist and an Arab party to replace Netanyahu. Bennet after serving as the Prime Minister for two years would be succeeded by Yair Lapid. The uneasy coalition is highly fragile and Netanyahu is likely to use the fissures to weaken the government.

In early June, Isaac Herzog, the former leader of the Labour party has been elected as the new President by 87 votes in the 120 member Knesset. Herzog is the son of former President Chaim Herzog. He is expected to hold office for a single seven year term starting on 9 July.

Israel-Palestine issue

Israeli air force conducted series of airstrikes at several locations in Gaza on 16 June reportedly targeting Hamas meeting sites. The air raids since the ceasefire with Hamas in May were carried out in response to incendiary balloons being launched by Palestinians in Gaza. Palestinians have condemned the provocative rally carried out by Israeli ultra-nationalists in East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn” on 15 June to celebrate the Israeli takeover of the whole city after 1967 Arab-Israel war.

The parade and its prior approval was a difficult challenge for Prime Minister Naftali Bennet who has promised a pragmatic approach currently presiding over a delicate, diverse coalition government. Despite warnings about renewed escalation, Bennett went ahead with approving the rally in order to consolidate his right-wing support base. The leader of the United Arab List, Mansour Abbas who is currently a coalition partner in the Bennet led government called the rally as “an attempt to set the region on fire for political aims,” and undermine the new government.

Notably, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the racist slogans on Twitter calling it “a disgrace to the Israeli people,” adding, “The fact that there are radicals for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable.”

Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with the military chief of staff, the police commissioner and other senior security officials highlighting the need to avoid friction and protect the personal safety of both Jews and Arabs. The Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, called the march an “aggression against our people.” The Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned the march as “unacceptable diluting the efforts to reduce friction between Israel and the Palestinians.

Moreover, according a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, around 53 percent of Palestinians have favoured Hamas as the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people and only 14 percent has expressed preference for Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas’ 11 days conflict with Israeli forces in May has contributed to its increase in popularity.

In other news, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has halted “intelligence mapping” or the practice of conducting night time raids in Palestinian homes in the West Bank to derive information about the residents. IDF came under intense pressure by Israeli civil society and human rights groups i.e. Yesh Din; Physicians for Human Rights Israel and Breaking the Silence. The activist groups published a detailed report concluding arbitrary invasions of private Palestinian homes does not serve any strategic purpose and only leads to oppression and intimidation of the Palestinian population causing deep psychological trauma.

US’ UN Ambassador assures Humanitarian Relief to Syrian Refugees

The US Ambassador to Turkey, Linda Thomas-Greenfield during her visit to Turkey between 2 and 4 June, has announced that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing US$ 240 million to support humanitarian efforts for Syrian refugees settled in Turkey. The US has reportedly spent around US$ 13 billion in humanitarian relief for Syrian refugees in the last ten years. She met with UN agencies and NGO partners to provide-life saving assistance to millions.

The Ambassador met with senior Turkish leaders to discuss opportunities to strengthen bilateral ties, collectively address global challenges; upgrade the level of cooperation on Syria including management of refugees. The US recognised the crucial role of Turkey to facilitate cross border assistance and providing refugees.

Peace talks fail between Sudanese Government and Rebel Group

The transitional government in mid-June failed to accomplish the peace deal with the rebel group, Sudan Popular Liberation Movement – North led by Abdel-Aziz al Hilu. The government and PLM – N on 15 June shut down the negotiations and agreed to discuss the disputed points at a later date. Reportedly, only four out of 19 points remain unresolved. The group is demanding secular constitution; disbanding militias erected during Omar Al Bashir’s tenure and reforms in military. The government has been negotiating with the rebel group since the last two years and recently signed a declaration of principles entailing roadmap for talks. The current talks are mediated by South Sudan. PLM-N operates in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces and threatened to call for self-determination in the areas under their control in case the demands remain unfulfilled.

In other news, Sudanese transitional government has indicated that it will review the agreement with Russia to establish a naval base. The naval base would hold up to 300 Russian troops and host up to four navy ships including nuclear powered vessels in Port Sudan. Russia had committed to provide weapons, military equipment and training, Sudan concluded the agreement during the presidency of Oman Al-Bashir. The deal was never ratified by the parliament.

Spain Reopens Embassy in Tripoli

Spain in early June reopened its embassy in Libya’s capital, Tripoli after a gap of seven years. The decision was made after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held discussion with Libyan Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. Spain has agreed to start the authorisation process to expedite visas to improve mobility between both states. The Spanish Prime Minister expressed hope that it would pave the way for cooperation and benefit the Libyan political process.

Turkish President’s visit to Azerbaijan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 15 June visited Azerbaijan and met with President, Ilham Aliyev in the historic city of Shusha. Shusha is an important cultural centre for Azerbaijan which came under Armenian control in 1992. Azerbaijan recaptured the strategic city in November 2020 during the six weeks conflict with Armenia. Turkey was crucial military ally for Azerbaijan supplying weapons and UAVs.

Both leaders signed declaration in order to deepen relations in several areas including security. Erdogan became the first foreign leader to visit Shusha. Turkey promised to set up a consulate in the city extending support for Azerbaijan’s control over city and other areas in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.