Top News: EU Report Criticizes Turkey on Human Rights, Freedoms Violations

In an annual report to prepare for possible Turkish membership published on Tuesday, the European Union (EU) severely criticized Turkey for a series of flaws in its respect for human rights and democratic standards at a time when the bloc is looking to Ankara to help deal with the migrant crisis. The report said that on political issues “the pace of reforms slowed down,” adding that some key legislation “ran against European standards.” It also said that major shortcomings remain when it comes to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.It specifically cited “increased pressure and intimidation of journalists and media outlets” and the muzzling of internet reporting. It also said corruption in Turkey remains widespread and efforts to combat it were inadequate.For these reasons, some EU members are reluctant to be accommodating toward Ankara. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the ALDE liberal group in the European Parliament said, “The EU will only be able to maintain pressure on Turkey, with regards to democratic reforms and its policy on Syria, if we are able to fully control migration and external EU borders ourselves.” The report resoundingly calls for Turkey to calm the rising violence in the country, seek peace with the Kurds, and address judicial and press freedoms. [AP, Reuters, 11/10/2015]



Egyptian Defense Minister meets US Secretary of Navy
Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi met with US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and his accompanying delegation in Cairo Monday, according to a statement from the official military spokesman. After the meeting, Mabus highlighted the value that the United States places on the strong partnership with Egypt. He said the United States plans to seek more cooperation with Egypt in the future. “We are working closely with the Egyptian military to support its fight against terrorism, to make the region safe and stable, and to ensure the free flow of commerce,” Mabus said. Egypt and the United States are holding joint participation in exercises, such as Bright Star, to strengthen the relationship and build interoperability between both forces. Sobhi reviewed with Mabus the delivery of two Fast Missile Craft warships to the Egyptian Navy in June. The US Embassy in Cairo had previously stated that the delivery of the vessels demonstrates the ongoing US commitment to Egypt and the two countries’ shared security interests. [DNE, Cairo Post, 11/10/2015]

Investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat released from military prosecution custody
Egyptian investigative journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat was released from the custody of military prosecution on Tuesday, two days after his detention on charges of “publishing false news aimed at harming national security.” Naser Amin, one of the lawyers who attended the questioning of Bahgat, told Ahram Online that his client was “released pending investigation, yet without bail.” Mada Masr reported that Bahgat was released after signing a document stating, “I, Hossam Bahgat, journalist at Mada Masr, declare that I will abide by legal and security procedures when publishing material pertaining to the Armed Forces … I was also not subjected to any moral or physical harm.” Bahgat’s detention had ignited condemnation online and among rights activists and local and international rights watchdogs calling for his immediate release. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday Bahgat’s detention is “the latest in a series of detentions of human rights defenders and others that are profoundly worrying,” while calling for safeguarding freedom of speech and association in Egypt. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has condemned those remarks, claiming they merely address individual cases. “[The comments] jumped to conclusions and assumptions relating to the exercise of freedom of expression, which is guaranteed for all Egyptians by the constitution,” a statement by the ministry spokesman read. The Journalists’ Syndicate has voiced concern over what it views is a surge in the arrest of journalists over multiple charges, pointing out that the number of journalists currently held by authorities stands at more than thirty-two. In a statement on Monday, the syndicate’s Freedoms Committee described the current situation as an “escalation of the attack against press and media freedom represented in the return of journalists’ arrests and the suspension of those with a different opinion.” [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, AP, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, The Guardian, Cairo Post, AMAY, 11/10/2015]

Teams of inspectors checking security measures at Cairo International Airport
Egyptian officials say European, Russian, and Middle Eastern teams are inspecting security measures at Cairo’s international airport relating to passenger and cargo aircraft traveling to their countries.
Head of Cairo’s international airport Major General Ahmed Genina said officials from Russia, Holland, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are examining the scanning of passengers, cargo and baggage as they enter the airport and make their way to aircraft. Security guards and caterers are also being inspected. The goal of the inspection is to determine how prepared the airport is to handle emergency incidents. Several countries and airlines have suspended new flights to Egypt over security concerns stemming from the possibility that terrorism brought down the Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai, killing all on board. [AP, AMAY, Cairo Post, 11/10/2015]

In Egypt, angry talk of Western conspiracy over plane crash
Egyptian media have reacted with fury as Britain and the United States are increasingly pointing to a bomb as the cause of the October 31 Russian plane crash in Sinai. Many Egyptian outlets are saying that Egypt is facing a Western conspiracy that seeks to scare off tourists and destroy the country’s economy. The warnings of a plot have been widely promoted by opinion makers in print, online, and on television, sometimes hinting and sometimes saying flat-out that the West has restricted flights to Egypt not purely out of safety concerns for its citizens but because it wants to undermine the country. “The people defy the conspiracy—Egypt will not cave in to pressures,” state-owned Al-Gomhuria newspaper proclaimed in a front-page headline this week. A headline by the independent al-Watan read, “Egypt stands up to the West’s terrorism.” Analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Hebatalla Taha said, “Denial on behalf of the state that there is a crisis and then trying to point to some kind of third party is very normal.” Meanwhile, neither Russia nor Egypt has accepted an offer from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide “forensic assistance” and other support in the investigation of the crash, FBI Spokesman Joshua Campbell said Monday. Also on Monday, Airbus Chief Operating Officer for Customers John Leahy said the company is confident in the safety of its A321 aircraft, including the plane that crashed in Egypt. [AP, 11/10/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Tunisian lawmakers threaten to quit party
Nidaa Tounes member Slah Bergaoui said that if party leaders do not reconsider their position concerning the resignation of thirty-one members of the ruling party from the parliamentary bloc, the group will be compelled to resign from the party and form another independent group. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, he noted that their resignation takes effect only after five days, according to the Rules of Procedure of the House of People’s Representatives. Leaders of the party have time to reconsider their position and pave the way for dialogue, Bergaoui said, otherwise the group will maintain their decision to quit the party. The resigning members reasserted their commitment to supporting Essid’s government and to the foundations of the Nidaa Tounes program. [TAP, 11/9/2015]

John Kerry to attend second US-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue
US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected in Tunis on Friday, November 13 as part of a four-day trip to Tunis, Vienna, and Antalya, Turkey, the State Department said on Monday. Kerry will participate in the second US-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue in Tunis and then travel to Vienna to discuss the Syria crisis, according to State Department spokesman John Kirby. In Tunis, Kerry will meet with a number of government officials and civil society leaders. [TAP, Reuters, 11/9/2015]

IVD has received 18,200 complaints
The Truth and Dignity Commission (French: IVD), the body responsible for investigating human rights violations committed by the Tunisian State since its independence, has received 18,200 complaints so far and held over 1,000 confidential hearings, said IVD Communications Officer Anouar Moalla. Complaints lodged for violence against women account for 10 percent of the total number of grievances. [TAP, 11/9/2015]

Libya’s Thinni in Dubai for air show
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, head of Libya’s internationally recognized government, is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the Dubai Air Show. He arrived Sunday with the Chief of Staff for the Libyan Armed Forces Major-General Abdul Razak al-Nazhuri. “It is a working visit,” said Libyan Ambassador to the UAE Aref Nayed. On Monday, Thinni met Emirati Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, and Thinni and Nazhuri together have met with various exhibitors who are in Dubai for the air show. Thinni is expected to remain in the UAE until Wednesday. [Libya Herald, 11/9/2015]

Algerian Prime Minister says aging Bouteflika in full control
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is in full control of running Algeria, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said Monday in response to doubts raised by prominent public figures over the aging head of state’s abilities. On Friday, a letter signed by nineteen public figures was made public, warning of a “degradation of the general climate” in Algeria and asked to meet Bouteflika. The signatories include former culture minister Khalida Toumi, seventy-nine year old senator Zohra Drif who fought against Algeria’s French occupation, Trotskyist parliamentarian Louiza Hanoune, and other supporters of the president. Bouteflika has ruled the oil-rich North African state since 1999, but concerns have been growing over how much longer he can stay in power. “I know the president very well, and I doubt that certain decisions were his initiative,” said Toumi, who was in government from 2002 to 2014. [AFP, 11/9/2015]


Next round of Syria talks in Vienna on Saturday
US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Vienna for the latest round of negotiations on the conflict in Syria on Saturday. The talks will be the continuation of a dialogue between seventeen nations, along with UN and EU representatives, to agree on a plan to end the Syrian civil war. One of the main points of contention will be determining which opposition groups to include in future negotiations. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday said that the West may back groups that are less than “moderate … In my judgment, people we should be talking to will include people who have a vision for the future of Syria that is different from ours, a vision that we will not agree with.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the talks on Syria are the first “serious attempt to break the spiral of increasing violence and chaos,” though he dampened hopes for quick solutions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a press briefing that China will also take part in the next round of talks. [Syrian Observer, NYT, AFP, 11/10/2015]

Clashes near Syrian base besieged by ISIS
Pro-government forces in Syria clashed with Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) fighters around a military air base east of Aleppo city in northern Syria on Tuesday as they tried to break the jihadists’ siege of the facility, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. SOHR added that forces fighting on the side of the Syrian government, including Lebanese and Iranian militiamen, were trying to enter and secure Kweires air base, which has been under attack for nearly two years. There were some initial reports that the pro-government forces had managed to break through the encirclement and enter the base after heavy clashes. The assault comes a week after the Syrian army battled ISIS to regain control of a road southeast of Aleppo and took back control of the government’s only supply route into the city. [Reuters, 11/10/2015]

Militants shell Syrian city of Latakia
Syrian state TV says militants have shelled the coastal city of Latakia, leaving a number of people dead and wounded. State TV said two shells hit an area near Tishrin University on Tuesday afternoon. TV footage showed at least one car on fire and several others, including a minibus, hit with shrapnel. Syrian government forces have been on the offensive in the mountains overlooking Latakia in recent weeks under the cover of Russian airstrikes. The shelling of Latakia comes as residents in the capital Damascus said rebels shelled several neighborhoods in the city. There was no immediate word on casualties in Damascus. [AP, 11/10/2015]

ICRC works to avoid massive water crisis in Aleppo
As water cuts in Aleppo reach an all-time high, the Red Cross and its local partner organizations are asking for help in publicizing a GPS-enabled map that gives users the ability to pinpoint themselves in relation to a network of restored water wells throughout the city. After working for months repairing dozens of antiquated wells to provide the people of Aleppo with safe drinking water, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its local partners have hit an unanticipated problem: They do not have a foolproof way to inform people of the whereabouts of their new local water sources. Alongside efforts to get the word out that include printing new maps and handing them out one by one, the humanitarian agency has created a new GPS-enabled map and has launched an appeal for help to distribute it to Syrians through social media. [Syria Deeply, 11. 10/2015]

Turkey detains eighteen al-Qaeda suspects, days before G20
Turkish police detained eighteen people on Tuesday suspected of recruiting fighters for Syria’s al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, days before world leaders are due to meet at a G20 summit in southern Turkey. The suspects included two women and a number of people who had crossed into Turkey after being wounded fighting the war in neighboring Syria. [Reuters, 11/10/2015]

Turkey’s Erdogan calls for new constitution, reform in next four years
On Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for reforms and the creation of a new constitution in the next four years, steps that would move the country closer to the executive presidency he has long sought. “The Nov. 1 election ushered in four years of stability and confidence. Let’s make this period a time of reforms, prioritizing a new constitution,” Erdogan said at a commemoration ceremony for Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The comments were later echoed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said the country would embark on a major reform process in the next six months and would carry out economic, social and judicial reforms, without giving further details. [Reuters, 11/10/2015]

Attacks kill at least ten civilians in Baghdad
Officials say attacks in different parts of the Iraqi capital have killed at least ten civilians. A police officer said a bomb went off Tuesday morning in an outdoor market in Baghdad’s northern Sabi al-Bore neighborhood, killing three shoppers and wounding eight others. Another police officer said three more civilians were killed and seven wounded in a bomb explosion in the eastern suburb of Hussainiya. [AP, 11/10/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Asiri indicates Saudi-led coalition has achieved success in Yemen
Saudi-led coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri said on Monday that, contrary to media reports, there is no military delay on the liberation of Taiz. He added that the Saudi-led coalition has achieved more in Yemen in seven months, than NATO was able to in Afghanistan in seven years. This past weekend the Houthi rebels made significant gains towards the Shabwa province in the south. There were also reports that the rebels were attempting to regain control of the port city Aden, recently recaptured by pro-government forces in July. Meanwhile, US Air Force General Charles Brown, commander of the US Air Forces Central Command, said on Tuesday he was impressed with the work the Saudi-led coalition is doing in Yemen. Brown said the US Air Force has been working together with Saudi forces on training, and he was impressed with their air operations. “We’re both of the same mindset,” he said. [Al Masdar (Arabic), NYT, 11/10/2015]

Fewer Gulf air strikes on ISIS in Syria due to Yemen conflict
Air strikes by Gulf Arab members of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Syria have diminished since they launched an air war against Houthi rebels in March, a US general said Tuesday. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, but the three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members slowed down their campaign due to operations in support of exiled President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. The United States has been leading mainly Western allies in carrying out air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq since August last year. Meanwhile, concerns over munition levels among key Gulf partner nations are driving the Pentagon to look at how it can speed up manufacture and delivery of precision weapons. [AFP, Defense News, 11/10/2015]

Executions in Saudi Arabia at a twenty-year peak
Saudi Arabia has executed at least 151 people this year, the most since 1995 and far above the annual figure in recent years which rarely exceeded ninety, Amnesty International said on Monday. No one at Saudi Arabia’s Justice Ministry was immediately available to comment on the surge in the numbers of executions but diplomats have speculated it may be because more judges have been appointed, allowing a backlog of appeal cases to be heard. Political analysts say it might also reflect a tough response to wars and political turbulence in the region. The Saudi kingdom is in the top five countries for executing people, rights groups say. It ranked third in 2014, after China and Iran, and ahead of Iraq and the United States. [Reuters, 11/9/2015]

Putin hosts Kuwait’s Emir
President Vladimir Putin hosted Kuwait’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on his first trip to Russia to discuss bilateral ties and international issues. Putin welcomed the al Sabah in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, saying he wanted to discuss difficult the situation in the Middle East.At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, al Sabah offered Putin condolences over the Octobr 31 crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt that killed all 224 people on board. US and British officials have cited intelligence reports as indicating that the plane was downed by a bomb. Meanwhile, heads of state from the Middle East and Latin American arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, as King Salman greeted dignitaries at the airport coming for a joint summit aimed at boosting trade ties and policy coordination between the two regions. Ahead of this two-day summit, which starts today, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi was quoted saying that trade between the two regions reached $30 billion in 2014, compared to just $6 billion when the summit began a decade ago. [NYT, 11/10/2015]

Concerning security situation in Aden after another assassination attempt
The number of assassination attempts targeting military and security personnel in the port city of Aden have increased. Most recently, unknown gunmen opened fire at Nasr Brigadier General Mohammad Awad al Yafei near his residence on Monday. Security officials do not know which militant group the gunmen are affiliated with, as both al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) have made significant inroads in the city. The third batch of an expected 10,000 Sudanese reinforcements for the Saudi-led coalition arrived in the city on the weekend. [Al Masdar (Arabic), NYT, 11/10/2015]


Egypt stocks drop after Russia suspends flights, inflation increases
Egypt’s benchmark stock index plunged 4.4 percent on Tuesday after steadily declining since Russia suspended flights to Egypt following the October 31 Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula. The drop is caused by negative international and external factors, according to Global Head of Research at Mubasher Financial Services Amr Elalfy. “Internally, you have the Russian plane, the impacted tourism, and the countries that have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh,” said Elalfy. The arrest of prominent Egyptian businessmen Salah Diab and his son Tawfik Diab on charges of possessing unlicensed weapons days after a corruption probe was launched against them also spooked investors, according to Chairman of Egyptian brokerage firm Acumen Securities Osama Mourad. Meanwhile, Egypt’s annual inflation rate accelerated to 10.3 percent in October compared to 9.2 percent in September, official statistics agency CAPMAS announced on Tuesday. Urban annual inflation rate reached 9.7 percent and rural inflation rate hit 10.9 percent. [AP, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 11/10/2015]

Jordan appoints new Finance Minister in surprise move
Jordan named investment banker Omar Malhas as Finance Minister on Monday, replacing veteran economic policy maker Umayya Toukan, in a surprise move just days after the government began talks on a new aid program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). No reason was given for the abrupt move. Toukan has held a number of senior posts over the past two decades, including governor of the Central Bank, and is widely respected within the IMF and donor community. Some officials suggested his departure was due to policy differences over the country’s proposed $12 billion 2016 budget that was approved by the cabinet this week and has set a deficit target of around 3 percent of gross domestic product. Malhas, a highly regarded Western-educated investment banker with nearly twenty years experience in senior banking posts in the Gulf and Jordan has never held a government position. He will join a team led by Central Bank Governor Ziad Fariz that will handle negotiations with an IMF mission that arrived in Amman last week. [Reuters, 11/9/2015]

Saudi aims for first foreign bond as soon as next year
Saudi Arabia aims to start selling bonds in the international market as soon as 2016 as it looks to cover a budget deficit caused by low oil prices. Banking industry sources said authorities from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) had not yet finalized the plan but had made progress. A Saudi commercial banker said bankers were pitching to both the Finance Ministry and SAMA. “The ministry…is borrowing but SAMA would be the issuer. In my opinion, I don’t think there will be a mandate until next year,” he said. Another banker said Saudi Arabia’s first international issue would be a test case and would likely have a maturity of around ten years. After that, the country may consider longer maturities such as thirty years. The initial issue would likely be in the region of $1 billion to $2 billion, he added. In other news, the Saudi government said the country plans to diversify its economy to help combat climate change in a strategy that could avoid up to 130 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year by 2030. [Reuters, FT, 11/10/2015]

Minister says Qatar must urgently consider subsidy reforms, taxes
Qatar must urgently consider reforms to its subsidy and tax systems, Minister of Development Planning and Statistics Saleh Mohammed al-Nabit said on Monday. Nabit said in a speech that pressure on state finances means the government must to be more disciplined in spending on programs and projects. “It has also become an urgent need to consider issues such as the rationalization of support and providing it to target groups, development of the tax system, and supporting the revenue side of the budget,” al-Nabit said. His remarks suggested subsidies might in the future be provided to a smaller group of people. He did not elaborate on possible tax reforms. Nabit also said that despite lower energy prices, the government would press ahead with tens of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and social welfare projects. He acknowledged that some projects may be delayed due to logistical difficulties, supply bottlenecks, and high costs. [Reuters, 11/9/2015]