Top News: Foreign Minister Says Saudi Will Negotiate with Iran

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said on Tuesday Riyadh had invited Iran’s foreign minister to visit the kingdom. “We sent an invitation to the foreign minister to visit Saudi Arabia, but this intention to visit has not become a fact … But any time he sees fit to come, we are ready to receive him,” Prince Saud told reporters at a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh. [Ahram, 5/13/2014]



Sisi makes rare youth plea
Egypt’s former military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi made a rare appeal Monday to the country’s youth who were behind calls for regime change since 2011, trying to win support among a key bloc in this month’s presidential election that he admitted he is struggling to reach. In the second part of his interview with Sky News Arabia on Monday, he gave a nod to revolutionary youth groups, but also underlined his message that Egypt now needs stability, which he has repeatedly said means an end to protests. Sisi defended the controversial Protest Law, under which thousands of Egyptians have been jailed, asserting that protesting needs to be regulated but not banned. He said there is a “need to give police space to work.” In the interview, he also addressed the insecurity in Sinai and the war in Syria. [AP, Mada Masr, DNE, Reuters, 5/13/2014]

Egypt court upholds decision to redeploy police on campuses

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters upheld on Tuesday its earlier decision to permanently redeploy police forces on university campuses. The initial ruling was issued in February following a spike in student protests, mostly held by Islamists, to denounce what they described as a military coup against Mohamed Morsi, ousted last July. The Tuesday conclusion mandates the Egyptian state to implement promptly the court’s pronouncement. According to activists, the decision contradicts a 2010 decree by the High Administrative Court, the only body endowed with subject-matter jurisdiction over this case, banning police from campuses. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 5/13/2014]

Alleged ringleader of violence against Copts in Minya is arrested

The main suspect accused of burning churches in the southern village of Delga, Minya, following the violent dispersal of two pro-Brotherhood camps in August last year has been arrested. Farid Shawky Mohamed Moussa has been accused of planning violence against churches in the village. Also in Minya, authorities arrested another individual accused of storming and burning a police station. The authorities seized a large number of weapons including several types of rifles, ammunition, and fireworks. [Mada Masr, 5/12/2014]

Egypt’s Fahmy off to UK in official visit

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy left for London on Monday to meet his British counterpart William Hague and other British officials. Fahmy and Hague will discuss bilateral relations between the two countries in addition to a number of regional and international issues. The foreign minister will also meet with the UK’s national security advisor, secretary of state for international development and other officials. Fahmy is scheduled to participate in a lecture at a UK research center as well as meet with UK journalists and media outlets to explain Egypt’s current situation and its path on the roadmap to democracy since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July. [Ahram Online, DNE, 5/12/2014]


Jordanian ambassador to Libya freed
Jordan’s kidnapped ambassador to Libya is in good health and has returned home to Amman after being freed from his captors, according to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. In one of the most high-profile abductions in Libya, Ambassador Fawaz al-Itan was kidnapped last month by gunmen who demanded an Islamist militant be released from a Jordanian prison. According to a Libyan official, Mohammed al-Darsi, who was arrested and convicted in 2007 of trying to carry out a suicide bombing at Amman’s airport, arrived in Tripoli on Monday. Meanwhile, negotiations continue to release Tunisian diplomat Mohamed Bechikh, who was abducted nearly two months ago in Libya. [Reuters, AP, 5/13/2014]

Libya says western oilfields, pipelines to reopen
Libya’s western oilfields and pipelines were set to reopen Monday evening after protesters ended a blockade, according to the National Oil Corporation (NOC). The pipeline network in the west of Libya has been closed by protesters since March, shutting down the oilfields, including al-Sharara, which produces 340,000 bpd. A spokesperson for the protesters said they had reached a deal with the help of tribal elders and had turned over control to a Petroleum Facilities Guard unit because of government promises to meet their demands, including more investment in local water and tourism facilities, health treatment, and education. [Reuters, 5/12/2014]

Europe astounded by Libyan acting interior minister’s accusations
The European Union (EU) says it is amazed that Libya’s acting-Interior Minister Saleh Mazegh would accuse it of being “lax” on illegal immigration. Mazegh made the statement at a recent press conference, threatening that Libya would open its borders if Europe did not take seriously the country’s contribution in addressing the challenge. He cited Libya’s growing rates of disease and crime and deteriorating security as consequences of the presence of illegal African migrants. EU Head of Delegation in Libya Nataliya Apostolova called Mazegh’s statement “extremely worrying,” adding that the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) has submitted a request to the Libyan justice ministry to discuss the issue. EUBAM is not involved in preventing illegal immigration but helps to train Libyan organizations to improve border security. The spat comes just days after EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton announced the appointment of a personal envoy for Libya. Bernardino Leon will be based in Brussels helping to coordinate EU policy and actions in Libya. [Libya Herald, 5/12/2014]

Police trainees graduate in landmark ceremony in Sebha
More than 700 newly-trained police officers graduated today in Sebha in the town’s first such ceremony since renewed fighting erupted there in January. Several local and military dignitaries attended the event, including the commander of Misratan forces. The festive graduation was viewed as a sign that things in Sebha are returning to normal after twelve militiamen, allegedly involved in communal clashes in the area, were released a few days ago following negotiations between local Tebu and Awlad Suleiman groups. Earlier in the year, Misratan forces entered the town after tribal and ethnic tensions escalated and resulted in weeks of deadly clashes. [Libya Herald, 5/13/2014]


Water crisis begins to ease in Aleppo, foes trade blame
Water supplies have begun to return to neighborhoods of Aleppo after more than a week of cuts that affected the entire city, spreading illness via polluted water. Long lines formed around the city as residents scrambled to secure their water needs. The cuts affected both the western, regime-controlled part of Aleppo, and eastern, rebel-held areas. The Syrian Observatory for the Human Rights blamed the Nusra Front for the move, while the city’s Public Administration for Services, an ad hoc local council in the rebel-held districts, blamed regime attacks for the inability to repair the network. The Observatory Monday said the Islamist rebel alliance Ahl al-Sham–which includes Nusra–was seeking to end the cuts in order to fully separate the network so that regime-held areas could be isolated, and presumably targeted later on by another round of water cuts. Engineers in the city said “non-experts” were behind these moves, which could have catastrophic effects if their plan to separate the two halves of Aleppo succeeded. [The Daily Star, 5/13/2014]

Syria prices nearly triple during war
Prices in Syria have nearly tripled during the country’s three-year civil war, the central bureau of statistics said Tuesday. From early 2011 to late 2013 the consumer price index rose 173 percent. Last year alone, consumer price inflation was 90 percent. The authorities attribute the dramatic jump in inflation to the rise in food prices, with bread and cereals up 115 percent last year, while meat, vegetables, and fruit doubled. Electricity, gas, and other domestic fuels shot up by 118 percent, while fuel for transportation rose by 105 percent. Activists say prices are even higher in areas under government siege, where millions of people suffer extreme food and fuel shortages. [AFP, 5/13/2014]

ISIS seizes strategic territory in Deir al-Zor province
The jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has wrested control of key parts of the eastern province of Deir al-Zor from other rebel groups, activists said Sunday. More than 100,000 civilians have fled the infighting in recent weeks. Civilians in Deir al-Zor lived through more than two years of fighting between opposition fighters and the government. Now they are dealing with a second wave of internecine war that has devastated parts of the country that the opposition considers “liberated” from Assad’s forces. Pro-opposition activists from the city said people were fanning out in different directions to escape the clashes, while much of Deir al-Zor city suffers from a lack of electricity and clean water. [The Daily Star, 5/12/2014]

Aid workers question effectiveness of UN Syria aid
Seven weeks after UN aid trucks crossed from Turkey into Syria for the first time, aid workers and officials in this southern Turkish humanitarian hub still have no idea exactly where the supplies ended up. The convoy of seventy-eight trucks taking food, bedding, and medicine to Syria’s mainly Kurdish Hasakah province was seen as a test of the willingness of Syria’s authorities and rebels to abide by a UN resolution urging them to let aid across front lines and borders by the most direct routes. No distribution lists have been made available for this or any other UN delivery since the resolution, aid workers in Gaziantep near the Turkish border say, hampering the efforts of a plethora of charities trying to coordinate a response to the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. [Reuters, 5/13/2014]


Ennahdha, Nidaa Tounes and Democratic Alliance to vote against no-confidence motion
Leaders from Nidaa Tounes, Ennahdha movement, and the Democratic Alliance have all stated that they will vote against the no-confidence measure in Minister of Tourism Amel Karboul and Minister Delegate to the Interior Minister in charge of Security Ridha Sfar. The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) held a plenary session on May 9 devoted to the examination of the no-confidence motions. Eighty-five deputies submitted a motion of no-confidence after the decision to allow Israeli tourists entry to Tunisia, but 131 votes are needed to withhold confidence in government members.  [All Africa, 5/12/2014]

Tunisia issues EUR 225 million in bonds
Minister of Economy and Finance Hakim Ben Hammouda launched a national bond initiative on Monday, with the aim of raising EUR 225 million (500 million dinars) in funds to cover the financing needs of the state budget for 2014. The bond issue is intended to boost investment and is one of a number of measures the government is taking to fund this year’s budget. [African Manager,  Ansa Med, 5/12/2014]  

Tunisian diplomat still captive in Libya
Nearly two months after terrorists abducted a Tunisian diplomat in Tripoli, his family is no closer to learning his fate. Mohammed Bechikh, an aide to the Tunisian ambassador, was grabbed by armed assailants on March 21 in the Ain Zara suburb of eastern Tripoli. One month later, previously unknown group Chabab al-Tawhid claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and released a video of the sobbing hostage pleading for his life. The group demanded freedom for Libyan terrorists sentenced for their role in a 2011 terrorist operation. The governments of Tunisia and Libya continue negotiations in order to reach a solution that will lead to the release of the kidnapped diplomats. [Maghrebia, 5/12/2014]


Tensions run high in Marib province between government, tribesmen, and al-Qaeda
Just two days after it was repaired, tribal militants blew up an oil pipeline on Monday in Marib province. Tensions have been high in recent days, exacerbated first by the Saturday killing of a tribal sheikh in the capital of Sana’a and then by a US drone strike on Monday that killed other members of the same tribe. President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi established a three-member committee to investigate the killing that took place in Sana’a, in which security forces initially claimed the victims were al-Qaeda members. Violent incidents have continued to mar the province, including a shelling on a military base and an apparent Yemeni airstrike on a convoy of weapons, both of which the government linked to al-Qaeda. [Yemen Times, 5/13/2014]

Popular committees in Shabwa suspend defense activities
The popular committees in Shabwa said on Friday that they would suspend their defense activities for one week or until they are given the same privileges that popular committees in other governorates receive. The defense ministry pays a wage of YR15,000 (US $69.75) to each member of these committees, according to Shabwa’s deputy governor. The estimated 200 members say the amount of money they receive is not fair in comparison to the committee members in other governorates. The tribes were further angered when the defense minister and Shabwa governor both refuse to meet with them. [Yemen Times, 5/13/2014]

Obama extends national emergency declaration for Yemen
The White House has extended the national emergency in relation to Yemen, “pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Yemen and others.” President Barack Obama stated that the national emergency will be extended beyond its May 16, 2014 expiration date for yet another year. [Official Wire, 5/12/2014]

In Yemen, giving youth a voice and vision
Since its inception in 2012, Yemen’s Youth Observatory has worked to empower young Yemenis politically and economically, observers said. Staffed and led by youth, the Observatory most recently played an important role in ensuring the outputs of the country’s National Dialogue Conference were in keeping with the aspirations and needs of young Yemenis. Around 50 percent of Yemen’s population is younger than fifteen, and around 75 percent is younger than thirty. The Observatory works to prevent youth from slipping into terrorism, and to empower them politically and economically, the group’s executive director said. [Al-Shorfa, 5/13/2014]


Arab finance ministers wary of IMF call to end subsidies
IMF chief Christine Lagarde urged Arab countries going through democratic change to phase out costly subsidy systems on Monday, but drew a cautious response from regional finance ministers wary of the social impact of such steps. Lagarde stated that these countries should pursue structural reforms and phase out the subsidies. The IMF estimates that subsidy systems cost the region $237 billion annually. Arab countries currently transitioning to democracy need to issue long-term economic policies if they are to bypass this transitional stage, Lagarde said. “The transitional phase cannot last forever. [Arab] countries must build for a long-term future.” [Al Arabiya, Asharq al-Awsat; 5/13/2014]

Blasts target Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad as Anbar council pledges to fight ISIS
A wave of car bombings in mostly Shia areas in Baghdad killed at least twenty-eight people on Tuesday, officials said, as the group was celebrating an important holiday. No group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Iraqi Shia were commemorating the birthday of Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and Shia Islam’s most sacred martyr. The Anbar tribal council, predominantly Sunni, has pledged to help the government fight the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken over parts of the province, and is currently engaged in fierce battles with government forces in Fallujah. [Al-Jazeera, 5/13/2014]

Abbas opens talks with Hamas on interim government
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has begun negotiations to form a national unity government following the recent reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. The reconciliation delegation is expected in Gaza within days to hold discussions with Hamas on the formation of a unity government and other related issues. A member of the delegation added, “Discussions with Hamas will focus on sovereign ministries,” namely the interior, finance, education, and foreign ministries. The two parties are expected to each nominate a list of candidates to head various ministries, and then arrive at a consensus on a final cabinet. Hamas suggested someone other than Abbas head the government, a member of Fatah. Security will remain in the hands of Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank until elections are held. [Asharq al-Awsat, 5/13/2014]