Top News: Gulf States Come to Consensus After Rift

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) brokered a consensus Thursday after a rift that saw Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar. According to a statement from the GCC, “[Participants] agreed to adopt measures that ensure working at a group level and that policies of any individual state should not affect the interests, security, or stability of any other member state and without affecting the sovereignty of any of its states.” The withdrawal of ambassadors from Doha occurred following accusations by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain that Qatar was interfering in the internal affairs of countries in the Gulf by backing Islamist movements in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere. Qatar denied it interferes anywhere but vowed to stick to its foreign policy. [Al Arabiya, 4/18/2014]



Sabbahi completes signature collection with 30,000 endorsements
Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi has garnered 30,000 signatures of support for his candidacy from eighteen governorates across the country, his campaign announced on Thursday. Under the Elections Law, candidates are required to submit a minimum of 25,000 endorsements from at least fifteen different governorates in or
der to officially register to run in the presidential race. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 4/17/2014]

Cairo witnesses tight security ahead of Brotherhood demonstrations
Police have intensified security measures in major Cairo squares on Friday ahead of demonstrations for the National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy. The coalition has called for staging demonstrations on Friday as part of their ongoing weekly rallies.  Several military vehicles and groups of security personnel were deployed in Tahrir Square near the Egyptian Museum’s main gate, in Simon Bolivar Square, and other major sites in Cairo. [Aswat Masriya

Cabinet says no increase in electricity, diesel’s prices expected
Following the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Cabinet Spokesman Ambassador Hossam al-Qawish urged citizens to rationalize consumption in electricity. He said that there would be no increase in prices of electricity or diesel, adding that next summer would not witness a lot of blackouts. The ministry of electricity, meanwhile, has also called on people to refrain from using their air conditioners and washing machines between 6pm and 10pm. Qawish also said that the subsidy system will be restructured in a way that does not affect the limited income brackets. [SIS, 4/18/2014]

US Senate delegation arrives in Cairo to discuss resuming aid
A United States delegation from the Senate arrived in Egypt on Friday to discuss conditions for resuming US aid to Egypt. The delegation is headed by Paul Grove, a member of the senate appropriations committee. A source at the American embassy said the delegation will meet with several high ranking Egyptian officials to discuss the resumption of US aid, the crisis in Syria, and the peace process. [EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), 4/18/2014]


Tunisian diplomat kidnapped in Libya
On Thursday, an advisor to Tunisia’s ambassador to Libya was kidnapped in Tripoli. The militants responsible for the kidnapping have demanded the release of Islamist fighters detained in Tunisia. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mongi Hamdi stated that Tunisia was considering reducing its diplomatic mission in Libya, where kidnappings have become commonplace. This kidnapping is the second of a Tunisian diplomat in the Libyan capital within a month. [Reuters, 4/18/2014]

United Nations warns against escalation of violence in Libya
The UN Mission to Libya (UNSMIL) has warned that the escalation of violence had negative impacts on the country’s reputation and economic development. This statement was made following the kidnapping of the Jordanian ambassador, Faouzi al-Aytan in Tripoli on Tuesday. The United Nations said on Thursday that it would continue to work with the Libyan authorities and other parties for the release of the Jordanian ambassador. The UN Security Council has condemned the kidnapping and called on the Libyan authorities to protect diplomatic and consular missions and to respect its international commitments. [All Africa, 4/17/2014]

Libya restarts oil exports from Hariga port
According to Libya’s state-owned oil company, 800,000 barrels of crude oil ready to be exported from Hariga port. Libya is restarting the process of exporting oil after an eight-month standoff with rebels who blockaded a number of the country’s most prominent ports ended last week following negotiations between the rebels and the Tripoli government. Libya’s oil production fell from 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) before the rebel takeover last fall to 150,000 bpd currently, according to official government figures. [Ashar Al-Awsat, 4/17/2014]


Homs once again a “theater of death”
The army advanced in the central city of Homs Friday. UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Thursday that a deal between trapped fighters and civilians in Homs city and the Syrian authorities had broken down, as government forces appeared close to retaking besieged opposition areas. Hundreds of people remain trapped in the old part of the city, surrounded by government forces and pro-Assad militia. A deal reached at peace talks in Geneva allowed some civilians to leave but further negotiations broke down following heavy fighting this week. Members of the UN Security Council expressed concern over the plight of civilians caught in the fighting in Old Homs, urging “the immediate implementation” of a February resolution to improve humanitarian access. [Reuters, Naharnet, 4/17/2014]

Jordanian jihadis returning from Syria rattle US-aligned kingdom
Three years into Syria’s civil war a growing number of Jordanian jihadists are coming home, some disillusioned by infighting within rebel ranks, others seeking a break from a draining and largely inconclusive conflict. The rising number of returning fighters has rattled the Hashemite kingdom. Amman treats returning jihadists as a security threat. A few months ago, Jordanian authorities were more discriminating with returning fighters, sometimes freeing “first-time offenders” who were deemed misguided after expressing regret for their actions. Now, every detained returnee is taken to court, although none have been accused of plotting attacks in Jordan. [Reuters, 4/18/2014]

Rebels attack army barracks in Aleppo
Nearly fifty people were killed Thursday when rebels attacked one of the largest military barracks in the country, in northern Aleppo. At least twenty-seven soldiers and pro-regime militiamen were killed with the rebels losing twenty, including a commander. “Rebels, including fighters from the Nusra Front and the Islamic Front, launched an assault today on the barracks in Hanano in Aleppo,” pro-opposition media reported. State media, meanwhile, reported the army had “foiled an attempt by terrorist groups to infiltrate the barracks” and killed a number of them. [The Daily Star, 4/18/2014]

War takes heavy toll on historical sites
The war has left its mark on the first-century Temple of Bel, one of the best-preserved buildings in the ancient city of Palmyra. Compared with the wholesale destruction that was feared, the damage appears minimal. In addition to the physical effects of the conflict on Syria’s historical sites, illegal digging has accelerated during three years of conflict. Grave robbers have stolen numerous objects from Palmyra’s tombs. In the town of Tadmur, the tourist economy has shut down. The conflict keeps UNESCO from assessing the damage, but has classified all six of Syria’s World Heritage sites as endangered.  [NYT, 4/17/2014]


Growing jihadist threat in Tunisia border area
On Thursday, the defense ministry stated that Tunisia faces a growing jihadist threat in the mountainous region near the border with Algeria where several soldiers have been killed battling militant Islamists. The defense ministry added that President Moncef Marzouki’s declaration on Wednesday designating additional areas around Chaambi mountain “closed military zones” was prompted by the “growing number of threats made by terrorist organizations based in the area” and was designed to contain and limit their activities. [The Daily Star, 4/17/2014]

Tunisian president slashes salary by two-thirds
Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki announced on Friday his decision to voluntarily take a two-thirds pay cut as the government grapples with a financial situation it has described as critical. “We are facing a financial and economic crisis. The state must be a model… That is why I have decided to lower the legal salary of the president of the republic to a third” of its current level, Marzouki said. [Ahram Online, 4/18/2014]

Controversial points of draft electoral law examined at national dialogue session
Participants in the national dialogue session agreed to coordinate with the National Constituent Assembly to examine disputed points of the draft electoral law. The sponsors of the national dialogue and representatives of the political parties that signed on to the roadmap will attend the national dialogue sessions. The first session will be devoted to the examination of the delay in the adoption of the electoral law and to find solutions to overcome all the issues faced. The absence of consensus will delay the organization of the elections. [All Africa, 4/17/2014]

Tunisia strives for successful tourist season
Tunisia seeks to benefit from its political success by promoting a new image for its tourism through social media. Since coming to office, Tourism Minister Amel Karboul said she would exploit the political calm and security improvements in order to promote tourism. Tourism in Tunisia jumped 12 percent in the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to figures released by the tourism ministry. [All Africa, 4/17/2014]


Houthis demand dismissals in Amran
As a presidential commission attempts to arbitrate long term peace in the embattled Amran province, members of the Houthi group are demanding the dismissal of Amran’s governor, the local brigade commander, security director, and director of political security. The Houthis also called for the removal of the local brigade altogether. The presidential commission has offered cattle and rifles to the Houthis, though sources report that President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi was “disturbed” by the offer. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/18/2014]

Yemen will push donors for promised billions in aid
Yemen’s foreign minister said on Thursday he would use a meeting in London this month to push donor countries to release billions of dollars in promised aid that Yemen desperately needs to address its ailing economy and volatile security situation. The Friends of Yemen group pledged $7.9 billion in aid in 2012, but most of the funds have been delayed due to technical issues and lagging approvals by donor heads of state. The foreign minister said that restructuring Yemen’s military would be a key topic at the donor conference. [Reuters, 4/17/2014]

More than one hundred children taken hostage in Yemen last year
The Seyaj Organization for Childhood Protection reported on Tuesday that 124 children, including nineteen girls, were abducted across the country, with thirty percent occurring in the capital Sana’a. The head of the organization criticized the security services for doing little to protect children and the lack of accountability for perpetrators. He also said that many dispute settlement via tribal custom mostly pardon kidnappers. [Gulf News, 4/17/2014]

Yemen mulls new plan to spur economic growth
Yemen is mulling the establishment of thirteen industrial zones across its six planned administrative regions in a bid to stimulate development and create job opportunities. The government has been discussing a Ministry of Industry and Trade report that recommended the establishment of thirteen industrial zones in the planned regions: two in Azal region; one in al-Janad region; three in Aden region; four in Hadramawt region; two in the Tihama region; and one in Saba region. Projects within each zone will be tailored to each region and will seek to create job opportunities for local residents. [Al-Shorfa, 4/18/2014]


Iraqi Kurds entrench political fault line with Syria border ditch
Iraqi Kurds are digging a ten-mile trench on their border with Syria. Iraqi Kurdish authorities stated that the trench will help reduce smuggling and keep Islamist militants out of their relatively stable region. The Kurdish group that controls the Syrian side of the border says the ditch is designed to tighten a blockade against its enclave and force it to submit to the authority of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq. The trench is highly symbolic as it fortifies one of the frontiers regarded by many Kurds as a historic injustice that carved their ethnic homeland up into four parts spread across Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. It also illustrates the growing rifts and competition between Kurds across borders and their ties to regional powers. [Reuters, 4/17/2014]

Algeria’s Bouteflika claims election win, rival alleges fraud
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looked set to win a fourth term with allies claiming victory in an election on Thursday, despite questions over his health and his rare appearances since suffering a stroke in 2013. Official results are due on Friday, but Bouteflika’s camp claimed he had succeeded in securing five more years as president. Ali Benflis, Bouteflika’s main rival in a field of opposition candidates struggling to challenge him, quickly rejected the election results but did not cite any specific accusations. Voting passed mostly peacefully, but troops fired tear gas and clashed with activists in two villages east of Algiers. [Ahram Online,4/18/2014]

Jordan needs new elections laws, say lawmakers
The vaguely worded Elections Law is the major reason behind Jordan’s political and economic woes and Jordanians’ accumulated distrust in state institutions, politicians argued on Wednesday. In a debate on the prospects of Jordan’s political reform, the Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Khaled Kalaldeh, MP Wafaa Bani Mustafa, Professor Hassan Barari, and former foreign minister Marwan Muasher all agreed that Jordan needs a new elections law that can bring about competent legislators. [Jordan Times, 4/18/2014]