Top News: HDP Stage Walkout at Opening Ceremony of Interim Turkish Parliament

On Thursday, a collective protest by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was held at the opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s opening ceremonies in Ankara. Notably, HDP Co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdag were not present at the session, along with Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli. When Erdogan’s entrance was announced, the HDP deputies in the hall refused to stand up. When Erdogan began delivering his speech all HDP deputies present left the hall in a show of protest. In his speech to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, President Erdogan underscored his call for political parties to ensure democracy prevails in the November 1 elections. [Hurriyet, 10/01/2015]



US supports Egypt in its war on terror says US Central Command Chief
The United States supports Egypt in its war against terrorism, US Central Command Chief Llyod Austin said during a meeting with Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi on Wednesday. Austin is currently in Cairo to discuss the US-Egypt strategic relationship, in addition to regional and international positions regarding the war on terror, said an army statement.  The US General stressed his country’s support for Egypt in its war against terrorism and its aspiration towards stability, while Sobhi expressed Egypt’s keenness on promoting relations with the United States. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 9/30/2015]

Egypt’s security forces kill four alleged Brotherhood members in Alexandria
Egyptian security forces killed four alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were wanted for their role in a number of attacks against police officers, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement. The statement added that the four “terrorists” were involved in a number of attacks against police in Beheira, including the murder of a low-ranking police officer. The individuals were killed when security forces returned fire on them after being shot at during the raid on their apartment. Stacks of weapons and ammunition were later found inside of the apartment. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post, 9/30/2015]

Over 2,500 candidates, four party-based lists to run in first phase of Egypt’s parliamentary elections
The High Elections Committee (HEC) announced on Tuesday that 2,573 independent candidates and four party-based lists will be running for the first stage of the Egyptian parliamentary elections that start on October 17. Of the candidates, 112 are women. The candidates will contest 226 seats in the ‎first stage, and the four lists will be competing for over sixty seats ‎bringing the total to 286 seats available during the first phase of the elections. The HEC added that the number of candidates competing could change, as some cases are under review in court. The Supreme Administrative Court will issue on Thursday its final ruling on all appeals related to 125 candidate appeals. HEC Spokesman Omar Marwan said Thursday that the first phase of elections would include 103 general election committees as well as 5,460 polling stations and sub-committees. Around 16,000 judges will oversee the first phase of elections, while eighty-seven organizations will be monitoring, including six foreign organizations. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 10/1/2015]

‘Zero’ student Mariam Malak’s answer sheets are genuine says prosecution
The Administrative Prosecution authority has officially closed the publicly debated case of student Mariam Malak who scored a zero percent on her high school exams. According to an official statement, the case was terminated due to the “incorrectness of Malak’s corruption claims”. Malak had accused the exams control room of corruption, claiming she was a top student and that her papers were exchanged in favor of “another official’s daughter or son.” Her case has raised controversy about corruptionin Egypt. The prosecution stated that a technical examination of her papers did not show evidence of tampering, and that “all possible checking methods” were used. Her lawyer responded to the ruling in an interview, saying, “If the prosecution had actually investigated this crime, the truth would have been revealed.” [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 9/30/2015]

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HOR Women’s Bloc says no to latest Libya dialogue draft
Members of the Women’s Bloc in the House of Representatives (HOR) have said they reject the final Libya dialogue draft agreement. A statement issued Wednesday night and signed by nineteen women HOR members representing various factions in parliament said that they support dialogue, but the latest draft was unacceptable. The only draft that they and other HOR members would approve is the one initialed in Skhirat on July 11, they said. The HOR members also demanded that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya stop trying to pressure the HOR and its delegates into accepting deadlines for the completion of the dialogue. [Libya Herald, 10/1/2015]

LNA takes over Bridge 17 west of Janzour
Forces linked to General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) have taken over Bridge 17 on the coastal road near the West Tripoli Power Station next to Janzour and have set up a checkpoint there, according to sources in the capital. The forces advanced late Tuesday, cutting the coastal road between Tripoli and the Tunisian border. The sources also claimed that the main militia in Janzour, the Fursan Janzour (Knights of Janzour) previously linked to Libya Dawn, had accepted the presence of LNA forces and would not fight them. The militia reportedly felt unable to oppose the LNA without the support of fighters from Misrata. [Libya Herald, 9/30/2015]

Tunisian troops block car bombs crossing Libyan border
On Thursday, Tunisian troops stopped two bomb-laden cars crossing from Libya and seized arms and documents bearing the symbol of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Authorities said three suspect vehicles were tracked on Wednesday after crossing the border. Troops opened fire to stop them. Two cars were halted and a third fled back across the Libyan border. “The army has dismantled the car bombs, which were rigged to detonate, one with a bomb belt, the other with rocket explosives,” the Tunisian Interior Ministry said in a statement. [Reuters, TAP, 10/1/2015]

Tunisia, Belgium to bolster security cooperation, sign agreement on illegal migration
On Wednesday, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon met with Tunisian Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli in Tunis to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral security cooperation, expand anti-terrorism collaboration, and support continuing intelligence sharing and coordination. According to Tunisian Defense Minister Farhat Horchani, the two countries have planned a training program between their special forces and the Tunisian-Belgian joint military committee will meet for the first time since 2011 before the end of the year. Gharsalli also announced that an agreement on illegal migration and ways to combat this phenomenon would be signed before the end of 2015 in an effort to improve security and peace in the Mediterranean area. [TAP, 9/30/2015]


Russians strike targets in Syria, but not ISIS areas
Russian officials acknowledge that other unidentified groups were being targeted as well as the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Russian aircraft carried out a bombing attack against Syrian opposition fighters on Wednesday, including at least one group trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), eliciting protests from US officials and further complicating the civil war. Moscow’s entry means the world’s most powerful militaries, including the United States, Britain, and France, are now flying uncoordinated combat missions, heightening the risk of conflict in the skies over Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied reports that Russian airstrikes in Syria have caused civilian deaths. [NYT, AP, 10/1/2015]

Syria Kurds ask Russia for arms, coordination
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has asked Russia to support it in its fight against ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. YPG Chief Sipan Hemo said that his fighting force requested arms from Russia and general military coordination. He also called on Moscow to bomb the Nusra Front’s positions a day after Russia began its airstrikes in Syria. The report added that a foreign relations official for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which controls the YPG, said his party was “ready to cooperate with any actor fighting ISIS.” [NOW, 10/1/2015]

ISIS fighters desert following pay cuts
Hundreds of ISIS jihadists have left the group to join other extremist organizations following a drop in their wages. Members were supposed to be paid about $400, but a lack of funding forced the organization to reduce their salaries to $100-300. Reportedly, the group recently began to withdraw from northern Iraq to obtain more money from other regions in Syria. The decrease in the organization’s funding can be attributed the US-led international coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria, slowing down ISIS’ income from activities like oil theft, human trafficking, and bank robberies. [The Syrian Observer, 10/1/2015]

Saudi Arabia demands Russia stop Syria raids, criticizes Iran
Saudi Arabia demanded that Russia cease its raids on Syria, saying the strikes had caused civilian casualties while failing to target ISIS militants. In remarks at the United Nations in New York, a senior Saudi diplomat stated, “As for those countries that have claimed recently to join in the fight against ISIS terrorism, they can’t do that at the same time as they support the terrorism of the Syrian regime and its terrorist foreign allies like Hezbollah and the Quds Force and other terrorist sectarian groups.” He claims that Iran and Russia cannot claim to be fighting ISIS while supporting the “terrorism” of the Syrian regime. [Reuters, 10/1/2015]

More curfews established in Turkey’s southeast
A Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attack in the Silvan district of the southeastern Diyarbakır province on Thursday killed two specialized sergeants, Sinan Ucan and Tolga Topcuoglu. The Governor’s Office in the southeastern province of Mardin announced a curfew in four neighborhoods of the Nusaybin district until further notice. Officials declared the order was established “to protect public order, to prevent crimes from being committed, to protect our citizens’ rights and freedoms, to neutralize members of the separatist terror organization, to catch people who are being currently searched for, and to ensure the security of our citizen’s life and property by lifting the barricades and ditches, which were trapped and where explosives have been planted.” [Hurriyet, 10/01/2015]


United States calls for boost in shipping to Yemen
The United States has told the United Nations that it wants commercial shipping to conflict-torn Yemen to increase and cautioned that vessels should only be inspected when there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect illicit arms shipments. The remarks made by US Ambassador Samantha Power in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared to be an indirect dig at Saudi Arabia, whose coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen runs naval inspections causing shipping to Yemen to decrease dramatically. On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition announced it had intercepted an Iranian boat carrying weapons to Houthi fighters. The Saudi forces found missile launchers on board and arrested fourteen Iranians. The Iranian government denied the allegations, accusing Saudi forces of waging psychological warfare. Iran plans to launch an investigation into the seizure of the “fishing vessel.” At the UN General Assembly, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi accused Iran of pursuing his country’s destruction by aiding Houthi fighters and causing the humanitarian crisis. Before Saudi Arabia and Arab allies intervened in March to try to restore Yemen’s president to power and roll back the Iranian-allied Houthi militia, Yemen imported more than 90 percent of its food, mostly by sea. Since then, many shipping companies have pulled out. [Reuters, WSJ, Al-Masdar (Arabic), Al Arabiya, 10/1/2015]

Saudi-led objections halt UN inquiry of Yemen war
Western governments dropped their plans on Wednesday for an international inquiry into human rights violations by all parties, which has killed over 2,355 civilians in Yemen in the last six months. The Netherlands withdrew the draft resolution it had prepared that instructed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to send experts to Yemen to investigate the conduct of the war. The resolution also called for the warring parties to allow access to humanitarian groups seeking to deliver aid and to the commercial import of goods such as fuel. In the face of Saudi-led coalition resistance, Western governments have accepted a resolution based on a Saudi text that lacks any reference to an independent, international inquiry. Instead, the new resolution will allow the Yemeni government to hold a national commission of inquiry. Human rights groups are concerned this new resolution will not address the civilian deaths caused by Saudi-led airstrikes. Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addressed critics of the airstrikes, saying that collateral damage is “regrettable… but can we prevent it 100 percent? I don’t think you can. This is warfare.” [NYT, CBS, 10/1/2015]

Two Red Crescent workers killed by air strikes in Yemen
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) released a joint statement yesterday saying that two of its aid workers were killed during airstrikes in Taiz. The volatile security situation in Yemen, coupled with the recurrent attacks on humanitarian workers, are restricting field movements and hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid. “Since March, the ICRC has lost a total eight staff and volunteers in Yemen,” said Secretary General of the YRCS Fuad al-Makhazy. The two latest victims had been volunteers with the YRCS for more than eight years. [Relief Web, 10/1/2015]

Large weapons and bomb facility discovered in Bahrain
Security authorities in Bahrain seized an unprecedented amount of internationally sourced explosives and bomb-making materials on Wednesday. Authorities uncovered a bomb-manufacturing facility that contained 1.5 tonnes of high-grade explosives and other powerful chemical explosives in a counterterrorism operation at a warehouse in Nuwaidrat. The Interior Ministry said the material seized matched explosive traces found at a series of recent attacks in the Gulf state. Chief of Police Major-General Tariq al-Hassan said that this discovery marked another Iranian attempt to undermine Bahraini security. He claims that the arrested suspects have strong connections with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He added that terrorist plots in Bahrain have become more sophisticated, suggesting international sponsorship. Iran has denied any involvement in violence in Bahrain. [Gulf News, BBC, 10/1/2015]


IMF approves $301 million disbursement to Tunisia
The International Monetary Fund’s Executive Board approved the disbursement of $301.6 million to Tunisia as it held its final evaluation of its standby agreement with the North African country. The disbursement is the last of the agreement’s three tranches, worth a total of $1.74 billion. A statement released by the IMF said that although “all quantitative performance criteria under the Fund-supported program have been met” by Tunisia, “progress on structural reforms, including in the banking and fiscal areas, has been challenging.” The statement added that the “successful completion of [Tunisia’s] political transition represents a good opportunity to press ahead with reform implementation and complete the unfinished agenda within the program timeline.” The IMF called for faster implementation of Tunisia’s structural agenda to strengthen the investment climate and labor markets. Meanwhile, Trade Minister Ridha Lahouel said on Wednesday that negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union would begin on October 13. [TAP, ANSAmed, The Financial, 10/1/2015]

Egypt receives second floating LNG import terminal
A second liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal arrived in Egypt on Wednesday and will start operating in the third week of October, said EGAS head Khaled Abdel Badie. The floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), provided by Singapore-based Norwegian group BW Gas, has a capacity of 600 to 700 million cubic feet per day, Egypt’s Oil Ministry said. FSRUs allow Egypt to import LNG and convert it to natural gas to feed into its energy-starved power grid. Egypt received its first FSRU from Norway’s Hoegh LNG in April. The BW Gas terminal will remain at the Gulf of Suez port of Ain al-Sokhna port where the Heogh terminal is also moored. In other news, Egypt’s EFG Hermes, one of the Middle East’s largest investment banks, said it would reduce its capital by 184.782 million Egyptian pounds ($23.61 million) by terminating treasury stocks. [Reuters, 9/30/2015]

S&P says Gulf banks’ profits set to slide over low oil income
Net earnings of Gulf banks are expected to slide as government spending slows due to a dive in oil revenues, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) ratings agency said Thursday. Growth in net income declined to 4 percent in the second quarter, compared with 7 percent in the first three months of the year and more than 10 percent in the previous three quarters, S&P said in a report based on a survey of twenty-six major Gulf banks. “We expect Gulf banks’ net income growth to decline below 10 percent in 2015 and potentially slow further in 2016,” S&P said. Customer deposits also lost momentum in the first half. Gulf banks increased customer deposits by 6 percent in the first and second quarters of 2015, compared with more than 10 percent in the previous eight quarters, S&P said. Six of the twenty-six banks reported negative deposit growth in the second quarter. [AFP, Bloomberg, 10/1/2015]

Citigroup, Ashmore approved to buy Saudi stocks directly
US bank Citigroup Inc. and investment manager Ashmore Group have won permission from Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority to invest directly in the local stock market, industry sources said on Wednesday. The kingdom opened its $442 billion equity market, the largest in the Arab world, to direct investment by foreigners on June 15 as part of efforts to create jobs and diversify its economy beyond oil. Citigroup’s license marks a step towards rebuilding its presence in Saudi Arabia. After operating there for five decades, it pulled out in 2004 when it sold its 20 percent stake in Samba Financial Group, saying it was reallocating capital to core investments. It is not clear whether Citigroup will now seek to develop major Saudi operations by, for example, seeking a banking license. A Saudi official said earlier in September that there might be new opportunities for foreign banks to enter the kingdom, as most banks already operating there are nearing maximum credit limits imposed by the central bank. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 9/30/2015]