Top News: Militants attack Tunisian forces near Libyan border, 50 killed

Dozens of Islamist fighters stormed through the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border on Monday, attacking army and police posts in a raid that killed at least 50 people, including civilians, the government and residents said. Soldiers killed 33 militants and arrested six, the Interior Ministry said. Hospital and security sources said at least seven civilians were killed along with ten soldiers. A 12-year-old girl was among the fatalities. Authorities sealed off the nearby town of Djerba, a popular destination for foreign and local tourists, imposed a curfew on Ben Guerdane, and closed the Ras Jedir border crossing with Libya and the main road connecting Ben Guerdane with the rest of Tunisia through the town of Zarzis after the attack. “This was an unprecedented, well-organized attack,” President Beji Caid Essebsi said. The Tunisian military sent reinforcements and helicopters to the area around Ben Guerdane. Authorities were hunting several attackers still at large. Defense Minister Farhat Horchani said last week that German and US security experts were expected in Tunis on Monday to help Tunisia devise a new electronic video surveillance system of its border with Libya, which may include the use of drones. [ReutersAPAFPNYTWSJ, 3/7/2016]



Egypt rights groups raise concerns over violations at UN Human Rights Council
Egyptian human rights organizations relayed concerns over escalating violations against human rights defenders at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday. The organizations cited the “increasing use of a repressive NGO law and other infamous legislations to open investigations against rights organizations and impose travel bans on individuals,” the statement said. “These measures form part of a larger effort by the government to shut down the public space and stifle civil society,” the organizations said. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Director Bahey El-Din Hassan met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Tore Hattrem, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Tom Malinowski to discuss the deterioration of human rights in the Arab world. The US department of state published statements Wednesday from Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken’s speech at the session, in which he expressed US concern over police abuses and violations in Egypt. According to the state-run MENA, Egyptian permanent representative in Geneva Amro Ramadan attacked Blinken’s statements about the human rights situation in Egypt, saying the council does not need advice from a state that violates human rights itself. [Mada Masr, DNE, 3/5/2016]

Egypt accuses Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas of assassinating prosecutor
Egypt has accused exiled Muslim Brotherhood officials of conspiring with Hamas militants to assassinate Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat last year and arrested 14 people in connection with the attack. Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar said authorities had arrested 48 members of a Muslim Brotherhood cell intending to undermine security through a series of attacks; 14 had confessed to killing Barakat. Abdel-Ghaffar said that Turkish-based leaders of the Brotherhood masterminded the assassination, while Hamas provided training and took part in planning. He added that the Interior Ministry is seeking an Interpol notice against the fugitive suspects. The ministry released a video showing confessions by alleged Muslim Brotherhood members; members recount how they joined the group, their participation in protests, and their coordination with Hamas to plan the attack. Hamas expressed dismay at Abdel-Ghaffar’s accusations. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described them as “untrue,” saying that the claims are not in line with “the efforts exerted to develop relations between Hamas and Cairo.” The Muslim Brotherhood denied involvement in the attack, saying in a statement that the accusations were part of the Interior Ministry’s efforts to demonize the group. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, MOI Statement, Mada Masr, The Guardian, 3/7/2016]

Prominent Egyptian reformist judge Zakaria Abdel-Aziz forced into retirement
Prominent reformist judge and former head of Egypt’s Judges Club Zakaria Abdel-Aziz was forced into retirement by a disciplinary committee formed by the court of appeals on Monday for “storming” the State Security headquarters in March 2011. In March 2011, shortly after the downfall of the Mubarak regime, Abdel-Aziz was among several prominent figures who attempted to convince protesters who seized documents from the State Security headquarters in Cairo to hand them over to the army. Reports that former State Security apparatus officers were shredding documents that could be used to expose violations of human rights during the Mubarak era sparked similar attempts by demonstrators to storm State Security headquarters in Alexandria and other cities. The reformist judge played a leading role in the reformist judicial independence movement under Mubarak’s rule. The committee that forced Abdel-Aziz into retirement has not yet issued its reasons for doing so. [Ahram Online, 3/7/2016]

Defense lawyer says arrest of policemen advocating for police rights is illegal
Lawyer Mounir Moukhtar condemned the arrest of seven low-ranking police officers who were involved in the formation of organizations to advocate for the rights of police officers. The prosecution accused the police officers of inciting other officers to strike, organizing illegal protests, and belonging to a group whose target is to impact the work of the Egyptian police. Moukhtar stated that their arrest stems from their involvement in some capacity in one of three officer organizations: the Coalition of Low-Ranking Police Officers, the Club of Low-Ranking Police Officers, and the Low-Ranking Police Officers Union. Mokhtar described the arrest of the seven officers without charges as a violation of the Egyptian legal code. He added that the Ministry of Interior had previously licensed the formation of these organisations. The health of two of the seven police detained officers is deteriorating and they have been transferred to the prison’s hospital, according to Moukhtar. [DNE, 3/6/2016]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Libyan forces target ISIS in Sirte with air strikes
Libyan forces based in the city of Misrata have carried out air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants in their stronghold of Sirte, a military source said on Sunday. As many as 18 people were reportedly killed in the strikes, including senior ISIS members, said Jamal Zubia, foreign media spokesman for Libya’s western, Tripoli-based government. The claim could not immediately be confirmed with other officials, but a resident in Sirte said that air strikes on Sunday had targeted districts in and around the city and that at least one civilian had been killed. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 3/6/2016]

Italy PM says will not send troops to Libya for now; freed Italian hostages fly home
On Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi denied suggestions by the US ambassador in Rome that Italy could send up to 5,000 troops to Libya, saying conditions were not in place for military intervention in the former Italian colony. Renzi was speaking on a television talk show on the day two Italian hostages freed in Libya were flown back home. Two other captives held at the same time were allegedly killed by ISIS militants. However, Italian media said the two freed hostages had told Italian magistrates during a six-hour debriefing in Rome that they had been held by a criminal gang that was not directly linked to ISIS. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 3/6/2016]

Putin, Sisi agree about need to fight terrorists in Libya, Yemen
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi highlighted in a phone conversation on Monday that the fight against terrorists should continue not only in Syria but also in Libya and Yemen, the Kremlin said in a statement. Putin informed Sisi about the implementation of a Syria ceasefire agreement, which the Russian leader said was key for stabilizing the situation in the country. [Reuters, 3/7/2016]

Libya health minister demands release of frozen funds
Acute shortages of medicines, equipment and staff are putting patients at risk in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, Health Minister Reida al-Oakley said on Friday. Oakley said there was no money in Libya’s health budget for 2016 and urged world powers to release funds frozen abroad, saying a fraction of that money could finance medical care for years to come. Libya’s health budget would normally be about $1 billion, but less than $500 million could cover essential medical needs this year if used prudently. Oakley said there was an urgent need for mobile clinics and trauma kits, as well as basic equipment such as gloves and gauze. [Reuters, AFP, 3/4/2016]

UN chief says envoy to restart diplomacy for Western Sahara talks
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday in Algiers that he had asked his Special Envoy Christopher Ross to meet the Polisario independence movement and Morocco to bring the two sides back to negotiations to end their conflict. Ban has said he wants to relaunch negotiations to resolve the conflict so Sahrawi refugees can return home to Western Sahara. He said on Sunday he would call for a donors’ conference to raise funds for the Sahrawi camps. Ban spoke after visiting the Sahrawi refugee camps where Polisario Front is based in southern Algeria, near the Moroccan border. Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz last week called Ban’s visit the best chance in a long time to reset negotiations, but many in the Sahrawi camps are deeply frustrated over the long-delayed referendum and lack of progress. [Reuters, AP, UN News Centre, 3/6/2016]


Syrian opposition to attend Geneva peace talks
The main Syrian opposition council will attend talks scheduled for March 10 that the United Nations aims to convene in Geneva “God willing,” and wants an immediate start to negotiations on a transitional governing body, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said on Monday. A member of the HNC Riad Nassan Agha said, “We started to notice that the volume of violations has started to reduce in the last two days. We hope that in the coming days until Friday that the violations reach zero,” he said. “If these violations end this will create the favorable environment for the start of negotiations.” The Syrian Observatory for Human RIghts (SOHR) Director Rami Abdulrahman said “Sunday [March 6] was the calmest day since the ceasefire came into effect.” Also this weekend the main opposition group the Syrian National Coalition announced the election of Anas al-Abda to replace former President Khaled Khoja. [Reuters, AFP, 3/7/2016]

Syrians use truce to resume Friday protests
Hundreds of Syrians nationwide took advantage of the ceasefire on Friday to resume anti-government protests under the slogan “The Revolution Continues!” Waving the rebellion’s three-starred tricolor flag, demonstrators in areas of Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa, and Homs called for the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “You could say we’ve gone back to the beginning,” said Hasaan Abu Nuh, an activist from Homs province. “People are so, so happy. There was crying, there was joy, but there was also a lump in people’s throats,” he said. “With this truce, we have the opportunity to express why we came out to the streets in the first place, which is the downfall of the regime,” said Abu Nadim, an activist in the city. Also on Friday UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura reiterated that the solution in Syria should be Syrian-led, while Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Saturday that Assad must leave office as soon as a transitional authority is set up. Also this weekend an Iranian-government owned outlet quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying that there is no difference between Iran and Turkey regarding stopping the war in Syria. [AFP, NYT, 3/4/2016]

Syrian rebels take border crossing from ISIS
Two Syrian opposition monitoring groups say rebel fighters have seized the Syrian side of a major Syria-Iraq border crossing from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Fighters from the New Syria Army militia took the Tanaf border crossing Friday night, according to SOHR. The fighting began Friday when US-backed fighters from the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front routed ISIS fighters at the border, killing one and wounding several others, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition network in Syria. The Tanf crossing in southeastern Syria links the Homs province, including the ISIS-held ancient city of Palmyra, to Iraq’s Anbar province, where ISIS has a large presence. [AP, 3/5/2016]

EU migration summit looks to Turkey to stem influx
EU leaders held a summit with Turkey’s prime minister on Monday in order to back closing the Balkans migrant route and urged Ankara to accept deportations of large numbers of economic migrants from overstretched Greece. In a draft statement prepared for the talks, the leaders said they will pursue “comprehensive, large scale and fast-track returns to Turkey of all irregular migrants not in need of international protection.” The European Union is hardening its stance in a bid to defuse the worst refugee crisis since World War II by increasingly putting the onus on Turkey and EU member Greece in return for aid. The European Commission trumpeted the availability of tens of millions of euros to help Syrian school children and provide food aid. It said that a new roadmap on visa liberalization for Turkey had also been submitted. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said he hopes the summit would mark a turning point in EU-Turkey ties. He said the meeting is as focused on Turkey’s future EU membership as on the refugee emergency. [Hurriyet, Reuters, AP, Guardian, 3/7/2017]

Turkish president suggests building refugee city in northern Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested building a new city in northern Syria to house some of the millions of refugees escaping the country’s civil war. Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul late Friday that the new city would be located near the Turkish border and said he had even discussed the idea with US President Barack Obama. State-run Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan as saying, “Let’s build a city in northern Syria. Let’s build an approximately 4,500-square meter [wide] city and include everything, infrastructure…with the international community.” Refugees from Syria could be resettled there, he said. Such an area would make the city comparable to some of the largest urban centers in the United States. [Al Arabiya, Anadolu Agency, Rudaw, 3/5/2016]

Seized Turkish newspaper adopts pro-government line, receives international condemnation
Turkey’s largest-circulation newspaper has adopted a more pro-government line in its first edition since a court ordered it to be seized, a move which has heightened fears over deteriorating media freedom in the country. Police stormed the headquarters of the Zaman opposition newspaper Friday to enforce a court decision to place it and its sister outlets under the management of trustees. The step sparked two days of protests which police dispersed using tear gas and water cannons. Many have called out against the move. The White House has called the takeover troubling, as the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on France Inter radio defined the seizure of Zaman unacceptable and against European values. Human Rights Watch released a scathing statement point to government aims to eradicate opposition. The Turkish Prime Minister has pointed to the decision as having been issued by the judiciary, stating “It is a completely legal process. No one should have hesitation about press freedom in Turkey.” Some former employees of the agency have started a new daily titled Yarina Bakis, a Turkish phrase meaning looking toward tomorrow. [AP, Al Jazeera, 3/7/2016]

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


Prime Minister Abadi secures Shia support for cabinet change plan
Iraq’s main Shia groups on Sunday voiced support for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s plan to overhaul the government and combat corruption, according to a broadcast on Iraqi state TV. The broadcast cited a statement issued by the National Alliance, a coalition of Shia groups that controls the majority of seats in parliament, after a meeting with Abadi in the Shia holy city of Kerbala, south of Baghdad. The meeting was attended by Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful cleric who, in a Friday rally, called for the “government of corruption” to be overthrown if it failed to act against corruption. Around 200,000 people rallied at the entrance to the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, demanding reform, better services and an end to corruption. Abadi, 19 months into his four-year term, said in February that he wanted to replace politically-appointed ministers with technocrats in a bid to weaken the current system which distributes positions along ethnic and sectarian lines, creating patronage networks blamed for breeding corruption. [Reuters, Rudaw, 3/6/2016]

ISIS truck bomb kills 61 people south of Baghdad
A truck bomb at an Iraqi checkpoint in Hilla, 73 miles south of Baghdad, killed 61 people and wounded more than 70 on Sunday, medical and security officials said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing with a posting on the website of the Amaaq news agency. Falah al-Radhi, the head of the provincial security committee, told Reuters that this is “the largest bombing in the province to date … The checkpoint, the nearby police station were destroyed as well as some houses and dozens of cars.” A provincial hospital official confirmed the number of casualties, adding that 23 of them were members of the police and other security forces that were manning the checkpoint located at the northern entrance of the city. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, condemned the bombing and called on Iraqis to avoid “[falling] into the trap of the terrorists who seek to undermine the country’s unity and fuel sectarian strife.” [AP, Reuters, BBC, NYT, 3/6/2016]

UN team calls destruction in Ramadi ‘staggering’
Destruction in Ramadi is “staggering” and worse than anywhere else in Iraq, a UN team concluded this week after making the first assessment visit to the city since its recapture from ISIS. The two-day assessment found that nearly every building had been damaged or destroyed in frontline areas. The assessment also said the main hospital and train station had both been destroyed, along with thousands of other buildings. Local officials also told the UN team 64 bridges and much of the electricity grid had been ruined. Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq said that “the destruction the team has found in Ramadi is worse than any other part of Iraq. It is staggering” and that it is too early to say how much time and money it would take to rebuild. The United Nations is working with local authorities on plans to rebuild health, water, and energy infrastructure. [Reuters, 3/4/2016]

Work on Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline to be complete ‘in a day or two’
Work on a pipeline carrying oil from northern Iraq to Turkey should be complete “in a day or two,” with the outage now in its third week, according to a source based in the Kurdistan region. Turkey’s energy ministry said flows were initially suspended due to temporary security measures, and that militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had subsequently blown up the pipeline. Flows through the pipeline, which carries around 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from fields in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and Kirkuk to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, have been suspended since February 17. [Reuters, 3/6/2016]

Primary school in Somerset ‘twinned’ with refugee camp in Iraq
Priddy and St. Lawrence’s Primary School will send letters and pictures to Yazidi Refugee Camp School and link via the video chat app Facetime. Ravi Singh, who is behind the idea, said “the refugees we’re helping in northern Iraq, the Kurdish Region, are Yazidi refugees; they are the ones that suffered the most after the 2014 rise of [ISIS] in the area … Some of the refugees we’re working with are in a really isolated location so we’re trying to help the children, who are really stranded.” The aim is for pupils to learn about displacement in conflict and to raise funds for a new classroom in the refugee camp. [BBC, 3/6/2016]


Saudi Ambassador says no UN resolution needed for Yemen crisis
Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador said Friday he is concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen but doesn’t see the need for a Security Council resolution addressing it. UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien has accused all parties in Yemen’s conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition and the rebels it has been fighting for nearly a year, of attacking hospitals and schools. Security Council members have begun discussing a proposed resolution on the humanitarian crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country, but Saudi Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had told his office that it does not believe the council’s intervention is needed. “There are reports here and there about what the Security Council is up to,” Al-Mouallimi said. “We continue to believe that a political solution is the only way to resolve the Yemeni crisis.” Angola’s UN Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins, the current Security Council president, said Thursday that members are discussing a new resolution on the humanitarian situation “because the situation is evolving toward a very drastic one … before our eyes.” Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists in Geneva on Friday that the number of civilians killed in Yemen doubled between January and February. At least 168 civilians were killed and 193 injured last month, around two-thirds of them by coalition airstrikes, he said. [AP, UN News Centre, 3/7/2016]

Pope shocked by murderous attack in Yemen that killed four nuns
The Vatican says Pope Francis was “shocked and profoundly saddened” by a murderous attack at a home for the elderly in southern Yemen that killed 16 people, including four nuns. The Vatican secretary of state said in a condolence message on Saturday that the pontiff “prays that this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms.” Officials and witnesses in Yemen said gunmen on Friday stormed a retirement home run by a charity established by Mother Teresa, moving room to room handcuffing the victims before shooting them in the head. Pope Francis says the four nuns killed in an attack on a home for the elderly in Yemen are modern-day martyrs and victims of indifference. [AP, Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera, 3/5/2016]

Police colonel, aide killed in attack in Yemen’s Aden
Gunmen opened fire and killed a police colonel and his aide as their vehicle was passing through a roundabout in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Saturday, a local security official and witnesses said. The attack on Col. Salem al-Milqat, police chief of Tawahi district, occurred in the restive district of al-Mansoura which has seen several assaults on local security officials. Yemen’s embattled government has been forced out of the capital Sana’a by Iran-allied Houthi rebels and is now based in Aden but struggles to impose its authority even there. [Reuters, AP, 3/5/2016]

Yemen’s food crisis deepens as banks cut credit for shipments
Banks have cut credit lines for traders shipping food to war-torn Yemen, where ports have been battlegrounds and the financial system is grinding to a halt, choking vital supplies to an impoverished country that could face famine. Lenders are increasingly unwilling to offer letters of credit for cargoes to the war-torn country. Western international banks no longer feel comfortable processing payments and are not willing to take the risk . . . traders are saddled with even more risks and have to effectively guarantee entire cargoes, usually millions of dollars, before the prospect of getting paid,” said said an international commodities trading source active in Yemen. [Reuters, 3/4/2016]

Biden visits UAE, vows allies will squeeze ISIS
US Vice President Joe Biden began a Mideast tour Monday vowing that the United States and its allies would destroy and “squeeze the heart” of the Islamic State group, while thanking both US airmen and Emirati troops. Biden spoke before hundreds of airmen as jets roared down the runway at Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, a main launching point for operations in Syria and Iraq targeting the Islamic State group. Flanked by an F-22 Raptor and an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet, Biden applauded Emirati authorities for their “stepped up and expanded” role in the anti-ISIS campaign. “You capture the images that provide us with intelligence we need to target the enemy to protect our forces,” Biden said. Biden’s remarks, however, did not touch on the worries of Emiratis and Saudi Arabia over regional Shia power, Iran. On the trip, Biden is scheduled to meet with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the federation’s vice president and prime minister. [AP, VOA, Al Jazeera, 2/7/2016]


Egypt central bank holds exceptional $500 million FX auction
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) kept the pound stable at 7.7301 pounds against the dollar at an exceptional auction on Sunday for the sale of $500 million to cover imports of strategic goods, pumping foreign exchange into an economy that has been starved of dollars. “I think the sale could temporarily hold the decline [of the pound] for a couple of days but the investors and importers are looking for a more sustainable solution because the [currency] shortage situation has not been tackled,” said Head of Equities at Beltone Financial Hany Genena. “It is just an auction to clear the backlog so the gap may stabilize temporarily,” he said. The CBE normally sells no more than $40 million at its regular foreign exchange auctions, which are held three times a week. A CBE official said that the bank sold $551 million to banks on Sunday and no outstanding imports of goods remained. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 3/6/2016]

Moody’s cuts outlooks for four Gulf states, lowers Bahrain to junk
Moody’s Investors Service cut its outlook for the debt ratings of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, and Qatar and lowered Bahrain’s rating to junk, citing concern over the impact of low oil prices on the Gulf countries’ finances. Saudi Arabia’s Aa3 rating was placed on review for a possible downgrade, Moody’s said, adding that it would study whether Riyadh’s efforts to expand its non-oil revenues and diversify its economy were likely to be successful. Moody’s also acknowledged that the UAE’s economy is more diversified than most in the region, but added that “the structural shock to the oil market is weakening the UAE’s government balance sheet and its economy, and therefore its credit profile.” Moody’s cut Bahrain’s rating to below investment grade. It kept the rating on review for a further downgrade. Moody’s announcement follows a mass downgrade of oil producers by Standard & Poor’s in mid-February. [Reuters, AFP, 3/5/2016]

Saudi Arabia said to hold out bond mandate prospect to banks
Saudi Arabia is holding out the prospect of a role in its first international sovereign bond to banks that will participate in a loan to the government. Banks were briefed that the largest lenders on the loan, which may be as much as $10 billion, will likely be appointed to arrange the bond. Saudi Arabia is looking for sources of funding to plug a budget deficit that is expected to reach 17.8 percent of economic output this year. So far, the government has mostly relied on a domestic bond program and drawing down foreign reserves. Saudi Arabia has not publicly acknowledged the international bond plan, which was first reported in November. No mandates on a bond issue are guaranteed and the kingdom may decide not to go ahead with the sale, sources said. [Bloomberg, 3/7/2016]

Iran and Turkey aim to triple trade to $30 billion
Iran and Turkey aim to triple their annual trade to $30 billion within two years. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in Tehran over the weekend. “We have set a target of $30 billion for our trade,” Jahangiri said in a press briefing broadcast on state television, outlining a two year timeframe for upping the figure from its current $10 billion. “The main obstacle that prevented us from reaching our goal were the sanctions [on Iran]. Being free of those means we can easily surpass our goal of $30 billion,” Davutoglu said, adding that he hoped to encourage mutual direct investment. Turkey mainly sells machinery, vehicles, and iron and steel products to Iran. Oil and natural gas make up 90 percent of Iranian exports to Turkey, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. [AFP, Reuters, 3/5/2016]

Battle between rivals of Libya’s $67 billion fund reaches UK court
A dispute over the leadership of Libya’s $67 billion sovereign wealth fund reached London’s High Court on Monday, potentially paving the way for litigation against two global investment banks to move forward. The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is seeking to pursue Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale in the UK courts for more than $3 billion it claims was mismanaged. Both banks have rejected the allegations. The fund, however, is mired in a power struggle between two rival chairmen, Hassan Bouhadi and Abdulmagid Breish. Bouhadi initiated proceedings in London’s Commercial Court in September 2015 to determine the issue of authority over the LIA. The issue needs to be settled to provide clarity for litigation against the two investment banks. In the absence of any decision from Libya, a UK court must now rule on who has the authority to bring the litigation against the banks. [Reuters, 3/7/2016]