Top News: Russia Violates Turkish Airspace

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed Monday to take all necessary measures to protect Turkey’s borders from violation after a Russian fighter jet entered its airspace in Hatay province on Saturday. Russia admitted the breach, citing it as an accident, and assured Ankara it would not happen again. The Obama administration does not believe the incident to be an accident. [APAl Jazeera, 10/05/2015]



Egypt says Russia’s intervention in Syria will counter terrorism
Russia’s intervention in Syria will curtail the spread of terrorism and help deal a fatal blow to Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in the war-torn country, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday. Russia launched air strikes in Syria on Wednesday in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades. “Russia’s entrance, given its potential and capabilities, is something we see is going to have an effect on limiting terrorism in Syria and eradicating it,” Shoukry said in a Saturday interview on Al Arabiya. Following Shoukry’s remarks, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said, “[Egypt] fully supports besieging terrorism and fighting it wherever it is,” confirming Egypt’s support for Russia’s strikes in Syria. [Reuters, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 10/3/2015]

Egypt objects to UN resolution on abolishing death penalty
Egypt has objected to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on prohibiting the death penalty, Egypt’s permanent delegate to the UN said on Saturday. Egypt’s delegate to the UN in Geneva Amr Ramadan expressed Egypt’s deep concern over the use of economic sanctions and conditions to development aid to shape the choices of developing countries over the use of the death penalty. These practices are “unethical” and are “wholly rejected,” he said. Ramadan underlined that Egypt respects the decision of some countries to end the use of the death penalty and urged them to show equal mutual respect regarding Egypt’s decision. He added that any decision regarding the death penalty can only follow an internal national debate that takes into consideration cultural, political, religious, and economic aspects, which differ from one country to another. The UN Human Rights Council adopted the resolution, submitted by Belgium on Thursday. Twenty-six countries voted in favor, thirteen against, and eight abstained. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 10/3/2015]

Courts sentence two Morsi supporters to death, son of Brotherhood leader to five years
Anas al-Beltagy, the son of a prominent Muslim Brotherhood politician and two other students were sentenced to five years in prison for arms possession by a criminal court in Cairo on Saturday. The three were also fined EGP 200,000 (around $25,500). The trio were arrested in December 2013 and accused of rioting and violent acts in Cairo University and Ain Shams University. They were charged with armed violence, encouraging violence and joining a banned organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. The sentence can be appealed. Meanwhile, the Giza Criminal court, presided over by Judge Nagy Shehata, sentenced, also on Saturday, two supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to death on violence-related charges. Two others were sentenced to twenty-five years in jail, while a minor was sentenced to ten years in prison, the maximum sentence in juvenile cases. The verdicts can still be appealed. The convicted were charged with torching the administrative prosecution building in Cairo and a mobile phone network communication tower in October 6 City. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, AMAY, 10/3/2015]

Leader of April 6 youth group detained in Tora prison
The leader of the April 6 Youth Movement Amr Ali who was arrested from his home in Menoufiya last month has been detained for fifteen days pending investigation, according to the group. Mohamed al-Nagar, the group’s human resources manager in Menoufiya, said that Ali is currently in Tora prison. Sayed Elbana, the head of the legal committee managing Ali’s case, said the committee is considering appealing the decision to extend Ali’s detention and will reach a decision by Wednesday. Ali had previously been arrested on September 22 with no official acknowledgement of his whereabouts. He faces terrorism-related charges. [Aswat Masriya, 10/5/2015]

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Tunisia lifts state of emergency imposed after beach attack
Tunisia lifted a state of emergency on Friday imposed nearly three months ago following a massacre at a luxury beach hotel that killed thirty-eight, the president’s office announced. President Beji Caid Essebsi imposed the July 4 measure after the June attack in Sousse—the second deadly attack on foreigners in three months. At the end of July, he extended the state of emergency for two more months to the end of September. “The decision to declare the state of emergency has reached its objectives and the security situation in the country has improved significantly,” Prime Minister Habib Essid said Saturday. [AP, Reuters, AFP, TAP, 10/2/2015]

Presidents of Egypt, Tunisia agree on unifying efforts to counter terrorism
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi discussed on Sunday the importance of unifying efforts to combat terrorism threatening both countries’ security. The outcome of their talks was announced at a joint press conference in Cairo following Essebsi’s arrival for a two-day visit that will see him meet with several Egyptian officials. This is Essebsi’s first Egyptian visit since his election in December 2014. Essebsi praised the agreements made in the fifteenth Egyptian-Tunisian High Committee meeting in September, which saw memoranda of understanding across sectors including health, agriculture, economics, and media. [Ahram Online, 10/4/2015]

UN states press Libya peace deal with promise to help rebuild
United Nations member states on Friday pushed parties in Libya to agree to the September 21 draft of a UN-brokered peace deal with a promise of international help to rebuild the country and a warning not to further delay an end to the conflict. “There is no time to waste,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Libya on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. “If they make the right decisions … if they forge a true government of national unity, and if they begin to govern as their people need them to govern, we, the international community, will be behind them and beside them each and every step of the way.” [Reuters, Libya Herald, 10/2/2015]

Ninety-five migrants’ bodies wash ashore in Libya; 2.44 million need humanitarian aid
The bodies of at least ninety-five migrants have been found washed ashore in Libya over the past five days, a spokesman for Libya’s Red Crescent said Sunday. Mohamed al-Masrati said Red Crescent scouts found eighty-five of the bodies near Tripoli and ten near Sabratha, a main launching point for smugglers’ boats headed to Europe. He says most of the deceased are migrants from other African countries. Within Libya’s own population, nearly half of Libyan people have been affected by violence and need protection and some form of humanitarian aid, the United Nations said. In a country of 6.3 million, “2.44 million people are in need of protection and some form of humanitarian assistance,” it said. Of those at risk, nearly 1 million are children. [AP, Libya Herald, 10/4/2015]

Morocco’s statement regarding Human Rights Watch activities
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is disappointed with the demand from the Moroccan government’s spokesman in a letter dated September 23, 2015 that Human Rights Watch suspend its activities in the country, accusing the human rights group of bias. The government published a version of this letter in a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on October 2. For twenty-five years, HRW has promoted respect for human rights in Morocco and Western Sahara without significant obstacles from the government. The demand to suspend activities comes after the Moroccan government imposed restrictions on Amnesty International and stepped up restrictions on domestic human rights organizations, notably the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. HRW has responded to a recent request from government officials to meet, offering a range of dates in the coming days, and hopes that Morocco will return quickly to being among the countries that remain open to independent human rights organizations. [Morocco World News, HRW, 10/2/2015]


ISIS blows up Arch of Triumph in Syria’s Palmyra
Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants have deliberately destroyed another landmark structure in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, according to local activists and Syrian officials. The building involved this time was a set of nearly 2,000-year-old triumphal arches. The Arch of Triumph was one of the most recognizable sites in Palmyra, the central city known by Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert,” which ISIS seized in May. The monumental arch sat atop the colonnaded streets of the ancient city, which linked the Roman Empire to Persia and the East. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS blew up the arch, but left the colonnades in place. [AP, NYT, 10/5/2015]

Assad says failure of Russian-led alliance would ‘destroy’ whole region
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in comments broadcast on Sunday that the success of Russia’s military intervention in his country’s civil war was vital for the whole Middle East. “The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran must succeed or else the whole region will be destroyed,” he said in an interview broadcast by Iranian state television. He said a campaign of Western and Arab air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria had been counterproductive and had spread terrorism. [Reuters, Naharnet, 10/4/2015]

United States preparing major offensive in northeastern Syria
The US-led coalition combating ISIS militants is preparing to open a major offensive against the group in northeastern Syria, military officials reported. Over the last week, President Barack Obama cleared the way for the United States to provide ammunition and possibly some weapons directly to selected groups of Syrian rebels, in addition to a potential increase in air strikes with warplanes set to operate out of an air base in Turkey. The plan would allow some 3,000 to 5,000 militants to join more than 20,000 Kurdish fighters in an assault against Raqqa. Senior officials in the Obama administration have said the offensive could potentially have a major effect on ISIS operations in the area. [NYT, 10/4/2015]

Russian volunteers likely to fight in Syria
Russian volunteers who have honed their combat skills in Ukraine are likely to travel to Syria to fight alongside the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, head of the Russian parliament’s defense committee Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov said. “It is likely that groups of Russian volunteers will appear in the ranks of the Syrian army as combat participants,” Komoyedov said. Commenting on unconfirmed media reports that some Russian volunteers were already fighting in Syria, he said, “What attracts volunteers apart from ideas? Of course money most likely.” [Reuters, 10/5/2015]

Turkish President Erdogan meets EU to discuss migrant crisis
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to a crowd of Turks in Strasbourg, France, critical of Europe’s reaction to the migrant crisis thus far. On Monday, leaders from the European Union and Turkey will fine-tune a plan to help Ankara cope with refugees from Syria and Iraq and limit the flow of people leaving to Europe. The European Commission hopes to generate around 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) in European funds to help lessen the impact of refugee arrivals on Turkey. [AP, 10/05/2015]


Yemen reportedly severs diplomatic ties with Iran
The Saudi-backed Yemeni government of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi decided to sever diplomatic relations with Iran on Friday. According to Yemeni state media, “[Yemen] has taken the decision to expel the Iranian ambassador to Yemen, withdraw the Yemeni envoy to Tehran and close down its diplomatic mission in Iran.” The move was a protest against Iran’s “continued interference in the internal affairs of Yemen and violation of its national sovereignty,” citing a recent detention of an Iranian ship loaded with weapons. The Yemeni diplomatic mission in Tehran has refused to close its office and leave Iran, despite President Hadi’s decision. [Reuters, Gulf News, Al-Masdar (Arabic), 10/5/2015]

Fighting continues on Yemen’s Red Sea coast for Mokha port
Fighting continued between the pro-government Saudi coalition and the Houthi rebels and allied military units along Yemen’s Red Sea coast on Sunday. The Saudi-led coalition gained control of the strategic Bab al-Mandab on Thursday and now attempts to clear a path for the pro-government fighters toward the port of Mokha. Medical officials in nearby Taiz said at least fourteen dead bodies from Houthi forces arrived from the front lines. Houthi officials said the rebels have destroyed six opposing tanks and killed multiple pro-government fighters. Four civilians were also shot dead near the front lines. The Houthis have controlled the area near the strait for several months. The UN says at least 2,355 civilians have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March, when a Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against the Houthis and their allied army units. [AP, Reuters, 10/5/2015]

UAE backs Saudi Arabia at UN and warns of ISIS global threat
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed expressed concern about the situation in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Egypt before the general debate of the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Saturday. The United Arab Emirates has warned that the threat of terrorist organizations, most notably the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and aI-Qaeda affiliated groups, transcends geographical boundaries, and is not only to the region but also for the world. He also said, “The United Arab Emirates stands firm with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any Iranian attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Arab States.” [Khaleej Times, Bahrain News Agency, 10/5/2015]


Saudi foreign assets fall in August on drawdown to cover deficit
Saudi Arabia’s net foreign assets fell by $6.6 billion to $645.5 billion in August, the lowest level since February 2013, as the kingdom liquidated assets to cover a budget gap caused by cheap oil. Official data showed foreign assets shrinking 1 percent since July, marking a year-on-year decline of 11.2 percent. Nevertheless, the pace of decline has slowed since early this year, when month-on-month falls sometimes exceeded 2 percent. One reason for the slower fall is the government’s decision to resume issuing sovereign bonds for the first time since 2007. The government has issued about 20 billion riyals each month, reducing the need to draw down foreign reserves. Last week, Capital Economics said in a report that the slide in Saudi Arabia’s foreign reserves could continue for years, but predicted the pace would slow as Riyadh restrained spending and oil prices gradually rebounded. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia cut its oil prices following cuts made last month by rival producers in the Gulf. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 10/5/2015]

World Bank loans Egypt $550 million for sanitation project
Egypt signed an agreement on Sunday with the World Bank for a $550 million loan to fund a rural sanitation project. The project aims to improve facilities in 155 villages, which house over 800,000 Egyptians, over three years. It focuses on enhancing access to sanitation services for the rural poor and addressing the Nile pollution from untreated sewage. The project has a projected cost of $2.8 billion, $1.1 billion of which to be provided by the World Bank. The World Bank approved the first half of the loan in July, which comes as part of the sanitation and social housing program the bank introduced in 2014. “One of our strategic areas for supporting Egypt is improving service delivery especially for the poor,” said Asad Alam, World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti. [Ahram Online, Al Bawaba, 10/4/2015]

UAE minister says plans to boost oil output capacity on track
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is moving ahead with its oil and gas investments and plans to boost crude output, Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said on Sunday. He said that the UAE’s plan to boost oil production capacity to 3.5 million barrels per day by 2017 is on track. Mazroui also said that the UAE invested $35 billion to diversify its energy mix. “We need to minimize our reliance on natural gas and its imports,” he said, adding that the UAE plans to decrease dependence on natural gas to 70 percent by 2021. [Reuters, 10/4/2015]

Tunisia inner cabinet reviews new investment code, budget
An inner cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Habib Essid examined Tunisia’s draft investment code on Friday. The cabinet reviewed aspects of the new investment code, including private investment, a regulatory framework, and administrative procedures. The review is part of Tunisia’s five-year economic plan. The cabinet also discussed Tunisia’s draft 2016 budget during the meeting. Essid examined scheduled reforms and other measures that will be taken to ensure sound public finances. [TAP, 10/2/2015]