Top News: Turkey’s President Erdogan Says New Constitution Should Be Priority

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s parliament should prioritize discussions on a new constitution, in his first major speech since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won back its majority in a snap election over the weekend. Speaking in the capital on Wednesday, Erdogan said that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu would consult opposition leaders on rewriting the constitution. If those negotiations failed, Erdogan said he would back a decision to consult the electorate on the issue. Erdogan added that Turkey would continue its fight against Kurdish insurgents until every last militant was “liquidated.” Soon after he spoke, the general staff said on its website that two soldiers and fifteen Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants had been killed in clashes near the village of Daglica by the Iraqi border, which the military had targeted with air strikes on Tuesday. Turkish jets also pounded PKK targets in northern Iraq on Tuesday for a second day, the military also said. [Guardian, 11/4/2015]



Egypt’s newly elected MPs vow to amend constitution
Candidates who won seats in the first stage of Egypt’s ‎parliamentary elections began on Tuesday to obtain their ‎parliamentary membership cards and some of them have already revealed their intent to make some crucial amendments to the 2014 Constitution. Some of the new MPs said their first priority in ‎parliament is to extend the ‎president’s term in office to more than ‎four years.‎ MP Shadi Abul-Ela, a former police officer who was ‎elected an independent in Minya, told reporters that a president’s one term ‎in office must be increased to five rather than four ‎years. He stressed that his request does not aim to ‎serve incumbent president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “An elected president usually devotes the ‎first year of his first term in office to exploring the ‎country’s problems, while he takes the fourth year to ‎preparing himself to run for another term in presidential ‎elections,” he explained. “This means that only two years are left ‎for him to find solutions to the country’s problems and ‎this is by no means enough or fair,” said Abul-Ela.‎ Saeed Hassanein, an independent MP ‎representing the constituency of Kerdasa in Giza, also insisted “a term of four ‎years in office is by no means enough for any president ‎to deliver in political and economic terms.” Mokhtar Dessouki, another independent MP from Assiut said, “The ‎constitution has to be amended not only to increase the ‎president’s years in office, but also to grant the ‎president greater powers … The new constitution ‎stripped the president of many powers that he should ‎exercise so that he is able to deliver.” Dessouki was a ‎member of former president Hosni Mubarak’s ‎National Democratic Party.‎ The constitution stipulates that the president can only serve for two terms. [Ahram Online, 11/3/2015]

Sinai State claims Arish car bomb explosion
A car bomb targeting a policeman’s club in the Egyptian city of al-Arish killed several people and wounded ten on Wednesday, security sources said. In a statement shared on social media, the Sinai State, Egypt’s Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack, which it described as a suicide bombing. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the bomber tried to ram his four-wheel drive vehicle into the complex in the city of al-Arish, but was stopped by a concrete security barrier and detonated his explosives there. The Interior Ministry statement said that three policemen were killed, while Reuters reported that the death toll had reached six. According to the ministry, six of the wounded were civilians and four were police. The attacker was also killed. [Reuters,AP, AFP,DNE, Ahram Online, AMAY, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, 11/4/2015]

Prosecution unauthorized to list Brotherhood leaders as terrorists says Egypt Cassation Court
Egypt’s Cassation Court has cancelled a March decision by late prosecutor general Hisham Barakat to put Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and seventeen others on a “terrorism list.” The court announced its decision in September but the details were only published by privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper on Monday. The newly published report shows that the Cassation Court did not take into consideration the prosecution’s decision because it was not the entity with the authority to issue the list, hence, its decision “had no impact.” The Cassation Court explained that the criminal court, and not the prosecution, is the entity responsible for listing individuals or organizations on the terrorism list, according to the report. In reaction to the cassation court’s cancellation, the prosecutor general’s office issued a statement saying, “No objection can be made to court decisions.” [Ahram Online, 11/3/2015]

Sisi visits the United Kingdom
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi left Cairo on Wednesday on a three-day official visit to the UK. Sisi is scheduled to hold meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned Cameron’s decision to welcome the Egyptian president to Downing Street and called for the UK to suspend arms exports to the country. A broad coalition of Egyptian and British groups also called for demonstrations on Wednesday night and Thursday morning during Sisi’s visit. In an interview with the BBC, Sisi defended his domestic human rights record. “Don’t forget that we are plagued by terrorism along the 1,000 km border with Libya, and Sinai and around Egypt… We need stability so the rest of Egyptian society can survive,” he said. He also said the sentences issued over charges of violence, murder, and terrorism will most likely not be enforced “either because they were convicted in absentia or due to the appeals process.” Finally, a report in the works by British authorities over the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and the legality of its activities will be announced during the best time for British interests, the UK Ambassador to Cairo has said. [SIS, Reuters, 11/4/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Egypt’s Sisi calls for NATO support in Libya
Britain and other NATO members involved in toppling Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi must do more to support Libya now, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the Daily Telegraph newspaper ahead of a visit to London. “Libya is a danger that threatens all of us. If there is no government then this only creates a vacuum where extremists can prosper,” Sisi said. [AFP, Reuters, 11/4/2015]

GNC tells Ban Ki-moon that keeping Leon will wreck dialogue
The General National Dialogue (GNC) has publicly spoken against UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to keep Bernardino Leon as UN Special Envoy to Libya and warned that Leon’s continued presence will wreck what is left of the political dialogue. The GNC warned that it would hold Secretary-General Ban responsible for the total collapse of the dialogue if he continues to back Leon. Meanwhile, the UN Inter-agency Standing Committee issued its “Alert, Early Warning and Readiness Report” on Monday, giving a pessimistic outlook on Libya. “In the absence of a legitimate government, Libya is likely to face a rapidly deteriorating civil war, losing any chance of achieving stability or a political solution in the foreseeable future,” it said. [Libya Herald, 11/3/2015]

Serraj discusses European support for Libya with EU foreign policy chief
Although neither the House of Representatives in Tobruk nor the General National Congress in Tripoli has so far endorsed the proposed Government of National Accord (GNA) proposed by UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon, on Tuesday Prime Minister-designate Fayez Serraj of the proposed GNA met with the EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini to discuss plans for his proposed administration and the help that the European Union could provide for the new government. [Libya Herald (subscription), 11/3/2015]

Essebsi condemns conflict within Nidaa Tounes
Nidaa Tounes Member of Parliament Khemaies Ksila affirmed that President Beji Caid Essebsi has condemned the violence and accusations between the factions of Nidaa Tounes. The party is divided between those factions supporting Vice President Hafedh Caid Essebsi and those behind the Secretary-General Mohsen Marzouk. Tensions between two factions spilled over into violence last week at a party meeting in Hammamet. President Caid Essebsi asserted “that he is the father of all Tunisians,” and that he backs up no faction at the expense of the other nor does he believe in the legacy of political posts. [TAP, 11/3/2015]


Syrian government troops retake Aleppo supply route from ISIS
Syria’s state news agency and activists report that government troops have regained control of a major road linking the contested northern province of Aleppo with the country’s central provinces from Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants. The Syrian Observatory said that government troops on Wednesday routed ISIS extremists from the Khanasser-Atharayya road, southeast of the city of Aleppo, after nearly two weeks of fighting. The road is the government’s lifeline to areas it controls in Aleppo province. State news agency SANA says residents can begin returning to their homes along the road on Thursday. [AP, Reuters, 11/4/2015]

Russia calls for consensus on opposition group designations in Syria
On Wednesday,Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that it was necessary to agree on which groups would fall under terrorist groups and which groups to consider as legitimate opposition groups in Syria before the next round of talks on the Syria crisis in Vienna takes place. Lavrov added at a news conference with UN Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura that Russia actively supported de Mistura’s efforts in resolving the Syrian crisis, adding that the “entire spectrum” of Syrian society should be represented at the negotiating table, and reiterated Russia’s traditional stance that the fate of embattled President Bashar al-Assad should be decided by “the Syrian people.” De Mistura said it was important to work on the formation of an inclusive government in Syria and said that the UN was ready to bring representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition together for talks in Geneva. [Reuters, AP, AFP, 11/4/2015]

Russian air strikes killed twenty-three civilians, say Syrian activists
Airstrikes believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes on an ISIS-held town in central Syria killed twenty-three civilians, an activist group said Wednesday. Among those killed in the Monday strikes on the Homs province town of Al-Qaryatain were three children and a woman, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to the Observatory, the first month of Russian strikes killed nearly 600 people, two-thirds of them fighters. The rest, some 185, were civilians, it says. [AFP, 11/4/2015]

Turkey detains nine ISIS suspects planning suicide attacks
Police in Turkey’s southern province of Gaziantep have detained nine alleged ISIS militants who were planning suicide bomb attacks on the offices of a political party in Istanbul. The Gaziantep governor’s office said late Tuesday that the group may also have been planning attacks on the offices of a newspaper in Istanbul and Ankara. It was not clear when the arrests were made, but the governor’s office said the group planned to create “fear and chaos” prior to the election that took place Sunday. Two of the suspects were detained after they hurled hand grenades at police during a car chase. The seven others were detained in police raids. [AP, 11/4/2015]

Iraqi leaders attend funeral of invasion backer Chalabi
Top Iraqi officials attended a funeral Wednesday for politician Ahmed Chalabi, a controversial champion of the US-led invasion of his country. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, President Fuad Masum, Parliament Speaker Salim al-Juburi, and other officials were among the large crowd of mourners at the ceremony held in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered. Chalabi, the head of parliament’s Finance Committee, died of a heart attack at age 71 on Tuesday. [AFP, 11/4/2015]

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


Fighting and airstrikes kill over thirty-three people in Taiz
Yemeni security officials say fighting between Shia rebels and pro-government forces, backed by Saudi-air strikes, has killed over thirty-three people in the past twenty-four hours in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city. Twenty-one Houthi rebels died in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition while eight civilians died when their bus was hit by a landmine. Four pro-government soldiers also died in street clashes. At least 2,615 civilians have died since the anti-Houthi airstrikes began in March, according to the United Nations. [NYT, 11/4/2015]

Peace talks planned for mid-November, as UN envoy suggests peacekeepers
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on Sunday that he expects peace talks between the warring parties to begin mid-November. All major combatants have publicly agreed to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on Houthi rebels and supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to withdraw from main cities and surrender arms captured from Yemeni government forces. President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and the coalition have previously demanded that this happen before talks begin, but the Houthis rebels and Saleh want talks to address mechanisms for how Resolution 2216 will be implemented. Discussions between the United Nations and the Houthi rebels have taken place already in Muscat, Oman. In another interview on Tuesday, Ahmed indicated that Yemeni parties are open to the creation of a peacekeeping force to enforce a ceasefire and monitor the outcomes of political negotiations. [Reuters, Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/4/2015]

Severe impact of cyclone Chapala feared in Yemen
Although Hurricane Chapala had weakened rapidly as it hit Yemen, UN agencies reported that the impacts still could be severe and challenging. Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that because Yemen is normally arid, it does not have the infrastructure to cope with the impact of a cyclone and heavy rain. Aid flights rushed food and tents to the Yemeni island of Socotra, local officials said on Wednesday, after the storm displaced 40,000 people there and on the mainland. Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Fadela Chaib said that the UN health agency and the Yemeni Ministry of Public Health and Population are intensifying efforts to respond to the effects of cyclone Chapala, which are expected to be more severe in Shabwah and Hadhramawt. These two areas have a combined population of about 1.8 million people, which includes more than 100,000 internally displaced people and 27,000 refugees and migrants. [UN News Centre, Reuters, 11/4/2015]

United States expresses concerns over reports of Saudi bombing of hospital
On Tuesday, the US State Department Spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau announced that it was “deeply worried” about the Saudi air strike on the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Yemen on October 26. Trudeau added that the United States looked forward to the Saudi government holding a transparent investigation to determine all the factors that led up to the strike and prevent the recurrence of another similar tragedy. She also urged all conflicting parties in Yemen to take the necessary steps to avoid harming civilians in the country and to comply with the international humanitarian aid laws. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/4/2015]


Qatar to spend cautiously, avoid big budget deficit
Qatar will put together a state budget for 2016 that avoids a large deficit despite lower revenues resulting from low oil and gas prices, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said on Tuesday in a speech to the government’s Advisory Council. He suggested that government spending would become more cautious, saying that the budget “will take the fall in oil prices into consideration, so as to avoid a big budget deficit that may cause harm.” While Sheikh Tamim did not provide any specific figures, his speech suggested Qatar is moving away from double-digit spending increases that characterized the past decade. He said the government will continue to diversify the economy and spend on building infrastructure and social welfare projects. However, he also noted that Qatar will rely more on the private sector in the future and will provide it more room to operate without competition from state firms. He noted that a comprehensive review of all state-owned companies has been carried out and that he had directed the termination of subsidies for a number of those companies and the privatization of others. [Reuters, 11/3/2015]

Libya oil guard halts Zueitina port exports amid political rift
Libya’s Petroleum Facilities Guard has halted crude shipments from the Zueitina port indefinitely amid an escalating conflict between the country’s rival governments. Tankers seeking to load crude there must register with the National Oil Corporation (NOC) loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tobruk. Vessels registered with a rival NOC in Tripoli are “illegitimate” and will not be permitted to load at the eastern port, according to Petroleum Guard Spokesman Ali al-Hasy. The Tripoli-based NOC, which has been in charge at Zueitina, declared force majeure and said in a statement that the port was closed for all exports due to a “deteriorated security situation.” Meanwhile, the Tripoli government said it has given the Central Bank of Libya permission to pay a universal direct cash benefit to replace subsidies on basic goods such as fuel. [Bloomberg, 11/3/2015]

Egypt’s Banque Misr, NBE provide $800 million to cover imports
Egypt’s top state banks recently provided clients with over $800 million to release goods held up at ports due to a dollar crisis that is hindering imports, Banque Misr’s Chairman Mohamed Eletreby said Tuesday. “Over Thursday, Sunday, and Monday, Banque Misr and NBE have covered all the letters of credit and collection documents at the two banks, with a value over $800 million,” he said, adding that the two banks would continue to meet ongoing demand. Egypt has been facing a foreign currency crisis and, with more demand for hard currency than supply, many goods have been piling up at ports as importers wait for banks to supply them with the dollars they need to open letters of credit. Eletreby also said that Bank Misr plans to obtain a loan of up to $300 million in December to strengthen its dollar resources. A recent report shows that the Central Bank of Egypt’s foreign currency debt surpassed the value of its assets in September for the first time since 1992 by $560 million. [Reuters, 11/3/2015]

World Bank agrees to raise Egypt’s portfolio to $6 billion
The World Bank has agreed to raise its Egypt’s portfolio from $5.5 billion to $6 billion expected in a three year period (from 2015 to 2017), according to Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr. Part of that funding would go to a $3 billion loan for budget support currently in negotiation. The rest of the funding would be used as “investment loans based on national projects” focused on housing, industry, and sanitation. Nasr said the bank is willing to support Egypt’s budget because the government has developed a reform program and begun addressing development issues. “Since the 25 January Revolution in 2011, Egypt has not been able to receive budget support from the World Bank. Now the bank is highly considering securing the amount,” she said. Nasr said the loan is expected to have an interest rate of 1.68 percent, a five year grace period, and will be paid over thirty-five years. [DNE, 11/3/2015]