Top News: Yemeni Government Names Representatives to the Geneva Talks

In an interview with Al Arabiya television, a Yemeni government official confirmed that there will be seven representatives sent to Geneva to participate in the talks on June 14. Among those named were the Yemeni Foreign Minister, the Minister of Human Rights, and the leader of the General People’s Congress Party. The Houthis have yet to name delegates, although they are expected to bring upwards of ten people to the talks. [Yemen PostAl Masdar (Arabic), 6/10/2015]



Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia agree to form supreme trilateral council
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Sudanese President Omar Bashir, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn agreed Wednesday to form a supreme council for mutual economic and political issues. The meeting was on the margins of the African economic summit in Sharm al-Sheikh. The council is another step to strengthen ties between Egypt and Ethiopia after Cairo voiced fears over the Addis Ababa’s Grand Renaissance Dam project and its possible effect on Egypt’s share of water from the Nile. Meanwhile, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazy said a trilateral three-day meeting between the ministers of water resources of Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, as well as a number of experts from the three countries would be held in Cairo on June 15, in order to present the technical offer proposed by two consultancies regarding the Renaissance Dam, before adopting it. [Ahram Online, DNE, 6/11/2015]

Police officer claims charges against him revenge for exposing Interior Ministry violations
The Giza Prosecution has launched an investigation into a police officer from the Interior Ministry’s Hotels and Clubs Department, who is accused of soliciting prostitution. Three others, including a teacher and an oil company worker, were also accused of practicing prostitution in the officer’s apartment. Investigations found that the officer facilitated prostitution in return for 1,500 Egyptian pounds per hour in his flat. Judicial sources said the officer, who denied the charge, assaulted a detective during his arrest, which was documented on video. The officer claimed the charge was fabricated because he exposed violations made by the Interior Ministry, as well as excesses carried out by police. He also contended that the other defendants are friends who were visiting him. The defendants were detained for twenty-four hours pending further investigation. [Egypt Independent, 6/11/2015]  

Egypt upholds acquittal of Mubarak-era tourism minister of graft
Egypt’s Court of Cassation turned down on Thursday a challenge to the acquittal of a former tourism minister who served under toppled president Hosni Mubarak of graft. The court upheld former minister Zuhair Garana’s acquittal in the case where he was charged with profiteering and facilitating the confiscation of public funds. The Giza Criminal Court had acquitted in March 2013 Garana of the charge of facilitating the illegal transfer of 5 million square metres of land near Suez to Emirati businessman Hisham Hatheq. [Aswat Masriya, 6/11/2015]

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International community puts pressure on Libya to agree to a power-sharing deal
Libya’s rival factions met Wednesday in Berlin with officials from world powers to decide on an agreement to share power in the country. This was the first time both sides in the UN-brokered Libya Dialogue sat down at the same table to negotiate. This meeting brought together nearly two dozen Libyan participants in ongoing UN-brokered talks with the Libyan envoys of the five permanent UN Security Council members, Italy, Spain, and the European Union. The meeting came amid signs of deep division within the House of Representatives over the latest draft of a power-sharing agreement proposed by UN Envoy Bernardino Leon. After this meeting, the P5 and European representatives appealed to Libyan leaders to use the opportunity to bring about a ceasefire and a unity government.  [AP, ANSAmed, Libya Herald, Joint Communique on Libya, 6/11/2015]

ISIS claims responsiblity for explosion of two warplanes at seized Libyan base
ISIS said on Thursday it had blown up two warplanes at an air base it seized near the central Libyan city of Sirte. The Islamist rebel fighters seized Sirte’s military and civilian airport two weeks ago. The group published pictures on social media that it said showed the two destroyed two military aircraft parked in front of a hangar. The militants had earlier this week seized a power plant in a western suburb of Sirte, completing a gradual takeover of the city that it began in February. [Reuters, 6/10/2015]

Twenty dead in clashes between ISIS and rivals in eastern Libya
At least twenty fighters were killed on Wednesday in clashes in eastern Libya between Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and other Islamist forces that later declared jihad against its hardline rival, according to residents and medical sources. Forces loyal to the internationally recognized government later sent an air strike against suspected ISIS positions in Derna, said Nasser al-Hassi, Spokesman for Benghazi’s air base. The fight started in Derna after a leader in the Islamist umbrella group Majlis al-Shura was killed for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to residents. [Reuters, 6/11/2015]

Tunisia’s navy rescues more than 350 illegal migrants
Tunisia’s navy rescued more than 350 illegal migrants off its coast and searched for hundreds more on Wednesday after the migrants tried to sail from neighboring Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa, according to the local Red Cross. This incident is not the first of its kind. Tunisian authorities have rescued dozens of people traveling in unsafe boats in recent months. The conflict in Libya between two rival governments and their armed forces has been beneficial for smugglers who have responded quickly by sending thousands of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean to mainland Europe. [Reuters, 6/11/2015]


US military considering more Anbar-style hubs in Iraq
The United States is considering replicating the proposed new US military hub in Anbar elsewhere in Iraq. The hub in Anbar will be located at the Taqaddum military base, about fifteen miles from Ramadi. French Army Chief Denis Mercier said Wednesday that the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against ISIS must do more to target the jihadists’ command centers. He compared operations in Iraq and Syria to the 2011 international intervention in Libya, and claimed that concentrating on the “centers of gravity” in Iraq can garner successes similar to toppling Qaddafi in Libya. [Reuters, 6/11/2015]

American fighting with Kurds killed in ISIS battle
An American citizen fighting with Kurdish YPG forces in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) was killed in battle last week in a village near Kobani. Keith Broomfield is likely the first US citizen to die fighting alongside the Kurds against the extremists. Thousands of people fled from Syria into Turkey through a makeshift border crossing on Wednesday as moderate rebels and Kurdish forces fought ISIS insurgents in border town Tel Abyad. A Turkish official said 2,000 refugees were being registered on Wednesday after more than 6,800 were admitted in the area last week. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the West on Thursday of bombing Arabs and Turkmens in Syria while supporting Kurdish “terrorist” groups that are taking their place. [AP, 6/10/2015]

Syrian rebels say they seized southern air base, state denies
A spokesman for the Syrian opposition Southern Front alliance says rebel fighters captured Thaala air base in southern Syria’s al-Sweida province on Thursday, two days after seizing another key military base in the nearby Deraa province. Syrian state television denied the claims, saying regime troops have repelled three attacks on Thaala. [AP, Daily Star, 6/11/2015]

Calls for aid to Syria’s Druze after al-Qaeda kills twenty
Members of the Nusra Front killed twenty Druze villagers on Wednesday in Qalb Loze, a village in Syria’s Idlib province where the Nusra Front and other allied insurgent groups have seized wide areas from government control in the last three months. A Lebanese Druze with close ties to the Syrian government urged all Druze to help their Syrian kin with “money, volunteers, weapons,” and called on President Basahr al-Assad to arm them. Syria’s state-run news agency SANA described the incident as a massacre. [Reuters, 6/11/2015]

United Nations extends Syria negotiations in Geneva until July
The United Nations’ Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has extended talks in Geneva until July. De Mistura and his deputy have so far met with Syrian government officials, the Syrian opposition coalition, and thirty-nine Syrian political and civil society groups in separate consultations aimed at reviving stalled dialogue on the conflict. De Mistura also said Monday that Iran is spending billions of dollars a year to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, far more than the Obama administration has estimated. [AFP, 6/10/2015]


Yemeni government names representatives to the Geneva talks
In an interview with Al Arabiya television, a Yemeni government official confirmed that there will be seven representatives sent to Geneva to participate in the talks on June 14. Among those named were the Yemeni Foreign Minister, the Minister of Human Rights, and the leader of the General People’s Congress Party. The Houthis have yet to name delegates, although they are expected to bring upwards of ten people to the talks. [Yemen Post, Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/10/2015]

Iran, Russia in talks with Houthis in preparation for Geneva talks
Iranian advisers will accompany the Houthi delegation to the Geneva talks, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday. “The Iranian advisers will be present during the meetings in Geneva in an indirect way, so they will not necessarily be present inside the main meeting room. But the Houthis will nonetheless be receiving directions from them regarding Iran’s political view regarding the current crisis in Yemen,” the sources said. In addition, Russia has also been advising the Houthis and both are seeking to gain international legitimacy for the group. According to the sources, Moscow and Tehran have worked out a plan to help the Houthis ensure nothing concrete is agreed to during the meetings in Geneva, forcing another round of talks. [Asharq al-Awsat, 6/11/2015]

Drone strike kills three al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen
Three suspected al-Qaeda members were killed in a US drone strike in the southern port city of Mukalla, a local official said on Wednesday. The drone “fired four missiles on three al-Qaeda militants sitting near the port of Mukalla, killing them immediately.” The official disclosed that the strike killed a “leading figure” within al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has exploited months of fighting in Yemen between the Houthis and the Yemeni government to consolidate its grip on Hadramawt’s capital city, which has a population of over 200,000. The United States considers AQAP to be the extremist group’s deadliest global franchise and regularly targets its militants with armed drone strikes on Yemeni territory. [Al Arabiya, 6/10/2015]

More deaths as heavy clashes continue in Aden
Witnesses and officials in Yemen say a Saudi-led airstrike hit a public bus on a highway north of Aden, killing at least twenty civilian passengers. Fighters opposed to the Houthis also advanced from a district of Aden known as “workers’ island” toward the city’s Houthi-held international airport. Sources reported that five local fighters and eleven Houthis died in the clashes. Overnight on Wednesday, air strikes targeted Houthi outposts in the Bir Ahmed area north of Aden, killing twelve Houthi militants. [Reuters, AP, 6/11/2015]

Bahrain summons Iraqi Ambassador concerning Shia minority groups
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa summoned Iraqi Ambassador Ahmed Rasheed al-Dalimi on Wednesday to raise concerns about the Saraya al-Ashtar group, a banned Bahrain-based Shia militant group. New reports reveal that it received training on the use of arms in Iraq. The minister urged the Ambassador to put an end to “terrorist groups” that use Iraq to threaten the safety of Bahrain. The event also brought attention to Bahrain’s strained relationship with Iran. Bahrain accuses Iran of supporting Shia militants in the county and Iran denies the accusation, but does champion the Shia majority’s cause. [Al Arabiya, 6/11/2015]


Saudi Aramco says no cut in oil exports despite local demand
Saudi Arabia is ready to increase its oil output in the coming months to a new record to meet a rise in global demand despite increased domestic use, according to Ahmed al-Subaey, Saudi Aramco’s executive director for marketing. Subaey said he is already talking to prospective Indian buyers for additional oil. Saudi Arabia increased production in May to around 10.3 million barrels per day (bpd), its highest rate on record, as a result of increased global demand. Any increase in production in a market that is already facing an oil glut would signal that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is unrelenting in its decision to maintain global market share. [Reuters, 6/11/2015]

Turkey’s economic growth beats expectations
Turkey’s economic growth beat expectations in the first quarter this year as government spending and domestic demand jumped. The surprisingly strong performance lifted markets hit by mounting political uncertainty after Sunday’s national elections. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.3 percent in the first three months of 2015, exceeding the 1.7 percent pace forecast by analysts in a survey by The Wall Street Journal. However economic growth declined overall, slowing from 4.9 percent in the same period last year and from 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service said Turkey’s election result is likely to raise political uncertainty and delay the implementation of key economic policies that would help to protect the country from external pressures. [Wall Street Journal, 6/10/2015]

Egypt, World Bank sign $500 million loan deal for public housing project
Egypt and the World Bank signed an agreement on a $500 million loan to support a government project for affordable housing, state-owned news agency MENA reported on Wednesday. The loan will be used to develop Egypt’s Social Housing Fund and to subsidize mortgages for low-income earners. The project, which was unveiled in late 2014, aims to build 1 million residential units across the country for low-income earners. Low- and medium-income Egyptians will benefit from a subsidy of EGP 5,000 to EGP 25,000 on each housing unit through the Bank’s loan. Up to 170,000 housing units are slated to be built by the end of 2015. [Ahram Online, 6/10/2015]

World Bank puts Tunisia’s growth at 2.6 percent in 2015, 3.4 percent in 2016
The World Bank Group has forecasted Tunisia’s growth rate at 2.6 percent in 2015, 3.4 percent in 2016 and 4.5 percent in 2017. In developing countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the Bank revised the growth rate downwards to remain stable at 2.2 percent. The figures were released as part of the Bank’s Global Economic Prospects. [TAP/All Africa, 6/10/2015]