PSR: June 15, 2018

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June 9 – June 15
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This week in:

 IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia


This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

ETHIOPIA: Thousands protest EPRDF peace declaration


On Monday, up to 25,000 residents of the disputed northern Ethiopian town, Badme, and its neighboring territories demonstrated against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s decision to fully implement the 2000 Algiers Agreement with Eritrea. Ethiopia must cede Badme and its surrounding areas to its longtime rival to fully execute the peace deal. The protesters view themselves as Ethiopian citizens and stated that government authorities did not consult them prior to the major announcement. Comment: Ahmed garnered international praise for his recent decision to recognize the landmark 2002 commission ruling on the agreement after a lengthy and destructive stalemate with Eritrea; however, the widespread internal opposition poses significant obstacles to the implementation of the deal. (Ethiopia Observer, News24, Africanews, Reuters)


SOUTH SUDAN: New round of negotiations begins to take shape

  South Sudan

On Wednesday, exiled rebel leader Riek Machar accepted an invitation from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to sit down with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa next week. The longtime nemeses agreed to renew the peace process after each met separately with Raila Odinga, Kenya’s de facto special envoy to South Sudan and former prime minister. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional trade bloc, will lead the negotiations scheduled to begin on June 20. Comment: This gathering will mark the first meeting between the adversaries since 2016, when a separate round of peace talks collapsed. The violent civil war, which began in 2013, has left tens of thousands dead and millions more displaced; progress between the parties in resolving the conflict would help stabilize South Sudan, Kenya, and the region as a whole. (Daily Nation 1, 2, Reuters, Africanews)


UGANDA: President announces new crime-stopping measures


On Monday, President Yoweri Museveni promised a severe crackdown on crime following the murder of lawmaker Ibrahim Abiriga. Two hooded individuals on motorbikes fatally shot Abiriga and his bodyguard last week – prompting Museveni to ban motorcyclists from wearing hoods and requiring them to wear reflective helmets for “easy identification.” The slain government official was instrumental in passing a controversial law in January that removed the presidential 75-year age limit, paving the way for Museveni to remain in power indefinitely. Comment: Last year, in another effort to combat criminal activity, Museveni ordered the installment of surveillance cameras around the country after a high-ranking police officer was killed in a similar fashion. Critics of the president accuse him of using the police force and other security apparatuses to further his own personal goals and suppress any form of opposition. (Daily Monitor, New Vision, Reuters)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

Symposiums - 27.03.18

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

ARGENTINA: IMF agrees to largest bailout in history 


Last Friday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a USD 50 billion bailout after Argentina requested aid last month. The loan, part of the “36-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA),” allows for the IMF to quickly respond to help countries “emerge from crisis and restore sustainable growth.” While the IMF executive board must still review and approve the loan, it intends to rebalance Argentina’s fiscal position by lowering inflation, public spending, and public debt. USD 15 billion will be available soon after approval, around June 20. Comment: Argentina announced it would seek IMF assistance after a fall in its currency and after “international investors fled emerging markets.” The request shocked Argentines since the IMF is widely accused of exacerbating the country’s 2001 economic crisis. (BBC, Business Insider, IMF 1, 2, Reuters, New York Times)


PANAMA: Ex-president extradited from the United States


On Monday, former president of Panama Ricardo Martinelli returned to Panama on charges of illegal wiretapping. Martinelli had been detained and imprisoned in the United States since June 2017. Martinelli´s supporters protested the extradition outside of Panama’s Supreme Court. Despite being denied his request to live outside Renacer prison until the trial, Martinelli’s health deteriorated enough that authorities moved him to a hospital. Comment: The former president allegedly used public funds to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his presidency. Martinelli maintains his innocence and claims to be undergoing political persecution by current Panamanian president Juan Carlos Varela. He faces 60 other corruption charges not included in his extradition. (BBC, Al Jazeera, telesur, Reuters, The Washington Post)      


UNITED STATES: President Trump withdraws endorsement of G7 summit’s official joint statement


On Saturday, President Trump withdrew the United States’ support of the concluding joint statement made at the G7 Summit in Quebec, Canada. The withdrawal comes after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that Canada would not be “pushed around” by the United States. Soon after, President Trump tweeted that U.S. representatives will not endorse the statement due to Prime Minister Trudeau’s remarks and because “Canada is charging massive tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies.” Comment: The summit follows the Trump administration’s 10 percent tariff on aluminum and 25 percent tariff on steel from Canada, Mexico, and the EU. As a result, Canada, Mexico, and the EU announced they would enact retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. (Reuters, BBC, The Hill, Huffington Post Canada)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in East Asia & Pacific

CAMBODIA: U.S. enforces sanctions on Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit’s leader


On Tuesday, the United States Treasury imposed sanctions on General Hing Bun Hieng, head of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit, for allegedly leading a group in committing human rights abuses against political protesters. The sanctions, under the Magnitsky Act, prohibit Bun Hieng from entering any property in U.S. jurisdiction and from doing business with U.S. citizens. This action marks the first time someone in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s inner circle has been blacklisted by Washington. The prime minister and other members accused the U.S. of working with opposition party leaders in Cambodia to oust current government leaders. Comment: The prime minister and his administration responded to the sanctions by reminding the U.S. of its own human rights violations against Cambodia during the Vietnam War. (ABC, Radio Free Asia, Reuters)


KOREA: President Trump promises to end military exercises with South Korea


On Tuesday, President Trump promised to end all regular military exercises with South Korea in a show of goodwill between the U.S. and North Korea. Trump met with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore for a peace summit to discuss matters such as a Korean peninsula denuclearization plan. On Wednesday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported that Trump also offered to lift economic sanctions on North Korea, but he made no mention of any North Korean statement on denuclearization. Comment: The North Korean government historically rejects unilateral nuclear disarmament – requiring North Korea to denuclearize. The leadership favors denuclearization on the peninsula, which expands the scope to possibly include South Korea and Japan since they are under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” covering South Korea and Japan. (New York Times, Reuters, SCMP)


MALAYSIA: Prime Minister Mahathir plans to reopen embassy in North Korea


On Monday, Prime Minister Mahathir said during a press conference that he plans to re-open the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang. Diplomatic ties between Malaysia and North Korea abruptly ended in February 2017, when two women killed Kim Jong-un’s estranged brother, Kim Jong, at the Kuala Lumpur airport. In response to the murder, both nations closed their embassies in each other’s countries and barred each other’s diplomats. Comment: Mahathir emphasized the U.S.-North Korea peace summit as a reason for the world to work toward diplomacy with North Korea, though he said North Korea must completely denuclearize to show that it is serious about diplomacy with other countries. (Straits Times, Reuters, The Malaysian Insight, NK News)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla


This week in Europe & Central Asia

ITALY: Government demands apology from France over migration criticism


On Sunday, the Italian government refused asylum to a migrant rescue ship carrying 629 people, forcing the vessel to dock in Spain. French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Italy’s decision, calling the choice cynical and irresponsible. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini responded by threatening to cancel an upcoming summit with France unless Macron apologized, calling France’s stance on migrants “hypocritical,” and challenging the country to take in more asylum seekers. Comment: The vessel, escorted by two Italian ships, will dock on Sunday, a week after it first requested permission to dock in Italy. Italy, among others, criticized France for not offering to let the ship dock in French ports. (ANSA, Politico, BBC, AP)


MACEDONIA: Deal with Greece to rename country causes backlash 


On Tuesday, the Macedonian and Greek prime ministers agreed to change the former’s name to “The Republic of North Macedonia,” but both are now facing backlash from their respective governments. Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said that he would not sign off on the deal, indicating that it gave too many concessions to Greece, while Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now faces a vote of no-confidence. Foreign ministers from each country are expected to sign the deal this weekend; both countries’ parliaments will then vote on it. Comment: Greece has been contesting Macedonia’s name since the country chose it after declaring independence in 1991 – arguing that using the name represents an implicit territorial claim to its own northern region, also called Macedonia. (Greek Reporter, BBC, AP 1, 2)


UNITED KINGDOM: Lawmakers defy Corbyn to leave EU customs union


On Wednesday, British lawmakers voted against keeping the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA). The UK’s withdrawal of membership will remove the bloc’s market regulations from the UK after the region leaves the EU next year. In a major revolt by Labour politicians against leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had asked his fellow Labour members to abstain, 75 legislators voted for, 15 voted against, and six resigned ahead of the vote. Comment: The vote represents a victory for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government, which opposes the EEA and hopes to take the UK out of the EU next year. (The Guardian, Sky News, BBC, AP)

                                                                                                 Researched/Written by Abby Fram


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

LEBANON / SYRIA: Lebanese foreign minister freezes UNHCR residency permits


On Wednesday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, of persuading Syrian refugees to not return to the country. Bassil froze applications and renewals in Lebanon for 19 UNHCR personnel’s residency permits. UNHCR denied Bassil’s claim and reiterated its support for refugees to return when Syria is secure. UNHCR spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said this permit freeze “directly impacts UNHCR’s ability to effectively carry out critical protection and solutions work in Lebanon.” Comment: Lebanon holds at least one million refugees, which is about one fourth of its population. (Al Jazeera, UNHCR, Reuters)


LIBYA: LNA forces take over parts of Derna


On Monday, General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) reported gaining control of about 75 percent of Derna in an assault started on May 7. Derna is the last eastern city ceding to LNA forces. The LNA surrounded Derna nearly two years ago. Thousands of Derna residents left the city since the offensive started. So far, Al Jazeera reported 16 dead and 11 wounded. Comment: The fighting comes, despite a recent agreement by key parties to hold elections later this year. (News 24, Al Jazeera, Reuters)


SAUDI ARABIA / YEMEN: Coalition begins assault on Hodeidah

  Saudi Arabia Yemen

On Wednesday, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia began an attack on the Yemeni city of Hodeidah. The Houthi rebel-held city remains a significant target in the war because of its a major port, through which 80 percent of aid enters the country. The coalition forces include planes, ships, and ground troops from Yemen, Sudan, and the UAE. As of now, four soldiers from the UAE died in the attack. Comment: The Guardian reported that this attack is the largest on a fortified city since the war started. The Yemeni government released a statement that said, “The liberation of Hodeidah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen.” (The Guardian, NPR, Reuters, Al Jazeera 1, 2)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Daniel Boerger


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Suicide bomber attacks government building despite multiple ceasefires

On Monday, a suicide attacker bombed the entrance of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Kabul, killing at least 12 people and injuring around 30. This attack came after Taliban’s announcement last week of a ceasefire during Eid Al-Fitr on June 15, which followed the government’s own ceasefire announcement on June 7. A Taliban spokesperson denied Taliban’s role in the bombings, while some officials accused the Islamic State of the attack. Comment: In the recent surge of attacks in Afghanistan, these overlapping ceasefires mark the holy month of Ramadan. The UN Security Council welcomed the government’s ceasefire and urged the Taliban to engage in peace talks with the government. (Al Jazeera, The New York Times, ReliefWeb)


INDIA: Punjab police receive death threats in UK national murder case


On Tuesday, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi informed the UK government that some police officials in Punjab received death threats after they arrested a UK national accused of murder. Scotsman Jagtar Singh Johal allegedly killed a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist in November 2017, with prosecutors believing his motive to be to cause communal disturbance. The National Investigation Agency also claimed that Sikh extremists around the world are conspiring to “destabilize Punjab.” Comment: Following the arrest, Indian officials assured UK authorities of Johal’s access to legal and consular services, given that Johal alleged his being tortured by Indian police. The RSS is a right-wing, Hindu-nationalist organization opposed to the Khalistan movement – a separatist movement from the 1940s that seeks a Sikh homeland in the Punjab area of India and Pakistan. (The Independent, The Hindu, The Tribune)


PAKISTAN: Election Commission blocks “terrorist” political party from participating in elections


On Wednesday, the Election Commission in Islamabad rejected the request of the Milli Muslim League (MML) to participate in the July 25 elections for the National Assembly and four provincial legislatures. The Islamist party, backed by radical cleric, Hafiz Saeed, possesses alleged terrorist links. The rejection followed the interim Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk’s firm commitment on Tuesday to provide all possible assistance to the Election Commission. Comment: Hafiz Saeed has a USD 10 billion bounty on him for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai Terror attacks; his party is labeled as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States. In March, the Election Commission rejected MML’s request to register as a political party; however, the Islamabad High Court suspended this decision and allowed MML to become a political party. (Firstpost, Pakistan Observer, Associated Press)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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