The Geneva talks

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While fighting continues in Syria the US/Russian talks, about to enter a third day, deal with two related problems. The first is Syria's chemical weapons; President Bashar al-Asad has agreed that they should be disposed of, but the technical, military and political problems are daunting, and disposal while a civil war is in progress is unprecedented. The second …

Gaza and Hamas

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Two Egyptian tanks crossed an initial border fence leading to Gaza for the first time yesterday 12 September, without entering Gaza itself. Yousef Rizqa the political adviser on Hamas to the Egyptian prime minister said that it is unlikely that the Egyptian army would launch a military offensive on the Gaza Strip: “The geographical and historical depth between the two countries precludes such possibility.” How has the situation deteriorated to this point? Events of the last few months have put the population of Gaza under ever more severe pressure. …

Kurdistan: stumbling

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Attempts by the Kurds in Turkey and Syria to link up with the success of the semi-independent Kurdish region in northern in Iraq have suffered two possible setbacks. According to the Istanbul-based Hürriyet Daily News of 11 September the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced on 10 September that it was halting the pullout of its militants from Turkey, putting the attempt to find a solution to the decades-long Kurdish problem in jeopardy. In a statement carried by the Fırat news agency, which is known to have close links with …

Palestine: talking

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Very little information has been available about direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian delegations which have been meeting continuously since 29 July. Although the talks were said to be without preconditions it appears that both sides had agreed to leave it to the US to speak publicly about them. Reports suggest that the US representative Martin Indyk was not …

Syria: Drawing the poison

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It will take some time for the various parties concerned to assess the idea which appeared suddenly on the public agenda yesterday 9 September, that the Syrian crisis could be resolved if the Syrian government hands over its chemical weapons for destruction. Is it realistic? Does it solve the problem? First mentioned "rhetorically" by John Kerry in …

Libya: uncertainty

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The Libyan government has been largely unable to deal with a number of serious problems facing it: independent militias, "federalism" amounting to separatism in Cyrenaica, interruption of oil supplies by strikers, power and water cuts, political/tribal assassinations. In a three-minute clip published by the BBC the Libyan writer Ghazi Gheblawi reflects on Libya after the Arab …

Egypt: new alignment?

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There are conflicting reports as to whether Egypt's government has decided to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood, following accusations that it abused its status as an NGO by storing weapons and explosives. At least one man was killed in week-end clashes between demonstrators and security forces in a number of cities. Egypt has launched its biggest military …

Iraq: can the government cope?

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There have been two particularly bloody incidents in the last week. On 1 September Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) was attacked, reportedly by the Iraqi army which the government has denied; according to UN figures 47 were killed. On 14 September at least 16 people, including …

Egypt: pushed off the headlines

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A bomb attack attempt on the minister of the interior on 5 September in Nasr City, Cairo, injured at least four people. The minister was unhurt. A Chinese-owned supertanker in the Suez Canal in eastern Sinai was fired on reportedly with machine guns and an RPG on 31 August. According to a note by the …

Syria: military action and its consequences

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Syria seems likely to top the agenda at the G 20 meeting in St Petersburg today 5 September. In Washington the administration are preparing for debates in Congress on 9 September. In a statement on 3 September President Obama said he had decided to take action, something limited and proportional which would …