Palestine: halfway point

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The Israel/Palestine talks led by John Kerry are now roughly halfway through their allotted nine months. Secrecy has been well maintained, but they appear to be passing through a crisis point, though pushed out of the headlines by news about Syria and Iran, as well as the Arafat story and the acquittal of Avigdor Liberman. The sharp …

Jordan survives

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Reports of John Kerry's brief visit to Jordan during his latest Middle East tour concentrate mainly on his meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and his visit to a Syrian refugee camp. But the Jordanians are unlikely to feel sore, having heard Kerry in Jerusalem tell Israeli TV that settlement building in the occupied territories is …

Libya: slipping away

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Since the Libyan revolution in 2011 we have consistently taken the view that the constitutional roadmap announced immediately after the liberation of Tripoli has been followed remarkably closely. Political power has been handed over twice without violence, elections were held which were universally regarded as genuine, and the government of Ali Zaidan has a democratic mandate and a …

History resumes: talks and talks and talks

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The international agenda for the Middle East is even more complicated than usual, with three or possibly four separate talks/conferences in view. The next round of talks on the nuclear issue between Iran and the P5+1 (E3+3) is due on 7/8 November in Geneva, following less than a month after the last round …

Israel unsettled

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Recent political developments, above all the possibility of a thaw in US/Iranian relations and more generally a feeling of loss of control in Washington, have disconcerted Israeli opinion. One article in the Jerusalem Post of 4 November is headed "It’s time to reassess Israel’s strategic assumptions – All of Obama’s second term foreign policy goals are harmful …

Egypt: some long-term considerations

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Former President Muhammad Mursi was brought to court this morning 4 November along with 14 other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures on charges of inciting violence relating to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace in December. There are fears of violence and around 20,000 security officers were expected to be deployed. …

Syria: few signs of progress

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Fighting in Syria continues with no sign of a decisive advantage to any side. Atrocities and atrocity stories abound, yet there are plausible reports that away from the action zones government functions and life continues in some respects almost normally. Reuters reports that Syrian armed forces claim to have taken Safira, south-east of Aleppo, which may …

US policy: midcourse correction

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Reporting that John Kerry is to visit Riyadh on 3 November (as part of a comprehensive tour of the region), the Saudi Arab News comments that the visit “follows a spate of unusually public complaints from Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, which reflects the Gulf’s frustration with the US over its perceived inaction on Syria, its diplomatic engagement with Iran and its coldness toward the military government in Egypt.” An op-ed on the Israeli Ynet website comments that on Iran both Arab and …

Somalia: fragile progress

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Geographically on the periphery of WAND’s area of interest, Somalia is a member of the Arab League and important to its neighbours in Arabia as an arena for al-Qa’ida linked activity. The Security Council was told yesterday 30 October that there was promise of a new Somalia emerging from decades of violence and instability, but the promise remains …

Nuclear power: Abu Dhabi leads the way

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The Korea Electric Power Corporation, KEPCO, is currently building four nuclear power plants in Abu Dhabi under a contract priced at $20 billion. The first is due to start producing by 2017. 10,000 construction workers, soon to rise to 20,000, are working at the Baraka site 150 miles west of Abu Dhabi town. The programme has been developed with full transparency, closely supervised by an International Advisory Board with strong US involvement at every stage. Dubai is more often in the headlines, but Abu Dhabi’s …