The Palestine negotiations

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With peace talks due to begin the Israeli cabinet is reported to have authorised extra subsidies for a number of Jewish settlements, including three formerly classified as "illegal outposts" that were recognised last year, Bruchin, Rachelim and Sansana. Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO described the move today 4 August as a confidence-destruction measure. The Prime Minister's spokesman Mark …

Iran: a new page

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The election of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has been widely welcomed, with the reservation that Iran is not run by its President. We circulate below three reports assessing the outlook for change, the first from the Voice of America by Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council, the second from The National Interest by former CIA official …

Gaza: primed to explode

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Recent political developments have greatly complicated the situation in Gaza, controlled by Hamas. Hamas has long been viewed as part of a "rejection front", a Sunni partner in tactical and political alliance with Iran and Hizbullah, and in a fuller and more natural partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood ascendancy in Egypt seemed to offer new …

Egypt: a pause

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The pace of events in Egypt has slowed down. Thousands of supporters of the overthrown President Muhammad Mursi remain in the streets in Cairo despite warnings from the military that they will be removed. Spokesmen for the Muslim Brotherhood have denounced the government and declared that they will remain. Following the highly publicised meeting between Mursi and …

Libya: a crisis point?*

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Libya: a crisis point? There has been a marked worsening of the security situation in Libya in recent weeks, with frequent assassinations and other acts of violence, mostly apparently settlement of scores between revolutionaries and survivors of the Qadhafi regime. The process of constitution-building towards democratic elections has not been derailed but is painfully slow. The government is weak, and progress …

Qatar: no U-turns, no surprises

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Since our posting of 2 July Qatar under the new ruling Amir Tamim bin Hamad has taken no striking initiatives, though it has shown no sign of withdrawing from the forward foreign policies of the previous Amir Hamad bin Khalifa. Today 31 July the Amir received in his Palace Ahmad al-Jarba, president of the National Coalition …

Syria: digging in

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Reuters reports that "Syrian troops drove insurgents from a central district of Homs on [29 July], tightening their siege on remaining rebel bastions in the city, which links Damascus to the Mediterranean heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect. The military's gains in Khalidiya district follow a counter-offensive by Assad's forces, which have pushed back rebels around the …

Egypt: slipping under?

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The deaths of scores of protesters in Cairo on 27 July (65 according to the government, over 100 according to most estimates) have raised the crisis to a new level. As we write (morning of 28 July) the confrontation in the streets is not over. According to a comment by Conflicts Forum circulated before the news of …

Kuwait: elections again

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With all its weaknesses, the Kuwaiti parliamentary system is the most democratic in the Arab Gulf monarchies. Parliament can pass legislation and interrogate ministers, but parliaments have repeatedly been dissolved after challenging governments. The election today 27 July follows a court decision that the election in December 2012 was legally flawed. This election like the one in December …

Palestine: blood, sweat and Indyk

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One week after the announcement by John Kerry that Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni "will be joining me in Washington to begin initial talks within the next week or so" neither appears to have commented. The Israeli Minister of energy and water Silvan Shalom said on 25 July "As I understand, today, I think that the …