Weekly Global Newscast |December 31 -January 6, 2019
Pakistan PM Khan Expresses Urge to Strengthen Ties With Turkey
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s trip to Turkey was particularly significant as Pakistan looks to move beyond its traditional reliance on the US, and forge new alliances that will better serve our interests. In recent years, Pakistan has stepped up its relationship with China and also sought to create new partnerships with the likes of Russia and Turkey.
‘Prime Minister Imran Khan’s trip to Turkey was particularly significant as Pakistan looks to move beyond its traditional reliance on the US, and forge new alliances that will better serve our interests. In recent years, Pakistan has stepped up its relationship with China and also sought to create new partnerships with the likes of Russia and Turkey. While Pakistan should try not to get involved with the internal political complications of other countries, it is also important that we not jeopardise our relationship with the Turkish government. Pakistan’s closeness to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of whom have recently given us large aid packages, means other countries in the region do not always trust us – Iran and Turkey prominent among them. To show that we seek only good relations with all Muslim-majority countries should be a first principle of our foreign policy and the trip to Turkey should go some way in achieving that objective.’ Reported The News International.
‘Pakistan’s prime minister has told the president of Turkey he wants to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Before his two-day visit to Ankara, Imran Khan had already agreed to transfer schools in Pakistan established by Fethullah Gulen to a Turkish charity. Turkey blames Gulen’s followers for an attempted coup in 2016.’ Sinem Koseoglu reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Addressing a joint press conference in Ankara with Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on two day visit to Turkey, President Erdogan lauded the leadership role of PM Imran in the world of cricket. He said transfer of Pak-Turk schools to the TMF was a great example of strong relationships between the two countries. He thanked the people and government of Pakistan for that gesture.’ Reported the Express Tribune.
UN Concerned Over Bangladesh Election ‘Reprisals’
The United Nations has voiced concern over the violence and alleged human rights violations in Bangladesh before, during and after recent elections held on December 30. Episodes of violence during the election phase were a defining feature of the entire exercise towards the year’s end.
‘More than a dozen people were killed in election-related violence and the election campaign was dogged by allegations of the arrests and jailing of thousands of opponents of the newly elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. Shamdasani called on authorities to carry out prompt, independent investigations and to take urgent measures to prevent further reprisals. “Reports suggest that violent attacks and intimidation, including against minorities, have been disproportionately carried out by ruling party activists, at times with complicity or involvement of law enforcement officers,” Shamdasani said.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for UNHCR, said in a statement on Friday that the authorities must carry out investigations to hold accountable those responsible, regardless of their political affiliations.
“We call on the authorities to take urgent measures to prevent further reprisals, and to ensure that law enforcement authorities exercise their powers strictly in accordance with the rule of law and principles of legality and proportionality,” the statement said.
The UN body said they are concerned about violence and alleged human rights violations in Bangladesh before, during and after the recent elections on Dec 30. “There are credible reports of fatalities and numerous injuries on polling day alone. There are worrying indications that reprisals have continued to take place, notably against the political opposition, including physical attacks and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, harassment, disappearances and filing of criminal cases,” read the statement. Last week, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina retained power with a landslide victory in general elections that were marred by incidents of violence and allegations of rigging.’ Reported the Tehran Times.
‘The UN called on Bangladesh authorities “to carry out prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations” into the election-related violence as well as attacks and threats made to journalists. The spokeswoman said at least two journalists have been arrested under Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act “in relation to their reporting on the election. At least 17 people died in election-related violence up to polling day. The opposition has said there was widespread voter intimidation and fraud.’ Reported the Arab News.
Middle East & North Africa
US Warns Syria Against Use of Chemical Weapons
US National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned the Syrian government that it should not see the impending US military withdrawal from the country as an invitation to use chemical weapons. The warning on Saturday came as Bolton began a four-day trip to Israel and Turkey to discuss the pace of the troop pullout.
‘The move, announced before Christmas, was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as US President Donald Trump acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of Congress for a more orderly withdrawal. “There is absolutely no change in the US position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we’ve done twice before,” Bolton told reporters onboard his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv. “We’ve tried twice through the use of military force to demonstrate to the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons is not acceptable,” Bolton said. “And if they don’t heed the lessons of those two strikes, the next one will be more telling.” Trump has twice bombed Syria over the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons in April 2017 and the same month last year.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Bolton, on a four-day trip to Israel and Turkey, said on Sunday he would stress in talks with Turkish officials, including President Tayyip Erdogan, that the Kurds must be safeguarded. “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully co-ordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered,”. Bolton told reporters ahead of talks with Israeli officials Bolton, who will travel to Turkey on Monday, said the United States will talk to Turkey to find out what its objectives and capabilities were. But Bolton said Trump’s position is that Turkey may not kill the Kurds and that the US withdrawal would not take place without an agreement on that.’ Steve Holland writes for Bendigo Advertiser.
Sub Saharan Africa
13 Killed in Inter-Communal Violence in Burkina Faso
Thirteen civilians have been killed in ethnic violence in central Burkina Faso, the government said on Wednesday, echoing a rise in intercommunal conflicts in neighbouring Mali.
‘Armed men on motorbikes descended on the village of Yirgou in Barsalogo district after nightfall on Monday, killing six people, including the village chief, government spokesman Jean Paul Badoun told Reuters news agency. The following day, Yirgou villagers – largely belonging to the Mossi ethnic group – attacked a nearby camp of Fulani nomadic herders, killing seven people in apparent retaliation, said Badoun. Yirgou residents blamed the herders for sheltering the men who attacked them the day before. Abdoulaye Pafadnam, mayor of Barsalogo district, said the victims were buried at nightfall on Tuesday, adding that the death toll may be higher than 13.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Inter-communal conflict has claimed at least thirteen lives of civilians in central Burkina Faso, the government said. Burkina has seen a spike in Islamist attacks in recent months as jihadists seek to increase their influence in the West African Sahel nation. According to local media, armed men on motorbikes descended on the village of Yirgou, made up largely of people of Mossi ethnicity, and killed six people, including the village chief. In response, Yirgou villagers killed seven herders from the Fulani tribe. The residents blamed the herders for sheltering the men who attacked them the day before. The Governor of the Centre-North region, Nandy Some-Diallo, said in a statement that security forces were sent to the area and an investigation has been launched. Since 2015, northern Burkina Faso, which borders troubled Mali, has experienced more than 80 attacks that are increasingly frequent and lethal.
These attacks are mostly done by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansarul Islam, a group that is locally rooted, albeit with ties to other groups in Mali. Burkina Faso has become an easier target since the departure of former President Blaise Compaoré in October 2014. Under Compaoré, intelligence capacities were based on strong individuals. Spymaster Gilbert Diendéré, Compaoré’s personal chief of staff, headed an impressive regional and international intelligence network.’ Geraldine Boechat writes for MedaAfrica Times.
France: ‘Yellow Vest’ Protesters Storm Ministry in Paris
“Yellow vest” protesters clashed with police in several French cities, smashing their way into a government ministry in Paris with a forklift. Benjamin Griveaux – a government spokesman evacuated from his ministry in central Paris on Saturday when a handful of protesters in high-visibility vests smashed down the large wooden door to the ministry compound – denounced the break-in as an “unacceptable attack on the Republic”.
‘”Some yellow vest protesters and other people dressed in black … got hold of a construction vehicle which was in the street nearby and smashed open the entrance gate to the ministry,” he told the AFP news agency. They briefly entered the courtyard where they smashed up two cars, broke some windows and then escaped, Griveaux added, saying police were trying to identify them from security footage. The Interior Ministry put the number of protesters who took to the streets across France at 50,000, compared with 32,000 on December 29 when the movement appeared to be weakening after holding a series of weekly Saturday protests since mid-November. French President Emmanuel Macron did not specifically refer to the forklift incident, but tweeted his condemnation of the “extreme violence” against “the Republic, its guardians, its representatives and its symbols”. Police said about 3,500 demonstrators turned up on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday morning. Some then made their way south of the river to the wealthy area around Boulevard St Germain, where they set light to a car and several motorbikes and set up burning barricades, prompting police to fire tear gas to try and disperse them.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Hundreds of ‘yellow vest’ women marched in French cities on Sunday, a day after 50,000 people across the country gathered for the anti-tax movement’s eighth week of mobilisation. In Paris, Toulouse, Rennes, Lyon or Saint-Etienne, hundreds of women wearing the symbolic neon yellow jacket, and sometimes phrygian hats reminiscent of the French revolution, organised their own march to show the female faces of the social movement that has shaken president Emmanuel Macron’s government since November. Unlike Saturday, when clashes erupted in Paris between police and protesters – and culminated in some of them breaking into a ministry’s courtyard – the female ‘yellow vests’ marches went peacefully. Their slogans, like in previous protests, focused around president Macron, whose resignation is demanded by the gilets jaunes. “Macron, you’re doomed, women are in the streets”, they chanted.’ Pauline Bock writes for Euro News.
‘Gilets jaunes protests began in November to oppose proposed hikes in fuel taxes. The movement has since enlarged to encompass wider grievances against President Emmanuel Macron and his centrist government.
Protesters have rejected concessions announced by Macron aimed at responding to public anger, prompting the government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, to accuse them of insurrection.
‘“The gilets jaunes movement for those who are still mobilised have become agitators who want insurrection and, basically, to overthrow the government,” Griveaux said. “They have engaged in a political battle to contest the legitimacy of the government and president. These people who call for debate don’t want to take part in our national debate. I call on them to participate.” He said Macron had called on ministers to be “more radical” in their attempt to reform the country.’ Kim Willsher writes for The Guardian.
Trump Threatens National Emergency in ‘Next Few Days’ Over Wall and Shutdown
Donald Trump said on Sunday he may declare a national emergency over immigration, to allow him to build a wall on America’s southern border. As the government shutdown triggered by the president entered its 16th day, Trump threatened to take extraordinary action to bypass Congress, where Democrats refuse to pass a spending bill that would give him $5.6bn to build his wall. New House speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the wall “an immorality” and refused to fund Trump’s signature campaign pledge.
‘By declaring a state of national emergency, the White House thinks it will be able to unlock money without congressional approval, although it has given no specific details of the move. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, the California representative said: “If Harry Truman couldn’t nationalise the steel industry during wartime, this president doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency and build a multi-billion dollar wall on the border. So that’s a non-starter.” The 1976 National Emergencies Act grants a president powers to take unilateral acts in times of crisis. But it also outlines congressional checks and with Democrats controlling the House, an attempt to make such a move would be fiercely and legally contested, potentially pitching the US into constitutional crisis. Leaving the White House for Camp David on Sunday, Trump claimed that many of the 800,000 federal staff either working without pay or told to stay at home “agree 100% with what I’m doing”. “I may decide a national emergency depending on what happens over the next few days,” he said, insisting: “I have tremendous support within the Republican party.” Vice-president Mike Pence took part in talks on Sunday afternoon, although the meeting was due to include congressional aides rather than leaders and it is not clear that Pence has authority to offer any deal. Little progress was reported.’ David Taylor and Martin Pengelly write for The Guardian.
‘The partial government shutdown over funding for a border wall reached a milestone Sunday, now tying for the third longest on record without any end in sight because of bitter negotiations. As President Donald Trump insisted that the border wall dispute was a “very important battle,” his aides indicated that he wouldn’t cave on his demands. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday that Trump “absolutely” stands by his comments that he is willing to continue the shutdown for months, or even years, to get the money he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Sanders said the wall is needed to address the “national crisis” at the southern border. Democrats insist a wall is an ineffective use of resources. They are pushing for a more varied approach to border security, which includes improved technology to monitor the border with tools such as drones and tunnel detection.’ Christal Hayes and Michael Collins write for USA Today.
‘What began as a grassroots rebellion against diesel taxes and the high cost of living has morphed into something more perilous for Macron – an assault on his presidency and French institutions. The anti-government protesters on Saturday used a forklift truck to force their way into a government ministry compound, torched cars near the Champs Elysees and in one violent skirmish on a bridge over the Seine punched and kicked riot police officers to the ground.The French authorities’ struggle to maintain order during the weekend protests raises questions not just over policing tactics but also over how Macron responds, as he prepares to bring in stricter rules for unemployment benefits and cut thousands of public sector jobs.’ Richard Lough and Caroline Pailliez write for the Reuters.