France calls for restraint in standoff between Baghdad, Kurds in Kirkuk

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017

France on Friday urged restraint on all sides in a potentially volatile standoff between the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish authorities over the oil-rich Kirkuk region, diplomats indicated.

Kirkuk is legally under Iraqi federal authority but is currently under Kurdish control and France is anxious that the differences between the two parties be resolved through dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »

Iraq forces retake positions from Kurds in disputed Kirkuk

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017

Iraqi forces Friday retook positions controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters since 2014 in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk amid a bitter row with the Kurds over a vote for independence last month.

A senior Kurdish official said thousands of heavily armed fighters had been deployed to defend themselves “at any cost” against the Iraqi operation and called for international intervention.

Ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk is one of several regions that peshmerga fighters took over from the Iraqi army in 2014 when Islamic State (IS) group swept through much of northern and western Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »

NATO chief warns that leaving Afghanistan would mean return to chaos

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of a four-day NATO parliamentary assembly in Bucharest, Romania, on Monday that “if NATO leaves too soon, we risk Afghanistan returning to a state of chaos – a safe haven for international terrorism”.

“The situation in Afghanistan is challenging. We all understand the costs of staying in Afghanistan: the human cost and the financial cost. But the cost of walking away would be much higher,” Stoltenberg said. Read the rest of this entry »

UNSC call on all Libyan parties to work together

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged Libyans, divided with rival governments and beset by violence, to work together ahead of hoped-for elections.

Separately, the European Union is seeking to reopen its embassy in Libya pending security conditions, officials said on Tuesday, offering further political support for the Tripoli government struggling to establish control. Read the rest of this entry »

Libyan coastguard to be trained in Tunisia

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017

A group of 19 officers and non-commissioned officers of the Libyan coast guard authority are to begin a training course in Tunisia on Saturday, Colonel Tareq Shanbur, the director of security operations on Libya’s coasts and president of the coordination system of Italian-Libyan operations to fight illegal immigration, has said. Read the rest of this entry »

Egypt extends state of emergency

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has extended the state of emergency in Egypt for another three months.

The president’s decision – a re-declaration of the state of emergency – was published in the official gazette on Thursday and was due to go into effect on Friday. The new declaration must be approved by parliament within seven days. Read the rest of this entry »

6 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai attack

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 13, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

Six Egyptian soldiers were killed in a “terrorist” attack in restive North Sinai, where jihadists are active, the army’s spokesperson said on Friday.

“Terrorist elements attacked a security post in El-Arish with hand grenades and firearms,” Tamer el-Rifai wrote on his Facebook page. Read the rest of this entry »

US to produce armored carriers in Romania

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017

US weapon producer giant General Dynamics will be involved in the production of armored personnel carriers for the Romanian army. The company signed an agreement to create a joint venture with state-owned arms company Romarm, which will be the main contractor for armored vehicles. Read the rest of this entry »

NATO makes new multinational force in Romania

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017

img2NATO launched a new multinational force in Romania on Monday to counter Russia along its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea.

The force will initially be built around a Romanian brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers, supported by troops from nine other NATO countries, and complementing a separate deployment of 900 U.S. troops who are already in place. The plans are to include additional air and sea assets to give the force greater capabilities.

“Our purpose is peace, not war,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly of alliance lawmakers, which is meeting this year in Bucharest. Read the rest of this entry »

UNSC backs Salamé’s Action Plan

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

The Security Council today endorsed the United Nations’ action plan to resume an inclusive political process in Libya.

In a Presidential Statement, the 15-member body strongly urged all Libyans to work together in a spirit of compromise and to engage constructively in the inclusive political process set out in the UN action plan, which was presented at a high-level event in New York on 20 September 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

EU intends to reopen embassy in Libya

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

The European Union (EU) is intending to reopen its embassy in Libya pending security conditions, officials said on Tuesday, offering further political support for the Tripoli government struggling to establish control.

EU leaders will announce at their summit in Brussels on Oct. 19-20 that they “encourage work underway to rapidly establish a permanent EU presence in Libya”, according to their draft joint statement. Read the rest of this entry »

US demands Egypt to sever ties with N. Korea

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017

imgUS President Donald Trump’s administration has demanded that Egypt cut all ties with North Korea or face further punitive action, diplomatic sources have said.

Washington has warned Cairo over its military relations with the pariah Asian state.

The Trump administration has urgently demanded that Egypt close military attache offices and all related activity in both Cairo and Pyongyang. Read the rest of this entry »

Sudan receives first US dollar transfers since sanctions lifted

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

Sudan’s central bank said on Wednesday it had received its first overseas fund transfer in US dollars since Washington announced the lifting of a 20-year-old trade embargo against Khartoum.

Washington last week announced the lifting of sanctions from this on Thursday onwards, saying Khartoum had made progress on conditions set for ending the embargo, in place since 1997.

“The transferring of American dollars has commenced after the lifting of sanctions,” Sudan’s official news agency SUNA said, quoting a statement from the Central Bank of Sudan. Read the rest of this entry »

UN calls for compromise in divided Libya

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

The UN Security Council on Tuesday urged Libyans, divided with rival governments and beset by violence, to work together ahead of hoped-for elections.

The 15-member council gave its full support to a plan by the new UN envoy Ghassan Salame for legislative and presidential ballots by July next year. Read the rest of this entry »

THE BALKAN ROUTE: FROM WARLORDS TO MIGRANTS AND JIHADISTS

Author : Admin | Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Posted in category Eurasia Press, Special Analysis

Several developments and incidents are bringing again to the analysts’ attention the area in the Balkan Peninsula traditionally known as “the Balkan Route”.

In this geopolitical region of Southeast Europe, an area of 550,000 km², about 55 million people live together, with different identities, and sometimes in adversarial ethnic, cultural and political relations.

After the end of the ethnic conflicts of the twentieth century, despite successes that have been achieved, there are still obstacles to the functioning of the rule of law and the development of a democratic life, mainly generated by organized crime and corruption.

Recent developments

a) Illegal migration

In its most recent annual report, the EU border agency Frontex said that although an “effective closure of the Balkan route” had been achieved in spring 2016 for the illegal migration from the Middle East through Turkey, it did not stop migration completely. Hundreds of refugees still arrive in Central Europe via the old route of Macedonia and Serbia, or from Turkey via Bulgaria and Serbia. The Balkan Route only has become more difficult, more expensive and more dangerous.

The Balkan route, which took migrants out of Greece through Macedonia and Serbia (both non-EU countries) and smuggled them into Hungary, was also considered closed after the Budapest government decided to build a border wall with Serbia and increased other security measures.

- According to a report issued last June by the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the EU-Turkey deal, which in theory closed the Western Balkans Route in 2016, only diverted the migrants’ route, with the southern entry point shifting from the Greek islands to Bulgaria’s land border with Turkey. With the Western Balkans route, migrants got stranded in Serbia, while with the diverted route, they remain stranded in Bulgaria, as all the countries further west are securing their borders and pushing back the refugees. Apart from Greece, as of the end of 2016, Serbia and Bulgaria were the countries with the highest number of stranded asylum seekers: 6,232 in Serbia and 5,534 in Bulgaria.

- The so-called “northern part” of the Balkan Route is also seen as being “tested” by the people smugglers by the experts who analyzed several recent incidents on the Black Sea coast.

About 500 migrants from the Middle East reached Romania across the Black Sea from Turkey during August-September 2017 – a sharp increase from a total of 500 migrants who completed the same route in two years in 2013-2015, according to Romanian data – and seven people smugglers from Turkey, Bulgaria, Syria, Iraq and Cyprus had been arrested. A total of 2,474 people were detained while trying to cross the Romanian border illegally during the first six months of 2017, compared to only 1,624 migrants in 2016.

According to the EU’s border agency Frontex, it is too early to talk about the opening of a new migratory route (the Black Sea route was last active in 2014) due to the difficult sailing conditions on the Black Sea, especially during autumn and winter conditions.

- Concerns about the Balkan Route were recently expressed by Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil who, in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, on 20 September 2017, said that people smugglers are finding new routes across the Balkans to illegally bring migrants and refugees into the EU and considered that “the Balkan route is still not entirely closed.”

According to Hans Peter Doskozil, out of the approx 20,000 refugees that came to Austria this year (from which more than 12,000 asked for asylum) about 8,000 persons came through the Balkan route. Due to Hungary and Macedonia controlling their borders, refugees are now taking the path through Romania and Bulgaria, and using the route across Slovakia to go further north.

Doskozil also stressed that Frontex cannot secure the European exterior borders in the way it is needed, and Austria has responded by using police and military forces to carry out “covert” border checks.

b) Organized crime

- U.S. ambassador in Albania Donald Lu[1] considers that fighting organized crime and corruption is the biggest and most difficult challenge ahead for the country, which officially became an EU candidate in 2014 and hopes to begin accession talks. Citing U.S. reports, Lu described Albania as a center of organized crime activity, which includes trafficking in drugs, weapons and prostitution, where four major clans controlled 20 families involved in a wide range of criminal activities.

Ambassador Lu also said that Albania has a substantial black market for smuggled goods, primarily tobacco, jewelry, stolen cars and mobile phones and the country remains at significant risk for money laundering because of rampant corruption and a weak legal system.

- In the domain of drug trafficking, the Balkan route, which stretches from Afghanistan through Iran, Turkey and south-eastern Europe to markets in Western and Central Europe, is still used for carrying the biggest part of the Afghanistan opium (approximately 70 percent of the world’s opium production). The heroin trade has an estimated monetary value of US$28 billion each year.

- A recent investigation[2] by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that the Balkan Route is also used “in reverse”, this time by some U.S. military contractors. The investigation revealed that the Pentagon may have relied on some companies linked to organized crime in the Balkans area to supply up to US$ 2.2 billion worth of Soviet-style arms and ammunition to Syrian rebels fighting Daesh (the Islamic State – ISIS). The munitions are being transported by both sea and air from Europe to Turkey, Jordan and Kuwait.

Reporters have found that directors of three contractors and the president of a critical sub-contractor have faced serious questions about their integrity, including one who bragged about paying “commissions” to foreign agents to secure deals. Another subcontractor employed a company with links to organized crime. Read the rest of this entry »

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

EXCLUSIVE: Senior Libyan Official Reveals Information on ISIS in Libya
On September 28, 2017, the Director of the Investigation Bureau in the Office of the General Secretary of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), Sadiq Al-Sur, held a press conference lasting approximately an hour and 20 minutes, during which he revealed new details about the beginnings of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya, its structure, its senior activists, the countries from which its fighters have been coming, and its activities.
EXCLUSIVE: French Sermon On ISIS Al-Bayan Radio Titled ‘The Enemy Is Too Strong’ Recognizes Loss Of Morale Among FightersOn September 27, 2017, the official Islamic State (ISIS) radio station Al-Bayan released a new audio recording of a sermon in French titled “The Enemy Is Too Strong.” ISIS’s Al-Bayan radio has recently released several audio sermons in French.
EXCLUSIVE: Al-Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri Appeals In Audio ‎Recording For Unity Among Mujahideen, Warns Against ‎Compromising With U.S., Acknowledges Failure Of Arab ‎SpringOn October 4, 2017, Al-Qaeda media wing Al-Sahab released an audio recording by the group’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who reiterates his call for unity among Muslims, especially the mujahideen, while warning them against compromising in the face of the U.S.
(by memri.org)

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

UPDATED – ISIS Claims Attack At Las Vegas Music Festival, Says ‎Attacker Converted To Islam A Few Months Ago
On October 2, 2017, the Islamic State (ISIS) news agency A’maq claimed responsibility for the previous evening’s deadly shooting attack at a country music festival in Las Vegas, in which over 50 people were killed and several hundred wounded.
Pro-Al-Qaeda Media Outlet Calls On Moroccan Jihadis To Prepare For Armed Uprising Against Authorities
On September 30, 2017 the Al-Hijrah media outlet, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, posted issue 15 of its English-language weekly bulletin, devoted to “Jihad against the Evil Moroccan Regime.”
Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani New Commander Of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)
On October 1, 2017, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) announced in a communique that, following deliberations by its Shura Council, it had decided “to accept the resignation of Abu Jaber Al-Sheikh from his position as HTS general commander.”
(by memri.org)

Middle east events and news

Author : Admin | Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Posted in category Eurasia, Special Analysis

Urdu Daily: Hekmatyar-Led Hizb-e-Islami Opposes Move To Shut Down Taliban’s Qatar Office, Taliban Leaders Could Move To TurkeyAccording to a Pakistan-based Urdu-language daily, Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) has opposed an initiative by the Afghan government to have the Afghan Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar shut down.
ISIS Claims Stabbing Attack In Marseille, France
On October 1, 2017, the Islamic State (ISIS) news agency A’maq claimed responsibility for the same-day stabbing attack that killed two at the main train station in Marseille in southern France. Citing a “security source,” A’maq described the attacker as being a soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the attack in response to ISIS’s call to target coalition countries.
ISIS Video Shows Group Using Unexploded U.S. Ordnance In Its Operations, Manufacturing Bombs For Weaponized DronesOn September 29, 2017, the media office of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa, Syria released a video showing the group using unexploded U.S. bombs in its martyrdom operations, IED attacks, and drone attacks. The video, which was posted on multiple pro-ISIS Twitter accounts and Telegram channels, also featured a Yemeni fighter named Abu Hafs urging the mujahideen to ask Allah for forgiveness and showed another fighter making the bombs used in ISIS weaponized drone attacks.
(by memri.org)

France offers to mediate Iraqi referendum crisis

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017

France offered on Thursday to mediate in a political crisis pitting Iraq’s government against Kurdish regional authorities, and promised to maintain a military presence there until Daesh was defeated.

The offer by President Emmanuel Macron coincided with a visit by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, his first abroad since its Kurdish-held northern regions last month voted for independence in a referendum declared illegal by Baghdad. Read the rest of this entry »

Iraq retakes Hawija from Daesh

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017
Posted in category Eurasia, Eurasia News, Middle Orient

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said on Thursday that troops have retaken the northern town of Hawija from the Daesh militant group, driving the extremists from one of their last strongholds in the country.

Abadi declared victory during a press conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. Read the rest of this entry »

France to keep military in Iraq as needed

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017

imgFrance will maintain its military commitment in Iraq until the Islamic State (IS) was completely defeated and as long as necessary, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday.

France, the second leading force in the US-led coalition against IS, was determined to remain engaged in the war against the terrorist group until its “total defeat.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tunisia, Saudi Arabia discuss military co-operation

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017

Tunisia National Defence Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi received Friday Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Mohamed Ben Mahmoud Al Ali.

The meeting turned on bilateral co-operation and ways to boost it notably in the military field, a Defence Ministry press release reads. Read the rest of this entry »

French, Egypt FMs discuss region issues in Paris

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian received here Friday his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri for in-depth talks on bilateral but mainly regional issues, including the Syrian, Libyan and Palestinian issues, an official statement said.

Concerning Libya, the two officials “welcomed the progress in the mediation” that is taking place in Tunis under the aegis of UN Special Representative Ghassan Salame, the French Foreign Ministry said.

Le Drian and Shoukri also reiterated their “full support” for the settlement plan for Libya that was presented at the UN General Assembly in September. Read the rest of this entry »

Egypt, Sudan discuss bilateral relations

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

imgA delegation from the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) including four senior ambassadors will start a four-day visit to Khartoum on Monday to set up a working group to draft a paper on Sudanese-Egyptian relations.

Member of the Sudanese Council for Foreign Affairs Ali Youssef told the official news agency SUNA that the visit of the Egyptian delegation comes in implementation of the directives of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries and the consultation program between the two councils. Read the rest of this entry »

An ambush on US-Niger patrol left several dead

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

An ambush on a joint US-Niger patrol has left several soldiers dead, a security official said on Wednesday, as fears increase that a conflict in neighbouring Mali is spilling over the African nation’s border.

Three American special forces troops were among the dead, according to a New York Times report citing US military officials. Read the rest of this entry »

US to end some sanctions on Sudan

Author : Mircea Birca | Friday, October 6, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

The United States will end some of its toughest economic and trade sanctions imposed on the government of Sudan, the US State Department said on Friday.

Sudan will remain blacklisted as a state sponsor of terror, and some targeted sanctions will remain, but the regime has made progress in ending domestic atrocities, senior administration officials said. Read the rest of this entry »

India, EU to step up fight against terrorism

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

img2India and European Union will seek to step up anti-radicalisation and counter-terrorism cooperation when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds summit talks with the leaders of the bloc on Friday.

Modi will host the presidents of the European Council and European Commission, Donald Franciszek Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, in New Delhi for the 14th India-EU summit. Though the summit might not result in an immediate restart of the stalled negotiation for a Free Trade Agreement, both sides would seek to step up counter-terrorism cooperation. Read the rest of this entry »

France, Turkey to discuss methods to achieve peace in Syria

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

France and Turkey will discuss the parameters and progress in setting up a “Contact Group” to spur peace efforts in Syria and streamline ongoing processes in this area, an official source said Wednesday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is hosting his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Paris on Thursday for talks that “will focus on international issues,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »

Turkish FM says not too late for KRG to go back

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed confidence in a return to normal relations with northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) should it correct its “mistake”, i.e. the holding of an illegitimate independence referendum.

“This was neither a democratic nor a legal referendum,” Cavusoglu said. “It is illegal according to Iraq’s constitution.” Read the rest of this entry »

US ambassador to Iraq, Kurd PM discuss ways to calm situation after referendum

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kurdistan’s prime minister and the US ambassador to Iraq called for efforts to calm the situation between Erbil and Baghdad following Kurdistan’s independence referendum.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with Ambassador Douglas Silliman on Tuesday. US Consul in Erbil, Ken Gross, also attended the meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

Slovakia to send soldiers to Iraq to train security forces

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Slovakia’s defence ministry says the government has approved a plan to send 25 soldiers to Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces as part of a NATO mission.

Peter Gajdos says the Slovak service members will focus on demining and also supporting the local military in the repairs of the Soviet-made weapons. Read the rest of this entry »

Iraqi troops in final stages of liberating Hawija from ISIL

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

imgIraqi forces on Wednesday made their final push into the northern town of Hawija, one of two enclaves in the country still held by ISIL extremists.

Hawija operation’s commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah said, the army, federal police and rapid response force had begun a major operation “to liberate the centre of Hawija and the neighbouring town of Riyadh.”

Seven hours into the operation, Iraqi forces in armoured vehicles and under helicopter cover broke into the Askari and Nidaa neighbourhoods on the western side of the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Egypt FM urges for political solution to Yemen crisis

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that there is no military solution to the crisis in Yemen.

Shoukry’s remarks came during his meeting in Cairo with his Yemeni counterpart Abdel Malik al-Mekhlafi, foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement.

Abu Zeid said the foreign minister reiterated Egypt’s support for the unity and stability of Yemen, calling for a comprehensive solution to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people. Read the rest of this entry »

Militia clashes kill 16 in eastern DRC

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Posted in category Africa, Africa News, Eurasia, Eurasia News

At least 16 members of a militia group have been killed in the troubled North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a military source said on Monday.

The militia group had been engaged in intense fighting against the Congolese army since Friday, when at least four militiamen died.

Army spokesman Jules Tshikudi said that Congolese soldiers killed seven others on Sunday and the bodies of five Mai-Mai, a self-described “self-defence” group, were recovered on Monday. Read the rest of this entry »

US could keep troops in Afghanistan for another decade

Author : Mircea Birca | Monday, October 2, 2017

imgThe US Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker said on Sunday that American troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least another decade.

“But are we likely to have troops in Afghanistan for the next decade? Sure,” Corker said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd aired on Sunday.

This comes after Corker announced earlier this week he plans to retire from the Senate and won’t be running for reelection next year. Read the rest of this entry »