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Europe

MOSCOW- The famous whistleblower Edward Snowden presented his memoir titled Permanent Record to the public in Berlin during a video conference streaming from Russia.

Edward Snowden's lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said Wednesday that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had tried to recruit his client when the latter arrived in Moscow in 2013. Snowden, however, rejected the proposition and said that he would never cooperate with any intelligence service.

The lawyer added that while there are trust-based relations between him and Snowden, the whistleblower has never told him about other recruitment attempts.

In 2013, Snowden leaked classified documents exposing a massive surveillance programme by the National Security Agency that collected telephone, email, and internet browsing records on nearly everyone in the United States, despite a law prohibiting spying on US citizens without a court order.

The US government revoked Snowden's passport while he was in Moscow en route to another country. Russia subsequently granted Snowden political asylum.

In 2014, Snowden received a three-year residence permit to live in Russia, which was later prolonged for three more years.

As a result of Snowden’s revelations, the US Congress passed the Freedom Act in 2015, significantly curbing the mass collection of data.

ANKARA - Turkey's Defense Ministry says the delivery of the second battery of the advanced Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems has been completed, and that the systems would become operational in April 2020.

The ministry announced in a statement that the delivery process was finished at Murted Airfield Command, located 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of the capital Ankara, on Sunday but the training of Turkish personnel was still ongoing.

The second part of the shipments began on August 27.

The first part of the S-400 delivery was completed in late July. Russia delivered 30 planeloads of S-400 hardware and equipment – as part of the initial batch – to Murted Airfield Command.

Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey's purchase of the S-400 systems, which the United States says are not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglu told Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network in an exclusive interview on Saturday that S-400 missile systems would be activated despite repeated US warnings.

"They (US officials) told us 'don't activate them and we can sort this out', but we told them that we didn't buy these systems as a prop," the top Turkish diplomat said, adding that Turkey would be open to buying US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile systems as well.

On September 9, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Donald Trump's administration was considering imposing sanctions on Turkey over purchase of S-400 systems, but no decisions have been made.

Cavusoglu told private Turkish-language TGRT Haber television news network in an exclusive interview back on July 22 that his country would take retaliatory measures in case the United States slapped sanctions on Ankara over the Russian-made systems.

"If the United States portrays an adversarial attitude towards us, we will take retaliatory measures, as we've told them. This is not a threat or a bluff. We are not a country that will bow down to those who show an animosity towards Turkey," he said.

Cavusoglu added that he did not expect the US administration to take such an action.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters in an interview on Friday that he would discuss a possible purchase of Patriot systems with Trump during a meeting at the UN General Assembly later this month.

He also noted that his close relationship with Trump could mend tensions over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

The White House said on July 17 that it was no longer possible for Turkey to be involved in the program for the F-35 stealth jets after parts of S-400 began arriving in Ankara.

It also said it would impose sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

The US Congress passed the CAATSA against Russia in August 2017 over allegations of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The law, among other things, imposes sanctions on countries and companies that engage in contracts to purchase weaponry from Russia.

Moscow and Ankara finalized an agreement on the delivery of the S-400 in December 2017.

Back in April 2018, Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said in Ankara that they had agreed to expedite the delivery of the S-400. At the time, it was said that the delivery could be made between late 2019 and early 2020.

A number of (NATO member states have criticized Turkey for purchase of the S-400, arguing the missile batteries are not compatible with those of the military alliance.

They also argue that the purchase could jeopardize Ankara's acquisition of F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in US sanctions.

The S-400 is an advanced Russian missile system designed to detect, track, and destroy planes, drones, or missiles as far as 402 kilometers away. It has previously been sold only to China and India.

Ankara is striving to boost its air defense, particularly after Washington decided in 2015 to withdraw its Patriot surface-to-air missile system from Turkish border with Syria, a move that weakened Turkey's air defense.

Before gravitating towards Russia, the Turkish military reportedly walked out of a $3.4-billion contract for a similar Chinese system. The withdrawal took place under purported pressure from Washington.

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MADRID - The former head of the Venezuelan military intelligence and a member of the country's National Assembly, Hugo Carvajal, was arrested in Madrid in April at the request of the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Spain's High Court rejected on Monday US extradition request for Hugo Carvajal, a former general and close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Hugo Carvajal was arrested in April and jailed the next day at the request of the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Though the police haven't disclosed the charges brought against Carvajal, in 2008 he was sanctioned by the US Treasury for "materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities" of Colombia's FARC rebel group.

Carvajal was already arrested at the request of the US in 2014 when he served as a Venezuelan consul general in Aruba, the Netherlands' island in the Caribbean.

Carvajal was a trusted advisor to former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and served as military intelligence chief in 2004-2011 and 2013-2014.

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LAMPEDUSA, Italy - Italy’s new government allowed a French charity ship to head to the island of Lampedusa on Saturday and bring ashore some 82 migrants, reversing the uncompromising, closed-door policy of the previous administration.

The Ocean Viking, run by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said on Twitter it had received the green light to sail to Lampedusa, six days after it carried out its first rescue off the coast of Libya.

“The Italian authorities have just offered Ocean Viking a place of safety,” MSF said. Local officials confirmed the news.

Italy’s government formally took office on Tuesday, promising a new approach to migration following the hardline clampdown on rescue ships introduced by former interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday that “several EU countries” had agreed to take in the Africans aboard the Ocean Viking, but did not give further details and did not immediately let Ocean Viking enter Italian waters.

“We needed a bit of time, but Ocean Viking has finally been assigned a safe port. Small signs of discontinuity,” said Matteo Orfini, a senior member of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) which has replaced the League within the ruling coalition.

Salvini’s tough line on immigration fuelled the popularity of his League party, which pulled out of its coalition with the 5-Star Movement last month in a vain attempt to trigger new elections.

During his 14 months at the interior ministry, he introduced new security decrees barring rescue ships from entering Italian waters, saying Italy had borne too much responsibility for handling African migration to Europe.

Ships that defied the decrees risked being impounded and were threatened with fines of up to a million euros ($1.1 million).

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Mediterranean

NEW YORK - The growing number of international migrants has now reached 272 million, outpacing the growth rate of the world’s population, according to new data from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), released on Tuesday.

The figures reflect a jump from 2010, when the global number was at 221 million, and currently international migrants – defined as anyone who changes their “country of usual residence” – make up 3.5 per cent of the global population, compared to 2.8 per cent in the year 2000, according to the latest figures.

Estimates are based on official national statistics of foreign populations gathered from censuses. These numbers reflect any person who is moving or has moved across an international border, regardless of citizenship status or motive - meaning the data encompass people who have moved either intentionally or involuntarily.

Europe hosts the largest number of international migrants, at 82 million; followed by North America, at 59 million; with 51 million in the United States alone - the largest number in a single nation. Finally, North Africa and Western Asia host around 49 million migrants, and along with sub-Saharan Africa, are seeing the most significant influx in foreign populations.

The share of international migrants in the total population varies considerably across regions, the report shows, where foreign-born individuals comprise 21 per cent of the population of the Oceana region (Australia and New Zealand included), and 16 per cent of all people in Northern America.

With forced displacements continuing to increase, refugees and asylum seekers account for close to a quarter of global increases, which have risen by 13 million in number from 2010 to 2017.

Although migration is global, most journeys are taking place within a limited set of countries, with the US, Germany, and Saudi Arabia making up the top three.

The link between migration and development is “very well established,” Director for DESA’s Population Division, John Wilmoth told reporters at the UN, echoing the message from the Department’s Under-Secretary General ahead of the report release.

The data “are critical”, Llu Zhenmin said, “for understanding the important role of migrants and migration in the development of both countries of origin and destination.”

“Facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people will contribute much to achieving the Sustainable development Goals,” he urged.

Mr. Wilmoth said as a general observation, the contribution of migrants both in host countries and countries of origin, includes sending valuable remittances back to countries of origin, and a major social contribution through transmission of ideas.

The United Nations is committed to supporting safe migration, through international agreements to safeguard refugees and people on the move at large. The Global Compact on Refugees, and Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, were adopted in December of last year.

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LONDON - Responding to the news that armed Israeli guards shot dead a Palestinian woman after she allegedly pulled out a knife at the Qalandiya military checkpoint between Ramallah and East Jerusalem this morning, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Saleh Higazi said:

“Video footage of the incident shows the woman standing some distance away from the Israeli guards when they shot her dead. She did not appear to be carrying a firearm and did not pose any immediate threat to the guards or to the lives of people in the vicinity when they opened fire. This strongly suggests that her killing may have been unlawful.

“Under international law, lethal force must only be used when strictly unavoidable and in order to defend people from imminent risk of death or serious injury.”

“Israeli forces have a horrific track record of committing serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law – including using excessive force and carrying out unlawful killings. This pattern grows unobstructed by the complete lack of accountability for Israeli forces who carry human rights violations”.

“Today’s killing is an urgent reminder of the need for international justice to start charting the way towards an end to Israel’s institutionalized and systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.”

Background

A spokesperson for Israeli police said the woman had approached Israeli forces at the checkpoint, ignored calls to stop and pulled a knife out before she was shot in the leg.

In recent years, Amnesty International has documented hundreds of cases in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in which Israeli forces have used lethal force on unarmed Palestinians who were posing no imminent threat to the lives of the soldiers or others, carrying out unlawful killings including in some cases possible wilful killings.

There appears to be blanket approval within the open fire regulations for Israeli forces to use live ammunition during law enforcement situations involving Palestinians.  This does not meet with Israel’s obligations under international law. The Israeli authorities must publish immediately and in full the open fire regulations for the Israel Police, Border Police and private security contractors, as well as for the army for all the areas in which it operates, including Gaza.

 

TEL AVIV - The Israeli military carried out airstrikes against alleged terror targets in Gaza in response to a rocket attack that appeared to target a Netanyahu rally. The prime minister is said to have considered a larger military operation but backed down following legal advice that such a move would require the security cabinet’s approval.

A large-scale Israeli retaliatory strike on Gaza has been averted after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was told he would need cabinet approval to make the move, Haaretz reports.

Militants in Gaza fired at least two rockets on Tuesday evening toward the coastal city of Ashdod, situated between the Palestinian enclave and Tel Aviv, and nearby Ashkelon. The projectiles, which were shot down by anti-missile systems, appeared to target a Netanyahu campaign rally; the prime minister, who was speaking to voters at the time, was forced to leave the stage for a bomb shelter.

No group claimed responsibility, but Israel attributed the attacks to Hamas and struck 15 of its targets in Gaza a few hours later – although it appears that the response could have been even stronger.

Israel’s retaliatory strike – slightly more intensive that the most recent ones – was preceded by a discussion with top military commanders at the Defence Ministry, where Netanyahu is understood to have raised the possibility of a “far-reaching” military operation.

However, according to Haaretz, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit persuaded Netanyahu to back off. He is said to have cited a 2018 law that prohibits the prime minister and defence minister from declaring war or authorising significant military operations without cabinet approval. The amendment rescinded an earlier clause that allowed such actions in “extreme circumstances”.

Mendelblit reportedly advised that Netanyahu would first have to receive approval from the security cabinet, a smaller body within the government – which, in turn, must consult with the chief of staff before making the decision. It is claimed that senior defence officials also objected to a military operation in Gaza, forcing Netanyahu to back down.

The Israeli government refused to comment on security matters.


Restless in Gaza


Israel and the Gaza-based militants (primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad) last fought a war in 2014, and have since been trading sporadic fire across the border, often accompanied by rocket strikes.

During his campaign ahead of Tuesday’s general election, Netanyahu said that rocket fire from Gaza is making another war inevitable.

“There probably won’t be a choice but to launch an operation, a war with the terror forces in Gaza,” he told a local broadcaster last week. In a separate speech, he said a war against Gazan armed groups could break out at any moment, even before the election.

The latest polls show Netanyahu’s Likud party running neck to neck with the opposition Blue and White alliance, led by his former military chief Benny Gantz. It means that whoever wins the election will have to make deals with smaller parties to secure a majority in the Knesset and form a government.

The September snap election was called after Likud failed to achieve the required 61-seat majority in the April vote and subsequently failed to put together a governing coalition.

 

 

By Adel Abu Nimeh

JIFTLIK, West Bank - Palestinians tilling the fertile Jordan Valley said on Wednesday they have been rooted for generations to the West Bank land that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to annex, and they vowed never to give it up.

“We tell Netanyahu, and whoever follows him, you will not break the Palestinians’ will, you will never break our will, never, never,” said Hassan Al-Abedi, a 55-year-old farmer who lives in the village of Jiftlik.

“It’s our parents’ and grandparents’ land. We will hold onto it no matter what it costs.”

The right-wing Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he plans to “apply Israeli sovereignty” to the Jordan Valley and adjacent northern Dead Sea if he prevails in what is shaping up as a tough battle for re-election on Sept. 17.

The plan drew condemnation from Arab leaders and from Palestinians, who seek to establish a state in all of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The office of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the plan “would constitute a serious violation of international law.”

Palestinian leaders said it would also effectively nullify interim peace deals from the 1990s that included security cooperation.

Against the backdrop of Jordan’s desert mountain range to the east, Palestinian farmers tended their crops and worried about their future in an area where the town of Jericho and the River Jordan are reminders of a biblical past.

“This is not Netanyahu’s land to give,” said Ismael Hassan, a 75-year-old Palestinian from Zbeidat village. “Whether or not Netanyahu succeeds (in the election) we won’t accept it. This land is for Palestine, for the Palestinians.”

In Israel, which captured the West Bank in a 1967 war, Netanyahu’s declaration was widely seen as a bid to sap support from far-right election rivals who advocate annexation of Jewish settlements, and from a center-left that for decades has argued that the Jordan Valley should be kept on security grounds.

Retaining the Jordan Valley would effectively leave Israel encircling any Palestinian political entity that emerges.


CRAFTING OPINION


Following up on his speech with remarks on Facebook on Wednesday, Netanyahu took credit for having persuaded U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over another strategic slice of occupied territory - the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967 - and to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

The White House was informed in advance of Tuesday’s annexation announcement, Netanyahu said, adding that he was “crafting opinion in favor of recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley”.

A U.S. official confirmed Washington had been notified but said the announcement was not coordinated.

Netanyahu’s decision to make the promise showed that he had little reason to fear any pushback from the Trump administration, which has hewed to a heavily pro-Israel policy and backed Trump at almost every turn since he took office in 2017.


BREADBASKET, BORDER


Some 53,000 Palestinians and around 12,800 Israeli settlers live in the Jordan Valley, according to monitor Peace Now. The main Palestinian city in the region is Jericho, with around 28 villages and smaller Bedouin communities.

Palestinians often refer to the Jordan Valley as their “breadbasket”. In his speech on Tuesday, Netanyahu described it as Israel’s eastern border with Jordan.

“Even Netanyahu’s main rivals believe that any Palestinian entity that is established in the West Bank should be completely encircled by Israel, having no border with Jordan,” said Nathan Thrall, an International Crisis Group analyst.

“The annexation plan shouldn’t be dismissed as election bluster. If reelected, Netanyahu will be under tremendous pressure to implement it.”

The valley, which at 2,400 square kilometers (926 square miles) accounts for nearly 30% of the West Bank, has dozens of Palestinian farms as well as open areas that the Palestinian Authority has sought to develop for solar energy projects and industrial zones.

There are some 30 mainly agricultural settlements in the area, along with 18 smaller Israeli outposts, Peace Now says.

“It’s impossible to have a Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters in an interview from his office in Jericho.

“My prosperity can come (only) if I can control my natural resources, my shores on the Dead Sea, my shores on the Mediterranean, my water, my land.”

Erekat said the Palestinians would welcome “a third party presence” such as NATO or the European Union but said: “A Israeli military or civilian presence in the state of Palestine is not okay. Because this will not make peace.”

Israeli leaders have ruled out such a foreign peacekeeper force, citing the failure of a similar proposal for Gaza after Israel quit that territory in 2005.

“We did not get an era of peace. We got three wars. We’re not going to allow that to happen to our east,” said Dore Gold, a Netanyahu confidant who runs the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think-tank.


POLITICAL GAMBIT


The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2014.

The Trump administration is expected to release its long-delayed peace plan after Israel’s election, and it is still unclear whether the proposal will adhere to previous U.S. support for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

That rollout is unlikely to be affected even if Netanyahu goes ahead with the Jordan Valley annexation plan after the election, a U.S. official said.

Palestinians have boycotted the Trump administration, accusing it of pro-Israel bias.

A far-right coalition partner of Netanyahu hinted at doubt about the premier’s sincerity, saying there had been no movement on the Jordan Valley question during his decade in power. “How come this matter (annexation) is coming up now, a week before the election?” Bezalel Smotrich told Israel’s Army Radio.

Netanyahu also reaffirmed a pledge to annex all of the settlements Israel has established in the West Bank. But he said that broader step could take longer and required “maximum coordination” with Washington.

Netanyahu is fighting for his political life after an inconclusive election in April. His Likud party is running neck and neck in opinion polls with former armed forces chief Benny Gantz’s Blue and White.

 

North Africa

MOSCOW - Russian technicians are supporting the Libyan National Army (LNA), the powerful faction led by former general Khalifa Haftar, by repairing its Soviet-supplied armoured fighting vehicles and artillery, according to a leaked document released by the Russian investigative news website Proekt on 12 September as part of a joint investigation with The Daily Beast and The Dossier.

In the process, it outlined the LNA's inventory at the outset of its attempt to capture the capital Tripoli earlier this year, an offensive that has made little progress due to determined resistance by forces aligned with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

"In the period commencing 17 October 2018 up to now, the overhaul specialist team of the Russian Federation made up of 23 men conducted inspection, damage/defect assessment, and overhaul of armoured vehicles and equipment as specified below," stated the Russian-language document, which was dated 12 March.

A table then listed the vehicles that have been inspected as 100 T-55, 35 T-62, and 10 T-72 tanks; 77 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles; 210 BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers; 21 BREM armoured recovery vehicles; 41 BRDM-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicles; and 10 MTLB armoured tracked carriers. The artillery that was inspected included 20 2S1 self-propelled gun-howitzers, six BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, and a single 2S3 self-propelled howitzer.

Most of the vehicles and guns were subject to repairs ranging from minor to full overhauls. . The document said RUB18.8 million (USD278,000) of parts had been supplied as part of this process.

The document did not state whether the Russian technicians were serving military personnel or contractors, although Proekt said the metadata in the document showed it was written by an individual who is reportedly associated with the private military company known as the Wagner Group.


ALGIERS - Tens of thousands of Algerians marched in the capital on Friday to demand that the rest of the ruling elite follow former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in quitting power before any new election.

The 30th consecutive Friday protest also included demands that the authorities release Karim Tabou, a prominent opposition leader who has been held since Wednesday and charged with “contributing to weakening army morale”.

The army, the strongest institution in Algeria, wants a presidential election as soon as possible to break the deadlock between the protesters and the authorities.

The absence of an elected president since Bouteflika resigned in April has left Africa’s largest country, a major energy exporter, in constitutional limbo.

“No vote as long as the gang rules the country,” read one banner, referring to interim President Abdelkader Bensaleh and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who is expected to resign soon.

“Free Tabou, free Tabou,” another banner read.

Dozens of Bouteflika allies including two former prime ministers, two former intelligence chiefs, ministers and influential business tycoons have been put behind bars on corruption charges, but the protesters are calling for wider measures to overturn the old order.

Algeria is a key gas supplier to Europe and it is a U.S. partner in its fight against militant Islamist groups in the Sahara and Sahel regions.

 

 

By Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall

TUNIS - Tunisia’s presidential election on Sunday is the most unpredictable in its short experience of democracy, a contest with no overwhelming front-runner at a time of economic angst.

It will shape not only indebted Tunisia’s approach to foreign relations and the vexed issue of public spending, but also test its consensus model of politics and the way it practices democracy.

While outsiders, especially in Arab states, are watching the fortunes of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, many Tunisians have been engrossed by the candidacy of a media magnate who was imprisoned last month on suspicion of tax fraud, and whose campaign has focused on the poor.

However, after years of rising unemployment, high inflation and reduced spending on public services and subsidies, many Tunisians feel frustration with politics, adding to uncertainty over the outcome and turnout.

“Things aren’t clear. I still don’t see a candidate that is qualified and worthy of running Tunisia,” said Houda Ben Ayed, a woman waiting at a tram stop in Tunis.

Though Sunday’s vote is unlikely to produce a clear winner, with the two top candidates to hold a run-off if none of them win an outright majority, it will still influence a parliamentary election on October 6.

Tunisia’s revolution began with the self-immolation of a desperate vegetable seller in December 2010, then mass protests that forced strongman ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to seek exile in Saudi Arabia and soon spread across the Arab world.

Eight years on, Sunday’s highly competitive, wide open election shows how Tunisia’s path to democracy has run smoother than in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen or Bahrain, where people attempted to follow its example in throwing off autocratic rule.

The televised debates between most of the 24 men and two women running for office were widely watched by voters hoping to whittle down their choices - a far cry from the unopposed 99% election victories under Ben Ali, now lying sick in a Saudi hospital.

The crowded field boasts some of Tunisia’s biggest names, including current and former prime ministers and the first ever presidential candidate from the country’s strongest party, as well as the detained media magnate, Nabil Karoui.

They represent a myriad of ideas unthinkable in most Arab elections, pitting secular liberals against moderate Islamists, free traders against economic protectionists and supporters of the 2011 revolution against those of the old regime.

No incumbent is running, since former President Beji Caid Essebsi died in July aged 92 and the interim president, Mohammed Ennaceur, did not stand.


POWER SHARING OR POLARIZATION


Most elections since the revolution have led to power-sharing agreements between the rival parties, as politicians sought to avert dangerous polarization between Islamists and liberals or to present a united front to deal with economic crisis.

It is uncertain whether that consensus model will continue. Sunday’s election may push parties to stake out harder positions in the October parliamentary elections against sharing power with ideological opponents.

The president, although the most significant figure in national politics, has direct control only over foreign and defense policy, with the prime minister chosen by parliament overseeing most other portfolios.

Several candidates have challenged this arrangement, calling for changes to the constitution to give the president more power. It is one way in which Sunday’s vote will affect how Tunisian politics work.

The case of media magnate Karoui is another. His opponents say he has used his charity and his television station illegally, and that if he wins, it would represent a blow to democratic principles.

Karoui denies wrongdoing and complains his detention has denied him the right to contest the election on equal terms with his rivals. On Friday a court said he would stay behind bars while waiting for a final verdict in the case.

His supporters say his arrest shortly before the start of the campaign over a tax fraud case that was initiated years ago is evidence of undemocratic behavior on the part of the authorities, who they say are trying to silence him.


ISLAMISTS


Continuity is most clearly represented in the race by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, whose administration has implemented economic reforms since 2016 as part of an IMF loan program.

Whatever his fate in Sunday’s poll, those reforms highlight the difficulties that the next president and government will face, caught between popular demands to raise spending and the insistence of international lenders that Tunisia cut back.

A strong showing for the Ennahda party would not necessarily lead to a big shift in policy. Banned under Ben Ali as an Islamist party, it has played a big role in most governments since the revolution.

Though it has pushed a more moderate image in recent years, portraying itself as a “Muslim Democrat” party, many Tunisian liberals worry it still harbors a more conservative Islamist agenda.

The main focus of its extensive party machine - the most established in the country - has been on the parliamentary election rather than the presidential race, which it is entering for the first time with deputy leader Abdelfatteh Mourou as its candidate.

However, in a possible sign of its concern about the tightness of the race, party leader Rached Ghannouchi has called on other conservative candidates to withdraw.

 

BENGHAZI, LIBYA - Forces under the command of Libya's renegade general, Khalifa Haftar, have rejected a UN call to return to the negotiating table, saying war is the best way to resolve the conflict.

Haftar's offensive launched in April to conquer the capital, Tripoli, has hit a brick wall and his forces have been pushed back by troops aligned to Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

A spokesman for Haftar's forces, however, told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday that the battle was "in its final phases."

"When the guns speak, diplomacy goes silent. The time of going back to dialogue is over," General Ahmed al-Mesmari said. "The military solution is the best solution to spread security and reimpose the law."

The UAE is one of Haftar's foreign backers, providing his so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) with weapons and funds.

The warmongering came as clashes resumed on Saturday morning after almost a month of calm. At least three GNA fighters were reportedly killed in an offensive aimed at pushing back Haftar forces.

Almost five months after launching the offensive, Haftar's forces remain locked in a stalemate against the GNA on Tripoli's southern outskirts.

Haftar enjoys varying levels of support from Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia and France. He has almost two-thirds of the country and all oilfields under control.

On Wednesday, UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame warned of an escalation if outside patrons step up support for the warring sides, urging the Security Council to take action.

"Many Libyans feel abandoned by part of the international community and exploited by others," he said.

"The idea that war should be given a chance and that a military solution is at all possible is quite simply a chimera," Salame said.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising and an ensuing NATO intervention in which longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed. Haftar's offensive has exacerbated the crisis, threatening to plunge the country into a full-blown civil war.

Since Gaddafi's ouster, Libya has been divided mostly between two main rivaling powers, one linked with Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the other in Tripoli.

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Research Papers & Reports

GENEVA - Incidents of modern-day slavery are “only likely to increase” as a result of some of biggest challenges facing the world today, a UN expert outlined in a report for the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Urmila Bhoola, explained that over 40 million people are enslaved around the world, a quarter of them children. Due to problems of environmental degradation, migration and shifting demographics, the scourge of modern-day slavery is expected to grow.

Over 60 percent of those in forced labour work in the private sector, Ms. Bhoola said, with women and girls disproportionately affected. Of the female victims involved in forced labour, 98 percent have experienced sexual violence.

Global estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) indicate that 24.9 million people are in forced labour situations worldwide, and 15.4 million live in forced marriages.

This sort of trend, “must serve as a wakeup call,” Ms. Bhoola said, highlighting that the astounding statistics come four years after States committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with relevant targets 5.2 and 8.7 aimed at stamping out trafficking, ending violence against women, and eradicating modern slavery.

The problem is exacerbated by the pressing climate conflict of our time. “In wake of climate change, people may lose their livelihoods, young people who don’t have access to decent work may migrate through unsafe channels and changes in the world of work, such as automation, may push already vulnerable people out of their jobs,” all of which could increase people’s vulnerability to slavery, the expert explained.

Even for those who escape, life for survivors is often difficult. Investigations by the NGO Human Rights Watch, highlight how even victims who manage to extricate themselves, can return home to the same desperate circumstances that made them vulnerable to begin with, but now facing stigma or blame.

Beyond these tragic realities for individuals, “slavery leads to increased public health costs, productivity losses, negative environmental externalities and lost income,” Ms. Bhoola added, urging for States and business to “act now.”

 “We cannot afford to stand by while more and people are driven into forced labour, servile marriage or child labour,” she said.  

Looking forward, the UN expert highlighted that for youth approaching working age, the situation is more dire - “By 2030, some 85 percent of the more than 25 million young people entering the labour force globally will be in developing and emerging countries,” she noted. “Their perspectives to access jobs offering decent work will determine their level of vulnerability to exploitation, including slavery.”

To prepare for this, “it is imperative” anti-slavery efforts are “systematic, scientific, strategic, sustainable, survivor-informed, and smart” she maintained.

Current efforts to end slavery are falling short and States and businesses “must take more decisive action to end slavery,” Ms. Bhoola concluded. This must be done “by committing more resources to this effort and by adopting and implementing public policies which address contemporary forms of slavery effectively.”

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GENEVA - With at least five people dying every minute due to unsafe health care, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging medical professionals, policy makers, caregivers and patients to take urgent action to ensure no one is harmed while receiving treatment.

“Speak up for patient safety!” is the slogan for the first World Patient Safety Day, observed this Tuesday, 17 September.

The objective is to prevent and reduce risks, errors and harm, such as dispensing the wrong medication due to a mix-up over similar packaging.

“No one should be harmed while receiving health care. And yet globally, at least five patients die every minute because of unsafe care,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said ahead of the day.

“We need a patient safety culture that promotes partnership with patients, encourages reporting and learning from errors, and creates a blame-free environment where health workers are empowered and trained to reduce errors.”

WHO cites research which shows medication errors are estimated to cost more than $40 billion annually.

Other challenges include health care-associated infections, unsafe surgical care procedures, diagnostic errors, and sepsis, which causes more than five million deaths a year.

WHO has launched a campaign which calls for urgent action as patient safety is fundamental to quality essential health services.

Patients can speak up by being actively involved in their health care through asking informed questions and providing full details about their medical history.

The medical community is being urged to develop a culture of patient safety culture through various means, including reporting and learning from errors and promoting more open communication across all levels.

Health care professionals also can work to reduce errors, for example through training, simplifying and standardizing procedures, and ensuring a safe and clean environment.

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By Carlo Bastasin, Brookings, 9 September 2019

Italy has a certain experience in changes of government, having seen 68 different governments in 73 years. However, even by Italian standards, what happened this summer to the first populist government in an advanced economy is unusual, to say the least. It is also instructive for other countries, showing the key roles of parliaments and the framework of the eurozone in counterbalancing authoritarian temptations.

At the beginning of August, Matteo Salvini — head of the far-right party the League, deputy prime minister, and interior minister — wanted to leverage his high polling numbers and break with his coalition partner, the Five Star Movement. Salvini called for new elections, asking Italians to hand over “full powers” to him.

His main motivation was to break free from European fiscal constraints — maybe even exit the euro — and give fiscal stimulus to the over-indebted Italian economy after 25 years of austerity and low growth. On August 20, during a speech in the Senate on the government crisis, Salvini announced his plan for a new budget law amounting to 50 billion euros in lower taxes and higher investments. In interviews, he also said that the European fiscal constraints would have to be modified to allow for that stimulus,” adding: “Brussels will have to accept it, like it or not.” Salvini also wanted Italy to move closer to Russia and apparently to a Putin-like authoritarian political style, distancing Italy from its traditional European and Atlantic allies.

What happened instead was that the other larger political parties — the Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement — papered over their acrimonious rivalry and joined forces, generating a new majority in the Italian parliament. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, an independent aligned with the Five Star Movement, received a mandate to form his second government — with a larger majority, given that the PD won more seats in last year’s election than the League — which was inaugurated on September 5.

The obvious lesson is that in a democracy, the parliament counts and it becomes vital when a populist leader wants to take “full powers.” This would sound banal if the political drama in Rome hadn’t happened within hours of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspending the U.K. Parliament so that he could proceed to a “hard Brexit” without democratic impediments. The same could be said of other strong leaders, even Donald Trump, governing often by executive orders, blaming the representative chambers, and attempting to exert influence on institutions, like the Supreme Court, that should counterbalance their executive powers.

I suspect that Italy’s members of parliament have chosen to resist new elections also to save their seats, a normal instinct in any democratic institution. In fact, given its experience of dancing on the brink of volcanoes, Italy has an ingrained safety valve that prevents it from going too far, for better and for worse. The key is Italy’s awareness of its own vulnerability. Fiscal fragility, a unique combination of high-wealth/low-income households, and exposure to instability across the Mediterranean (with massive migration flows and a lack of support from Europe), have been keeping Italy walking on thin ice for decades.

For all its anti-European rhetoric, even the last government caved in twice when confronted with the European fiscal rules. I called the Conte’s first government a “techno-pop” executive because, as so many times in the past, a number of technocrats — such as Finance Minister Giovanni Tria and Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi — were added to the populist ministers in order to preserve stability in Italy’s economy and foreign policy, as requested by President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. Even Conte, who headed the worst Italian government in ages — inexperienced and unaware of European rules — has learned his mandate and now supports Italy’s fiscal stability, moving away from his awkward initial anti-EU rhetoric. Eventually, both Conte and the Five Star Movement were decisive in securing the election of Ursula von der Leyen as head of the European Commission. Italy’s homecoming from the populist hallucination occurred in that precise moment.

A number of factors played a role in Salvini’s demise. Most Italians remain generally pro-European. The Vatican frequently spoke out against Salvini’s hardline anti-migration policies. Ultimately, the League’s leader found himself with no friends: not in Washington, where he gave insufficient guarantees of playing on the Western side (President Trump supported Conte over Salvini at the most critical juncture, although initially misspelling his name); surely not in Brussels, where Angela Merkel has opened a dialogue with Viktor Orbán, Salvini’s Hungarian twin brother. Even in Russia, Vladimir Putin was embarrassed by an episode of corruption allegedly attempted by Salvini’s colleagues. The League’s Russia links have brought Salvini under the scrutiny of the Italian judiciary (another typical Italian expression of “checks and balances”). Salvini’s best friend, the people, also deserted him. After the government crisis, his personal ratings went from 51% to 36% in one week.

There are many reasons to be skeptical about the future of the new PD-Five Star Movement government. First of all, the two parties do not seem to have a common reasonable vision on how to mend Italy’s limping economy, excessive fiscal burden, and dismal demography. However, the failure of the League-Five Star Movement populist experiment bodes well for cooling the overheated political climate of the last two years. Key ministers in the new executive — first of all Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri, a former member of the European Parliament — are very keen on establishing a constructive dialogue with the European Union. The new government’s agenda is also more aligned with that of the incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. In the past, the commitment of Italian governments to work constructively with the EU institutions justified a less severe attitude from Brussels in applying fiscal constraints.

In fact, a little calm in the political framework could be of great help for the Italian economy. The political uncertainty that has characterized Italy in recent decades — particularly acute during the financial crises, but also in the last year — was the main reason for the fall in investments, particularly in advanced technology. Ultimately, economic and political uncertainty was the reason Italy lost productivity compared to other European economies.

A more benevolent economic environment could then contribute to the legislature’s durability. It is easy to imagine that the new PD-Five Star Movement majority will engage in a few institutional reforms that would absorb most of the political discourse: downsizing the number of the senators and members of parliament, redesigning regional autonomy, and maybe even adopting a more proportional electoral law. Such an agenda would keep Italian politics busy until the end of of 2021 when, according to the constitution, the “white semester” begins, preceding the election of the new president of the republic. That would ensure that the current parliamentary majority would last enough to be able to nominate, in mid-2022, a new non-populist and non-euroskeptic president to replace Sergio Mattarella, as well as new members of the Constitutional Court and of other constitutional institutions. This would contribute to strengthening Italy’s checks and balances and stabilize the country’s politics.

However, the fate of the new government will be decided on the issue of migration, which was Salvini’s strong suit with the public. It is on this issue that Europe should make its contribution to stabilizing the new Italian government, reviewing the Dublin regulations that prevent the redistribution of migration flows across the EU. A European response on migration also needs to come quickly, hopefully before the regional elections that will take place next year. Those local votes could mark the first severe test for the continuation of the current coalition.


By Amanda Sloat, Brookings, 5 September 2019

During another dramatic week in British politics, Parliament—facing an imminent five-week suspension as the clock ticks towards the October 31 Brexit deadline—seized control of the agenda, introduced legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and blocked early elections. It was a stunning series of defeats for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who lost his one-seat parliamentary majority when a member of parliament (MP) defected, then expelled 21 MPs from his party for voting against him, and finally saw his own brother quit as Tory MP and minister. September 9 is the next date to watch, when parliament is expected to finalize the bill blocking no-deal and reconsider fall elections.


DID PARLIAMENT BLOCK A NO-DEAL BREXIT?


Not exactly. But it is trying to pass legislation that would prevent the government from pursuing this outcome.

In a short statement outside Downing Street on September 2, Johnson threw down the gauntlet: He pledged not to request a Brexit extension from the EU “under any circumstances” and implicitly threatened elections if rebels forced his hand. Parliament responded when it returned from its summer recess on September 3, with a cross-party group of MPs introducing an emergency debate motion—which Speaker John Bercow allowed in an unprecedented decision—to seize control of the agenda and fast-track a private member’s bill blocking a no-deal Brexit. It passed in a 328-301 vote.

In response, Johnson expelled 21 Conservative MPs from the party for defying the government—including eight former ministers and Winston Churchill’s grandson. The rebels were lauded by supporters for placing country before party and personal ambition, with some serving cabinet ministers reportedly calling for these MPs to be reinstated. Earlier that day, Johnson lost his one-seat majority when MP Philip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats, crossing the chamber as the prime minister was speaking. Later in the week, Jo Johnson—Boris’ brother—resigned as MP and universities minister over the “unresolvable tension” between “family loyalty and the national interest.”

On September 4, MPs considered the anti-no-deal bill. Introduced by Labour MP Hilary Benn, it requires the government to reach an agreement with the EU by October 19 (after Johnson meets EU leaders at the European Council summit on October 17-18) or seek parliamentary consent for a no-deal Brexit. If neither occurs, the government must ask the EU to extend the deadline to January 31, 2020 or accept its proposed alternative (unless parliament rejects it). The bill passed all three legislative stages in the Commons that day; later that evening, the government abandoned efforts to block the bill’s passage in the Lords. It is expected to become law on September 9, with the government confirming it would not suspend parliament beforehand. Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than agree a Brexit extension, but he refused to say if he would resign.

The U.K. cannot unilaterally delay the Brexit deadline (though it can unilaterally withdraw its invocation of Article 50 to leave the EU). If the government requests an extension, all 27 EU leaders must agree. The wild card remains French President Emmanuel Macron, who was the strongest opponent of an extension last April. Elections would be a compelling rationale for extra time. Meanwhile, the European Commission is continuing its contingency planning for a no-deal outcome.


WILL THERE BE SNAP ELECTIONS?


es, sooner or later, as Johnson is now far short of a parliamentary majority. The question is whether elections occur before or after the October 31 Brexit deadline.

In response to the rebel move, Johnson introduced a motion on September 4 under the Fixed Term Parliament Act that called for snap elections on October 15 (a change from the initial plan of October 14, which coincided with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot). Although the measure received more yeas than nays (298-56), it fell short of the two-thirds majority required by the Act. The majority of Labour MPs and the Scottish National Party abstained, demanding the Benn bill preventing a no-deal Brexit become law before elections are set.

The government will try again on September 9, after the bill is adopted. The Labour Party is internally debating the timing of new polls. Tories are goading its leader Jeremy Corbyn, suggesting he has long demanded elections but is now afraid to face the public. (The prime minister called him a “chlorinated chicken” and “great big girl’s blouse” on the floor of Parliament). Senior aides advocate elections as soon as the bill is passed. Yet backbenchers prefer polls after October 31, which would keep Johnson trapped in office through the date on which he has repeatedly vowed Britain will exit the EU. Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair also warned this week against early polls, arguing Corbyn “should see an election before Brexit is decided for the elephant trap it is.”

Downing Street is reportedly considering alternative measures. Tories could call a no-confidence vote in their own government, which would require a simple majority rather than two-thirds to trigger elections. It is a risky strategy, as it would first give the opposition 14 days to form a national unity government. Yet this would require tremendous discipline, as numerous MPs are loath to back Corbyn; recently expelled Tory grandee Ken Clarke could conceivably be an acceptable caretaker. Alternatively, Tories could seek to amend the Fixed Term Parliament Act by allowing a simple majority vote to trigger elections. This is also risky, as rebels could seek to amend the bill and introduce a November date.

Africa


THE UNITED NATIONS - Collaboration among countries of the global south offers a “unique pathway” that accelerates us towards the key 2030 sustainable development targets, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, told a commemorative event for South-South Cooperation (SSC) on Thursday.

This year’s United Nations Day dedicated to the initiative, annually observed on 12 September, is particularly significant, as it follows international commitments made at the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA+40) Second UN High-Level Conference in March, which coincided with the Plan’s 40th anniversary.

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GENEVA - The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Mali has spiked since the beginning of the year, to 3.9 million – or one in five people, UN aid coordinating agency OCHA said on Friday.

It says the number of internally displaced persons has doubled over the same period, to more than 168,000, amid growing insecurity caused by inter-communal conflict in the north and centre of the country.

Rising food insecurity is also widespread, with more than half a million people now described as severely food insecure in Mali.

To meet rising needs, humanitarians say they need $324 million.

But despite the increasing numbers of vulnerable people, the plan is only 30 per cent funded.

 

LONDON - The UK has signed an economic partnership agreement with the Southern African Customs Union, and Mozambique, which the British government says will allow business to keep trading freely after the UK leaves the European Union, which is currently due to happen on 31 October.

It allows businesses to continue to trade on preferential terms with South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Mozambique.

South Africa’s Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel said the deal would give the southern African states a soft landing in case of a no-deal Brexit.

UK Trade Minister Liz Truss said: "This is a major milestone as the UK prepares to become an independent trading nation once again, and we are helping businesses get ready to trade with the most exciting markets around the world."

The UK is one of South Africa's largest trading partners, with bilateral trade valued at about $9.5 billion in 2018.

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By AGGREY MUTAMBO

THE HAGUE - The International Court of Justice on Wednesday announced closure date for the public hearings of the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute.

In a statement, the Hague based court said the hearing should end on November 8, 2019.

“...the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will hold public hearings in the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia vs Kenya), from Monday 4 to Friday 8 November 2019 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court.”

Last week, the Court had agreed to reschedule the sessions after Kenya asked for time to recruit a new legal defence team.

“The hearings in this case have been rescheduled further to the request made by the Republic of Kenya on 3 September 2019 and taking into account the views expressed by the Federal Republic of Somalia on that request,” ICJ added.

The Court had only announced the hearings were to start on November 4.

Initially, ICJ had set the hearing for September 9 to September 14.

The hearing is the last part of the programme after which a verdict will be delivered in two weeks time.

Kenya’s current legal team include American Prof Payam Akhavan, Prof Vaughan Lowe QC from the UK, Prof Alan Boyle (British), Prof Mathias Forteau (French), Mr Karim Khan (British) and Ms Amy Sanders (British).

Kenya has under 50 days to recruit a new team that will take on Somalia during the public hearings.

Somalia will go first on November 4 thereafter Kenya responds on November 6.

There will be no sessions on November 5. The two sides will then resume presentations on November 7 and 8.