News Report on the Middle East – 1 – 15 May

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Palestine

  • Elections planned for the first time in 15 years in Palestine were postponed. The announcement of the postponement decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas caused great reaction and various protests.
  • The last elections in Palestine were held in 2006 and since then, elections have not been held due to disagreements between Hamas and Al-Fatah. The elections, which were postponed, were planned to be held on 22 May.

Resource: Middle East Eye, (2021). ‘Palestine elections: Protests held against the decision to postpone parliamentary polls’ https://www.middleeasteye.net/video/palestine-elections-protests-held-against-decision-postpone-parliamentary-polls (accessed 05.05.2021)

  • The reaction of the international community is increasing day by day against the tension that started and escalated with the forced evacuation of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Cerrah neighborhood of Israel’s occupied East Jerusalem.
  • The incidents that started in the Sheikh Cerrah neighborhood spread to Masjid-i Aqsa, making the conflict more difficult.
  • According to the decision of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 2019 regarding the evacuation of 12 Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Cerrah neighborhood, 4 of these families were supposed to evacuate their homes in January 2021, but the families took the matter to the Israeli Supreme Court. The Israeli Supreme Court did not accept these families’ appeals. While the legal dimension of the events developed in this way, Israel’s interventions in the Sheikh Cerrah neighborhood and Masjid al-Aqsa increased the tension.

Resource: Arnavut A, Koşak Ç. (2021). ‘Doğu Kudüs’te İsrail güçlerinin saldırılarının odağındaki tarihi mahalle: Şeyh Cerrah https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/dogu-kuduste-israil-guclerinin-saldirilarinin-odagindaki-tarihi-mahalle-seyh-cerrah/2240980 (accessed 14.05.2021)

  • The United Nations warned that Israel’s forced evacuation of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is against international law and could even be war crimes.
  • In this context, the United Nations emphasized that Israel should comply with international law in all occupied territories and also stated that Israel should not use excessive force while ensuring security in East Jerusalem.

Resource: Altuğ, B. (2021). ‘BM: İsrail’in Kudüs’teki 8 Filistinli aileyi zorla tahliye etmesi savaş suçu teşkil edebilir’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/bm-israilin-kudusteki-8-filistinli-aileyi-zorla-tahliye-etmesi-savas-sucu-teskil-edebilir/2232667 (accessed 07.05.2021)

  • U.S. President Joe Biden made a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinians intensified.
  • In this telephone conversation, President Biden emphasized Israel’s right to self-defense and stated that Israel must defend itself when rockets are falling on its territory.

Resource: Baykan, D. (2021). ‘ABD Başkanı Joe Biden: Binlerce roket topraklarına düşerken İsrail’in kendini savunma hakkı var’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/abd-baskani-joe-biden-binlerce-roket-topraklarina-duserken-israilin-kendini-savunma-hakki-var/2239485 (accessed 12.05.2021)

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Israel

  • In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal deadline for forming a coalition government has expired, and Netanyahu has not been successful in forming a government.
  • After Netanyahu’s failure, eyes turned to Israeli President Rivlin. On May 6, President Rivlin assigned the leader of the Yesh Atid Party, Yair Lapid, who came second in the 23 March elections, to form the government.
  • Yair Lapid has until June 2 to form a government. If Lapid fails to form a government, the task of forming the government will pass to the Israeli Parliament – the Knesset. If the Knesset fails to support any member of parliament with 61 seats making up the majority in the parliament within 21 days, the Knesset will dissolve automatically and Israel will go to the fifth election in two years.

Resource: Bicom.org. (2021). ‘Lapid given mandate to try and form the next government’ https://www.bicom.org.uk/news/lapid-given-mandate-to-try-and-form-the-next-government/ (accessed 07.05.2021)

  • The clashes in Gaza do not stop. Thousands of rockets were launched by Hamas in many cities in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has not yet made the last word in response to what Hamas has done and is determined to ensure Israel’s security.
  • The United Nations Security Council will meet on May 16 to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution prepared by China to condemn Israel was vetoed by the USA.

Resource: Bicom.org. (2021). ‘Southern Israel under heavy assault, as IDF targets underground network’ (accessed 14.05.2021)

Egypt

  • Relations between Turkey and Egypt had dropped to the level of charge d’affaires after Sisi became Egyptian president in 2013. There are positive signals for the first time in relationships that have not improved since then.
  • According to the statement made by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, exploratory talks between Turkish and Egyptian delegations were positive. Delegations discussed very important issues such as Libya, Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean and Iraq.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that the two countries have many common interests in the issues mentioned above. He stated that if the positive atmosphere continues, the cooperation between the two countries will benefit both sides.

Resources: Yüzbaşıoğlu N, Karadağ C. (2021). ‘Dışişleri Bakanı Çavuşoğlu: Mısır’la önümüzdeki süreçte görüşmeler devam edecek’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/politika/disisleri-bakani-cavusoglu-misirla-onumuzdeki-surecte-gorusmeler-devam-edecek/2231824 (accessed 07.05.2021)

  • Reuters. (2021). ‘Egypt and Turkey seek to overhaul tense ties with frank talks on Libya’ https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/egypt-turkey-say-they-held-frank-in-depth-talks-cairo-2021-05-06/ (accessed 07.05.2021)

Iran

  • In May, the agenda in Iran focused on the leaked audio recording of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the upcoming presidential elections.
  • In the audio recording in question, Zarif provides information about Iran’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards Army Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani who were shot down by the USA last year and the US sanctions.
  • In fact, there is no top secret information in Zarif’s leaked audio recording, but the leak of the audio recording shortly before the presidential elections took a very important place on the agenda as it coincided with a period when sanctions and nuclear agreement with the United States were negotiated.

Resources: Afacan, S. (2021). ‘Cevad Zarif’in ses kaydı ve İran’da yükselen tansiyon’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/analiz/cevad-zarif-in-ses-kaydi-ve-iran-da-yukselen-tansiyon/2229003 (accessed 05.05.2021)

  • Before the upcoming presidential elections in Iran, there was a very important development that could directly affect the election results. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was the President of Iran between 2005-2013, announced that he would be a candidate in the elections to be held on June 18.
  • Ahmadinejad said that if his candidacy is vetoed, he will not accept the elections, will not vote and will not support anyone.

Resource: Kurşun, M. (2021). ‘Eski İran Cumhurbaşkanı Ahmedinejad, haziranda yapılacak seçimlerde cumhurbaşkanlığına yeniden aday oldu’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/eski-iran-cumhurbaskani-ahmedinejad-haziranda-yapilacak-secimlerde-cumhurbaskanligina-yeniden-aday-oldu/2238357 (accessed 12.05.2021)

Syria

  • In the elections to be held in Syria on May 26, it became clear who could be a candidate other than the current President Bashar Assad. From the list of 51 potential candidates, the court approved three candidates. These are Assad, former deputy cabinet minister Abdallah Saloum Abdallah, and Mahmoud Ahmed Marei, head of a small, officially sanctioned opposition party.
  • The general expectation before the elections is that Bashar Assad will continue his presidency, which has been going on since 2000, by winning the elections.
  • According to the news, Assad took various measures before the elections in order to eliminate the dissatisfaction of the people and to improve the poor living conditions. These include regulations for speculators in the market, increasing state salaries, and aligning the official exchange rate with the black market.
  • Those who oppose Assad say that cheap loans provided by the state are used by Alevis, who control the state and security mechanisms, and this creates a disadvantage for others.
  • In addition, Assad recently introduced an amnesty law for those who have committed some minor crimes, those who are foreign exchange speculators and those convicted of crimes such as smuggling. This amnesty law has been interpreted by some circles as in the future as it could help Assad to end the detention of some of the activists.

Resource: Reuters. (2021). ‘Syrian court selects two candidates to appear on ballot against Assad’ https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/syria-approves-assad-two-others-run-presidential-election-2021-05-03/ (accessed 05.05.2021)

Lebanon

  • Lebanon and Israel started negotiations on the disputes over the maritime borders after a full 6-month interval under the mediation of the UN and the USA.
  • In addition, one thing to know is that there are no official diplomatic relations between Israel and Lebanon and they are technically at war.
  • The dispute between Israel and Lebanon stems from the fact that both countries accept an area of 860 square kilometers in the Mediterranean within their exclusive economic zones.
  • According to some experts, these talks take place in a more advantageous position for Israel. Because, as it is known, Lebanon has been going through quite difficult times in terms of politics and economy since 2019, and there is no consensus on the foreign policy of the country. In this sense, the fact that Lebanon is in a weaker situation may create an advantage for Israel in negotiations.

Resource: Via AP news wire. (2021). ‘Lebanon and Israel resume indirect talks on maritime border’ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/lebanon-and-israel-resume-indirect-talks-on-maritime-border-lebanon-mediterranean-beirut-jordan-egypt-b1841678.html (accessed 05.05.2021)

Libya

  • Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar went to Libya. Besides Akar, there were Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler and Head of National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan. Minister Akar met with the Libyan Chief of General Staff Gen. Muhammed El-Haddad.
  • Following the meetings between the delegations, Minister Akar also had a meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Dibeybe. It is thought that the scope of the official visit, with the participation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, will expand further.

Resource: Altaş, M, Yıldırım, Ö. (2021). ‘Milli Savunma Bakanı Akar ile Libya Başbakanı Dibeybe görüştü’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/milli-savunma-bakani-akar-ile-libya-basbakani-dibeybe-gorustu/2227995 (accessed 04.05.2021)

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a joint press conference with his Libyan counterpart, Necla al-Menguş, after the meetings between the delegations during his official visit to Libya’s capital Tripoli.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu spoke primarily of the long past and common historical ties between Libya and Turkey. He then emphasized that Turkey cares about Libya’s integrity, sovereignty, independence and preservation of its political unity and always stands by Libya.
  • Çavuşoğlu stated that there are opportunities to discuss the maritime jurisdiction agreement between the two countries with his counterpart and the next steps they will take.
  • He stated that they also discussed economic cooperation, investments in Libya and bilateral trade relations, evaluated the issue of returning the Turkish private sector to Libya and worked together on this issue.
  • Libyan Foreign Minister Menguş thanked Turkey for its support to Libya and said that they wanted to improve cooperation. In addition, Minister Menguş announced that they called for cooperation with Turkey in order to withdraw all foreign troops from Libyan territory.

Resource: Çetin Ş, Yüzbaşıoğlu N, Aydemir M. (2021). ‘Bakan Çavuşoğlu: Libya’nın bütünlüğü, egemenliği, bağımsızlığı ve siyasi birliğinin muhafazasına önem veriyoruz’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/bakan-cavusoglu-libyanin-butunlugu-egemenligi-bagimsizligi-ve-siyasi-birliginin-muhafazasina-onem-veriyoruz/2228271 (accessed 04.05.2021)

  • Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dibeybe made some statements upon Greece’s requests regarding the Memorandum of Understanding on the Limitation of Maritime Jurisdictions signed by Libya with Turkey in 2019.
  • “We do not agree with Greece on the maritime agreement between Libya and Turkey. We will not leave this agreement that serves the Libyan interests,” Dibeybe said in the statement.
  • In addition, Libyan Prime Minister Dibeybe stated that they are heading towards the elections planned to be held on December 24 for national unity and reconciliation and that they want to make a constitution, hold elections and end the transition process.

Resource: Aydemir, M. (2021). ‘Libya Başbakanı Dibeybe: Libya ve Türkiye arasındaki deniz anlaşması konusunda Yunanistan ile aynı fikirde değiliz’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/libya-basbakani-dibeybe-libya-ve-turkiye-arasindaki-deniz-anlasmasi-konusunda-yunanistan-ile-ayni-fikirde-degiliz/2230825 (accessed 07.05.2021)

Iraq

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazimi announced that he would not be a candidate in the early elections scheduled for October. Mustafa al-Kazimi, who has been serving as Prime Minister for a year, stated that he will not be a candidate in the elections and will not support any party.
  • Stating that they have signed many agreements with Turkey in the fields of security, economy and investment, al-Kazımi also stated that they have signed joint agreements with the USA, England, France, Germany and China in different fields, especially investment.

Resource: Karaalp, H. (2021). ‘Irak Başbakanı Kazımi: Seçimlerde aday olmayacağım’ https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/irak-basbakani-kazimi-secimlerde-aday-olmayacagim/2240597 (accessed 14.05.2021)

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