Report

U.S. and Russia Near Agreement to Restore Ceasefire in Aleppo

U.S. and Russian diplomats meeting in Munich say they are close to reaching an agreement to renew the partial ceasefire in Aleppo. The restored truce will be backed by a new “permanent monitoring center” staffed by U.S. and Russian representatives to identify violations and coordinate responses, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday at a ...

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U.S. and Russian diplomats meeting in Munich say they are close to reaching an agreement to renew the partial ceasefire in Aleppo. The restored truce will be backed by a new “permanent monitoring center” staffed by U.S. and Russian representatives to identify violations and coordinate responses, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday at a press conference with U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that if the ceasefire is not restored there would be “repercussions” for the Assad regime and that if a political transition has not begun by August, the United States will take a “different track” in its approach to the Syrian civil war. “If Assad’s strategy is to somehow think he’s going to just carve out Aleppo and carve out a section of the country, I got news for you and for him — this war doesn’t end,” he said.

The violence in Aleppo in recent weeks has been the worst fighting in the last year of the war. Rebels tried to push into government-held neighborhoods this morning, backed by barrages of rocket attacks that killed 16 people, including three women at a maternity hospital, Syrian state media reported. Aleppo “is to Syria what Sarajevo was to Bosnia,” French U.N. ambassador Francois Delattre told AFP. New clashes were also reported in Ghouta after a ceasefire there expired at midnight.

Islamic State Launches New Attacks Near Mosul

The Islamic State launched a new wave of attacks this morning against Kurdish peshmerga positions in Tal Afar, east of Mosul. Kurdish troops, backed by coalition airstrikes, are reportedly holding the area. The new attack is not far from where Islamic State forces broke through peshmerga defenses yesterday and killed a U.S. Navy SEAL, who has now been identified as Charlie Keating IV. Keating is the third U.S. combat death in Iraq fighting the Islamic State.

Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for more pro-reform protests on Friday. He traveled to Iran on Monday; though he has not commented on the discussions, experts have suggested the talks were to “smooth over the intra-Shi’ite rivalry in Iraq and to persuade Iran to help resolve” the country’s political crisis, Voice of America reports.

Headlines

  • U.N.-brokered peace talks to resolve the Yemeni civil war resumed in Kuwait today after a three-day hiatus prompted by the government delegation’s walkout in response to Houthi forces seizing a military base near Sanaa over the weekend.

 

  • Egyptian riot police have limited access to the Journalists Syndicate building in Cairo after journalists staging a sit-in outside the rallied against the government crackdown on press freedom yesterday; the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior accidentally released its communications strategy for responding to recent arrests of journalists, accusing journalists of “escalating” conflict with the ministry and exploiting tensions in union elections in an internal memo.

 

  • The Turkish military carried out a series of airstrikes against Kurdish Workers Party targets in southeastern Turkey.

 

  • An Israeli tank shelled a Hamas Ministry of the Interior building in Gaza today in response to mortar fire from across the Gaza border.

 

  • New legislation passed by the Turkish parliament last night has brought Turkey closer to being compliant with EU visa regulations, clearing the way for the European Union to approve Turkish citizens for visa-free travel, possibly by the end of June.

Arguments and Analysis

Sisi Sours on the Media” (Mohamed Elmeshad, Sada)

“Uncertainty over where the limits lie is frustrating even the governing class itself. Any reporting on the military already exposes journalists to military tribunals, and a presidential decree ratified January 17 by parliament further attempts to assert clear, top-down directives for media coverage on terrorism by prohibiting media from reporting on issues dealing with terrorism unless to relay the official government narrative. However, murkier red lines have also appeared as the state issues gag orders at will. Over the past seven months, numerous gag orders have been issued on topics such as corruption investigations, the murder of Mexican tourists, and Egypt’s nuclear energy plans, among others. As the state keeps an eye — and a hand — on public expression, the media, and information sharing, the president’s view of the media and the arbitrary application of “security measures” will only contribute to what is increasingly becoming a dystopian state regime.”

 

Tunisia: Transitional Justice and the Fight Against Corruption” (International Crisis Group)

“During the second half of 2015, public debate about the transitional justice process became both more prominent as well as more polarised. In July, President Béji Caïd Essebsi proposed an economic reconciliation bill reducing the IVD’s [Truth and Dignity Commission, instance vérité et dignité] prerogatives. The most determined opponents of the bill, which has been shelved for now but could yet re-emerge in a new form, argue it would absolve those implicated in corruption and thus underscore victory by the ‘counter-revolution’. Use of this latter term points to the revival of Tunisia’s traditional socio-economic elite, mainly hailing from the capital and the east coast, which was weakened by the 2010-2011 revolution. The bill’s supporters — including An-Nahda, which is torn between its revolutionary ideals as a former opposition movement and its determination to preserve the fragile coalition with Nida Tounes — view the implementation of transitional justice measures as a threat to stability. They want the IVD to abandon its pursuit of corruption cases stemming from the 1955-2013 period and instead focus exclusively on human rights violations. Both sides must make concessions if this struggle is to be overcome.

-J. Dana Stuster

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

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