Weekly Roundup: Jan. 21-24

Syrian Government and Opposition Agree to Meet at Geneva

  • On Friday morning, the two sides in the Syrian conflict agreed to sit down to face-to-face talks in Geneva after the government threatened to cancel the sessions due to disagreement regarding the framework of the talks.
  • The Syrian government delegation disagreed with the Geneva  1 accord, which outlines protocol for negotiations and  “calls for a fully empowered transitional governing body to be formed by ‘mutual consent’”. Meanwhile, the opposition demanded that Geneva 1 be put into effect.
  • Both sides have now committed to the framework of the talks after “frantic negotiations” yesterday, but the government delegation remains split. Anti-regime protesters have remained a consistent presence outside of the United Nations building.

Cairo Rocked by Deadly Bombings, Fears of Islamist Insurgency Mount

  • Four separate bombings occurred in Cairo on Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Arab Spring revolt. The bombs were targeted at police officers, killing at least six people and injuring over seventy.
  • The blasts indicate continued instability and radicalism in Egypt, and although no one group has taken credit for the bombs, Islamist groups sent warnings to Egypt’s government  to “escape with your weapons” because “we will target you as we target your leaders.”
  • Egypt remains dangerously fractured, and the bombings have catalyzed an outward show of support for General al-Sisi and the military. The military has increased protections in Cairo, including armed checkpoints around the city.

Israel Begins Construction on New Settlements in West Bank

  • In an announcement from the Israeli  Civil Administration,  Israel plans to build 387 homes in the occupied West Bank, bringing the total number of new settlements this year to 2,530.
  • Negotiations between Israel and Palestine in July have not yet come to fruition, as indicated by the continued settlements and a reaction by the Palestinian chief negotiator that continued settlements “will destroy any possible peace”.

Tunisian National Assembly Approves New Constitution

  • Three years after the fall of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has approved a national constitution, which was passed on Friday and is set to go into effect on Monday, brings the nation even closer to completing its political transition to democracy.
  • The previous ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, stepped down in order to allow for a non-political administrative transition prior to national presidential elections, which are set to take place later this year.
  • One member of the national assembly deemed finishing the constitution “an indescribable feeling”. The assembly plans a festive celebration to sign the document into effect on Monday.

Violence in Iraq Forces 140,000 Civilians to Flee

  • The United Nations is calling the recent displacement of over 140,000 individuals from Iraq “the worst displacement since sectarian violence from 2006 to 2008 left tens of thousands dead”.
  • The Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramidi have been embroiled in sectarian violence since December 30, when security forces attacked a Sunni protest camp. Violence has spread since that incident, and violence, including mortar shelling, has increased rapidly over the past few days.
  • While foreign leaders are urging the Iraqi government to intervene politically to halt funding for national armed groups and curb the sectarian violence, Shia Prime Minister al-Maliki has taken a hard line in light of upcoming elections in April.