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News Summary: 1-8 October

12/10/2011

As widely expected, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution condemning the Syrian regime its continuing crackdown on current uprisings. Although the draft proposed by European states removed provisions on sanctions against Syria (although imposed by Turkey) with a more accommodating version referring to ‘targeted measures’, the governments of Beijing and Moscow rejected it for not clearly removing a direct reference against any military action. Following the decision, which effectively neutralised US and European joint efforts to deal with the Syrian crisis, the US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice strongly criticised the veto and walked out. Russian officials defined the resolution as ‘unacceptable’, expressing concerns about a possible military intervention. However, in a press conference held in Istanbul, the fragmented opposition finally united into the Syrian National Council (including both religious and secularist groups. This is a crucial development and allows them to pursue effective changes and the right to  be recognised and supported by foreign countries. In addition to that, more Syrians are opting to arm themselves and together with defectors are now establishing rebel ‘armies’.

The US Defence of Secretary, Leon Panetta, affirmed that Netanyahu’s government is partly responsible for Israel’s current isolation in the Middle East, with particular reference to its relations with Turkey and Egypt. Mr Panetta pointed out that military supremacy cannot be pursued on its own at the expense of diplomatic relations. As shown by the fact that the Israeli ambassador in Ankara was recently expelled after the flotilla-case of 2010; likewise, Israeli diplomats in Egypt had to be evacuated after protests out of the embassy in Cairo. Meanwhile on Monday, a mosque in Northern Israel was attacked and set fire to in a so-called ‘Price-Tag’ attack, a term used in a campaign by Jewish settlers aimed at tackling any policy concerning a reduction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Such violent acts have been increasing in number recently, and have been condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu as ‘against the values of the state of Israel, which places supreme importance on freedom of religion and freedom of worship’.

In Egypt a meeting between the military council and activists ended unsuccessfully. Following mass protests in Tahrir Square, politicians asked the military rulers to cede power shortly, abolishing the 30 year-long state of emergency. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has promised to review the legislation and to take a decision within the next two weeks, including whether or not to ban former National Democratic Party members from running in elections for two years. Six candidates have called today for presidential elections to be held by April 2012.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II approved on Friday a decree concerning important constitutional amendments, following demonstrations. As part of this, the King introduced the establishment of a constitutional court and an independent body tasked to supervise elections. However, the two houses of parliament decided to keep the State Security Court, which is tasked with solving disputes concerning treason and terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood, called for the abolishment of such institutions, and for there to be a direct election for the upper house of parliament, instead of nominees being appointed by King.