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THE EARLY PHOENIX – Sept 07, 2023

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TOP HEADLINES: 

TURKIYE

  1. Turkey, EU to Resume Customs Union Talks (Sky News). Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced that Turkey and the European Union will restart discussions next week to modernize their customs union. This comes as Turkey remains keen on resuming its long-stalled accession talks with the EU. Both parties aim for unhindered access for goods and have identified immediate areas of collaboration. EU officials emphasized the need for Turkey to address rule of law and human rights issues to fully align with EU standards.

ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  1. Israel to Withhold Funds from PA for Electricity Debt (Times of Israel). Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced plans to withhold money from the Palestinian Authority (PA) to offset its debt to the Israel Electric Corporation. The move has been criticized by the PA as a “declaration of financial war.” Israel collects taxes on behalf of the PA, contributing to 65% of its annual budget. The debt is said to be around $525 million. The decision has sparked warnings about the potential collapse of the cash-strapped PA.
  2. Israel and Indonesia Engage in Covert Talks to Normalize Relations (Middle East Monitor). Israeli officials are in confidential talks with Indonesia to improve diplomatic ties, according to Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth. Normalization could occur after Indonesia’s presidential elections in February 2024. Current President Joko Widodo, who can’t run for a third term, has maintained a hostile stance towards Israel.

EGYPT & NORTH AFRICA

  1. Egypt Claims No Compromise from Ethiopia in Renaissance Dam Talks (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry states that Ethiopia has not shown willingness to compromise on the Renaissance Dam issue. Shoukry criticizes Ethiopia’s “unilateral approach” and calls for Arab League support to pressure Ethiopia into reaching a binding legal agreement.
  2. US Sanctions Sudanese RSF Deputy as Army Chief Plans MENA Tour Amid Conflict (24). The U.S. Treasury has imposed sanctions on Abdel Rahim Hamdan Daglo, the deputy commander of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), citing “violence and violations” in West Darfur. This move comes as Sudan’s Army Chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan prepares for a regional tour, including a stop in Qatar, amidst escalating conflict between the Sudanese army and the RSF. The sanctions and tour highlight increased international and regional focus on Sudan’s internal strife.

GULF REGION & YEMEN

  1. UAE and EU Discuss Enhancing Economic Cooperation (Alkhaleej Online). Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and EU’s Special Envoy for Gulf Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, discuss strengthening economic ties. The talks aim to enhance cooperation between the UAE and European Union countries across various sectors, according to the Emirates News Agency.
  2. Gulf Ministers Review Economic Unity Plans for 2025 (Alkhaleej Online). Finance and Economy Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries convene to discuss Gulf economic unity projects set for 2025. The meeting, held in Oman and chaired by Omani Minister of Economy Saeed bin Mohammed Al-Saqri, aims to advance economic and development objectives within the council.

IRAN

  1. Iranian Dissident in Finland Targeted by Imam, Calls to Shut Down Iran-Linked Mosque (Iran International). An Iranian dissident in Finland, Parvin Shokri, has her phone stolen by an imam linked to an Iran-affiliated mosque. The incident, caught on a live Instagram stream, fuels calls among Iranians in Finland to shut down the mosque. Shokri was returning from an anti-regime protest when targeted.
  2. Iran Claims to Disrupt Opposition Network Planning Riots, Alleges US Support (IRNA). Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and IRGC Intelligence Unit assert they’ve disrupted an opposition network supported by the US State Department and US-based organizations. The group, accused of planning riots and training activists, reportedly held a workshop at SOAS University of London and planned online meetings for civil and women activists.
  3. Iran Demands Lifting of All Arms Sanctions Amid Stalled Nuclear Deal Talks (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani insists that all arms sanctions on Iran will expire on October 18, as per the nuclear deal’s sunset clause. This comes despite faltering efforts to revive the agreement. Ashtiani also expresses readiness for defense relations with independent and regional countries.
  4. Iran’s Envoy to Italy Meets with CEOs to Strengthen Bilateral Trade (Tasnim News). Iran’s Ambassador to Italy, Mohammad Reza Sabouri, meets with senior CEOs of Italian companies in Rome to bolster bilateral trade and economic relations. The meeting included representatives from various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, mining, petrochemicals, and road construction.

SYRIA

  1. Yemeni and Saudi Ministers Engage with Assad Despite Controversial Stances (Al Nahar). Assad’s Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad held significant diplomatic meetings in Cairo, engaging with both Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak and Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Abdul Karim Al-Khereiji. Yemen’s interaction with Assad is notable given Assad’s recognition of the Houthi group since 2016, raising questions about Yemen’s diplomatic approach. Concurrently, Saudi Arabia’s dialogue with Assad occurs amidst stalled Arab normalization efforts, signaling a potential shift in regional alliances. Both meetings centered on enhancing bilateral relations and regional coordination.
  2. Idlib Strikes Displace 6,500 as Kremlin Backs Assad (Syria TV, Orient, Sharq Al Awsat). As Assad’s militia and Russian forces intensify bombings in southern Idlib, 6,500 people have been displaced and dozens injured. This escalation comes even as the Kremlin reasserts its commitment to aiding Assad in restoring national order and improving Syria’s ties with Arab nations. The Caesar’s Act is cited as an obstacle to Syria-Jordan relations.
  3. Pentagon Reiterates Support for SDF, Warns Against Distractions in ISIS Fight (North Press). The U.S. Department of Defense reiterates its ongoing support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in defeating ISIS and ensuring regional stability. General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, states that the Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve remains focused on collaborating with the SDF.

IRAQ

  1. Barzani and Al-Khanjar Discuss Urgent Need to Address Kirkuk Situation (Dijlah). Massoud Barzani and Khamis Al-Khanjar, head of the Sovereignty Alliance, meet to discuss the political landscape in Iraq and relations between the Kurdistan region and the federal government. Both express concern over the latest developments in Kirkuk and stress the immediate need to address the situation.
  2. Iraqi PM Lauds Successful Arbaeen Visit of Imam Hussein (Iraq Today). Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’a Al-Sudani declares the Arbaeen visit to Imam Hussein a success. At a press conference in Karbala, he thanks the security services and various organizations for their contributions. The event saw over 22 million visitors, including nearly 4 million from abroad, highlighting its global significance.

LEBANON

  1. Mikati Assures UNIFIL of Lebanon’s Commitment to Southern Security (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with UNIFIL Commander Aroldo Lazzaro to discuss Lebanon’s readiness to maintain southern security through cooperation with UN forces. Mikati affirms his government’s commitment to the UN Security Council’s decision to extend UNIFIL’s mission and calls for an end to “Israeli violations.”

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