The Week That Was…

Protests against President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital continued in several countries. One of the largest was in Beirut which saw clashes between demonstrators and the police. Several rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza, with the inevitable air strikes coming as the response. However, in Palestine, despite several protestors being killed, it was less ‘Days of Rage’, more Days of Despair.

To counter this the Organization of Islamic Co-operation met in Istanbul and declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. There was unity in the declaration, but not in the meeting. There were no concrete sanctions against either the USA or Israel. President Erdogan hosted the event and many countries sent their Head of Government or State, for example King Abdullah of Jordan attended, as did President Rouhani of Iran. But…King Salman of Saudi Arabia wasn’t there, nor was the Crown Prince. Riyadh was represented only by a foreign ministry official. The increasing tensions between Turkey and the USA were apparent when President Erdogan said, bluntly, there was no longer any question of the US being a mediator in the peace process.  He ended the week by suggesting that Ankara will open an embassy in East Jerusalem.  Details were not forthcoming.

Meanwhile Israel’s Prime Minister was meeting the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hoping the Europeans would follow Mr Trump’s lead. Instead he got the Brussels Brush off.  Ms Mogherini rebuffed him saying

Dome of the Rock

“There is full EU unity on this, that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.

“The EU and member states will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem until the final status of the holy city is resolved, through direct negotiations between the parties.”

Russia’s President Putin spent a day in what amounted to a whirlwind Middle East victory lap visiting Syria, Egypt, and Turkey.  At an airbase in Syria he met President Assad and spoke to Russian troops. He declared victory over ISIL and said he was going to reduce the Russian presence in Syria. However, he later confirmed his intention to enlarge the port in Tartus where the Russians have a base – the plan is to enable bigger Russian warships to dock there. On to Egypt where he signed a deal for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant, over to Turkey for a deal to sell a missile system to a NATO country….  Russia is back in the Middle East.

The World Bank decision to stop financing upstream energy projects didn’t get the attention it deserved in most news media outlets. This came at the One Planet summit hosted by Emmanuel Macron and is part of a drive to help the shift from fossil fuels to renewables.

President Trump’s week was ruined by the voters of Alabama. They elected a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 25 years. Republican Roy Moore battled a string of sexual assault allegations, and lost to Democrat Doug Jones.  The Republican majority in the Senate is now just 51 to 49 and next year comes the midterm elections.

The UK’s ruling Conservatives lost a vote after several of Prime Minister May’s own MPs defied her and backed an amendment giving Parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels. Which of course means, if they don’t like the eventual deal – they can vote it down – where that might that leave Brexit is unclear.

Finally, fancy a movie? The younger generation in Saudi Arabia certainly does and this week the Kingdom announced that it will allow commercial cinemas to open next year. The lifting of a 35-year ban on cinemas follows other liberalization measures for next year such as allowing women to drive… soon they can drive to the cinema. Back to the Future’s a good film.

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