MonitorsPublished on Jun 25, 2013
After garnering more than 50 percent of the votes, Centrist candidate Hassan Rohani won the presidential election in Iran, receiving 18,613,329 out of 36,740,156 votes.
Iran President-elect hints at foreign policy shift
< class="text1" align="justify">Iran

After garnering more than 50 percent of the votes, Centrist candidate Hassan Rohani won the presidential election in Iran, receiving 18,613,329 out of 36,740,156 votes.

Calling the result of the presidential elections a "victory of moderation", the newly elected president said, "This victory is a victory of wisdom, a victory of moderation, a victory of growth and awareness, and a victory of commitment and religiosity over extremism and unethical practices" in his message. He credited the significant participation of the Iranian people and also emphasised upon the importance of roles of former president Mohammad Khatami and Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in creating an air of excitement among the people.

At a press conference held in Tehran on Monday, Rohani said, "The government of prudence and hope will seek constructive interaction with the world, moderation, and the realization of national objectives." Discussing Iran's foreign policy and its priorities, Rohani emphasised the importance of promotion of friendly and close relations of Iran with its neighbours, brotherly relations with Persian Gulf Arab states and expansion of ties with these countries. He also touched upon the Syrian crisis, stating, "We hope that calm and peace will return to Syria with the help of all regional countries and that the Syrian nation will achieve their goal." Commenting on the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, Rohani said, "We believe that a solution of the nuclear issue can only be found through dialogue. Threats are not effective, neither are sanctions, and the solution is holding negotiations." When asked about the statement by the White House on Iran's presidential election results, he commented, "There are old wounds that should be healed prudently, and we certainly will not be seeking tension? but any talk of direct negotiations should be based on mutual interests and on an equal footing."

The White house had said in a statement on Saturday, "The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."

Smoothing the transition from the old to the new government, a meeting has taken place between outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and President-elect Hassan Rohani, wherein issues concerning overall economic and political situation of the country have been discussed.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Tehran Times, June 15, 16, 17, 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sponsorship system in crisis

The future of the sponsorship system looks bleak as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MSAL) is soon expected to take serious steps to cancel the sponsorship system by establishing the the Public Authority for Labor Affairs, as per ministry insiders. The news comes a month after the parliament passed a bill to set up the authority to enact the same.

According to official figures, there are around 90,000 people living illegally in Kuwait, the 2.6 million expatriates comprising of 68 percent of Kuwait's population of 3.8 million.

It is said to help fight the issue of visa trafficking which gets a boost from the loopholes present in the sponsorship system used by visa traffickers who issue fake work permits to unskilled workers through fake companies. It has resulted in many human rights violations that have received criticism from many international organisations. As per the plan announced by Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al- Rashidi, the target is to deport 100,000 foreigners each year, as part of efforts to reduce the country's expatriate population by one million in 10 years.

This situation has highlighted the issue of rights of foreign workers which was addressed by the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Ayed Al-Rashidi at the annual conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) recently. She stated Kuwait as a pioneer in achieving the goals set up by the ILO and talked about the issuance of law number 101 for the year 2013 that ensures insurance against unemployment and also offers social security for employees in the private and oil sectors in case they are dismissed.

Such concerns come into light with warnings being issued by the authorities on violation of rules of the visa. "Those having dependent visas should not misuse their visa or work for others, because once we catch them, we shall not listen to excuses and other claims. If anyone is caught working at a place while holding a dependent visa, legal action will be taken against him or her and against his or her sponsor.

The sponsor will be held accountable and shall be banned from sponsoring anyone in future, and the violator shall be deported regardless of his or her circumstances, since he or she has violated the law and did not abide by the regulations".

Tightening rules on expatriates further, Kuwait has also started the process of cancellation of driving licences given to foreign students who have now graduated and have started to work and the licences given to housewives who have now started to work as well. This "amounts to an act of forgery", as per interior ministry Assistant undersecretary for Traffic Affairs Major General Abdulfattah Al-Ali.

Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs Major General Abdul Fattah Al-Ali, recently met with an Indian delegation to discuss their campaign against illegal residents and criminal activities and was asked to "give humanitarian consideration to the arrested and avoid misuse of authority while implementing these rules," as per the memorandum submitted by the Indian authorities.

Responding to these concerns, General Ali said, "You people have acquired a special space in Kuwait as a brilliant and the least problematic expatriate community who works for the overall development of Kuwait. It is a planned program based on studies to regulate our road traffic and make the roads safe for nationals and residents in Kuwait." He also assured the Indian delegation that foreigners in Kuwait have no need to be fearful if they have valid residency and no criminal records or violations against them.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuwait Times, June 19, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">$120 million Japanese soft loan for Jordan

In order to ease the financial strains due to the increasing influx of Syrian refugees and the overall development of the kingdom, Japan has announced a $120 million soft loan for the Kingdom of Jordan under Japan's "Official Development Assistance" (ODA). The support was announced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.

According to the statement, "This assistance reflects Japan's belief that Jordan indeed plays a pivotal role in the security and stability of the Middle East and emphasises Japan's keenness on continuing its support to Jordan."

The Japanese prime minister also announced $10 million in emergency aid for internally displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries bringing the financial aid provided by the Chinese for the relief of the Syrian people to $90 million.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Jordan Times, June 18, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Jordan-Afghanistan: Improving bilateral ties

The significant role played by the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) in Afghanistan to train army and police personnel in skills for the maintaining law and order , along with provision of medical assistance offered by Jordan's military field hospital in Afghanistan, was highlighted by His Majesty King Abdullah in a recent meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul. This makes Jordan the first Muslim nation offering medical and training services in Afghanistan, noted Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul.

A letter was also presented from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to the King discussing means to increase bilateral ties during this meeting.

The goal has been to help Afghanistan utilise the expertise and training in healthcare, rehabilitation, education and water management offered by Jordan.

The Syrian situation and peacekeeping efforts in the region also made for subjects of discussion during the meeting.
< class="text11verdana">Source: The Jordan Times, June 16,17, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Lebanese President urges Hezbollah to pull out of Syria

Concerned about instability in Lebanon, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has urged the Shia Muslim Hezbollah movement to pull out its fighters from Syria.

Discouraging the participation of the Hezbollah armed group for an offensive in the northern city of Aleppo, he said, "If they take part in a battle for Aleppo, and more Hezbollah fighters are killed, it will lead to more tension. This should end in Qusayr, and should return home."

The intervention of the Hezbollah in Syria against the Sunni Muslim rebels has led to frequent rocket attacks on Shia areas of eastern Lebanon by suspected Syrian rebel factions. This has led to a delay in parliamentary elections and a state of political paralysis in Lebanon.

Suleiman has been openly critical of Syrian military incursions into eastern Lebanon and Hezbollah's military support for Assad.

Suleiman's statement comes a week after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to continue to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nasrallah had said, "We will not change our position, after Qusayr is the same as before Qusayr. Wherever we need to be, we will be. What we assumed responsibility for, we will continue to be responsible for, and there is no need to give details."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Al- jazeera, June 14, 20, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Gezi Park protests continue

The Gezi Park protests continued with 15 protestors detained by the police who tried to enter Taksim Square in Istanbul to commemorate individuals who were killed during Gezi Park events.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been very open about his criticism of the protests and has been holding rallies to voice the same. He likened these protests to the anti government protests in Brazil, commenting, "The same game is being played in Brazil. The symbols, banners, Twitter , international media is the same. They are doing best to achieve in Brazil what they failed to achieve in Turkey."

These protests began when police used force to remove a group of environmentalists who were opposing the government's plan to demolish Gezi Park, a green space. These protests went nationwide as the police continued to use excessive force and the government refused to listen to the demands of the protestors. According to a Turkish rights group, five people, including a policeman have died in these protests and more than 5000 people have been injured.

These protests have acted as a trigger to highlight the dissatisfaction of people with Prime Minister Erdogan's 10-year rule.

Meanwhile, the election process for the parliament speaker is set to begin and will be held in a closed parliamentary session on Tuesday, July 2.The elections for the speaker take place every two years.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Today's Zaman, 23 June, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fear of violence over June 30 protests

Nationwide protests have been planned by Egyptian opposition groups on 30 June, the first-year anniversary in power of President Mohamed Morsi, to demand his ouster and early presidential elections.

In response to these protests, the Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi have vowed to defend his legitimacy by all means, accusing the remnants of the former regime of anticipated violence.

The 30 June protests are a part of the "Rebel" campaign that was launched in May and aims to collect 15 million citizen endorsements to demand early presidential elections and the president's ouster.

There have been statements by some hard-line Islamists hinting towards a violent outcome of the protests. Islamist bdel-Maged of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya has said "there is no limit to what might be done to protect the legitimacy and the state." Islamists groups like Al-Wasat Party and Al-Gamaa, have said they will hold a "million-man anti-violence rally". On the other hand, Egypt's most influential Salafist organisation, The Salafist Call has distanced itself from the protests saying it would not take part in the June 30 anti-Morsi demonstrations. Ahmed Oqeil, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), has said, "We seek to promote peaceful means of demonstrating, denounce the opposition's calls for violence and - most importantly - support Egypt's freely elected president and defend his democratic legitimacy."

In response to the looming threat of violence, Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said, "Every party is responsible for securing its own offices. However, if violent clashes erupt between two groups, building or party office, we will go to disperse the clashes to protect everyone." Ahead of these protests, Egypt's airports will be on high alert, "An emergency plan will be put in place from 28 June - 1 July," said the head of Cairo airport security, General Magdy El-Yousri. As per an airport official, necessary arms and equipments will be given to security personnel "to protect these vital establishments."
< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Ahram, June 20, 22, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Afghanistan-Taliban talks at a halt

Wanting the peace process to be "Afghan-led", the Afghan government has said that it will not participate in talks with the Taliban. The talks were to take place at the newly opened Taliban office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The Afghan government has objected to the name of the Taliban office, 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan' and the Taliban flag that has been hoisted there. This incidence has obstructed talks between the U.S and Taliban, with the Afghan government accusing the US of violating assurances that it would not give official status to the Taliban.

Afghanistan's UN ambassador, Zahir Tanin explained to the Security Council that the "rather theatrical" inauguration of the Taliban office goes against assurances of it being nothing more than a venue of direct negotiations rather than serving as a Taliban "government, embassy, emirate or sovereign." He further added, "Raising the Taliban flag on Tuesday in Doha was just a reminder of a dark and bloody past from which our country still struggles to emerge. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sole sovereign and legitimate authority chosen by Afghan people and recognised and supported by the international community."

The name of the office has now been changed to 'Political Bureau for Afghan Taliban in Doha' and the Taliban flag has been hoisted down.

Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, has said that "We are now in consultations with the Afghan leadership and the High Peace Council on how to move forward."

Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban's Doha office, has said of the situation, "We enter this with good intentions and seek a peaceful solution to the Afghan issues and we want all sides to have the same intention."

Meanwhile, the NATO command in Kabul has handed over the responsibility of lead security to the Afghan forces across country. The plan is to end all combat operations in Afghanistan by NATO by the year 2014.
< class="text11verdana">Source: Al-Jazeera, June 19,20,21, 22, 2013

(This monitor is prepared by Reena Sehgal, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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