MonitorsPublished on Aug 05, 2013
Protests broke out in Tunisia after opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated outside his home on 25 July, 2013. His assassination is not the first in recent months.
Unrest in Tunisia, protestors demand dissolution of government
Protests broke out in Tunisia after opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated outside his home on 25 July, 2013. His assassination is not the first in recent months. His fellow leftist Chokri Belaid was assassinated in February this year. Thousands of protestors including activists and opposition members gathered around the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) building to demand its dissolution. They were also joined by 65 NCA members who have announced their withdrawal from the parliament to support these protests.

To control the crowd, there was heavy police protection near the NCA building and tear gas was used to disband groups. There have been demonstrations all over Tunisia including Gafsa, Sidi Bouzid, Siliana and cities like Monastir and Sfax.

Responding to the situation, ruling party Ennahdha has rejected calls for dissolution of parliament as it is the source of political legitimacy in Tunisia. Members of Ennahdha's Shura Council have said that they are open to negotiations and dialogue to address the current political situation.

Meanwhile, members of the Independent Board of Elections (ISIE) are set to be chosen who will then make preparations for upcoming elections. The board will create regional headquarters, register people, and assign electoral precincts. They will also set the date for the coming legislative and presidential elections. These preparations will take seven to nine months to finish. It is important to note that the constitutional draft has not gained approval yet and is expected to be completed by October 2013.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tunisia-live, July 19, 28, 31, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Israel, Palestine begin peace talks

Negotiations between the delegations from Israel and Palestine began at the Iftar dinner hosted at the Washington home of US Secretary of State John Kerry. Former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk was named Washington's envoy overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by Kerry.

As per the US State Department, the current talks are aimed at development of a procedural plan on how negotiations will take place in the coming months. These negotiations are expected to take six to nine months.

The approval on release of 104 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners by Israel is said to have played a significant role in persuading Palestine to participate in these peace talks. But Palestine's territorial demands from Israel are still a major concern.

Responses to these peace talks have been varied. The European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton has said, "I firmly believe that a final end to this conflict is within reach. I call on all those who wish to see a negotiated solution to support those now engaged in talks so that the opportunity for peace can be seized." She also added, "The resumption of talks opens new doors both for developing further the EU's contribution to peace and security in the region and for deepening our relations with both parties. We will remain fully engaged with both parties and will make every effort, together with our partners, to ensure that negotiations succeed." On the other hand, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has rejected resumption of these talks and called it an "individual move" by President Abbas, lacking the support of Palestine Liberation Organisation as a whole.

Meanwhile, in a bid to include public opinion in these peace talks, the Israeli cabinet has approved a bill that will put on referendum any peace deal that takes place with the Palestinians. A statement from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said, "Any agreement which may be reached in negotiations will be put to a referendum. It is important that on such historic decisions every citizen should vote directly on an issue deciding the country's future."

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Palestine Chronicle, July 28, 30, 31, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">China shows support to Iran

In response to a bill approval by the US House of Representatives' that imposes tougher sanctions on Iran's oil exports and other economic sectors, Iran's top oil customer, China, has shown its support for Iran by issuing a statement that says, "China has long advocated resolution through dialogue and negotiations and opposes unilateral sanctions from one nation based on its domestic laws."

The bill blacklists businesses in Iran's mining, automotive and construction sector. It also aims to end all Iranian oil sales worldwide by 2015.

Iran has responded to this sanction saying that this will further complicate the relationship between the two nations. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Araqchi has said, "Imposing sanctions against Iran is a failed policy and will definitely not help find a logical solution to the existing problems, especially with regard to negotiations on the nuclear issue." Tehran has denied accusations of pursuing its nuclear program for non civil purposes saying that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it is in its rights to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Press TV, August, 02, 03, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran's new President sworn in

President Hassan Rohani took the oath of office before parliament on 04 August, 2013, in a ceremony attended by delegations from over 50 countries. In the swearing-in ceremony, the new President addressed recent sanctions against Iran, saying that Western governments need to "speak to Iran not with the language of sanctions, but with the language of respect." Talking about the approach regarding this issue, he said that dialogue with Iran needs to be based on "equal footing, mutual confidence-building, mutual respect, and reduction of hostilities." He added that his policy will work towards reduction of tensions, mutual confidence building and constructive interaction with the world.

Responding to President Rohani's statement, White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said, "The inauguration of President Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear program." He also expressed hope that the Iranian administration would respect the will of voters "by making choices that will lead to a better life for the Iranian people."

< class="text11verdana">Source: Press TV, August 05, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New Constitution draft process underway

Parliament's Constitution Conciliation Commission, the panel tasked with drafting Turkey's new charter, has come to a consensus on a total of 57 articles. Recently, consensus on articles concerned with fundamental rights and freedoms and judiciary was reached.

These articles promote the culture of peace by ensuring legal action against hate speeches, preventing rhetoric on war provocation, militarism, racism and any other forms of discrimination. Agreement was reached upon the "freedom of communication, expropriation, the right to the environment, the right to live in peace in an unarmed society, the protection of private life and family life and the right to become a union member."

Amendment of an article that provided historical legal justification for military coups d'état in the country has been approved by Turkish President Abdullah Gül. Emphasizing external threats, the new phrasing of the article states that, "the duty of the Armed Forces is to protect the Turkish homeland against threats and dangers to come from abroad, to ensure the preservation and strengthening of military power in a manner that will provide deterrence, to fulfill the duties abroad with the decision of the Parliament and help maintain international peace." Limiting the extent of the military, it defines its work as "the responsibility to learn and conduct the art of war."

Also, in order to increase citizens' responsibility in protection of the environment, a new draft article called 'Environment Rights' has been introduced. It introduces a new regulation, according to which, the government will hold referendums to ask for public opinion when a new project that affects the environment is to be implemented. The committee is yet to reach an agreement on this article.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Today's Zaman, July 30, 2013; Hurriyet Daily News, July 31, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">New cabinet sworn in

The new Kuwaiti cabinet recently sworn in, soon after results for the latest National Assembly polls were declared. The 16 member cabinet includes six members from the ruling Al-Sabah family in addition to the prime minister. The key posts in ministries of defence, interior and foreign affairs are dominated by members of the Al-Sabah family.

It has also been agreed upon by the new MPs that they need to focus on developmental issues. Economists in Kuwait have hopes that the new parliament will address flaws in regulations including buy-operate-transfer and privatization laws. Flaws in such regulations have not been amended as this issue gets sidetracked by challenges of political instability in Kuwait.

In other news, the Islamic Salafist Movement has called for a public referendum on the draft of a new constitution made recently by Dr Obaid Al-Wasmi, law professor at the Kuwait University. Abdullah Al-Daie, member of the movement's political office said that the current constitution contains contradictory clauses and is a major part of Kuwait's political problem. He said that the Salafist movement is ready to discuss its own vision of a new constitution in order to put an end to political crisis in Kuwait.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Kuwait Times, August 05, 2013.

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Diplomats intervene to end crisis

Diplomats from the the Gulf, the EU and the US have met Khairat el-Shater, the jailed deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, in an effort to end the Egyptian crisis. US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns also held talks with interim President Adly Mansour to end the country's political crisis.

US Senator Lindsey Graham has said, "I want to keep the aid flowing to Egypt but it has to be with the understanding that Egypt is going to march towards democracy, not towards a military dictatorship. And that's the message we're going to send."

Meanwhile, protests against army-backed ouster of Morsi continue in Cairo with an "anti-coup alliance" led by the Muslim Brotherhood with demands of Morsi's immediate release.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera, August 05, 2013.

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

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