Turkish Foreign Minister’s Iraq Visit
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has paid a visit to Iraq to hold meetings with leading political figures in Baghdad and Erbil. The trade volume, energy-related problems, water flow, and the fight against PKK were discussed in the meetings. Fidan’s visit is the first Turkish ministerial-level visit to Iraq after the Iraqi government’s formation under Mohammad Shia al-Sudani’s premiership. The oil flow from Iraq is one of the most significant topics of Hakan Fidan’s visit. Since March 2023, Turkey stopped the oil flow coming from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) after Iraq won a case against the KRI and Turkey at the tribunal of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce.
During a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein, Fidan called on Iraqi authorities to declare the PKK as a ‘terrorist organization’ officially. On the other side, the Iraqi Foreign Minister stated that ‘obtaining a fair share of water was one of the most important discussions’ with his Turkish counterpart. Following meetings with Hussein, Hakan Fidan flew to Erbil. On Thursday, Fidan met with the Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and held negotiations on economy, trade, and terrorism. Hakan Fidan’s visit to Iraq is expected to pave the way for President Erdoğan’s long-spoken Iraq visit.
Turkey Expedites Drone Strikes in Syria
Turkey continues to target YPG/SDF-affiliated figures in Syria through its drones. Last Friday, for the first time, Turkey targeted a car carrying YPG/SDF-affiliated figures in the regime-controlled area Zahraa, a Shia enclave in Syria, leading to the death of at least a militant in the car. In addition, Turkey also conducted another drone strike against the YPG/SDG members in Raqqa. Lastly, on Wednesday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also claimed that Turkey targeted a car on the Qamishli-Amuda with a drone, leading to casualties.
Protests Against the Syrian Regime Continue in South Syria
Protests against the Syrian regime continue in the regime-held southern part of the country for the fourth consecutive day. Moreover, general strikes are organized to protest the hikes in fuel prices and the worsening of living conditions. The Druze-populated Suweida has become the center of protests against the regime. After holding protests in different locations for several days, on Wednesday, protesters organized the biggest central protest gathering in Suweida since 2011. The famous ‘The people want the downfall of the regime!’ slogan was chanted by protestors. Suweida has been remained in control of the Syrian regime since the outbreak of the war, and protests against the regime in this area have been very rare. The recent protests have gained prominence, taking this reality into account. Moreover, the Dar’a governorate, following the protests against the regime, witnessed armed clashes between the regime forces and local fighters from the area. On Thursday, Deir Ez-Zor province also witnessed some protests.
Algeria Prevents French Aircraft from Flying in its Airspace
The official Algerian radio revealed that Algeria had rejected a French request to open its airspace for a military operation in Niger. The radio added that Algeria opposes any foreign military intervention in neighboring Niger, and prefers to follow diplomatic means to restore constitutional order.
A report by the Algerian state radio revealed – on Monday evening – that France is preparing to implement its threats to the military council in Niger to intervene militarily in the event that President Mohamed Bazoum is not released.
On Tuesday, the French military refuted claims that it had requested Algeria’s airspace for a military mission in Niger. The denial comes in response to a report by Algerian state radio, which stated that Algeria had declined the request.
United Nations Shifts Stance on Election Path
UN Envoy to Libya Abdoulaye Bathily has long advocated for Libyan elections to take place before a unified government is established. However, the UN’s position appears to have flipped, as Bathily stated on Tuesday that rather a unified government, agreed upon by all stakeholders, will be imperative for leading Libya into elections. Bathily also revealed that he has intensified consultations with the President of the Presidential Council, Mohammad Menfi, to explore jointly convening Libyan-led and UNSMIL-facilitated negotiations between Libya’s main political and institutional leaders. He has additionally broached the subject with House of Representatives Speaker Agila Saleh, the former High State Council President Khaled Mishri, Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, and LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar. Some days prior, Menfi met with HoR Speaker Agila Saleh and LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, also to explore concrete progress on the political track.
Central Bank Reunification
On Sunday, Libya’s central bank declared its reunification following almost ten years of division caused by the extended civil war. The war led to the emergence of two opposing administrations, one in the east and another in the west.
In a concise announcement, the bank stated that it had transformed into a “unified sovereign entity” after a gathering in the capital, Tripoli. The meeting involved Central Bank Governor Sadiq al-Kabir and his counterpart from the eastern part of the country, Marai Rahil. The bank emphasized that the meeting was the culmination of collaborative endeavors by various Libyan factions and represented the formal merging of the bank.
RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS
Wagner Group Leader Dies in a ‘Plane Crash’
Last Wednesday, the Russian official news agency TASS announced that the leader of Wagner group, a notorious Russian private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in a plane crash in the Tver region, northwest of the capital Moscow. A total of 10 people, including high-ranking Wagner commanders like Dmitry Utkin, are believed to have died in the crash. Prigozhin organized a short-lived mutiny against the leader of the Russian military leaders last June. Nevertheless, he was believed to have reconciled with the Russian leadership after the mutiny came to an end through Belarusian mediation. Last July, Prigozhin appeared in a video saying they were in Belarus for some time to train the Belarusian army. Prigozhin’s death is likely to have ramifications in the countries where the Wagner group is highly effective, including Syria, Libya, and Sudan.
BRICS AddS Six New Members, Majority from MENA
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday, the final day of the summit, that the BRICS alliance has decided to invite six nations for full membership, effective January 1, 2024. This marks the first membership expansion since 2010, when South Africa was invited to the, then, BRIC bloc. The newly invited nations are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Ethiopia, and Argentina. The selection criteria have not yet been disclosed; however, the UAE and Egypt have been members of BRICS’ multilateral New Development Bank (NDB) since September and December 2021 respectively, and in May this year, Saudi Arabia expressed its intention to join NBD as well, offering pretext to their bloc admission. Further, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was invited to virtually address the BRICS Plus summit last year and again for this week’s summit.
BRICS expansion has long been a sticking point among its five member states – Russia, China, Brazil, India, and South Africa – due to divergent views on the global order and conflicting interests. However, this week’s summit, hosted in Johannesburg, accelerated critical discussions on the bloc’s future — and leaders ultimately agreed on expansion. The geopolitical bloc’s current five member states account for 42% of the world population and are expected to contribute over 50% of global GDP by 2030. The addition of these new members fuels experts’ view that BRICS is a viable counterweight to the G-7, a US-led political forum including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK. Over 40 countries formally applied for BRICS membership, so there may be further expansion to come.