German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met with his Greek and Turkish counterparts Tuesday to defuse the growing risk of a naval confrontation over competing maritime boundary claims. The present standoff between Turkish and Greek warships in the eastern Mediterranean began on August 10 when Ankara dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. Greece in turn sent its own warships to monitor the Turkish flotilla's activity and conducted joint training exercises off Crete with the French navy. Maas stressed, "Germany and the whole European Union stand by Greece in firm solidarity." Turkey holds that small Greek islands near Turkey's coast should not be taken into account when delineating maritime boundaries because it gives Greece an unfairly large share of the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed a desire to solve the maritime dispute diplomatically, but warned Greece, "It should not allow itself to be egged on by other countries and put itself into risk... If you take wrongful steps... we would do the necessary without any hesitation." Germany holds the rotating EU presidency and an August 27-28 EU foreign ministers conference will discuss the conflict.
A State Department statement released Tuesday condemned Ankara for hosting last Saturday a Hamas delegation that included deputy leader of the Hamas Political Bureau Saleh al-Arouri, on whose head the State Department's Rewards for Justice program has placed a $5 million bounty. It said, "President Erdogan's continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community." Turkey's Foreign Ministry quickly responded: "Describing the legitimate representative of Hamas, who came to power in Gaza through democratic elections as terrorists will not contribute to the efforts to establish peace and stability in the region."
Indonesian UN Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani, President of the UN Security Council for August, said that he "is not in the position to take further action" on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Thursday letter demanding the reimposition of sanctions removed by Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) into international law. Under the deal, any party contending Iran is not upholding its commitments can notify the Security Council, which then has 30 days to pass a resolution to continue lifting sanctions, thereby giving any permanent Security Council member a veto over lifting sanctions. Yet, 13 out of the UN Security Council's 15 members submitted letters Friday asserting the US forfeited its right to trigger snapback sanctions on Iran when the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. Ambassador Djani attributed his inability to act to there being "no consensus in the council." American UN Ambassador Kelly Craft retorted, "There can be no mistaking where we are today. Put simply: It is Russia and China that revel in this Council's dysfunction and failure... I only regret that other members of this Council have lost their way and now find themselves standing in the company of terrorists."
United Arab Emirates
The UAE reportedly called off a Friday meeting of the Emirati UN ambassador with his Israeli and American counterparts due to Abu Dhabi being disappointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu's public opposition to the US selling F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE. Netanyahu said during a Monday press conference with Mike Pompeo that Israel's peace deal with the UAE "did not include Israel's acceptance of any arms deal and I don't know of any arms deal that has been agreed upon... our position hasn't changed." However, Jared Kushner last Sunday told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that the peace deal "should increase the probability" of the US selling F-35s to the UAE. The disagreement over the F-35 sale has not stalled normalizing ties, Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaking with his Emirati counterpart for the first time Tuesday and Israel-UAE commercial flights beginning next Monday.
According to Sudanese Minister of Culture and Information Faisal Saleh, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok informed Mike Pompeo Tuesday that "the transitional government does not have a mandate... to decide on normalization with Israel. This matter will be decided after the completion of the transitional authority." Hamdok also urged the administration to separate removing Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism and Khartoum normalizing relations with Israel. In August 2019, the Transitional Military Council, which took power after ousting longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, and the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group signed a power sharing deal creating a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council to rule for 39 months until elections are scheduled.
Tunisia's Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi on Tuesday presented his cabinet of politically independent technocrats to parliament for a vote of confidence. Although the Islamist Ennahda party previously vowed to oppose a non-partisan government, preferring a unity government reflecting the power balance in parliament – in which it enjoys a plurality of 52 seats out of 217 – Ennahda has also stressed the need to avoid early elections. Mechichi is the third person tapped by President Kais Saied to form a government since the October 2019 parliamentary elections. Former Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned on July 15, after serving just four and a half months, amid allegations of owning shares in companies winning government contracts worth $15 million.
Egypt's public prosecution office ordered the arrest of suspects in the 2014 gang rape of an 18-year-old woman at the Fairmont Nile City Hotel in Cairo. The Instagram account "Assault Police" discloses information about sex crimes in Egypt to galvanize authorities to act in a country where such offenses often go unpunished due to victims' fears that reporting incidents could "dishonor" their family. Assault Police played a pivotal role in exposing both the 2014 gang rape and Ahmed Bassam Zaki's alleged crimes against around 100 women. Zaki's case spurred parliament to pass legislation granting the right of anonymity to survivors of sex crimes.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum