Even before North Africa’s recent political earthquake, Algeria’s vital energy sector was on the rocks. Despite substantial hydrocarbon reserves, the country’s production had steadily declined in recent years due to dwindling interest from foreign firms. A mix of industry instability, unfavorable revenue agreements and institutional corruption had made it difficult to justify the risks of operating in the country. Making matters worse, European demand for natural gas was declining with the financial crisis and U.S. purchases were wavering amid the North American shale boom. By the time political movements ousted long-standing leaders in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, putting pressure on the country’s leadership, Algeria was already fighting a dangerous narrative of industry decline. For a country so completely dependent on energy revenue and exports for every level of government spending, this wasn’t just bad news – it was destabilizing. While Algeria largely avoided the kind of violence and instability that forced leadership changes in Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo, their post-Arab Spring experience has not been without challenges. In addition to domestic pressure for labor and political reforms, mostly in the form of targeted protests, the country’s energy industry has faced pressure from outside its own borders. In January, militants from Mali crossed the border and targeted a BP and Statoil gas facility near the Libyan border. Touted as a response to Algeria’s support for European action against a Mali-based separatist movement in the north of the county, the raid and ensuing government response left scores dead, including dozens of foreign workers. Coupled with concerns about the country’s energy industry, including wide-spread corruption allegations at state firm Sonatrach, the raid chipped away at the confidence in Algeria’s already beleaguered energy sector. So, it would seem that recent news of a fresh agreement with the EU that, “establishes a framework for co-operation, which covers… oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, legal and regulatory reform, progressive energy markets, infrastructure development and technology transfer”, could not come at a better time. For Algeria, the new agreement means a vote of confidence from one of its largest customers, despite declining gas demand that is not expected to return for another two to three years. For Europe, it means a further step towards stabilizing a resource line from North Africa and meeting long-term goals of reducing dependence on less favorable resources, most notably Russia. Further, by casting Algerian reserves as “a priority area” for Europe’s strategic energy interests and security, it helps pave the way for EU infrastructure funding that has become increasingly elusive in recent months. Five years in the making, the new agreement is welcome news for both sides of the Mediterranean. Still, details of the new partnership remain vague and it is unclear whether EU support will mean more enthusiasm from European firms that have expressed concern about operating in Algerian in recent years. Six months on from the gas facility attack, both BP and Statoil have resisted sending foreign workers back to the project site. Earlier calls for policy reforms and …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest
Long-time Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat was announced on Friday as the man to open dialogue with his Israeli counterpart at meetings in Washington after three years of stalled peace negotiations.
Both Erakat and Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry for initial talks, the top US diplomat said at the end of four days of intense diplomacy as he consulted Palestinian and Israeli leaders from his base in Amman.
The 55-year-old Erakat, an academic whose perfect command of English is often spiced with humour, was part of every team to negotiate with Israel since 1991, with the notable exception of those who secretly hammered out the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Erakat rose to prominence as a media personality at the 1991 international peace conference in Madrid at which he wore the black-and-white chequered Palestinian headscarf.
Born in Jerusalem, he has been a key figure in the Palestinian political landscape, an indispensable briefer for foreign envoys and a suave tactician who can register indignation when necessary.
A member of the Palestinian parliament since 1996, Erakat was close to Yasser Arafat, historic leader of the Palestinian national movement, even though he did not follow Arafat into exile in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia before his return to Gaza in 1994.
In 2009, Erakat was elected to the central committee of the Fatah wing of Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and to the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
He was an architect of the negotiations on a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the failed Camp David summit in July 2000 to the talks launched in Washington in September 2010 which were interrupted after less than a month in a row over Israel’s continued settlement building.
Appointed in 2003 to head the PLO negotiating team, Erakat briefly resigned from the post in 2011 because of “responsibility for the theft of documents from his office,” papers which he said had been “adulterated”.
He was referring to more than 1,600 documents on the talks with Israel between 1999 and 2010, released in January 2011 by Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera and dubbed “The Palestine Papers”.
Palestinian officials worked to limit the damage caused by their publication, which showed Palestinian negotiators prepared to offer significant concessions without securing Israeli guarantees on key issues such as east Jerusalem and the fate of refugees.
Although the documents did not cause major turmoil in Palestinian public opinion, Erakat’s position was weakened at the time by announcements the alleged perpetrators of the leaks worked for the PLO negotiation team he headed.
He had said an investigation into the leaks pointed towards three nationals of US, British and French extraction being responsible.
A former journalist with the independent daily Al-Quds in east Jerusalem, Erakat holds a BA and an MA in Political Science from the University of San Francisco.
He also has a doctorate in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford in England, and he taught at An-Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus from 1979 to 1991.
Erakat has written a dozen books and lives in the …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
African Nations Championship (CHAN) holders Tunisia were eliminated this weekend in the first qualifying round.
They drew 0-0 away to Morocco in the second leg, but fell 1-0 on aggregate after losing at home last Saturday.
Packed with stars from CAF title-winning clubs Esperance, Etoile Sahel, CS Sfaxien, Club Africain and CA Bizertin, Tunisia were expected to advance.
But a last-minute breakaway goal from striker Abdessamad Mbarki in Mediterranean resort Sousse proved decisive over two defence-dominated games.
Tunisia won the second edition of the tournament for home-based footballers with a 3-0 drubbing of Angola in Sudan two years ago.
But coach Nabil Maaloul chose only goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha from the title-winning squad to confront the Moroccans.
The 16-nation 2014 tournament is scheduled for January 11-February 1 in South Africa and Morocco will appear at the finals for the first time.
South Africa qualify automatically as hosts and Ghana and Libya have secured places after opponents Benin and Algeria withdrew.
Uganda are set to join them after building a 1-0 away advantage over Tanzania in an east Africa derby.
Midfielder Brian Majwega was the architect of the 48th-minute winner, setting up defender Denis Iguma to fire across goalkeeper Juma Kaseja into the net.
Tanzania had more possession in the eagerly anticipated Dar es Salaam showdown, but were let down by woeful finishing.
Mrisho Ngasa was repeatedly off target with long-range shots and striker John Bocco also disappointed when offered scoring opportunities.
It was the third consecutive victory for Serb coach Milutin Sredojevic since succeeding sacked Scot Bobby Williamson as Uganda coach last month.
He guided the ‘Cranes’ to World Cup qualifying wins over Liberia and Angola, and a victory over Senegal during September would take them to the play-offs.
However, Sredojevic cautioned against premature celebrations, especially given the Ugandan habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
“By winning the first leg we have got only the passports for South Africa and now we need to get the visas by winning the return match,” he told reporters.
Ethiopia host Rwanda later on Sunday in the remaining fixture this weekend with second-leg fixtures scheduled for late July.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
President Barack Obama’s renewed push to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects has given a glimmer of hope to foreign governments that he will fulfill that promise and triggered diplomatic maneuvering from U.S. allies eager to bring home long-held detainees.
Kuwait has hired lobbyists to help bring its two remaining prisoners home. British Prime Minister David Cameron personally pressed Obama at the Group of 8 summit last month to release the United Kingdom’s final detainee. And the fate of Afghans being held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba has been at the forefront of peace talks between the U.S., Taliban and Afghanistan.
The indefinite captivity has created tension with some important U.S. allies, particularly in the Arab world, the native home of many of the 166 remaining detainees. Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen are among those countries that have pressed the U.S. to turn over their nationals.
The Obama administration is in the midst of determining which detainees present the lowest risk for terrorist activity if released — considering both their personal histories and security in the countries to which they will be returned.
More than 100 of the detainees have participated in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite confinement, with several dozen having been force fed through a nasal tube to keep them from starving, although the military reported Friday that most have resumed eating.
David Cynamon, an American lawyer based in the Middle East who is working with Kuwait on getting their detainees back, said in recent months they are finally having meaningful negotiations after years of “radio silence.”
“You would think with a close ally like Kuwait they would at least get a hearing, but they kept getting the brush off,” Cynamon said.
Cynamon said that’s even though the Kuwaiti government built a rehabilitation center for former Guantanamo detainees at the request of Bush administration officials, after another former detainee carried out a suicide bombing that killed at least seven people in Iraq. The center, a section of the Kuwaiti central prison designed for medical and psychological treatment and religious counseling to ensure the detainees will peacefully reintegrate into society, has not been used.
Kuwait hired The Potomac Square Group, a Washington lobbying firm, to help spur talks for the transfer of Faiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News
The trial of Tunisian television chief Sami Fehri, accused of corruption during the rule of now-toppled strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, opened Friday with the defence requesting bail and the court denying it.
Fehri, who runs the private Ettounsiya TV and was a business partner of Ben Ali’s fugitive brother-in-law Belhassen Trabelsi, was arrested last August accused of having illegally used state television funds to bolster his own production company Cactus Prod.
If found guilty he could be sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Six former regime officials are being tried alongside Fehri on similar charges of corruption, including Abdelwaheb Abdallah, a former Ben Ali adviser.
They also risk a 10-year jail sentence if convicted.
The six have also been behind bars but the court agree on Friday, following a brief hearing devoted to procedure, to set them free on bail, Sonia Dahmani, a member of the defence team, told AFP.
Technically it also agreed to release Fehri on bail, but the decision was immediately overruled because he is also in custody in connection with another case, Dahmani said.
A new hearing has been set for October 25.
Fehri founded Ettounsiya TV in 2011, after the popular uprising that toppled Ben Ali.
Before that he was a producer and business partner of Belhassen Trabelsi who held 51 percent of the shares in Cactus Prod.
Trabelsi, a brother of Ben Ali’s powerful and hated wife Leila Trabelsi, fled to Canada and his stake in Cactus Prod has been seized by the authorities.
Fehri’s arrest in August triggered condemnation in Tunisia as it came just after the television boss announced he was pulling the plug on a satirical show, claiming he took the decision following government pressure.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Supporters of Tunisia‘s Islamist rulers have attacked members of a major labor union, in the latest sign of unrest in the North African country. Activists with the General Union of Tunisian Workers were gathering for a march Tuesday in Tunis to commemorate the 1955 assassination of a historic member when they were set upon by the League for Protection of the Revolution. The league is close to the Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist group that dominates Tunisia‘s post-revolution government. The union, meanwhile, has often opposed the government. One of its branches initiated a five-day general strike last week in the impoverished town of Siliana that forced government concessions. High unemployment and a slow economy have frustrated Tunisians since they ousted a longtime dictator in January 2011.
Source: Fox World News
Jews are gathering on a bucolic Tunisian island resort for an annual pilgrimage under a heavy police presence, as organizers try to revive an event depleted by fears of anti-Semitism.
Jewish leaders hope the three-day pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue, Africa‘s oldest, on the island of Djerba is regaining momentum after attendance plummeted in the wake of a 2002 al-Qaida bombing.
Tunisia‘s 2011 revolution also unleashed some anti-Semitism among radical Islamists, and the event was cancelled that year. About 100 pilgrims came last year.
Jewish leaders say they expect up to 500 foreign visitors for this year’s pilgrimage ending Sunday.
It drew 10,000 visitors as recently as 2000. Big crowds haven’t returned since an al-Qaida-linked militant detonated a truck bomb at the synagogue — killing 21 people, mostly German tourists.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
The father of an Illinois teenager accused by federal authorities of trying to joining a terrorist group in Syria says he doesn’t believe his son would ever do anything violent.
Ahmad Tounisi tells the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/XQO2sk ) that his 18-year-old son, Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, had talked about going to Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to help oppressed people there, but that he doesn’t think his son would ever do what the federal authorities allege.
The FBI says the Aurora teenager was arrested Friday night as he tried to board a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Turkey, which borders Syria. He was snared in an Internet sting after contacting a sham website set up by the FBI.
The teenager is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
The International Monetary Fund says it has reached a provisional agreement on a $1.75 billion loan package for Tunisia that it says will strengthen the North African country’s economic stability and promote growth.
The IMF said in a statement Friday the agreement will also support Tunisian authorities’ reform program promoting private investment, job creation and social policies aimed at reducing economic and regional disparities.
The deal must still be approved by the IMF‘s executive board, which is expected to discuss the issue in May.
The Promise of Equal Futures
In response to President Obama’s challenge to other heads of state to break down barriers to women’s political and economic participation, on September 24, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the Equal Futures Partnership on behalf of the United States along with 12 other founding members (Australia, Benin, Bangladesh, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, and Tunisia; as well as the European Union). Each founding member made national commitments to policy, legal, and regulatory reforms to promote two mutually reinforcing goals: expanded economic opportunity for women and increased political and civic participation by women at local, state and national levels. Multilateral stakeholders including UN Women and the World Bank and leading businesses and non-profit institutions also pledged support for the partnership.
Moving from Promise to Progress
Following the launch of the initiative, Equal Futures members have worked to identify priorities for action through consultations with civil society and other stakeholders and by establishing coordinating bodies or steering committees to develop and oversee the implementation of Equal Futures commitments. Going forward, Equal Futures countries will report on progress within the Partnership, and evaluate and strengthen commitments to ensure real impact.
Highlights from progress on U.S. commitments:
Opening Doors to Quality Education and High-Paying Career Opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Federal agencies and private partners have made great progress on connecting young women to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related resources. In just seven months, over 20,000 students interacted with 500 women mentors via Harvey Mudd and Piazza’s online platform WitsOn, while the National Science Foundation, Office of Personnel Management, and non-profit partners joined forces to train Federal scientists and engineers on serving as a resource for girls interested in STEM.
Promoting Civic Education and Public Leadership for Girls: The Administration has advanced new efforts to promote girls’ leadership and civic education, including sponsoring an “app challenge,” hosting a conference on girls’ leadership and civic education at the White House with the Department of Education and the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), and advising on the development of a new initiative, Teach a Girl to Lead (TAG) – featuring online resources and a national speakers’ bureau.
Breaking the Cycle of Violence and Ensuring Economic Security for Survivors of Violence: To ensure that women who are victims of domestic violence are getting the support and tools they need to achieve economic independence, the Administration is now providing training on employment rights to lawyers and consumer advocates, working with state domestic violence coalitions and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to ensure that victims know about employment protections under federal law, and expanding research on domestic violence to include information about economic abuse.
Expanding Support for Women Entrepreneurs: The Administration has strengthened support for women entrepreneurs at
TUNIS, Tunisia — The woman who scandalized Tunisia by posting topless photos of herself as a form of feminist protest is now trying to leave the country, her former lawyer said Tuesday after a video surfaced in which the woman recounted being drugged and given virginity tests by relatives.
Amina Tyler, 19, shocked this Muslim nation when she posted Facebook photos with the words “my body belongs to me” scrawled across her naked chest. She was later spirited away by her family after religious hardliners issued death threats against her.
Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh and central bank head Chedli Ayari were on hand Monday to receive the yacht of Kais Ben Ali, which had been anchored in an Italian port.
The $626,000 yacht was the latest item of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, overthrown in January 2011, recovered by the Tunisian government.
On Thursday, the government received a check for $28 million recovered by the U.N. from a Lebanese bank account belonging to the dictator’s family.
Ben Ali and his wife’s family were widely believed to have benefited from their positions to acquire business interests in all sectors of the country.