Hamas and Fatah strike preliminary Palestinian unity deal
Putin to visit Iran by year's end
Egypt extends state of emergency for three months


Kurds brace for attack by Baghdad

Kurdish peshmerga forces blocked roads from Iraqi Kurdistan to the country's second city Mosul today in response to Iraqi troop movements, the AFP reports. The move comes after the Kurdistan Regional Government's Security Council said Wednesday that the Iraqi army, backed by Shiite militias and federal police, is preparing to attack the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan following last month's independence referendum. Kurdish forces have started building berms between their region and the city of Mosul, where a large number of Iraqi joint forces are positioned. The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, however, has denied that Baghdad has a plan to attack the Kurdistan region. Adding to the tensions, the Iraqi Judicial Council announced Wednesday that arrest warrants have been issued against the members of the Kurdish commission that organized the independence referendum.


Erdogan pledges to root out Gulen followers from Balkans

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to “root out” followers of the accused coup plotter and Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from the Balkans during a speech Wednesday in Serbia. Standing next to his Serbian counterpart, President Aleksandar Vucic, Erdogan commended him for being one of the first leaders to back Turkey on the night of the July 15 coup attempt last year. “We will root out the traitorous FETO [Fetullah Gulen Terror Organization] network from the Balkans just as we did in our own country,” Erdogan vowed. The Turkish president also pledged aid to Serbia's Sandzak region, which takes its name from a former Ottoman administrative district. 


Abbas to visit Gaza for first time in a decade

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will head to the Gaza Strip within a month, Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in Gaza, said today. The visit, Abbas’ first since Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007, comes amid reconciliation talks between Hamas and its rival Fatah.

Earlier today, Hamas' political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh announced that his movement had reached a deal with Fatah following talks in Cairo. Details of the agreement are expected to be announced at a news conference later today. Hamas and Fatah negotiators have been meeting in the Egyptian capital for two days to discuss the return of Abbas' West Bank-based government to Gaza.


Iran, EU recommit to nuclear deal ahead of Trump decision

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel ahead of US President Donald Trump's imminent decision to call for renegotiating the 2015 nuclear deal. In phone conversations late Wednesday and early this morning, the three officials underlined the need for all parties to the agreement to remain committed to it. The two European officials also reportedly stated that Iran should enjoy the full economic benefits of the deal as long as it remains in compliance. Trump is expected to declare this week that the deal is not in America's national security interest, and seek to increase pressure on Iran over its ballistic program and other threats, while stopping short of pulling out of the deal.


Triple suicide attack targets Damascus police HQ

At least two people were killed and six others injured after three men detonated themselves on Wednesday near police headquarters in central Damascus, according to Syria's Interior Ministry. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance of the facility after clashing with guards, while police surrounded the third attacker, who detonated himself nearby. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the second in a month. At least 17 people were killed in a similar suicide attack Oct. 2 on a police station in the Syrian capital.


Russia strikes energy deals with Morocco

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met Wednesday with his Moroccan counterpart, President Saadeddine El Othmani, as part of a swing through North Africa that took him to Algeria earlier this week. The two signed 11 agreements covering cooperation on customs, the military, agriculture and culture as well as energy efficiency and nuclear energy. Medvedev, traveling with a large delegation of Russian government officials and business executives, highlighted the “huge” prospects for cooperation in the energy sector and spoke of a “very promising project” to supply Morocco with liquefied natural gas “to meet the needs of the Moroccan economy.”


UNESCO delays Jerusalem vote amid Israeli protest

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided Wednesday to delay voting on two Israel-related resolutions for six months following diplomatic pushback. One of the resolutions emphasizes Palestinian links to Jerusalem, while the other condemns Israel's occupation and settlement activities. The two resolutions will be brought to a vote at UNESCO’s next Executive Board meeting, in April 2018. The decision to delay was taken hours before the second round of voting for a new UNESCO chief. Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama Hacohen, called the delay a diplomatic achievement for Israel.



Trump to pull out of UNESCO over perceived anti-Israel bias

The Donald Trump administration is expected to shortly pull out of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because of its perceived anti-Israel bias, Foreign Policy reported late Wednesday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has already notified French President Emmanuel Macron of the pending decision, but is reportedly waiting for the agency to elect a new director general this week before withdrawing. Former French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay is a finalist for the top job.

President Ronald Reagan pulled out of the organization in 1984 amid concerns it had a pro-Soviet tilt, but President George W. Bush rejoined in 2002. For the past six years, however, the US has been withholding 22 percent of its annual contribution to protest UNESCO's decision to allow Palestine to join as a member state.



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