Russia announces ceasefire in Syria as of Thursday midnight

30/12/2016 (The Jordan Times – Jordan): Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire between Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government starting at midnight on Thursday.The parties were also prepared to start peace talks, Putin said, after Moscow, Iran and Turkey expressed readiness to broker a deal to settle the nearly six-year-old Syrian war.The Syrian army announced a nationwide halt to fighting but said Daesh and ex-Nusra Front militants and all groups linked to them would be excluded from the deal. It did not say which unnamed groups would be excluded…



Poland buys da Vinci and famous collection at bargain price

30/12/2016 (Sabah – Turkey): Poland’s Culture Ministry finalized a deal Thursday to buy a precious private art collection that includes a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, acting to ensure that the collection will remain part of Poland’s patrimony for further generations. The State Treasury bought the 1490 “Lady with an Ermine” along with thousands of other pieces of art from the aristocratic Czartoryski Foundation for the equivalent of just over 100 million euros ($105 million). “It is a fraction of the market price of the collection,” Piotr Glinski, Poland’s minister of culture told journalists…



Women at wheel of ‘pink taxis’ challenge Jordan norms

30/12/2016 (Arab News – KSA): AMMAN: Nisrin Akoubeh checks the oil and water before getting into her taxi and pulling into Amman’s heavy traffic for another day of shuttling fellow women across the Jordanian capital. The red-haired mother of three works a gruelling 10-hour shift in her taxi — a rare occupation for a woman in this conservative Muslim society.“I want to break the culture of shame and prove to Arabs and the Arab world that women are strong and are able to work in any area that could be monopolized by men,” she said.“Women have been able to drive normal cars for a long time, so why shouldn’t they drive taxis?“..


Putin declines to expel 35 US diplomats from Russia

Putin declines to expel 35 US diplomats from Russia30/12/2016 (Anadolu Agency – Turkey): resident Vladimir Putin has decided not to expel 35 U.S. diplomats, a move recommended by Russia’s Foreign Ministry in response to punitive U.S. measures, the Kremlin said in a statement Friday.  “We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not send anyone away,” said Putin. Earlier Friday Russia’s Foreign Ministry proposed that Putin expel 35 U.S. diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rossiya-24 television Friday.  The proposal came one day after the U.S. applied wide-ranging penalties on Russia, including deporting 35 suspected intelligence operatives, for its alleged role in hacking this year’s elections to favor the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump…


Stepping into the Middle East’s next security equation

Dr. Theodore Karasik30/12/2016 (Al Arabiya News – KSA by Theodore Karasik*): Reflecting on 2016, it is important to understand the transition underway. This year’s legacy is one of swift change undermined by countries’ inability to understand recent developments throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It is unclear whether Sykes-Picot or ISIS will outlive the other; Turkey has turned East for a rapprochement with Russia; and multi-contextual civil wars and vicious acts of terrorism plague numerous Arab states. Most importantly, Russia took charge in 2016 with not only the Kremlin’s fight in Syria but also by showing Moscow’s prowess and ability to counter Washington as a global power. The region is entering a new phase. First, governance, and how economies evolve, are in flux…

*Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs.

Egypt’s BoP registers surplus of $1.9 billion in Q1 2016/17: CBE

CBE30/12/2016 (Ahram Online – Egypt): Egypt’s overall balance of payments (BoP) registered a surplus of $1.9 billion in the first quarter of the current 2016/17 fiscal year, an improvement on the deficit of $3.7 billion in the same period the year before, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said in a statement on Thursday. The CBE has attributed the overall surplus to the performance of the capital and financial account, which saw a surge in net inflow to reach $7.1 billion, as opposed to $1.6 billion in the same period the previous year, the statement said. The current account deficit dropped by 13.4 percent from July to September 2016 to record $8.7 billion from $10 billion in the same period last year, due to a rise in commodity exports and a slump in import payments…–billion-in-Q–CBE.aspx


An open letter to a suicide bomber

23/12/2016 (Ahram Online by Azza Radwan Sedky*):You see, I can’t speak to those who died to tell them that they are in a better place. By the same token, I can’t comfort the father who held his fatally wounded infant child as he wept profusely. I can’t console the mother who leaned on the coffins of her two beautiful daughters unable to let go. I can’t say or do anything to relieve the pain of the families that lost one and two of their family members, sisters, mothers or daughters. What can I possibly tell these people? May your loved ones rest in peace? What does the phrase mean in the larger scheme of things? Absolutely nothing. The lives of those who died and their loved ones who remain alive have been crushed in a matter of seconds, and you caused this devastation. In case you don’t know, or maybe you do know, a house of worship is the holiest of all places. And to kill women and children worshippers is even more despicable than anything I have ever seen before. It does not get more heinous than this…

*Azza Radwan Sedky is an academic, political analyst, and author of Cairo Rewind: the First Two Years of Egypt’s Revolution, 2011-2013.


Fikret Otyam commemorated in exhibition

23/12/2016 (Hurriyet – Turkey): Painter, writer and photographer Fikret Otyam, who died last year in August, is commemorated in an exhibition in honor of his 90th birthday. Otyam, who made great contributions to Turkey’s social, cultural and artistic accumulation, has left a wide collection of photos, books and paintings behind him. The exhibition at Istanbul’s Fulya Sanat, titled “An Endless Journey,” started on Dec. 21, and is joined by 44 artists. The show has been prepared with the initiative of his daughters Elvan Baransel, İrep Otyam Bilgiç and Döne Otyam with the support of the Beşiktaş Municipality and his artist friends. Otyam graduated from the Higher Department of Painting at Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts in 1953. During those years, he made a career in journalism and published his writings on art in various magazines and newspapers. After his debut exhibition in 1952, Otyam held more than 30 exhibitions in Turkey and abroad, and his works were presented in collections at foreign museums and private collectors…


The final countdown is on for Dubai Shopping Festival 2017

23/12/2016 (Emirates 24/7 – UAE): The countdown is officially on! There are only four days until the start of the jam-packed schedule of events that millions of shoppers and families have been waiting for – the 22nd edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival. Back for DSF 2017 are all the amazing opportunities to win: – The 12-Hour Exclusive New Year Shopping promotion at Majid Al Futtaim Malls across Dubai where shoppers can expect DSF exclusive rewards, daily promotions and offers for 12 hours, with a chance to win Dh50,000 in mall gift vouchers; – The Infiniti Mega Raffle for a daily chance to win a new car and Dh150,000; – A daily chance to win a new car with the Nissan Grand Raffle; – The Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group Promotion for a daily chance at one kilo of gold;…