TURKEY ANNOUNCES BIG BOOST IN BLACK SEA GAS RESERVES

Turkey has upped the estimate of its natural gas reserves in the Black Sea by nearly a third, putting its total deposits at 710 billion cubic metres (bcm) in a boost to its aims of increasing its energy independence. Speaking after a cabinet meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had revised upwards the estimated volume of gas contained in its Sakarya field from the previous 540 bcm.

“With our new discovery at Caycuma-1, our gas reserve in the Black Sea has risen by 170 billion cubic metres to 710 billion cubic metres,” he said. An additional 58 bcm were discovered in another Black Sea field, the Turkish leader added. “This new discovery will open the door for new ones. We’ll start drilling new wells as soon as possible,” Erdogan told a press conference. The upward projection will boost Turkey’s aim of becoming a natural gas hub.

‘BREAKDOWN OF LAW AND ORDER’ BETWEEN ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS

Jordanian King Abdullah II said his country was prepared for conflict if its “red lines” over Jerusalem’s holy sites were crossed, as he expressed concern for the potential of an outbreak of violence in neighbouring Israel and the occupied West Bank. “We have to be concerned about a next intifada,” the Jordanian leader said in an interview with CNN that aired on Wednesday. “If that happens, that’s a complete breakdown of law and order and one that neither the Israelis nor Palestinians will benefit from.” The CNN interview aired the day before Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to return to power as Israel’s prime minister. On December 28, Netanyahu submitted coalition deals to Israel’s parliament that put him at the head of the most far-right government in Israeli history.

447 CIVILIANS KILLED IN WAR-TORN YEMEN IN 2022

At least 447 civilians have been killed in fighting between Yemen’s warring rivals this year, according to a rights group on December 29. Thirty-five women and 82 children were among the victims, the National Commission to Investigate Alleged Violations to Human Rights said in a statement. Around 891 civilians were also injured in the violence, including 84 women and 212 children, it added. The rights group said it documented 3,411 violations across Yemen in 2022 which varied from torture, forced displacement, illegal arrests, home demolitions to child recruitment. The commission blamed the warring rivals for these violations, but singled out Houthi rebels for blame for landmine explosions and child recruitment. The eight-year conflict has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with millions risking starvation.

OVER 200 ROHINGYA SAFELY REACH INDONESIA, 26 DEAD

Another 232 Rohingya people safely reached ashore in northwestern Indonesia over the past few days after they took a risky sea journey to flee Bangladesh’s cramped refugee camps weeks ago, the UN refugee agency said on December 27. The agency said Indonesian fishermen and local authorities rescued and disembarked two groups of Rohingya, including 58 on Sunday and 174 on Monday. The majority of the rescued were women and children. Citing the rescued Rohingya as saying, the UNHCR said 26 people died during the long journey due to dire conditions onboard. Those rescued are exhausted and dehydrated after a month of being adrift in regional seas, the statement added. Meanwhile, the UNHCR said it is attending to those rescued, together with local authorities and humanitarian partner staff, as many require urgent medical attention for their condition to be stabilised. Rohingya refugees living in squalid makeshift tents in Bangladesh said mainly frustration is prompting them to take such life-risking moves.

83% OF PEOPLE ARRESTED DURING TEHRAN PROTESTS RELEASED

Tehran Prosecutor General Ali Alqasi-Mehr on December 26 announced that 83 per cent of those arrested in connection with the recent “riots” in Tehran province have been released. The agency quoted Alqasi-Mehr as saying that the number of “rioters” detained in Tehran was “very small,” explaining that the detainees included key elements and leaders of the riots. On 13 December, Alqasi-Mehr announced the issuance of varying prison sentences against 400 people, for their involvement in the “riots.” Iranian officials use the term “riots” to refer to protests that have rocked the country since 16 September, following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, while in the custody of the so-called “morality police.” Human rights activists estimate that at least 470 people were killed and 18,000 were arrested during the protests. Two detainees were executed.

TUNISIAN PRESIDENT EXTENDS STATE OF EMERGENCY

Tunisian President Kais Saied has extended the country’s state of emergency until 30 January 2023, the official gazette said on December 30, following parliamentary elections which registered one of the world’s lowest ever turnouts. Saied’s extension of the state of emergency is the second he has enacted this year. In February, he extended it until the end of this year. Last year, Saied seized power in what his opponents have labelled a constitutional coup, leaving proponents of democracy in the country with few options. After sacking the prime minister and suspending parliament in July 2021, Saied pushed through a constitutional referendum that enshrined his one-man rule earlier this year.  But the low turnout – less than nine percent of eligible voters – in this month’s parliamentary polls starkly contrasts with the 2019 results, when turnout was 42 per cent. It also casts many questions about Saied’s continuing grip on power.

AZERBAIJAN APPROVES LAW ON PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has signed the law on public-private partnership. The law determines the organisational, legal and economic bases for carrying out activities in the field of public-private partnership. Earlier, Azerbaijani law had no comprehensive PPP law that would establish guiding principles of PPP. Meanwhile, the period of exemption from customs duties for goods imported by residents of industrial or technological parks in Azerbaijan has been extended. This issue was reflected in the amendment to the law “On the Customs Tariff”, which was discussed at the plenary session of Azerbaijan’s Milli Majlis (Parliament) on December 28. Also, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Jamshid Khodjayev discussed prospects for establishing investment-transport and logistics cooperation based on the joint use of resources and capabilities of the port and the FEZ of Azerbaijan with the leadership of the Alat FEZ and Baku International Commercial Sea Port during his visit to Azerbaijan.

FORMER UYGHUR PREACHER CONFIRMED DEAD IN PRISON

A Uyghur Muslim preacher, serving a five-year sentence in China’s Xinjiang region for making a religious pilgrimage abroad, died of liver cancer in prison in February, according to a police officer who works in the district where the preacher resided, a report said on December 29. Omar Huseyin, 55, was the former hatip, or preacher, at the Qarayulghun Mosque in Korla, known as Ku’erle in Chinese and the second-largest city in Xinjiang. Authorities apprehended him in September 2017 amid a widespread crackdown on Islamic leader and other prominent Uyghurs, for travelling to the holy city Makkah in 2015, the report added. Authorities also detained Huseyin’s three brothers in 2017, one of whom was serving a 12-year sentence for participating in religious activities and died in prison.

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