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Friday, November 15, 2013

Russian Ministers Leave Egypt Amid Talk of a Future Deal

Russia’s Foreign and Defense Ministers who had been meeting with top officials in Cairo concluded their visit today, amid talk of a possible future arms deal. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a press conference that they had discussed everything from tourism to foreign policy and emphasized the close historical ties between the two countries. The Russian delegation’s visit comes on the heels of a recent US suspension of large portions of military aid to Egypt. Many analysts have pondered whether Egypt is trying to replace the US with Russia in terms of a military aid supplier but Egyptian officials deny that this is the case.

Saudi Arabia Targets Migrant Workers

In the first week of November, Saudi Arabia’s government launched a campaign targeting migrant workers, as a way to combat the country’s rising unemployment rate for Saudi citizens. Hundreds of thousands of workers who were working in the country without valid visas have been deported over the past months, and now many more are leaving or going into hiding. The government began arresting large numbers of workers last week and almost half of Saudi Arabia’s construction companies have closed because of the lack of manpower. 20,000 schools are without janitors, and many businesses like supermarkets and bakeries have also closed. Some Saudi residents have also attacked Ethiopian and other migrant workers, and one Ethiopian man and a Saudi man were killed during clashes. Since last weekend, a reported 23,000 Ethiopian migrants have turned themselves into the police. Ethiopia’s government has demanded an explanation for the targeting of its citizens.

Egypt’s Crackdown on Gaza Border Leads to Fuel Crisis

Egypt’s recent closure of hundreds of smuggling tunnels leading to the Gaza strip has led to a severe fuel shortage. Gaza’s largest sewage treatment plan stopped working this week because of the lack of fuel, and sewage is now flooding into the streets of some neighborhoods. Some taxi drivers have begun to find ways around the fuel crisis, including mixing cooking gas with diesel.  According to a Gaza-based economist, many businesses have had to close because of the absence of electricity. Maher Al-Tabbaa said that “the continuing stoppage of the Gaza power plant for 18 hours a day foreshadows a real catastrophe that might affect the basic food security of the people as well as the health and education sectors.”

 Plan for Nuclear Power Plant Moves Forward

Egypt’s electricity minister announced yesterday that the country plans to seek bids for building its first nuclear power plant, which will be located near the Mediterranean coast. Financial plans remain vague but there is speculation that the country may use some of the $12 billion it received from gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia after former president Mohamed Morsi was deposed. Egypt has experienced intermittent fuel shortages since the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Weekend Read

Matthew Davis’ long-form piece for Guernica about Khaled Khalifa and the ongoing conflict in Syria is a rare look at a Syrian writer’s struggles with a repressive government.

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