The week in foreign policy

This week has seen the continuation of devastating bush fires in Australia in which 11 people have died and around half a billion animals have lost their lives. The fires have been caused, at least in part, by soaring temperatures and winds. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was heckled when he visited a town in New South Wales ravaged by wildfire. He was forced to leave early as people called him an ‘idiot’ for overseeing the government’s underwhelming response to the fires – and he faced controversy for going on holiday as parts of the country burned.

Meanwhile, a dramatic shift in weather patterns has brought extreme drought to Zambia. More than 2 million people are now in need of food aid, the BBC reports, following two years of low rain and failed harvests.

As tensions between the US and Iran escalate following the US’s assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Turkey’s parliament has passed a bill allowing the government to deploy troops to Libya, in support of the UN-backed Libyan government, who are fighting an insurgency in eastern Libya led by General Khalifa Haftar. The BBC’s Jonathan Marcus suggests Turkey risks falling even deeper into the Libyan conflict through providing troops.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Parliament to grant him immunity from prosecution in three criminal cases (bribery, fraud and breach of trust), the New York Times reports. The immunity request could delay the criminal cases against him for months, convenient for Mr Netanyahu as he faces a general election in two months, the country’s third in less than a year.

Spain’s interim Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has been backed by Catalonia’s largest separatist party (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) to form a coalition government. Sanchez’s Socialist Party has agreed to set up negotiations between the Spanish government and the Catalan government to ‘unblock the political conflict over the future of Catalonia and establish the basis for its resolution’ 

Thirty people have died after flooding and landslides hit Jakarta. Tens of thousands have fled their homes. Jakarta is sinking by several centimetres every year and much of it now lies below sea level.

Austria has a new government: Sebastian Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party, which came top in a snap election last September, has agreed on the terms of a coalition government with the Greens, led by Werner Kogler. 

Interpol asked Lebanon to arrest Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan who allegedly escaped Japan for Lebanon in a double bass case. Mr Ghosn faces charges in Lebanon relating to financial crimes. Lebanon does not extradite its citizens to foreign states.

On Sunday Juan Gauido will face re-election as speaker of Venezuela’s national assembly. President Nicolas Maduro has offered bribes of half a million dollars for opposition MPs not to back him. If he is not reelected, the 50+ countries that formally recognise Guaido as president will have to consider whether to continue their recognition. If he is reelected, the power struggle in Venezuela continues with Maduro commanding the support of the military, and Gauido commanding the support of much of the international community. 

On Sunday, Croatia will elect a new president. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the incumbent and likely victor, will face Zoran Milanovic, a former Social Democratic prime minister, who polled more votes in the first round. Croata has taken over the presidency of the European Union and a general election must be held by December.

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Flora Holmes

Flora Holmes is a Researcher at the British Foreign Policy Group.