Monday, February 5

Monday, February 5

OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN ARMENIA Armenian opposition rallies against soaring commodity prices On January 19, the opposition Yelq bloc of Armenia’s

OPPOSITION PROTESTS IN ARMENIA

Armenian opposition rallies against soaring commodity prices

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Photo: Hrant Khachatryan/Reuters

On January 19, the opposition Yelq bloc of Armenia’s Parliament held protests in Yerevan, as food product and petrol prices skyrocketed. The second round of these protests is scheduled for today.

The opposition blames the government’s tax code, which raised taxes on domestically produced goods in 2018, for the weak economy. Indeed, Armenia is the poorest country in the Caucasus; one in three live in poverty and employment hovers just under 20%. According to Yelq assemblyman and former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan, the situation will worsen in coming months, with the price bubble expected to grow.

Republican leadership will meet to discuss the tax code’s effects. Despite having weathered similar protests during their 20-year majority, the Republicans won elections again last year. However, this situation has the potential to reach a critical point if action is not taken.

Expect protests to intensify in coming months, particularly if the new tax code remains. If political instability grows, uprising is possible, especially given the longevity of Armenia’s economic failures. In the fragile Caucasus region, unrest could have a spillover effect; Azerbaijan specifically will watch Armenia’s developments closely.

TURKISH-VATICAN RELATIONS

Turkish president to meet pontiff and Vatican advisors

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Photo: Hurriyet

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis will meet in Rome today, the first visit by a Turkish leader in over half a century. According to a Turkish press release, the pair will discuss a various topics focusing on the status of Jerusalem.

United by common goals of peace in the fractured Middle East, Francis and Erdogan’s relationship has warmed since a 2016 dispute regarding the Armenian Genocide. Both Francis and Erdogan have publicly opposed US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital. Fearing increased tensions in the region, the two leaders will consider potential plans of action. A joint statement reaffirming the city’s disputed status is likely and may call on the UN and Israel to cooperate with East Jerusalem Palestinians.

The outcomes of these talks have wide-ranging implications, not least of which is the future of US-Turkish relations. With Erdogan growing closer to Moscow and opposing Syrian Kurds, this meeting is yet another point of contention with the US. Expect Trump to denounce the meeting’s outcome and to refuse backing down from his stance on Jerusalem, a reaction that may further polarise relations between these major regional actors.

BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS

Second phase of UK divorce talks to resume in London

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Photo: AFP

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis will host his European counterpart Michel Barnier in London today before the resumption of Brexit talks tomorrow. The rights of EU citizens in the UK is among the issues to be discussed.

In December, both sides agreed to respect the rights of EU citizens regarding full residency rights in the UK and vice versa for British citizens residing in the EU. However, PM Theresa May recently excluded these rights for EU citizens who arrive during the two-year transition period during which businesses and governments are to implement the Brexit agreement after Britain’s official departure in March 2019. This attempt of Mrs May to heal a rift between hard and soft Brexiteers in her own government has sparked pushback from Brussels.

Today, negotiators will press for a transition agreement to be confirmed by the EU Council summit in March in a bid to provide certainty to businesses and investors. With a deadline looming, the pressure is on for both sides to devise workable solutions to key issues such as EU citizenship rights. Expect a deal by March but do not discount further delays if negotiators cannot agree on new EU citizen rights of residence in the UK during the transition period.