ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 26 June to 1 July

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 26 June to Sunday 1 July from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Israel on Monday, where he’s scheduled to attend the unveiling of a national memorial to Red Army soldiers killed during World War II. Putin is also due to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is likely to raise concerns over Russia’s relationship with Syria. Putin also visits the West Bank and Jordan on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton will be hosting a joint ministerial council of the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council in Luxembourg, with talks focusing, once again, on Syria and Iran.

Monday may or may not be a momentous day in the US. The Supreme Court is due to sit for the final time this term, which means it should issue judgements on the cases it’s currently considering – namely, the two cases challenging Arizona’s controversial immigration law and President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill. However, if the Court has too many remaining cases to wrap up, it could opt to extend the sitting to later in the week (likely Wednesday or Thursday), with the health care judgement likely to be the last one issued.

The African National Congress opens its National Policy Congress on Tuesday, a conference held every five years ahead of its December electoral conference. Controversial proposals for the nationalisation of mines are due to be discussed, but following the expulsion of ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema, a major proponent of nationalisation, the proposals have lost a bit of their momentum. Of greater interest will be how President Jacob Zuma fares at the conference, with his reception seen as an indicator of whether he’ll be selected to run for a second term at the December conference.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) publishes its annual World Drug Report, looking at consumption, production and trafficking across the world. The 2011 report found that cannabis remained by far the most widely-consumed drug.

The OECD has several high-profile reports on the agenda this week, beginning with the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020, a joint publication with the Food and Agriculture Organization looking at the market forces driving volatility in commodity prices. The Economic Survey of the United States, the OECD’s regular assessment of the US economy, is launched in Washington on Tuesday, followed by the OECD International Migration Outlook in Brussels on Wednesday.

The District Court of Assen in the Netherlands is scheduled to rule on an application by the Public Prosecutor on Wednesday to dissolve and ban the Martijn organisation, which lobbies for the social acceptance of paedophilia and sexual relationships between adults and children.

The UN Human Rights Council receives an update from the Commission of Inquiry on Syria in Geneva. The COI was set up following the Council’s emergency session on 1 June specifically to look into the 25 May Houla massacre.

The report comes the day before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins a three-day visit to Russia on Thursday. While the trip has been scheduled for some time around the APEC Women and The Economy Forum, Clinton also has the opportunity to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss Syria. The meeting will be the first since Clinton publicly accused Syria of sending helicopters to the Assad regime, which Lavrov countered by accusing Washington of arming the opposition rebels.

Mongolians go to the polls to elect members to the State Great Khural, in an election which has been most notable for who’s not running. Former President Mambaryn Enkhabyar had been planning to head up a new party, but he was instead arrested, charged with corruption, and banned from standing for parliament. His 25-year-old son Batshugar Enkhbayar was also ruled inelgibile because he hasn’t yet served his two years of compulsory military service.

US financial sanctions on the Iranian oil trade, which were introduced as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in December, come into effect, meaning that banks in countries which have failed to ‘significantly reduce’ the volume of purchases of crude Iranian oil can be barred from doing business in the US financial market. The US has granted waivers to several countries, including India, Turkey, and South Korea, allowing them to continue imports for another six months because they’ve already reduced the amount of crude they’re importing.

Thursday also marks the deadline for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to apply to the European Court of Human Rights for an interim order to halt his extradition from the UK to Sweden to face questioning for alleged sexual assaults. If Assange has not applied by Thursday, his extradition window in the UK opens, giving authorities 10 days to arrange extradition. Of course, the whole matter is further complicated by Assange’s current residency at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he’s asked for asylum.

Keeping with the legal theme, Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire is expected to find out on Friday whether she’s been found guilty or acquitted on charges of association with a terrorist group, propagating genocide ideology, revisionism, and ethnic division, for which prosecutors have requested a life sentence. Ingabire’s supporters say the charges, which she denies, are politically motivated.

George Zimmerman, the man accused of second degree murder in the 26 February shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, appears for a bail hearing in Sanford. Zimmerman had his bail revoked earlier this month when it emerged that he was in possession of a passport and had access to more funds than had been established at his initial bond hearing.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s five-year term expires on Saturday. Holding with the tradition that usually sees an American head the Bank while a European leads the IMF, Korean-American doctor and former Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim assumes the role on Sunday.

Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson is looking to win a fifth term in presidential elections, though the vote will not be as comfortable as he’s accustomed to – incumbents traditionally run unopposed, but six other candidates have put their hats in the ring this time around. His toughest competition is journalist Thora Arnorsdottir, whose popularity in the polls slipped after she took some time off from the campaign to give birth to her third child.

Saturday has also been bandied about as the favoured date for a meeting of the Syria Contact Group – if the members of the group can actually agree on its existence. The UN (per its Special Envoy Kofi Annan), the UK, the US, Russia and France have all been generally supportive of the idea of a meeting, but have failed to agree on the sticking point of Iranian participation. Russia insists that Iran must be present and part of any international solution, while the UK and the US have said Iranian involvement is ‘unworkable’ due to Tehran’s support for the Syrian regime.

Traditionally quiet Sunday is anything but this week, with presidential and legislative elections in Mexico, parliamentary polls in Senegal, and the introduction of Australia’s landmark carbon tax just the beginning.

Sunday is the deadline for Israel to demolish five apartment blocks in Givat Ulpana, which the Supreme Court ruled on 7 May had been built illegally on private Palestinian land. While the residents and the government came to an agreement last week that should see them leave voluntarily, reports that some settlers have been barricading the area mean a peaceful departure is not guaranteed.

The EU’s embargo on Iranian oil, which was approved by Foreign Ministers in January, comes into effect. The sanctions prohibit the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products, and come just days before technical teams are due to resume discussions on Iran’s nuclear programme in Istanbul.