ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 30 July to 3 August

Following the announcement last week that Spanish unemployment has risen to 24.6% and an IMF report warning that the country’s recession would last until 2014, Madrid releases its second quarter GDP figures. Poor results will likely fuel rumours that Spain is preparing to request a full IMF/EU bailout once the European Stability Mechanism is operational.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff hosts an extraordinary summit for MERCOSUR heads of state in Brasilia on Tuesday. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been invited to attend as the leaders of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are expected to formally approve Venezuela’s membership in the regional trading bloc. MERCOSUR’s fourth member, Paraguay, had previously blocked Venezuelan accession, but with Paraguay suspended until April due to the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo on 22 June, the path has been cleared for Venezuela to join.

At the African Union summit earlier this month, leaders agreed to set a 31 July deadline for the formation of a national unity government in Mali. Mali has been in political limbo since President Amadou Tourmani Toure was overthrown in a military coup on 21 March, but interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra has already said he won’t resign, despite criticism that he has failed to tackle Islamic extremists in the country’s north.

Wednesday marks Army Day, a national holiday in Syria celebrating the end of French control over the Syrian armed forces and the creation of the Syrian Army under President Shukri al Quwatli in 1945. The holiday comes amid (at time of writing) a continuing battle between regime and rebel forces in the second city of Aleppo, while international diplomats have expressed fears that a massacre is about to take place.

Syria in general and Aleppo in particular are likely to top the agenda when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits London on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron (and to check out some Olympic events, too, of course). While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Friday that a ‘tragedy was looming’ in Aleppo, Moscow’s stance on Syria didn’t appear to soften much, as Lavrov also said it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect the Assad regime to stand by as rebels occupied its cities.

UN Security Council resolution 2046 (2012), adopted on 2 May, sets Thursday as the deadline for the conclusion of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan under the auspices of the African Union High Level Panel (AUHIP). Khartoum and Juba were given three months to resume and wrap up discussions on oil payments, residency statuses, border claims and the status of Abyei, but spent most of that period cancelling meetings and trading blame over border skirmishes; they did finally resume negotiations on 26 July in a bid to avoid UN sanctions.

The latest US unemployment figures are out on Friday, with forecasters expecting them to show that slow economic growth has held unemployment around 8%. As the presidential election edges nearer, Barack Obama will be hoping for good news to help boost his ratings, while Mitt Romney will be hoping for something he can use to detract attention from his embarrassing comments during his visit to London last week.

The Republic of Congo holds the second round of its parliamentary elections on Sunday, following first round voting on 15 July, but the rest of the world is likely to be a bit too distracted to see who wins the remaining 66 seats.

That’s because Friday is also the day of the men’s 100m finals at the Olympic Games, when everyone will be waiting to see whether Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt can overcome injury problems and defend his Olympic title – and perhaps even beat his own record – against training partner Yohan Blake.