Egypt & Cyprus
An Egyptian national who falsely claimed that he was armed with lethal explosives hijacked an EgyptAir plane carrying 71 people last week, forcing the aircraft to land in Cyprus. The move has raised new concerns over Egypt’s security protocols and the state’s ability to revitalize the already suffering tourism sector.
The hijacker released the majority of the other passengers and crew members before submitting himself to the control of the Cypriot authorities in the port city Larnaca. Cypriot authorities announced that none of the passengers or crew members were harmed during the seven hour ordeal.
After Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account announced that the incident was over, Foreign Ministry officials also stated that the hijacker wore a belt with telephone covers that looked like explosive devices, but he was not carrying actual explosives.
The hijacking hindered the efforts of the Egyptian government to restore confidence in both Egyptians and people seeking to visit Egypt after the Islamic State’s alleged bombing of a Russian passenger aircraft five months ago.
After the Russian passenger plane was downed, Egypt contracted the services of Control Risks Group to scrutinize and recommend improvements for airport security. EgyptAir, one of the oldest airlines in the Middle East, has suffered approximately $1 billion in losses since the Egyptian Revolution began in 2011.
Azerbaijan & Armenia
At least 30 soldiers and one young boy were killed in heavy fighting when Armenian and Azerbaijani forces clashed over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Last Saturday’s clash marks one of the worst outbreaks of violence between the two sides since the end of the war over the region in 1994.
The mountainous region, which is officially part of Azerbaijan, has been under the de facto control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian forces since 1994. The Armenian and Azerbaijani sides of the region are separated by a demilitarized buffer zone, but this has not prevented clashes from breaking out.
Each country blamed the other for Saturday’s escalation. Azerbaijan’s defense ministry stated that 12 of its soldiers were martyred, one if its helicopters was shot down and that more than 100 Armenian soldiers had been killed or wounded, and that Azerbaijani forces destroyed six tanks and 15 artillery positions. Likewise, the Nagorno-Karabakh defense ministry claimed that more than 200 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed. Neither claim has been corroborated.
Third parties, including the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, have attempted to facilitate negotiations over the region, but little progress has been made over the years.
After Saturday’s escalation, envoys from the United States, Russia and France issued a statement calling on both sides “to stop shooting and take all necessary means to stabilize the situation on the ground.”
The Workers’ Party of Korea – the founding and ruling political party of North Korea – recently issued a document from the capital city Pyongyang to other provincial bodies that openly condemns the Chinese government for taking part in United Nations sanctions against North Korea and rallies WPK members toward nuclear conflict with China.
According to Sino-North Korea relations expert Lee Young Hwa, a professor at Kansai Univeristy, after calling on North Koreans to confront China with a “nuclear storm,” the document outlines a new doctrine on policies toward China, including labeling it as an “enemy state” on par with the Untied States, Japan and South Korea.
Possibly related, the government also instructed its citizens, two days before the document lambasting China, to prepare for possible famine and severe economic hardship, and that “the road to revolution is long and arduous.”
“We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again,” said the announcement, which came in the form of an editorial piece written in Rodong Sinmun, a print newspaper that is largely considered to be the voice of the state. The term “arduous march” refers to the famine that engulfed North Korea in the 1990s, which reportedly killed as many as three million people.
The publication called for a “70-day campaign of loyalty:” a call to North Koreans to directly and repeatedly demonstrate their allegiance to their state and their leader, Kim Jong Un, by delivering two pounds of rice to state-run warehouses each month.