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Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Iran’s new president assumes office as tensions over tanker attack threaten nuclear talks

IN DIPLOMACY- Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry headed to Tunisia yesterday for a meeting with Tunisian President Kais Saied, carrying a letter from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi pledging his full support for Tunisia’s “transition to stability and growth,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Saied has suspended parliament, sacked the prime minister and axed the finance, environment and ICT ministers.

AROUND THE REGION- Ebrahim Raisi assumed office as Iran’s new president yesterday, in a ceremony marking his official endorsement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hardline Raisi has inherited some serious issues from his more moderate predecessor Hassan Rouhani, including an economy wrecked by US sanctions, dire water and electricity shortages, and the most coronavirus-related deaths of any country in the Middle East. Then there’s the attempted revival of the nuclear pact with the US, with Tehran’s return to talks hanging in the balance as it continues to expand its nuclear program.

Yet more pressing for the new president is the diplomatic crisis triggered by a drone strike on an Israeli-affiliated oil tanker in the Persian Gulf last week, in which one British and one Romanian citizen were killed. The US and Israel followed the UK in blaming Tehran, which denied any involvement in the attack, adding further tension that has hardly helped attempts to rekindle nuclear talks.

Why hasn’t China taken a more active role in the GERD dispute? Deep commercial ties in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan mean that Beijing has avoided taking a stance on the increasingly bitter fight over the future of the Nile’s water, Asia Times writes. Although its investments in the region hand it significant leverage to influence the negotiations, China is unlikely to risk the bns of USD it has invested in infrastructure, analysts tell the newspaper.

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