The Hill Talk’s Glance at the Globe

China proposes constitutional amendment allowing president to serve ad infinitumChinese state news agency Xinhua reported Sunday a number of proposed constitutional reforms, including the removal of language which limits the country’s head of state to two terms in office.

According to Beijing analysts, President Xi Jinping signaled his intent to remain in power following a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) congressional meeting in 2017 when he did not name his replacement as general secretary of the Politburo Standing Committee, which controls CCP — China’s lone political party.

Assuming office in 2013, Xi’s first term is set to expire in March when the National People’s Congress will meet to approve the constitutional changes and reelect the CCP leader.

WHO warns over soaring measles cases in Europe:  The World Health Organization (WHO) officials have issued a warning over a 400 percent rise in cases of measles reported in Europe in 2017.

Romania had the most measles cases in Europe in 2017 with 5,562 incidences 

Of the over 21,000 cases reported, the highest numbers were recorded in Italy, Ukraine and Romania.  Thirty-five deaths have been attributed to the disease.

Physicians with the WHO have concluded a drop in vaccinations are chiefly responsible for the sharp rise in cases.

Kremlin warns U.S. over partitioning Syria:  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the U.S. is “playing with fire” if its support for Kurdish militias in Syria is aimed at partitioning the country.

Speaking to journalists in Moscow, Lavrov warned against any U.S. attempt to build “governing bodies” independent of Damascus.

American-backed Syrian SDF forces came to blows last week with Russian and pro-Assad forces in Syria last week.  The Kremlin says five of its contractors were killed.  The incident is being investigated.

Syria intensifies bombing of Eastern Ghouta:  In some of the heaviest bombing of the seven-year-old Syrian civil war, at least 250 are feared dead as Syrian aircraft stepped up its aerial attacks on the rebel-controlled enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Monday and Tuesday.

Map showing control of the Eastern Ghouta (19 February 2017)

A region almost completely under the domination of anti-Assad group, the Free Syrian Army, Eastern Ghouta is considered among the last strongholds of opponents to the rule of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Both the UN and the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights say food and water are in short supply, two hospitals serving the region have been rendered inoperable, and Syrian actions may constitute a war crime.

Saudi Arabia to open first opera house:  In a dramatic shift from its past, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced part of a $64 billion investment in developing cultural institutions will fund the construction of the country’s first opera house.

Developed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2016 cultural reform program, Vision 2030, the opera house is expected to open in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah in 2022.  Over 5,000 cultural events are planned in 56 Saudi cities alone in 2018.

A plan overseen by Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority, the opera house’s construction follows the 2011 opening of opera houses in Oamn, Dubai and Kuwait.  Prior to 2011, only Egypt allowed an opera house.

UNSC approves Syria ceasefire:   As Syrian warplanes continued its week-long bombardment of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution for a 30-day ceasefire across the whole of Syria.

The death toll in the battered Eastern Ghouta region reached 500 Saturday, as airstrikes continued Sunday killing at least three additional people.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, humanitarian supplies will be delivered and medical evacuations are to begin without delay.  However, the agreement does not cover military operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) or al-Qaeda forces.


Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publication.


[BBC] [CNN] [Middle East Monitor] [Arab News]