Syrian refugees confront Kerry

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
July 18, 2013

Syrian refugees tell Kerry off, Putin denounced as dictator after prominent dissident jailed, and Greek protesters ordered to keep it down for German finance minister’s visit. Today is July 18, 2013, a day to honor Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R) and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh (5th R) meet with Syrian refugees at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, July 18, 2013. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool

War-weary Syrian refugees face Kerry with frustrations. Syrian refugees demanded today that the U.S. set up a no-fly zone and safe havens in Syria during a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is on his sixth mission to the Middle East since taking office in February:

Visiting a camp that holds roughly 115,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan about 12 km (eight miles) from the Syrian border, Kerry spent about 40 minutes with half a dozen refugees who vented their frustration at the international community’s failure to end Syria’s more than two-year-old civil war. He told them Washington was considering various options, including buffer zones for their protection, but that the situation was complex and much was still under consideration… “They are frustrated and angry at the world for not stepping in and helping,” Kerry told reporters. “I explained to them I don’t think it’s as cut and dry and as simple as some of them look at it. But if I were in their shoes I would be looking for help from wherever I could find it.”

According to the United Nations, 1.8 million refugees have fled Syria since the conflict began. Kerry expressed Washington’s concerns over rebel violence and infighting, adding that “we’ve been fighting two wars for 12 years.” Kerry’s trip to the region has focused on restoring Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a three-year freeze. Although a State Department official said “there are currently no plans for an announcement for the resumption of negotiations,” Kerry said differences between the two sides had narrowed considerablyafter a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it is ready to resume peace efforts without preconditions, however did not address the proliferation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which halted talks in 2010.

Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Kirov, July 18, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin. Click for more photos of Navalny and his supporters reacting to the ruling.  

Putin’s Russia slaps prison sentence on dissident. Critics worldwide denounced Russia’s President Putin as a dictator after a Russian court sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny to five years in prison, in what Navalny calls a politically-motivated trial. Shocked supporters said the anti-corruption champion’s punishment was excessive and is intended to exclude him from Russia’s political sphere:

The United States and European Union expressed concern over the conviction, saying it raised questions about the rule of law in Russia and Putin’s treatment of opponents. Russian shares fell on concerns the ruling could provoke social unrest. In a last message from court, Navalny, 37, referred to Putin as a toad who abuses Russia’s vast oil revenues to stay in power and made clear he expected his supporters to press his campaign. “Okay, don’t miss me. More important – don’t be idle,” he wrote on Twitter. The opposition said they planned a series of protests, starting later on Thursday in Moscow where police were out in force.

Germany also expressed shock over the sentencing, which bars Navalny from running for Moscow mayor in September or the presidency in 2018. Riot police are parked by the Kremlin in anticipation of protests, and local police have detained at least two Navalny supporters protesting outside the detention center where he was taken after sentencing.

Municipal public school guard Yiorgos Avramidis, 43, married with two children of three and six, from the northern Greek town of Edessa, (C) is comforted by colleagues in front of a police line guarding the Greek parliament in Athens, late July 17, 2013, as Greece’s shaky coalition government scraped through a vote on a bill to sack public sector workers. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Greece gilded for German’s visit. Greek officials tried to save face in Athens by banning protests during German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s visit. Thousands of Greeks flooded the streets this week to protest the government’s fiscal policies:

Hundreds of workers have taken to the streets in more than a week of rowdy protests against government plans to cut thousands of public sector jobs to please Greece’s European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s coalition government scraped through a vote late on Wednesday on the divisive bill which includes the job losses, a condition for a further 7 billion euros in aid… Tens of thousands of demonstrators defied a ban on protests during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the Greek capital in October, while some pelted police with rocks, bottles and sticks. Pictures lampooning Merkel as a latter-day Nazi, festooned with swastikas, are commonplace.

Schaeuble, who suggested that protesters stop complaining, will offer Greece 100 million euros to promote growth during the visit. The funds are unlikely to appease demonstrators, however, as many of them blame Germany for demanding harsh austerity measures in exchange for bailout funds.

Nota Bene: Weapons seized from a North Korean ship en route from Cuba suggest hard times in Havana.

Standouts:

The power of organizing - Activist Pramila Jayapal argues that factory workers are the real agents of change in Bangladesh’s garment industry. (Reuters)

Dangerous bzzzness - Imported bumblebees pose a threat to the UK’s native bees. (BBC)

Whack-a-rock’n’roll - A Russian video game lets players hit Pussy Riot members with a cross. (The Atlantic)

Mutual misgivings - Distrust between Chinese and Americans has increased since 2011. (The New York Times)

Get-rich-quick diet - Dubai’s government will offer gold to citizens who lose weight. (The Los Angeles Times)

From the File:

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