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  • Writer's pictureBait Al-Amanah

International Affairs Update (Week 1 of February 2020)

A. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

What is it?

  1. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases

  2. A new strain that has not been previously identified in humans

  3. Started off in Wuhan, Hubei Province and is now spreading globally with a 2.1% mortality rate

How serious is the outbreak?

  1. According to WHO, the virus can be transmitted from human to human, and even before an infected individual displays symptom

  2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency of international concern over the outbreak, after the first case of human-to-human transmission outside China was confirmed

  3. The declaration was made amid the worsening situation across the globe with a total of 28 countries and over 40,000 people infected (As of 9/2/2020, 2359)

How lethal is the virus and is there any treatment for it?

  1. Researches are still being done to determine the lethality of the virus

  2. Mortality rate of 2.1%, far lower than the 2002 SARS nCoV which had a mortality rate of 10%

  3. More than 80% of the deceased had pre-existing health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, and are typically over 60 years of age

  4. As of now, there is no vaccine availableand is expected to take months before one can be produced

  5. The virus, however, will not necessarily results in death.Reports showing patients tested negative after being treated with a combination of HIV and flu treatment. A case in Malaysia witnessed the use of “Symptomatic treatment”, combined with the patient’s immune system to have worked in treating the patient

  6. A total of 911 patients have been discharged and tested negative for the virus after days of treatment

  7. Therefore, it is important to note that despite not having a definite treatment, the virus can be treated

Should we close our borders to the Chinese nationals?

  1. Based on WHO’s guidelines and recommendations, we have yet to reach the critical stage where temporary border closing to all Chinese nationals is deemed necessary

  2. In line with the Chinese Government, the precautions taken including temporary ban for travelers from 3 provinces are adequate (for now) to ensure containment of virus, while at the same time practicing non-discriminatory principle


What is it?

  1. British Exit or famously known as the Brexit is a process of withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU)

  2. In 2016, after winning the election, UK’s Conservative Party delivered their promise by holding a public vote (known as referendum) for the people of the UK to choose whether to stay or to leave the Union

  3. With a simple majority of 51.9% who opted for Brexit, the UK left the Union after 47 years of membership

Why leave?

3 main reasons why the Britons voted for Brexit:

i) Sovereignty

  1. Growing centralized power- Over the past few decades, a series of EU treaties have shifted an amount of power from individual member states to Brussels

  2. EU rules override national laws on subjects such as competition policy, copyright and patent law and agriculture

ii) Economy

  1. The failure of the Eurozone to reform itself in debt pooling and providing transfers and fiscal stabilizers to run a single currency zone

  2. Despite not being a member of the Eurozone, it is still damaging to the UK as it reduces the value of the single market since Eurozone fiscal rigidity squeezes economic growth

iii) Immigration

  1. As a basic tenet of the Union, free movement of people had caused an influx of migrants in the UK, which was growing at twice the pace of the euro zone’s

  2. EU’s growing membership saw an increment of foreign-born residents in the UK to 13.4% of the population in 2011, double the figure from 1991

  3. The growing population of migrants cuts the native working population

Source: BBC News

Why only now?

  1. In order for the UK to leave the Union, Article 5 of the Lisbon Treaty which outlines the steps for a member state to withdraw, need to be revoked

  2. Formally triggered in March 2017, the UK had 2 years to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal by March 29,2019

  3. The deadline, however, was extended 3 times as the former PM, Theresa May failed to receive support from the UK Parliament, causing her to step down

  4. Her successor, Borris Johnson brought the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to the Parliament and managed to garner enough support to have it passed and ratified

  5. After more than 3 years of haggling in the British Parliament and pleas for Brussels to delay its exit, Brexit finally happened on 31/1/2020

C. Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan

Deal of the Century- The President

  1. 28/1/2020: Donald Trump announced his long-awaited plan for Middle East peace, the so-called “Deal of Century”.

  2. The Plan, as announced by Trump contains the following key proposals:

i) The US will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West bank, including the illegal Jewish settlements and much of the Jordan River valley

ii) Jerusalem, including its Old City will remain Israel’s undivided capital

iii) Palestinian territory will be doubled, and a Palestinian capital will be provided in Eastern Jerusalem

iv) The territories allocated to Palestine will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years to further negotiations with Israel

Source: BBC News

Shame of the Century- The Reality

  1. The deal, which was led by Trump’s Middle East’s advisor and son in-law, Jared Kushner is one-sided, neglecting Palestinians’ pledge and must be rejectedby all means

  2. It is a complete and utter erasure of the Palestinians by the US administration

  3. As an aggrieved party, Palestine was not consulted and involved in the formulation of the proposal

  4. With the Plan, the long-endured sufferings and injustices of the Palestinians will only continue, if not worsen

  5. The “double Palestinian territories” is only a mask hiding the continuous illegal occupation on Palestinian land

  6. Knowing the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, Trump had unilaterally continued to recognize it as Israel’s undivided capital

  7. The voices of Palestinian people are blatantly ignored and belittled

  8. With the two-state solution off the table and America’s endorsement of Israel’s move to take as much territory, if this continues, Israel seems to have only one option ; to either give Palestinians equal rights and watch as the outgrow Jews, or treat them as second-class citizens with an eventual outcome of turning into an apartheid state

  9. Therefore, in line with the stance of the government, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people

  10. The Palestine-Israel dispute is not an issue of religion or race, it is a human right issue, which cannot be solved without honest and concrete negotiations involving parties concerned


D. Singapore

Border Closure Amid Coronavirus

  1. Chinese nationals and those who have travelled to the mainland in the past 14 days will no be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore staring 1/2/2020, 2359

  2. Effective immediately, the Singapore Immigration & Checkpoints Authority will suspend issuance of all forms of new visas to Chinese passport holders, together with immediate suspension of Singapore’s status as a visa-free transit facility for those with Chinese passports

  3. The ban, however, does not extend to the citizens and permanent residents. Allowed to enter the Republic, they are required to take precautionary measures by staying home and avoiding social contact for 14 days

E. Middle East

Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan

  1. The one-sided Peace Plan received backlashes across the globe, with a prompt response on the street of the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip

  2. Days after Trump unveiled the Peace Plan, there has been a flare-up violence in Israel and Palestinian territories:

i) 3 Palestinians killed during clashes with Israeli forces in the Occupied West Bank

ii) 12 Israeli soldiers were hurt in Jerusalem

iii) 1 Israeli officer and 1 soldier were wounded in two shooting attacks in Jerusalem and West Bank

iv) Israeli air strikes on militant sites in Gaza Strip after militants fired mortars into Israel

Source:BBC News

  1. On the international front, Turkey and Iran issued condemnations, describing the Plan as stillborn and doomed to fail

  2. Meanwhile, Qatar, Jordan, France and the United Nations called for direct negotiations between the aggrieved parties and pushed for the two-state solution

Syria’s Idlib Attack: Renewed Offensive

  1. Russian-backed Syrian government forces have intensified attacks and renewed offensive since December 2019, killing at least 373 civilians and forcing 700,000 people to flee, making it the worst mass displacement of the conflict

  2. Since 2011, Syria has been battling a civil war which witnessed 2 divided factions; One that is heavily backed by Russia and Iran, the Government forces and one that is backed by Turkey, the rebels

  3. The war intensified last December when Moscow resumes assault and pushes with its allies deeper into the anti-Assad opposition

  4. As of this month, 12 Turkish military personnel and one civilian contractor had been killed by the Syrian army artillery fire

  5. Turkish President, Recep Erdogan vowed to avenge his people’s death

What does the Idlib Attack Mean to Syria?

  1. With Iran-backed militiamen and Russian-backed airstrikes, Syrian soldiers have managed to capture dozens of towns and villages in Idlib, which is the last stronghold of the opposition to President Assad

  2. This could mark the beginning of the painful, dreading ending of the Syrian Civil war

G. China

Impact of Coronavirus

  1. Being the world’s second largest economy and the home to the viral 2019-nCoV, China is feeling the heat, straining the world’s economic activity

  2. Economic activities in many cities halted as factories were forced to shut for week-long Lunar holidays, disrupting the service sector as well as people stay at home amid fear of virus

  3. Analysts and economists are downgrading China’s GDP growth forecast for 2020

i) Macquarie & Mizuho: Downgrades from 5.9%-5.6%

ii) ANZ and Moody’s: Maintains at 5.8%

iii) Economist Intelligence Unit: Downgrades from 5.9% to 4.9-5.4%

  1. Meanwhile, according to a top government think tank economist, Zhang Ming GDP growth could be about 5%, cutting 1% off in the Q1 of 2020

  2. The forecast was based on the assumption that the outbreak will peak in early to mid-February and end by the end of March

In addition, since the Malaysian economy is now much more integrated to the Chinese economy, Malaysia’s GDP growth could lower in a reasonable range between 0.1% to 0.3% and the target of 30 million tourists for 2020 Visit Malaysia campaign would be impossible to achieve

H. The United States

Trump’s Impeachment

  1. Trump has been found not guiltyin his impeachment trial, ending a bid to remove him from office

  2. Run by the President’s fellow Republicans, the Senate voted to acquit him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress with a vote of 52-48 and 53-47 respectively

  3. Trump, who is seeking a second term will be the first impeached President running for a re-election, happening on November 3rd, 2020

For the PDF version of the update, refer to the attachment below:

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