At least 232 miners have been killed and hundreds of others are still trapped after an explosion and a fire Tuesday at a coal mine in Turkey's western district of Soma. The mine's owners estimated 787 people were in the mine at the time of the explosion, which was reportedly sparked by an electrical fault. An estimated 93 people have been rescued. Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz told reporters it is likely to be the deadliest accident in Turkey's history and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared three days of national mourning. The disaster is renewing debate over safety standards at state-run mines and comes just two weeks after a parliamentary motion filed by Turkey's main opposition party to launch an inquiry into work-related accidents at the Soma mine was rejected.
The United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has announced his resignation having failed to achieve a peace settlement through political negotiations and frustrated by President Bashar al-Assad's running for a third term in office. Brahimi succeeded former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in the position, who stepped down in 2012 also due to frustrations over lack of progress in the peace process. Brahimi's term will end on May 31, and it is unclear who might replace him. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, during a visit to Washington, said he has credible evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, including chlorine gas, at least 14 times since signing a treaty in September 2013 banning them. Fabius additionally expressed regret over the failure of the United States, France, and Britain to conduct a military intervention in Syria last summer.
- Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers have resumed amid divisions as the parties work on drafting the text for a final deal.
- Iran has welcomed an invitation by Saudi Arabia for Tehran's foreign minister to visit Riyadh, signaling a possible openness to improving relations.
- The International Criminal Court is reopening an investigation into claims that British forces abused Iraqi detainees citing new information.
Arguments and Analysis
'Syria's dirty secret is that Assad could win in a fair election' (Faisal Al Yafai, The National)
"But there is a serious reason to understand why Mr Al Assad is seen by many within and without Syria as a credible candidate. Because many will vote for him.
Certainly, that is because there is no real alternative, because the only places in which voting will take place are under government control, because 40 years of propaganda have removed any alternative - and because the Assad regime has spent three years demonstrating what it means by the slogan "Assad or we burn the country".
But the dirty secret in Syria today is that, if the presidential election were free and fair, Bashar Al Assad would still win.
However unpalatable it is, the man who has overseen the systematic destruction of the country, who has made more refugees than anyone else in the Middle East this century, is still popular. We ought to ask why."
'In Hassan Rouhani's Iran, an Indie Rock Band Can Play Once But Not Twice' (Sune Engel Rasmussen, New Republic)
"Your judgment of President Hassan Rouhani depends on which Evin you focus on. Rouhani's election promise to restart nuclear negotiations and warm up international relations is off to a hopeful start. His second promise, to grant more freedom to civil society, is not.
Since the election last year, observers have eyed Rouhani with apprehension. Will he open his country's gates for more Western-inspired culture, as the New York Times suggested last month? Or is he just another ‘security apparatchik,' personally responsible for prison beatings and public executions, as the Wall Street Journal claimed?
It is tempting to see every twist and turn in Iran's human rights record as a result of directions from the presidential palace. It is also grossly simplified. But no matter which way you look at it, small rips have begun to appear in the cloak of censorship."
-- Mary Casey
Ozgu Ozdemir/Getty Images