How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world

How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world
1 / 4
Picture taken in 1988 and made available on November 9, 2019 shows a view taken from West Berlin towards East Berlin, the Wall and the Brandenburg Gate; the sign in the foreground reads "Attention! You now will leave West Berlin". (AFP / Jean-Philippe Lacour)
How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world
2 / 4
People watch a light show detailing the events that led to the fall of the wall on Berlin's Alexanderplatz on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 2019 in Berlin. (AFP / John MacDougall)
How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world
3 / 4
Flowers are placed in the back wall at the Bernauerstrasse wall memorial on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 2019 in Berlin. (AFP / John MacDougall)
How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world
4 / 4
Fireworks explode over the Quadriga of the Brandenburg Gate during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, Germany, on November 9, 2019. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Updated 15 November 2019

How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world

How the fall of the Berlin Wall influenced the Arab world
  • Effect of the non-violent events of Nov. 9, 1989, continues to be felt across the Arab world
  • Migration of protests from one Arab country to another invites comparisons with post-1989 revolutions

DUBAI: Exactly 30 years ago, on the night of Nov. 9, a checkpoint in the most notorious symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, opened just a little as a result of a confused attempt by East German leaders to blow off pent-up political steam.

The intention was not to open up the border completely. However, the domino effect of that decision on the entire network of checkpoints meant that by midnight jubilant East Germans were perched atop the wall in the heart of Berlin while others attacked the structure with hammers and chisels.

In the days to come, not only did the barrier separating communist East Germany from West Germany crumble both literally and metaphorically, images of the peaceful revolution bounced around the world, planting ideas of liberty and dignity everywhere from Budapest to Baghdad and from Krakow to Khartoum.

In the Arab world, the impact of the events of 1989 was not immediately noticeable even though at the time there were a number of autocratic regimes aligned with the Soviet Union. But as numerous commentators and policy analysts have noted since the outset of the Arab Spring revolts, the significance of the collapse of the Iron Curtain amid a wave of revolutions had not been lost on Arabs.

“The spontaneous, domino-like way in which today’s protests have migrated from one Arab country to another reminds many observers of 1989,” wrote The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman in February 2011. “German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who grew up in East Germany and entered politics in 1989 – claimed that Middle East protesters were ‘shaking off their fear’ just as Eastern Europeans had.”

This week, the 30th anniversary of the event that reshaped the modern world coincides conspicuously with peaceful protests in several Arab countries, notably in Iraq and Lebanon, by millions of people who are fed up with poor public services, corruption, unemployment, interference by neighboring countries and economic mismanagement.

For most of last summer, Sudan and Algeria were buffeted by winds of change. Instead of being content with toppling regime figureheads, the protesters vented their fury at members of the “deep state.” In both countries, the protesters asked for time to organize themselves for elections so that they could compete with established rivals instead of grabbing offers by the regimes of swift elections.

To be sure, the uprisings that have rocked the Middle East since 2011 have all exhibited their unique characteristics. For, as John Simpson, the then World Affairs Editor of BBC News, noted in a 2014 article, “Unlike Europe in 1989, there was no single outmoded political orthodoxy to be overthrown (in the Arab countries.)”

Also, the circumstances in the Middle East and North Africa were – and continue to be — very different from those that existed in the Soviet bloc countries — Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania - where Communist dictatorships fell like ninepins after 1989.

The Soviet Union itself was plagued by economic problems and food shortages in the 1980s. In April 1986 the Chernobyl power station in Ukraine became the site of the worst disaster in the history of nuclear-power generation. To long-time critics of communism, the accident signified the dysfunctional state of a crumbling “evil empire.”

Picture taken in November 1989 shows a wall-pecker trying to tear down remains of the Berlin Wall in Berlin. (AFP)

Elsewhere, reform movements had been cropping up. Bruising strikes in Poland compelled the ruling Communist party to legalize the banned Solidarity trade union. Partially free elections in the summer of 1989 saw Solidarity make big gains in parliament.

Meanwhile, Hungarians were staging mass rallies for democracy, and in May, barbed wire was dismantled along 240km of the border with Austria. In August, 2 million people in the Soviet Union’s Baltic republics — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — formed a 600km human chain to press their demands for independence.

For their part, East Germany’s leaders, seeking to loosen the borders just a little, had made travel to Czechoslovakia easier for their people. But this led to dramatic scenes at the West Germany embassy in Prague as droves of East Germans made full use of the opportunity.

Clearly, the pace of change proved much faster than Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, had probably foreseen when he introduced the reform policies titled "glasnost" (openness) and "perestroika" (restructuring) in 1985. The zeitgeist of a period flush with hope and excitement was soon captured by the West German rock group Scorpions in their song “Wind of Change:”

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams
With you and me.

Fast-forward to the Arab world of 2019. There may be not any contemporary, local equivalent of Gorbachev but for East Europeans who have lived through the turbulent years of the demise of the Soviet Union, sympathizing with the frustrations of the Arab world’s young revolutionaries should be easy.

Taking part in the ongoing protests are people from all walks of life, who are angry over the deterioration of economic conditions, which they blame on mismanagement, poor governance and nepotism.

The young men and women shouting slogans against the political elites in Beirut and Baghdad are using social media to draw global attention to their protests and demands. They are also using ingenious methods to get their messages out to the world when the government, in Iraq for instance, is shutting down the Internet in an effort to tamp down the protests.

Demonstrators carry national flags during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon, on November 6, 2019. (Reuters

The analogies between the post-2011 Arab uprisings and the East European revolts of 1989-91 are numerous and well documented. Regimes in both cases had a monopoly on power, repressive methods of control, and an unaccountable coterie of officials who reported only to the top leader and his family or trusted comrades.

As Adrian A. Basora, a veteran diplomat, put it in a Foreign Policy Research Institute note of Aug. 2011, “in both regions succession planning and recruitment for top leadership positions was generally either opaque or visibly nepotistic rather than being based on merit or on public preferences.”

Mirroring the pre-1989 situation in many East European states, disenchantment with the party line reached a peak in the Arab countries that have seen peaceful uprisings in recent years. In many cases, government institutions came to be seen as a source of humiliation for ordinary citizens and too incompetent to deliver even basic public services.

Demonstrators set fire and close streets during ongoing protests in Baghdad, Iraq, on Nov. 9, 2019. Protests erupted in Baghdad and across southern Iraq last month, calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion. (AP)

In both regions, centrally planned economies had failed to generate the funds required to meet the quality-of-life expectations of the populations.

Finally, the role once played by the Soviet Union in the affairs of its satellite states can be broadly compared to the pervasive influence of Iran in the domestic matters of the countries in its orbit. As the commentator Eyad Abu Shakra wrote recently in Asharq Al-Awsat: “It would be absurd to separate the terrible living conditions in countries like Iraq and Lebanon from their virtual occupation and rule by Iranian-controlled militias.”

Despite the festive feel of some of the protests, the fear of Iran deploying its local proxies to put down the “revolutions” in the two Arab countries lurks constantly in the background. The fact that the protesters in either country have closed ranks on the basis of their shared grievances, rather than their sectarian identities, is seen as an added threat to Iran’s grand strategy.

Looking back at 1989, the Berlin Wall fell without much violence. Within the Soviet Union itself, 21 pro-independence protesters were killed in the republic of Georgia but not elsewhere in the communist bloc. In a break with tradition, Gorbachev courageously decided against using force to quell the revolts. But are Iran’s rulers capable of emulating this noble precedent?

If remarks by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on the unrest in Lebanon and Iraq are any guide, Tehran will not hesitate to do to the protests there what it did to the Green Movement of 2009, and again to the thousands of Iranians who took part in the 2017-2018 demonstrations prompted by the deteriorating economy.

While few doubt Iran’s ability to inflict pain and punishment on revolutionary idealists, film-makers and intellectuals, it does not have the power to alter the lasting lesson of the fall of the Berlin Wall – which, according to political commentator Anne Applebaum, is that societies that do not reform, die.

Emotional scenes as UN General Assembly hears of human rights abuses in Syria

Emotional scenes as UN General Assembly hears of human rights abuses in Syria
Updated 03 March 2021

Emotional scenes as UN General Assembly hears of human rights abuses in Syria

Emotional scenes as UN General Assembly hears of human rights abuses in Syria
  • Daughter tells how her father disappeared nearly eight years ago after he was arrested; calls for justice for all victims of Syrian regime
  • Verdict of German court that jailed a regime agent sends message to Assad that those who commit such crimes cannot hide, envoy says

NEW YORK: “My name is Wafa Ali Mustafa and I have not heard from my father, Ali Mustafa, for 2,801 days — almost eight years ago, when he was forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime.”
The atmosphere in the UN General Assembly Hall changed as Mustafa spoke. She was one of three representatives of civil society who briefed members during a high-level panel discussion of the human rights situation in Syria, in particular the torture and disappearance of detainees. It came as the 10th anniversary of the start of conflict, on March 15, 2011, approaches.
“My mom, two sisters and me have never been told why he has been taken away from us or where he is being held. We just don’t know,” Mustafa said in a quavering voice. Her father is a human rights activist who took part in protests against oppression by the regime.
A journalist and activist, Mustafa told how she was herself detained in 2011 at the age of 21 “for daring to dream of a free and just Syria.” She has spent the 10 years since her release “demanding justice against the Assad regime and other groups who continue to use detention as a weapon of war.”
Mustafa graduated from university in Berlin last year. Her education meant everything to her father and yet she admitted she often finds herself wondering, like many other Syrians, whether everything she does is pointless.
“I wondered this morning, is there a point in addressing all of you today? All Syrians wonder the same,” she told the General Assembly.
However, she said that on the day she sees her father again he will ask her what she had been doing during all these years. “He will ask what we all have been doing,” she added.
Mustafa’s testimony follows the publication of a report by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which concluded that thousands of detainees have been subjected to “unimaginable suffering” during the war, including torture, death and sexual violence against women, girls and boys.
The Security Council tasked the commission with investigating and recording all violations of international law since the start of the conflict. It began when the regime launched a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters during the “Damascus Spring.” Since then, 400,000 people have died and millions have been forced from their homes.
“At least 20 different, horrific methods of torture used by the government of Syria have been extensively documented,” the investigators wrote in their report.
“These include administering electric shocks, the burning of body parts, pulling off nails and teeth, mock executions, folding detainees into a car tire, and crucifying or suspending individuals from one or two limbs for prolonged periods, often in combination with severe beating.”
The three-person panel investigated more than 100 detention facilities in Syria. Their findings are based on more than 2,500 interviews over the past 10 years. They concluded that none of the warring parties in Syria have respected the rights of detainees. Tens of thousands of people remain unaccounted for, missing without a trace.
“One decade in, it is abundantly clear that it is the children, women and men of Syria who have paid the price when the Syrian government unleashed overwhelming violence to quell dissent,” commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro told the General Assembly.
“Opportunistic foreign funding, arms and other support to the warring parties poured fuel on this fire that the world has been content to watch burn. Terrorist groups proliferated and inflicted their ideology on the people, particularly on women, girls and boys, as well as ethnic and religious minorities and dissenting civilians.”
He added: “Pro-government forces have deliberately and repeatedly targeted hospitals and medical facilities, decimating a medical sector prior to the arrival of the most catastrophic global pandemic in a century.
“The use of chemical weapons has been tolerated, the free flow of humanitarian aid instrumentalized, diverted and hampered — even with Security Council authorization.”
Representatives of more than 30 UN member states addressed the General Assembly. Most were united in calling for justice for the victims of the conflict and for the perpetrators to be held accountable. Without this, they agreed, a national reconciliation will be impossible.
The sentencing by a German court last week of former Syrian secret agent Eyad Al-Gharib to four-and-a-half years in prison, on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, was hailed as historic.
He had been accused of rounding up peaceful anti-government protesters and delivering them to a detention center where they were tortured. The verdict marked the first time a court outside Syria has ruled on state-sponsored torture by members of the Assad regime.
Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s permanent representative to the UN, said the verdict of the Koblenz state court sends a clear message to Assad that “whoever commits such crimes cannot be safe anywhere.” He added that “Assad’s state has turned the cradle of civilization into a torture chamber.”
The German envoy added that he deplores the “inhumane” decision by China and Russia in July 2020 to veto a UN resolution calling for two border crossings between Turkey and Syria to remain open so that humanitarian aid could be delivered to millions of civilians in the northwest of Syria.
Barbara Woodward, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, said that each of the 32 instances of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against civilians constitutes a war crime. She vowed that Britain “will respond more robustly to any further use of chemical weapons” by the regime.
Only Russia defended the Assad regime. Stepan Kuzmenkov, senior counsellor at the Russian mission to the UN, dismissed Tuesday’s meeting, saying it was based on “accusations, lies and conjecture.”
He said the Syrian regime is being attacked because its “independence cause does not suit a number of Western countries who continue to promote practices of using force, or the threat of force, in international relations.”
Kuzmenkov criticized his UN colleagues for “not talking about the real problem: terrorism” and for “using human rights discourse to resolve short-term political goals.” He reiterated Moscow’s stance that unilateral sanctions are to blame for the suffering in Syria.
At no point in his remarks did he mention the subject at hand: torture in Syrian prisons.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry’s report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on March 11.
Despite all the misery, pain and loss during the prolonged conflict, Syrians still cling to hope for a better future.
“Assad’s Syria is a torture state enabled by some members of this assembly — but it will become my home again,” Mustafa told the General Assembly.
“Who am I to say there is no hope? Who are you to say that?”

Myanmar youth defy lethal crackdown

Myanmar youth defy lethal crackdown
Updated 03 March 2021

Myanmar youth defy lethal crackdown

Myanmar youth defy lethal crackdown
  • Fear of losing future pushing young people to partake in deadly protests

YANGON: Two days after Myanmar marked its bloodiest day in weeks of protests, thousands of residents returned to the streets on Tuesday in a massive show of force against the military rule.

At least 18 were killed and dozens injured in the anti-coup demonstrations on Sunday after police opened fire in different parts of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, after attempts to disperse the crowds with stun grenades, tear gas and shots failed.

Experts say the unrelenting protests are part of the public’s fight “to unblock their future.”

“The youth are more resentful now as they feel their future has been blocked,” Aung Thu Nyeen, director of the Institute of Strategy and Policy – Myanmar, a Yangon-based think tank, told Arab News.

The political analyst commended the country’s “brave young people who are collectively leading the protests against the military dictatorship.”

Myanmar has been in a state of unrest since Feb. 1, when military leaders seized power after overthrowing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup followed a landslide win by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in the November general election. But the army rejected the results, citing poll irregularities and fraud.

During the takeover, the military detained key government leaders — including Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and several prominent activists — and declared a state of emergency, along with an announcement that the country would be under military rule for at least a year.

Myanmar has witnessed widespread protests ever since, with thousands ignoring a ban on public gatherings.

“No one can accept this military coup anymore,” Nyeen said, adding that this year’s “uprising against the military was much bigger than the 2007 and 1988 pro-democracy revolutions, as almost everyone across the country is participating in the protests.”

The past few weeks have seen some of the biggest public demonstrations in the country’s history, even as military leaders ordered the mobilization of soldiers to quell the latest wave of protests.

On Tuesday, too, there were attempts to crack down on protesters, with roads in Yangon and elsewhere in Myanmar blocked with makeshift barricades.

However, despite their fear, some of the residents said they had devised ways to protect themselves.

“Of course we are afraid, but we can’t hide at home at this time. We have to protest, and we also have to protect ourselves,” Ko Latt, a 23-year-old protester and member of Thingangyun township’s “Tank” team, told Arab News. 

The “Tank” teams comprise protestors in their twenties and above who — armed with tear gas-proof masks, homemade bulletproof jackets and other protective gear — defy the lethal crackdowns with daily demonstrations.

Analysts said that most protesters are youth who “have realized that they needed to rely on themselves to stand up against the military.”

“Myanmar has been living in a dictatorship for over 60 years, and the young people from Generation Z cannot accept to lose their future. So, they have decided to create their future themselves,” Than Soe Naing, a Yangon-based peace monitor and political commentator, told Arab News.

“They have decided that the fight against the military dictators must be the last fight of their generation. So, they will keep on fighting,” he added.

Denouncing the deadly crackdown by the military and police on Sunday as “the worst and most cunning crime against the people,” Naing said the military is up against a formidable opponent this time as they are fighting with tech-savvy youngsters.

“This revolution is led by Generation Z. The technologies they have are modern…It would seem we are getting much closer to winning,” he said.

And despite Nyeen expressing concern for the young protestors’ safety as the “troops have a good surveillance system fitted with drones,” Naing dismissed the concerns.

“At least 30 million people have participated in the protests so far. Despite the forceful crackdown, there have been only 30 deaths. It shows that the protesters are more clever than ever. So, I think this revolution will conclude successfully by the end of March,” Naing said.

Remains of 4 Filipinos killed by Daesh found in Libyan cemetery

Remains of 4 Filipinos killed by Daesh found in Libyan cemetery
Updated 03 March 2021

Remains of 4 Filipinos killed by Daesh found in Libyan cemetery

Remains of 4 Filipinos killed by Daesh found in Libyan cemetery
  • Due to the unstable security situation in Libya, the embassy was unable to send a team to Derna to search for the OFWs

MANILA: The remains of four Filipino oil workers abducted and killed by Daesh in Libya have been located after a search lasting almost six years.

The discovery of the bodies in a Libyan cemetery will pave the way for their final journey back home to the Philippines, officials said.

“We found the gravesite of the four OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) kidnapped and killed by (Daesh) six years ago,” Elmer Cato, Philippine Embassy charge d’affaires and head of mission, told Arab News on Tuesday.

Philippine officials had been working with groups in Libya to locate and recover the remains of the four OFWs – Donato Santiago, Gregorio Titan, Roladan Blaza, and Wilson Eligue – after they, along with two co-workers from Austria and the Czech Republic, were abducted by Daesh militants who attacked the Ghani oilfield in southern Libya on March 6, 2015.

Santiago was from the city of Mandaluyong in Metro Manila, Titan and Blaza from Laguna, and Eligue from Bataan. The victims were employed by Austrian contractor Value Added Oilfield Services (VAOS).

Reports said that Daesh members had broken into the company compound, killing security guards, before kidnapping the foreign workers.

“On Monday – five days before the sixth year of their disappearance – we broke the news to their families in the Philippines that we had finally found them. They were buried in a cemetery in the eastern city of Derna,” Cato said.

Earlier, Cato had revealed that there had been no leads in the case until 2017 when authorities in Derna said that the abducted workers had been executed by retreating Daesh fighters. The news came after a video showing their execution was found on a laptop seized from the slain Daesh fighters in the coastal city of Derna.

However, the victims’ bodies could not be found.

A year later, in 2018, Cato said that the Philippines Embassy had been informed that the remains of the four Filipinos may have been among those recovered by the Libyan Red Crescent in various parts of Derna and later buried there.

But due to the unstable security situation in Libya, the embassy was unable to send a team to Derna to search for the OFWs. It was only in October last year that embassy officials were able to travel to Benghazi in the hope of locating the bodies.

On Monday, Cato and other embassy officials were taken by Libyan military authorities to the Dahr Ahmar Islamic Cemetery, 10 kilometers from Derna, where they said the four OFWs and their Austrian and Czech co-workers were buried.

The embassy interviewed Libyan Red Crescent volunteers who were part of the team that had retrieved and later buried the remains of the six, as well as another volunteer who oversees burials at the cemetery.

“The volunteers were convinced that the bodies they buried there belonged to the six kidnapped foreign oil workers,” an embassy statement said.

Cato added that the Office of Migrant Workers Affairs (OMWA) had been keeping the families of the four OFWs up to date with developments and was arranging for forensic experts to assist in identifying the remains and bring them home.

“Before I left for Tripoli in 2019, I met with the families of our four kababayan (countrymen) who had been waiting for four years for news about the fate of their loved ones. I promised them that I would do everything I could to find them.

“And when we did, with the help of Libyan authorities, I somehow felt relieved knowing that I did not bring those families down, that they will soon be able to find the closure they have been waiting for. After six long years, the families of our four kababayan will finally find closure. We are indebted to our Libyan friends for making this possible,” he said.

As of 2019, there were more than 2,000 Filipinos in Libya, although fighting between rival militias for control of Tripoli and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has prompted some to return.

UK’s Labour faces legal complaint for hiring alleged ex-Israeli intelligence operator

UK’s Labour faces legal complaint for hiring alleged ex-Israeli intelligence operator
Updated 02 March 2021

UK’s Labour faces legal complaint for hiring alleged ex-Israeli intelligence operator

UK’s Labour faces legal complaint for hiring alleged ex-Israeli intelligence operator
  • Assaf Kaplan alleged to have worked for cyber branch of Israeli Defense Forces
  • Complaint brought by lawyers representing Palestinian Labour member

LONDON: Lawyers acting on behalf of a Palestinian activist and Labour member have complained to the opposition party over its recent hire of an alleged former Israeli intelligence operator in a social media strategy role.

The party hired Assaf Kaplan as a social listening and organizing manager, described as “a crucial new role at the heart of Labour’s new approach to digital campaigning.”

The complaint from Bindmans solicitors alleges that Kaplan worked for Unit 8200, the cyber branch of the Israel Defense Forces, from 2009 to 2013.

The lawyers outline the unit’s controversial surveillance practices against Palestinian civilians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 2014, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations that focused on the occupied Palestinian territories because of civilians being surveilled, which they feared could be used for blackmail.

It is unclear what Kaplan did within the unit or whether he had any knowledge of the monitoring of citizens.

The job description for his new role at the Labour Party says the worker “will help to move the social media listening framework of the party to be laser focused on those we need to win over to form the next government.”

Bindmans solicitors say the party’s stance on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories should have ruled out Kaplan from the role. They have urged Labour to explain the decision.

Kaplan’s hiring has also drawn a complaint from former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Adnan Hmidan, who Bindmans are representing, was born to Palestinian parents who were forcibly removed to Jordan.

Bindmans’ letter states that Labour conferences under various leaderships have criticized Israeli annexation plans as breaching international law.

The lawyers say if Labour knew about Kaplan’s background, it has failed to consider the views of its Palestinian members, and if it did not know, it has failed to show due diligence.

Hmidan said he is concerned about the personal data of party members that Kaplan could access in his role.

UK government may try to avoid vote on foreign aid cuts

UK government may try to avoid vote on foreign aid cuts
Updated 02 March 2021

UK government may try to avoid vote on foreign aid cuts

UK government may try to avoid vote on foreign aid cuts
  • Reduction of spending in Yemen prompts questions in Parliament
  • There is enough opposition to suggest a vote could be defeated

LONDON: The UK government may cut the amount of money it spends on foreign aid without pushing a law through Parliament, so as to avoid MPs rejecting it.

The government announced last year that it planned to reduce overseas aid from 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to 0.5 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it has faced criticism over the effect this could have in certain parts of the world.

In particular, a reduction in the UK’s spending in war-torn, famine-hit Yemen from £164 million ($233.36 million) to £87 million has met with stern opposition at home and abroad, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling it “a death sentence” for millions of people.

It has met hostility from opposition MPs and government backbenchers in large enough numbers to suggest that a vote on amending foreign aid could be defeated.

On Tuesday, Middle East and North Africa Minister James Cleverly was asked by Conservative MP Damian Green in the UK’s House of Commons whether he could “give a commitment today that further cuts won’t be made until that necessary legislation promised by ministers to this House to enact this policy has been put to a vote, so that this House can express a view?”

Cleverly failed to say if legislation would be brought to Parliament, saying he “envisaged that (the) 0.7 percent (spending) target may not be met,” and “the government is well able to listen to the mood of the House without legislation.”

Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall challenged this suggestion, saying: “If the government is so reassured by its position, then I suggest it brings a vote to the House on this issue, and they can truly gauge the strength of feeling.”

Whether the government would be able to legally cut the foreign aid budget, currently enshrined in UK law, without a vote in Parliament is unclear, and would likely be subject to judicial review if attempted.

There have also been suggestions that a vote could be attached to other votes over the upcoming UK budget, set to be announced on Wednesday, to reduce the likelihood of it being rejected. The UK is the only G7 country to have proposed reducing its foreign aid this year.