Feb. 17 Munich, Germany: The 55th Munich Security Conference ended on Feb. 17 after three days of events, deliberation and debates designed to build policy surrounding international security while tackling impediments to global security. “The Munich security conference is one place where ideas can be tested, alliances can be developed and preparations can be made to move peace processes forward or to start engaging in a peacemaking effort,” Conference Chief Wolfgang Ischinger said via Deutsche Welle. Around 35 leaders, 80 foreign ministers and 600 policy experts were in attendance, with topics surrounding issues such as trade relations, security in the Sahel, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, climate change and the Syrian conflict. German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a standing ovation for a speech critical of United States foreign policy such as the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the more recent decision to withdraw from Syria.
Feb. 17–22 Pakistan; India; China: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) embarked on his tour of Asia in an effort to strengthen diplomatic ties with Pakistan, India and China, while also looking to boost the kingdom’s image following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to Middle East Eye, MBS arrived in Pakistan on Feb. 17 where he signed an investment agreement with the country in the amount of $20 billion and ordered the release of over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners held in Saudi prisons. He then traveled to India on Feb. 19, where he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss infrastructure, trade and intelligence sharing in the wake of the most recent surge in violence in Kashmir, as reported by Al Jazeera. The two countries signed five agreements in total before the crown prince departed for his final destination, arriving in China—Saudi Arabia’s biggest trade partner—on Feb. 20. During his two-day visit, Saudi Aramco signed a $10 billion agreement for a petrochemical project with China, while the crown prince supported China’s right to conduct anti-terrorism measures in a blow to Uighur rights activists and supporters.
Feb. 18 Costa Rica: For the first time since 2014, the Central American country has a confirmed case of measles after an unvaccinated 5-year-old child arrived in the country on Feb. 18 from France with his parents on vacation. According to The Independent, the boy is being treated under isolation at the Monseñor Sanabria Hospital. However, children at the boy’s school in France have also been diagnosed with measles. The Health Ministry of Costa Rica is urging anyone who may have come in contact with the boy or is exhibiting symptoms of measles including fever and skin rashes to contact health authorities immediately. The World Health Organization reported a 30 percent increase in measles cases between 2016 and 2017 amid a growing global movement against vaccinations.
Feb. 18-23 India-administered Kashmir: Only days after a suicide blast conducted by the Pakistani-based Jaish-e-Mohammed rebel group, which killed 42 of India’s security forces, at least nine more people were killed while exchanging fire on Feb. 18, including both armed rebels and Indian soldiers, as reported by Al Jazeera. In response to the surge in violence and India’s decision last week to recall its ambassador to Islamabad, Pakistan recalled their ambassador from New Delhi that day as well. India responded to the growing unrest by conducting mass arrests of separatists, including top leaders and activists such as JEM Chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz. At least 150 people were arrested during the raids which began on the evening of Feb. 22 and continued into the next day.
Feb. 24 Bangladesh: Bangladeshi special forces opened fire on a suspect who attempted to hijack a plane flying from the capital of Dhaka to Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. According to eye witness accounts reported by Deutsche Welle, the man fired a gun twice after the plane took off while claiming he had a bomb, after which the Biman Bangladeshi aircraft made an emergency landing at the Shah Amanat International Airport in the city of Chattogram. Special forces then stormed the aircraft, at which point they wounded the suspect when he resisted arrest. All 150 passengers on board were evacuated safely. However, the suspect died later from his wounds.
Feb. 24 Egypt: The first ever EU-Arab League summit opened in the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as 24 European heads of state and government arrived with only France, Spain, Lithuania and Latvia sending foreign ministers in their stead, Deutsche Welle reported. A majority of the 22 Arab League member states were in attendance with the exception of Syria, whose membership has been suspended due to the ongoing civil war. Migration, security, climate change, Middle East peace process, trade, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the continued wars raging in Syria, Yemen and Libya were the main topics of discussion on the agenda as reported by Middle East Eye. The summit comes amid continued uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU and tension between European leaders and the Trump Administration over Middle East policy.