Sham Jaff
Last updated: 16 February, 2014

This week’s top news stories from the Middle East

Your Middle East's Sham Jaff looks back at the events that caught our attention this week. From the Syria peace talks and Tunisia’s constitution to Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia.

The Syria peace talks have begun again: as the warring sides are still blaming each other for escalating violence and difficulties getting aid to the besieged city of Homs, the US and Russia vowed to help unblock the talks. Unfortunately, after six days of fractious negotiations in Geneva, no date was set for a new round of talks and the discussion so far have produced little in the way of tangible results.

At the same time, Kuwait National Petroleum Co. said Monday it has awarded a $12-billion project to British, US and Japanese-led consortia to boost capacity at oil refineries and make production more environmentally friendly.

Tunisia’s new constitution came into effect after two years of acrimonious debate. On the very same day, Yemen’s president and main parties agreed Monday to transform the unrest-riven country into a six-region federation as part of a political transition.

Fortunately, Qatar issued new guidelines Tuesday aimed at protecting thousands of expatriate workers employed on construction projects for the finals of the 2022 World Cup.

On Thursday, Spanish archaeologists discovered a 3,600-year-old Egyptian mummy inside a wooden sarcophagus adorned with rare feather drawings in the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt’s antiquities ministry said.

The day after, thousands of Libyans took to the streets for the second consecutive Friday to protest against a decision by the interim parliament to extend its mandate.

“After 10 months of efforts, of patience, a government protecting the national interest is born,” Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Saturday unveiled a compromise government (24-member government including only one woman), capping 10 months of political wrangling during which the war in neighbouring Syria exacerbated sectarian tensions.

On a more lighthearted note…

Red roses lurk hidden in flower shop back rooms and heart-shaped chocolates are sold under the counter, but Saudis still manage to buy Valentine’s gifts and defy the religious police: “I’ve hidden everything red in the shop, so when a religious police patrol comes along, they find nothing to complain about.”

The Lebanese social media community mobilized behind #StripForJackie, expressing their support for Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun after the Sports Minister Faisal Karam asked the Lebanese Olympic Committee for an investigation due to a semi-nude photo shoot.