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Key global events in 2017: A year of shocks and surprises

From the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, to the escalation of the North Korea crisis, and Brexit negotiations, 2017 has been a rather eventful year.

The Middle East witnesses several key events such as Qatar diplomatic crisis, Muhammad Bin Salman becoming Crown Prince, and Yemen’s war further worsened.

Europe saw Macron as youngest president of France, and  German chancellor Merkel receives fourth term. Both leaders attempt to take reigns of world leadership. In Africa, Zimbabwe saw the reign of dictator Robert Mugabe comes to an end.

US withdrew from Paris Agreement and the nation saw record hurricanes. Catalonia and Kurdistan had stalled independence bids, while Iraq declared victory over ISIS terror group.

Ratko Maldic, the Butcher of Bosnia, was found guilty of genocide. There were terror attacks in Manchester, London and Las Vegas. A popular campaign started after sexual harassment cases surfaced in Hollywood.

Here are the 20 key events which marked 2017:

Donald Trump inaugurated as US President

Donald Trump takes power as the 45th president of the United States, vowing to follow a policy based on “America first” after victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

However, Trump’s election was greeted with concern around the world due to isolationist foreign policy. Suspicions of collusion between his election campaign and Russia still dog his presidency as further investigations are underway.

Millions of people worldwide join the Women’s March in response to Trump’s inauguration becoming the largest single-day protest in American history and the largest worldwide protest in recent history.

Through early morning tweets, Trump unpicks the achievements of his predecessor, Barack Obama including attempting to repeal his signature healthcare deal, and imposing a ban on immigration from eight predominantly Muslim countries.

He pulls out of several international agreements: on climate, free trade, immigration and UNESCO. Trump also send shockwaves around the world when he recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Brexit negotiations and UK elections

The United Kingdom on March 29 triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting the Brexit Negotiations, the talks to leave the European Union, nine months after British voters opted to leave in a referendum.

On June 8 Britain votes in a snap general election called by Prime Minister Theresa May but Conservatives instead suffer a major setback and lose their majority. May said she would not tolerate any attempt in parliament to block Brexit.

May said that there was “no turning back” and insisted that the UK would be leaving the EU on March 29, 2019. After months of negotiations, on December 8, a deal was reached on Brexit divorce terms.

Macron become youngest French President; Merkel get fourth term

On May 7, Emmanuel Macron, 39, wins a resounding victory over far-right rival Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election becoming the youngest leader of France since Napolean.

With US receding to Trump and UK tied with Brexit, Macron attempts to take the reign on leadership  pleading for a new era of European integration, calling on his EU partners particularly Germany to raise their ambitions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in the general elections, a historic moment joining the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany.

This was a watershed moment for Merkel, often called the most powerful woman on the global stage, as her popularity regains after allowing over a million migrants in the country in 2015.

However, her victory was clouded by the hard-right winning first seats in parliament. Right-wing parties also made inroads in Netherlands but were unsuccessful.

Saudi Arabia, Arab states sever ties with Qatar

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar on 5 June leading to diplomatic crisis.

Egypt, Yemen, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government later followed suit. They also closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft. Oman did not cut ties with Qatar, while Kuwait has offered to mediate in the dispute.

The severing of relations included withdrawing ambassadors, and imposing trade and travel bans. Saudi Arabia cited Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism as the main reason for their actions.

Qatar’s neighbours presented a list of demands in return for ending the restrictions including curbing ties with Iran, stop all funding for terrorists, and shut down Al Jazeera and other Qatar-funded news outlets.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister said on 5 July that its neighbours were demanding to surrender their sovereignty.

Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman and anti-corruption purge

Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of Saudi King Salman, was named heir to the throne as Crown Prince in a June reshuffle that sidelined his older cousin, Prince Muhammed bin Nayef.

He already serves as defense minister and has been responsible at the same time for running the war in Yemen, dictating an energy policy and behind the plans to build a future after oil.

On November 5, Saudi Arabia detains eleven princes including billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, four ministers and dozens of former ministers as part of its anti-corruption campaign.

Saudi Arabia has also announced an independent economic zone on the Red Sea and also plans to sell part of oil giant Aramco next year.

In a historic move, Saudi Arabia also announced to lift the long-standing ban on women driving next year, the last country in the world to do so. It also lifted ban on cinemas.

North Korea crisis

Tensions remained high on the Korean peninsula in 2017. On February 11 North Korea prompts international condemnation by test firing a ballistic missile across the Sea of Japan.

On September 3, North Korea conducts its sixth and largest nuclear test. Later that month North Korea said it had successfully tested a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile that put entire US mainland within range.

On November 29 North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un says that his country has completed its “state nuclear force” declaring it had achieved its long-held goal of becoming a nuclear power.

Trump vowed to impose additional “major sanctions” against North Korea. He also threatened with “fire and fury to utterly destroy” the regime if it continues to threaten the US and its allies.

United Nations chief has warned the world against “sleepwalking into war” over North Korea calling for dialogue on denuclearization, while China has said it will not allow war on the Korean peninsula.

Rohingya ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Myanmar army

On August 25, the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar launches a crackdown on Rohingyas in the westernmost state Rakhine. The UN estimates that early 650,000 Rohingyashave fled to find refuge in Bangladesh.

The UN has denounced the “ethnic cleansing”, while the UN human rights chief ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein has described the crackdown as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The stream of desperate refugees who escape across the border bring with them stories of rape, murder and the torching of villages by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced rising global pressure to solve the crisis, and criticism for failing to speak up for the Rohingya or condemn festering anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.

Supporters say she does not have the power to stop the powerful military, but continues to face the brunt of criticism and see several of her honours and awards revoked.

Catalonia declares independence

On October 1, an independence referendum is held in Spain’s wealthy northeastern Catalonia region which includes Barcelona, deemed illegal by the central government.

The Madrid government moves to assert control but Catalan lawmakers vote on October 27 to declare independence from Spain calling new regional elections. Catalonia’s government is dismissed and the region’s autonomy is suspended.

Deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont is charged with sedition and rebellion and takes refuge in Belgium.  He called for peaceful “democratic opposition” to the central government’s takeover of the region.

Several European countries, including France and Germany, and the United States also rejected the independence declaration.

Referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region

On September 25, Iraq’s Kurds announced a massive “yes” vote for independence following a referendum, which Iraq’s central government rejected as illegal and sparked international concern.

However, Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence and should instead open the door to negotiations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi refused and said there was no question of using its results as the basis for talks. The central government imposed a ban on flights while Iran stopped fuel supply.

By October 15, the crisis escalates into a short-lived armed conflict. Amid the fallout from a controversial independence referendum, Barzani said he was stepping down as president of the autonomous region.

US withdraw Paris Agreement; Climate Change and Hurricane Harvey

President Donald Trump declared that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement and negotiate a new global deal on climate change.

The deal took nearly two decades of haggling to conclude and was signed by 195 nations. However, Trump complained that the accord signed under Barack Obama gives other countries an unfair advantage over US industry and destroys jobs.

This sparked an instant wave of indignation both at home and abroad. After Palestine and Syria become the last two countries to ratify the agreement, the US remains the last country out of the global pact.

The year saw a series of natural disasters, including record-breaking hurricanes, earthquakes and devastating fires and is set to be one of the three warmest years ever recorded.

Hurricane Harvey strikes the United States and Caribbean causing record-breaking floods and becoming the costliest natural disaster in US history.

US drops largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan

US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat, targeting an Islamic State base in Afghanistan.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb — better known by its nickname, the “Mother Of All Bombs” — hit a tunnel complex in Nangarhar province. The huge bomb, delivered via an MC-130 transport plane, has a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT.

The deployment killed at least 95 militants. Nangarhar is a hotbed of militancy and US forces have conducted a number of air strikes on terrorist bases in the area.

UK terror attacks: Manchester and Westminster attacks

On May 22, twenty-two people, including children, were killed and dozens injured when a bomb exploded at a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester.

This was Britain’s deadliest terror attack in 12 years. The suspected suicide bomber was identified as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a university dropout of Libyan origin.

On March 22, six people including the attacker died and 50 people were injured in a terror attack near the Houses of Parliament. The suspect Khalid Masood  drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. and ran towards Parliament before being shot dead by police.

On 3 June an attack left seven people dead and 48 injured. A van hit pedestrians on London Bridge before three men stabbed people in nearby Borough Market. The suspects were shot dead by police minutes later.

Las Vegas shooting is deadliest in US history

Fifty-eight people are killed and 546 injured when a gunman opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas on October 1, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

The shooter, Stephen Paddock, with multiple machine guns rained down gunfire from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel to a country music festival. The barrage of bullets from the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 22,000 people lasted several minutes.

Paddock lived in a retirement community. Police said they believed he acted alone and did not know why he attacked the crowd. There is no known motive for the attack with his girlfriend saying that he has a “clear conscience.”

ISIS expelled, but not eliminated

Iraq on December 9 declares victory in its war to expel the Islamic State terror group, but experts warn that terror group remains a threat.

On July 10, Iraq’s third largest city Mosul was liberated after three years. A month earlier the historic Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul was destroyed.

The whereabouts of the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who proclaimed a “caliphate” spanning Syria and Iraq from the pulpit of the mosque are unknown.

In Syria the group has also lost most of the territory it had conquered. On October 17, the de-facto capital Raqqa is declared fully liberated by the Syrian armed forces. Around the world numerous deadly attacks, from Britain to Egypt, have been claimed or blamed on the group this year.

‘Butcher of Bosnia’ found guilty of genocide

Former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of genocide and war crimes in the brutal Balkans conflicts over two decades ago.

The trial of the man dubbed “The Butcher of Bosnia” was the last before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He was found guilty on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-1995 war that killed 100,000 people and displaced 2.2 million.

Caught after 16 years on the run, Mladic was found guilty of the 1995 massacre in northeastern Srebrenica, where troops under his command slaughtered almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The killings were one of the darkest episodes in the conflict and have been called the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

As the UN court handed its last sentences, another Bosnian Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak died after apparently drinking poison in dramatic courtroom scenes after his 20-year jail term was upheld.

Robert Mugabe resigns as President on Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe resigned as president of Zimbabwe ending the curtain on his 37-year reign of brutality and autocratic control.

Mugabe, 93, saw power crumble within days of a military takeover and tens of thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans took to the streets to demand that he quits.

Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe almost unopposed since the country won independence from Britain but his efforts to position his wife Grace as his successor triggered fury in the military that had underpinned his regime.

His grip on power was shattered when armored military vehicles took to the streets, blockaded parliament and soldiers placed him under house arrest. Mugabe has been immunity from prosecution and allowed to live in the country.

His deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as the new president of Zimbabwe. The 75-year-old known as the Crocodile as demand an end to Western sanctions.

Weinstein Effect and the #MeToo campaign

In early October 2017, Harvey Weinstein, a prominent film producer and executive, was accused by dozens of women of engaging in sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape.

More than 80 women in the film industry subsequently accused Weinstein of such acts including prominent actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorovino.

The scandal triggered many similar allegations against powerful men around the world, and led to the ousting of many of them from their positions.

It also led a great number of women to share their own experiences of sexual assault, harassment, or rape on social media under the hashtag #MeToo. The scandal’s impact came to be called the “Weinstein effect”.

The extraordinary elevation of Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping started a second five-year term and was elevated to the pantheon of China’s most powerful leaders as his name was enshrined in the Communist Party constitution alongside Chairman Mao.

Xi’s eponymous guiding philosophy was also included laying the foundation for him to remain China’s paramount leader far beyond his upcoming second five-year term.

Communist China’s founder Mao Zedong, and the architect of its market reforms, Deng Xiaoping, are the only other Chinese leaders to have their names in the document.

Xi has sought to portray himself as a responsible global leader and some of his goals such the Belt and Road Initiative hint that he foresees himself staying at the centre of China’s political life for years to come.

Yemen conflict and killing of Saleh

Yemen’s protracted bloodshed compounded the woes of one of the Arab world’s poorest countries and left at least 10,000 dead as hunger and disease have spread.

Splits emerge in the rebel camp, with the Houthis on August 23, 2017 calling former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh a “traitor” after he dismissed them as a militia in a speech.

On December 2, Saleh reaches out to the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis, offering to “turn the page” if it lifts a crippling blockade on the country. On December 4, Saleh was killed south of Sanaa.

In November 5, Saudi Arabia intercepted and destroyed a “ballistic missile” northeast of Riyadh. Disease and starvation plague the nation as the WHO states that more than 200,000 are affected by cholera.

Trump recognises Jerusalem as capital of Israel

President Donald Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a historic decision that overturns decades of US policy triggering a fresh violence in the Middle East.

He also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The decision prompted an almost universal diplomatic backlash and fears of new bloodshed in the Middle East.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Trump’s “deplorable and unacceptable” move signified America’s withdrawal as a sponsor of the peace process. Hamas, the Palestinian movement that runs the Gaza Strip, warned that Trump had opened “the gates of hell on US interests in the region.”

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