MM Stock

Mail Magazine to RSS

Daily Brief: Syria Peace Talks Begin in Astana

If you are unable to see the message below, click here to view.

January 23, 2017

Daily News Brief

Blog Facebook Twitter Linkedin Youtube RSS


Syria Peace Talks Begin in Astana

Representatives from Syrian opposition groups and the government of Bashar al-Assad are meeting for the first time since early last year as peace talks sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran begin in Astana, Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said talks would end by midday on Tuesday (Reuters). Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko said the negotiations are an "additional step" (Al Jazeera) before talks expected to take place in Geneva next month. The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called a cease-fire negotiated by Russia and Turkey "clinically dead" and reported air raids on rebel-held areas of western Syria and insurgent shelling in Aleppo. The administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump decided not to send a delegation (WSJ) to the talks despite receiving an invitation and will be represented by the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan.


"[Retaking the city of Aleppo] was a huge boost to Assad, who in 2015 had been within weeks of losing control of Damascus and probably the country. Foreign powers who backed the opposition, and once demanded his removal as a condition for peace, have accepted that is no longer a politically feasible demand. The election of Donald Trump as US president further diminished prospects for the opposition. His predecessor, Barack Obama, had denounced Assad and offered limited political and military support to the ‘moderate opposition.’ President Trump, by contrast, has said that his focus in Syria will be fighting Islamic State, and has talked about working more closely with Russia to do so," Emma Graham-Harrison writes for the Guardian.

"Unlike the acts of extremists Islamic State (IS), and Jabhat Nusra, the actual words and deeds of Syria's forgotten revolutionaries have rarely been translated and broadcast by the western media. Abo Mariam and Abdul Wahab Mulla are two Syrians who even educated readers have probably never heard of. ... These activists routinely condemned every rebel-attack on government-held areas resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians and demanded accountability for all war crimes. Not only do the Assad regime, JFS and their extremist allies censor these voices, but they are omitted by those who, to this day, still do not believe that Syria had a true, organic uprising," Loubna Mrie writes for The New Arab.

"The war in Syria has no boundaries. While we 'Make America Great Again' we must do things that matter to our national security as part of that overall mission. The failure to fund critical humanitarian programs for children in refugee camps, for example, means that an entire generation of Syrian children will be lost. This represents a major downward pull on global stability. The war in Syria is not just a Syrian issue, or a Middle Eastern issue. It is an American issue and a strategic threat," Samantha Vinograd writes for USA Today


China’s Birth Rate Rises After End of One-Child Policy

The number of children born in China rose to 18.5 million in 2016 (SCMP), an increase of 11.5 percent over the previous year, and some 45 percent of those newborns had at least one older sibling (BBC). In 2015, China relaxed its one-child policy (Guardian), which had been in place since the 1970s.

SOUTH KOREA: Vice Culture Minister Song Soo-keun apologized for her office’s drawing up a blacklist of artists (BBC) who were critical of the government in order to exclude them from public arts subsidies. Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun was arrested (AP) and resigned on Saturday. 


Uzbek President Proposes Ending Exit Visas

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed abolishing exit visas in Uzbekistan by June this year. Uzbekistan is the last of the former Soviet republics that requires its citizens to obtain official permission (RFE/RL) to leave the country.

INDIA: The Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, said he hopes Presidents Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin will work together toward creating world peace (VOA). The leader said in November he had "no worries" about Trump's election and looked forward to meeting him.


Israel Approves East Jerusalem Settlement Homes

Israel approved hundreds of new settlement homes in East Jerusalem (BBC) as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump is "serious" about moving its embassy from Tel Aviv (AP) to the city. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Jordanian King Abdullah II (Haaretz) on Sunday to discuss steps to take if such a move happened. 


Gambia’s Jammeh to Live in Exile in Equatorial Guinea

Former President Yahya Jammeh, who agreed to step down on Friday after ruling the country for twenty-two years, is expected to live in exile in Equatorial Guinea (Reuters). President Adama Barrow accused Jammeh of plundering millions (Al Jazeera) from state coffers before departing and proposed creating a truth commission (Al Jazeera) to investigate past abuses in Gambia.

Mohamed Jallow lays out the key players in Gambia's political crisis in this CFR guest blog.

NIGERIA: The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is in talks with licensors to audit its four oil refineries (Africa News), with the goal of reaching a local refining capacity of 60 percent by the end of the year. NNPC reported a loss of nearly $42 million in the month of November due to pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft (Vanguard).


Erdogan Starts Campaign for Vote to Boost Powers

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began campaigning for a referendum (FT), expected in April, on constitutional amendments that will broaden the powers of the president and scrap the position of prime minister. Erdogan served as prime minister for a decade before becoming president; the changes would allow him to stay in office until 2029.

CFR's Steven A. Cook argues that presidential systems, like the one Erdogan seeks to formalize in Turkey, slide into authoritarianism more often than parliamentary systems. 

FRANCE: Former MEP and Education Minister Benoit Hamon and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls qualified for the Socialist primary runoff (FT) on January 29 after a first round of voting. France will hold presidential elections in April (EU Observer).


Trudeau to Meet Trump ‘Soon’

The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Donald J. Trump on Saturday and said the two discussed meeting "soon" (Globe and Mail). Canada’s ambassador to the United States indicated trade talks will go beyond discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to include issues involving only the two countries.

CUBA: More than one thousand Cubans who had expected to enter the United States are stranded on the border with Mexico (NYT) after former President Barack Obama ended the policy offering special immigration status to Cubans who arrived on U.S. soil.

Susan Kaufman Purcell discussed the future of U.S.-Cuba relations during this CFR Event. 


Council on Foreign Relations 58 East 68th Street New York, NY 10065
CFR does not share email addresses with third parties.

Forward This Email | Subscribe to CFR Newsletters | Manage My Subscriptions | Unsubscribe

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -