Top of the Agenda: Member of EU Syria Delegation Killed in Damascus
A member of the European Union's delegation in Syria was killed in a rocket attack in a Damascus suburb (BBC). EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Ahmad Shihadeh, an EU policy officer, had been providing humanitarian help in Darayya, to the southwest of the capital. The EU withdrew international staff and closed its Damascus office in December amid worsening violence, although local Syrian staff remained. Shihadeh's death comes as Britain and France raise pressure (Deutschewelle) on fellow EU members to lift a ban on supplying arms to Syria, where the civil war has claimed 100,000 lives and driven more thanone million refugees to neighboring countries.
"Washington's tepid involvement in Syria has created openings for other players to exploit the vacuum to their advantage. Jihadists from neighboring countries have poured into Syria. Homegrown Islamists with strict moral codes have gained power. As they increase their profile, the influence of secularist brigades willing to work with Western powers has diminished," writes Barak Barfi for Syria Deeply.
"The debate on arming the Syrian opposition is not going to go away. Non-lethal military aid looks to be the next step for some governments. The problem is that the arming debate is no simple one. More weapons may even up the contest but equally could increase the bloodshed in the short term," writes Jonathan Marcus for the BBC.
"The worry is not just that [Jabhat al-Nusra]— which has Ankara's political support and is also being armed by Turkey, according to EU diplomats — will be successful in Syria. EU officials are also concerned about what the European members of the group will do when they return to their home countries," writes Semih Idiz for Al-Monitor.
Filipino Clan Denies Death of Leader
The Muslim Filipino sect staking a territorial claim over Sabah, Malaysia, denied reports that one of its leaders was killed (WSJ) in an encounter with Malaysian security forces. Violence has continued during the month-long struggle over ownership of the commodities-rich state.
CHINA: The head of the People's Bank of China said that managing the risks of inflation was the bank's first priority (Reuters), vowing to control prices and pledging further capital market reforms.
CFR's Elizabeth Economy discusses the reforms China really needs in this blog post.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Five Die in Kashmir
Five policemen died in the first suicide attack in Kashmir in three years, marking further violence after skirmishes erupted earlier this year in the de facto frontier between India and Pakistan (HindustanTimes).
INDIA: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned Italy on Wednesday of consequences for bilateral ties if it did not send back two marines facing trial for the killing of two Indian fishermen (IndianExpress).
PKK Releases Turkish Hostages
The PKK, the Kurdish militant group, released eight Turkish hostages (Hurriyet) it had held in northern Iraq for two years, a move that is seen as a part of a bid to end the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the PKK.
Nigeria Pardons Presidential Ally
Nigeria's government pardoned former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a top ally of President Goodluck Jonathan, allowing him to run for office again (BBC). Alamieyeseigha was convicted of stealing millions of dollars and was released in 2007, days after receiving a two-year sentence.
MADAGASCAR: Madagascar, which has been in a political crisis since December 2008, will hold presidential elections on May 8 (AEP).
Conclave Enters Second Day of Deliberation
Black smoke emerged from the Sistine chapel on Wednesday, indicating that a second and third round of voting by Roman Catholic cardinals failed to determine a two-thirds majority needed to elect a papal successor (FT). Up to two more rounds of voting are set to be held in the late afternoon.
UK: UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that Britain may consider vetoing an extension of the European Union's arms embargo (Guardian) on Syria if the situation deteriorates.
Falkland Lawmakers to Tour U.S., Latin America
Delegates from the Falkland Islands will be touring the United States and Latin America to drum up support following a referendum (MercoPress) that indicated an overwhelming majority of Islanders wished to remain a British territory rather than be ruled by Argentina.
VENEZUELA: The International Energy Agency said that Venezuela's investment in oil exploration and production may continue a long-term decline if Vice President Nicolas Maduro is elected (Bloomberg).