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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 11, 2014

Top of the Agenda

UN Pressures Russia on Syria Aid Resolution

Diplomats at the United Nations plan to circulate a draft resolution to boost aid access in Syria to the fifteen-member Security Council on Tuesday with hopes that Moscow and Beijing will join the discussion (Reuters). Peace talks between the Syrian government and its opponents have resumed in Geneva while a fragile cease-fire in the central city of Homs has been extended to allow more civilians to leave an area besieged by Assad regime forces for more than 600 days (al-Jazeera). Those forces, which include an Iranian-trained militia, are furious over the UN humanitarian mission, which they see as aid for armed groups (WSJ). Meanwhile, after missing several deadlines in the international agreement for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, a third shipment of materials was shipped onboard a Norwegian vessel out of the country (BBC).

Analysis

"It is time for Mr. Obama to admit that his Syria policy is not working. No one is suggesting sending ground troops. But options range from doing more to arm the moderate opposition, to declaring a no-fly zone. Drones could strike al-Qaeda operatives in Syria; air power could create humanitarian zones near the Turkish and Jordanian borders. The U.S. could also take the lead in referring Mr. Assad and his aides for war crimes prosecution," writes CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot in the Financial Times.

"The recent attacks on the convoys attempting to deliver humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Homs are a case in point: The lifting of the sieges can't be left to the warring factions on the ground. An external, international force must be introduced to guarantee the safe passage of food and medicine to starving Syrian civilians," write Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi in the New York Times.

"It should now be obvious that Geneva is not a process that will end in Assad's departure: instead, it is designed to formalize the status quo with Assad in power and to normalize dealing with him. The redefinition of objectives in Syria is geared toward that end, affording the White House the ability to walk back the position it staked out in 2011, a position it now regrets," writes Tony Badran for NOW.

 

Pacific Rim

China, Taiwan Hold Historic Talks

Senior officials from Taiwan and China met in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing to talk about establishing representative offices in both countries. But the historic talks, the first since the 1949 creation of the People's Republic of China, didn't include sensitive issues such as a formal peace treaty (Reuters).

NORTH KOREA: The two Koreas are set to hold their highest-level meeting in years on Wednesday, with talks expected to include family reunions and the resumption of joint tourism projects (AP).

 

South and Central Asia

United States Shifts Afghanistan Exit Plans

The U.S. military has revised plans to exit Afghanistan to give the Obama administration more time to wait until President Hamid Karzai leaves office after presidential elections in the spring, the Wall Street Journal reports.

KAZAKHSTAN: The Tenge, Kazakhstan's currency, became the latest emerging market currency to plummet against the dollar after the central bank allowed a 19 percent depreciation to improve export competitiveness (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains currency crises in emerging markets.

 

Middle East

Turkey, Israel May Renew Diplomatic Ties

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Ankara may soon renew diplomatic ties with Israel. Relations were suspended when Israeli commandoes killed nine Turks in a raid on a flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip. Analysts say the prospect of a new pipeline shipping Israeli offshore gas to Turkey is fueling the rapprochement (Bloomberg).

 

Africa

Muslim Exodus May Cause Market Collapse in Central African Republic

Aid organizations are warning that the exodus of Muslims in the Central African Republic could lead to a market collapse, drying up food supplies in a country where 90 percent of the population eats just one meal a day (BBC).

CFR's John Campbell highlights three things to know about the crisis in the Central African Republic and what is needed for peace.

SOUTH SUDAN: Rebels in South Sudan boycotted meetings with government representatives and regional mediators, accusing the government of violating last month's cease-fire deal (WSJ).

 

Europe

French President on U.S. State Visit

President François Hollande is on a three-day state visit to the United States, the first by a French leader since 1996. The trip, designed to show the strong long-term ties between the two countries, will include talks focused on Iran's nuclear program, the civil war in Syria, and instability in Africa (Deutsche Welle).

BOSNIA: Antigovernment protestors shut down the center of Sarajevo and gathered in five other cities, the most widespread protests the country has seen in two decades (NYT).

 

Americas

Health Insurance Mandate Delayed for Some Employers

The Obama administration is giving employers with fifty to ninety-nine workers until 2016 to offer health insurance to their employees without a penalty. The extension, the second by the administration in a year, gives these employers two more years than originally envisioned in the Affordable Care Act (WaPo).

UNITED STATES: The Justice Department issued a policy memorandum that formally gives equal recognition to lawful same-sex marriages (al-Jazeera).

This CFR Backgrounder compares same-sex marriage laws in six countries.

 

 

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