Top of the Agenda: Greek Leaders Struggle to Form Government
The leaders of Greece's political parties failed to form a coalition government (WSJ) on Sunday after a day of negotiations led by Greek President Karolos Papoulias. Alexis Tsipras, the head of Greece's far-left Syriza party--which came in second place in last week's national elections--refused to participate in a government that would continue to implement the strict austerity policies mandated by the EU and IMF's latest bailout program. Papoulias called for new talks today, but Tsipras has declined to participate, increasing the likelihood of fresh elections for next month.
"This leaves us with a choice between default later and default now. I would prefer default later because it would make for a smoother fiscal adjustment, bring a few sensible reforms and increase the probability that Greece could stay in the eurozone," writes the Financial Times' Wolfgang Münchau.
"The idea of a chaotic Greek departure from the euro at a time of Franco-German disunion should terrify everyone it touches (the damage it would do the world economy may well be the biggest risk to Barack Obama's chances of re-election, for instance). With so much at stake, the rest of the euro zone urgently needs to lower the risk that contagion from a Greek exit would infect Portugal, Ireland and even Spain and Italy," says the Economist.
"The channels by which the Greek tragedy could flow beyond Greece are now bubbling above the surface. A deepening banking crisis in Spain is one. If Europe's savers come to believe that a euro in an account on one side of a border is worth much less than on the other, bank runs could overwhelm all the boundaries of the European periphery," argues this Guardian editorial.
Asian Countries Agree to Free-Trade Talks
The leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea, meeting at a trilateral summit in Beijing (WSJ), agreed Sunday to open free-trade negotiations this year. Trade among the three countries hit $690 billion in 2011.
MYANMAR: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is in Myanmar today (Yonhap) for talks with President Thein Sein, the first such visit by a South Korean leader since former South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan was targeted by a North Korean bombing during a visit to Yangon in 1983.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Afghan Peace Negotiator Assassinated
The Afghan High Peace Council's Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, who had been in negotiations with Taliban insurgents, was shot dead in Kabul on Sunday. Taliban splinter group Mullah Dadullah Mahaz claimed responsibility for the assassination, according to Pakistan's Express Tribune.
Clashes between Syrian opposition fighters and government troops in the restive city of Rastan left at least twenty-three soldiers dead (al-Jazeera), according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Amid a failing UN-Arab League cease-fire, EU foreign ministers agreed today to a fifteenth round of sanctions targeting the Syrian regime.
IRAQ: Bomb blasts targeting security forces (NYT) in western and central Iraq killed at least six people on Sunday. Sixty people have been killed in insurgent attacks this month, and 320 in April, according to the United Nations.
IMF Cuts Forecast for Sub-Saharan Africa
The economies of Sub-Saharan Africa will expand at a forecasted rate of 5.4 percent this year, down from a previous projection of 5.9 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF's latest Regional Economic Outlooks said growth has been stymied by a slow economic recovery in South Africa (Reuters) and other global financial stresses.
Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party appeared to have won (DeutscheWelle) elections in the populous North Rhine-Westphalia state, with a projected 39.1 percent of the vote, compared with 26.3 percent for Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Party. The results could pose a challenge to Merkel's strict austerity response to the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Colombia's FARC rebels said they would free a French reporter that the group kidnapped two weeks ago (Reuters), but did not provide a date for his release, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
MEXICO: Security officials found forty-nine decapitated bodies (BBC) dumped along the road near the northern city of Monterrey, the apparent result of a conflict between rival drug gangs. The Zetas drug cartel took responsibility for the murders.
Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Reported Divisions in Romney's Foreign Policy Camp
President Obama still enjoys international popularity, and many would prefer him to Romney in spite of some disappointment that he has not lived up to his promises on issues like Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, reports the Associated Press.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.