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July 27, 2015

Daily News Brief

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Turkey Requests Emergency NATO Meeting

NATO is set to hold an emergency security meeting (Al Jazeera) in Brussels on Tuesday at Turkey's request after Ankara said it would fight militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State along its Syrian border and Kurdish PKK fighters in Iraq. Turkish forces have intensified air strikes (Reuters) against both groups since Friday. Turkey and the United States are considering a plan to create (WaPo) a de facto "safe-zone" along the Turkey-Syria border. Meanwhile Syrian President Bashar al-Assad acknowledged (BBC) Sunday that the Syrian army had relinquished territory to rebels, but vowed his army would "achieve victory."


"United States officials said Turks and Americans were working toward an agreement on the details of an operation to clear Islamic State militants from a heavily contested area roughly between the eastern outskirts of the city of Aleppo and the Euphrates River. That is an ambitious military goal, because it appears to include areas of great strategic and symbolic importance to the Islamic State, and it could encompass areas that Syrian helicopters regularly bomb," write Anne Barnard, Michael R. Gordon, and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times.

"Turkey's offensive against ISIS doesn't mean that the country no longer wishes to remove Assad from power. But the new strategy means that, for all intents and purposes, Erdogan and Assad are now fighting on the same side. This is a positive development for the once-isolated dictator, who is enjoying a rather good month: The U.S.-Iran deal to limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief is a boon for Assad, whose regime is a major beneficiary of Tehran's largesse," writes Matt Schiavenza in the Atlantic.

"The prime target in the present circumstances is not Assad and his followers, but IS and the PKK. Assad may yet fall as a result of Turkey’s latest intervention but only if Turkey can successfully clear the proposed zone of IS fighters as it has said it is trying to do, and limit its confrontation with the PKK," writes David Barchard for the Middle East Eye.


UK PM on Southeast Asia Trade Tour

UK Prime Minister David Cameron will spend (BBC) four days in Southeast Asia, with stops in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Cameron is expected to finalize $1.2 billion in trade deals and discuss the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State and climate change with his counterparts.

CHINA: Chinese stocks slid (SCMP) by 8 percent on Monday, the market's biggest single day drop in eight years, despite efforts by authorities to shore up equities prices.

Expert Stephen Roach discusses China's stock market volatility in this CFR Interview.


Taliban Releases Over 100 Afghan Police

The Taliban freed (TOLO) 142 recently captured Afghan police officers in the northeastern Badakhshan province Sunday, according to the Ministry of Defense. The next round of talks between Kabul and the Taliban is slated for later this week.

This CFR InfoGuide explores the reemergence of the Taliban.

INDIA: Authorities tightened (Hindustan Times) security on the India-Pakistan border on Monday following an attack by gunmen on a police station in India's Punjab state that killed at least six people.


Clashes Reported Despite Yemeni Cease-Fire

Clashes (CNN) and shelling between forces loyal to the Yemeni government and Shia Houthi rebels continued despite a humanitarian cease-fire that came into effect on Sunday. Officials had said the five-day cease-fire would allow aid groups to deliver much-needed assistance to civilians amid a deepening humanitarian crisis.


Obama Arrives in Ethiopia

U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit (AFP) Ethiopia, arriving on Sunday for the second leg of his Africa trip. Security and human rights are expected to top the agenda. Obama is also expected to discuss the ongoing civil war in South Sudan with regional leaders on Tuesday, when he addresses the African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.

SOMALIA: At least thirteen people are dead (VOA) and dozens of others wounded after an al-Shabab suicide bomb attack struck a hotel in Mogadishu on Monday. Hotel Jazeera, which hosts China and Egypt's embassies, is often used by journalists, members of parliament, and foreign diplomats.

This CFR Backgrounder chronicles the rise of the al-Shabab militant group. 


French Farmers Blocks Access From Germany, Spain

Farmers in the northeast and in the southwest of France formed (Deutsche Welle) road blockades to prevent produce from Germany and Spain from entering the country. The move comes amid falling food prices that have brought nearly 10 percent of French farms near bankruptcy. 

EU: Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan called (FT) for greater "political union" within the eurozone on Sunday in order to save the common currency. The statement comes amid delays to start formal negotiations on a third bailout program for Greece with its European creditors. Talks were expected to start last week.

This CFR Interactive charts the developments of the Greek debt crisis.


Colombia Suspends Air Strikes on FARC Positions

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered government security forces to suspend (Colombia Reports) air strikes targeting camps belonging to left-wing FARC rebels. The move follows FARC's declaration of a month-long unilateral cease-fire in a bid to reinvigorate peace talks between the government and the rebels that were marred by resurging violence earlier this year.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Colombia's rebel groups.

GUYANA: President David Granger said on Friday that Guyana's territorial dispute with Venezuela represents (Merco Press) a challenge to the survival of the small South American country. Caracas claims disputed waters off of Guyana's Essequibo region, where an offshore oil find was recently discovered.