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September 27, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Colombian Government, Rebels Sign Deal Ending 52-Year War

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia chief Rodrigo Londoño "Timochenko" signed a peace agreement in the city of Cartagena to end a half-century long conflict that killed roughly 200,000 people and displaced millions. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Cuban President Raul Castro attended the ceremony. The agreement has been negotiated over four years in Havana (Reuters) and now goes before voters in an October 2 plebiscite. The deal will see FARC members hand over their arms to UN intermediaries (NYT) and participate in a transitional justice system. The FARC will also be guaranteed ten congressional seats in upcoming elections (Miami Herald). The EU announced it would remove the FARC from  its designated terror list (Colombia Reports), and Kerry said the United States will review doing so (Reuters) once the accord is implemented.

ANALYSIS

"While polls show a majority of voters will vote yes, some of its provisions—such as no jail time for those who confess to crimes such as kidnapping, killings and child recruitment—are hard for many Colombians to accept. Before the ceremony opponents to the deal, including the former president Álvaro Uribe, protested against the accord in the streets of Cartagena shouting: 'Santos is a traitor.' If approved, the Farc’s estimated 7,000 fighters and urban militia members will begin concentrating in 28 zones across the country to begin their disarmament and reintegration into civilian society, handing in their arsenal of weapons to a UN mission within five months," Sibylla Brodzinsky writes for the Guardian.

"Once the Colombian government decided to negotiate with FARC, it was unrealistic to expect that the process would end with FARC facing conventional legal opprobrium. Other countries that have made peace with insurgents have forsaken traditional justice in the interest of peace. For example, in El Salvador, the Salvadorian Peace Accords signed in 1992 led to the government’s granting general amnesty to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) combatants. And the peace has proved to be lasting," Christine Balling writes for Foreign Affairs.

"The majority of people favor peace. The majority of people—vast majority, something well-over 95 percent of the population—distrust the FARC. But there are also a majority who believe that it is preferable to negotiate than to try to defeat the FARC on the battlefield. And I think that has been [former] President Uribe’s biggest criticism of the whole peace process, that Colombia was on the verge of a military defeat of the FARC, and Santos, rather than going for that solution, decided to open the negotiations," Cynthia Arnson said at a CFR event.

PACIFIC RIM

U.S. Charges Chinese Company for North Korea Links

U.S. prosecutors charged the Chinese company Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development and four individuals with evading U.S. sanctions on North Korea and using shell companies to funnel millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system (FT). Investigators allege the scheme allowed Pyongyang to avoid sanctions over its weapons programs and buy commodities like coal, sugar, and fertilizer.

This CFR Global Conflict tracker follows recent developments in the North Korea weapons crisis.

TAIWAN: Schools and offices closed across Taiwan as the island prepared for its third typhoon in three weeks (AFP). Also in Taiwan the steel conglomerate Formosa was subject to hundreds of lawsuits over toxic waste dumping (AFP) filed by Vietnamese fishermen who claim damages after a mass fish die-off in April.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Indian Minister: Pakistan Believes Attacks Gain Territory

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the United Nations (AP) that Pakistan believes terrorist attacks "will enable it to obtain the territory it covets" in Jammu and Kashmir. She referred to two attacks this year on Indian military installations (Hindu) and said a confession from a jailed attacker demonstrated "Pakistan’s complicity in cross-border terror."

AFGHANISTAN: At least twelve Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack claimed by the Taliban in Kunduz (RFE/RL).

Christopher D. Kolenda discusses gains made by the Taliban in Afghanistan in this CFR interview.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Saudi Arabia Cuts Government Employees' Salaries

Saudi Arabia announced pay cuts of 20 percent for government ministers and rolled back overtime pay and vacations for  public employees (NYT) amid declining oil revenues. Also in Saudi Arabia, thousands of people signed a petition demanding the end of a guardianship law restricting basic movements of women (Guardian).

JORDAN: Jordanian and UN officials are nearing a deal to provide humanitarian aid to the estimated 75,000 Syrian refugees stranded in a desert in Jordan's eastern panhandle (FT), access to which is controlled by Jordan's military. The refugees have received no aid other than water for seven weeks.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Gabon President Begins Second Seven-Year Term

Gabon President Ali Bongo was sworn in for a second seven-year term after the country's constitutional court validated the results of an Aug. 27 election (Al Jazeera) despite allegations of fraud. Opposition sources said at least fifty people were killed in post-election violence when demonstrators protested the result.

SOUTH AFRICA: At least four universities in South Africa have closed (VOA) as student protests continue since the government proposed a hike in college fees last week.

EUROPE

Russia Says Data Disputes Downing of MH17

The Russian defense ministry (RFE/RL) released new radar data that it claims shows that a Malaysia Air flight shot down over Ukraine in 2014 was not fired at from territory held by Russia-supported separatists. A Dutch investigation team will soon release its findings about the cause of the crash.

AMERICAS

Homicides Rise in Mexico After Three-Year Decline

The number of homicides rose (WSJ) 18 percent in Mexico in the first eight months of 2016 compared to the previous year. August tallied the highest number of homicides since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in 2012.

GLOBAL

WHO: Poor Air Quality Behind 6 Million Annual Deaths

The World Health Organization said that nine out of ten people globally breath  poor quality air (AFP), which the agency said was behind more than six million deaths annually.