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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 16, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Turkey's Erdogan Meets With Obama

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet with President Obama at the White House, with discussions focusing on Syria and Erdogan's desire for greater U.S. involvement (USAToday) in resolving the ongoing conflict, which has threatened to spill over into Turkey.


"Rather than providing leadership and a source of stability in the region, Turkey is now a party to regional conflicts, especially the civil war in Syria. It is true that Turkey did not necessarily seek the position that it now finds itself in, but the mismatch between its grand ambitions and Ankara's capacity to provide order to the Middle East contributed mightily to its problems," writes CFR's Steven Cook.

"This time it is Turkey that asks for immediate intervention from the international community, and it is the US that runs after a diplomatic bargaining strategy. Having been hit by Syrian state-organized terrorism, Turkey will most probably ask for a NATO umbrella that will secure its borders through the establishment of a buffer zone within Syrian soil. Americans will most probably resist the idea, claiming that Russian influence on the region should not be neglected," writes Kerim Balci in Today's Zaman.

"[S]ettling the Kurdish issue domestically will enable better relations between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. The largest Kurdish political group in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) maintains ideological and organic links with the PKK. In the context of solving the Kurdish issue domestically, Turkey may help persuade PYD to join the anti-Assad Syrian opposition. Such a development could help tip the balance of power in favour of the opposition," writes Galip Dalay for al-Jazeera.

Photo: Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters



Taiwan Increases Pressure on Philippines

Taiwan announced sanctions, promised to hold military drills in the South China Sea, and recalled its representative in the Philippines, rejecting an apology by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (FT) for last week's killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine coastguards and raising tensions in the South China Sea.

JAPAN: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would consider meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to settle a row over Pyongyang's kidnapping of Japanese nationals (BBC) during the 1970s and 1980s to train spies.



Afghan Suicide Bomb Hits NATO Convoy

A suicide bomb in Kabul (LAT) targeting a NATO convoy killed at least six foreigners and six Afghan civilians. In March, Taliban suicide bombers killed nine civilians near the Afghan Ministry of Defense in Kabul during the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

BANGLADESH: Cyclone Mahasen hammered the southern coast of Bangladesh (AP), forcing the evacuation of more than one million people and causing a reported eighteen deaths in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.



Israel Signals More Strikes on Syria

Israel is weighing more military strikes on Syria (NYT) to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, said a senior Israeli official, who also warned that Israel would strike back if the Syrian government retaliated.

SYRIA: The UN General Assembly condemned Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's forces and called for political transition, but a decline in support for the resolution (Reuters)--compared to an August resolution--pointed to unease about extremism among rebels.



Nigeria Issues State of Emergency

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan imposed states of emergency (NPR) in the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, and vowed to send more troops to the region to quell a growing threat from the Islamist group Boko Haram and an offshoot, Ansaru.

The state of emergency in Nigeria's northeast signals that Islamist violence and the government's brutal response have rendered the region ungovernable, says CFR's John Campbell.

NIGER: U.S. military instructors will train African forces involved in a UN-backed offensive against al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in neighboring Mali (Reuters), senior military officials in Niger said.



Eurozone Slumps Deeper Into Recession

The eurozone has hit its longest recession ever (Guardian), as economic activity across the region fell for the sixth quarter in a row and France fell back into recession with a 0.2 percent GDP drop in the first three months of 2013.

Declining confidence in European economic prospects and the growing need for jobs are undermining support for the eurozone, writes CFR's Robert Kahn.

GREECE: Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as part of a push for investment and trade with China (AP) to help jumpstart Greece's fragile economy.



White House Releases Emails on Benghazi Response

The White House released 100 emails showing disagreement over talking points (PDF) for then-UN ambassador Susan Rice about the September embassy attack in Benghazi.



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