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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 24, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Protestors Occupy Government Buildings

Protestors broke into the Ministry of Agriculture Policy building in Kiev on Friday, a move that escalates the tense standoff with the government of President Viktor Yanukovich (AP). Talks between Yanukovich and opposition leaders stalled, and protestors erected new barricades in Kiev and seized the governor's offices in Lviv, Ternopil, and Rivne, cities in the western part of Ukraine (BBC). The protest movement against the Ukrainian president's decision to back away from an EU trade deal has widened into broader dissatisfaction with perceived misrule and corruption by Yanukovich and anger against sweeping anti-protest legislation that was rammed through parliament last week (Reuters).


"A policy that leaves Ukraine to its own devices is outwardly dangerous. Yanukovich and the opposition leaders, insofar as they can speak for all demonstrators, indulge in recriminations and will have a hard time reaching a solution without outside interference. Thus, if an expansion of violence is to be prevented, one which could slide Ukraine into a civil war-like state, then the EU and Russia must now act jointly," writes Ingo Mannteufel for Deutsche Welle.

"Up to now the EU has refused to say that Ukraine can one day join the bloc if it meets the union's increasingly demanding membership requirements. Hesitation is understandable, especially with Ukraine in such turmoil, but Europe should say that, in principle, it is open to Ukraine's eventual accession and that it desires closer economic cooperation in the meantime," Bloomberg writes in an editorial.

"Now that blood has been shed, there is a real risk that the clashes could spread beyond central Kiev, rendering a peaceful solution less viable. But the West must also make abundantly clear to Mr. Yanukovich and his lieutenants that they will pay a price if they try to use the talks simply to gain time, or if they order a bloody crackdown," the New York Times writes in an editorial.


Pacific Rim

Thai Court Opens Way for Vote Delay

Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled that the February 2 elections, intended to settle months of deadly political unrest, can be postponed, but that the prime minister and the Election Commission must make the decision and set an alternate date (AFP).

MYANMAR: United Nations officials criticized Myanmar's government for failing to investigate and prosecute the killings of Muslims by mobs in the western part of the country (NYT).


South and Central Asia

U.S. General Expects High-Profile Attacks in Afghanistan

Lieutenant General Mark Milley said high-profile insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, such as the one last week that killed twenty-one civilians at a Kabul restaurant popular with foreigners, are likely to increase as the Taliban loses its ability to win on the battlefield (Chicago Tribune).

This Council Special Report assesses Afghanistan's prospects after the U.S. military drawdown.

NEPAL: The Supreme Court said a new president doesn't need to be immediately elected, and that a presidential election should be held after the new constitution is completed (WaPo).


Middle East

Syrian Government Threatens to Quit Geneva

Syria's foreign minister threatened to quit peace talks in Geneva if "serious" discussions don't begin by Saturday. Plans for direct talks between government representatives and the opposition have been scrapped, and negotiations between the two sides will begin through UN mediators (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Syrian conflict and its global response.

EGYPT: Three bomb attacks targeted police stations or vehicles in Cairo, killing at least five people on Friday, on the eve of the third anniversary of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak (al-Jazeera).



South Sudan Parties Sign Cease-Fire

The government of South Sudan and rebels led by the country's former vice president signed a cease-fire agreement after more than a month of fighting that killed thousands and displaced more than half a million people (NYT).

RWANDA: Officials in Rwanda are protesting the expected release of a UN report that says M23 rebels, who destabilized the Democratic Republic of Congo, are recruiting in Rwanda (Voice of America).



Poland to Investigate New Reports on CIA Prison

Polish prosecutors are investigating allegations that the CIA ran a secret jail, known as a black site, for al-Qaeda detainees in a Polish forest, and that the intelligence agency paid $15 million in cash to Polish officials to use the facility (Reuters).



Argentine Peso Drops Amid Global Emerging Market Selloff

Argentina's peso dropped 16 percent against the dollar on Thursday, prompting the central bank to sell dollar reserves and prop up its currency. Russian, Turkish, Brazilian, and South African currencies also tumbled, raising concerns about the developing world's ability to cope with the reversal of stimulus monetary policies (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder explains currency crises in emerging markets.

UNITED STATES: Top U.S. financial leaders at Davos warned that Bitcoin could be used to fund terrorism and that regulation will eventually put the digital currency out of business (FT).



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