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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 1, 2014

Top of the Agenda

U.S., Israel Meet to Salvage Mideast Peace Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Tuesday (Haaretz) morning in a last-ditch effort to salvage stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The United States is now working to secure Palestinian approval for the deal, which would include the release of Palestinian prisoners (BBC) and a one-year extension of the negotiations. Israeli officials also said the United States and Israel are close to an agreement (NYT) on prematurely releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard from prison in exchange for Israeli concessions on settlements that would allow the talks to continue beyond an end-of-April deadline. U.S. defense and intelligence officials have consistently argued against releasing Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, who is serving a life sentence.


"This isn't the first time that Pollard's release has been floated in the midst of U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks. In 1998, President Bill Clinton was prepared to release Pollard during the summit at Wye River, Md., but the effort was scuttled when intelligence officials protested and then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet threatened to resign. That reveals the depths of U.S. spies' animosity toward Pollard, whom many regard as one of the most harmful spies in recent history," writes Shane Harris for Foreign Policy.

"The U.S. administration has one major thing going for it: Neither Netanyahu nor Abbas wants the process to collapse, nor does either want to be held responsible for its failure. Both would be pleased to preserve the status quo," writes Barak Ravid for Haaretz.

"Netanyahu could just have easily skipped the hurdle of this prisoner release, including a delay of the fourth "pulse" over which all of the debate is now focused, if he would just agree to freeze construction in the settlements. The problem is that right-wing domination of his rule prevents him from choosing that track," writes Mazal Mualem for Al-Monitor.


Pacific Rim

Washington Criticizes Chinese ‘Provocation’

The United States criticized China (AFP) for provocation after a Chinese coast guard attempted to block a Philippine vessel on Saturday near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In response, Chinese state media accused the Philippines on Tuesday of violating international law by seeking UN arbitration.

This CFR Infoguide delves into the complex issues surrounding China's maritime disputes.

THAILAND: Unofficial results (Reuters) from Thailand's Senate election suggest a pro-government majority, a boon for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is battling negligence charges.


South and Central Asia

U.S. Ambassador to India Resigns

U.S. ambassador to India Nancy Powell resigned (TOI) after almost three years at her post. The move comes after a diplomatic row between the two countries over the arrest of a junior Indian diplomat that pushed relations to their lowest point in more than a decade.

This CFR video highlights three things to know about India's upcoming elections.

PAKISTAN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called a meeting of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League to discuss negotiations (Dawn) with the Taliban and former president Pervez Musharraf's request to travel abroad.


Middle East

UK Opens Probe Into Muslim Brotherhood

British prime minister David Cameron ordered an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood to examine whether the group planned extremist activities (Guardian) from Britain. The probe comes as Cameron faces pressure to follow Egypt and Saudi Arabia's calls to ban the group.



Blasts in Kenya Kill at Least Five

Explosions in Kenya's capital of Nairobi that killed at least five people might have involved twin blasts (al-Jazeera). Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, past attacks in the area, which is popular among Somalis, have been blamed on Somalia's al-Shabab armed group.

This CFR Backgrounder sheds light on the origins and activities of the al-Shabab group.

NIGERIA: Amnesty International said 1,500 people have been killed this year (VOA), more than half of them civilians, in the escalating conflict between Nigerian security forces and Boko Haram insurgents.



NATO Meets to Discuss Ukraine

NATO foreign ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss ways (BBC) to help Ukraine and reassure allies in Eastern Europe, marking the first time the twenty-eight-member state alliance has convened over the crisis. Meanwhile, Russian energy firm Gazprom increased prices for Ukraine on Tuesday.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into the crisis in Ukraine.

FRANCE: A day after his Socialist party faced a stinging defeat in regional polls, French president François Hollande replaced Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with Manuel Valls (WSJ), the current interior minister.



Report Details CIA Interrogation Methods

A scathing report (WaPo) by the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency misled the government and the public about aspects of its interrogation program for years, concealing details about the severity of its methods.

VENEZUELA: President Nicolás Maduro's government announced the rollout of a new ID system (AP) aimed at curtailing the black market for food as the country faces shortages.



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