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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 18, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Pact Rejected by Armed Separatists

Diplomats representing Ukraine, the United States, Russia, and the European Union reached an agreement in Geneva on Thursday evening that committed the parties to defusing tensions in eastern Ukraine (NYT). The deal called for armed groups to be demobilized, amnesty for those detained during the unrest, and reform of the constitution toward greater federalism. But the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk said it was not bound by the agreement, and armed pro-Russian separatists defied its terms, refusing to vacate public buildings they had seized (FT). U.S. secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov said the Organization for Stability and Cooperation in Europe's presence in the region would be bolstered to implement the agreement (Guardian).


"Putin is likely to betray these latest commitments unless he's convinced that doing so will have consequences. That's why stiffer sanctions before today's negotiations would have helped. Today's agreement works the other way: by raising false hopes it will encourage Europeans opposed to new sanctions to resist all the harder. It's exactly what Putin wanted," writes Bloomberg in an editorial.

"If the deal holds, it's likely to open the way for what many U.S. strategists have seen as the most stable path for Ukraine — a country that looks east and west at the same time. The Euromaidan protests last winter showed that western Ukrainians want passionately to be part of Europe. The Russian-speaking protesters who massed in eastern Ukraine may have been orchestrated by Moscow, but they feel deep ties with Russia. What Thursday's initial deal says is: Stand down," writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post.

"The majority of EU member states do not believe or do not want to believe that they are threatened by Russia's actions. And because they do not feel threatened, they do not see the need to protect Ukraine. This attitude has bred a disturbing intellectual and moral complacency among Europeans. Yet Russia's behavior affects Europeans' way of life on two fronts: it undermines democracy by promoting instability in Europe's East; and it undermines a strong and principled European foreign policy by strengthening national egoism," writes Judy Dempsey in Strategic Europe.


Pacific Rim

China Reports Soil Pollution on Agricultural Land

One-fifth of China's soil is toxic, the result of years of unfettered industrialization, the Chinese government said in a report originally classified as a state secret. The report raises concerns over food safety and carcinogenic heavy metals (SCMP).

CFR's Elizabeth Economy says Beijing's declaration of a "war on pollution" is recognition that environmental degradation threatens the leadership's credibility.

NORTH KOREA: The head of the UN's North Korea human rights inquiry urged the Security Council to refer Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for prosecution (Reuters). The inquiry has reported systematic torture, starvation, and killings.


South and Central Asia

Taliban Interlocutor Detained by UAE

A former Taliban commander involved in peace negotiations has been detained by the United Arab Emirates, a move that could thwart long-term reconciliation efforts with the government, Afghan officials said (WaPo).

Planning for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan "may be smart, but it's not wise," writes CFR's Daniel Markey.

INDIA: The Wall Street Journal investigates real estate purchases by the son-in-law of Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi at a time when widespread resentment over economic privileges for those with political connections threatens the incumbent party at the polls.


Middle East

UN: Assad Uses Food Aid for Strategic Gain

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has cut off the delivery of food aid to rebel-controlled areas, starving areas under siege to bring civilians into government-controlled territory, according to World Food Program documents obtained by Foreign Policy.

IRAN: The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran halved its stock of highly-enriched uranium in compliance with an international deal agreed to last November (BBC). The United States authorized the release of the latest tranche of $450 million in frozen funds following the announcement.



UN Base in South Sudan Attacked

Armed youth forced their way into a UN peacekeeping compound in Jonglei state that sheltered displaced civilians. Initial reports said twenty were killed, though the UN has not yet confirmed details (Sudan Tribune).

MALI: French armed forces freed five local aid workers kidnapped by Islamist militants in February (France24).



Leaflets Demanding Jewish Registration Denounced as Fake

The provenance of leaflets demanding the registration of Jews in the Eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk, which is under the control of armed pro-Russian separatists, remained unclear as the head of the self-proclaimed breakaway authority, whose signature appeared on the documents, disavowed them (NYT).

Former U.S. ambassador Steven Pifer discusses the latest in Ukraine.



Nobel Laureate García Márquez Dies at Eighty-Seven

Gabriel García Márquez, who made Latin America's distinctive genre of magical realism famous around the world, died in Mexico City. The coastal Colombian novelist, who began his career as a journalist, was a lifelong champion of the Latin American left (Guardian).

UNITED STATES: The military judge presiding over the USS Cole trial at Guantanamo Bay ordered the CIA to disclose details about its secret overseas detention and interrogation program (Miami Herald).



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