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December 13, 2018

Daily News Brief

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Yemen Peace Talks Conclude With Cease-Fire Deal

Warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a cease-fire in western Hodeidah Governorate and to a troop withdrawal from that region’s major port city, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.

The UN chief’s statement came at the closing of a week of landmark peace talks (AP) between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Houthi leaders in Rimbo, Sweden. The two sides also agreed to exchange some fifteen thousand prisoners, as well as to hold a next round of talks in late January, according to Guterres.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today (VOA) on a measure to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces, which are supported by Iran. Analysts say the move would send a strong signal of disapproval but would be a mostly symbolic gesture given the unlikelihood of its moving through the House of Representatives.


“This news demands for international community, UN and other stakeholders to intensify their efforts, not breathe a sigh of relief. What comes next will be crucial to implementing, sustaining and building upon these agreements,” tweets Peter Salisbury.

“Rhetoric as well as recent voting patterns indicate that ending support to the war in Yemen is high on the Democratic agenda, and come January, House Democrats will have the chance to forge a new approach that does just that,” Kate Kizer writes for Just Security.

CFR’s Global Conflict Tracker traces the four-year war in Yemen.

Event: The Impact of Tariffs on America’s Heartland

Event: The Impact of Tariffs on America’s Heartland

Panelists discuss how rural America has been affected by recent tariffs and intermittent trade wars, as well as the implications for global trade and the U.S. economy. Watch today at 12:30 p.m. (EST).



Second Canadian Detained in China

Chinese state media reported that Michael Spavor, who heads a firm that organizes cultural exchanges to North Korea, was detained (CBC) on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm national security. His detention comes days after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing and a diplomatic dispute over a U.S. request to extradite (SCMP) an executive of Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, who was detained and then granted bail by authorities in Vancouver.


Pakistan: Saudi Arabia to Make Major Foreign Investment

Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar said an incoming investment package (Dawn) from Saudi Arabia is poised to be the “biggest foreign investment” in Pakistan’s history, although he provided no figures. Islamabad has been in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package as it faces a balance of payments crisis.

AFGHANISTAN: President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated a new commercial corridor meant to boost Afghan exports to Europe (TOLO). A first shipment along the route, which passes through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, includes close to two hundred tons of cotton, dried fruit, and sesame.


U.S. Warns Turkey Over Northern Syria Offensive

The Pentagon said yesterday that unilateral military action by any party into northern Syria, particularly where U.S. forces could be present, would be “unacceptable.” The statement came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to launch (DW) an operation soon against Kurdish militias in the region, whom he called “separatist terrorists.”

In this Council Special Report, Steven A. Cook argues that Turkey is neither a friend nor foe to the United States.


DRC on High Alert as Ebola Outbreak Grows

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that began in August has grown (WHO) to more than 450 confirmed cases and another forty-eight probable cases, according to health authorities. Close to three hundred people have died in the outbreak.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Ebola outbreaks in Central and West Africa.

DRC: Police fired tear gas and bullets into a crowd of supporters of opposition presidential candidate Martin Fayulu, killing at least one person (Reuters), according to local religious and civil society leaders. Congolese are expected to go to the polls for a long-delayed presidential election on December 23.


May Heads to Brussels After Surviving Leadership Vote

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting with European leaders in Brussels today to seek legal guarantees (BBC) on a so-called backstop plan for the Northern Ireland border, which some detractors fear could limit Britain’s ability to strike trade deals with other countries after it leaves the European Union early next year. May survived a no-confidence vote in parliament yesterday, with lawmakers voting 200–117.

TURKEY: Turkey remained the world’s largest jailer of journalists, with at least sixty-eight reporters behind bars in 2018, according to a new report by the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists. The advocacy group warned of “fresh waves of repression” in China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.


Venezuela’s Maduro: U.S. Planning Assassination

On state TV yesterday, President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of planning an invasion of the country and training mercenaries in Colombia (AP) to assassinate him. Maduro’s comments came days after Russia deployed two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela.


U.S. Gun Deaths Reach Twenty-Year High

Close to forty thousand people in the United States died from homicides or suicides using guns in 2017, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death rate, twelve deaths per hundred thousand people, was the highest since 1996 (Guardian).

This CFR Backgrounder compares U.S. gun policy with that of peer countries.


UN Chief: Climate Change Inaction ‘Suicidal’

On the final day of a UN-sponsored climate conference in Katowice, Poland, Secretary-General Guterres told delegates that if nations fail to increase their efforts to protect the environment (BBC), it will “compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change.”

This explainer looks at the year in extreme weather events.

Pope Francis removed three cardinals (WSJ) from his advisory council, including Australian Cardinal George Pell and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, both of whom have faced charges related to clerical sexual abuse. Pell is currently facing criminal charges in Australia. The Vatican said the cardinals’ advanced ages were taken into account.