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Daily Brief: Turkish, Russian Leaders Meet in St. Petersburg

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August 9, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Turkish, Russian Leaders Meet in St. Petersburg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Tuesday in Erdogan's first visit abroad (Hurriyet) since last month's failed coup. This is also the first meeting between the two leaders since Turkey downed a Russian jet in November 2015 along the border with Syria. Talks are intended to repair diplomatic and economic ties (AP) between Ankara and Moscow, despite differences over Syria (NYT). Erdogan's visit comes amid recently strained ties with the United States (Reuters) and Europe (FT) following the coup attempt and amid negotiations on an agreement to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.


"Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan are often seen as similar: authoritarian, combative, unbending and nationalistic, with little time for niceties like freedom of expression. Both are quick to anger, but can shelve it just as quickly when strategic interests are at stake," writes Neil MacFarquhar and Tim Arango in the New York Times.

"From the Brexit vote to the Turkish coup, recent global events have dealt the Kremlin a strong hand. Mr Erdogan's descent into authoritarianism should serve as a warning to the world about how far personalised regimes, from Moscow to Ankara and beyond, will go to keep a grip on power—and how little the west will do in response," writes Lilia Shevtsova in the Financial Times.

"Without a doubt, return to the economic and commercial relations of a year ago will be at the top of Erdogan's agenda. Visa requirements for Turkish citizens, an import ban on Turkish goods, limiting activities of Turkish firms in Russia and deterring Russian citizens to vacation in Turkey after the fighter jet crisis, have all seriously hurt the Turkish economy," writes Aram Ekin Duran in Deutsche Welle.


China Appears to Be Building Aircraft Hangars on Disputed Islands

New satellite images (CSIS) of artificial islands in the South China Sea show fresh Chinese construction of reinforced aircraft hangars, according to Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Though no military aircraft has been deployed to the Spratlys, the think tank says that the hangars will soon have sufficient space for twenty-four fighter jets and three to four larger planes. Separately, Japan summoned (AP) China's ambassador over the increased presence of Chinese vessels near the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

This CFR InfoGuide provides background and analysis on China's maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. 

PHILIPPINES: More than one hundred government and police officials surrendered (ABC) in Manila on Monday after President Rodrigo Duterte linked them to the drug trade in a "name-and-shame campaign." Police and vigilantes have killed more than four hundred people since Duterte took power in June; Duterte came to office promising to crack down on crime and drugs.


Pakistani Lawyers Protest After Quetta Attack

Lawyers in Pakistan staged a nationwide protest (RFE/RL) on Tuesday a day after a suicide bomb blast hit a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban and the self-proclaimed Islamic State both claimed responsibility (Dawn) for the attack that killed more than seventy people and wounded more than one hundred others.

INDIA: Civil rights activist Irom Sharmila is set to end (ANI) her sixteen-year hunger strike to enter politics. Sharmila has been protesting India's Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which grants sweeping powers to military personnel deployed to "disturbed areas" of the country. The AFSPA is in effect (BBC) in several states in India, including Manipur and Indian-Administered Kashmir.


UN Calls for Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Aleppo

UN aid officials called for (Reuters) an urgent "humanitarian pause" in fighting in Aleppo on Tuesday in order to repair water and electricity networks and to restock food and medical supplies. Approximately two million people in Aleppo are without access to clean water, and an estimated 250,000 people are trapped in city's rebel-held eastern areas after the closure of access roads last month.

This CFR Interactive explores the evolution of the conflict in Syria.

LIBYA: Forces of the Libya's Government of National Accord said it has made gains (Al Jazeera) against the Islamic State affiliate based in Sirte, in northern Libya. The coastal city of Sirte has been Islamic State's Libyan stronghold since June 2015.


Dozens of Protesters Killed by Ethiopian Security Forces

Dozens of people were killed in clashes (Addis Standard) between protesters and government forces over the weekend in the Oromia and Amhara regions of Ethiopia, according to local reports. Protests over the last few months have been triggered (Newsweek) by perceived economic and political marginalization.

ZAMBIA: The European Union deployed (Zambia Reports) an additional fifty-six election observers to Zambia ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections on August 11. More than one hundred EU observers had already been sent to the country to observe preparations for the vote. This election, which comes less than two years after the last presidential election was won by fewer than 28,000 votes, is being contested under new rules (BBC).


EU Waives Budget Fines for Spain and Portugal

The European Union granted (BBC) Spain and Portugal additional time to hit budget deficit targets and will waive fines. Under EU rules, members of the single euro currency are not supposed to have budget deficits in excess of 3 percent; last year, Madrid and Lisbon had deficits of 5.1 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. 


Brazilian Nuclear Power CEO Sentenced for Corruption

Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva, CEO of Electronuclear, Brazil's nuclear power company, was sentenced (MercoPress) to forty-three years in jail on corruption charges, including money-laundering, organized crime, and the obstruction of justice.

UNITED STATES: The Florida Department of Health is investigating (Miami Herald) a new case of Zika in Palm Beach County, north of Miami, which would bring the number of locally transmitted cases in Florida to seventeen.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the spread and transmission of the Zika virus.

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