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Daily Brief: UN Suspends Syria Aid Convoys After Air Strikes

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September 20, 2016

Daily News Brief

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UN Suspends Syria Aid Convoys After Air Strikes

The United Nations suspended all aid convoys to Syria after an air strike outside of Aleppo killed twenty civilians, including a local Red Crescent official, and destroyed eighteen trucks, according to aid officials (BBC). The attack comes as the Syrian government declared a weeklong partial cease-fire (NYT). A UN official said (FT) the attack, if deliberately targeting aid workers, "would amount to a war crime." A Russian military chief said rebel forces had failed to abide by the cease-fire and called the Syrian government's observance (Al Jazeera) of the truce "meaningless." The breakdown of the cease-fire comes after at least sixty-two Syrian government soldiers were killed over the weekend in air strikes by the U.S.-led military coalition in the city of Deir Az Zor.


"The attack, on a day when the Syrian government declared the end of a nationwide cease-fire and launched dozens of airstrikes in and around Aleppo, may spell the final end of the U.S.-Russia agreement. Begun just a week ago, it was intended to pause the fighting, allow aid to reach that city and other besieged areas of the country, and restart political negotiations to resolve the civil war. The deal also envisioned ­eventual coordination between Russia and the United States of counterterrorism airstrikes against the Islamic State and a former al-Qaeda affiliate," Karen DeYoung and Erin Cunningham write for the Washington Post.

"At the weekend Russia reacted with indignation after an air strike by the US-led coalition hit a contingent of Syrian troops in eastern Syria. US Central Command said the strike was a mistake and the coalition had been targeting Isis fighters. Russian officials accused the Pentagon of trying to undermine the peace deal. Syrian activists and medics, meanwhile, accused Russia and the regime of targeting the convoy," Geoff Dyer and Erika Solomon write for the Financial Times.

"Beyond the trust gap, there is the simple fact that Washington and Moscow do not agree on the principal driver of the Syrian conflict. For Washington, the Assad regime is the central reason the war has spiraled out of control — it has irrevocably lost its legitimacy, U.S. officials believe, and can no longer restore the status quo. For Moscow, it is the terrorist groups sowing chaos in the region that deserve the lion’s share of the blame. These different diagnoses lead to different prescriptions: Washington prioritizes a diplomatic process that will transition Syria’s leadership away from Assad, while for Moscow there can be no end to the conflict until terrorist groups are denied a safe haven and state institutions, especially the military, are in control of security," Randa Slim writes for Foreign Policy.


China Targets Firm Linked to North Korea

Chinese authorities have frozen assets held by Hongxiang Industrial Development Co., a Chinese conglomerate led by a Communist party member that the United States accuses of aiding North Korea's nuclear program (WSJ). U.S. officials said they welcomed the Chinese investigation into the company.

This CFR Global Conflict tracker follows recent developments in the North Korea weapons crisis.

TAIWAN: Taiwan's defense minister said it would not reveal military facilities the government was constructing on Taiping island in the South China Sea (SCMP). Satellite images of multi-story tetrahedral structures sparked speculation that Taiwan could be constructing anti-air attack towers.

This CFR InfoGuide lays out the maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.


Indian Ministers Lash Out at Pakistan

Ministers in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration said Pakistan-based militants were responsible for an attack on an army base in India-controlled Kashmir killed eighteen soldiers (VOA). India's home minister said Pakistan should be "identified and isolated as a terrorist state"; no group claimed responsibility for the attack.

KYRGYZSTAN: President Almazbek Atambaev is not expected to return to the country until at least October as he is examined for heart pains in Istanbul (RFE/RL), according to his office. 


Jordan Elections Promising for Muslim Brotherhood

Jordanians are voting in parliamentary elections Tuesday following a reform of ballots that encourages political parties (Al Jazeera). A modernized Muslim Brotherhood party, which is also running Christian candidates, is expected to gain up to thirty seats in Jordan's 130-member parliament (WaPo).


Seventeen Killed in DRC Protests

The United States and France threatened to impose sanctions (FT) on senior officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo after at least seventeen people were killed during protests to demand that President Joseph Kabila step down when his term runs out in December (Al Jazeera).

This CFR InfoGuide discusses the history of civil conflict in the DRC.

KENYA/SOMALIA: The International Court of Justice at the Hague began hearings in a maritime case between Kenya and Somalia on Monday (Reuters). The disputed region of nearly 40,000 square miles is believed to have lucrative oil reserves (East African).


Thousands Flee Greek Refugee Camp Blaze

Thousands of refugees detained in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos fled the barbed wire-fenced facility during a fire (Guardian). The blaze followed protests over widespread rumors that authorities were planning mass deportations to Turkey.

This CFR Backgrounder examines the European states on the frontlines of the continent's migration crisis.

GERMANY: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wished she could "turn back the clock" to better prepare (DW) the government for the number of refugees who arrived in the country last year. Her party suffered a defeat in Berlin regional elections (FT) as voters turned to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.  


Soros Pledges $500 Million for Refugees

Billionaire George Soros pledged $500 million (WSJ) in investments for start-ups, social-impact initiatives, and businesses started by migrants and refugees. The announcement is a response to U.S. President Barack Obama's call for U.S. companies to address the global migration crisis (Reuters).

MEXICO: Two Catholic priests were found murdered after they were abducted in Veracruz state (LAHT). An estimated forty Catholic priests have been murdered in Mexico in the past decade (Mexico News Daily).

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker explores the roots of organized crime in Mexico.

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