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Daily Brief: UN Resumes Aid Deliveries to Aleppo

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September 22, 2016

Daily News Brief

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UN Resumes Aid Deliveries to Aleppo

The United Nations is set to resume (Al Jazeera) its aid deliveries to the Aleppo region on Thursday following an attack on a convoy that killed twenty people earlier this week. Meanwhile, rebel-held areas of Aleppo were bombarded (FT) overnight, casting further doubt over the U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire that came into force last week. The International Syria Support Group, a group of representatives co-chaired by the United States and Russia, will meet (Reuters) on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in an effort to salvage the truce. Separately, the United States is testing (NYT) a shell fired on U.S. and Iraqi troops by the self-proclaimed Islamic State for chemical agents as forces prepare to retake the city of Mosul.


"Even if Mr Kerry persuades the warring parties to extend the ceasefire, there is little chance that peace talks will yield results. The political opposition to Mr Assad is weak and the rebels’ trust in the UN has reached a new nadir. America has little leverage over Russia, Iran or Syria. 'The longer this goes on for, the more difficult it will be to hold the centre ground together,' says Salman Shaikh, a former UN official and expert on the Middle East. 'One consequence is likely to be the further radicalisation of the mainstream opposition ... a five-year conflict could easily become a 10-year conflict,'" writes the Economist.

"Civilian protection should remain the core focus of any broad-based strategy, but it must be backed up by real and discernible consequences for violators. Given the five-year U.S. track record, the Assad regime knows all too well Washington’s hesitancy to threaten the use of anything close to force, and Damascus has repeatedly reaped the rewards of that impotent stance. If the United States hopes to develop an effective Syria policy, that has to change quickly," writes Charles Lister in Foreign Policy.

"If Russia and the United States were willing to come far enough in their negotiations to reach this deal, these setbacks can be overcome. The targeting of the humanitarian convoy, a war crime, should serve as an added impetus for the United States and Russia to recommit to the cease-fire. The two parties were well aware of the difficulties as they spent a month negotiating the cease-fire’s terms. The agreement can be salvaged if all sides unite, for now, around a simple and undeniably important goal: Stop the killing. It may be more likely than it sounds," writes Jimmy Carter in the New York Times.


U.S. Bombers Fly Close to North Korea

One of the U.S. military's supersonic bombers (AP) flew over South Korea in a show of force, approaching the North Korean border, according to the U.S. Pacific Command. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung is expected to question North Korea's qualifications (Yonhap) as a member of the United Nations in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

This CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report recommends revising U.S. policy toward North Korea to break the cycle of North Korean provocation and promote stability in Northeast Asia.

CHINA: A Beijing court sentenced (Guardian) Xia Lin, a rights lawyer who has defended artist Ai Weiwei and human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, to twelve years in jail for fraud. Critics see the sentence as part of a crackdown on dissent.


Afghanistan Signs Peace Deal With Militant Group

The Afghan government signed a draft peace accord (TOLO News) on Thursday in Kabul with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's militant group Hezb-e Islami, following two years of negotiations. 

INDIA: Indian security forces said they killed (PTI) a militant and thwarted two infiltrations along the Line of Control in India-administered Kashmir on Thursday. Authorities also rearrested (AP) leading human rights activist Khurram Parvez under a law that allows detention for up to six months without a trial. Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif delivered a dossier (Dawn) documenting alleged Indian atrocities against civilians in India-held Kashmir to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday.

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker discusses the history of the disputed Kashmir region.


U.S. Senate Clears Military Sale to Saudi Arabia

U.S. senators voted (Reuters) 71 to 27 against legislation that would have blocked a $1.15 billion sale of military equipment, including tanks and armored recovery vehicles, to Saudi Arabia. Saudi-led coalition air strikes (BBC) in Yemen killed nineteen people in the port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday, according to local officials. 


Nigeria Asks UN to Mediate Return of Chibok Girls

In his address before the UN General Assembly, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he would accept help from the UN to mediate (Premium Times) with the militant group Boko Haram for the return of the more than two hundred girls abducted in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014. Meanwhile, Nigerian and regional forces clashed (Al Jazeera) with Boko Haram fighters in the town of Malam Fatori near the Chad-Niger border.

SOUTH SUDAN: Sudanese State Minister of Interior Babiker Digna said on Wednesday that Sudan is currently hosting (Sudan Tribune) more than four hundred thousand refugees from South Sudan. There are more than one million South Sudanese refugees living in neighboring countries, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

South Sudan's civil war may require the African Union's intervention to find peace and stability, says expert Alex de Waal in this CFR interview.


Ukraine and Separatists Agree to Troop Withdrawal

The Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels agreed to a troop withdrawal (DW) from three fronts in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday in a bid to strengthen the truce that has reduced, but not ended, fighting in the region.

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden said Wednesday at a CFR Meeting that Russia continues to try to destabilize the Ukrainian government and has “done nothing” to implement its obligations under the Minsk agreement, which is aimed at reaching a political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

EU: An advisor to the European Court of Justice said Thursday that Hamas and the Tamil Tigers should be taken off (WSJ) the EU's terror list, saying European governments failed to prove they had participated in terrorist attacks. 


Venezuela's Election Board to Deny Recall Vote in 2016

The Venezuelan government's election board said that if the opposition succeeds in collecting signatures from 20 percent of registered voters next month, a national referendum (LAHT) on President Nicolas Maduro's leadership could take place in the first quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, hundreds of bus drivers protested (BBC) in the streets of Caracas on Wednesday, demanding better pay and security.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the deepening economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

UNITED STATES: The North Carolina governor declared a state of emergency (LA Times) and called in the National Guard after a second night of protests erupted in violent clashes in Charlotte following the deadly police shooting of a black man.


Zuckerberg Pledges $3 Billion for Medical Research

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan pledged (WaPo) $3 billion over ten years to fund medical research with the goal of curing, preventing, and managing diseases.

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