WWI Armistice. Original caption, ”British troops parading Paris, July 14, 1919.” Halftone image photographed from the book, Guerre, 1914-1919. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The World This Week: November 12th, 2018

Europe and Central Asia

On November 11th, the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, French President, Emmanuel Macron, urged world leaders such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to abandon the turn to the nationalism. He described it as a “betrayal of patriotism.” He also called on his colleagues to “fight for peace.”At a luncheon for world leaders that same day, French organizers changed the seating arrangements at the last minute so that Trump and Putin would not be seated together.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecasted a 5% GDP growth in Uzbekistan in 2018-2019. Uzbekistan’s prospects are closely linked to economic reforms. Average GDP growth in the Central Asia and Caucasus region is expected to only amount to 4%. This is far below the average growth rate of 9% from the first decade of this century. The main challenge for Uzbekistan is the reform of state-owned enterprises and the corresponding price liberalization.

Sub-Saharan Africa

The latest outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst in the country’s history with almost 200 people reported dead since August and more than 300 confirmed or probable cases. A vaccination program has so far inoculated about 25,000 people. DRC has suffered years of instability and efforts to relieve the disease have been hampered by attacks on medical workers.

Recently, separatists in Cameroon abducted 78 hostages from the Presbyterian Secondary School located in Bamenda, capital of the North-West region of the Central African country. All hostages were released together except four: a BBC journalist, the principal, and two teachers. The abduction came a day to the inauguration of president Paul Biya for his seventh-term in office. The first 74 were released a day after the swearing in, spending about 48 hours as hostages. The final four were released shortly after.

Latin America and The Caribbean

China continues to invest in Latin America. El Salvador’s president announced a $150 million contribution from China for 13 tech and infrastructure development. China will also donate 3000 tons of rice to support El Salvador’s agricultural industry which suffered from droughts and flooding in the last quarter, and Honduras cut ties with Taiwan in May. El Salvador ran an exhibition at China’s major import expo alongside major Chinese partners Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, and Indonesia. Relations between the two countries began to strengthen when El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan in August.

President Diaz-Canel of Cuban began a three-day visit to Vietnam this past weekend. Cuba’s leader met with President Nguyen Phu Trong and discussed specific measures to improve trade in agriculture and medical sectors. Cuba-US cooperation has also improved despite National security adviser John Bolton identifying Diaz-Canel as a member of the Troika of Tyranny. US agricultural representatives attended a trade conference there in hopes of normalizing the relationship. Cuban authorities assisted with the extradition of an accused New Jersey fugitive wanted for the murder of his girlfriend.

The UN Refugee Agency updated their figures on Venezuelan migrants this week. They identified 3 million migrants and refugees from the country living abroad. The EU extended its sanctions to November 2019 against the Venezuelan government in response to the continued human rights violations. President Maduro remains preoccupied with foreign debts, low oil production, and increased militant attacks.

Middle East and North Africa

Today begins a two-day conference focusing on a UN backed plan to stabilize Libya and unite its warring factions. The conference, hosted by Italy, is the most recent attempt in renewed efforts by European countries to stabilize the North African country. Flooding in Jordan this week has claimed up to 13 lives. Flash floods hit several parts of the country, including the tourist-heavy area of Petra. In October, both the Jordanian Ministers of Education and Tourism stepped down after 18 school children were killed in flash floods in the Dead Sea region.

A botched Israeli undercover operation on Sunday led to the death of eight people, including a Israel colonel, a Hamas commander, and six other Palestinian militants. Hamas said that gunfire was exchanged when Israeli undercover forces were using a civilian car to conduct a mission in the Gaza Strip. This exchange led to Israeli airstrikes as well as rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel. Thousands took the Gaza streets on Monday calling for revenge for the seven Palestinians lost in the fighting.

South Asia

The United States and the European Union have condemned a worsening political crisis in Sri Lanka after President Sirisena dissolved Parliament on Friday night and called for elections. This move comes as the President sought to install Rajapaska as the new Premier after he ousted PM Weckremesinghe. Parliament was previously scheduled to meet this week to vote on the legality of the ousting. The President’s political adversaries believe that his actions are illegal and plan on petitioning the Supreme Court. The European Union has warned that it will suspend Sri Lanka’s duty-free access if the crisis persists.

Following peace talks in Moscow, Taliban officials claimed that ‘no progress’ had been made towards resolving the Afghan war. The Taliban has been reticent to engage directly with the Afghan government, claiming that it is a proxy for foreign powers. Instead, they have indicated that they are only willing to negotiate with the United States. Still, attending the conference alongside the Afghan High Peace Council is significant. The talks also mark a breakthrough in the Taliban’s relationship with outside powers, representing the first time the group has formally and publicly engaged with both India and Russia. The United States sent an observer from its Moscow embassy but did not formally participate in the talks, reflecting reluctance to engage in a process brokered by Russia.

East Asia and Pacific

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met Friday in Washington, D.C. with their Chinese counterparts to discuss North Korean denuclearization, the South China Sea, Taiwan, and human rights. Each side stressed their commitment to a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but agreed on little else. The diplomatic and security dialogue, initiated last year by President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, aims to find avenues for cooperation between the two countries. While Pompeo didn’t address whether trade issues were discussed senior Communist Party official Yang Jiechi suggested they conversed about the subject, hinting that a trade war isn’t good for either side. Over $400 billion in tariffs have been placed on trade between the two nations. President Trump and Xi Jinping are planning to meet at the end of the month in Buenos Aires at the leaders’ summit of the Group of 20 nations.

North Korea canceled talks scheduled for last Thursday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York. The Trump Administration had hoped the talks would lay the groundwork for another high-level summit between president Trump and Kim Jong-un. The talks were also meant to facilitate discussions between the new US Special Envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, and his North Korean counterpart. The cancelation exposes fundamental differences in the way each side views the statement that came out of last year’s June summit, with North Korea expecting sanctions relief to happen in tandem with steps towards denuclearization while the US expects full denuclearization before any relief is given. The North has said its dismantling of a missile-launch site and nuclear testing facility, and halting of missile and nuclear-weapons tests, show concessions on their side deserving of sanctions relief. North Korea is possibly looking to sidestep lower-level talks in favor of discussing difficult issues with President Trump directly. The State Department has said little about the prospects for resuming talks.

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