World leaders assembled for the NATO summit in Wales today, with the lead issue being the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. NATO leaders met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday to discuss providing arms and materials to assist in the ongoing fight against Russian-backed separatists and alleged Russian troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned earlier this week not to support any official association with NATO or risk derailing the potential ceasefire that is being discussed between Moscow and Kiev.
Reports today that Kiev and pro-Russian groups holding meetings in Minsk have signed a preliminary accord for a ceasefire have been confirmed by the BBC. The agreement came after Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward a seven-point peace plan, that included a halt to “active offensive operations,” international ceasefire monitoring, unconditional prisoner exchanges, and humanitarian aid corridors.
Despite the apparent breakthrough, fighting in eastern Ukraine continues. Forces from Kiev are attempting to hold Mauripol on the Sea of Azov, and airstrikes and artillery continued to hammer separatist positions.
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- The flag of the Islamic extremist group Islamic State washung from a bridge in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The flag, which was quickly removed by authorities who swiftly moved to interrogate dozens of individuals in order to identify the culprit, represents a disturbing reminder of Uzbekistan’s own fight against Islamic extremism. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al-Qaeda affiliate and active militant organization in Uzbekistan, has previously attempted to destabilize the country, leading some to believe that acts such as the flag-hanging may presage a resurgence of extremist activity within the country.
- An international transport and transit conference is currently being held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The Central Asian gas giant has explored options with regional giants like China and Russia, as well as with Iran and Tajikistan. The latest project appears to be a multilateral Uzbek-Turkmen-Iranian-Omani project which would connect the four nations and provide them all with the means to increase trade throughout the region and allow for oil and gas wealthy states to move their resources in a more efficient fashion.
- The World Bank has begun new discussions with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. The World Bank has maintained an active presence in Tajikistan and will likely continue to so, provided that talks are carried out much in the same way that they are expected to be. The World Bank currently funds 14 projects within Tajikistan, and is expected to invest another $255 million between 2015 and 2018.
- Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has arrived in Rome for the final leg of a European tour that will precede the renewal of talks between Iran and the P5+1. Negotiations between the two sides have not progressed as hoped, with some already ruling out any lasting agreement before the November deadline. One change that may prove of significance is the recent appointing of former Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini as the new EU foreign policy chief, replacing Catherine Ashton. Mogherini has drawn criticism for being too supportive of Russia, and even had her nomination blocked by eastern EU states at one point in time. The appointment of Mogherini was welcomed by the Iranians as someone with whom they hold “common ground.”