Russia announced that nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers were moving along steadily, and that some 95% of a final deal had been agreed to, despite the presence of “two or three very difficult issues that remained.” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Ryabkov said that the deal is feasible if there is enough political will, ahead of the November 24 deadline. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the talks currently happening in New York as “serious, intense, and very frank.” The initial July deadline was extended after both sides failed to reach an agreement on reducing the number of active centrifuges within Iran.
Recent studies of the general Iranian population have found a wide base of support for a negotiated deal on its nuclear program (about 49%), according to a survey released by the Maryland Center for International and Security Studies, in cooperation with the University of Tehran. Support for the program itself, however, remains extremely high.
On a higher level, recent analysis after failure to meet IAEA deadlines by the Eurasia Group pushed the overall likelihood of a deal by November to around 40%.
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- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has blamed Western actors for the current state of affairs in Ukraine. The Russian foreign policy chief decried the Ukrainian overthrow of ex-President Viktor Yaukovych as a Western-backed coup, and slammed US President Obama for policies Lavrov labeled a continuation of Cold War attitudes directed towards Russia. The statements have been issued shortly after Obama criticized Russia for “bullying” smaller states, an indirect reference to Ukraine.
- Georgia has increased its already prominent energy dependence on Azerbaijan, with natural gas imports set to rise by 15% by the end of 2014. Tbilisi currently imports nearly $200m of Baku’s natural gas and oil every three months, though that figure is predicted to rise to over $200m as the year progresses and into 2015. Azerbaijan currently provides an estimated 83% of Azerbaijan’s total gas imports.
- Tajik government officials have enlisted the help of local Islamic leaders to curb criticism of the national government. Reports emanating from Dushanbe indicate that government-backed Muslim clerics have issued fatwas condemning individuals critical of the government and labeling it a “great sin.” Tajikistan maintains a secular political system, though culturally Islam is very important among a majority of the populace and is by and large the dominant religion.
- The International Monetary Fund has announced that Mongolia, despite attempts made at economic reform, remains far from international norms regarding fiscal and monetary policy. IMF officials have cited high inflation and loose monetary policy as leading causes of concern in the Central Asian nation, and noted that praise over Mongolia’s growing foreign reserves may be premature, as Ulan Bator has borrowed a considerable amount of its growing reserves from abroad. Mongolia’s economy has grown rapidly over the past few years due principally to mining, though the country’s ability to sustain the growth and profit off of the investments has been challenged by a series of economic and financial problems.