As P5+1 members get ready to renew talks with Iran surrounding its much maligned nuclear program, the possibility of a nuclear deal, while still not guaranteed, is still extant. Sources close to the deal have oscillated from initially optimistic, to overtly pessimistic, to somewhere in between, though at the current juncture it appears that both sides have adopted a more pragmatic stance and are approached the deal as such. The next round of talks will again be held in a European city to be determined, and will likely feature high-level mediation from the likes of American and European foreign policy chiefs, as well as growing amounts of commentary from China, urging a “creative” solution.
Obstacles face the deal even if it is enacted. American lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have threatened to bar the easing of sanctions levied against Iran if they deem the deal too lenient towards the Islamic Republic, and allow an “unsafe” percentage of uranium enrichment. Similarly, Tehran faces a strong group of hardliners that will lobby vehemently against the granting of concessions towards the United States and Europe. The two sides appear eager to leverage their support for groups beyond the Middle East, as well as the current state of affairs in Iraq and Syria in order to gain support for their respective ideas of what a binding deal should like.
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- Renewed fighting around the airport in Donetsk that left some 12 dead caused more tensions, despite the presence of a ceasefire. Fighting between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russia rebels was concentrated in Donetsk after a major offensive by the Ukrainian government, reports Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko. Russian and Ukrainian spokesmen both report that the ceasefire is more or less holding, despite repeated clashes in the region.
- Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), the national rail service, will receive 121 million euros from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to acquire new maintenance equipment. This is purportedly the EBRD’s largest ever loan delivered in local currency. The KTZ President Askar Mamin was in Berlin last week where he reached agreements with heads of GE, Alstom, and Talgo to increase foreign engineering companies’ involvement in the Kazakh rail industry.
- Kazakhstan has been suggesting the issue of creating a free trade zone between the countries bordering the Caspian Sea through statements of the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev during a summit in Astrakhan, Russia. He announced that after considering the situations in the world market, they are pursuing the free trade initiative by regulating the legal status of the Caspian Sea and potentially creating a framework by which a prosperous free trade zone can be established. He additionally said that meetings between the leaders of the Caspian littoral states should be held once every two years, and suggested the next summit be held in Kazakhstan.
- A Taliban suicide bomber killed four civilians yesterday in Kabul just as Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated as Afghan president at a ceremony in the city’s center. The Taliban claimed responsibility via a Twitter account, citing that it had been targeting foreign and Afghan soldiers. In other news, the Ghani government prepared to sign the BSA and SOFA agreements that would allow US and NATO forces to remain in the country beyond 2014, saying the pact will be signed this afternoon. The Ghazni province’s district of Ajrestan wasoverrun by a Taliban offensive south of Kabul in southern Afghanistan.
- Indian companies have begun to stake claims in Central Asia and Russia with the recent news that JSW Steel has started to construct a steel mill in Geogia, Srei Infrastructure will enhance its leasing portfolio to help struggling Russian companies, and Tata Tea has acquired a controlling stake in a Russian packaging and distribution company. The main challenge of these developing projects is access to long-term financing, but strangely enough, these companies are expanded thanks to the patronage of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which has allowed Indian firms to secure lower-cost loans to devote to higher-risk projects.