The European Union will delay the continuance of sanctions against Russia by one week. The decision was made by the foreign ministers of the European Union in order to encourage successful peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, set to begin tomorrow in Minsk. The EU’s decision to forestall sanctions coincides with declarations made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the European Union would not support the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine.
US President Barack Obama has pronounced himself in favor of lethal aid being provided to Ukraine if “diplomacy fails.” The two leaders found themselves largely at odds concerning this issue during a visit by the German leader to the White House this week. This disagreement notwithstanding, both Merkel and Obama appeared surprisingly optimistic that positive “momentum” leading up the conference could lead to a lasting peace agreement. Merkel will soon fly to Minsk to attend peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian leaders.
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- The New York Times profiles an investigation launched by the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s official intelligence agency, into corruption among the Afghan police force. Reports emerged following the arrest of Taliban leader Mullah Mujahid that members of the Afghan police force had issued warnings of impending attacks and even provide local Taliban fighters with ammunition. Mujahid himself had been arrested twice previously and released with the help of local Afghan elders who intervened on his behalf. So far, at least 32 police officers have been arrested during the ongoing anti-corruption investigation.
- Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has vehemently denied reports that he warned US leaders that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will cease to hold political sway in Iran if negotiations over the nuclear program fail. The foreign minister criticized Reuters for reporting what the publication described as the words of three high ranking Iranian government officials.
- 480,000 residents of China’s western Xinjiang province will for the first time have ready access to drinking water. The Chinese government announced that it would invest approximately $54 million USD into regional water projects. The expected result of the investment is that more than 3.4 million residents will have access to water by the end of 2015.
- Representatives from Russia, France, Ukraine and Germany will meet anew in Belarus this coming Wednesday to renew talks of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was surprisingly optimistic about the next round of negotiations, stating that he was certain a “swift and unconditional cease fire” could be obtained in the near future. Every other attempt at cease fire has broken down between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian military.
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has extended a loan to microfinance organization FINCA for work to be carried out in Tajikistan. The new, multi-currency loan will total approximately four million dollars and will be distributed in installments to small to medium size Tajik businesses. FINCA’s operations in Tajikistan have found success in mostly rural towns in Tajikistan.