Pakistan, Russia form commission to boost military cooperation
Islamabad and Moscow announced to form a commission in order to boost military cooperation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that his country also sees the opportunity for economic cooperation, especially in the energy sector.
‘Pakistan’s closeness with Russia and the cementing of traditionally strong ties with neighboring China stem from the growing US pressure,’ Ayaz Gul writes for Voice of America
‘Political commentators believed that the cold-war era rivals are now heading towards a new realignment in the region as both countries and important regional players are directly affected by the instability in Afghanistan and need to have come up with a unanimous approach to support a political solution to the Afghan conflict,’ Muhammad Tahir writes for Xinhua
North Korea continues to hold a rather strong position on its nuclear program then one would expect, Zaeem Hassan Mehmood writes in his latest analysis for the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.
HRW calls for investigating killings of civilians in Kandahar
Human Rights Watch demanded a joint investigation by the Afghan government and the US military about the alleged killings of 20 civilians in Kandahar last month by members of National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s primary spy agency.
‘HRW said the operation was led by the Police Chief of Maiwand who reports to Kandahar Police Chief General Abdul Raziq, who has been accused of human rights violations in the past. A United Nations annual report on civilian casualties released last week said operations by the NDS special forces caused 61 civilian deaths and 25 injuries in 12 months.’ As reported by Radio Free Europe.
For the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research, Najeeb Ullah Nasar writes about the growing strength of Islamic State in Afghanistan caused due to the anti-Taliban, anti-Iran and anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan.
South East Asia
UK sold surveillance gear to Philippines
The United Kingdom sold $209,000 worth of spying gear to Manila. The sale is considered as an apparent breach of British law which prohibits the selling of such equipment to countries that can use it for internal repression.
‘The equipment purchased by Duterte’s government included IMSI-Catchers, which are used to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, and surveillance tools to monitor internet activity…….The revelation that Britain was supplying Duterte with spying equipment comes just weeks after the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it was looking into evidence that the President had committed crimes against humanity.’ Hannah Ellis-Petersen writes for The Guardian
Middle East & North Africa
Russia blocks UN resolution on Eastern Ghouta ceasefire
Russia blocked the UN resolution that would have established a 30-day ceasefire and allowed humanization supplies in Eastern Ghouta. Top UN officials have called for the cessation of aerial strikes in the enclave. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 330 people have been killed since February 18.
‘Moscow has vetoed 10 previous UN resolutions on Syria and has consistently used its permanent seat on the security council to shield the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from concerted UN action on war crimes. In November, Russia used its veto to block a resumption of UN investigations into the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces.’ Julian Borger writes for The Guardian.
‘Eastern Ghouta has been under siege by regime forces since 2013. After government gains in recent years, it is the final rebel bastion near the capital. Along with Idlib province and part of Aleppo province in the north, and a strip in the southwest, it is one of a handful of areas left where large numbers of people remain in territory controlled by fighters seeking to overthrow Assad.’ Peter Beaumont and Emma Graham-Harrison write for The Guardian.
Sub Saharan Africa
Ghana seeks regional support for single currency
Ghanaian Foreign Minister hopes that his country will find support of several regional countries in implementing a single currency by 2020.
‘Nigeria, however, is not convinced about the benefit of a single currency to its mega economy, whose Gross Domestic Product (GDP) quadruples the rest of the others combined, with the exception of Ghana.’ Abu-Bakarr Jalloh writes for Deutsche Welle.
Top EU court warns Poland of financial penalties over pollution
The European Court of Justice has warned Poland that it can face financial penalties over its failure to comply with limiting air pollution. The European Commission has also warned nine other European countries, including Germany, that the commission could pursue legal action against them for violating pollution rules.
‘Under a 2008 EU rule, member states are obliged to limit air pollution to protect human health. More than 400,000 people die prematurely across the bloc every year due to poor air quality, according to recent estimates.’ Deutsche Welle writes.
‘Environmentalists have called on Poland to take action to improve air quality, which in some places, especially in the south, can be worse than in Beijing and New Delhi, the world’s most polluted cities. But activists said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had been slow in introducing anti-smog regulations and complained to the EU.’ Samantha Koester and Agnieszka Barteczko write for Reuters.
Israeli intelligence helped Australia in foiling plane terror plot
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that Israel provided intelligence which helped Australian authorities in foiling an alleged plot to blow up an airliner flying out of Sydney last July.
‘It would appear to be the first time that Israel has acknowledged a role in uncovering what investigators said was an ISIS-directed plot, which reportedly involved a plan to get a homemade bomb onto an Etihad Airways plane traveling out of Sydney, which was first revealed by Australian authorities last July.’ Phil Helsel and Paul Goldman write for NBC News
‘Mr. Netanyahu’s statements were at odds with official statements from the Australian Federal Police, who stated they received the intelligence tip-off 11 days after the alleged terror cell attempted to smuggle the bomb onto the Etihad flight.’ Jessica Kidd writes for ABC News
Venezuela’s new Cryptocurrency
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that his country has raised $735 million in early sales of its new ‘petro’ cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency coins, which will sell for $60 each, will be tied to oil prices and can be used to pay taxes, tourist activities’ expenditures and some oil and gas transactions.
‘Maduro is hoping the petro will allow the ailing OPEC member to skirt US sanctions as the bolivar currency plunges to record lows and it struggles with hyperinflation and a collapsing socialist economy.’ Corina Pons and Girish Gupta write for Reuters
‘There are many causes for Venezuela’s economic collapse, but certainly a prominent one has been massive budget deficits. Venezuela has been running double-digit deficits at the level of the consolidated public sector for six consecutive years; last year, the deficit reached a whopping 21 percent of GDP. The reason for this is that Venezuela’s government has chosen to maintain absurd and inefficient subsidies for goods provided to consumers by the state and to finance most of its spending by printing money.’ Francisco Rodríguez writes for Americas Quarterly