The World This Week

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The World This Week
China: Xi Jinping reaffirms his resolve to rebuild Syria

  GP Team

The World This Week #232, Vol. 5, No.36
25 September 2023

Regional Round ups

China This Week 
China: Xi Jinping reaffirms his resolve to rebuild Syria
On 22 September, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his resolve to the ostracized leader Bashar Al-Assad in rebuilding Syria’s shattered economy. Assad met with Xi in the city of Hangzhou with China looking further its influence in the Middle East. Xi inferred with Assad that China also opposes any external interference and would work with Syria to “safeguard international fairness and justice.” This comes in light of Syria being heavily sanctioned since 2011 and now is in dire need of foreign investments, while some question the resolve turning into something concrete as it would mean more sanctions by the US on China via the 2020 Caeser Act. Under this, any third state that engages with a Pariah state would face sanctions and their assets frozen. 

China: Huawei wants to be the alternative to US tech industry
On 20 September, Chinese tech giant Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou announced their plans to “build a solid computing based for China and a second option for the world.” Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Ren Zhengfei expressed their future strategy for AI, stating that lack of development in computing power is the factor holding back AI development hinting towards US sanction and restriction of export of Nvidia chips. Huawei recently made headlines with the release of Mate 60 Pro smartphones with China-made chips, additionally, the Chip is made with 7- 7-nanometer technology.

China: The US National Security adviser held an informal discussion with the Chinese Foreign Minister
On 18 September, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malta. Both sides agreed to establish exchanges and bilateral consultations over Asia-Pacific affairs and foreign policy. White House issued a statement that it is: “committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level engagement and consultations in key areas ... in the coming months.” Sullivan stressed the need for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and Yi responded by saying that the issue is: “first insurmountable red line of Sino-US relations”by saying that the issue is: “first insurmountable red line of Sino-US relations”

East and Southeast Asia This Week
South Korea: Plans to hold meeting with Japan and China
On 19 September, Kyodo News reported that Japan, China, and South Korea plan to hold high-level talks in Seoul next week. It is potentially to pave the way for their first trilateral summit in four years. Officials from all three countries will attend the talks on 26 September, aiming to revitalize their trilateral cooperation. China’s proposal for these talks signals its interest in a joint summit by year-end. The last trilateral summit took place in December 2019, and South Korea is set to assume the rotating chair for the next summit.

Japan: Conducts land forces drill with France
On 19 September, Nikkei Asia reported that France and Japan are conducting their first-ever three-week military exercise in New Caledonia. The drills, named “Brunet-Takamori 2023,” began on 10 September. It aims to enhance coordination between the two countries’ ground forces. The exercise includes live-fire drills and in-field training simulating operations in civilian areas. France seeks to deepen ties with Japan as a like-minded partner in promoting a free and stable Indo-Pacific region. Prior defence cooperation mainly focused on naval and air forces, but this marks a significant expansion of their joint military activities.

South Asia This Week
Iran: Iran de-designates several IAEA inspectors
On 16 September, IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi, condemned Iran’s move to bar most of its experienced inspectors assigned to the country in effect blocking efforts to monitor Tehran’s atomic activities. The Iranian move is being seen as a response to the IAEA’S Board of Governors meeting held earlier this week. In the meeting, the US, Britain, France and Germany had urged Tehran to cooperate with the agency promptly on all issues between them and explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites. Grossi termed Iran’s move as “disproportionate”, “unilateral”, “unprecedented” and an “overreaction”. However, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, blamed these countries for politicizing the IAEA and using it “for their own political purposes” and stated that Iran had warned them of the said consequences before. Despite this, Iran has promised to cooperate with the agency.

Iran: Iran passes “Hijab and Chastity” Bill
On 20 September, the Iranian parliament passed a “Hijab and Chastity” bill with 152 voting in favour, 34 against, and seven abstaining. It is an experimental bill approved for a duration of three years on a trial basis. The bill in order to be implemented needs to be approved by the Guardian Council which is a powerful oversight body consisting of clerics and legal experts. The bill which had been in the making for a few months was not put to vote in the parliament and had been instead approved by a special committee of lawmakers last month. It lays out a range of punishments- from financial penalties to prison terms depending on the extent and number of violations. It is aimed at enforcing a strict dress code, especially for women, that has been in place since after the revolution of 1979. A group of United Nations experts last month had said that the bill “could be described as a form of gender apartheid”, reported the Aljazeera.

Afghanistan: The Islamic Emirate rejects claims of the UNAMA Report
On 20 September Reuters reported on a report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan which has recorded over 1,600 incidents of rights violations against people detained by the Taliban authorities. It claimed that nearly half of them were acts of torture and ill-treatment mostly by police and intelligence agents. It further said that 18 people had also died in prisons and in the custody of police and intelligence in the 19 months ending July 2023. Around one in ten of the violations were against women. The report covers the period from January 2022 until the end of July 2023. In response, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Islamic Emirate's spokesperson strongly rejected the claim and called it propaganda.

Pakistan: Pakistan rejects claims of a secret arms sale to the United States
On 17 September, The Intercept broke the news about a secret arm deal between the US and Pakistan. It deals helped facilitate an IMF bailout for Pakistan earlier this year in lieu of the latter selling arms secretly to the former. This arms sale was allegedly made for the purpose of supplying it to the Ukrainian military which effectively means Pakistani involvement in a conflict it had faced U.S. pressure to take sides on. It further cited two sources with knowledge of the arrangement along with confirmation from internal Pakistani and American government documents. On 18 September, the Pakistani Foreign Office categorically rejected the report. Infact, Dawn reported that when approached by them for a comment on the report, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch termed it as “baseless and fabricated”.

Pakistan:  Election Commission of Pakistan announces poll-week
On 21 September, the Election Commission of Pakistan finally announced that the general elections would be held in the last week of January next year. It was constitutionally mandated to be held within 90 days from the date of the premature dissolution of the National Assembly.   However, the elections got delayed because of the process of delimitation being carried out in the country which the ECP had deemed necessary. In this regard the election commission has stated that the final list of delimitation would be announced on November 30 after hearing objections and suggestions to the initial list. It is to be noted that the new dates for election exceeds the deadline of November 6 that had been suggested by President Arif Alvi.

Middle East and Africa This Week
Israel: US and Israel health ministers signed a significant cooperation agreement
On 21 September, during his official visit to New York, the Israeli Health Minister Moshe Arbel met Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. The health ministers of both the countries signed a memorandum establishing their commitment to support critical domains and cooperation between the health ministries. The joint statement by ministers focused on their adherence by addressing various issues that are important to Israel and the US. These key issues include research and technology and expansion of mental health services. Probing ahead, the agreement also discusses issues including food security, medical device and medication licensing, public health preparedness for pandemics in the future, behavioral health, digital health, and the integration of artificial intelligence into the medical field.

Israel: Iranian cyberattacks targets Israel
On 21 September, the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) disclosed that it had found Iranian cyber-attacks in the job searching websites. INCD stated that personal information of job seekers was revealed. Users of job search websites were subjected to the attack by receiving phony communications that appeared to be sent by the websites themselves. A malicious link in the messages launches a browser tab with code that tries to activate the device's camera, and a false login page captures the target's login details.

Syria: Syrian President Assad made his first to China since 2004
On 21 September, Syria's President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma made their first visit after a long break. Assad last traveled to China in 2004 to meet with President Hu Jintao. Since the two nations diplomatic relations were established in 1956, it was the first trip by a head of state from Syria to China. While other nations isolated Assad following his harsh suppression of anti-government protests that began in 2011, China, together with Syria's primary allies Russia and Iran, kept those relations intact. On 23 September, Assad plans to attend the Asian Games opening ceremony before meeting the Chinese delegations.

Ethiopia: Continuing human rights abuses in Tigray, reports the UN
On 18 September, the UN Human Rights Council released a report titled “Report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.” According to the report, war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed by all warring parties in Ethiopia’s Tigray region even after the peace deal signed in November 2022 between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian federal forces. Chair of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, Mohamed Chande Othman, stated alongside the release of the report: “While the signing of the agreement may have mostly silenced the guns, it has not resolved the conflict in the north of the country, in particular in Tigray, nor has it brought about any comprehensive peace.” The report claimed that TPLF, federal forces, Eritrean forces and their respective regional allied militias are carrying out human rights abuses including sexual violence in the region. All the parties had previously denied similar accusations.

Europe and the Americas This Week
Europe: Ursula announces action plan to combat migration overcrowding in Lampedusa
On 17 September, Italy’s Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen visited Italy’s island of Lampedusa. The island located between Italy, and Malta, 7000 migrants entered in last one week from Tunisia. A migrant reception in the Island with only 400 migrants, due to the sudden influx, declared “state of emergency,” as challenges arose in supply of food and water. On arriving at the Island, Meloni affirmed to address the situation at “pan-European level.” Von der Leyen announced the 10-point action plan and said: “Migration is a European challenge and will receive a European solution.” Under the plan, EU’s asylum agencies the European Union Asylum Agency (EUAA) and the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex) will be deployed to handle the crowd and find ways to manage migration and returns. Till now EU and Tunisia has a deal in place to stop the migration from North Africa and as part of the deal EUR 100 million is yet to paid. 

Spain: Parliament allows the use of minority languages amidst protests
On 19 September, Spain’s national parliament permitted the use of three minority languages – Catalan, Basque, and Galician – after the concession by Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to Catalan separatists. The move led to objections from the far-right party, Vox, which then abandoned the chamber in protest. The conservative Popular Party demanded formal approval for the use of minority languages. This development is part of Sanchez’s efforts to gain support from Catalan separatist parties for his investiture vote. Spain has also called for these languages to be recognized as official EU languages, but this has faced resistance from some member states.

France and Germany: Present joint proposal for EU enlargement
On 19 September, France and Germany submitted a joint report outlining EU reforms. It comes with the need to accommodate new member states like Ukraine, Moldova, and the Western Balkans. The report suggests tighter rules on the rule of law, changes to voting procedures in the European Council, and an expanded EU budget. It also proposes a multi-tiered bloc that includes an inner circle of select EU countries, the EU itself, "associate members" of the single market, and an outer tier. This proposal aims to facilitate an enlarged EU while avoiding treaty changes, with some countries opting for deeper integration while others maintain a looser association.

Germany: Signs High Seas Treaty for ocean protection
On 20 September, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Environment Minister Steffi Lemke signed the High Seas Treaty. It is aimed at designating large environmentally-protected areas in maritime zones outside individual countries’ control. The treaty, adopted by the UN in June, introduces regulations for protecting biodiversity in the world’s oceans. It addresses environmental consequences of activities like mineral extraction on the high seas. Germany was one of 67 countries to sign the treaty on the day it became available, including the US, China, Australia, and the EU.

Brazil: Ruling in favour of Indigenous land rights hailed “momentous victory after years of struggle”
On 21 September, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled against a legal policy known as the “marco temporal,” which sought to establish a time limit for Indigenous groups to make claims to ancestral lands. This policy, supported by businesses and farmers, would have required Indigenous groups to prove they were on the land in question in 1988 when Brazil's current constitution was ratified in order to assert a right to the territory. The court’s decision to strike down the “marco temporal” is seen as a victory for Indigenous rights and has been celebrated by Indigenous peoples, human rights organizations, and experts at the United Nations. The ruling will have significant implications for Brazil’s Bill 490, which seeks to limit new Indigenous reservations, and is currently under consideration in Congress.

Venezuela: US grants Temporal Protected Status granted to roughly 500,000 Venezuelan migrants
On 22 September, BBC reported that the US has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to about 472,000 people, mainly Venezuelans, for 18 months. This move, supported by Democrats, allows those who arrived in the US before 31 July to work and avoid deportation while awaiting asylum determinations. The decision comes due to increased instability and safety concerns in Venezuela. New York City, struggling to accommodate many migrants, particularly from Venezuela, welcomed the decision, hoping to ease the burden on city resources. This action addresses the ongoing migrant crisis driven by economic and political turmoil in Venezuela.

Canada: Ukraine President’s first visit since Russian invasion
On 22 September, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Canada for the first time since the Russian invasion. He met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa after a visit to Washington to secure further funding, though it’s uncertain if the US Congress will approve more aid. Canada has reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine, with Ambassador Bob Rae stating that they need to “do more” to help. This visit comes amid rising diplomatic tensions, with Zelensky criticizing Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary for banning Ukrainian grain imports. In the US, Republican scepticism about funding the war is growing despite President Biden’s pleas not to abandon Ukraine.

US: IMF acknowledges limitations on climate change
On 19 September, the IMF acknowledged its limitations in addressing climate change and suggested other institutions, like the World Bank, should lead on climate finance. Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF's head, maintains that they would “only do what we are good at,” and while the IMF will stick to its strengths in promoting economic stability and growth, conversations about policies related to financial stability should continue to consider climate issues. Her comments came in response to criticism from some US officials, including Republicans, who argue that focusing on climate change would be deviating from the IMF’s central purpose. The US Treasury Department's under-secretary for international affairs, Jay Shambaugh, recently urged the IMF to maintain its focus on financial issues, stating: “We cannot let the temptation to address every problem pull the IMF away from its core mission of macroeconomic and exchange rate surveillance and guidance.”

US: Plan to launch economic and financial groups with China amidst rising competition
On 22 September, the United States and China established new economic and financial working groups to enhance communication amid growing competition. These groups, led by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and China's Vice Premier He Lifeng, will meet “at a regular cadence” to discuss economic and financial policy matters and exchange information on macroeconomic and financial developments. This move, which seeks to create “ongoing structured channels for frank and substantive discussions on economic and financial policy matters,” follows Yellen's visit to China in July and is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to manage tensions and stabilize relations with Beijing. This is in spite of ongoing disputes over trade, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.

US: Ukraine’s President receives lukewarm welcome by Congress
On 22 September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his second visit to Washington, DC, seeking US support for his country amid ongoing Russian aggression. While expressing gratitude for American assistance for standing with Ukraine and a “very powerful package” worth USD 128 million, Zelenskyy faced a more challenging reception from US lawmakers, particularly Republicans who questioned the allocation of funds and the progress of Ukraine's counteroffensive. The Biden administration, which pledged to “stand behind” Ukraine, has requested an additional USD 24 billion for Ukraine aid, but political divisions and war fatigue among the US public have complicated efforts to secure congressional approval. Republicans have stated that without receiving answers to questions on Ukraine’s progress, it would be “an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility” to grant more financial aid.

US: President Biden launches climate corps program to train youth for climate jobs
On 20 September, President Joe Biden used his executive authority to establish a new “climate corps” program aimed at providing paid training to 20,000 young individuals, preparing them for high-paying careers in climate change mitigation and resilience efforts. This initiative, which seeks to mobilize the next generation of clean energy and climate workers, comes after similar legislative proposals failed in the US Congress due to opposition from Republicans. He stated: “Today, we are mobilising the next generation of clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience workers.” Biden’s move aligns with his commitment to transitioning the US to a clean energy economy and addressing climate change, building on provisions in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which included significant federal investments in climate action. While climate advocates welcomed the program, some called for bolder executive actions to phase out fossil fuel expansion and production.

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