The World This Week

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The World This Week
Europe's floods and EU's Climate package, SCO meet on Afghanistan, and Political crises in Lebanon and Nepal

  GP Team

The World This Week #128, Vol. 3, No. 29

Joeana Cera Matthews, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Udbhav Krishna P, Sourina Bej

Europe: EU's climate package amidst the rains and floods
What happened? 
On 15 July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated on the flood situation in Germany: "... there is a dramatic increase in such unusual weather phenomena and we have to contend with this."  On 16 July, she said: "My thoughts are with you, ... will do everything under the most difficult conditions to save lives, alleviate dangers and to relieve distress." The torrential rains and floods have hit Germany and Belgium the hardest. Over the past week, it has claimed at least 143 lives in Germany and 27 in Belgium, while hundreds remain missing. It has been attributed to be Germany's worst natural disaster in half a century as power and communications remain cut in several regions across the country. Showing the direness of the situation, France's national weather service said that two months of average rain had fallen in two days. The Netherlands also remains on alert, taking precautionary measures against potential floods.

On 14 July, the European Commission announced its 'Fit for 55' package as Europe experiences scorching temperatures and floods over the past few weeks. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "It is our generational task... [to secure] the wellbeing of not only our generation, but of our children and grandchildren. Europe is ready to lead the way." 

What is the background? 
First, the recent weather anomaly. Prior to the floods, parts of the US and Canada had experienced a blazing heatwave that killed hundreds. Scientists claim that this extreme heat was triggered by climate change which supposedly increased Europe's chances of flooding. The record-breaking temperatures in the Arctic and its subsequent melting have also raised concerns of the global community. Climate scientists remain baffled by the speed at which the change is occurring.

Second, the EU package - 'Fit for 55'. Aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 as part of the European Green Deal, the ambitious package comprises 12 legislative proposals. Its name is derived from the bloc's 2030 goal of reducing emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels. The package includes various proposals, from taxing aviation fuel to further tightening emission limits. One of the key proposals is a carbon border tariff – the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), that will increase the import costs for non-EU manufacturers. A EUR 72.2 billion Social Climate Fund is suggested to fund the entire package from 2025 to 2032. However, the proposals are yet to be approved by the EU member states and the EU Parliament. Given its nature, these negotiations could take years to complete.  

Third, the divide in the response. Negotiations are expected to be prolonged since the bloc is internally divided. The bloc sees both regional as well as a national divide. Poland and other central and eastern European countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels are likely to lead the resistance. They remain wary of the social and economic costs of the deal. Critics opine that Brussels risks a backlash from low- and middle-income earners, and should avoid repeating anti-establishment protests like the yellow vests of France. There also exists an East-West divide, given the increased support from the western countries contrasting the critical approach of the east. Internationally, CBAM has become controversial in the US, China and Russia. Environmentalists have also criticized the proposals saying they are not enough. Greenpeace, an NGO, mocked the announcements as "a fireworks display over a rubbish dump".  

Fourth, the necessity of action. According to climate scientists and activists, inaction is not an option. While critics fear increasing costs, they appear ignorant of the already large costs being paid via climate change-triggered events. The effects are becoming more evident, rapid, and disruptive. Aggressive policies to prevent or reduce the rates of climate change are necessary to avoid the extremes. The EU seems to be taking the global leadership in climate action. It shows how willing the bloc is to stake its domestic and international benefits to fulfil its climate goals. However, criticisms pertaining to the package remain.  

What does it mean? 
Europe seems to have taken the first step in a long road. The proposed climate package is nothing short of transformational, given its scale and impact range. However, questions on the practicality of the package and its ability to curb the adverse effects of climate change loom large. 

The SCO Summit: The call to end violence in Afghanistan
What happened?
On 14 July, foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states held the fourth meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The joint statement said: "We condemn the ongoing violence and terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, whose victims are civilians and representatives of State authorities, and call for their early cessation. We note that the activity of international terrorist organizations remains a key factor of instability in that country."  It read: "As friendly neighbors and important partners of Afghanistan, the SCO Member States are interested in making the country peaceful, stable and prosperous, and reaffirm their respect for the traditions and culture of all peoples inhabiting Afghanistan…We urge all parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan to refrain from the use of force and actions that could lead to destabilization and unpredictable consequences in areas along Afghanistan's borders with SCO Member States."

Additionally, the foreign ministers in their speeches raised concerns over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and cautioned the resurgence of international terrorist forces in the country. They also call for firmly advancing the political settlement for the Afghan issue and for the SCO to play a key role in achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The meeting was also attended by the SCO Secretary-General, the Director of the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the SCO, and the Afghan Foreign Minister, who attended the meeting specially to provide updates on the situation in Afghanistan.

What is the background?
First, Afghanistan and the SCO. Afghanistan's relations with the SCO dates back to 2005 when it signed a protocol establishing the SCO-Afghanistan contact group. Later in 2012, Afghanistan became an observer in the SCO and has sought full SCO membership since then. Additionally, Afghanistan has also signed several protocols related to counter-terrorism, combating extremism and illicit drug trafficking, and others. For Afghanistan, an entry into the SCO would bring a more proactive engagement from the organization in Afghanistan. Additionally, a full SCO membership will likely increase Afghanistan's security and economic cooperation with the SCO region.

Second, SCO and Afghanistan. The main focus of the SCO in Afghanistan has been to counter-terrorism, drug trafficking, and provision of infrastructure to rebuild Afghanistan. However, there has been opposition to Afghanistan's entry into the group because of the presence of American troops or Kabul's close alliance with Washington. With this apprehension out of the way, providing Afghanistan full membership would help assist the group in better achieving its objectives and boost regional integration and connectivity among the region.

Third, the current situation in Afghanistan. Since May 2021, the Taliban has capitalized on the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a series of offensives across the country, pushing the country into further chaos. This comes as the intra-Afghan negotiations remained stalled with both sides unable to make tangible progress.

What does it mean?
First, the space for SCO in Afghanistan. With the situation in Afghanistan changing, the SCO could become a regional forum to address the Afghan problem, given the proximity the group has to the region. Second, the SCO needs a unified Afghan strategy. Given that there exist several disagreements between SCO members on several important matters related to Afghanistan, the organization would have to redraw its strategy amid the recent developments in Afghanistan. The failure to do so would lead to regional power politics paving the way for proxy wars and instability in the region.

Lebanon: Deepening political crisis 
What happened?
On 15 July, Lebanon Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri stepped down after failing to form a government over the past eight months. Hariri resigned, following a brief meeting with President Aoun at Baabda Palace. Aoun accused Hariri of having already decided to step down prior to their meeting. According to Al Jazeera, the President's office said, "Hariri rejected any amendments related to changes in ministries, their sectarian distribution, and the names associated with them."

On the same day, during an interview with Lebanon's Al Jadeed TV, Hariri said he selected his candidates based on their expertise and their ability to reform the economy, but Aoun did not. Following Hariri's step down, his supporters took to the street and there were few clashes with Lebanese soldiers. The Lebanese pound hit a new all-time low exceeding USD 21,000. 
Reuters reported: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Lebanese leaders seemed unable to find a solution to the crisis that they had created, calling the failure to form a cabinet another terrible incident. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hariri's decision was "disappointing" and urged Lebanese leaders to put aside their differences and form a government.

What is the background?
First, Lebanon's unique power-sharing system. Different sects share and allocate key political and security offices. The president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim. Hariri, a former prime minister, and Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician, was designated in October to assemble a government following the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet in the wake of the Beirut port explosion. Hariri is the most influential Sunni politician in Lebanon and has the support of the Lebanese Sunni religious establishment. Although support from Sunni-led Saudi Arabia waned in recent years, he still has backing from other Sunni Arab-led states like Egypt. 

Second, the internal political deadlock. Hariri's decision to step down marks the culmination of months of conflict over cabinet posts between him and Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state. The latter is allied with the Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah. According to the Al Jazeera report, on 14 July, Hariri proposed a 24-minister government, which according to local media, gave Aoun eight ministers, including the defense and foreign ministries. Hariri has been at odds with Aoun over the size and distribution of a new government. Aoun has accused Hariri's proposal of lacking Christian representation and dismissing the country's sectarian-based power-sharing system, while Hariri has accused Aoun of wanting too large of a share in the government.

Third, the economic crisis. The World Bank has described Lebanon's depression as one of the sharpest in modern history. The currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value in two years; poverty has spread, and there have been crippling fuel shortages, prompting growing fears of social unrest. The economic freefall is Lebanon's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. 

Fourth, the external pressure. There have been sanctions by European Union on Lebanese officials preventing a new government from taking power. The international community has urged Lebanese officials to settle political differences and put together a government that would enact economic reforms to unlock billions of dollars in aid and make the economy viable again. 

What does it mean?
Prime Minister Hassan Diab is staying in a caretaker capacity. A parliamentary election is due to be held next May; some believe the political vacuum will continue till then. With no candidate in place to replace Hariri, Lebanon's sectarian-based political system has been thrust into a period of further uncertainty. The continuation of a political vacuum will also impact Lebanon's ability to bring international aid to manage economy.

Nepal: Ending constitutional crisis, Supreme Court appoints a new Prime Minister 
What happened? 
On 12 July, the Supreme Court of Nepal overturned K P Sharma Oli's decision to dissolve the House of the Representative and issued a judicial writ to appoint the Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba as the Prime Minister under Article 76(5) of the constitution. The apex court order was based on the 30 writ petitions, including one from Deuba himself and 146 parliament members, demanding the appointment of Deuba as the prime minister. Upon reinstating the legislature, the court also said the lawmakers must meet within seven days. 

What is the background? 
First, Nepal's recurring political instability. Since the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) won the 2017 election after the new constitution was promulgated in 2015, the NCP has split, the legislature has been dissolved twice, and the country has a new Prime Minister. Twenty different governments have been in power in Nepal since 2000. While the immediate cause of the current crisis is an intra-party feud but weak democratic institutions, corruption, and politics of exclusion are primary reasons for protracted political instability. Deuba's oath-taking ceremony also witnessed tension between the leaders when President Bidya Devi Bhandari refused to explicitly appoint Deuba under Article 76(5).  

Second, an end to Oli's tenure as Prime Minister. The tensions emerged after Oli refused to hand over power to his NCP's coalition leader 'Prachanda' after half his term leading to splits and weakening of Oli's power in the legislature. On 20 December 2020, Oli dissolved the House and called for snap polls to secure his prime ministerial position amid pressure from his coalition partners to resign. The office of the President played second fiddle, and as the opposition failed to lay claim to the government, Oli was reinstated as the Prime Minister despite losing his trust vote on 10 May 2021. Subsequently, Oli dissolved the parliament again and announced an election to stymie existing calls for his resignation and weave new political alliances. 

Third, proactive Judiciary. From one dissolution to another, the Supreme Court has validated the lawmakers' writ petitions and reinstated the House. The bench has become the vanguard of the constitution in actively criticizing the legislative power struggle and the President's inactions to the effect that it has directed and upheld a new leadership this time. Furthermore, on 7 March, the Supreme Court has also invalidated the NCP in a separate hearing which subsequently brought the fractures within the coalition partners: CPN(UML) headed by Oli, and CPN (Maoist Centre) headed by 'Prachanda' to the fore.   

Fourth, emergence of regional parties as important players. The dissolution has paved the way for Terai regional parties to play an active role in the new political alliance formation. On 23 May, the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party had already been in talks with Oli for a potential power-sharing deal. With Deuba in power, an opportunity arises when the support of the Terai political parties will be crucial for the floor test. This has also brought the Terai demands for constitutional amendment and release of jailed comrades at par for dialogue with parties in the Valley, more so that President passed the Nepal Citizenship (First Amendment) Ordinance on 23 May 2021. 

What does it mean? 
The constitutional crises end, but political uncertainties continue with challenges before Deuba. He will have to prove in a vote that he has the support of more than half the House members to continue in office. The Nepali Congress currently holds only 63 seats out of 275 and would need to put together an alliance with the Maoist faction of CPN and in all likelihood with the Upendra Yadav-led faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party to reach majority. A balance between the ethnonational demands of the Terai parties and a power-sharing deal with ideologically opposite coalition partner 'Prachanda' would be something to watch for during Deuba's tenure. 

Also, in the news …
By Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok

East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: State Council Information releases White paper on Human Rights progress in Xinjiang
On 14 July, Beijing's State Council Information released a white paper document, "Respecting and Protecting the Rights of All Ethnic Groups in Xinjiang" detailing the human rights progress of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region since 2016. According to Global Times, the document introduces seven fields of rights such as civil rights, political rights, economic and cultural rights, and freedom of religious belief. It also showed development in the region from 1955 to 2020 when "GDP soared from 1.2 billion yuan to 1.4 trillion yuan."
North Korea: 60th anniversary of defence partnership with China
On 11 July, North Korea and Chinese leaders expressed their desire to strengthen their relationship, marking the 60th anniversary of the defence treaty. Under the 1961 treaty, both the nations are committed to offer "immediate military and other aid in the event of an attack." Korean According to Central News Agency: "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said, it is the fixed stand of his government to ceaselessly develop the friendly and cooperative relations between the countries." Xi Jinping said he is "willing to provide greater happiness to the two countries, by strengthening the strategic communication with (Kim) to properly control the direction of the advance of the China-(North Korea) relations and by steadily leading the relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries to a new stage."
Japan: Strengthens Trans-Pacific Partnership with Australia
On 15 July, Japan and Australia agreed to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to channelize the pandemic hit economy. Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister and Australia's minister for trade, tourism and investment in the meeting reaffirmed cooperation for 'Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.' As per the joint statement released after the meeting, "Ministers were united in their commitment to free and fair trade as foundational principles and to the objectives and strengthening of the rules-based multilateral trading system."
Australia: Condemns EU's proposed carbon border tariffs
On 15 July, Australia's ruling coalition condemned the EU proposed carbon border tariff.  Canberra showed concerns that "other nations might follow." The Strait Times reported: "Australia's Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the EU's policy was designed to raise revenue rather than reduce emissions and risked breaching global trade rules." He also said: "We think it would be much better to incentivize countries to a deal with emissions reduction, rather than penalizing them."
New Zealand: Hosts Asia Pacific trade group meeting
On 16 July, the Asia-Pacific trade group meeting pledged to work together in expanding and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine. The leaders agreed to work on mutual terms. In a joint statement released by New Zealand: "The pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on our region's people and economies. We will only overcome this health emergency by accelerating equitable access to safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines." New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "Our discussions moved us beyond vaccine nationalism. Now we are focusing on all aspects of contributing to the global vaccination effort, making vaccines, sharing vaccines and using vaccines."
 On the other hand, US President Joe Biden emphasized on "importance of investing in better global health security and preparedness so that we are ready the next time we face a pandemic."
Indonesia: Parliament passes law for Papua province
On 15 July, Indonesia's parliament ratified a new law for its easternmost province, Papua. The special autonomy bill revised 20 articles from the 2001 law. Reuters reported: "Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian said, the new law will boost a special autonomy fund for the region, ensure affirmative action for indigenous Papuans in local politics, boost healthcare and education and funnel more proceeds from oil and gas." Whereas the United Liberation Front for West Papua, group strongly condemned the law and considered it as "racist colonial rule". Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said the law was not even consulted by the group, Papuan People's Assembly (MRP). She said: "Jakarta has been discussing Otsus by ignoring Otsus itself. It's clear Otsus is a product for Jakarta, by Jakarta."
South Asia This Week
India: ISRO conducts third hot test of liquid propellant
On 15 July, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) conducted the third long-duration test of the liquid propellant Vikas engine for the country's first manned mission to space 'Gaganyaan program.' The space agency said the test was conducted for the core L110 liquid stage of the human-rated GSLV MkIII vehicle as part of the engine qualification requirements for the program. The engine was fired for 240 seconds at ISRO Propulsion Complex facility Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.
Seychelles: To destroy Sri Lanka vessels
On 13 July, Seychelles News Agency reported: "Seychelles is considering destroying Sri Lankan vessels illegally fishing in Seychellois waters in the future." The Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) manager told six Sri Lankan vessels were caught last year. He said: "Among the six vessels, two have already been convicted, one was released as there was insufficient evidence for prosecution, and three are still in court. For the court cases of the three vessels, one of the captains has been charged for illegal fishing while investigation is ongoing for the others and their crew are in remand."
Pakistan: Rejects Afghanistan's allegation
On 16 July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed Afghanistan's Vice President's statements that the Pakistan Air Force said it would resist the Afghan Air Force's attempts to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak. The Foreign Office said, "We acknowledge Afghan Government's right to undertake actions on its sovereign territory." Further added, "Pakistan took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population." Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said: "Mr Ghani, I want to make it clear to you that Pakistan will be the last country to think about supporting turmoil and unrest in Afghanistan." He further added: "Blaming Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan is extremely unfair."
Afghanistan: The US to evacuate the Afghan interpreters
On 15 July, the Biden administration said, the US is prepared for the evacuation flights for Afghan interpreters and translators. According to the White House, Operation Allies Refuge flights from Afghanistan will be available for special immigrant visa applicants. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: "The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals." He added, "We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they've played over the last several years." According to the State Department, the US embassy in Kabul has issued "299 immigrant visas in March, 356 in April and 619 in May." The US Federal government recorded 2,500 immigrant visa approval since January.
Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Uzbekistan: Central Asian countries and the US hold a conference on regional issues
On 15 July, the Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the US, adopted a joint statement on regional connectivity at the International Conference on "Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities" hosted by Uzbekistan. At the conference, the member countries agreed to cooperate on the regional diplomatic platform, connectivity, trade, transport and energy. Climate change and cooperation on water sharing were also focused upon during the sessions. The countries also pledged to collectively work on the Afghan peace process and promote opportunities in Afghanistan to ensure peace and stability in the region. 
The UAE: Emirati Ambassador inaugurates embassy in Tel Aviv
On 14 July, the UAE established its embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. The latest move is the biggest step yet in the direction of normalization of relations between the two countries. The embassy is located in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building and highlights the significance of economic relations that have led to the current state of affairs between Israel and the UAE. By establishing its embassy in Tel Aviv, the UAE became the third Arab country to recognize Israel. The Ambassador from the UAE said: "The UAE and Israel are both innovative nations, we can harness this creativity to work towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for our countries and our region."
Iran: The US refuses to impose a deadline on the seventh round of talks
On 12 July, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement regarding the next round of talks with Iran and stated that it would not impose pressure. Price announced that the US would not impose a deadline on the resumption of the next round of talks. He said: "We're not imposing a deadline on these talks. But we are conscious that as time proceeds Iran's nuclear advances will have a bearing on our view of ultimately returning to the JCPOA." 
Saudi Arabia: OPEC Plus agrees on a compromise with the UAE
On 14 July, a source from OPEC plus informed that the UAE and Saudi Arabia agreed to compromise on the issue of raising the output of oil production. As the organization negotiated the total amount of oil produced by the member countries to facilitate adding two million barrels each day, the UAE disagreed on its limitations in productions. With the recent compromise, the price of Brent crude fell by USD 1 to USD 75 per barrel. According to the new compromise, the UAE will produce 3.65 million bpd instead of 3.17 million bpd. 
Yemen: Houthi led committee accuses the UN of untimely actions on Safer tanker 
On 15 July, the Safer Agreement Committee (SAC) accused the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) of the delay in negotiating the repair and maintenance of the Safer tanker, which is currently posing an enormous environmental risk. The committee spokesperson said: "The committee regrets the failure of UNOPS to comply with the agreement signed in November 2020 and its insistence on wasting time and wasting donors' funds allocated to the project in fruitless meetings." The UN continues to hold negotiations with the Houthi led regime in Yemen regarding the permission to the UN for assessing the situation of the ship and if it can be salvaged. 
South Africa: Ex-President's arrests stir violence and instability 
On 16 July, the death toll in South Africa reached 212, with 100 fatalities in the last 24 hours. On the same day, President Cyril Ramaphosa claimed that the riots were pre-planned and deployed over 25,000 armed forces personnel to control the situation in the country. More than 180 people died in KwaZulu-Natal, the city where the violence originated when ex-President Jacob Zuma was arrested. The initial protests against the arrests gradually transformed into violent looting and destruction of public property. Although the government has denied the food shortage, the riots have led to a disruption of supply chains as protestors continue attacking major roadways and modes of transport. 

Ethiopia: Foreign Affairs Ministry bashes UN intervention in GERD
On 13 July, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Ethiopia expressed that the United Nation's intervention in the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam dispute was "unhelpful". The Ministry's Twitter handle tweeted the press release and said: "It is "regrettable to witness that the progress of negotiations has been dragged and politicized. Ethiopia has made its position clear time and time again that this is unproductive and bringing the subject matter to the United Nations Security Council was and is unhelpful and far from the mandate of the council." Further, it added that the process led by the African Union was important and was determined to ensure a successful end to the negotiation. 

Mali: UN Secretary-General proposes an increase in the number of troops to the MINUSMA
On 15 July, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed increasing the number of troops in Mali by 2,069 soldiers at the Security Council. The addition in the total number of troops was suggested in response to the growing influence of the Islamist militia in the region. If approved, the total number of troops deployed to the UN Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) would be over 17,278 soldiers. Guterres said: "Scaling up MINUSMA's uniformed personnel capacity would enhance the ability of the Mission to protect civilians in central Mali and create further space for the peace process in the North."
Europe and The Americas This Week
The EU: Foreign Ministers reveal ambitious connectivity plan 
On 12 July, the EU Foreign Ministers agreed to inaugurate a global infrastructure plan which aims to connect Europe to the rest of the world. The proposal was revealed soon after its anti-China statement with the G7. The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: "We see China using economic and financial means to increase its political influence everywhere in the world. It's useless moaning about this, we must offer alternatives." The EU also signed deals with Japan and India, in a step to increase connectivity and economic ties with the two Asian countries. The aim of the EU proposal is to provide more transparent infrastructure plans to countries who have been roped into the BRI by China, thereby providing an alternative. 
Germany: Merkel visits the White House to discuss Russian energy sharing plan
On 15 July, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the US President Joe Biden held a meeting at the White House and discussed mutual threats and issues. President Biden expressed his concerns regarding the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 and issued a warning to Russia against weaponizing the energy sharing plan. He said: "Merkel and I are absolutely united in our conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbours."
Colombia: Director of Police affirms Haitian government's role in President's assassination 
On 16 July, the Director of the Colombian Police accused the Haitian Ministry of Justice for the assassination of the President of Haiti. He said: "Joseph Feliz Badio, who was an official of the Ministry of Justice and worked in the anti-corruption unit with the General Intelligence Service, tells Duberney Capador (former Colombian military officer) and German Rivera (former agent of the Colombian army) that what they have to do is to assassinate the president of Haiti." On 15 July, the Colombian President announced that the Colombian citizens involved in the crime will be tried according to the Haitian judicial system. 
Cuba: Continuation of protests against dictatorship 
On 12 July, the authorities in Cuba deployed security forces to major cities after protestors held demonstrations against widespread poverty and unemployment in the country. The protestors screamed out slogans such as "Down with the dictatorship", "We want liberty", "We are not afraid", etc. One of the protestors explained his reason for the protest and said: "I'm here because of hunger, because there's no medicine, because of power cuts – because there's a lack of everything." The government has also placed censor on social media websites and internet facilities to prevent protestors from broadcasting the rallies.
The US: President Biden blames Facebook and social media for the failure of vaccination goal 
On 16 July, US president Joe Biden claimed that misinformation spread by social media platforms such as Facebook are responsible for the failure of the US in successfully achieving the goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of the American population by 4 July. He said: "They're killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people." However, Facebook also reacted to the statement and explained that over 85 per cent of its user have already been vaccinated or intend to do so. The company spokesperson said: "President Biden's goal was for 70 per cent of Americans to be vaccinated by 4 July. Facebook is not the reason his goal was missed." 

About the Authors
Joeana Cera Matthews and Udbhav Krishna P are research interns in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok are Research Associates at NIAS. Sourina Bej is a PhD scholar from the University of Bonn. 

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