France urges West to stand firm on Iran's nuclear programme; Australia-Indonesia spying row continues; elderly US tourist detained in North Korea; US and Afghanistan reach security agreement; fracking approved in Botswana but not used; and more
Top of the Agenda: France Says West Must Stand Firm on Iran
France and Iran traded tough words as talks to curb Tehran's nuclear program continued in Geneva, with Paris urging the West to hold firm on suspending the program and Iran complaining about a loss of trust (Reuters). Iran's deputy foreign minister said momentum has slowed, and Western diplomats said there was a good chance that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join the negotiations to help hammer out a deal (AP). Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow to make a case for a tougher deal (Bloomberg).
"No honest person can know whether the nuclear negotiations with Iran will produce a sound agreement, least of all the know-it-alls who are fighting to prevent it. Maybe, the West will have to further strengthen economic sanctions. Perhaps, Iran will make threatening moves that justify a Western military strike. But the arguments against a full and serious drive to try staying the dogs of war are sheer, dangerous nonsense," writes CFR President Emeritus Leslie Gelb for the Daily Beast.
"The claim that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is pandering to Israel is downright wrong. Recall that, while Hollande was dragging his feet, Fabius secured France's vote in favor of Palestine's upgrade to 'non-member observer' status at the UN—a move that displeased Israel's government and the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. Yes, Fabius took a firm stance during the recent talks with Iran, but not to please the Israelis," writes Pascal Boniface for Project Syndicate.
"The French were right on the merits. A freeze on Iran's nuclear program needs to include a freeze on construction work at Arak. France's insistence on a real suspension won't scuttle the deal. The parties are almost certain to work out some compromise on Arak this week, as part of a broader freeze on Iran's nuclear program. The deal will be better for France's intransigence," writes Jeffrey Lewis in Foreign Policy.
Australia Spying Row With Indonesia Continues
Hackers attacked the websites of the Australian police and reserve bank amid an ongoing row over reported Australian spying on Indonesian officials (BBC). About two hundred people marched toward the Australian embassy in Jakarta, burning flags, to demand an apology for the spying.
NORTH KOREA: An eighty-five-year-old U.S. citizen has reportedly been detained in North Korea for three weeks after travelling to the country on a tourist visa (Yonhap).