US begins diplomatic push into Middle East; Mitchell in Syria to repair relations; Chinese steelworkers riot; Taliban violence resumes in Swat Valley, Honduran army backs down; and more
Top of the Agenda: U.S. Envoys in Mideast
A team of top U.S. officials is in the Middle East this week in a new push to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (BBC). Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser James Jones, and Envoy to the Gulf States Dennis Ross are participating in talks with Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, and Egyptian leaders on issues ranging from the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory to reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Gates, in Jerusalem, issued a warning (Haaretz) to Iran after talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Gates said the U.S. offer of diplomatic engagement with Iran is “not open-ended,” and that Iran should respond by the UN General Assembly meeting in September. Barak implied that an Israeli military strike against Iran is still a possibility.
Mitchell met with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad (The National), hoping to begin to repair the strained U.S.-Syria relationship. Mitchell also aims to convince Israel and Syria to resume peace talks over the disputed Golan Heights.
Syria expert Joshua Landis says it is too early to assess the outcome of the Mitchell-Assad talks, but notes that some Syrian officials feel that “a few months of dialogue cannot break down the great distrust and misunderstanding” built over the Bush administration’s time in office.
The International Crisis Group warns against underestimating the importance of the West Bank settlements in reaching a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Al-Jazeera says the multipronged U.S. diplomatic approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “unprecedented.”
A recent Newsweek article looks at Fatah’s internal battles.
PACIFIC RIM: U.S.-China Dialogue
The United States and China kick off the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (Foreign Policy) today, a process started under former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The Obama administration says the dialogue has been broadened from economic issues to include strategic issues such as climate change, Pakistan, and North Korea.
China: About thirty thousand Chinese steelworkers employed by the state steel company rioted in the northeastern city of Tonghua in response to news that Jianlong Steel, a private company, would buy a majority share of the state group. The workers were concerned they would lose their jobs in the subsequent restructuring. The deal was scrapped (FT) after the plant's general manager was beaten to death.
Taiwan: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou was elected head of the ruling Kuomintang party (Taipei Times). The vote will allow Ma to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and will make it easier for him to pass laws through parliament. The Chinese president sent a cable congratulating Ma on his election (Bloomberg), the first public exchange of messages between the leaders of China and Taiwan in sixty years.
Taliban attacks in Swat Valley.
Clashes between Nigerian police and a radical Islamic sect.
Movement on Honduran political stalemate.
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org