Diplomats around the world are meeting for negotiations this week including discussion on human rights issues, state sovereignty, drones and long-delayed peace.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Iran’s new president in September, Syria’s opposition fighters are appealing to the US and European countries for weapons, John Kerry is in Pakistan to talk drone-related death tolls, and Israel and Palestinian authorities ease into a dialogue in Washington DC.
Here are some of this week’s updates on important peace talks and developments to keep an eye on:
Middle East peace talks resumed on Monday in Washington DC, opening with iftar — Muslims’ end of day meal during Ramadan — attended by officials representing both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Justice Minister Tzipi livni represented Israel and Saeb Erekat, a chief negotiator, attended on behalf of Palestinian authorities.
Talks resumed following an Israeli promise to free 104 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli detention facilities — a move Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a “tough decision for the good of the nation.”
Still, Reuters reported yesterday, there is a significant distance between the negotiating parties, quoting Livni as saying that the parties still “need to build confidence.”
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a source close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also “forecast ‘huge difficulties’” for the talks, referring to Israeli media reports of Netanyahu promising to continue building settlements. Palestinian negotiators have been clear about continued expansion being a peace talk deal breaker.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the negotiators will “reconvene in August, aiming to achieve a ‘final status’ deal within nine months.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Pakistan yesterday to discuss the recently revealed death toll of American drone strikes in the country’s tribal areas and the war in Afghanistan.
Kerry will meet with civilian and military leaders in an effort to ease tensions over deadly strikes, the records of which have over the years been kept by Pakistani officials.
He will also spend time with the country’s new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, who opposes the strikes, calling them a “breach of the country's sovereignty.”
A recently leaked Pakistani document revealed that US drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, and not 50-60 as the US has claimed.
It also revealed that Pakistan officials have been aware of the civilian casualties for some time.
Kerry will also address the stalled talks with the Taliban, in hopes that Pakistan will aid in brining the group to the negotiating table with the government of Afghanistan.
The new leaders of opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF) have reportedly been touring Europe and the US requesting aid in the form of weapons, according to Cairo-based Al-Ahram.
The weekly publication said the group is on a “shuttle mission” to “try to persuade western nations to send weapons to the armed Syrian opposition, in order that it can stand up more effectively to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and enfore a political deal to its liking.”
France, the US and the United Nations have instead responded with “political sympathy,” saying they will continue to aid the Syrian people, but not with weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly ignored the call for expedited weapons aid, and otherwise described the meeting as “fruitful.”
The NCSROF leaders asserted the top priorities of the opposition as being to “stop the bloodbath in Syria, discontinue the destruction, protect civilians, and maintain the country’s remaining infrastructure,” adding that these goals could not be realized without the necessary weapons. The group’s attendance at the Geneva talks, Geneva II—organized and headed by the US and Russia—is also dependent upon the aid, they said.
“We cannot agree to [attending] Geneva II unless military parity is achieved. We need to have adequate weaponry in terms of quantity and quality,” Kamal Al-Labwani, member of the NCSROF political committee, told Al-Ahram.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet Hassan Rouhani, Iran's newly elected president for the first time in Kyrgyzstan this September, Reuters reported.
The talks, according to Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow, Seyed Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi, will take place during a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on September 13.
The last high-level talks between Iran and world powers including the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, took place in April, but failed.
Western diplomats, according to Reuters, say “the world powers will have to wait for a new government to be formed in Iran before they can discuss a date for a new round of talks.”
"Clearly, let the new Iranian government settle in well. There will be a new government formed. But we are ready for talks anyway," Sajjadi said.