Russia’s vision for Middle East peace. It seems Moscow is interested in playing a role in Israeli-Palestinian peace. Russia’s Sputnik News is reporting that Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyah Maliki said PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is ready to sit down with newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – if Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts. (Maliki’s remarks have not been confirmed by other outlets.) In addition, Moscow is currently hosting the fifth Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, where the Israel-Palestine question tops the agenda. The forum gives Moscow an opportunity to reply to the Arab League’s recent call for an international response to Netanyahu’s campaign promise that he will annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It’s also a chance for Moscow to offer an alternative vision to the peace plan that Washington plans to release in coming weeks – a plan the Palestinian Authority has already rejected.
La Paz calls on Washington. In a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, a dozen Bolivian opposition lawmakers asked Washington to use its weight in the Organization of American States to block Bolivian President Evo Morales from running for yet another term. In a 2016 referendum, Bolivians voted against allowing the president and vice president to run for a third time, but the results were later overturned by the Supreme Court, paving the way for Morales’ candidacy in this October’s election. The Bolivian government has long criticized the U.S. for meddling in its domestic affairs, and the Morales administration claims the opposition is trying to destabilize the country. Morales can no longer rely on many of his traditional allies – Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua – and Foreign Minister Diego Pary said La Paz is looking for new political allies, not just trading partners. China, Russia and Turkey are among the possible candidates.
Pakistan gets a hand. Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar said his government has finalized and signed a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund that covers major issues like exchange rates, public finances, the fiscal deficit and energy prices. Umar put the government’s financing gap at $15 billion. The IMF deal will help fill $6 billion-$8 billion of that gap; the World Bank is expected to contribute another $7 billion-$8 billion, and the Asian Development Bank may be able to chip in, too. Pakistan’s ability to access funds from Western-backed organizations was in doubt given the loans it has received from China. In addition, Pakistan has sent its compliance report to the Financial Action Task Force, an international body responsible for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. The task force will send a delegation to Islamabad in mid-May.
Nuclear power around the Red Sea. Russia’s State Atomic Energy Cooperation and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology signed a deal that will allow Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, to use nuclear energy to power agriculture and industry. On the other side of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia is planning to build its own nuclear power facilities. U.S. companies hope to bid on the project, but they face stiff competition from Russian and Chinese firms. U.S. firms are considering forming a consortium that would partner with foreign companies – possibly some of South Korea’s state-run energy firms – to strengthen their candidacy. But they still face red tape at home when it comes to secure and best practices for nuclear energy deals, and that gives Chinese and Russian firms a point for flexibility.
- About 35 Humvees from the U.S. were delivered to Ukraine’s armed forces. The purchase was financed through a U.S. military aid package.
- In response to Washington’s designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, the Iranian Parliament will designate the U.S. Central Command as a terrorist group. The motion will require Iran to take actions against the U.S. that it has already threatened – and failed – to take.
- Russia is planning to send 30 soldiers to the Central African Republic to support the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission there. Russia’s military footprint in CAR, though still small, has been growing. Moscow has provided planes and weapons to the government and sent military contractors for training and personal security details.
- About 1,000 Russian and Belarusian troops are taking part in the countries’ second joint military drill this year.
- India’s Foreign Ministry has created an Indo-Pacific division that will integrate its offices dealing with the Indian Ocean Rim Association, ASEAN and the Quad.
- Brazilian and Venezuelan officials confirmed that their governments are working to reopen their shared border as soon as possible.
- The U.S. and Japan have kicked off two days of trade negotiations in Washington.
- Turkmenistan has resumed exports of natural gas to Russia after more than three years of suspended supply.
- Iran’s supreme leader approved a $2 billion withdrawal from the National Development Fund for flood relief.