U.S. kicks the can down the road? Several of the United States’ most pressing foreign affairs appear to have been paused. The U.S. State Department said it has postponed a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – an only somewhat unexpected announcement, considering momentum on the issue had stalled in recent weeks. Elsewhere, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an upcoming Armistice Day celebration in Paris. (Washington recently issued additional sanctions on Moscow, and Russia accused Israel of destabilizing the Middle East earlier this week.) The White House also has yet to set a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit despite suggesting it would – and despite China’s very public interest in reaching an agreement with the U.S. Don’t read too much into the delays, though. These kinds of issues tend to start and stop as leaders take stock of their positions and consider their next moves. Their respective trajectories haven’t really changed.
A jihadist merger? Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, said the Islamic State and al-Qaida might be planning to join forces. He also warned that they could resume attacking places in Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia that have been spared lately. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chimed in, too, saying one of the reasons militants continue to thrive in Syria is that they receive support from outside forces – a curiously timed if obvious statement. All this to say the Islamic State is still down but not out.
Optimism in Pakistan? Pakistan’s foreign minister announced that relations with the U.S. are improving. Washington and Islamabad are interested in expanding their bilateral ties beyond Afghanistan and into trade and energy cooperation. In addition, Pakistan’s finance minister said that Islamabad no longer faces a balance of payment crisis in the short term, adding that increased exports will provide a long-term solution. The announcement comes on the heels of a visit to China, where Islamabad secured funding from Beijing, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani government has been working tirelessly to stabilize the country’s economy and better manage its foreign affairs since taking power in August. This sounds like good news for Pakistan, but since the underlying causes of its problems are structural, it’s not out of the woods just yet.
More problems in Xinjiang? The Kazakh Foreign Ministry has expressed concerns about children separated from their parents who are currently staying in China, including in the province of Xinjiang, after ethnic Kazakhs there called on Astana and on human rights groups to help. Negotiations with China are ongoing, though Beijing has yet to respond. This comes after Western media raised alarms about China’s human rights violations against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. China needs the region as a buffer and to help facilitate many of its Belt and Road projects. Incidents like this don’t help.
- The United Arab Emirates criticized Hamas for supporting Iran against U.S. sanctions and for ignoring the impact of Iran’s interference in regional affairs.
- The development of the Chabahar port, an India-led infrastructure project in Iran, will not be subject to U.S. sanctions.
- China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission invited firms from home and abroad to participate in equity financing deals with state-owned enterprises.
- Officials from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia failed to reach an agreement on oil production in shared fields.
- Security forces in Tajikistan shut down a protest whose participants demanded an investigation into an unresolved case in which a Tajik soldier shot two civilians.
- Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, told Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, that the EU would back a Kosovo-Serbia land swap if it would bring lasting peace. Germany still opposes the deal.
- China’s foreign exchange reserves stand at $3.05 trillion after declining by $33.93 billion in October – the largest monthly drop since December 2016.