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Foreign Policy Briefing 3/12/10

This summary briefing comes to us through the courtesy of Just Foreign Policy.

U.S./Top News
1) British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for early and substantive political negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, the Washington Post reports. “Dialogue is not appeasement, and political space is not the same as veto power or domination,” Miliband said. Miliband’s remarks went far beyond statements by U.S. officials, who have said talks would be better held after the military balance shifts toward the international coalition. Miliband suggested talks could proceed even as fighting escalated and indicated that he agreed with Afghan President Karzai that although “preconditions should set the terms of any eventual agreement, they should not prevent a dialogue from developing.”

2) An open diplomatic row with Israel during the visit of Vice President Biden has shined a spotlight on the U.S. failure to rein in Israeli settlement ambitions and deepened Palestinian suspicions the US is too weak to broker a deal, AP reports. The Palestinians largely lost faith in the U.S. as a broker after Obama tried – and failed – to get the Netanyahu government to stop building on lands Palestinians claim for a future state, AP says.

3) The Palestinians pulled out of a new round of indirect peace talks, even before they had begun, as a protest at Israel’s decision to announce approval for hundreds of new homes in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, the Guardian reports. The decision represents a major setback to months of diplomacy by the US administration, the Guardian says. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said he had been told by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, that “proximity talks” could not start unless Israel stopped expanding its settlements.

4) As the US military steadily reduces its presence in Haiti, President Obama pledged to remain committed to providing financial assistance and humanitarian relief to help Haitians rebuild and recover, the New York Times reports. The Navy said the hospital ship Comfort left Haiti on Wednesday for its home port, Baltimore. [The Baltimore Sun had reported that US doctors in Haiti had pleaded for the Comfort to stay, saying its facilities were needed to perform corrective surgeries on earthquake victims – JFP.]


5) In Kabul, unemployment, poverty and corruption are regarded as more potent enemies than the Taliban, the Los Angeles Times reports. Afghanistan is plagued by 40% unemployment. “If the U.S. and other countries want a stable Afghanistan, they don’t need war, they need to build industries,” said a coordinator with a relief and job placement agency. “People join the Taliban. Why? To feed their families. Instead of sending 15,000 soldiers to fight in Marja, why didn’t the U.S. spend those millions of dollars creating jobs?”

6) Afghan community leaders are still complaining about US forces raiding homes without consulting local leaders and detaining people without charge, evidence, or trial, AP reports.

7) The Israeli government is planning 50,000 new housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the international recognized border, Ha’aretz reports. If the East Jerusalem construction plans are implemented, they will make it impossible to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said an Israeli peace organization.

8) The family of American peace activist Rachel Corrie accused the Israeli military of whitewashing its investigation into her death in opening a civil case against Israel, AP reports. The Corries’ lawyer demanded a new investigation into her death.

9) Brazil’s president warned that U.S.-proposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program could lead to war, AP reports. “We don’t want to repeat in Iran what happened in Iraq. It’s not prudent for the world, it’s not prudent for Iran,” President Lula said.

10) Haitian President Préval pleaded for U.S. help plugging a multimillion-dollar budget gap caused by the earthquake but said he got a cool reception from congressional leaders, the Washington Post reports. Préval has repeatedly complained to U.S. officials about earthquake assistance bypassing his office. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report said his frustration was “valid.” However, the report added, “The [government of Haiti] does not have anything approximating the capacity to address the problems and run the programs to address them.” Préval emphasized he has taken measures to reduce waste and fraud. Aides noted that progress on reining in corruption was one factor in the IMF’s decision last year to forgive $1.2 billion of Haiti’s debt.

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