Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 29 officially accepted the credentials of the envoy to Beijing from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan—a clear step toward recognition of the regime. A month before that, Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, visited Kabul to meet with Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi—the highest-level meeting between China and the Taliban regime since its return to power in 2021. China has already struck hydrocarbon deals with the Taliban, and has been eyeing Afghanistan's lithium, copper and rare-earth metal mines. This is in line with Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals. (Eurasian Times, CNBC)
The US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions Feb. 2 on a Sudanese financial institution and two private companies accused of funding belligerents in the ongoing civil war in the African country. The sanctions name Alkhaleej Bank and metal ore company Al-Fakher Advanced Works, said to be controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as well as development company Zadna International, controlled by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). In a press release, the Treasury Department accused the companies of fueling the conflict, laundering money, and engaging in "actions of policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of Sudan."
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denied arming the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fighting Sudan's army, despite a leaked UN document alleging "credible" evidence. The UN report said arms and ammunition shipments are unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. The UAE has also been accused of funnelling weapons through Uganda and the Central African Republic, part of a regional supply network that has allowed the RSF to "punch above its weight" in the nine-month conflict. But the Gulf State—with business and political interests across Africa—said it has taken no side in the war.
With Republicans holding up new military aid for Ukraine on Capitol Hill, Russia launched one of the most massive aerial assaults of the war on Dec. 29, killing 40 in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro and Lviv. Ukraine retaliated the next day with a missile strike on the Russian city of Belgorod, killing at least 22. Russia counter-retaliated with a wave of drone strikes, damaging schools, hospitals and homes across Ukraine, killing at least 24. Russia accused Ukraine of using internationally prohibited cluster munitions in the strike on Belgorod, and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
With all eyes understandably on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, the economic and security crisis unfolding in the Israeli-occupied West Bank risks being overlooked, as funds to address the growing needs evaporate, according to aid groups and Palestinian residents. Escalating violence by the Israeli military and settlers, intensified restrictions on mobility, tens of thousands of cancelled work permits, and the withholding of tax revenue from the Palestinian Authority (PA) are combining to tip the territory into a humanitarian crisis, they say.
In the time-honored tradition of climate summits, COP28 wrapped up in overtime in Dubai Dec. 13, after frantic late-night horse-trading secured a deal that divided opinion. For some, the so-called "UAE Consensus" that agrees to "transition away from fossil fuels" is a historic first commitment (albeit vague and non-binding) to eliminate the main cause of climate change. For many climate activists and other sceptics, however, it represents a baby step on a marathon that requires a flat-out sprint. Arguably of greater import was the agreement to launch a loss and damage fund, after a hard year of talks. COP28 also agreed on a first Global Stocktake: an assessment of climate progress to date, and a roadmap for what still needs to be done—it calls, for example, for a tripling of renewable energy capacity.
The legislature of the Canadian province of Alberta invoked the controversial Alberta Sovereignty Act on Nov. 27 in response to new federal environmental policies. The provincial legislature passed a resolution resolving to "urge the Government to use all legal means necessary to oppose the implementation and enforcement of the Federal Initiative in Alberta." The initiative refered to is Canada's proposed Clean Energy Regulations, which the resolution says mandate "a set of emissions standards and timelines that are unattainable within the context of Alberta's electricity industry and available energy resource," and would have "an extreme chilling effect on investment in Alberta's electricity generation industry."
For the first time, the UN's annual climate change conference is putting a spotlight on the overlap between conflict and the climate crisis, and on the pressing need to address its neglected humanitarian consequences.
As COP28 begins in Dubai, the urgency for more climate financing to be directed to conflict settings—and the challenges of getting that money into the hands of the people who need it most—are on full display in opposition-held northwest Syria. A years-long drought is compounding the suffering caused by ongoing conflict, earthquakes that struck the region earlier this year, and the longer-term effects of 12-and-a-half years of civil war.