It was a quieter day at UN headquarters on Thursday. With US President Biden back at the White House – accompanied by Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky – the crowds had thinned somewhat and fewer delegates could be found attending the debate in the UN General Assembly hall.
Much of the focus was on the crisis in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where this week Azerbaijan launched a fresh assault on ethnic-Armenian separatists there, who then reportedly agreed to surrender and disarm as part of a ceasefire. Azerbaijan now looks set to take control of the enclave that's seen decades of conflict.
(For more on the recent flare up and its historical context, see our write up here.)
This was the focus of an urgent UN Security Council meeting called by the Armenian and French delegation on Thursday afternoon. Though they aren’t currently Council members, both Armenia and Azerbaijan attended the session to voice their grievances.
The focus of the Armenian representative reflected a sentiment that has been heard many times throughout the week, namely, that the UN Security Council is broken.
Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ararat Mirzoyan said that the chamber had failed to respond to previous warnings from Yerevan that the Azeris had been upping their attacks on the enclave. Indeed, this came a day after President Zelensky took aim at the Security Council for falling short of its stated mission by letting Russia torpedo efforts to stop the war. (See GZERO's explainer on Instagram on this ensuing debate.)
Despite Karabakh’s acceptance of a ceasefire, shelling continues, Mirzoyan said. The US, for its part, backed this claim, with UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield telling the Council that the “situation on the ground remains dire.”
What’s on deck tomorrow?
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu will address the Assembly, along with Dutch PM Mark Rutte, Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina, and Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
Hard Numbers: Iran cracks down on women, bestsellers sue AI, Venezuelan migrants get right to work, India suspends Canadian visas, Turkey jacks up rates
10: Under a new law passed Wednesday, Iranian women could be jailed for up to ten years if they refuse to wear hijab. The crackdown comes just days after the one year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in state custody after the morality police arrested her for not wearing hijab properly.
17: A group of 17 prominent authors are suing OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, accusing the company of “systematic theft on a mass scale.” The suit says ChatGPT has violated their copyright protections because it draws upon their texts to build its language models and responses. The complaint also alleges that ChatGPT can be used to plagiarize them, and includes examples for each writer — including a Game of Thrones prequel called “Dawn of Direwolves”. (Can I read it? - Matt)
472,000: As President Joe Biden left the Big Apple late Wednesday, his administration announced that Venezuelans already in the country could legally live and work in the US for the next 18 months. The decision will affect 472,000 Venezuelans nationwide and roughly half of New York City’s migrants, letting them support themselves and easing the strain on New York’s social safety net. (For more on the situation in New York, see our explainer).
80,000: India announced it would suspend visas for Canadians amid the ongoing row over the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Last year about 80,000 Canadians visited India. Should Canada reciprocate, it could threaten the visa status of over 320,000 Indian students in Canadian universities.
30: The central bank in Turkey raised interest rates by an aggressive 5 percentage points to 30%, as official inflation rates topped 58%. It’s part of a major reversal of the Erdogan administration’s policy after winning re-election back in May: the previous economic team insisted on cutting rates even as prices soared.
(Department of Corrections: While we’re talking interest rates, in yesterday’s edition we mistakenly said the Fed’s rate pause was their first in 18 months. In fact, they decided on a pause in June, 2023 as well. We regret the error and hope it doesn’t affect your rate of interest in the Daily)
On Monday, India opened its first special session of parliament since 2017, and expectations rose that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a plan to use the short session to make an unusual – maybe historic -- announcement.
There’s precedent for that assumption. Six years ago, Modi used a special session to roll out a nationwide goods and services tax to help centralize India’s economy. Many analysts now credit that move with sharply boosting internal trade across India, strengthening the country’s overall economic performance.
On Wednesday, in a nearly unanimous vote, India’s lower house of parliament passed the so-called Women’s Reservation Bill that will reserve one-third of its seats for women, who currently hold just 15%. They will also hold at least one-third of seats in state legislative assemblies.
The bill will move to the upper house for approval this week. It will then require approval from at least half of India’s 28 states.
If nothing else, the women who make up nearly half of India’s 950 million registered voters can have confidence their influence will play a much larger role in the direction of the world’s largest democracy.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons there were “credible allegations” that India was involved in the killing of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June. The immediate fallout was swift: Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat; India, which denied the allegations, retaliated by doing the same.
But Canada’s closest allies aren’t exactly rushing to its defense. There is speculation that American intelligence contributed to Canada’s allegations, but while the Biden administration says it is “deeply concerned” about the case and wants the perpetrators to be punished, it pointedly avoided criticizing India or PM Narendra Modi. The other Five Eyes allies are showing similar caution, The U.K. in particular emphasized that its ongoing trade talks with India will proceed.
The reality, of course, is that broader geopolitical interests are shaping the response: no one wants to antagonize India at a time when New Delhi is seen as a crucial counterweight to China. Realism is alive and well in international relations!
Indo-Canadian ties, meanwhile, have been chilly for years despite some recent attempts to warm things up. Although the trade relationship has been growing, and India is the top source of Canadian immigrants (and students), New Delhi has long contended that Canada’s large Sikh diaspora community harbours separatists and terrorists. Canada, for its part, has criticized Modi’s spotty human rights record, and is including India in its new inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian politics. A 2022 effort by Trudeau to advance an Indo-Pacific strategy, meanwhile, has mostly stalled – the interaction between Trudeau and Modi at the G20 in India earlier this month was visibly hostile. Things certainly won’t improve after the Nijjar accusations.
We’re watching to see how the Nijjar investigation and foreign interference probe unfold, and how Canada’s allies react as new and potentially more incriminating details emerge in the days and weeks to come.
Just one day after launching a fresh assault on the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan halted its offensive under a ceasefire in which ethnic-Armenian separatists there reportedly agreed to surrender and disarm.
This effectively marks the end of Karabakh’s decades-long de facto independence from Azerbaijan. As a reminder, Karabakh is officially part of Azerbaijan, but historically had an ethnic-Armenian majority and has been run by Armenian separatists since a war of independence in the early 1990s.
In a 2020 flare up of the conflict, Azerbaijan — with ample help from Turkey — reconquered parts of Karabakh and surrounded it.
The capitulation of the Karabakh authorities means that the enclave is now effectively under Azeri control. For Azerbaijan, retaking Karabakh has been a nationalist dream for decades. President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday promised to turn Karabakh into “a paradise.”
But the fate of ethnic Armenians there is now in the balance. Both sides have carried out ethnic cleansing of each other’s populations over the past 30 years. Thousands of ethnic Armenians have reportedly rushed the airport already at Stepanakert, the Karabakh capital, looking to flee ahead of any Azeri reprisals.
Russia, whose peacekeepers have spottily overseen a ceasefire in the region since 2020, said that it would host talks on the future political and ethnic composition of Karabakh beginning on Thursday.
Hard Numbers: Rwanda’s Kagame will run again, the EU takes on Uber, water contamination threat in Libya, US Fed keeps cool
4: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, announced that he’ll run for a fourth term in next year’s election.
Kagame, who has been accused of cracking down on the opposition, tweaked the constitution back in 2015 to extend presidential term limits. Asked about what “the West” might think of his move, Kagame, didn’t mince words: “What these countries think is not our problem.”
40: A top Uber executive has warned that an EU proposal to classify gig workers as employees could boost ride prices by as much as 40%. Brussels says Uber should provide more job security and benefits for its employees. Uber, which has come up against similar battles in Spain, the UK and elsewhere, says the measure will hurt consumers and lead to “devastating” job losses.
4,000: Over a week after a catastrophic flood tore through two dams in eastern Libya, killing 4,000 people (while 9,000 remain missing) the UN has warned that sewage is contaminating water supplies, raising the specter of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and hepatitis.5.25-5.55: The US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady at 5.25-5.55, still the highest level in more than two decades after 11 rate hikes beginning in March 2022. The decision gives policy makers some breathing room to plot their next moves amid subsiding inflation. Still, with price growth well above the Fed’s 2% target, rates could stay above 5% well into 2024, analysts warn.
Correction:Yesterday, we incorrectly stated that the Fed's pause was the first in 18 months. The Federal reserve also paused rate hikes in June, 2023. We regret the error.
Japan, along with many independent scientists and the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said the water is safe. Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida even publicly ate fish from the affected area. But China isn’t buying it. Beijing sharply protested the release, banned imports of Japanese fish, and urged others to follow its lead.
This conflict appears to go well beyond safety concerns. In fact, China has been accused of deliberately spreading misinformation about the health risks from this event, prompting vandalism and threats against Japanese people and companies in China.
But so far, China has been unable to persuade more of Japan’s neighbors to join in the outrage. At a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July, China called on member states to denounce Japan’s water discharge plan, but the joint communique that followed the meeting ignored the issue entirely. At another ASEAN meeting earlier this month, China’s Premier Li Qiang sharply criticized both Japan’s water plan and Kishida, but the issue was then dropped.
It appears that wariness of China’s growing influence has been a more important factor in the Great East Asian Fish Fight than the region’s traditional mistrust of Japan.