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Talking Peace: This week in global diplomatic negotiations

What you need to know about Ukraine, India and Israel.
INDIA DIPLOMAT PROTESTSEnlarge
Right-wing Indian Hindu activists dressed as US President Barack Obama take part in a protest near the US Embassy in New Delhi on December 18, 2013. India vowed Wednesday to bring one of its diplomats home at any price after her arrest in New York, as she told how she broke down in tears after being stripped and cavity-searched. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian protesters might be deflated after officials on Wednesday announced support for the Russian financial aid package that helped ignite the country’s unrest. As protest leaders regrouped to devise a new strategy for having their demands met, the German chancellor proposed a possible solution that would allow Ukraine to integrate its economy with the European Union while keeping its agreement with Russia.

And the arrest of an Indian diplomat and her subsequent strip-search aggravated the relationship between India and the United States, causing a diplomatic spat. The European Union warned Israel against doing something that could be detrimental to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Here’s a closer look:

UKRAINE

Despite ongoing protests in the capital city of Kiev, Ukrainian officials on Wednesday praised the Russian financial aid deal that is the source of the unrest. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the package is Ukraine’s “only hope to prevent economic collapse.”

“Today, I can firmly announce that the crisis moment has passed,” Azarov said, according to Ukrainian media. “We have a new and firm perspective of confidence. We will maintain social and financial stability. Now, nothing threatens the financial and economic stability of Ukraine.”

The deal will provide the country with $15 billion in loans, and a discount on natural gas prices, according to comments made Tuesday by the Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovich and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Demonstrators, who have been gathered in protest in Independence Square for the last three weeks, were caught off-guard, the New York Times said. Protest leaders asked for patience as they tried to concoct a new strategy.

Last week, protestors rejected Yanukovych’s request for negotiations because the president refused to consider the people’s demands: First, that police officers involved in the Nov. 30 violent attack against protesters be punished; second, that Prime Minister Azarov resign.

Government officials now say they are ready to negotiate over those demands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that the European Union’s offer to Ukraine “remains on the table,” and that it would be possible to negotiate a deal that would integrate Ukraine’s economy with the EU, “while not ruling out customs-free trade with Russia, as had been stipulated in the failed association agreement.”

INDIA

Anger erupted in India this week following the strip-searching of one of the country’s leading women diplomats in New York City.

Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade was accused of filing false documents in order to attain a work visa for her housekeeper in Manhattan—an Indian national who she reportedly paid under $3 per hour.

According to Indian officials, Khobragade was arrested on Dec. 12 while dropping her daughter off at school. She was then held in “a cell with drug addicts until she posted $250,000 bail.” The diplomat also wrote to Indian newspapers on Wednesday, saying that police had performed cavity searches on her.

New Delhi called the incident “despicable,” and “barbaric” and punished the US Embassy by eliminating its “amenities”—which translates to “snubbing a US congressional delegation, removing security from outside the US Embassy and threatening to treat US diplomats the same way it says its envoys were treated by America.”

A US Marshal's statement confirmed the strip-search and called it “standard arrestee intake procedures.” Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called India’s national security adviser to apologize.

A statement on the phone call was later released saying, “The secretary understands very deeply the importance of enforcing our laws and protecting victims and, like all officials in positions of responsibility inside the US government, expects that laws will be followed by everyone here in our country. It is also particularly important to Secretary Kerry that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas.”

ISRAEL

Israel is on the verge of releasing another group of Palestinian prisoners—to be freed on Dec. 29—as the European Union and Washington both urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to use the date to announce a new wave of construction in the West Bank settlements.

The EU has already warned that it will consider it the fault of Israel if peace talks fail.

Kerry, who has visited Israel and the Palestinian territory twice in the last three weeks along with special envoy for the peace process Martin Indyk and a number of other senior officials, have called for “maximum restraint in announcing new construction, lest the measure undermine the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Kerry will next return to the country in January. This “batch” of prisoners will be the third of four Israel is to release, as stipulated by the US–brokered deal that enabled the negotiations to begin with. The prisoners have all been in jail since before the 1993 Oslo Accord was signed.

When the second group was released two months ago, Netanyahu approved the announcement for 5,000 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, causing the Palestinians to freeze negotiations for two weeks and threaten to pull out altogether.
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/talking-peace-week-global-diplomatic-negotiations-16