Offshore natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have created critical opportunities for cooperation among countries in the region, especially Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey.

Of these five countries, Cyprus and Israel have discovered more gas than either can consume over the next thirty years. Turkey and Jordan have no indigenous gas and need to import all of their needs, and while Egypt used to be a net gas exporter, it can no longer meet its own needs.

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When driving a car, it is essential to look forward to assess changing road conditions, new obstacles, and new opportunities. Prudent drivers—and investors—regularly check the rear view mirrors, but their main focus is on the future.

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The recent scandal surrounding alleged payments made to Paul Manafort by the former Ukrainian government has again cast a spotlight on corruption in Ukraine. Whatever one thinks of the Manafort story, no one can dispute that Ukrainians are entitled to an honest government that does not steal from them. But how can Ukraine achieve this goal? And what can the US do to help? 

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Turkish-backed Syrian rebels on August 24 seized an Islamic State stronghold in Syria. The military operation marks a significant escalation of Turkey’s role in the war against the Islamic State and comes days after the Turkish government vowed to “cleanse” its borders of the militants.

Aaron Stein and Faysal Itani, both senior resident fellows in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, discussed latest developments in the region with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

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Colombia’s president must focus on shoring up support for peace and reintegration, says Atlantic Council’s Peter Schechter

On the brink of ending Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos must now make a concerted effort to convince Colombians that the peace deal he struck with the leftist guerrillas is worthy of their support.

Santos on August 24 said government negotiators and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels were putting the final touches to a peace deal. A formal announcement was imminent. The deal will be put to the Colombian people in a plebiscite.

“There has been an enormous and very emotional opposition led by former President Alvaro Uribe that has basically said that this peace deal is far too generous for people who have murdered and destroyed at the length and breadth that the FARC has done over the past forty-five years,” said Peter Schechter, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council.

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Twenty-five years ago, after seventy years of Soviet dominance and over three hundred years of rule by Russia, Ukraine declared its independence. This occurred after a national referendum in which over 90 percent of Ukraine’s voters chose independence. Every part of the country, including Crimea—which at that time had a population that was over 60 percent ethnic Russian—chose independence by a majority vote. 

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In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been doing what he is best at: war mongering. It began with the Kremlin’s accusation that Ukrainian leaders had “chosen terror over peace,” despite the fact Russia has not been able to produce any credible evidence of the alleged “sabotage plot” in Crimea. Additionally, neither the OSCE’s monitors, witnesses on the ground, nor any independent media have confirmed Russia’s claims of an armed confrontation or bombardment by Ukrainian forces.

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“If we cannot cause the politician to change, then we must inspire the citizen to be bold,” said Pastor Evan Mawarire, founder of Zimbabwe’s #ThisFlag movement, at the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, August 17.

Mawarire gave his remarks draped in a Zimbabwean flag, the symbol of the movement. “We are rising up to say that our government has failed us. We’re not afraid anymore to raise our voices, because it is the truth. [...] the Zimbabwean citizens are the missing voice that has not been present in the timeline of building Zimbabwe.”

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Since the Middle Ages, Kyivan Rus—the loose network of warring principalities whose borders vaguely coincide with today’s Ukraine—has been exposed to waves of invaders from neighboring states. This list of aggressors includes the Normans, Mongols, Poles, Ottomans, Habsburg Austrians, Germans, and Nazis—and not least, Muscovite Russians, the Romanov Russian Empire, and Bolsheviks. Each invasion destroyed political and social institutions, produced staggering human casualties, and delayed the country’s development.

Today Russia’s policy toward Ukraine demonstrates that Russian foreign policy has always been expansionist. Russia is eager to control neighboring states through diplomacy and economic ties if possible (to wit, the Eurasian Economic Union), and through destabilization and force if necessary. The Russian drive for empire is so primeval, it has been in evidence even without an “official” ideological doctrine since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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It has been a long time since I have sensed any cause for optimism about the prospects of a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Indeed, Armenia and Azerbaijan nearly resumed full-scale war in April, when their troops clashed along the line of contact with a level of ferocity unprecedented during the twenty-two years since the previous ceasefire. As the dust has settled, however, two new openings have emerged, one rather unexpectedly from Russian President Vladimir Putin and another from a regional business leader. Both merit Washington’s close examination and perhaps its embrace.

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