John Short, an Australian Christian missionary, was questioned at his hotel in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang on February 16, and then detained by law-enforcement officials. Authorities had questioned him about Christian writings translated into Korean that he had in his possession.
Mainland China sent 17 troops to join Cobra Gold 2014 — an annual Thai-U.S. co-sponsored joint and multinational military exercise that runs from January 10 through February 22 this year. The exercise includes 9,000 troops from the United States, 4,000 from Thailand, 80 from Singapore, 120 from Japan, 300 from South Korea, 160 from Indonesia, and 120 from Malaysia.
Wang Yu-chi, the head of The Republic of China’s (Taiwan’s) Mainland Affairs Council, and Zhang Zhijun, head of mainland communist China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, met on February 11 in the mainland city of Nanjing (formerly spelled Nanking).
The first groups of civilians were evacuated on February 7 from rebel-held sections of Homs, a war-ravaged city in western Syria that has been a major battleground between government and rebel forces in Syria’s civil war. The evacuation is considered to be a positive result stemming from the UN-backed Geneva II Conference on Syria held from January 22-31.
Negotiations between the Pakistani government and representatives of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) began on January 6 in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. The talks are aimed at resolving the ongoing insurgency between the TTP — an umbrella organization of Islamic militants based in Pakistan’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas — and the government.
An exchange of words between Syria’s foreign minister and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created a tense start to the Geneva II Conference on Syria (a UN-backed conference called to negotiate a settlement to the three-year-long Syrian civil war) which started on January 22 in the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux.
Three international aid agencies issued a report on January 21 claiming that the Syrian government is responsible for the “systematic killing” of approximately 11,000 detainees held in Syrian jails.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced to reporters in New York on January 19 that Iran had been invited to the Geneva II peace conference, a conference between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders, meant to transfer power from Syria's ruler, Bashar al-Assad, to a transitional government. As a condition for the invitation, Iran has agreed to support the full implementation of the Geneva communique, including the establishment of the transitional governing body, overturning Iran's Syrian ally.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called in the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy, and Spain on January 17 to “stress to them that their perpetual one-sided stance against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates the impression they are only seeking ways to blame Israel,” said his spokesman.
Former Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11 after spending eight years in a coma following a major stroke in 2006, was laid to rest on January 13. Sharon’s funeral ceremonies began Monday morning with an official ceremony at the Knesset, where the late prime minister’s body lay in state on Sunday. Among those delivering speeches at the ceremony were Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Israel’s housing ministry published plans on January 10 to build 1,400 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In response to the announcement, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said, “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a message to Mr. Kerry today, and the message reads: Do not continue your peace efforts.... They know very well that this destroys the peace process.”