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Forecast: Colombia resumes talks with FARC, Black Sea grain deal expires, and Israeli president addresses U.S. Congress

The U.S. women's national soccer team, pictured above after their win in 2019, will seek to defend their two-time title at the Women's World Cup this year in Australia and New Zealand.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

Colombia’s government recently reached an agreement to resume peace talks with an armed dissident group of the disbanded FARC guerrillas. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Irene Villora discuss previous attempts at stopping the violence, why the talks were halted in May and how the peace process is a highly divisive subject among Colombians.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of July 14-21: A Look Ahead

July 14  India’s TMC party sends delegation to Manipur conflict zone  
Five lawmakers from India’s Trinamool Congress party (TMC) will visit the state of Manipur on Friday to investigate the ongoing strife.

What’s happened so far 
At least 142 people have died amid violence between the dominant, primarily Hindu Meitei ethnic group and the mostly Christian tribes, including the Kuki, Naga and Zo peoples. The conflict resurfaced after indications from the federal government that the state’s slight Meitei majority could be given a “Scheduled Tribe” status. The distinction would mean that the Meitei could expand out from the Imphal Valley and buy property in the hilly tribal lands and be eligible for job and educational quotas across India. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party state government has cracked down on unauthorized Myanmar refugees living in the hills which acts as a natural shelter since the Kuki-Chin tribe is distributed along the India-Myanmar-Bangladesh border area. The tribal populations view the push against Myanmar refugees as a thinly-veiled attempt to drive them off their land.
The impact 
Riots first broke out in the state on May 3, and atrocities have been reported from both sides since. Schools, businesses and internet connection have all been mostly shut downNumerous churches and temples have been targeted by arsonists. The Indian Army and the Assam Rifles have deployed. More than 45,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and thousands of young men have joined ethnic militias, such as the Meitei-extremist Arambai Tenggol. It remains to be seen how the conflict will end, but the Trinamool Congress lawmakers will likely use their trip to score political points against the federal government of the BJP, which sent its delegation to TMC’s home state of West Bengal to examine concurrent violence.

July 16  Pacific trad pact meets in New Zealand  
Members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will gather in Auckland starting Saturday, with the United Kingdom expected to formally join the pact after two years of negotiations for the country’s biggest trade deal since Brexit. 

What’s happened so far 
The free trade agreement was initially signed by 11 countries in March 2018, with the Indo-Pacific bloc combining to generate 14 percent of the world’s income. With the United Kingdom’s ascension complete, the focus is expected to shift to China’s bid to join, with Taiwan, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay and, most recently, Ukraine, also submitting requests. In an attempt to boost their bid, China will ease several economic and trade rules on a trial basis. 
The impact 
All member countries must approve an application to join the group, setting a high bar for entry. The United States remains conspicuously absent from the pact, after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2017, dealing a significant blow to hopes the pact could serve as a counterbalance to Chinese influence in the region.

July 17  Black Sea grain deal expires  
An agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations to facilitate grain shipments through the Black Sea is once again set to expire Monday

What’s happened so far 
The deal, which was initially struck nearly a year ago, allows Ukraine, one of the world’s foremost grain suppliers, to ship exports through the Black Sea. It followed months of blockade after the outbreak of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine last February. While the agreement initially helped stabilize global food prices and stave off a crisis, its future has been in limbo on multiple occasions and it has faced three last-minute extensions, most recently in May when the agreement was extended for 60 days.
The impact 
Russia is once again issuing threats to let the agreement die unless certain demands are met, including reconnecting Russia’s Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT international payment system. Diplomatic efforts are already underway to reach an agreement with Moscow to extend the arrangement for a fourth time. Failure to reach an extension risks worsening humanitarian crises in countries reliant upon Ukrainian grain, such as Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia. Preparations are already underway in Ukraine in the instance the agreement expires, including bolstering exports on land through Poland and Romania.

July 18  First South Korea-U.S. Nuclear Consultative Group meeting  
South Korea and the United States will discuss nuclear weapons and North Korea on Tuesday at the first ever session of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG).

What’s happened so far 
Over the past year, South Koreans have become progressively more vocal about wanting to build nuclear weapons to help defend against North Korea. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, a member of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative party and likely presidential candidate in 2027, strongly advocates for the controversial move. His opinion aligns with most of the country: A poll found only 27 percent of South Koreans oppose the development of nuclear weapons. The United States and other western powers, however, are against more nukes on the Korean peninsula. In response, President Joe Biden and Yoon announced the establishment of the NCG earlier this year, much to the dismay of Pyongyang
The impact 
The NCG does give South Korea more power and say in any nuclear confrontation with the North Koreans, but it’s a far cry from what most South Koreans want. If the NCG doesn’t placate that need, it could lead to the development of nuclear weapons against the wishes of most of the world. That could start a domino effect in Asia, leading to more nations in the region trying to develop nukes.

July 19   Israel’s president to address joint meeting of U.S. Congress  
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog has been invited to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, aimed at celebrating Israel’s 75th anniversary.

What’s happened so far
Despite the president’s position being a largely ceremonial role in Israel, Herzog’s meeting comes at a time of great tension with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Netanyahu said he was no longer seeking to grant the parliament the authority to overturn Supreme Court rulings, which was one of the key elements of the contested judicial reforms. Despite this, anti-government protests have continued in Tel Aviv and near the Knesset in West Jerusalem, resulting in dozens of people arrested. The government has also faced criticism on the increase of large-scale operations in the West Bank, after 12 Palestinians were killed during a two-day raid in Jenin earlier this month. 
The impact 
Israel and the United States continue to hold relatively strong ties, evident in a statement by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in which he said that “the world is better off when America and Israel work together.” But Netanyahu has yet to receive a formal invitation to the White House, despite serving for a sixth term, which analysts describe as an “apparent signal of U.S. displeasure over his policies.” The Biden administration has previously criticized the Knesset’s grant to advance plans to build approximately 5,700 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, though the United States has taken little action to stop the project.

July 19  World Court to hear Syria torture claims  
A case brought by Canada and the Netherlands over allegations of torture against Syria will begin Wednesday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

What’s happened so far 
This case represents the first time the ICJ, also known as the World Court, has ruled on any aspect of the conflict in Syria since a civil war broke out 12 years ago. The body announced in June it had received an application from Canada and the Netherlands, asking for emergency intervention to protect civilians from torture and seeking to prosecute Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for human rights violations under the U.N. Convention against Torture. 
The impact 
The ICJ typically takes years to rule on a case like this, although it can recommend measures in the interim to prevent a situation from deteriorating. However, given the court has no way of enforcing its rulings, it is highly unlikely any decision would make a significant difference on the ground in Syria – rather, it would serve as a symbolic victory against al-Assad’s government if he is found to be in breach of the U.N.’s torture convention. 

July 20  Women’s World Cup 2023 begins  
On Thursday32 national soccer teams will kick-off the 2023 women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand. 

What’s happened so far 
As teams from across all continents finish their preparations and friendlies ahead of next week, the U.S. women’s team will seek to defend their title as the heavy favorites following two consecutive victories in both 2015 and 2019.
The impact 
Differing from the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar, at the forefront of Australia and New Zealand’s bid will be messages of inclusion and a focus on social issues such as indigenous, same-sex rights and domestic violence. While TV broadcasting deals have been a fraction of the men’s World Cup, organizers are estimating an expected viewership of 2 billion people across the tournament. 

July 20  Election to replace Boris Johnson’s seat in parliament  
Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s parliament seat will be filled Thursday in a by-election in his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, in West London, after his resignation last month.

What’s happened so far 
Johnson resigned as a member of parliament on June 12 after he received a long-awaited report from the Privileges Committee into the parties held at Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown. Steve Tuckwell was named as the Conservative candidate for Thursday’s vote, while Labour named Danny Beales. At least 15 other candidates are also on the ballot.
The impact 
The report that led to Johnson’s resignation found he deliberately misled parliament over the parties held during lockdown. The former prime minister called the findings a “lie” and a “witch hunt.” Allies of current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the report meant the “end of the road” for Johnson, but it is unclear whether he will remain away from politics for long. Since leaving parliament, the former lawmaker has launched a column in the tabloid Daily Mail, a move that breached the rules as he failed to get permission from the ministerial appointments watchdog.

What Else Matters

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, pictured right, met with U.S. President Joe Biden during Biden’s visit to Egypt in November 2022. (Photo: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Egypt’s economic crisis
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, is struggling to rein in inflation and repay tens of billions of dollars of debt accumulated during the past decade of unchecked military rule, posing perhaps the biggest threat to President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi’s hold on power ahead of elections in early 2024. Prices rose at a record annual rate of 37 percent in June, intensifying pressure on the nation’s 105 million people, of which an estimated 60 percent live near or below poverty.

Watch for: Egypt’s foreign debt has ballooned to more than $160 billion from $40 billion in 2015, financing one of the world’s top weapons buyers and infrastructure projects that include a $58-billion new capital city ordered by El-Sissi. The government, which spends almost half of its budget on interest payments alone, said this month that it raised $1.9 billion from sales of state assets, working to meet a key condition by the International Monetary Fund to unlock more loans. Independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr reports the nation’s inner ruling circles are “seriously considering voluntary default” as an option, as investors grow increasingly fearful of the prospect.

FARC peace talks resume
The Colombian government and FARC’s Estado Mayor Central (EMC) dissident group will resume peace talks after negotiations were halted in May over the killing of four Indigenous teenagers who tried to desert after being forcibly recruited by the armed group in Colombia’s Putumayo department. The new attempt at negotiations is part of an ongoing effort by the current administration to sign peace agreements with the main guerrillas in the country – a six-month ceasefire with the ELN (members’ link) is due to be enforced in August – in the framework of the so-called “total peace” policy, one of President Gustavo Petro’s main promises. The EMC rejected the 2016 landmark peace agreement, which allowed for the creation of the FARC political party and the transition of some 13,000 fighters into civilian life. 

Watch for: The preliminary phase of the talks began on July 7, as announced in a joint statement. Although the date for the resumption of negotiations has not been announced yet, the parties said the first action in this new process will be a temporary nationwide bilateral ceasefire agreement, followed by the establishment of an agenda for the talks, a decision on venues to hold the meetings and mechanisms to ensure the participation of members of civil society. International observers, guarantors and representatives of the Catholic Church will participate as mediators in the process. A peace agreement with FARC’s EMC dissident group would demobilize more than 3,000 estimated fighters that currently operate in 16 departments across the country.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

July 14-21 

July 14

  • TMC delegation to visit Manipur, India

July 16

  • CPTPP meets and discusses adding Ukraine to trade pact

July 17

  • Black Sea grain deal expires

July 18

  • First South Korea-US Nuclear Consultative Group meeting

July 19

  • World Court to hear Syria torture claims
  • Israel’s Herzog to address joint meeting of U.S. Congress

July 20 

  • Women’s World Cup 2023 begins
  • Election to replace U.K.’s Boris Johnson

July 22-28 

July 23 

  • Cambodia elections
  • Spain elections

July 25 

  • Guatemala elections

July 26

  • Russia-Africa summit 

July 29-Aug. 4 

July 30 

  • Referendum for new constitution in Central African Republic

Aug. 2 

  •     Pope Francis visits Portugal

Aug. 3

  • Start of six-month ceasefire between ELN and Colombian government

Aug. 5-11 

July 30 

  • Referendum for new constitution in Central African Republic

Aug. 2 

  •     Pope Francis visits Portugal

Aug. 3

  • Start of six-month ceasefire between ELN and Colombian government

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Top image: The U.S. women’s national soccer team, pictured above after their win in 2019, will seek to defend their two-time title at the Women’s World Cup this year in Australia and New Zealand. (Photo: Howcheng / Wikimedia Commons)

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