Colombian Cease-fire — Colombia‘s left-wing Farc rebels have declared a two-month cease-fire, as they begin peace talks with government negotiators in Cuba‘s capital Havana to end 50 years of conflict, reports the BBC. Farc’s top negotiator Ivan Marquez said the group would stop all attacks until Jan. 20, while the Colombian government said the army would continue fighting until the rebels sign a peace deal. Peace talks between the two sides, according to the BBC, are expected to focus on land reform, “the end of the armed conflict, guarantees for the exercise of political opposition and citizen participation, drug trafficking, and the rights of the victims of the conflict.”
Syria’s Opposition Coalition — The European Union backed a new Syrian opposition coalition, offering support to a group that seeks more international aid in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad, reports the New York Times. Unlike France, Turkey, and several countries in the Persian Gulf, the E.U. did not confer diplomatic status to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which will be based in Cairo, Egypt. The coalition, according to the Times, is now trying to “secure agreements from Western and Arab countries to supply heavier weapons to the rebels to hasten the demise of Assad’s government.” Some of Syria’s extremist Islamist groups, however, have rejected the coalition, raising concerns about growing religious fundamentalism amid the civil war.
Australian Farms — Reuters notes that despite weak returns and harsh weather, foreign investors, especially those from Asia, are stepping up their investments in Australian agriculture. Chinese investors purchased Australia’s largest cotton farm Cubbie Station, which spans 360 sq. mi. (1,000 sq km), and they have also been involved in other high-profile farm deals. According to analysts, “a global rush for agricultural land is just beginning, driven by increasing concerns over long-term food and water security,” wrote Reuters.
Maritime Dispute – The International Court of Justice ruled that a cluster of disputed islands in the Caribbean belongs to Colombia, not Nicaragua, but extended Nicaragua’s territorial waters giving the country more access to “underwater oil and gas deposits as well as fishing rights,” Reuters reports. Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos spoke out against the ruling claiming that was full of “omissions, mistakes, inconsistencies, that we cannot accept.” On the other hand, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega praised the ruling and urged Santos to take the ruling more seriously.
Egypt Blames Israel – Despite attempting to mediate talks between Israel and Hamas over the conflict in Gaza, Egypt has plunged “into the battle over international public opinion on behalf of the Palestinian cause,” according to New York Times. A senior Egyptian official addressed a group of foreign correspondents and blamed Israel for the conflict and claimed that the West was “essentially blaming the victim,” while also emphasizing that Egypt was “against any bloodshed.”
Croatian Corruption – A Croatian court sentenced former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to 10 years in prison for accepting bribes viewed by many as “war profiteering,” the BBC reports. Croatia will likely join the European Union by July of next year, and many have viewed this case as an effort to tackle the widespread corruption within the country. Sanader is the most senior official to be found guilty of corruption in the country.