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The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin are in agreement on a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but the statement was ambiguous and there was no immediate indication that the fighting would stop.

The morning started on a hopeful note: The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two had agreed on a "permanent cease-fire."

But that was short-lived. As the state-funded Russia Today reports, the Russians quickly pointed out that they had reached no such agreement, because "Russia is not party to Ukraine conflict."

As U.S. and NATO troops draw down in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters are growing bolder. They have been massing in larger and larger numbers and taking on Afghan forces across the country.

NPR producer Sultan Faizy and I spent a recent day making calls to ordinary Afghan citizens in some of the country's hot spots.

Prime Minister David Cameron says he wants to give U.K. police the power to seize the passports of Islamist fighters bound for Iraq and Syria.

"We will introduce specific and targeted legislation ... providing the police with a temporary power to seize a passport at the border during which time they will be able to investigate the individual concerned," Cameron told British Parliament today.

Update at 3:21 p.m. ET

Pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine are no longer demanding full independence, telling negotiators in Belarus that they will respect Ukraine's sovereignty in exchange for autonomy.

The Associated Press adds:

"It's a shift that reflects Moscow's desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks — possibly avoiding tougher Western sanctions. The talks follow last week's meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. Similar talks earlier this summer produced no visible results."

Update at 10:35 a.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for "meaningful talks" to end the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, reiterating that the Kremlin, which is said to have allowed thousands of its soldiers to join the rebels, views the situation as an internal dispute.

"Substantive, meaningful talks should begin immediately ... related to the issues of society's political organization and statehood in southeastern Ukraine to protect legitimate interests of people living there," Tass quoted Putin as saying.

The Syrian civil war has sparked "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era."

That's according to António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, who added that while the world's response to the crisis has been "generous," it hasn't met the needs of refugees.

The U.N. agency released new numbers on Friday and the picture they paint is exceedingly grim. A few data points from the report:

Some semblance of normal life returned to Gaza on Wednesday.

The day after Hamas and Israel accepted an open-ended cease-fire, Palestinians returned to their homes, markets opened and bulldozers began clearing the rubble, while in Israel, the sirens warning of rockets fell silent.

Naturally, Palestinians, Israelis and the world started looking toward the future and began asking a tough question: What's next?

The Afghan election process was thrown further into disarray on Wednesday, when both candidates pulled their observers from a U.N.-led audit of the country's ballots.

The Associated Press reports that Abdullah Abdullah was the first to withdraw his observer, saying the process was full of fraud. The news service adds:

(This post was last updated at 12:47 p.m. ET.)

After seven weeks of intense fighting that's killed more than 2,000 people, Hamas and Israel have announced a long-term cease-fire deal.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the announcement in Ramallah on Tuesday, saying both sides will return to the negotiating table to deal with other demands. Abbas suggested he wanted an outcome that ends the cycle of war in the region.

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