KOREA, DPR: The international community expresses its condemnation and concern following North Korea conducting a further nuclear test.
The North Korean government successfully carried out a further nuclear test, the third following the ones in 2006 and 2009. Pyongyang declared that this test was a response both to the imposition of new sanctions after it had tested a long-range missile in December, and to the hostile policy of the US government. Some analysts consider that this nuclear test brings North Korea closer to its objective of transporting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles, as it would have considerably reduced the size and weight of the atomic bombs on which they had been deployed some years ago. Although the international community as a whole condemned the nuclear test, the governments of China and Russian opted for moderation and dialogue with the North Korean government, while USA and Japan were in favour of imposing forceful sanctions on Pyongyang, even if they had to be bilateral. In this sense, some analysts consider that the meeting that leading representatives of USA and Japan held at the end of February had broached the possibility of fostering a resolution from the UN Security Council, citing chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for coercion measures. (New York Times, 13, 25/02/13; The Economist, 14/02/13; Reuters, 24, 28/02/13; BBC, 11/02/13; CNN, 14/02/13)
INDONESIA (WESTERN PAPUA): The armed opposition group OPM carries out the largest attack in recent years.
The OPM armed opposition group claimed practically simultaneous attacks against the Armed Forces in the districts of Puncak and Puncak Jaya in which eight soldiers died. The attacks, considered the largest of the last decade, also caused the flight of many civilians in the region (one of the bastions of the armed insurgency) for fear of Army reprisals. The government declared that the attacks were linked with the holding of local elections, although the communiqué issued by the armed group connected them with the demands of the people of Papua for self-determination. Some analysts feel that the violent deeds might also be a way for the OPM to show rejection of a recent government offer to bring positions closer together, though no further details of that offer had emerged. Some opposition parties urged the government to achieve a larger military presence in the region, while others have urged the Executive to completely re-assess its policy towards the region, placing greater emphasis on the granting of powers for self-government, respect for human rights, an offer of dialogue to all groups in Papua (including the OPM) and greater police (as against army) protagonism in security in the region. (Jakarta Globe, 25/02/2013; Jakarta Post, 24, 26/02/13; Radio New Zealand International, 27, 28/02/13)
IRAQ: Violent events leave more than one hundred dead, as protests persist against the government by Sunni sectors.
Episodes of violence at various places in Iraq caused the death of over one hundred people in February. Among the most notable incidents were the offensive against police headquarters in the disputed city of Kirkuk (north), several aggressions against members of a pro-government militia opposed to al-Qaeda (Sahwa), the attack on an Iranian dissident camp in Baghdad and the detonation of car bombs in Shiite majority areas. The incidents increased concern about sectarian tensions in the country, which could intensity ahead of provincial elections in April. The group Islamic State of Iraq, affiliated to al-Qaeda, claimed bloody attacks against Shiites and called upon Sunnis to take up arms against the government of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Shiite). Alongside this, Sunni sectors staged protests in several cities denouncing marginalisation, demanding the end of sectarian policies (particularly the use of anti-terrorist laws against the Sunnis) and calling for the release of prisoners. The protests, which started in December, intensified following the death of seven young men in clashes with government forces at the end of January. (Al-Jazeera, 01, 22/02/2013; AP, 01, 12, 25/02/13; Reuters, 04, 09/02/13; Asharq al-Awsat, 18/02/13)
MYANMAR: Humanitarian crisis affects the Rohingya minority.
The crisis affecting the people of the Rohingya ethnic group has become more acute as they flee en masse from Myanmar. The Rohinga, an ethnic minority from Myanmar not recognised by that country, live in the State of Arakan. From mid-2012 they have been living immersed in an outbreak of inter-ethnic violence between the Arakanese local majority, of Buddhist confession, and the stateless Rohingya minority, who are Muslim. The UNO estimates that more than 100 people have died in confrontations, while a further 115,000 have been displaced within the country. Human Rights Watch denounces that more than 4,800 houses have been burned, accusing the local Arakanese authorities of being accomplices to that violence. Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, recently stated his concern at the presumed torture and assassination of Muslim prisoners in Arakan prisons. Owing to this situation, many Rohingya are trying to escape the country, often in small boats. According to the UN, some 13,000 people have fled by sea since June 2012, and around 500 have died in the attempt. Over the last few weeks there have been almost daily reports of Rohingya rescued or found dead in the Gulf of Bengal. The ACNUR plans to facilitate a meeting of the regional government, in Indonesia, in an attempt to deal with the present crisis. (The Irrawaddy, 23 and 26/02/13; Democratic Voice of Burma, 26/02/13; UN News Center, 22 /02/13; Human Rights Watch, 17/11/12)
PAKISTAN: A wave of attacks outrages the Shiite community.
An attack in the bazaar of Quetta (capital of Baluchistan) caused 89 fatal victims and hundreds of wounded among the mainly Shiite Hazara community that lives there. Perpetrated on 16 February by the Sunni armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the attack met with strong rejection among the members of the community Shiite community, who demonstrated, calling for the Pakistani security forces to protect them. Last month, a series of attacks claimed by the same LeJ group killed nearly 100 people in the same locality. The acts of protest extended beyond the frontiers of Baluchistan, and Shiite activists also mobilised in the capital Islamabad, as well as in Lahore and Karachi, calling upon the authorities to pursue the groups that had been launching attacks against their community. In the face of the pressure brought to bear the LeJ leader, Maliq Ishaq, was arrested one week later. The Army of Pakistan also made a formal declaration denying any connection with LeJ. According to some human rights groups, the latter may be supporting the Sunni extremists in order to combat the Baluchi insurgency. (NY Times, 22/02/13; Alert Net, 18/02/13)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Confrontations in North Darfur leave a balance of over 500 fatalities since January.
The fierce fighting between the Arab Beni Hussein and Abbala tribes for control of the gold mines in the area of Jebel Amer, in the State of North Darfur, have caused the deaths of 510 people since January, according to official sources. One of the localities worst affected by the violence is El Sereif, in Jebel Amer. The Sudanese parliamentarian Adam Sheikha of the government NCP party has pointed out that a further 865 civilians have been wounded and 20,000 families displaced, as well as at least 15 women raped, 68 localities sacked and another 120 partially burned down. The total displaced population amounts to 100,000 people in the zone. This outbreak of violence that started in January is considered the worst to have occurred in the zone in years. The UN had previously set the number of mortal victims at 100. The African Union has launched a call to the parties to put an end to the hostilities, and the intervention of the Sudanese Army has curbed the violence for the time being. (Sudan Tribune, 25 and 26/02/13)
TUNISIA: The assassination of the opposition leader sparks off further demonstrations and a serious political crisis.
La muerte a tiros del dirigente opositor tunecino Chokri Belaïd (izquierda secular) provoca multitudinarias manifestaciones, deriva en hechos de violencia que causan la muerte a un policía y despierta preocupación sobre el destino del país. Considerado como el primer asesinato político desde la revuelta que derrocó a Ben Alí en 2011, el crimen activó protestas que exigieron una nueva revolución y la caída del Gobierno de mayoría islamista. Cercanos a Belaïd responsabilizaron a Ennahda del asesinato. El partido islamista, que negó estas acusaciones, ha sido criticado de no actuar para frenar la violencia de grupos salafistas en los últimos meses. La crisis motivó huelgas, anuncios de boicot a la Asamblea Constituyente y renuncias en el Gobierno de coalición. El primer ministro, Hamadi Jebali, de Ennahda, se comprometió a formar un gobierno de tecnócratas que permitiera una pronta celebración de elecciones. No obstante, su propio partido descartó esta opción y se mostró partidario de un gobierno político de coalición. Jebali renunció a finales de febrero y fue sustituido en el cargo por el ministro del Interior, Ali Larayedh, que tiene un plazo de dos semanas para formar gobierno. Ennahda aceptó renunciar al control de ministerios clave: Interior, Defensa, Justicia y Exteriores. (Le Monde, BBC, Jeune Afrique, al-Jazeera, 01-28/02/13)
AFGHANISTAN: Obama announces the withdrawal of 34,000 US troops from the country.
The US president Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address that half of the US forces in Afghanistan, 34,000 soldiers, would be withdrawing from the country at the beginning of 2014. The announcement came one month after Obama and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, agreed on a plan to speed up the transfer of combat operations in Afghanistan to the local forces. The future of the US mission within the framework of the ISAF would concentrate on training and equipping the Afghan forces so that they could assume total control of the country’s security by the end of 2014. At the same time, in its annual report Human Rights Watch alerted that the human rights situation would probably deteriorate with the departure of the ISAF forces from the country, especially among the more vulnerable sectors of population. According to a UN report published recently, torture is today a widespread practice in the country’s police stations. And according to HRW, the situation may worsen as the ISAF withdraws from the country, as may women’s rights, which will probably take a significant step backwards. (Alert net, 1, 13/02/13)
SPAIN (BASQUE COUNTRY): The international verification group alerts of the need to move forward on the outstanding issues relating to prisoners, victims and disarmament.
The international verification group supervising the cessation of armed activity by ETA has shown itself satisfied with the group’s compliance in that respect, but alerts to the risk of political normalisation of the Basque Country coming to a standstill due to lack of advances in relation to the three outstanding issues: prisoners, disarmament and victims. In this sense they have expressed fears that the peace expectations may be frustrated, and have noted immobilism on the part of central government in its refusal to make imprisonment policy more flexible. On the other hand, the Basque government approved the creation of a tabled discussion on peace and coexistence, though only with the favourable votes of the PNV and PSE, as against the abstention of EH Bildu and votes against from the PP and UPyD. EH Bildu abstained owing to the fact that the new document included references to the discussion tabled in the preceding legislature, in which they had not participated. (El País, 14, 21/02/13)
GUINEA: The opposition decides to withdraw from electoral preparations due to risks of fraud, and it threatens further mobilisations.
The political opposition in Guinea announced its withdrawal from the process of preparation for the parliamentary elections at the beginning of May, which are to culminate the political transition process. The parties in opposition to president Alpha Conde –elected in the 2010 presidential elections following the military coup in 2008 that followed the death of the former leader, Lansana Conte– have threatened to intensify their protests if the authorities decide to go ahead with elections in the present situation, although they have not actually announced a boycott measure. Criticisms include rejection of the unilateral nature of the electoral commission in its choice of the election date, and allegations that the companies hired to update the electoral census are drawing up lists favourable to the current president. There were renewed protests in the capital in the middle of the month, with several thousand demonstrators –10,000 according to the opposition. (Reuters, 18/02/13)
INDIA (ASSAM, CPI-M): The Assam authorities try to curb the emerging Naxalite influence in their State.
Following several episodes of violence protagonised by Naxalite Maoist groups in districts such as Tinsukia or Dibrugarh, the Prime Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, is toughening his stance. In an attempt to prevent the entry into the State of radical sectors of the CPI-M circle (which has historically had more influence in other Indian States), Gogoi has called for the Naxalites to be dealt with as firmly as the insurgents of the ULFA. This threat seeks to dissuade and undo formation of the new Maoist groups that have been emerging over the last few weeks in Assam. As regards the peace process, Gogoi also expressed his confidence that Paresh Baruna, leader of the ULFA, would not take long to join negotiations. (Assam Tribune, 27/02/13)
INDIA (JAMMU AND KASHMIR): The conflict bursts out again due to the execution of an Islamist militant in Kashmir.
The Indian police are investigating a dual attack with bombs that occurred at the exit from a cinema and at a bus stop in the city of Hyderabad, in the southeastern State of Andhra Pradesh. According to sources present at the scene the act caused 13 mortal victims. Though nobody has acknowledged authorship of the attack, the recent execution by the Indian authorities of the Kashmir Islamist militant Afzal Guru points to that as the reason that would had led the Indian Mujahideen group to reply, according to some sources. The authorities are still cautious about blaming that group from the ideological circle of the Islamist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, with bases in Pakistan. The Indian Interior Minister of the interior, Sushilkumar Shinde, has recognised that there had been a generalised alert to possible Islamist attacks in response to the execution, though without specifying any particular place. (The Guardian, 22/02/13; Al Jazeera, 23/02/13)
IRAN – USA, ISRAEL: Talks resume on the Iranian nuclear programme in the midst of a climate of tension.
After eight months without dialogue, talks resumed between the P5+1 (Germany, France, United Kingdom, USA, Russia and China) and Iran over the nuclear programme of the Islamic republic. At their meeting, held in Almaty (Kazakhstan), the P5+1 offered Tehran that it would withdraw some sanctions in exchange for closure of the Fordo plant and stopping the enrichment of uranium at 20%. Iran would have considered reviewing that last request only if all sanctions against the country were suspended. The meeting had been preceded by an announcement from Iran about the expansion of its atomic plants and some presumed discoveries of uranium reserves. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, underlined that Iran was drawing close to the “red line” in nuclear terms, and he called for military sanctions. In February Israel tested a missile-interception system designed to repel an eventual Iranian attack. Ayatollah Alí Khamenei ruled out holding direct conversations with USA following a suggestion to that effect by Washington, which in parallel approved an intensification of sanctions against the Iranian regime. The G5+1 and Iran are expected to hold a technical meeting in Istanbul in mid-March, and the parties are set to meet again in Kazakhstan on 5 and 6 April. (BBC, al-Jazeera, 1-28/02/13)
MALI (NORTH): The French offensive in the north of the country encounters resistance from jihadist militias.
Bombardments in the north of Mali and the confrontations of the French and African forces with rebel militias have caused the death of hundreds of insurgents, two Frenchmen and thirteen Chadians, according to partial official counts. The operation led by France regained control of the main cities in the north of Mali (Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao)¬, but encountered resistance from the insurgents. Sporadic combats continued and, for the first time, suicide attacks and car bomb attacks occurred. France upheld its intention not to increase its troops in the country (4,000) and to begin a withdrawal in March, since it expects that from April a UN peace-keeping mission will be deployed, including African troops from ECOWAS. Some Malian authorities nevertheless express reticence over that. In parallel, fresh incidents arose between factions of the Malian Armed Forces, leaving one dead and others wounded in Bamako, coinciding with the arrival in the country of the first contingent of 500 instructors from the EU who will assist with restructuring of the armed forces. Envoys from the UN alerted about reprisals, disappearances, summary executions and reports that the Army was hiring militias to attack the Arab and Tuareg population in the north. On a political level, presidential and legislative elections were announced for 7 and 21 July, respectively. (BBC, Le Monde, 1-28/02/13; al-Jazeera, 07/02/13; Jeune Afrique, 05/02/13)
MOLDOVA (TRANSDNIESTRIA): The OSCE reiterates its proposal for a meeting between the two leaders this year, following an initial refusal from the independentist region.
The OSCE is again proposing the holding of a meeting this year between the Moldovan Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, and the top leader of Transdniestria, Yevgeny Shevchuk, after the latter had rejected the offer of a meeting of that nature during the new round of peace negotiations in the 5+2 format (Moldova, Transdniestria, Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, USA and EU), held in Ukraine in mid-February. Shevchuk did not go to Lviv in the end, arguing that no documents had been agreed for signing. And in their turn, the Transdniestrian authorities rejected discussions beginning in the February round on the legal status of the region and the political issues concerning the process, being in favour of those issues being tackled only after all the socioeconomic and humanitarian questions had been resolved. Moldova, for its part, alleged that Transdniestria was seeking thus to reinforce its independentist demands. (RFE/RL, 18-19/02/13; Interfax, 18-20/02/13)
NIGER: France and USA reinforce their military presence in Niger in the face of the crisis in Mali.
The French and USA governments are expanding their military presence in Niger within a context of instability in Mali and as a way of assuring extractive activities in the country. At the end of January USA signed a military agreement with the government of Niger for the establishment of a base for unmanned planes (drones) in the country. Some weeks later, Washington sent a contingent of 100 soldiers to provide intelligence assistance to the French troops operating in Mali. At the beginning of February the authorities in Niger also confirmed the deployment of French special forces for the protection of Alit, one of the country’s main uranium mines, following the hostage crisis in Algeria. The interests of France in the Sahel centre on Niger, the world’s fifth producer of uranium. That resource is essential to run the nuclear plants that provide energy for France, which imports over 30% of its uranium from Niger. The government of Niger has also deployed 5,000 soldiers on its frontier with Mali in an attempt to curb the infiltration of jihadists. (The Guardian, 29/02/13; BBC, 04 and 22/02/13; El País, 04/02/13)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The Séléka rebel coalition threatens a return to arms due to breach of the peace agreement.
The Séléka rebel coalition, which in January reached a peace agreement with the government of president François Bozizé, is now threatening to take up arms again, accusing the president of breaching the peace agreement. Leading members of the opposition and members of the rebel coalition obtained posts in the government, as the agreement had stipulated, but the insurgency still awaits the release of prisoners and the meeting of other outstanding demands. Alongside this, thousands of people have fled towards the north of the RD Congo in the face of abuses perpetrated in the Central African locality of Mobaye, supposedly caused by the rebel Séléka coalition. In only one week in February, more than 8,000 people had sought shelter in the Congolese province of North Ubangi. (AFP, 14/02/13, Reuters, 25/02/13)
SYRIA: Serious clashes persist between the rebels and government forces, in parallel with attempts to find a consensus solution to the conflict.
Bloody fighting persisted in Syria, bringing to 70,000 the death toll since the start of the conflict in 2011 and leading to reports concerning both sides from UN experts on the war crimes commission. Alongside this, and in the face of the statement in the conflict in the military sphere, the two sides seem to be making their conditions for dialogue more flexible. The leader of the main opposition coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, asked the regime to open negotiations through the vice-president, subject to the prior release of 160,000 prisoners. The opposition had thus far demanded the resignation of Bashar al-Assad before any dialogue. It was not clear whether there would be unanimous backing for this initiative from al-Khatib in the coalition. The Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that Damascus was ready to enter into dialogue with all parties, including armed groups that wanted to put an end to the conflict. After threatening to boycott the meeting of the Friends of Syria Group in Rome due to the inability of the international community to halt the violence, the opposition coalition did attend the meeting at the end of February. USA announced that it would double its aid to the Syrian opposition and would send “non-lethal” aid directly to the rebels, in the face of the superiority of the Damascus’ forces “which have the support of Iran and Hezbollah”. (BBC, 03, 05 23/02/13; Le Monde, 05/02/13; al-Jazeera, 18, 20, 26/02/13; Foreign Policy, 28/02/13)
SOMALIA: Disagreements between the president and the Prime Minister, as violence continues in the country.
Following President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s return to Somalia after his international tour, a further confrontation arose with the Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon over various issues of national scope. The first cause of tension dated back to last October, when the president decided to reduce the government to ten ministers and 25 vice-ministers, where the former Cabinet had been made up of 18 ministers, following a 4.5 division of power between the Somali clans. Some ministers threatened to resign, declaring that they did not consider themselves to have real authority in their ministries. In his tour the President visited USA, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Middle East, obtaining assurances of support with development aid. The confrontation is related with management of the funds provided by the international community, and particularly Qatar. This tension arises in parallel with the process of creation of the federated State of Jubalandia, which includes the regions of Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Gedo, a process that also creates tensions with the Federal government. Finally, it should be noted the persistence of clashes between Somali troops backed by AMISOM and the Islamist al-Shabaab group, as well as attacks by al-Shabaab in Puntlandia. (Garowe Online, 15, 16, 20 and 21/02/13)
SUDAN (SOUTH KORDOFAN AND BLUE NILE): The SPLM-N announces the holding of peace talks with the government in March, as clashes persist.
The secretary-general of the SPLM-N, Yasir Arman, announced in a letter to the Sudan Tribune newspaper that the president of the political-military organisation, Malik Agar, has confirmed to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) that a delegation of ten people led by the secretary-general would be taking part in the peace conversations in March. While the Sudanese government seeks to have Juba put an end to the armed support it lends the SPLM-N armed group before involving itself in peace talks, the SPLM-N wants an all-round and inclusive agreement that resolves the situation in the two areas it occupies and in Darfur. The African Union mediation team has called upon the parties to engage in face-to-face talks on 15 March in Addis Abeba. In parallel, however, the Sudanese government has resumed air and land attacks in the state of Blue Nile, leading to the forced displacement of some 8,000 civilians. The Sudanese armed forces have also acknowledged the loss of the region of Mafo, in the State of Blue Nile, at the hands of the SPLM-N. (Sudan Tribune, 15, 17 and 20/02/13)
THAILAND (SOUTH): The government is considering Malaysia’s participation in an eventual dialogue with the armed secessionist groups that operate in the south of the country.
Tension is rising after 16 presumed insurgents died during an attack on a military base in the southern province of Narathiwat in mid-February. The government imposed a curfew in the region in which the attack took place, in which some 50 insurgents are thought to have participated. At the end of February, the government declared that the armed opposition secessionist groups had carried out, by way of reprisal or response, some thirty simultaneous coordinated attacks on several districts in the province of Pattani. Following those coordinated attacks, the deputy Prime Minister, responsible for security operations in the country, ordered an increased military presence in the south of the country. Alongside that, the Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, announced her intention of asking the Malaysian government for its help in setting talks under way with the armed groups that operate in the frontier zone with Malaysia. Thus, according to the National Security Council (CSN), there are insurgent groups ready to enter into dialogue with Bangkok, and Malaysia would be prepared to facilitate such a dialogue. The CSN had already proposed at the time the start of talks to tackle the political dimension of the conflict, but that option is viewed with a certain amount of mistrust by the armed forces, according to some analysts. (Associated Press, 24/02/13; Reuters, 25/02/13; BBC, 12, 28/02/13; Xinhua, 13/02/13)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The government appoints the members of the Transition Commission, the body entrusted with drafting the constitution of the new political entity Bangsamoro.
The government has appointed the 15 people who are to make up the Transition Commission, the body charged with drawing up the Fundamental Act of Bangsamoro, the new political entity contemplated in the framework agreement that the government and the MILF reached in mid-October 2012. That new entity would have to replace the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao towards the year 2016 and would be granted broader competences and economic funds. The Commission will be headed by the thus-far head of the MILF negotiating panel, Mohagher Iqbal, and will have eight members designated by the MILF and seven by the government. Four women and two lumad (indigenous people) will sit on the Commission. Shortly before the designation of the Commission the President, Benigno Aquino, visited one of the main bastions of the MILF to hold a meeting with its leader, Murad Ebrahim, and to launch together a development programme in the region. At the end of February, both parties began in Kuala Lumpur the 36th round of negotiations to tackle the four annexes of the framework agreement signed in October and that both parties undertake to have completed for the month of March. (Philippine Star, Malaya, 25/02/13; Inquirer.net, 28/02/13; AFP, 6, 28/02/13)
DR CONGO (EAST): Eleven African countries sign a peace agreement to stabilise the east of the DR Congo.
Eleven African countries signed in Addis Abeba a peace agreement to stabilise the east of the DR Congo and the region of the Great Lakes. The signatories committed themselves not to intervene in the conflicts that are under way in their neighbouring countries and to refrain from supporting rebel groups. The involvement of several countries in the war in DR Congo, and particularly Rwanda and Uganda, has helped perpetuate the instability and violence. The signatories of the peace agreement are DR Congo, all its neighbours –Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville), South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia– and South Africa. The UN and the UA are also taking part in the pact along with other regional bodies. The agreement does not include any of the armed groups present in the country, and especially not the M23, which according to the Group of Experts of the UN and other organisations, receives support from Rwanda. The agreement opens the door to the intervention of a brigade from the UN, the Neutral International Force (NIF), made up of soldiers from countries in the region under the mandate of the MONUSCO. (BBC, NYT, EP, AFP, VOA, Radio Okapi, 24-26/02/13)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: The presidencies of the two territories hold a historical meeting and undertake to make progress in the process of dialogue.
For the first time since the declaration of the independence of Kosovo in 2008, the presidents of the two territories, the Serb Tomislav Nikolic and the Kosovar Atifete Jahjaga, joined together in a meeting called historic by the press and analysts. Facilitated by the EU and lying within the framework of the process of dialogue started in 2011, the meeting was described as positive by both leaders, who committed themselves to continuing the process. In their turn, the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci, met at the end of February, also within the framework of the talks under the mediation of the EU, and agreed to move beyond the parallel institutions in the north of Kosovo and the Serb-majority association of municipalities in Kosovo, although the two parties differed over their interpretation of the aspects agreed. (BIRN, 7-27, 02/13)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The government undertakes not to stand in the way of the process of dialogue with the PKK, and the leader of the armed group presents a road-map proposal to his rank and file.
Progress is being made in the process of dialogue between the government and the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, in prison since 1999. The Executive authorised a second visit to Öcalan by three parliamentarians from the pro-Kurd BDP party. The delegation, made up of Pervin Buldan, Sirri Sürreya Önder and Altan Tan, later conveyed Öcalan’s call to both parties in the process to adopt a responsible approach. The Kurdish leader also pointed out that he hoped the prisoners held by the PKK would be released soon, while he also described the process under way as historic. Öcalan further informed that he would be presenting a road-map proposal for consultation to the BDP, to PKK cadres in the north of Iraq and to his representatives in Europe. Some of the Turkish media later stated that following consultations with his movement, Öcalan would present his road map on 21 March, and that it would include a cease-fire declaration; the withdrawal of PKK combatants from Turkey, subject to parliamentary approval; negotiations on the relinquishing of weapons, depending on parliamentary consensus on issues such as the definition of citizenship, education in the mother tongue and the strengthening of local governments; and the abandonment of arms. (Hürriyet, 1-28/02/13, Firat, 1-28/02/13)
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