GUINEA: 15 people die in several days of protests one month before the parliamentary elections, criticised by the opposition
At least 15 people died, according to hospital sources, during three days of demonstrations in the Guinean capital, Conakry, in protest against Government preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections, set for 30 June. The opposition press has attributed the deaths to the action of the security forces, while the government attributes them to the violence of the demonstrators themselves. The opposition leaders Lansana Kouyate and Cellou Dalein Diallo plan to travel to the French capital in order to explain the situation concerning the Guinean crisis. They have issued no public communiqués on the three days of violence, between 23 and 25 May. The opposition is warning that it will not take part in the elections and denounces that it has not been included in the process, including the choice of voting date. It also criticises the choice of the South African company entrusted with the technical aspects of registering voters and counting votes. The elections have been postponed since 2011, and it was hoped that they would be a key step in the process of political transition from the military coup of 2008, following the death of president Lansana Conté. (All Africa, Jeune Afrique, 01-30/05/13)
INDIA (CPI-M): A Naxalite attack on a political convoy causes some thirty death
28 people died due to a Naxalite attack, the most lethal perpetrated by this armed group (CPI-M) since 2010. On 26 May, the insurgents attacked a Congress Party convoy that was returning following a meeting in the district of Darbha Ghati (state of Chhattisgarh), a bastion of the rebels. The head of the Congress party in that state, Nand Kumar Atel, lost his life in the attack, as did Mahendra Karma, a veteran of that political formation and founder in 2005 of an armed anti-Maoist force, the Salwa Judum. Following the attack, the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, declared that the Naxalite question would thenceforth be handled with a heavy deployment of the security forces in the regions with rebel presence. At the same time, he ruled out holding talks with them, arguing that the rebels had at no time responded to an offer made by the former minister of the interior, P. Chidambaram, to abandon the armed struggle and sit down at the negotiating table, which for him meant that they were not interested in seeking peace. (El País, 26/05/2013; Times of India, 29/05/2013)
LEBANON: Violent events cause the death of at least 33 people in the country and Hezbollah becomes openly involved in the Syrian conflict
The repercussions of the Syrian war in Lebanon become clear during May, following various incidents of violence that caused the death of at least 33 people, and after Hezbollah had publicly recognised its involvement in the conflict in the neighbouring country. The violent incidents were concentrated in the northern city of Tripoli. At the beginning of the month, the detention of a Sunni cleric on charges of terrorism led to clashes in which five people died. A further 25 died following fighting between supporters and detractors of the Syrian regime in two adjacent neighbourhoods (one with Alawite majority and the other Sunni) in Tripoli. Another three Lebanese soldiers died in the Bekaa Valley. Alongside this, and confirming the prior information concerning military assistance to the forces of Damascus from Hezbollah militiamen, the leader of the group, sheik Hasan Nasrallah, promised the victory of his forces in Syria. Since mid-May, Hezbollah militiamen have become actively involved in the fighting in the city of Qusayr, near the frontier with Lebanon. Dozens are thought to have died in clashes with the Syrian rebels. At the end of the month, the launch of two rockets against a neighbourhood controlled by Hezbollah in Beirut left several wounded. Analysts consider that the involvement in Syria confirmed a Hezbollah turnaround, as it had formerly focused its struggle against Israel. Nasrallah stated that they had received arms from Damascus, and described it as a natural response to the Israeli military incursions in Syria. (BBC, 05, 11, 20, 25/05/13; al-Jazeera, 28/05/13)
NIGERIA: The president declares a state of emergency in the north of the country and the army launches a massive operation against Boko Haram
The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in three states in the north-east of the country, Yobe, Adamawa and Borno, after an offensive by Boko Haram (BH) had caused the death of 55 people. The attack against military, police and governmental installations by over 200 heavily armed men in the locality of Bama (Borno) fuelled speculation about BH access to sophisticated weaponry and the presumed backing it was thought to be receiving from foreign groups linked to al-Qaeda. The leader of the group, Abubakhar Shekau, further announced the first taking of Nigerian hostages, women and children, in response to the Government detention of family members of BH. Within this context, Jonathan for the first time acknowledged that the group had taken control of part of Borno and announced a massive military offensive to regain the territorial integrity of the country and respond to the escalade of violence by the group, which he considered to be a declaration of war. More than 2,000 soldiers were transferred to the north of the country, within the framework of the largest operation against BH since the start of its insurgent activity. Since the end of May the offensive –which included search operations and aerial actions against BH bases– had caused an undetermined number of deaths, forced displacements of civilians and many arrests. (BBC, 01-30/05/13; El País, 15/05/13; Jeune Afrique, 22/05/13)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (EAST): An escalade in the clashes occurs, while the United Nations confirms the rape of 200 women carried out by members of the armed forces
Clashes intensified between the Congolese armed forces and the M23 armed group in the proximity of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, which may have caused more than 50 fatalities and the forced displacement of 130,000 people from the city and its surrounding area, as well as the flight to the province of Kivu Sur of a further 47,000 people. The M23 bombarded the capital with mortar fire, causing various fatalities. Alongside this, a report from the United Nations confirmed the rape of some 200 women and girls, some as young as six years of age, during the flight of the Congolese armed forces in the face of the November 2012 advance of the M23 armed group which temporarily took Goma. The report noted the committing of mass rapes, assassinations, arbitrary executions, recruitment of minors, looting, forced labour and other serious violations of human rights by both the M23 and the Congolese army. In the case of the army, the report describes how they were perpetrated systematically and with extreme violence, and could constitute internationally punishable crimes. Alongside this has come the arrival of the first soldiers belonging to the contingent of 1,280 Tanzanian soldiers of the intervention brigade of 3,000 military personnel from that country, and from South Africa and Malawi, in order to face the armed groups from the east of DR Congo. The brigade was agreed in March. The contingent will be deployed in the area in two months, according to the UN secretary general. For its part, the M23 has threatened to make the mission a military target. (RFI, AFP, 05, 13/05/13; Defense Web, 13/05/13; Huffington Post, 15/05/13; UN, 08, 20/05/13)
SYRIA: International powers agreed to hold a conference on the conflict, while high levels of violence persist
The conflict in Syria continued to register high levels of violence that have already meant the death of over 80,000 people since March 2011. The main episodes in May included sectarian attacks and massacres in the coastal zones of Baida and Bainas (in which more than 200 people died), fierce fighting in the locality of Qusayr (near the border with Lebanon), offensives claimed by new armed groups (both rebels and pro-government), increasing signs of the use of chemical weapons and many incidents that point to an internationalisation of the conflict: Israeli attacks in Syrian territory, skirmishes in the zone of the Golan Heights, the explosion of car bombs in a Turkish locality bordering on Syria, and public recognition by Hezbollah of its support for the forces of Damascus. In the face of this escalade in the conflict, Russia and the United States agreed at the beginning of the month to hold an international conference to seek a political solution. Damascus announced that it would attend the meeting, scheduled for June in Geneva, as long as no preconditions were set. Meeting in Istanbul, the Syrian opposition in exile coalition once again showed divisions and announced that it would not take part in the Geneva meeting until Iran and Hezbollah withdrew their forces from Syria. Earlier, dissident sectors inside Syria accused that coalition of not representing the revolution. The future of the conflict was influenced by the EU decision to suspend its embargo on arms to Syria, thus opening the door to a supply of arsenals to the rebels. Russia reacted by giving a green light to further deliveries of arms to Syria (including 300 anti-aircraft missiles) which would help Damascus to dissuade a potential foreign intervention. (BBC, 08, 14, 16, 21, 22, 28/05/13; El País, 06, 07/05/13; al-Jazeera, 04, 16, 30/05/13; Le Monde, 28/05/13)
SOMALIA: The United Nations announces that some 3,000 soldiers of the AMISOM have died since their arrival in the country seven years ago
Serious clashes persisted in various parts of the country (in Bakool, the region bordering on Ethiopia; in Hiiraan; in Mogadishu and in Liboi, the border zone with Kenya) between government forces backed by international troops and the Islamist armed group al-Shabaab, causing dozens of fatalities. The UN assistant secretary general, Jan Eliasson, announced that over 3,000 soldiers of the African mission of the AU in Somalia (AMISOM) had died in the seven years the force has been in the country fighting against al-Shabaab. Ten countries contribute troops to the mission, though most are provided by Uganda, Burundi and Kenya. The new Kenyan president, William Ruto, met with his counterparts from the Republic of the Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, and from Gabon, Ali Bongo, to discuss a possible enlargement of the African mission in the country with a view to contributing towards its stability. (Reuters, 10/05/13; Garowe Online, 5, 11, 17/05/13; BBC, 18/05/13)
AFGHANISTAN: Further insurgent attacks against international objectives, while the United Kingdom agrees to release ninety Afghans following months of detention without charges
The violence continued in Afghanistan, with further Taliban attacks against the foreign presence in the country. Among the attacks, 15 people, including six Americans, died in a suicide attack by a member of the Taliban insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami against a caravan of foreign troops in Kabul on 16 May. A further 40 people were injured. Another suicide attack was committed on 24 May against the headquarters of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), followed by an attack on an Afghan security forces building, which caused the death of at least two insurgents and a police officer. During the month it also emerged that the United Kingdom had been keeping 85 Afghans detained without charges and without access to legal defence at its largest military base in the country, Camp Bastion. Lawyers for eight detainees, who had spent 14 months imprisoned, called upon the British High Court for their release. Following coverage of the case by the BBC channel, the Ministry of Defence announced that they would be released. Moreover, Afghan and Pakistani forces clashed at the beginning of May on two occasions at a disputed border post in the Afghan province of Nangarhar, causing the death of one Afghan soldier and the wounding of several Pakistanis, thereby revealing the tension that exists between the two countries. (The Washington Post, 06/05/2013; Reuters 16, 24/05/2013; BBC, 29/05/13)
BOLIVIA: Thousands of people demonstrate for two weeks to demand an increase in pensions, in one of the largest protests during the government of Evo Morales
For two weeks in the month of May, thousands of people staged a series of strikes, road blockages and other acts of protest to call upon the Government to reform the law on pensions. At the end of May, the Central Obrera Boliviana, the country's largest trade union organisation and the one that had called for and led the protests, suspended the mobilisations after agreeing with the Government a 30-day period to analyse and reach consensus on a reform of the pensions law. During the mobilisations, dozens of people were injured and a hundred were arrested. Several of the main roads in the country were blocked, thereby bringing to a standstill much of the commercial activity in the country and causing considerable economic losses. In the capital, numerous clashes were registered close to the headquarters of the Government between miners groups who detonated explosives and the police, who used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Some analysts considered this to be one of the largest protests to have been faced by the president, Evo Morales, in his eight years in government. (AP, 16/05/13; Infolatam, 22/05/13; AFP, 23/05/13)
CHAD: A wave of arrests following a frustrated coup attempt
Following the announcement of the disbandment of an attempted coup d'état that took place on 1 May, the Government launched a wave of detentions of journalists, opposition activists and even an opposition member of parliament. Various sources estimate that between 10 and 20 people may have been detained, although the exact number remains unknown and could be higher. The Government had earlier detained several senior officers in the Chadian army. Alongside this the Chadian president, Idriss Déby, has announced the return of the first 700 soldiers sent to Malí, where they had the mission of combating the Islamist insurgency in the north of the country. It is not known whether that measure was related with the attempted coup. The number of fatalities has risen to 20. Government sources have stated that the action had been prepared by a group of people four months ago. The AU has condemned this attempt at destabilisation. (All Africa, 03, 20/05/13)
UNITED STATES: Barack Obama announces a more restrictive policy on the use of drones
The United States president, Barack Obama, announced the setting in motion of a more restrictive policy on the use of unmanned plans (drones) abroad. This policy sets out the circumstances under which such aircraft could be used to carry out attacks in contexts that do not lie within a state of open war, such as the Yemen, Pakistan or Somalia. Among the conditions are that the attacks would be on objectives that posed an imminent or continuous threat for the United States, that there existed a near certainty that civilians would not die or be injured in the attack, that capture of the suspects was not possible, that the authorities of the country could not or did not want to face up to the threat and that no other alternatives existed. International human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised the attacks with unmanned planes, underlining their impact on the civil population. Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur who in January opened an investigation into the attacks with such planes and the challenges which this technology posed for international law, saw the announcement by Obama as a positive step towards increasing transparency and accountability. Obama defended the use of the planes as part of a "just war", in the framework of a speech dedicated to the US anti-terrorist strategy. During his message, the leader called for a redefinition of what had been a "global war" without limits and would shift towards the dismantling of specific extremist networks. (The New York Times, 23/05/13; BBC and Le Monde, 24/05/13)
HAITI: The former president Jean Bertrand Aristide congregates thousands of sympathisers
Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Port-au-Prince to show their support for the former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who had to appear in court to testify about the death of a well-known journalist who had been murdered under strange circumstances in the year 2000, a few months before the holding of elections. According to some sources, the journalist had been considering standing for the elections. Although the Government had banned any demonstrations in favour of or against the former leader, the route from his residence to the court turned into a massive act of support for Aristide and of protest against the current president, Michel Martelly. His declaration in the court was his first public appearance since he returned to the country in 2011, following seven years in exile. Aristide returned shortly after the ex-dictator Jean Claude Duvalier had done so. According to Aristide's lawyer, the former president's participation in investigation of the murder had clear political connotations and motivations. Some media organs noted that the expansion of such a perception in society could lead to a substantial increase in his popularity ratings. (Reuters and AP, 08/05/13; BBC, 09/05/13)
IRAN: The Council of Guardians authorises eight candidates for the June presidential elections after ruling out Rafsanjani, an ally of Ahmadinejad and the women wishing to stand
After examining the 686 candidatures presented, the Council of Guardians gave the go-ahead to eight candidates (most of them conservatives close to the clerics) to take part in the presidential elections. The elections have been set for June, and the current incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cannot enter for them this time round because he has been in the post for two consecutive mandates. Among the approved candidates are five conservatives: the former parliamentary spokesman Gholamali Haddad Adel; the advisor to the supreme leader Alí Akbar Velayati; the former commander of the Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezaie; the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf; and the nuclear issues strategist Saeed Jalili. The last two would appear to be best positioned with a view to the voting. The other three candidates are the former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rouhani (centrist), the former vice-president Reza Aref (a low-profile reformist) and Mohammad Gharazi (an independent with little chance of winning). The Council of Guardians decided to rule out the 30 women candidates who had put themselves forward, the former president Alí Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close collaborator of Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani was seen as a figure capable of bringing together the reformist and centre forces, since the two main opposition leaders who took part in the last elections remain under house arrest. Known for his controversial religious opinions, Mashaei has been considered by conservative clerics as part of a current that seeks to undermine the Irani Islamic system. (BBC, 14, 16, 23, 24/05/13)
LIBYA: The Congress passes a law that forbids former functionaries from the Gaddafi era from holding public posts
The General National Congress (GNC) of Libya decided by 164 votes to four (of a total of 200) in favour of the Political Isolation Act, which forbids functionaries from the Muammar Gaddafi era from holding public posts. The voting took place after several days in which armed militias supporting this legislation surrounded the Ministries of Justice and the Exterior and the Judiciary as a form of pressure. The regulation has aroused criticism from human rights groups and diplomats, who consider that the legislation could affect anybody who worked for the Libyan regime between 1969 and 2011 and stressed that the law does not take account of people who went into exile or who worked for the fall of the regime. The law led to the resignation of the head of the GNC, Muhammad al-Margarief, an ambassador before becoming leader of an opposition group in exile for 30 years. Following approval of the regulation, groups of former rebels kept up their pressure and increased their demands, among them the resignation of the prime minister, and warned of a second revolution. Alongside this, another coalition of militiamen reaffirmed its support for the authorities and warned that they would use force to put an end to the siege. Over the course of the month eight violent incidents were registered, among them bomb and grenade attacks against police stations and military checkpoints in Bengazi, with several fatalities. Within this context, the minister of the interior presented his resignation. (BBC, 01, 05, 07, 28/05/13; al-Jazeera, 09/05/13; Reuters, 05, 26, 30/05/13)
PAKISTAN: Nawaz Sharif, winner of the Pakistani elections following an election campaign that caused over 150 deaths
Following his victory in the legislative elections in Pakistan on 11 May, Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and twice prime minister, will lead the Pakistani government for the third time. Despite attacks from Taliban groups that caused more than 150 deaths in a month of campaigning, a strong participation of over 60% was recorded, and both local and international observers considered that the elections had been fairly conducted. The exception was in the city of Karachi, where voting had to be repeated at several dozen electoral colleges. In that locality, 11 people were killed in attacks with bombs and gunfire on the day of the elections. Among other incidents, in the province of Balochistan, where the nationalist parties decided to take part in the elections after having boycotted the elections in 2008, armed men killed two people who were coming out of an electoral college in the city of Sorab, while gunfire between followers of the two candidates in the city of Chaman ended the lives of six people. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim Leage won 124 of the 272 seats, while the party that came second, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), obtained 31. The Movement for Justice Party (PTI), led by the former cricketer Imran Khan, won 27 seats. An aerial attack by United States drones on 29 May in the region of Waziristan killed Wali-ur-Rehman, considered to be the number two of the Pakistani Talibans. (Al-Jazeera, 05/05/2013; The Guardian, 11, 29/5/2013; El País, 12/05/2013; Dawn, 12/05/2013)
SUDAN (KORDOFAN, BLUE NILE): The armed forces retake a city in South Kordofan after fierce clashes with the rebels
Following days of clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), at the end of May the government forces retook the city of Abu Kershola, located in the north-east of South Kordofan and bordering on North Kordofan. The city had been taken by the rebels three weeks earlier in an episode similar to that which took place last month in the city of Um Rawaba, in North Kordofan. The Sudanese minister of defence, Abdel-Rahim Hussein, stated that the liberation of Abu Kershola showed the Government's commitment to the establishment of peace. For his part, the spokesman of the opposition coalition SRF, Abu el-Qassim, said in declarations to Radio Dabanga that the departure of the rebels was in response to a tactical movement to free Abu Kershola from the economic blockade imposed by the Government and to prevent a negative humanitarian impact. The episodes of violence between government forces and rebels in recent weeks in the zone of Kordofan are hindering the peace negotiations between the two parties. (Sudan Tribune, 26, 27/05/13; Radio Dabanga, 28/05/13).
SUDAN – SOUTH SUDAN: The blockade of an oil pipeline adds tension to the relations between the two countries
The Government of South Sudan made a formal complaint to the embassy of China, the main importing country of Sudanese oil, over the blockade of an oil pipeline of the Heglig line by Sudan. That oil is transported from the south of the region to Port Sudan, on the Sudanese coast, and from the Red Sea the Sudanese government introduces it into the international market. The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has expressed his priority of building an oil pipeline, with the support of the Chinese government, passing through Kenya and thus avoiding the route through Sudan. In its defence, the Sudanese oil minister, Awad Ahmed al-Jaz, declared that he did not know the causes behind the incident and stated that it was a technical problem. The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, nevertheless threatened his southern neighbour with blocking the transportation of oil from the south to the north due to alleged South Sudan support for the rebels in the region of South Kordofan. (Sudan Tribune, 20, 23/05/13; Sudan News Agency, 27/05/13; al-Jazeera, 28/05/13).
AFRICAN UNION: The African intergovernmental organisation launches a rapid intervention force for the continent
The heads of state and government meeting at the AU summit at the end of May agreed the creation of an African rapid-reaction force with capacity for intervention in any country of the continent. The force could be mobilised immediately thanks to the contributions offered by South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia. An appeal has been issued to other countries to make voluntary contributions of troops. This force is seen as a provisional measure, whilst awaiting a future Force Africaine en Attente, FAA, still being formed. The start-up of the FAA had been planned for 2010, but has been postponed till 2015. The need for such a rapid-reaction force, which will be organised for the last quarter of this year, was revealed by the crisis in the north of Mali, where France provided 4,000 soldiers in the face of the incapacity of the African countries to organise the mission. (BBC, 27/05/13).
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAJ): Azerbaijan undertakes to lend a boost to peace talks following elections in the country at the end of the year
The Azerbaijan foreign minister, Elmar Mammedyarov, stated that following the electoral cycle in both countries (presidential elections already held in Armenia in February and forthcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan scheduled for the end of the year though yet to be confirmed) the peace process would receive a fresh boost and efforts would be redoubled. He made the statement following a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, at the end of May. Mammedyarov attributed the present standstill to the elections. For his part, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Jean-Claude Mignon, stated that the presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe by Armenia (May to November 2013) and Azerbaijan (May to November of 2014) meant a good opportunity for both countries to make progress in resolving the conflict. (Trend, 27/05/13; Turkish Weekly, 21/05/13)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO – RWANDA – UGANDA: The Tanzanian president declares that only all-round political solutions exist for the conflicts over the Great Lakes
The conflicts affecting the region of the Great Lakes monopolised debates at the AU summit held in Addis Abeba at the end of May. The Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, pointed out that military initiatives would not resolve the conflicts affecting the Great Lakes region. Kikwete stressed that it was necessary to seek an all-round political solution that involved all the parties, in reference to the foreign armed groups present in the east of DR Congo, such as ADF-Nalu (opposed to Uganda) and the FDLR (some of whose members took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda). Kikwete urged Rwanda to negotiate with the Rwandan Hutu armed group FDLR in order to seek a solution to the dispute. Rwanda rejected the proposal outright, accusing Tanzania of having good relations with the FDLR. The summit also brought together the 11 heads of state signatory to the Addis Abeba agreement reached in February. (Radio Okapi, BBC, AFP, 26/05/13; RFI, 27/05/13)
MYANMAR: Peace negotiations progressing between the government and the Kachin insurgent organisation KIO
Peace negotiations continued between the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). At their last meeting held on 28 May in Myitkyina, capital of the state of Kachin, the UN special envoy for Burma, Vijay Nambiar, took part. Observers from China were also present, as well as representatives of eight of the armed groups in Burma, including some linked to the Wa, Karen, Shan, Karenni and Mon ethnic groups. Both the Chinese observers and the representatives of the various armed attended the meeting at the request of the KIO. It was the first time that the KIO had accepted to hold negotiations in Burma; the two previous rounds of talks had been held in China. Although no specific agreement has yet been reached, both parties are pleased with the progress of the negotiations. Nevertheless, the sectarian violence continues to affect Burma. At the end of May fresh attacks were made against the Muslim community, this time in the city of Lashio, in the state of Shan. The burning of a mosque, an orphanage for Muslim children and several houses were registered, with at least one death and several injured during the disturbances. (The Irrawaddy, 28, 29, 30/5/2013; al-Jazeera, 29/5/2013)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The government makes public its intention of signing an overall peace agreement with the MILF by the month of July
The government made public its intention of signing an overall peace agreement with the MILF by the month of July, upon which date Congress would be restarting its activities following the elections held on 13 May. The fact that the party of the president, Benigno Aquino, came out winner in those elections, even in some traditional bastions of the MILF, was assessed positively by the group in that it may reinforce the legitimacy of the current negotiation process. For its part, the MILF has announced its intention of maintaining the MILF as an Islamic organisation, but also of forming a political party in the course of 2013 with a view to participating in the 2016 elections, once the new Bangsamoro administration had replaced the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Alongside this, the United Nations and the World Bank announced the launching of a three-year programme to provide technical assistance during the process of transition in Mindanao, particularly in the tasks of drafting the new Fundamental Law of Bangsamoro and of support for the Transition Commission and the negotiating panels of the Government and the MILF. (Mindanews, 29/04/13; Xinhua, 03 and 06/05/13; Philstar and Rappler.com, 22/05/13)
REPUBLIC OF KOREA: The government of North Korea informs Beijing of its readiness to recommence talks on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula
During a visit to Beijing, a special envoy of the North Korean government informed the government of China of its readiness to restart multilateral talks on disarmament, though without giving further details about the specific form such a readiness would take. The visit took place shortly after the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, urged Pyongyang to once again sit down at the negotiation table, and a few days ahead of the meeting the president had scheduled with the US president, Barack Obama. Despite its offer, the North Korean government announced that it would not relinquish its atomic weapons programme and its power of dissuasion while USA continued with its threats and its hostile policy. In mid-May, North Korea launched three short-range guided missiles from its eastern coast into the East Sea (or Sea of Japan). Although the launches did not contravene United Nations resolutions and some experts saw them as routine military exercises, the government of South Korea increased the level of alert of its armed forces and announced the deployment of precision guided missiles on two islands in the Yellow Sea close to the maritime frontier between the two countries. (CNN, 27/05/13; Yonhap, 28/05/13; El Popular, 18 and 22/05/13)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: The parties agree a road map for implementation of the agreement on the north of Kosovo
The governments of Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement in extremis at the end of May for implementation of the agreement reached in April on the normalisation of relations, including above all a resolution of the situation in the Serbian zones of Kosovo, thus far outside the control of Pristina. The parties reached a tentative agreement on implementation on 22 May, subject to consultation with the political parties. Finally, shortly before expiry of the deadline, the definitive agreement was reached, laying down a road map for implementation. Some sources noted that Serbia was committing itself to a mid-June start of dismantling of the security structures under its control in the Serbian zones of Kosovo, which could be completed by mid-July. In exchange, at the end of October a decentralisation mechanism would be set under way for municipalities with Serbian majorities, grouping them together under an association of municipalities. This progress in the dialogue comes shortly before the EU summit at the end of June at which it will be decided whether to start negotiations with Serbia and Kosovo for possible integration and adhesion, respectively, in the EU. (Balkan Insight, 17, 21/05/13; European Voice, RFE/RL, 27/05/13)
TURKEY (SOUTH-EAST): Progress is made in the process for resolution of the conflict, with the withdrawal of PKK forces to the north of Iraq and various initiatives under way
The co-president of the Kurdish BDP party, Selahattin Demirtas, stated that much of the first of the three phases of the peace process between Turkey and the PKK (withdrawal of the PKK combatants from Turkey, political and legal reforms and disarmament) had been achieved. His statement came following a meeting in Brussels at the end of May with the current president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and with the EU commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Füle. On 8 May the PKK began the process of withdrawal of its forces from Turkish territory towards the north of Iraq, with the arrival of the first group (made up of seven male and seven female guerrillas) in the middle of the month. The group arrived escorted by the journalists Hasan Cemal and Erdal Er, and were received by some thirty combatants. Demirtas said that another meeting could take place shortly between the jailed leader of the PKK and interlocutor of the Government in the peace process, Abdullah Öcalan, and representatives of the BDP. Also as part of the peace initiatives under way are plans for the holding of several large-scale conferences fostered by Öcalan in Ankara, Diyarbakir and Brussels, with participation of the Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey, Turkish ethnic and religious minorities, various Kurdish sectors, Kurds from Syria, Iraq and Iran and the diaspora. The first of these meetings was held in Ankara at the end of May. The ruling party and the Turkish nationalist MHP nevertheless blocked the attempt of the Kemalista CHP party to debate in Parliament a draft law on reduction of the electoral threshold, a move that was supported by the BDP. (AFP, Firat, Hürriyet, 1-29/05/13)
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