AFGHANISTAN: The UN condemns the acts of intimidation and selective assassination of Afghan women functionaries and public figures
UN Women denounces that Afghanistan has been the scenario in recent weeks and months of several cases of intimidation, kidnappings and selective assassinations of women holding posts as government functionaries and public figures. This declaration comes after the murder of a high-ranking woman police officer in the troubled province of Helmand. She is the third high-ranking woman police officer murdered in recent months. Similarly, at the beginning of this month, Sushmita Banerjee, a writer and activist from India married to an Afghan businessman was murdered in the Afghan province of Paktika (south-east). The High Commission for Human Rights visited the country in September, and asked the Afghan authorities to strengthen human rights, pointing out that in spite of the progress made in recent years the human rights situation remains delicate. There has also been a rise in civilian casualties compared with the preceding year, mainly due to an increase in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by the insurgents, although casualties caused by the Afghan security forces, including the police, has also increased. Moreover, the violent attacks continued in September, leaving dozens dead throughout the country. The episodes of violence included two attacks that ended the lives of 18 police officers in Badakhshan and another 11 in the province of Kandahar, an attack by Taliban insurgents against the US consulate in the western city of Herat, and an attack against a US base in the province of Nangarhar. (BBC, 24, 25, 29/09/13; UN, 20/09/13)
CHINA (XINJIANG): Radio report reveals that 12 people died in a counter-insurgency operation, bringing the number of fatalities to 100 since June
Radio Free Asia stated that the Chinese authorities kept secret for three weeks an attack by the security forces on a training camp and munitions warehouse in which 12 people (six according to other sources) died and a further 20 were wounded. The attack was thought to have occurred at the end of August in the county of Poskam, near the city of Kashgar. The operation by the Chinese security forces was thought to have occurred after another counter-insurgency operation in the county of Kargilik was said to have caused the deaths of at least 15 people of the Uyghur ethnic group. The Chinese government declared that the people, who were praying at the time of the operation, were engaged in illegal religious activities and were preparing an attack. The police seized several knives during the operation. Since June more than 100 people have died in various episodes of violence in the region of Xinjiang. Uyghur organisations in exile denounced that many of those episodes of violence had been provoked by the Chinese authorities' repression of non-authorised mobilisations or religious meetings of the Uyghur community. In August, five people were condemned to death for their participation in several recent acts of violence thought to have caused the deaths of 67 people. (Radio Free Asia, 17/09/13; New York Times, 18/09/13)
KENYA: The Somali armed Islamist group al-Shabab attacks a shopping complex in Nairobi, causing the death of about 70 people
A group of al-Shabab militants entered the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi and held it for three days (21-23 de September) until the Kenyan security forces managed to regain control of the situation and force the militants to surrender. The terrorist action caused the death of 61 civilians, six soldiers and five al-Shabab militants. The shopping centre is in one of the well-off districts of Nairobi, and although most of the people were rescued or managed to escape in the hours following the taking of the shopping centre, the armed group managed to retain a group of civilians. Among the members of al-Shabab were people of US and British nationality. Eleven militants were captured. The president Uhuru Kenyatta has declared three days of national mourning. A substantial number of foreign citizens were among the dead, as well as the nephew of the president of Kenya. In the face of the scale of the crisis, the ICC trial of the vice-president William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang has been postponed. Al-Shabab has stated that the attack was committed in reprisal against the presence of Kenyan armed forces in Somalia. The Westgate assault was the worst terrorist attack in Kenya since 1998, when the US embassy in Nairobi suffered an attack in which 200 people died. (Reuters, AFP, BBC, 22-25/09/13)
MALI: The MNLA suspends peace talks with the government and several violent incidents occurs in September
Members of the Tuareg armed group MNLA announced at the end of September the suspension of their participation in the peace plan subscribed with the Mali government last June. The plan permitted the holding of elections in the country and the return of the army to the northern city of Kidal. Representatives of the organisation denounced that the government had broken its promises, among them the release of prisoners. Other sources reported that MNLA militiamen were moving beyond their bases, despite the fact that the agreement provided for their combatants to remain in their barracks. Alongside this, the first clashes since the signing of the peace agreement took place between Malian soldiers and Tuareg militiamen. The parties accuse each other mutually of breaking the ceasefire. In an incident that occurred in the middle of the month, the MNLA accused the army of attacking members of the group near the frontier with Mauritania, causing several deaths and leaving many wounded. The army denied that version, claiming that the incident occurred when a patrol came across a vehicle with armed men who ignored their orders and opened fire against the soldiers, three of whom were wounded. At the end of September, further armed clashes between soldiers and presumed Tuareg rebels took place in Kidal, as well as grenade attacks on soldiers. Under the agreement signed between the Malian authorities and the MNLA before the elections, the new president, Ibrahim Keita, has a period of 60 days from his investiture on 8 September to appoint a government that would start talks with the Tuareg. The first official visit to the north by three Malian ministers was boycotted when the ministers were received with stone-throwing in Kidal. During September a suicide attack also took place against a military base in Timbuktu, in which four people died and several were wounded. AQIM claimed the action and declared that the offensive had caused 16 fatalities. (Reuters, 4/09/2013; Europa Press, 7/03/2013; al-Jazeera 13,19/09/2013; EFE 16/09/2013; AFP 17/09/2013; BBC, 12, 26, 30/09/13; Jeune Afrique, 30/09/13)
NIGERIA: Clashes continue between the government and Boko Haram in the north, and the EU condemns the violence in the country
Acts of violence within the framework of the dispute between the government and Boko Haram (BH) caused the death of more than 200 people during September, mainly affecting the northern zone of Nigeria, and particularly that state of Borno. Notable among the month's most serious incidents was the death of 24 people in an attack by BH on army support groups (vigilantes) who were taking part in a mission to capture members of the armed group. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency of the State of Borno reported finding 142 bodies believed to be those of inhabitants of the zone who died in several attacks at the beginning of the month. At the end of September, in the State of Yobe, an armed attack took place at the School of Agriculture. Fifty students who were sleeping at the centre were killed in the offensive, perpetrated by BH. That attack and others over the preceding days were condemned by Catherine Ashton, head of European diplomacy, who showed her concern at the violence unleashed in the country. In the meantime, clashes between members of the armed group and the Nigerian army also left many dead. At the beginning of the month 50 BH militants died in a military round-up in the north-east of the country. Some days later, 40 Nigerian soldiers lost their lives and another 65 disappeared in an ambush by BH on the Baga-Maidiguri road, in the state of Borno. Also of note was the first incident this year in the capital, when militants of BH attacked Nigerian security forces who were carrying out an operation in a district of Abuja. (El Universal/EFE, 01/09/2013; BBC, 6, 29/09/2013; El Mundo/EFE, 20, 29/09/2013; The Telegraph 20/09/2013; AFP, 22/09/2013)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MNLF): Clashes between the army and the MNLF in the city of Zamboanga cause the displacement of tens of thousands of people and the destruction of some 10,000 homes
Fighting continued between the armed forces and the MNLF in the city of Zamboanga, having begun on 9 September after hundreds of MNLF members had launched an assault on the city. The combats have thus far caused the death of some 200 people, the displacement of around 109,000 people, the flight of some 19,000 to the neighbouring province of Basilan and the destruction of some 10,000 homes in Zamboanga. It is estimated that some 400 members of the MNLF have either died, been detained or have themselves over so far, which means that the number of people who attacked the city is a good deal higher than originally thought. The rebels took some 200 civilians hostage, which the government says is making the work of the armed forces enormously more difficult. Manila declared at the end of September that four of the five commanders of the MNLF were dead or being held in police custody, though it could not be confirmed if one of them was Habier Malik, one of the most important and best-known commanders of the MNLF. The government and most of the media considered that the attack was ordered by Nur Misuari, founder of the MNLF and currently leader of one of its factions. In August, Misuari was thought to have once again denounced the marginalisation of the MNLF in the present negotiation process between the government and the MILF and to have proclaimed himself president of the republic of Bangsamoro. The fact that the attack by the MNLF happened on the eve of the start of talks between Manila and the MILF arouses the suspicion that one of the objectives of the attack was to put an obstacle in the way of peace negotiations. The government believes that Nur Misuari, whom the government has announced will be accused of rebellion, is on an island of Sulu. (GMA News, 01/10/13; Inquirer.net, Sun.Star, BusinessWorld Online Edition, 27/09/2013, 27/09/13; Rappler, 09/09/13)
SUDAN: Protests at a rise in the price of petrol end with more than 30 dead and threaten to bring down the government
A rise in the prices of petrol in Sudan sparked off mass protests in the country, which during September ended in the death of some 33 people, according to government figures, and more than a hundred according to activists. The tensions started in the south of the state of Khartoum and soon spread to the capital and to other cities in the country. The demonstrators, numbering thousands, burned cars, petrol stations and the University of Khartoum and were heavily repressed by the security forces, who dispersed them by firing tear gas. Internet networks throughout the country were deactivated after demonstrators began to share pictures of the protests. The evolution of the demonstrators' demands was reminiscent of the Arab Spring, with calls for "freedom and the fall of the regime". The rise in the price of oil is due to the removal of fuel subsidies passed by the government as part of its austerity measures. The president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has asked for calm and has once again defended the government measures aimed at overcoming the crisis in which the country has been submerged since 2011. The Sudanese minister of the interior blamed the rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front for the acts of violence. Meanwhile, several members of the governing party (National Congress Party) have asked al-Bashir to remove the austerity measures in order to calm the protests. (ABC/EFE, 25/09/2013; Reuters, 25/09/2013; al-Jazeera, 26-29/09/2013; BBC/AP 26/09/2013; RTVE, 29/09/2013)
DR CONGO: A regional summit held in Kampala to deal with the conflict in DR Congo
The heads of state of the region of the Great Lakes met in Kampala on 5 September in an attempt to seek solutions to the conflict affecting the east of DR Congo and called for the restarting of the peace talks between the Congolese government and the armed group M23, and for the negotiations to last for no more than 14 days. The talks did finally start again on 10 September, one day after the expiry of the deadline laid down by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The stalemate in the peace negotiations between the government and the M23, supported by Rwanda, led to new hostilities in August, causing the displacement of thousands of people in the zone. The relations between Rwanda and DR Congo are under strain as a result of that, and minor skirmishes and exchanges of gunfire have taken place on the frontier between the two countries. The UN group of experts on the exploitation of natural resources in DR Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels, and although Kigali denies such support, at the end of August it threatened to send its army to DR Congo after accusing its Congolese neighbour of bombarding its territory. The recent victories of the government forces and the UN intervention brigade in the country have brought Kinshasa to hold a position of power ahead of the talks taking place in Kampala. The government offensive has nevertheless only managed to hold up the advances of the M23, which has withdrawn for the time being to its strongholds. The US government has asked Rwanda to put an end to its support for the M23. (Reuters, RFI, AFP, 05, 14/09/13)
EGYPT: The Egyptian judiciary bans the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government extends the state of emergency, while violence intensifies in the Sinai
A Cairo court ordered a prohibition on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and of their affiliated groups, and decided a blocking of the organisation's funds. The measure, which is open to appeal, means a new blow to the Egyptian Islamist movement following the overthrow of president Mohamed Mursi in July. The measure has been assessed as a signal that the new authorities consider the MB a threat to national security, while other sectors alerted to the impact of making the MB illegal and of the possible negative repercussions of dismantling its assistance network. Also during September, the Egyptian judiciary ordered the closure of four television channels accused of sympathising with the MB and sent Mursi for trial accused of inciting the killing of demonstrators during protests in December 2012. Throughout the month there were continuing protests by supporters and detractors of Mursi, as well as clashes between the two bands and between the security forces and anti-government sectors in several parts of the country. The minister of the interior was also the target of a failed attack, thereby raising concern over the security situation. Within that context, the government decided to extend the state of emergency for a further two months. The failed attack against the minister was claimed by a group presumably inspired in al-Qaeda and with its base in the Sinai. That zone was the scenario of an increase in acts of violence that caused the death of at least 46 people in September. During the month, the authorities launched their largest offensive against Islamist militants, with aerial and terrestrial operations that were met by attacks, ambushes and suicide attacks. According to military sources, the deployment in the Sinai involves some 22,000 soldiers, within the framework of an operation that could be extended by six months and would be aimed at creating a security zone in the area bordering on Gaza. (BBC, 02-23/09/13; Le Monde, 25/09/13)
GUINEA: The legislative elections are held without major incidents, though amidst political tensions between the opposition and the government
Legislative elections were held without major incidents in Guinea, in the first parliamentary vote in the country since the coup d'état in 2008. The only problems registered were over the identification of the voters at some electoral colleges. No party is expected to win with a majority, so coalitions will have to be formed over the coming days. The opposition has announced that it will convene protests if the results are unsatisfactory. In the meantime, the country´s religious leaders have called for calm in order to avoid the unleashing of political violence. The legislative elections were preceded by tensions deriving from the latest postponement of voting until 28 September. The delay arose due to reports of irregularities in the preparation of the lists of voters. Prior to that, the main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, had threatened to call on his followers to demonstrate in the streets if the authorities did not resolve the reported irregularities. The mediation of the UN secretary general`s representative, Said Djinnit, prevented potential incidents by taking account of the instability in the country, which suffers from many ethnic and political tensions. The elections had been postponed repeatedly since the victory of the president Alpha Condé in 2010, owing to disagreements between the government and the opposition. (All Africa, 5, 28/09/2013; UN, 18/09/2013; Reuters, 21/09/2013; AFP, 21/09/2013; al-Jazeera, 22/09/2013; Europa Press, 28/09/2013; Xinhua, 29/09/2013; BBC, 28/09/13)
LIBYA: UN report denounces that thousands of people remain detained by militias and subjected to constant mistreatment and torture
More than two years after the start of the armed conflict that ended the regime of Muamar Gaddafi, thousands of people remain in prisons controlled by militias, according to a UN report sent to the UN Security Council. According to the document, the figure of those detained amounts to around 8,000 people, some of them held in facilities only nominally under the control of the State, while others are in the hands of armed groups without links with the government. The report warns that at least ten people have died in custody at such centres since the beginning of 2012 and that the prisoners are subjected to systematic mistreatment and torture. Amnesty International had denounced that detainees are struck, burned or submitted to electrical discharges, among other practices. The authorities have recognised the existence of the problem and have further acknowledged that some 10,000 former rebels have been integrated into the judicial police system with only basic training. The militias have been the protagonists of many deeds of violence, as well as pressurising and intimidating members of Congress and judicial functionaries. Alongside this, armed groups, tribal militias, strikers and activists have blocked the main oil wells and ports of Libya since the end of July. The Executive has requested international assistance in order to tackle the crisis, which had led to the collapse of oil production. Within this context, the UN report alerted to a deterioration in the effectiveness of the transition government. (IRIN, 24/09/13; Reuters, 10, 17/09/13; BBC, 11/09/13)
MADAGASCAR: A series of attacks occur in the capital of the country as a result of controversy over the prohibition of certain electoral candidatures
Following the postponement of presidential elections until 28 October due to arguments over who could stand in the elections, a series of attacks took place in the capital of the country, Antananarivo. The first attack was recorded at the beginning of September at the entrance of a hotel in the capital, where a group calling itself Defenders of National Sovereignty had placed a home-made device. The organisation is calling for foreign powers not to intervene in the national elections, maintaining that the decision of the Electoral Board to withdraw the candidatures of the current governor of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, of the wife of the former president Marc Ravalomana, Lalao Ravalomana, and of the former head of the malgache Executive, Didier Ratsiraka, does not reflect the wishes of the people. That attack and another two later attacks did not cause any victims, although an explosion in the centre of the capital on 16 September did cause one fatality. (Reuters, 5/09/2013; AFP/Fox, 16/09/2013)
NEPAL: The international community urges the opposition parties to take part in elections to the Constituent Assembly in November
The partner countries of Nepal and the international community have expressed concern at the declarations of opposition political parties reluctant about the 19 November elections to the Constituent Assembly, urging the discontented political parties to take part in the vote. At the end of September the opposition alliance of 33 parties, led by the CPN-M and critical of the electoral process in recent months, stated that they were prepared to take part in the elections in order to break the political deadlock, though they called for fresh talks with the main four political parties, the NC, UPCN (M), CPN-UML and UDMF, despite the failure of previous rounds of dialogue. During previous talks there had been disagreements over the demands of the alliance to postpone the elections and for a new stand-in government with representation of all the political parties to supervise the elections, while the CPN-M gave no gurantees of participation in the vote. Moreover, in mid-September the alliance called a one-day strike in protest at government plans to hold elections in November. Within this context of political tension, some 1,000 members and leaders deserted from the UCPN and the PCN-M and joined the CPN-UML, accusing the CPN-M of causing conflict and warning it that opposing the elections would run counter to the country's needs. In his turn, the president of the CPN-M, Mohan Baidya, declared that the staging of a forced election by excluding his party would only lead to further conflict in the country. (BBC, 28/09/13; Nepalnews 21, 24, 25, 26/09/13)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The 40th round of negotiation between the government and the MILF comes to an end with substantial progress on the last two points pending for the signing of an agreement
Following the end of the 40th round of negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, the Filipino government and the armed group MILF declared that substantial advances had been made during the ten days of negotiations, though insufficient to allow closure and signing of the two remaining annexes of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro: the ones concerning "normalisation" and the "power sharing". The other two annexes, on "distribution of wealth" and "transition agreements" had already been signed in the months of February and July, respectively. Both the government and the MILF acknowledged that the negotiations had been difficult and that the subjects under discussion were sensitive, but at the same time they committed themselves to exploring creative solutions for signing the two annexes that should lead to the signing of an all-round peace agreement between the two parties. During the 40th round of negotiations, Manila and the MILF approved incorporation of the Italian religious organisation Comunidad de Sant'Egidio into the International Contact Group. They also agreed that in mid-October Independent Commission on Policing, to be led by the Canadian Mounted Police, would begin its work. The recommendations from that commission will be conveyed to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which will evaluate whether or not to include them in the future Fundamental Law of Bangsamoro. (Philippine Star, Minda News, GMA News, 20/09/13; Inquirer.net, 22/09/13)
RUSSIA (DAGESTAN): New violent incidents between the insurgency and the security forces, including attacks on civilian targets
The conflict that is affecting the republic of Dagestan, in the region to the north of the Caucasus, was the scenario in September of episodes of violence against high-ranking targets. Among the incidents, a judge of the Supreme Court of Dagestan was assassinated along with his son in the capital, Makhachkala, at the end of the month. For its part, the Dagestani Ministry of the Interior informed of the death of an alleged local insurgent leader, Tagir Sulebanov, also in the capital. Two police officers also died due to the explosion of a car bomb, which also wounded civilians, in the district of Tabasaransky. According to the latest balance of the independent portal Caucasian Knot, published in September, 31 people died and a further 30 were wounded in Dagestan as a result of the violence in August, as against the 23 fatalities and eight wounded in the month of July. The total balance for the north of the Caucasus in August was of 42 fatalities and 34 wounded. (Caucasian Knot, RFE/RL, 01-30/09/13)
SRI LANKA: The principal Tamil party wins the first provincial elections held in the north of the country, amidst a climate of violations of human rights
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka's principal Tamil party, was comfortable winner in the first elections for a semi-autonomous council in the north of the island, in which the TNA won 30 of the 38 seats on the council. The vote in the province of Tamil majority came four years after the end of the armed conflict that had confronted the army and the LTTE for a quarter of a century. The central government, which had accused the TNA of being a separatist movement, has promised not to grant it significant powers. The voting has nevertheless left clear that many Tamils still seek greater autonomy in the north. According to Tamil activists the electoral campaign took place amidst a climate of misinformation, with accusations by the regime of "starting another war". The violent incidents denounced include kidnapping attempts on members of TNA, violent attacks, harassment by the military and the assassination of a TNA activist in Mullaiththeevu, beaten to death by a squadron associated with the UPFA party of the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Moreover, following her visit to the country in September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a declaration in which she alerted that democracy was being undermined and the rule of law eroded, warning that the country looked increasingly like an authoritarian State. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also expressed concern at the constant attacks against defenders of human rights and other activists. (Al Jazeera, 22/09/13; BBC, 22, 28/09/13; Tamilnet, 20, 22, 28/09/13; UN, 28/09/13; Washington Post 20/09/13)
SYRIA: The UN Security Council unanimously approves a resolution to destroy the chemical arsenal of Damascus, while fighting persists on Syrian territory
At the end of September, the UN Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution to guarantee the destruction of the chemical weapons in Syria. The resolution, the first issued by the body since the start of the Syrian crisis, had been previously agreed by the USA and Russia. The text condemns the attacks with chemical weapons that caused hundreds of victims on 21 August, but does not attribute responsibility for the events; it calls upon Syria to allow the entry of inspectors to dismantle the arsenals. The resolution makes reference to chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorises the use of force — i.e. the possibility of punitive actions in the event of nonfulfilment, as Washington had sought—, but requires a second resolution in order to give the go-ahead for military action (a formula that appeases Moscow, an ally of Syria). The vote took place shortly after the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) agreed a plan to destroy the chemical arsenals of Syria by the middle of 2014. Within this context, the UN announced that it was investigating seven alleged chemical attacks in Syria, three of which were thought to have occurred after 21 August. Although the decision on the chemical weapons was seen positively, various analysts stressed that the conflict was far from being resolved and that conventional weapons had caused most of the victims. The bloody combats continued in Syria in September, with many deeds of violence between the forces of Damascus and the rebels and between various insurgent factions. Political division likewise persisted in the anti-government band. Eleven Islamist groups announced that they did not recognise the authority of the principal opposition organisation, the Syrian National Coalition. It is expected that another peace conference on Syria will be held in the middle of November in Geneva. Ban Ki-moon has asked the Syrian opposition to send a single delegation to the meeting. (BBC, 25, 27, 28/09/13; UN News, 29/09/13)
TURKEY (SOUTH-EAST): The government presents a plan for democratisation reforms, within a context of tension after the PKK holds up the withdrawal of its guerrillas to northern Iraq
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced a plan for reforms of democratisation at the end of September, which included measures relating to the Kurdish question, such as a green light for education in Kurdish in private schools — but not in public-sector schools, as the Kurdish nationalist movement had demanded — and the lifting of obstacles to the use of local place-names in languages other than Turkish, as well as authorisation to use other languages in political propaganda. The proposals also included provisions relevant to the Kurdish conflict, such as an opening up of the debate on the electoral threshold, currently standing at 10%, which could be left the same, reduced to 5% or eliminated, as well as a change in the system of circumscriptions. The co-leader of the pro-Kurdish BDP party, Gultan Kisanak, made criticisms that the reforms package did not meet the democratisation needs of Turkey, pointing out that it did not respond to Kurdish aspirations. He also criticised a lack of consultation in preparing the plan, which must now be discussed in the Parliament. The details of the plan arrive within a context of difficulties in the process of negotiations between the government and the PKK. At the beginning of September the armed group announced a halt in the withdrawal of its guerrilla forces to the north of Iraq, as part of the process of dialogue, with accusations against the government of lack of progress and an absence of democratisation reforms, including changes in the penal code and in the electoral threshold, mother-tongue education and a certain degree of regional autonomy. Despite halting the withdrawal process, the group announced that it was maintaining its ceasefire. (Bianet, AFP, Hurriyet Daily News, 09-30/09/13)
DR CONGO (EAST): Peace talks resume between the Congolese government and the M23
The Congolese government and the armed group M23 resumed on 10 September the peace talks facilitated by the Ugandan government as a fruit of regional pressures and of the military offensive of the government supported by the intervention brigade that have led the armed group to retreat. The negotiations may lead most of the rebels to rejoin the army, from which they had deserted in 2012. However, following days of negotiations, the positions remain at a standstill, as the government has refused to guarantee an amnesty for 100 M23 officers, leaving open the possibility that those commanders may be pursued even if the peace talks are concluded. The rebels who could not be included in any amnesty were the ones who took part in a number of rebellions, who were included on international sanctions lists or who had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. The government spokesman, Lambert Mende, declared that reintegrating such individuals would mean legitimising recourse to armed violence. The reactions of the M23 to that approach taken by the government are not yet known, but the refusal of a general amnesty is supported by the special UN envoy to the region, Mary Robinson. The two main conditions for laying down arms established by the M23 are the neutralisation of the armed group FDLR and the return of Tutsi Congolese refugees. (Radio Okapi, 08/09/13; AFP, 09/09/13; Xinhua, VOA, 10/09/13; Reuters, 19/09/13)
INDIA – PAKISTAN: The prime ministers dialogue to restore calm in Kashmir
The heads of government of India and Pakistan, Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, agreed to reduce the violence involving the Line of Control in the region of Kashmir. The talks were held in New York, coinciding with the UN General Assembly, and were the first direct meeting between the two leaders since Sharif came to power in May. The meeting was preceded by an attack on a military base in the Indian part of Kashmir that killed 10 people and was interpreted as an attempt to hinder the reconciliation efforts between the neighbouring countries. The two leaders expressed their commitment to improve relations. They further agreed to urge high-ranking army officers to find effective means to re-establish the ceasefire. Singh nevertheless asked for a lowering of expectations concerning reconciliation, arguing that the epicentre of the terrorism was still located in Pakistan, and that the results would only be visible over the coming months. Sharif has advocated putting an end to tensions with India ever since he came to power in the May elections, faced with the need to struggle against the militants in Pakistan and reactivate its economy. The Pakistani minister stressed the need to prohibit attacks using drones. One of them caused the death at the beginning of September of the senior commander Sangeen Zadran, belonging to the militant network Haqqani. His death triggered an attack against a church in which at least 80 people died, making it the most deadly attack in Pakistan against the Christian population. (Al Jazeera, 29/09/13; BBC, 23, 25, 27, 29/09/13; Washington Post, 27, 28/09/13)
IRAN – USA: Tehran and Washington make historic gestures of approximation and establish a high-level dialogue on the Iranian nuclear programme
Within the framework of the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York, representatives of the USA and Iran made historic gestures of approximation and established a direct dialogue on the nuclear programme of the Islamic republic. Seen as a moderate, the new Iranian president, Hassan Rohuani, insisted in his speech to the UN that his country was not seeking to develop nuclear weapons. He likewise showed himself to be in favour of reaching an international agreement on the Iranian atomic programme within a period of three to six months. The US president, Barack Obama, considered that the opening up of Tehran could create the conditions for an agreement, although he stressed that the conciliatory words should be backed by transparent and verifiable actions. Within that context, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, held a direct meeting — the first at such a high level in six years — in which they spoke of the nuclear issue. Before the Iranian leader left the USA, Obama and Rohuani held a telephone conversation, in the first exchange of that kind in over 30 years. The dialogue focused on efforts to reach a solution to the nuclear issue. A further meeting of Iran with the P5+1 group (USA, Russia, United Kingdom, China, Russia + Germany) is expected to take place on 15 and 16 October next. It should be noted that the gestures between the USA and Iran caused concern in the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned Washington about what he considered to be an Iranian strategy. In an interview with the CNN, Rohuani said that he recognised the existence of the Holocaust, describing it as a Nazi crime against the Jews. (New York Times, 24/09/13; BBC, 26, 27, 28, 29/09/13; Le Monde, 25/09/13)
MOLDOVA (TRANSDNIESTRIA): The leaders of the two governments restart direct dialogue
The Moldovan prime minister, Iurie Leanca, and the leader of Transdniestria, Yevgeny Shevchuk, met in the capital of Transdniestria, Tiraspol, as part of the process of dialogue between the parties. Over previous months, Shevchuk had declined a meeting with his Moldovan counterpart, arguing the lack of a sufficient basis for achieving agreements. In their September meeting, however, the two leaders agreed to extend a pact signed in March 2012 on the transit of freight trains through territory of Transdniestria. The OSCE has taken a positive view of the resumption of direct dialogue and of the agreement reached. The current special representative of the presidency of the OSCE for conflicts, Andrii Deshchytsia, also held separate meetings at the end of September with senior members of both administrations. (OSCE, 19, 26/09/13)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: The Serbian government dissolves the parallel Serbian organs of administration in the north of Kosovo, and Serbia and Kosovo urge participation in the Kosovar elections
The Serbian executive has put an end to the organs of local government of four Serbian municipalities in the north of Kosovo (Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok), which had been operating as administrations outside the control of the Kosovar government and with financing from Serbia. Their dismantling forms part of the April agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo in Brussels, as part of the process of dialogue to normalise relations. Serbia has appointed temporary postholders in those areas until local elections are held in Kosovo at the beginning of November. The governments of both Serbia and Kosovo have urged the Serbian population of Kosovo to participate in the elections, in which eight Serbian political organisations are standing. Some Serbian sectors in the north of Kosovo have launched a campaign for a boycott of the elections. As a concession to complaints from Serbia, the Kosovar central electoral commission has removed Kosovar symbols from the ballot papers. The EU plans to deploy a hundred electoral observers throughout Kosovo. In the meantime, a customs officer of the EU mission in Kosovo died of gunshots in an ambush against two vehicles that were transporting six EULEX officers. (Balkan Insight, B92, 5-30/09/13)
SOMALIA: A donors conference is held in Brussels to collect funds for the rehabilitation of the country
A donors conference has been held in Brussels in an attempt to meet the cost laid down within the framework of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, a framework that recognises Somalia as a failed State and makes it eligible for funds to be collected in order to overcome more than 20 years of armed conflict. Much of the funding would be devoted to financing health, water and infrastructure-restoration projects. The EU has committed 650 million euros as part of the New Deal. Between 2008 and 2013, the EU has already allocated 1,600 million dollars, which has mainly been used to finance the mission of the AU in the country, composed of 18,000 soldiers. Alongside those moves, there persisted clashes and military actions of government forces alongside the AU mission against the armed group al-Shabab. Although the group continued to control the centre and south of the country, the federal government and the AU managed to regain control of the principal cities, including the port of Kismayo, the source of most of al-Shabab's financing. (Government of Somalia, Garowe Online, BBC, 15, 16/09/13)
THAILAND (SOUTH): An investigation centre points out that the percentage of civilian fatalities has fallen since the start of the peace talks between the government and the BRN
Following a new round of talks in the middle of September, the government has announced that several government bodies were examining the main demands posited formally and in writing by the armed opposition group BRN: the release of all the detained alleged insurgents, recognition that the BRN represents the rights of the Melayu Patani people, acceptance of the government of Malaysia as facilitator of the dialogue, incorporation as observers of members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, ASEAN or certain NGOs, and acceptance that the Melayu people possess rights over the territory of Patani. Both parties are thought to have undertaken to hold a further round of talks during the third week of October. For its part, the government is said to have asked the BRN not to make public the content of its demands nor that of the peace talks and urged it to demonstrate that is has a certain degree of control over the levels of violence in the south of the country. In this respect, the organisation Deep South Watch showed itself to be optimistic about the future of the process of dialogue because the figures for fatalities associated with the armed conflict were the lowest since the conflict started, in 2004, because the percentage of civilian fatalities had diminished since the start of the talks and because, according to a survey carried out in the month of June, more half of the population in the south of the country supports the current peace talks between the government and the BRN. (Bangkok Post, 12/09/13; Channel News Asia, 11/09/13; Wall Street Journal, 11/09/13)
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