CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Strong escalade in violence in the country
Violence and militia-led attacks from Christian communities against Muslims and vice-versa have increased; leading analysts, diplomatic delegations and humanitarian organizations to point at elements that place the country on the verge of genocide. According to several analysts, it would seem a conflict is under way linked to the fact that, historically, the different regimes that have governed the country belonged to the Christian majority. The military intervention by the Séléka rebel coalition, currently in power, and the lack of police and other security forces, alongside the official dismantlement of the rebellion in September, have meant that self-defence militias have emerged in towns in the north. The rebel coalition in power, alongside with mercenaries from Chad and Sudan, are of the Muslim minority, which have traditionally been excluded from power. Around 400,000 people have been displaced as a consequence of the violence affecting the north and east of the country, and UN agencies only have the capacity to help the civilian population in cities, due to insecurity and the lack of funds. There are around 1.5 million people who depend on humanitarian aid in the country, and only a small proportion of them actually receive aid. As a result of the instability, 70% of children receive no education and some 3,500 have been recruited by the rebel coalition, an undefined number of them by the self-defence militias (anti-balaka, which means anti-machete in Sango). France announced it was sending an additional detachment of 800 soldiers, meaning a total number of French troops in the country of 1,200. They will be providing support to the international support mission for CAR (MISCA), after the adoption of a resolution at the UN Security Council at the start of December authorizing the intervention to end human rights violations in the country and reinstating order. (Jeune Afrique, 27/11/13; IRIN, 22 and 27/11/13)
HAITI: New and increased mobilizations calling for the resignation of the president, accused of corruption and mismanagement
Once again, protests in Haiti are on the rise, calling for the resignation of President Michel Martelly, who is accused of mismanagement and corruption. Towards the middle of November, several violent incidents occurred during a demonstration called by the opposition, with thousands of demonstrators. During these events, four people were injured. At Cap-Haïtien, the second largest city in the country, bullets wounded six people during violence between the police and demonstrators and between supporters and opponents of the President, who is experiencing the greatest protests since he took office in May 2011. The opposition, who in recent months have called for immediate partial legislative and municipal elections, as well as for the reduction in the price of certain basic products, have announced new mobilizations if Martelly does not leave the presidency. The Government, in turn, has accused the opposition of receiving foreign economic aid and even stated it had allied with foreign mercenaries to destabilize the country. The opposition rejects these accusations. Michel Martelly has called for peace and has called on the population to refrain from participating in violent demonstrations. (BBC, Free Press, 18/11/13)
PAKISTAN: A US drone kills the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud one day before the peace negotiations between the Taliban and the government were due to start
The Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud died as a consequence of a bombing by a US unmanned aircraft in the Northern Waziristan. The attack took place on 1st November, one day before the peace negotiations between the Pakistani government and the Taliban were due to start, where Mehsud was due to take part; consequently these negotiations were suspended. The Pakistani government summoned the US ambassador after learning about the attack, pointing out that it had been totally counterproductive for the Pakistani peace efforts and that the government considered the attack was not against a single person but against the negotiation process. Days later, the Pakistani government stated that the US had promised not to launch more attacks with drones during the future peace negotiations. During November, social protests continued against drones, led by the politician Imran Khan, with thousands protesting and threatening to block NATO convoys travelling to Afghanistan. Also, the appointment of the new leaders of the Taliban armed group TTP, Mullah Fazlullah and Sheikh Khalid Haqqani make it difficult for the peace conversations to resume, since both of them are aligned with those opposing negotiations. After the killing of Mehsud attacks using drones have continued during the month of November, even outside tribal areas, in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, something that had only happened once since September 2004. This attack also killed three civilians. (The New York Times, 01, 07, 23/11/2013; Al Jazeera 02, 21/11/2013; Dawn, 14 and 20/11/13)
SYRIA: The EMHRN denounces the severe impact of the armed conflict on women, including around 7,500 deaths and 6,000 cases of sexual abuses since the outbreak of the war in 2011
Research conducted by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) documented the many forms of violence affecting women since the start of the armed conflict in Syria, in 2011, through actions carried out by both sides in the conflict. The report Violence against Women, Bleeding Wound in the Syrian Conflict alerts of the death of women in combat contexts, during massacres or after being used as human shields. A total number of 7,543 women may have died since 2011, including around 2,700 girls, according to the figures in this report. It also underlines extensive sexual abuses, with up to 6,000 cases, in addition to social stigma and marginalization, since very often the victims of this violence are forced to leave their families. The document also provides information on cases of arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, tortures and kidnappings of women as a revenge strategy or a way of exchanging prisoners. Faced with this scenario, it is important to mention that there is a growing chorus of voices calling for a greater participation of women in the peace negotiations. In November, the United Kingdom expressed its commitment to ensure the presence of women in conversations, in the future government and in the process of rebuilding the country. The UN announced the Geneva Peace Discussions would take place on 22 January, with delegations from Damascus and from the opposition participating, the aim being to establish a transition government. However, both sides would not change their positioning; the Syrian government rejects any political solution without Bashar al-Assad, and the opposition announced it would not call a cease-fire during the discussions. Alongside, seven Jihadist armed groups announced they were merging into the Islamic Front to continue fighting the regime forces, which advanced some positions during November. (EMHRN, November 2013; BBC, 25, 26/11/13; al-Jazeera, 26/11/13)
YEMEN: Fighting in the north of the country causes over 100 dead and raises the alarm on a humanitarian crisis in the region
Fighting between Islamist factions in the town of Dammaj, in the province of Saada (north of Yemen) caused the death of at least one-hundred people in November. Fighting went on between the Houthi forces, an armed group controlling most of the northern province of Saada, and Salafist militiamen. Both groups exchanged accusations: the Salafists consider the Houthi heretical, and the latter denounce that the Salafists recruit foreigners for extremist actions. The crisis led to mobilizations in the capital, Sana'a, with protesters demanding that the Government took a more decisive action to end violence. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Jamal Benomar, participated in the attempts to agree a cease-fire, but after the truces, new sporadic fighting erupted. The scene of this violence is a mountainous region difficult to access, which has remained outside the government control. The UN and international NGOs warned on the vulnerability of civilian population and the risk of a severe humanitarian crisis, since the main routes to Saada were blocked, impeding food and medicines from reaching the town. The conflict in the north has led to growing concerns on sectarian violence and its impact on reconciliation efforts in the country. In November, a representative of the Houthi movement in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) was killed. In this context, at the end of November, the UN Security Council condemned the attempts to block the transition and called on Yemen to conclude the NDC as soon as possible and move on the phase of drafting a Constitution and preparing for new elections. (Al-Jazeera, 02, 04, 22/11/2013; IRIN 06/11/13; UN News 27/11/13)
AFGHANISTAN: President Karzai refuses to sign the bilateral security agreement with the USA until the new conditions for US presence in the country are accepted
The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, refuses to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the USA after months of negotiations unless the new conditions for the presence of US troops in the country, such as the prohibition of raiding Afghan homes, the holding of free and fair elections on 5th April 2014 or the return of Afghan citizens detained in Guantanamo, are included. The Loya Jirga, summoned to discuss this issue, approved the signing of the BSA, with 2,500 delegates participating; they later criticized Karzai for refusing to endorse this agreement. The BSA was to set the conditions for the presence of up to 15,000 US troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 is completed. Karzai stated he would not sign the agreement until elections are held, but the US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said this delay was unacceptable and that failure to endorse this agreement shall mean the withdrawal of all US troops in Afghanistan and would endanger US economic support to the Afghan army (which it is entirely dependent on). The condition that Karzai would have insisted on more forcefully is that of the total prohibition of raids on Afghan homes; the US responded that its troops been instructed to take all measures to avoid civilian casualties, but Karzai considers this insufficient. (BBC, 25/11/13; The New York Times, 24 and 25/11/13; Pajwhok Afghan News, Reuters, 24/11/13)
CHINA (TIBET): Tibetan government in exile willing to resume discussions with Beijing, suspended since 2010, at any time and in any place
The Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, Lobsang Sangay, has urged the Chinese government to resume the peace conversations suspended in 2010. From 2002 to 2010, nine negotiation rounds took place, but Beijing interrupted these discussions unilaterally because of the political situation in Tibet and also because it considered the Dalai Lama was encouraging the violence erupting regularly. Lobsang Sangay expressed his willingness to resume conversations at any time and in any place and stated that his government defended the "middle way", consisting of renouncing to the independence of Tibet in exchange for real autonomy for the regions historically inhabited by the Tibetan population. In this regard, the prime minister indicated that during the nine negotiation rounds so far, his government had already made a proposal to Beijing to establish an autonomous regime in Tibet that was fully compliant with the Constitution and the Law on regional and national autonomy. Finally, Lobsang Sangay indicated that the Tibetan government-in-exile working group in charge of negotiations with Beijing had increased with six new members and would shortly be analyzing the new guidelines on economic policy and security recently passed in Beijing. At the same time, the government increased security measures in Qinghai after a new self-immolation with fire. Since 2009, 123 people have committed self-immolation to denounce the political situation in Tibet. (Hindustan Times, 23/11/13; HimVani, 24/11/13)
DR CONGO (EAST): Military defeat of M23 and first balance of fighting with the Armed Forces with a toll of 900 dead
More than 900 fighters have been killed as a consequence of the fighting between the Congolese armed forces and the armed group M23 in the east of the country from 20th May to 5th November, according to military sources. 201 government soldiers have been killed and 680 have been injured, whereas there were 721 rebels killed and 543 captured, including 72 Rwandan and 28 Ugandan, declared general Jean-Lucien Bahuma, the commander of the 8th military region (North Kivu). Three Tanzanian blue helmets from the UN Intervention Brigade were also killed during this period. On 25th October, after weeks of relative calm and efforts to re-launch the Kampala peace process, violent disruption erupted. On 5th November, M23 retreated after a large military offensive by the army, supported by the UN Brigade. That same day, after being defeated in the Chanzu and Runyonyi hills on the border between DR Congo and Rwanda and Uganda, the head of M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, issued a statement ending the rebellion following the recommendations made at the Kampala conversations. A government delegation and another one from the rebels were to sign a political agreement on 11th November to end the conflict. However, after the military victory, Kinshasa rejected signing the agreement and instead preferred calling it a "declaration". Kinshasa has rejected a general amnesty and instead plans for an individualized amnesty. Combatants who are not found guilty of war crimes may join the army of the police. On 20th November, a ceremony to destroy the weapons of former combatants took place in Goma. It is estimated that some 1,500 to 3,000 former rebels from different groups could join the security forces. Some armed groups (such as APCLS and Nyatura militias) have been demobilized after the dismantlement of M23, some of them unconditionally. Other self-defence groups from the Rutshuru region declared they would not demobilize unless they received economic compensation besides joining the army, in view of their fight against M23. President Joseph Kabila has started a tour of the east of the country after the defeat of M23. The UN Security Council has stated its satisfaction with how the situation has evolved. (Radio Okapi, 05/11/13; BBC, 20/11/13; AFP, Jeune Afrique, 25/11/13; Radio Okapi, 25 and 26/11/13)
KOREA, DPR: The International Atomic Energy Agency declares Pyongyang may have restarted a facility to produce plutonium, necessary to produce atomic weapons
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yuyika Amano, has declared that some satellite images allow the supposition that North Korea has restarted a reactor from the Yongbyon nuclear facility, which has the capacity to produce plutonium, necessary to produce atomic weapons. The director of the IAEA acknowledged that it was not able to access these facilities (the inspectors were expelled in 2009) and thus his statement could not be conclusive; nevertheless, the words of Amano are fully in line with a report by South Korean intelligence that was submitted in parliament and with the images taken by a US research centre at the end of August. The reactor had not been operative since the year 2008, when Pyongyang even decided to destroy part of its facilities as a way of generating trust within the framework of the multilateral, six-party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless, last April, with growing tensions between South and North Korea, Pyongyang announced it was ready to restart the Yongbyon reactor. (Reuters and Economic Times, 28/11/13)
MADAGASCAR: Candidates fail to win an absolute majority after presidential elections, requiring a second round marked by controversy
None of the candidates won an absolute majority after the first round in the elections, meaning a second round will take place in December. The two runner-ups for the second round are Henry Rajaonarimampianina, backed by Andy Rajoelina; and Jean Louis Robinson, backed by Marc Ravalomana, who won 15.9 and 21.1% of votes respectively. The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI in French) announced that the two runner-ups would compete in the second round of elections to be held on 20th December. The government also announced that one third of regional governors would be replaced by senior military officials for security reasons and due to the national political context. Mamy Rakotoarivelo, the president of the National Assembly and who is close to Ravalomana, expressed his concerns with the decision, considering this may have a direct or indirect influence over electors in the second round of the elections. Most of these regions are on the coast, where there is a higher population density, and analysts believe the reason behind this decision is to ensure Rajaonarimampianina wins the elections in these regions to counter the dominance of Robinson in the capital (VOA, 08/11/13; Reuters, 08, 22/11/13; AFP, 22/11/13)
MALI: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrebkills two French journalists and threatens with further similar actions
Two French journalists working for Radio France International (RFI) were kidnapped and killed north of the city of Kidal. The killings were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) through a spokesperson of the armed group who warned that these two killings were only a small part of the "price" France would pay for its military intervention in the country. Nevertheless, France intends to reinforce its military presence in Mali, according to the Government's spokesperson, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. After the killings, nine suspects were arrested in relation to the killings. Also, several Touareg rebels were killed in fighting with the Mali army, according to the MNLA, accusing the Mali army of violating the cease-fire agreement. (El Mundo, 02/11/13; EFE, 04/11/13; Reuters, 07/11/13; Reuters, 08/11/13; BBC, 06, 24/11/13)
MYANMAR: Government and armed opposition reach an agreement for a cease-fire and political dialogue process despite ongoing armed fighting in Kachin state
The government and the main opposition ethnic armed groups have agreed to sign a general cease-fire agreement for the whole of the country, the establishment of a framework for political dialogue and the celebration of this dialogue. The agreement, for which there is no definite date and which will require another meeting in December, was discussed after a meeting between the government and the insurgence after another meeting by the insurgence whereby 17 armed groups, from the 18 participating in the meeting, agreed on a general cease-fire conditioned by a political dialogue. At a later date, a delegation of leaders of the UNFC insurgence coalition visited Rangoon and Naypyidaw for the first time in decades, stressing the need for the armed forces to become involved in the peace negotiations to make them more substantial since at present, even if there are conversations with the government, the army is carrying out armed operations in Kachin state. The delegation urged the chief commander, general Min Aung Hlaing to become involved in the peace process. The UNFC also called on the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to participate more actively in the peace process after meeting her in Rangoon and inviting her to take part in the negotiations that will be taking place with the government in December. Also, representatives from 12 political parties met with the leaders of UNFC in Thailand do discuss the peace process. Alongside the progress achieved in the negotiation process, there was renewed fighting between the armed forces and the opposition armed group KIO, which displaced thousands of civilians (The Irrawaddy, 1, 5, 18, 21, 25, 26/11/2013; Kachin News Group, 4/11/2013)
SOMALIA: UN Security Council increases AMISOM amid a government political crisis and persistent al-Shabaab attacks
The UN Security Council has authorized an increase of the AU mission in the country with 4,000 new troops, meaning AMISOM will now have 22,000 soldiers, turning it into one of the largest international missions today. The UN Security Council has also authorized the UN to provide supplies to the Somali army (food, water, fuel and other resources) for joint operations with AMISOM. The United Kingdom is behind this resolution. At the same time, despite the internal divisions within al-Shabaab and the military defeats by the army with support from the AMISOM against the Somali armed group, the insurgence has promised to continue its actions against the African mission. Fighting and violence has continued during this month: towards the middle of November, an explosion at a hotel in Mogadishu killed six and a suicide attack against a police checkpoint in Beledweyne killed 20. The Beledweyne base also housed a group of Djibouti troops that are part of the AMISOM. Finally, it is worth mentioning the tensions between the Somali President and Prime Minister, where the President forces several ministers to resign to get the Prime Minister to resign, but the latter has vowed not to do so. Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon has declared in several occasions that the President is interfering in his job and has demanded to be able to work with independence. The former President of the National Transition Government (from 2000 to 2004) Abdiqasim Salad Hassan has called on the Federal Government to end the internal disputes, and has stated his rejection of foreign troops being present in the country. (VOA, 12/11/13; Garowe, 03, 08, 12, 14 and 19/11/13)
SOUTH SUDAN: President Salva Kiir announces the dismantlement of the SPLM structures, deepening the crisis in the party
The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, announced on the 15th November that the structures of the governing party SPLM had been dismantled, including its top executive body, the "Political Bureau" and the National Liberation Council. According to Kiir, the delay in holding a national conversation to elect new party leaders was what led to this decision. The former Vice-President Riek Machar, ousted from the post in July, as well as other party members, expressed their opposition to this decision and announced possible political reprisals against the president for violating the constitution. Kiir argued that the dismantlement had not been his decision, but that the party charter establishes that a national convention must take place every five years. Since the May convention was annulled, the party was dissolved, according to Kiir. However, Machar declared it was Kiir who contravened the party charter by prioritizing a decision taken by three members instead of the immense majority. In separate events, the government sent 500 soldiers to Western Equatoria to fight the armed group LRA, of Ugandan origin, considered the sole suspect of several attacks and sackings in this state. Two people died in these attacks, in the counties of Ezzo and Tamburo, and several others were displaced. The LRA has been using the instability in neighbouring CAR, and South Sudan is under high alert in the light of possible attacks by the LRA in border regions. (VOA, 07/11/13; Sudan Tribune, 15, 24, 25/11/13; Radio Tamazuj, 19/11/13)
SUDAN (SOUTH KORDOFAN & BLUE NILE): Provisional end to violence for a vaccination campaign against polio fails with both sides breaching the agreement
After the UN held conversations with the armed group SPLM-N and the Government to launch a vaccination campaign against polio from 5th to 12th November that was to benefit 165,000 children in the region, the coalition of groups Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) issued a statement announcing the temporary end to violence in the regions of Kordofan and Blue Nile to facilitate this campaign. At the same time, the Sudanese government agreed to cease hostilities during 12 days, starting on 1st November. However, the SPLM-N requested a last meeting to negotiate the agreement to cease hostilities with the participation of the AU. The government opposed this meeting and the UN also considered a new meeting unnecessary. Finally, no agreement was reached and hostilities between both sides continued. The Sudanese armed forces bombed the region of Umm Durian, as Radio Dabanda informed. The director of the OCHA, John Ging announced that the vaccination campaign had failed since both sides to the conflict had obstructed the process and impeded access to the area. Ging called for a greater involvement of the UN Security Council to guarantee access to the area. (Sudan Tribune, 31/11/13; Radio Tamazuj, 02, 11, 12/11/13; Radio Miraya, 12/11/13; The Guardian, AP, Reuters, 12/11/13)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Fighting continues between the Army and the SLA-Minnawi, as well as inter-community violence
UNAMID expressed its concerns over the fighting in Darfur after several clashes between the members of Misseriya, Taisha and Salamat communities broke out. The militias of these communities fired rockets and used heavy artillery during a battle in the south of Darfur over some land. Also, a Rwandan soldier, member of the UNAMID died after a UN convoy in South Sudan was attacked. The total number of deaths among UNAMID soldiers in 2013 is 14. Members of the SLA Minni Minnawi faction also said they had killed some 200 government soldiers and confiscated 25 vehicles during an operation north of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. However, a government official denied these claims and declared that the army had repelled these attacks without any casualties among its men. The joint mediator and head of the UNAMID, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, announced that several rebel groups from Darfur had participated in a workshop to discuss the humanitarian situation in the region and possible ways of achieving peace. The participating groups have not yet signed the Doha agreements. (EFE, 04/11/13; Sudan Tribune, 05, 24/11/2013; AFP, 11/11/13; News24, 07, 11/11/13; Radio Dabanga, 25/11/13)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: Violence and intimidation in Mitrovica tarnish the first local elections held in Kosovo, including Serbian areas
Several violent attacks against polling stations in the northern half of the divided city of Mitrovica, of Serbian majority, partially tarnished the Kosovan local elections at the start of November, the first local elections held in Kosovo territory, including areas of Serbian majority for the very first time. The elections with support from the OSCE were one of the points included in the so-called Brussels Agreement between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo, facilitated by the EU, to normalize relations. Men wearing hoods that tipped over ballot boxes carried out the attacks, confiscated census lists, threw tear gas and forced OSCE observers out. The violence was such that the elections in north Mitrovica were cancelled and finally held towards the middle of the month, with greater police coverage, this time without incidents, although with a very low turnout (22% of voters). They were held in a general context of boycott called by Serbian sectors in all Serbian areas of Kosovo, despite the Serbian government had called on voters to participate and despite there were eight Serbian political parties contesting. The outcome of these elections was that Mitrovica; along with some twenty other municipalities in Kosovo will be holding a second round on 1st December. The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, called these elections a victory for all citizens and said the attacks in Mitrovica had been organized. The Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, said Kosovo had failed organizing the elections, since they didn't meet the basic conditions to vote. (Balkan Insight, B92, 1-27/11/13)
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents meet for the first time since January 2012 and agree to re-launch the peace process
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev, met at the middle of November in Vienna, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, marking the first meeting between them since January 2012, after a period when the negotiations for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict stalled. According to a statement by the co-chairs of the mediating body (Russia, USA and France), the presidents agreed to make the negotiations advance to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and to hold another meeting during the next months. Also, to boost the process, they conveyed orders to their foreign ministers to continue working with the Minsk Group on discussions held until then. Nevertheless, Armenian, Azerbaijani and international analysts were sceptical on the possibilities of achieving any real progress in the process. Since 2010 the process remains stalled, with parties unable to agree on the Basic Principles, suggested by the OSCE in 2005 and partially reformulated later on, which were meant to be the basis to negotiate a final agreement. These principles include Armenia retreating from occupied territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, granting provisional status to Nagorno-Karabakh, the right for displaced population to return, an eventual decision on the final status through a binding expression of will and international guarantees of security. However, the November meeting between the two presidents is a sign that they formally back diplomatic negotiations, in a context were several alerts have been made on the risks facing the region. (OSCE, 19/11/13; RFE/RL, 19, 22/11/13; Caucasian Knot, 13, 21/11/13)
CENTRAL AFRICA (LRA): Government stages conversations with the leader of Ugandan group LRA to surrender
The government of the Central African Republic declared it was staging conversations with the leader of the Ugandan armed group LRA, Joseph Kony, to encourage him to surrender. Government sources stated that Kony was in a central African country and demanded safety guarantees before handing himself in. Kony, the leader of the LRA, is sought by the International Criminal Court, accused of war crimes. The USA has offered five million dollars to anyone who provides evidence that can lead to his arrest. Kony's rebellion started in the eighties, and became famous with the kidnapping of thousands of children who were used as sex slaves, porters and fighters. In 2005, with an increase in Ugandan military operations to dismantle the group, Kony moved to a remote forest are between the CAR, South Sudan and DR Congo. At the same time, the AU special envoy for the LRA, Francisco Madeira, reported at the UN Security Council and stressed the existence of reports indicating that Kony may be suffering some form of disease. In April this year, the Ugandan armed forces called off the search for Joseph Kony in the CAR because of the hostility from the newly elected government in that country after the coup lead by the rebel coalition Séléka. (Allafrica, 20/11/13; BBC, 20/11/13)
IRAN-USA: Teheran and the P5+1 powers reach an agreement to temporarily freeze the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions
After two rounds of official contacts in Geneva at the start and end of the month, Iran and the countries of the P5+1 group (USA, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia, plus Germany) announced an interim agreement on the 24th November which consisted in freezing the main components to the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for a partial lifting of the sanctions against the Islamic republic in place. It was later learnt that this agreement was possible thanks to parallel secret contacts between official representatives of the USA and Iran, who started a dialogue at the beginning of 2013 and held at least five meetings, most in Oman. This parallel process gained momentum as of August, after the moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rouhani, took office as the President of Iran. The agreement, named the Joint Action Plan, means that in the next six months, Teheran shall not enrich uranium above 5%, shall neutralize its 20% uranium reserves, shall not advance in developing a heavy-water reactor and shall allow daily inspections of its nuclear facilities. The lifting of international sanctions – limited, temporary and reversible – shall be for trading precious metals, the automobile industry, and shall make it possible to partially release Iranian funds abroad, among other points. The agreement was valued as a first step towards a global agreement to be negotiated during the next months. The Israeli government rejected this agreement, since it considered it failed to completely halt Iranian atomic activities and called it a "historical mistake". (BBC, 25, 11/13, New York Times, 24, 25/11/13; ICG, 25/11/13)
MALI: First round of the legislative elections takes place in a peaceful climate and with a low turnout
On 24th November parliamentary elections took place in Mali amid high security measures. France sent extra troops to Kidal, the area where two French journalists were killed. Although European and African observers declared that the process had developed in a generally peaceful climate, there were several minor incidents and the turnout was considerably lower than in the presidential elections (38.4%). In Timbuktu, armed gunmen stole the ballot boxes from some polling stations and in Kidal armed Touareg men impeded voters from accessing polling stations launching stones. At the end of the vote count none of the candidates had a full majority, meaning a second round is to take place on 15th December. Also noteworthy is the arrest of General Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the military coup who, according to several sources, has been accused of murder, although the Government has not yet confirmed these charges. (BBC, 24/11/13; News24/AFP, 25/11/13; Reuters, 27/11/13; Al Jazeera, 28/11/13)
NEPAL: Elections held to the Constituent Assembly with the party of the Nepalese Congress winning
Elections were held to the Nepalese Constituent Assembly with a turnout of 77%; provisional results award the victory to the Nepalese Congress party, which would take around 200 seats from a total of 601. Second and third came the CPN(UML) and UCPN(M), with around 175 and 80 seats respectively. The Maoist UCPN(M), who in the previous constituent elections in 2008 was the winner, made accusations of electoral fraud and called for a detailed investigation of the elections, moving away from their initial intention to boycott the new Assembly. However, international observers, especially from the Carter Centre and the EU, declared the elections had been free and fair. The Nepalese Congress has said it would aim to form a national unity government with the second and third political forces in the country to draft a new constitution. Although the elections were generally peaceful, a homemade explosive device blew up in a polling station in Kathmandu causing three mildly injured, including a child. (Nepalnews, 25, 28/11; Associated Press, 20/11/13; BBC, 21 and 28/11/12; The Hindu, 28/11/13)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): Turkish Government moves to promote discussions with the PKK almost a year after they started
After the setbacks in the discussions between Turkey and the Kurdish PKK between August and October, which led the Kurdish nationalist movement to declare the end of conversations, the process has again resumed in November, with gestures made by both sides. The government authorized a new visit from a delegation of Kurdish politicians to the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, in prison since 1999. (MPs from the BDP Idris Baluken and Pervin Buldan, joined by the vice-president of the newly founded Kurdish political party HDP, an ally of BDP, Sirri Süreyya Önder). According to Önder, Öcalan said the current peace conversations were not sufficient, that the format of these was faulty and that a legal framework was required. Öcalan's brother, Mehmet Öcalan, who also visited the PKK leader, stressed Öcalan's willingness to move on to a stage of negotiation, but with a legal basis, to overcome the current fragility. Turkey also authorized a visit by Öcalan's two lawyers in December, with the sole condition that they may not be lawyers from his usual lawyer's firm. The impediments by the government meant that the last time his lawyers visited him was in July 2011. It is also forecast that the government will allow a visit by the group of "wise people", a mechanism set up by the government in April this year, comprising sub-groups with prominent academics, journalists and civil society representatives, among others, and of journalists. This measure would satisfy the demand made by Öcalan and the Kurdish movement to lift Öcalan's isolation in the dialogue. Alongside, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the President of the Kurdish region of Iraq, Massoud Barzani, visited Diyarbakir, the symbolic Kurdish capital of Turkey, where they called for commitment with the peace process. During this visit, Erdogan visited the local Town Council for the first time, where he met several Kurdish politicians. However, and despite all these gestures, the discussion process continues to be fragile, partly because of the pre-elections context in Turkey, the regional rivalry between Öcalan and Barzani, and the impact of the civil war in Syria. In fact, the Kurdish group in Syria linked to the PKK, the PYD, announced in November it would create a provisional autonomous administration in the areas under its control, a measure that was criticized by Turkey, the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and Syrian Kurdish groups close to Barzani. (Hürriyet, Firat, AFP, 1-27/11/13)
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