AFGHANISTAN: Taliban military offensive in different parts of the country
The Taliban insurgency ramped up its military offensive in different parts of the country amidst the political crisis stemming from the presidential election in June, the final result of which has not yet been announced because it is under review due to accusations of fraud. Clashes for control of the capital of Kunduz province, which is still in government hands, went on for several weeks while the insurgency controlled wide swathes of the province. Thousands of people were displaced by the violence. In Helmand province, hundreds of people died in battles in the last two months in the district of Sangin. Vast areas of the province are under Taliban control. In Faryab province, a joint offensive conducted by the Afghan Army and the local and national police allegedly caused the death of 75 insurgents, including seven commanders. Two thousand people were forcibly displaced by the fighting. Moreover, the provinces of Nuristan and Logar were also badly shaken by violent insurgent attacks. (Wall Street Journal, 20/08/14; Pajhwok, 25/08/14; Reuters, 27/08/14)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The worst outbreak of violence in Bangui since Operation Sangaris
Battles that took place on 19 and 20 August in the country’s capital, Bangui, left over ten people dead in the PK5 neighbourhood, the place of refuge for the tiny Muslim community still living there. This is the most serious outbreak of violence since France’s Operation Sangaris in December 2013 to stop the conflict from spiralling at the time. Sources from the UN mission in the country (MISCA) have pointed out the UN mission was not consulted about the forced disarmament campaign carried out by the European mission and the French operation, and three French soldiers were wounded as a result, two of them seriously. Various demonstrations of hostility to the French presence were triggered by the military action. Meanwhile, clashes took place in Bambari, in the centre of the country, between two rival armed factions of the former Séléka coalition, which left more than 20 people dead. Finally, the peace agreement and ceasefire hosted by the outgoing Brazzaville government on 23 July between various Séléka factions and anti-balaka militias came under questioning by Séléka since at the time President Catherine Samba-Panza had still not appointed any members of the rebel coalition to participate in the new government. Séléka has stressed that none of the three Muslim members of the government represent the rebel coalition. (Jeune Afrique, 23, 26, 29/08/14)
CHINA (XINJIANG): The government recognises the death of more than 100 people in an attack in two cities in Xinjiang
The Chinese government announced that eight people had been sentenced to death for participating in an attack in Tiananmen Square in October 2013 and that another 25 people had been given various prison sentences for their involvement in terrorist activities. At the start of the month, the government also declared that around 100 people (59 assailants and 37 civilians) died in an attack carried out by various masked individuals in the cities of Elixku and Huangdi on 28 July, coinciding with the end of Ramadan. Two hundred and fifteen people were arrested after the attack. The 37 civilians that were killed were all civil servants and practically all were ethnic Han Chinese. The government blamed a group linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and foreign terrorist organisations for the attack and said that it had been planned meticulously and well in advance. (Reuters, 04/08/14; The New York Times, 24/08/14)
INDIA – PAKISTAN: Clashes increase between both countries’ militaries after India cancels peace talks
The Indian government’s cancellation of peace talks with the Pakistani government planned for August led to an increased exchange of gunfire between both countries’ militaries along the Line of Control (the de facto border between India and Pakistan). The Indian government cancelled the meeting after a Pakistani representative met in Delhi with members of the separatist Kashmir coalition All Parties Hurriyat Conference. The Pakistani government had already held meetings of this kind before without sparking diplomatic ire. After the peace talks were cancelled, violence rose on both sides of the Line of Control, claiming the lives of four civilians (two on the Indian side and two on the Pakistani side) and one member of the Indian security forces. Furthermore, 15,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir were temporarily displaced to buildings authorised by the government to accommodate the displaced population. Representatives of both militaries held a meeting that was unsuccessful, with no agreement reached to put an end to the violence. The cancellation of the peace talks sank any hopes of improving relations between the two neighbouring countries after their brief rapprochement following the inauguration of new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (The New York Times, 14 and 29/08/14; The Guardian, 28/08/14; NDTV, 28/08/14; The Telegraph, 24/08/14; Bloomberg, 23/08/14)
IRAQ: Advances made by IS cause many fatalities and massive displacements of people, provoke international alert and contribute to the resignation of the Iraqi prime minister
The activity of the armed group Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) in Iraq caused hundreds of deaths, massive new displacements of people and serious assaults on and abuses of human rights. An Amnesty International report gathered evidence that Islamic State is conducting ethnic cleansing in the areas under its control, killing and terrorising people from non-Arab and non-Muslim communities in northern Iraq. Assyrian Christians, Turkmen and Yazidis are some of main targets of Islamic State, which has threatened to kill anyone that does not convert to Islam. From 10 June to the end of August, it is estimated that more than 830,000 people were forced to flee their homes in IS-controlled areas, where massacres, mass abductions of women and children (more than 2,200 from the Yazidi community), sexual abuse and the murder of people trying to escape the radical group or areas besieged by it have all been documented. The gravity of the situation led the UN to declare a humanitarian emergency and announce investigations into IS’s systematic and deliberate killing of civilians. Many of the displaced sought refuge in areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which throughout August deployed its security forces (peshmerga) in some areas in an attempt to slow the radical group’s expansion. In this context, the USA and various European countries decided to give military support to Kurdish military forces to combat IS. Three years after the USA officially withdrew from Iraq, the dramatic plight of thousands of Yazidis surrounded by Islamic State on Mount Sinjar triggered new intervention by Washington in the country, which launched air strikes against the group purportedly to prevent genocide, slow Islamic State’s advance towards Iraqi Kurdistan and protect US interests in the area. The aims of the attacks were expanded to support local forces to recover key infrastructure, like the Mosul Dam, which had fallen into IS’s hands. In late August, an offensive involving the Iraqi Army, Kurdish forces and Shia militias with US aerial support broke the siege of the town of Amerli, which has a majority Shia Turkmen population. The crisis in the country also contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in mid-August after eight years in power and amidst pressure and criticism for stoking an atmosphere of polarisation in Iraq. (Amnesty International, 01/09/14; BBC and The New York Times, 01-31/08/14)
ISRAEL – PALESTINE: Violence claims the lives of 2,200 people, most of them Palestinian civilians, prior to a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas
After more than 50 days of violence that claimed the lives of at least 2,200 people, Hamas and Israel agreed to a long-term ceasefire in late August. According to UN figures, the vast majority of the people killed in the conflict were Palestinians, totalling 2,104, of which 1,462 were civilians (69%), including 495 children and 253 women. 66 Israeli soldiers died and seven Israeli civilians were killed in rocket attacks on Israel between 8 July and 26 August. The Israeli operation, dubbed Protective Edge, prompted widespread international condemnation due to its heavy impact on the civilian population, similarly to what happened in previous Israeli operations in the densely populated Gaza Strip in 2009 and 2012, and especially to the attacks on UN schools that sheltered the displaced population. The escalation of violence caused serious damage to the infrastructure in Gaza, destroying more than 17,000 buildings and forcibly displacing at least 475,000 Palestinians (more than a quarter of the population of Gaza), who only began to return to their homes after the truce was adopted in late August. This long-term ceasefire was reached after various failed attempts, which were followed by a resumption of hostilities. Both Hamas and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory after the Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire agreement, which in practice postponed discussion on the thorniest issues. According to the agreement, Israel promises to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and construction materials. Hamas and Israel are expected to talk through indirect meetings scheduled to begin in Cairo in late September, when subjects like the construction of a port or airport in Gaza and Hamas’ demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners will be addressed. Meanwhile, Israel demands the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip; like Egypt, it also expects guarantees that there will be no arms trafficking there. Notably, there were also many incidents during the month between the Israeli Army and demonstrators in the West Bank that claimed the lives of 20 more Palestinians. (BBC, 26, 27/08/14 and 01/09/14; Washington Post, 29/08/14; The New York Times, 26/08/14; ICG, 02/09/14)
LIBYA: Militias take over Tripoli amidst escalating clashes, violence and institutional fragmentation
The situation in Libya continued to display high levels of violence and institutional chaos in August, to the point where at the end of the month the government announced that it had lost control of the capital, Tripoli. A coalition of militias called Libya Dawn, with significant Islamist involvement and ties to armed groups from Misrata, assumed control of the city—including ministries, the airport and the US Embassy—after weeks of fighting and the withdrawal of the Zintan militia from the area. The Zintan militia is linked to armed groups led by former General Khalifa Haftar, who has been waging war on Islamist forces around Benghazi, in the eastern part of the country. Although some analysts have presented the situation as a struggle between Islamists and nationalists in the country, others have stated that the ideological lines are not so clear and that the groups are fighting to survive and to consolidate power. Libya Dawn has demanded the restoration of the former legislative body, the General National Congress (GNC), which had an Islamist majority, in response to the new one elected in July, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by liberal and federalist forces and enjoys international and UN recognition. Faced with rising violence that killed hundreds of people and forcibly displaced many others in August, the new House of Representatives moved to Tobruk, around 1,000 kilometres east of the capital, and Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in an attempt to facilitate a political solution to the crisis. However, the House of Representatives reinstated al-Thinni to his post and he issued a decree calling for international intervention to tackle the crisis. Meanwhile, with the support of Libya Dawn, legislators of the old GNC based in Tripoli appointed veteran Islamist politician Omar el-Hassi to be prime minister. Libya Dawn also accused the Tobruk-based House of Representatives of colluding with foreign air strikes that unsuccessfully attempted to stop the Islamist advance in Tripoli and left several people dead. According to US officials, these strikes were conducted by aircraft from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt without informing Washington in advance. In this context, in late August the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution imposing a ceasefire on the parties and urging them to enter political talks. The resolution also warned of sanctions on militia leaders and toughened the arms embargo in place. (UNSC Res. 2174, 27/08/14; BBC, 13, 24, 27/08/14 and 01/09/14; The New York Times, 01/09/14)
SUDAN (DARFUR): Intercommunal violence and crime rise in Darfur, according to UNAMID
The joint special representative of the AU and UN and chief of the mediator team in the country, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, spoke out against rising intercommunal violence and crime in the Darfur region. In this regard, militias from the Rizeigat and Ma’alia communities clashed, claiming the lives of 300 people in late August. Crime is a problem for the hybrid UNAMID mission, as well as a significant threat to the safety of humanitarian workers and the distribution of food aid in the region. However, despite the increase in violence, access to humanitarian relief has been improved since the authorities have rejected less requests for access than they did during the first quarter of the year. Around 385,000 people have been displaced as a result of the conflict since early 2014, according to OCHA. Finally, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the mission in the country by 10 months and UNAMID expressed concern about the Sudanese government’s attacks on refugee camps. (UN, 11, 14 and 27/08/14; Sudan Tribune, 31/08/14)
SYRIA: The armed conflict worsens, with more than 190,000 casualties, and is considered the “greatest humanitarian emergency of our times” by UNHCR
The war in Syria continued to break records for its brutal impact on the civilian population, with a death toll of more than 190,000 between 2011 and August 2014. According to UN Special Representative for Human Rights Navi Pillay, that figure is certainly a low estimate. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also complained that the humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict had become the greatest emergency of our times. More than half the country’s population has been forced to abandon their homes because of the violence and it is estimated that more than three million people have sought refuge in other countries, mainly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The situation has worsened in recent months due to the advance of the armed group Islamic State (IS) in both Iraq and Syria, but also because of Syrian government offensives that have continued with indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population. According to a report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Enquiry on Syria, published in mid-August and based on evidence and testimony collected between January and July 2014, Bashar Assad’s government has continued to perpetrate massacres, torture, rape, forced disappearance, the use of child soldiers and indiscriminate and disproportionate bombing against the population. These acts, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, also include at least eight incidents involving chemical weapons in April and May. Armed opposition groups were also accused of many human rights abuses and violations. In particular, IS was blasted for terrorising the population with public executions, amputations and other actions. In this context, and faced with the progress made by IS in Iraq, the USA approved reconnaissance flights over Syria, but ruled out collaborating with the Damascus regime in the fight against the radical group. (BBC, 22, 26, 29/08/14 and 01/09/14; A/HRC/27/60, 13/08/14)
UKRAINE: Violence worsens in the east and relations sour between the West and Russia, while the Ukrainian president announces an agreement with Russia to negotiate a ceasefire
The armed conflict between the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian rebels continued to mount dramatically in August, with close to 2,600 people killed between April and late August, according to the UN. Some 260,000 people have been displaced internally according to UN figures from 1 September, showing a steep increase compared to 117,000 in the first week of August, in addition to other types of impact. Moreover, a UN report noted serious human rights abuses committed by rebel and government forces. The first few weeks of August witnessed the military preponderance of the Ukrainian Army, which besieged the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and forced rebel forces to withdraw from many areas. The increase in clashes aggravated the humanitarian situation in those regions, compounded further by forced displacement. Russia called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to address the humanitarian situation in the area as rebel forces called for a ceasefire. Russia and Ukraine agreed to send Russian humanitarian aid through the ICRC, but the latter’s suspicion that this could provide cover for armed support for the rebels and the difficulty in verifying the convoys’ cargo set off a related diplomatic crisis. In the end, Russia moved one hundred Russian trucks allegedly carrying humanitarian aid without Ukrainian authorisation. In the closing days of August, rebels forces seized the military initiative and forced Ukrainian Army troops to withdraw from areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, thereby opening a new front and capturing the southeastern port city of Novoazovsk on the coast of the Sea of Azov. The civilian population also fled from the neighbouring port city of Mariupol in fear of the potential spread of the conflict there. Ukraine claimed that Novoazovsk had been taken over by regular Russian troops. In late August, NATO also accused Russia of sending troops and arms into Ukraine. Faced with the rising violence, there were some attempts at negotiation during the month. The Ukrainian and Russian presidents met in Minsk, Belarus in late August in their first direct meeting since June, through there were no immediate results. There was a new round of negotiations on 1 September, which brought together representatives of Ukraine, the rebel forces, Russia and OSCE mediators in Minsk, though any achievements went unannounced. Finally, on 3 September the Ukrainian president announced an agreement with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to work towards a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. Putin said that he hoped a ceasefire would materialise in the coming days. The international atmosphere grew even tenser with Western accusations of alleged Russian military action inside Ukraine, the increase in mutual sanctions, NATO’s announcement that it would create a rapid reaction force against a possible Russian threat in Eastern Europe and Russia’s decision to review its military strategy for NATO. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president called for early elections on 28 October. (BBC, El País, Reuters, UN, OSCE, 1-31/08/14, 1-3/09/14)
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): Tension rises along the ceasefire line following various security incidents that claim around 20 lives
Various ceasefire violations in the first days of August caused the death of around 15 soldiers from Azerbaijan and five others from Nagorno-Karabakh, according to official sources from both sides, though other sources said that the real number of casualties could be higher than publicly admitted. Thus, the death toll so far this year rose to around 30, roughly the same as the yearly counts of previous years. The parties to the conflict blamed each other for starting the incidents and other ceasefire violations occurred both before and after them. Mediators of the Minsk Group of the OSCE urged both sides to contain themselves and refrain from any provocative action. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to end the violence and to enforce the ceasefire in effect since 1994. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan, in a face-to-face encounter in Sochi, Russia on 10 August outside the format for negotiations under OSCE mediation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the talks as successful and ensured that the leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue, although some print media said that the meeting yielded no specific results. Putin said that Russia’s close relationships with both countries made a meeting of this kind easier, while expressing respect for all current international negotiating formats. (RFE/RL, IWPR, 1-31/08/14)
AZERBAIJAN: Repression hardens against human rights defenders and political activists
Between late July and August, various renowned human rights defenders and political activists from Azerbaijan were arrested and placed in preventive detention on charges of spying for Armenia, tax evasion and illicit business, among others. Amnesty International said the arrests were politically motivated and warned of the continued repression of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly in the country. Those detained between late July and August include human rights activist Leyla Yunus and her husband, activist Arif Yunus, involved in citizen diplomacy initiatives between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, among others. Arif Yunus was later released, though subject to restrictions of movement. Their detention and that of other activists coincide with a period of high tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia due to mounting violence along the ceasefire line. Other activists detained at this time include the founder of the Human Rights Club, Rasul Jafarov, political activist Murad Adilov and human rights defender Intigam Aliev. (Amnesty International, IWPR, RFE/RL, 1-31/08/14)
DR CONGO (EAST): Only 250 members of the FDLR have demobilised since May and the United States threatens military action to pressure the armed group
Around 250 combatants of the armed Rwandan Hutu group FDLR have surrendered between the start of the disarmament campaign on 30 May to early August. Operating in eastern DR Congo, some of the members of the FDLR are accused of being responsible for the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The announcement was made by Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda in prelude to the meeting of the UN Security Council. Four hundred and fifty people under these combatants’ command have also surrendered. They must leave the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu for Kisangani, in Orientale province in the northeast, before repatriating to Rwanda or relocating to another country in the Great Lakes region. Russ Feingold, the US special envoy for the Great Lakes region, has said that the armed group must demobilise before the year is out or it could suffer the consequences of military action. In accordance with the official position of the Rwandan government, Feingold said that there was no justification for the group to demand political negotiations. (RNA, AFP, 05/08/14; The New York Times, 05-06/08/14)
PAKISTAN: Serious political crisis as thousands protest against the government of Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad
A serious political crisis erupted in the country around protests against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Called by opposition figures Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, and cleric Tahirul Qadri, leader of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek party, the demonstrators called for Sharif to resign. Thousands took to the streets in Islamabad to participate in demonstrations that at various times resulted in clashes with police, three deaths and hundreds or people injured and arrested. Although the Pakistani Army has repeated its commitment to democracy on various occasions and has urged the political forces to resolve their disputes in this way, many analysts have suggested the possibility of direct intervention by the Armed Forces given the disagreements between the military and the prime minister and rumours of military support for the protest organisers. However, fears that US aid could be suspended in the event of a coup may have given pause to any such plans. Violence soared after demonstrators entered restricted areas of the capital, where the main government and administrative buildings are protected by the Pakistani Army. Imran Khan accused Sharif of electoral fraud and called for new elections while Qadri demanded the formation of a national unity government, though both joined forces to organise the protests. The Pakistani government asked the Armed Forces for help to conduct negotiations with the opposition, but their negotiations’ breakdown breathed new life into the protests. (The New York Times, 28, 31/08/14; The Express Tribune, 28/08/14; RFE/RL, 19/08/14; Associated Press, 17/08/14; International Crisis Group, 21/08/14)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The Philippine president acknowledges difficulties in the peace process between the government and the MILF
President Benigno Aquino acknowledged difficulties in the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF, but also expressed optimism regarding finalisation of the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which must be sent to Parliament for discussion and approval. Both the government and the MILF have minimised the importance of the successive delays in this regard. Thus, the negotiating teams of the MILF and the government met for 10 days in early August in Davao to discuss the substantial differences existing between the draft submitted by the Bangsamoro Transitional Commission and the government’s vision, which created some tension between both parties last July. Following the meeting, the draft law was delivered to the president, who promised to send it to Parliament before the end of August. However, at the close of the month he had still not done so. According to both parties, the issues that are being discussed and receiving finishing touches are of lesser importance and do not affect the basic principles of the peace agreement reached in March. Furthermore, according to Manila, the president of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives pledged to expedite the draft bill. (AP, 31/08/14; Xinhua, 10/08/14; Inquirer, 18/08/14)
SOMALIA: Fresh offensive against al-Shabaab led by AMISOM and the Somali Armed Forces
The AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces launched a new military operation to try to neutralise and dismantle the armed Islamist group al-Shabaab in the southern part of the country. Operation Indian Ocean thrust into the region of Lower Shabelle with assaults starting in late August on the town of Bulomarer and one of the last major southern ports under the armed group’s control, Barawe. This port provides the armed group with millions in income through the charcoal trade. The UN Secretary-General’s special representative in the country, Nick Kay, has stressed that al-Shabaab may be bringing in around 25 million USD each year from the sale and export of charcoal to the countries of the Persian Gulf. The United Nations has also warned that the country is undergoing a harshening food crisis, with more than 350,000 people on the brink of starvation dependent upon humanitarian aid in Mogadishu and other parts of the capital. Although the current government seems to provide the best chance in recent years for overcoming the violence rocking the country, famine, accusations of corruption and the violent actions of al-Shabaab are undermining its capacity for action. Moreover, in mid-August federal government soldiers attacked the headquarters of one of the main media outlets in the country in Mogadishu, Shabelle Media Network, and shut down two of its broadcasting stations, Radio Shabelle and Sky FM, accused of slander against the government. Nineteen journalists and media workers were arrested and according to Shabelle, its current director, Abdimalik Yusuf, was tortured by security forces. This is not the first time that Shabelle has come under government pressure, and Islamist groups have also threatened it on various occasions in the past. Various Shabelle Media journalists have been killed in recent years, including its director Hassan Osman Abdi, in 2012. (BBC, 19/08/14; AFP and Jeune Afrique, 23 and 30/08/14; Garowe Online, 25 and 30/08/14)
THAILAND: The chief of the Armed Forces is named the new prime minister
The chief of the Armed Forces and of the National Council for Peace and Order, Prayuth Chan-ocha, was appointed the new prime minister by the king after being unanimously elected by the recently established National Legislative Assembly, which was formed in early August and largely composed of serving and retired military officers. Previously, in July, a temporary and interim 48-article Constitution had been adopted. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is soon expected to appoint a new government, declared that the next elections could be held in 2015, though he gave no further details in that regard. Meanwhile, government action against the opposition continued (such as the detention of various people or accusations of torturing prominent opposition leaders), as well as some clandestine actions to reject the military junta (like dropping leaflets outside the headquarters of the Armed Forces in the middle of the month). In this regard, in August both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch voiced their concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and the growing vulnerability and lack of protection of human rights defenders and activists. Also of note, in early August the National Anti-Corruption Committee suggested prosecuting former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for dereliction of duty. (AFP, 03/09/14; Gulf News, 22/08/14)
MOZAMBIQUE: The government and opposition party Renamo reach a peace agreement
The government of Mozambique and Renamo, the main opposition party, reached an agreement on 24 August to end the political conflict that pitted both groups against each other for two years and was marked by sporadic episodes of armed violence that stoked fears regarding a resumption of the armed conflict that gripped the country from independence in 1975 to 1992. Both forces reached a ceasefire agreement, assented to integrate Renamo combatants into Mozambique’s Armed Forces and planned an amnesty for acts of violence carried out since 2012. This agreement between the government and Renamo aims to make it easier to hold legislative and presidential elections on 15 October in an atmosphere of stability. Though the leader of Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, did not sign the ceasefire personally, his spokesman said that a symbolic meeting between Dhlakama and the president would be held soon. In the weeks before the ceasefire agreement was signed, the government released various Renamo militants detained during recent clashes as a measure of good faith to facilitate rapprochement with the group. (Jeune Afrique, 12/08/14; BBC, 25/08/14)
MYANMAR: Negotiations for a ceasefire agreement continue between the ethnic insurgency and the government
The Burmese government and the coordinating body that brings together all armed opposition groups negotiating a nationwide ceasefire agreement, the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), met on various occasions in August to discuss the draft of the agreement and made significant progress in the negotiations. The government agreed to include a commitment to a federal system for the country in the text, one of the main hurdles to signing it. Other topics of discussion were the list of groups that would be allowed to sign the agreement, since the government recognises a much smaller number of armed groups than the NCCT, and the political talks that would follow the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Negotiations between the government and the ethnic insurgency will continue in September, essentially touching on the issues of the signatory groups, the groups that will participate in the political talks. The creation of Federal Armed Forces, another sensitive issue in the negotiations, will also be addressed during the political talks. Moreover, the NCCT suggested a list of third parties that could participate in the signing of the agreement, with observers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, France and the United Nations. Furthermore, the NCCT asked opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to play a larger role in the peace process between the ethnic insurgency and the Burmese government. (The Irrawaddy, 4, 15, 18, 19, 28/08/14)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The Turkish government finalises a road map for the negotiating process with the PKK and both sides view this new period as decisive
The peace talks between the Turkish government and the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, made fresh progress after a law was passed in July that gave guarantees to Turkish government negotiators and authorised future reforms. After the Turkish presidential election, which ended with the first-round victory of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who won 51.79% of the votes and was followed by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (the candidate of both the CHP and MHP), who received 38.44% and pro-Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, who came in third with 9.76%, both the Turkish government and the Kurdish nationalist movement repeated their willingness to move ahead with the talks. According to reports days later, the head of the Turkish intelligence services, Hakan Fidan, met on 15 August with the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, to confirm Erdogan’s desire to continue with the process. In prison since 1999, Öcalan said in a statement that the armed conflict was coming to an end and that Turkey would bear witness to historic events. This message was transmitted by the delegation of Kurdish representatives that met with Öcalan on 15 August as part of the peace process. It included the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish parliamentary group HDP, Pervin Buldan and Idris Baluken, as well as MP Sirri Sürreyya Önder, also of the HDP. In mid-August, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said that the process was moving at full speed and that the government was working on a road map that would be shared with Turkish institutions and the Kurdish leadership. Atalay also voiced support for direct talks with the political and military leadership of the PKK whenever necessary, arguing that the time has come to determine the final steps of the process. Atalay also said that a monitoring group could be established for the talks. Meanwhile, some incidents did occur in August, like clashes between security forces and Kurdish demonstrators related to the erection and subsequent demolition—by judicial order—of a statue in homage to a founder of the PKK in the district of Lice, in Diyarbakir. One demonstrator died in the protests. A Turkish soldier was killed in an attack by the PKK and three Chinese workers at a power plant were kidnapped by the armed group in August. Finally, PKK guerrilla fighters participated in battles between Kurdish forces and Islamic State in northern Iraq and the leaders of the PKK called for the creation of a common Kurdish force to deal with the Islamist offensive in northern Iraq. (Firat, Hürriyet Daily News, AFP, 26/07/14 – 31/08/14)
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