MOZAMBIQUE: A member of the Renamo negotiating team is murdered
On October 8, Jeremias Pondeca, a member of the Renamo negotiation team in the peace talks, was murdered in the capital, Maputo. The killing was harshly condemned by Renamo, by Government institutions, President Filipe Nyusi and the European Union. The international mediators team decided to postpone the peace talks. The negotiations had resumed on Thursday, with separate talks between the Government and the opposition Renamo group, and they were joined by a team of international mediators provided by former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. However, on October 28 the talks were suspended once again and postponed until November 10, due to armed clashes that had erupted in some parts of the centre of the country. Mario Raffaelli, coordinator of the international mediation team and the European Union representative, said that they had proposed to the Government and Renamo that a set of points on decentralization be sent to Parliament (Assembly of the Republic) as well as a roadmap to address the other items on the negotiating agenda. (AFP, 10/10/2016; AIM, 19, 29/10/2016; Africa Confidential, 21/10/2016)
SYRIA: The prospects for re-establishing negotiations over the Syrian conflict are severely damaged by the persisting violence and tensions among key international stakeholders
The possibility of reviving a formal political dialogue to address the armed conflict in Syria was hampered by intensifying hostilities, and especially the violence in Aleppo that killed hundreds of people in October. Given these developments, in early September the United States decided to suspend talks with Russia over the cessation of hostilities and the military cooperation agreement to combat ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham signed last month. Despite this decision, 12 days later US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Lausanne, Switzerland with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in addition to representatives from Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. This is a small group compared to the members of the International Syria Support Group, which include European countries. Egypt’s presence was requested by Iran in what the media interpreted as a sign of shifting alliances in the Middle East. However, the meeting in Lausanne ended with no concrete results or agreements. Throughout the month, the United States and the United Kingdom demanded a cessation of hostilities as a condition for resuming the talks. In late October, after an intensification of the armed opposition groups’ campaign in the western part of Aleppo controlled by the regime, with attacks that affected civilians and that the UN says could constitute war crimes, Russia said that peace talks over the fate of Aleppo were suspended indefinitely. (The Guardian, 14, 15, 20/10/16 and 01/11/16; ICG, 01/11/16)
YEMEN: President Hadi rejects the latest UN proposal for a peace plan aimed at forming a government with representatives from both the north and south
Amidst worsening levels of violence and a deteriorating humanitarian situation, in late October the UN promoted a new peace plan to find a political solution to the Yemeni conflict. The details of the road map were not made public, but media reports indicated that the proposal includes the appointment of a new vice president after the retreat of the Houthis from Sana’a and other cities and the delivery of heavy weapons to a third party. Following this appointment, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, currently in exile in Saudi Arabia, would transfer power to the new vice president, who in turn would designate a prime minister to form a government with equal representation from northern and southern Yemen. After meeting with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Riyadh, Hadi rejected this plan, asserting that it rewarded the coup forces led by the Houthis. Deposed by the Houthis in an alliance with groups loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in early 2015, Hadi has repeatedly insisted that the solution to the Yemeni crisis must be based on UN Security Resolution 2216 passed in April 2015. According to reports, the Houthis and their allies conditionally accepted the UN’s new proposal as a basis for resuming the talks. The United Arab Emirates, a country that forms part of the pro-Hadi military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, welcomed this new road map as a political path to address the conflict in Yemen. Media reports highlighted that in August, US Secretary of State John Kerry presented a proposal similar to the one now promoted by the UN, as it also offered letting the Houthis participate in the government in exchange for ending the violence and delivering weapons to a third party. As Kerry said at the time, the Gulf States agreed with the initiative. (AFP, Middle East Eye and The National, 29/10/16)
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): Negotiations continue to expand the number of international observers
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan reconfirmed their support for expanding the office of the representative of the rotating chairperson-in-office of the OSCE, increasing the number of international observers, but without defining them yet. The decision to back expansion of the office of the representative was taken at the presidential summits in Vienna and Saint Petersburg in May and June, respectively. The reconfirmation of this agreement came during the visit paid by the two co-presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group to the region in late October, during which they held separate meetings with the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, their foreign ministers and the new Armenian defence minister. Talks about the operational details of the future expansions continued, but remained undefined. During their visit, the co-mediators also addressed the security situation in the conflict zone, following the violent incidents in April, which were the most serious since the conflict ended in the mid-1990s. They also met with the ICRC regarding its work on the exchange of information on missing persons among the parties to the conflict. (OSCE, 26/10/16)
COLOMBIA: The "no" vote wins in the referendum on the peace agreement
The Government and the FARC held a referendum on October 2 so that Colombian citizens could endorse the peace agreement and end 52 years of armed conflict and it was rejected. The "no" vote led in a very close contest with 50.21% (6,431,376 votes), compared to 49.78% (6,377,482 votes) voting “yes”, in a referendum in which 60% of the eligible voters stayed home. After the results were announced, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reaffirmed his commitment to peace and called for a dialogue with all parties to renegotiate the agreement. Santos stated that the ceasefire declared with the FARC, in force since August 29, would continue until October 31. This date was subsequently extended until December 31. In a statement from Havana, FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez, alias "Timochenko", said that the FARC will maintain "their desire for peace" and “their willingness to only use words as weapons to build the future" Backers of the peace agreement marched in Bogota and other cities on October 5 and 12 and called for a rapid peace agreement with the FARC. On October 4, the FARC and the Government's negotiating team returned to Havana to begin talks again. The chief negotiator for the Colombian government, Humberto de la Calle Lombana, offered to resign from his position, but the president rejected it and appointed him, together with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence, as the representatives of the government in talks with the opposition led by former president Álvaro Uribe, who ran the "no" campaign. Talks between the Government and the FARC continued throughout the month. The two teams issued a statement on October 28 underscoring their willingness to find a solution. At the same time, Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his "determined efforts" to bring peace to his country, according to a statement by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo. The supporters of the agreement consider the award to be a statement of support for peacebuilding. Furthermore, after months of negotiations the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government announced the beginning of formal public peace talks in Ecuador on November 3. The talks were suspended on October 27, because as a condition to begin the dialogue, the Government had demanded that the ELN release former congressman Odin Sánchez Montes de Oca, who had been kidnapped six months ago. Former Colombian minister Juan Camilo Restrepo, who was appointed to head the Government's negotiating team in the peace talks with the ELN, said that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had begun the operation to release the former congressman. The ELN has also posted on Twitter the 18 people (12 men and 6 women) who will be part of their negotiating team, which will be headed by Israel Ramirez Pineda, alias "Pablo Beltran". (Efe; 2-5, 10, 14, 24, 26-27/10/2016)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: The Government and a part of the opposition agree to postpone the presidential elections until April 2018
The Government and part of the political opposition that has taken part in the National Dialogue, set up by the Government to overcome the current standstill and crisis, agreed on October 17 to a new electoral calendar. The agreement postpones the presidential elections until April 2018, which means that current President Joseph Kabila will remain in power until a new president is invested, even though his term should end in December 2016. The agreement was announced after the EU threatened to impose sanctions if the elections were not held in 2017. Thus, the presidential, legislative and local elections will be held six months after they are convened on October 30, 2017, according to former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo who facilitated the talks held In Kinshasa on behalf of the AU. The elections will therefore take place on April 29, 2018 and the transfer of power to the new president will be on May 9. Edem Kodjo added that the agreement provides for a new government to be formed with the position of prime minister falling to a member of the opposition. The opposition leader, Vital Kamerhe, who was campaign director for Kabila and was expelled from the party in 2008 when he was a spokesman in Parliament, is the person who most likely will occupy that position. The main opposition coalition, Rassemblement, boycotted the peace talks and stated that it would not accept any decision announced by the representatives of the dialogue. One of the leaders of Rassemblement, Étienne Tshisekedi (UDPS party), said that he rejected the agreement. At the same time, they called for a general strike on October 19 to reject the agreement since it violates the Congolese Constitution. The protest was also aimed at Kodjo, who was accused of favouring the president. Participation in the strike was significant in Kinshasa and other eastern cities, but elsewhere, such as Lumumbashi and Kisangani, it had little impact. French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, underscored that postponing the elections was not the correct response to the current crisis, since the only solution is for Kabila to announce that he will not run again and to propose an election calendar. The SADC, the AU, the UN and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region have backed the agreement, while the powerful Catholic Church has announced that it opposes it. (The Guardian, 19/10/16; Bloomberg, AFP y PANA, 21/10/16)
MYANMAR: Government announces political dialogue to start in November and calls on all groups to join ceasefire agreement
State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi called on all armed opposition groups that have not so far signed the national ceasefire agreement to do so before February, when the next Panglong-21 Peace Conference is scheduled to take place. The signing of the ceasefire agreement is a pre-condition set by the Army to participate in the political dialogue process. Although the coordinator of the armed groups that did not sign the agreement, the UNFC, requested to participate in the political process without joining the ceasefire agreement, this request was rejected. Suu Kyi’s call came during a meeting of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, which brings together the Government, the insurgency and the military, and which is chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi, with the aim to coordinate the political dialogue for a possible federal restructuring of the country. Suu Kyi would have asked the armed groups to come up with further trust-building initiatives among the different insurgencies. The Government would be preparing a political meeting for the month of November and for which, according to the ceasefire agreement, only parties that have signed this agreement could participate. The dialogue will take place at a regional level in those States where the groups that signed the ceasefire agreement have their bases, entailing a significant step forward in the peace process, although areas were groups that did not join the ceasefire agreement have their operations will be excluded. Leaders from armed groups such as the KIA or the KNPP, members of the UNFC, declared they could not sign the ceasefire agreement, since there is ongoing fighting with the security forces. (The Irrawaddy, 21, 28 & 31/10/16)
THAILAND (SOUTH): Government and MARA Patani discuss potential for establishing several safety zones in the south of the country
The government and MARA Patani, negotiating on behalf of several insurgent groups operating in the south of the country, held a new round of exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) on 25, 26 and 27 October, with the facilitation of the government of Malaysia. No substantial agreements were recorded, although both parties compelled one another to pursue dialogue (without a date being arranged for the next meeting) and acknowledged having discussed the proposal to set up safety zones as a measure to build trust between the parties. The head of the government team, General Aksara Kerdpol, stated that the aforesaid safety zones would be determined in the following meetings in specific districts and communities. Indeed, MARA Patani spokesperson, Abu Hafiz al-Hakim, stated that the entire country was currently in mourning and indicated that they would await the government’s proposals once the mourning on account of the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on 13 October had ended. Along these lines, the government called on insurgent groups to halt hostilities viewing the King as a highly regarded figure among all religious circles in the country, although some spells of violence have been witnessed since. The previous round of exploratory talks, held in Kuala Lumpur in late September, also ended with no substantial agreements being made, although MARA Patani undertook to review Bangkok’s proposal to establish a ceasefire or safety zone in order to prove whether MARA Patani was in any way involved in the levels of violence in the south of the country, and also stated that it was open to receiving proposals in relation to the establishment of safety zones from civil society organisations. (The Sun Daily, 25/10/16; Benar News, 26 y 28/10/16; ABC Online, 03/10/16)
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan Government and the Taleban resume negotiations in Qatar with US diplomacy presence
The Afghan Government and Taleban representatives have resumed peace conversations in Qatar, quoting Taleban sources speaking to the western media, although these are not official negotiations. Several members of the Taleban political commission in Qatar would have met in Doha, on two occasions, with the head of the Afghan intelligence services, Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, in the presence of a US senior diplomat. These meetings take place without Pakistani representatives, which would indicate a growing alienation between both the Taleban and the Afghan government, and its neighbour country, although following the meetings, three Taleban representatives travelled to Pakistan. The Doha meetings are the first to take place since the peace process sponsored by Pakistan after the Taleban leader Mullah Mansoor was killed by a US drone. The Afghan Government denied having any knowledge of these meetings and the US Embassy in Qatar declined to comment on the meetings. Nevertheless, the presence of US diplomacy in these meetings would have served to relaunch the process, since the Taleban have, on many occasions, refused to meet only with the Afghan Government, since they consider it is a puppet government, and have stressed the need for tripartite negotiations. At a meeting that followed with Taleban representatives and the Pakistani Government, the latter would have attempted to relaunch the Pakistani-sponsored dialogue process between the Taleban and the Afghan Government. All these attempts to relaunch the peace process take place in a context of strong internal divisions within the Taleban organisation over whether it is convenient or not to negotiate with Afghanistan, and also on the role the Pakistan should play. Some Taleban leaders, including the person who has been the chief negotiator, Sayed Muhammad Tayeb Agha, would be in favour of moving away from Pakistan, and even for the leadership to leave the country, where they have been living openly. At the same time, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have deteriorated in a notorious way recently and the Afghan Government accuses Pakistan of supporting the recent military victories of the insurgency. (The New York Times, 31/10/16; The Guardian, 18 & 21/10/16)
CYPRUS: Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agree to negotiate territorial issues in Switzerland to smooth the way for the last phase of the dialogue process
The UN announced in October the leaders' decision to address territorial issues during a retreat to Mont Pelerin (Switzerland) from November 7-11, where they would also discuss other outstanding issues. Both leaders expressed hope for progress in Switzerland that would pave the way for the final phase of the negotiations as part of their intention to reach an agreement in 2016. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders continued in October with an intense calendar of talks that have covered issues such as the economy, governance, power sharing and EU affairs. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı said a referendum could be held in mid-2017, with the first few months of 2017 being used to draft a constitution, federal laws and resolve other technical issues, and provide sufficient time for the public to form an opinion. However, several sources have questioned the possibility of reaching a final agreement before the end of the year, given the issues still pending. (Cyprus Mail, Reuters, Hürriyet, 1-31/10/16)
PHILIPPINES (NPA): Government and NDF confirm substantive agenda for negotiations and announce their aim to sign a peace agreement by August 2017
The second round of formal talks between the government and the NDF, in which both parties re-affirmed their aim to sign a peace agreement by August 2017, came to an end with developments being made simultaneously in talks on three aspects of the substantive agenda: economic and social reforms, political and constitutional reforms and an end to the conflict. Moreover, both parties undertook to establish a bilateral draft agreement for ending hostilities by late October, to replace the two open-ended unilateral ceasefires both parties signed in late August. According to the government, this new form of bilateral ceasefire should envisage joint supervision of the cessation of hostilities and even incorporate a third party for those functions. It is worth highlighting that a six-member delegation from the Chamber of Representatives attended meetings between the government and the NDF in an observational capacity. Lastly, the government stated that it had prepared a draft amnesty proclamation including 400 people, a figure slightly below NDF’s request of 500 individuals. A few hours before the start of this latest round of peace talks, the NDF announced Luis Jalandoni’s resignation as peace panel chairman, replacing him with the vice chairman Fidel Agcaoli. It is necessary to bear in mind that in May Agcaoli met with the new president Rodrigo Duterte in Davao just one week after his election in order to tackle the future of peace talks. A number of days prior to this meeting, Duterte had offered the NDF four ministries in his government (environment and natural resources; agricultural reform; social welfare and labour and employment) and he had shown his openness to beginning dialogue with CPP and NPA leader and founder Jose Maria Sison by travelling personally to Utrecht where Sison and Agcaoli have been living for a number of years and by assuring the leader’s safety and immunity if he ultimately returns to the Philippines. Following the meeting with Duterte in May, Agcaoli was optimistic about the peace process and stated that the NDF had not imposed any preconditions to resuming dialogue. Likewise, during this second round of formal negotiations the NDF announced the incorporation of Benito Tiamzon as a new member on the negotiating panel that had remained unchanged since it was set up in 1992. In the previous meeting held in Oslo in late August, the government and the Supreme Court had already approved the temporary release of 20 NDF prisoners to form part of the delegation travelling to Oslo. Those granted temporary release included Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Tiamzon, the two senior NPA and CPP leaders in the Philippines. In the same meeting held in late August in Oslo, the government and the NDF undertook to speed up the pace of the peace process and sign a peace agreement within one year, which would grant Duterte’s government a period of five years for its subsequent implementation. Moreover, following the aforementioned meeting both parties signed an open-ended ceasefire agreement, the first such pact in three decades. The government and the NDF also agreed to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (CASER), deemed by many analysts as the foremost item in the substantive agenda, within six months and to renew the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the aspect that has generated the greatest controversy between the parties and stood in the way of the peace process amid talks with the former government of Benigno Aquino. (The Sun Daily, 25/10/16; Benar News, 26 y 28/10/16; ABC Online, 03/10/16)
UKRAINE (EAST): The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France agree to prepare a new road map for implementing the Minsk peace agreements
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France held a new summit in Normandy negotiating format and agreed to create a new road map for late November in order to push forward implementation of the Minsk peace agreements. The leaders achieved preliminary agreements on new demilitarisation areas and on the deployment of an armed OSCE police mission. According to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, four new areas were agreed on for proceeding to the separation of forces. The Russian presidential spokesman also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin potentially agreed to the proposal of an armed police mission, but added that it was rejected by the representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. In any event, the Kremlin noted that the OSCE has still not developed the idea of the mission and that it could take some time to materialise. Meanwhile, in late November the OSCE representative in the Trilateral Contact Group, Martin Sajdik, said that the separation of forces had been implemented in Zolote and Petrivske and that discussions continued for demilitarisation in Stanytsia Luhanska, the third of the initial demilitarisation zones agreed on in September, as well as in other new areas. (OSCE, Reuters, Itar Tass, RFE/RL, 1-31/10/16)
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