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The President's Take

Four Modest Steps to Peace

In his introduction to this month's edition of CrisisWatch, Crisis Group's conflict tracker, our President Robert Malley reflects on some rare and noteworthy positive developments in Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan. 

Working on conflict prevention is often a labour of frustration, as my colleagues who work in the field will readily attest. This past month brought about a few rare and noteworthy bits of positive news on several conflict fronts that closely follow our recommendations – rare enough not to get our hopes up too high, noteworthy enough that they deserve mention. In Yemen, as Crisis Group has advocated, a deal was reached between the government of President Hadi and southern separatists, averting (for now) what would have been a civil war within a civil war. Also in line with our recommendations, Saudi Arabia and the Huthis have engaged in talks and agreed both to reduce their military attacks against one another and to release prisoners. Together, these developments potentially set the stage for broader, inclusive UN-led peace talks.

In Afghanistan, the release of Taliban and Western detainees revived prospects for a resumption of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban – which, we have argued, are the best and only way to move toward extricating the U.S. and ending the world’s deadliest conflict. And in South Sudan, as we urged, the parties to the September 2018 peace deal agreed to extend the deadline for forming a national unity government by 100 days, keeping the fragile peace agreement alive.

Of such steps – significant and modest in equal measure – our hopes are made. They only partly compensate for the negative news that keeps flowing: from the Iranian regime’s brutal killing of demonstrators to the election in Sri Lanka of a highly polarising figure associated with atrocities committed in the country’s civil war.

For us at Crisis Group, of course, this month also marks a sad milestone. One year ago, on December 10th, our colleague Michael Kovrig was arrested in Beijing. Every day that has gone by since then his family, loved ones, colleagues and friends have done all within their power to secure his release. That fight will continue until he sets foot outside the prison where he has been unjustly held, a free man once more.