CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
In July, fighting rose between Israel and Hamas and could quickly escalate into a new Gaza war, while in Yemen, as violence intensified on several fronts, a UN plan offered hope that a battle for Hodeida city could still be averted. Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks in Somalia, Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict spread to new areas, and tensions rose within Côte d’Ivoire’s ruling coalition. Violence marred elections in Pakistan and disrupted voting in Mali. Zimbabwe’s first general election since former President Mugabe’s ouster went largely peacefully; wide endorsement of the results could pave the way for the country’s recovery, but their rejection could spark turmoil. Violent protests erupted in southern Iraq over poor services and unemployment, and in Haiti over a proposed hike in fuel prices. Deadly clashes between protesters and pro-government forces in Nicaragua continued with hundreds now reported killed. On a brighter note, Ethiopia and Eritrea took further steps to cement peace, South Sudan’s warring leaders agreed to share power, and in the Philippines, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, a long-awaited step to implement peace in Mindanao, was finally signed into law.
Over the summer several long-lasting conflicts have become more lethal. In his introduction to the July/August 2018 edition of CrisisWatch, our President Rob Malley welcomes the exception – the official end to the state of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, rose to its highest level since the 2014 war, and could escalate into a new full-scale confrontation. To stop Palestinian protesters in Gaza sending incendiary kites across the border, Israel ramped up aerial strikes on Hamas targets and tightened its blockade. Retaliating with rocket fire, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sought to reestablish the precedent that Israeli bombings would not go unanswered. To avert another war, the international community should press Israel to lift the blockade and the Palestinian Authority to take over Gaza through intra-Palestinian reconciliation.
In Yemen, as fighting intensified on several fronts, Saudi-led coalition forces consolidated their positions just south of the port city of Hodeida. The UN envoy’s proposal to avert a battle for the city and restart talks, and the Huthis’ two-week ceasefire in the Red Sea still offer a glimmer of hope. But if the plan does not satisfy belligerents’ conditions, they could continue to pursue victory through violence.
Protests swept across southern Iraq, with demonstrators bemoaning poor services and unemployment and attacking government and party offices. Security forces responded harshly, in some places shooting at protesters, and killing around 50. To douse widespread anger, Crisis Group urged the new government, once formed, to strengthen the judiciary and independent oversight agencies in their fight against corruption – Iraq’s public enemy number one.
Zimbabwe’s general elections on 30 July – the first since Robert Mugabe was ousted in November – could lay the foundation for the country’s recovery, or lead to violence. Voting took place largely peacefully and three quarters of the electorate cast a ballot. A credible result accepted by all would give the government much-needed legitimacy. But, as we warned, if the losers reject the results, violence could break out, eroding prospects of economic and governance reform and international re-engagement.
In Mali, intercommunal violence and jihadist attacks, especially in the centre and north east, rose in the lead-up to hotly contested presidential elections on 29 July. The violence and a chaotic electoral process may have squandered whatever opportunity the vote presented to revive the peace process. In Cameroon, the Anglophone conflict spread to new areas, and trouble brewed within Côte d’Ivoire’s ruling coalition. The parties of President Ouattara and former President Bédié squared off over the merger of all coalition members into a single party ahead of presidential elections in 2020.
The Horn of Africa took strides toward greater stability, and felt painful setbacks. In Somalia, Al-Shabaab stepped up its offensive against military forces and civilians, resuming attacks in Mogadishu after a lull. In contrast, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea turned a page in history when they agreed to end the state of war that had existed between their nations since 1998. In South Sudan, the war’s protagonists signed security and power-sharing agreements giving rise to cautious optimism. Now they must translate these commitments into new realities on the ground, and put a stop to more than four years of fighting.
Pakistan’s general election on 25 July was marred by high levels of violence as well as allegations of irregularities and interference by federal and provincial caretaker governments, the judiciary and the military. Over 200 candidates and supporters were killed in attacks ahead of the election and on polling day, including the 13 July terror attack on a rally in Balochistan that killed at least 149 people.
In Nicaragua, 38 people were reported killed in clashes between protesters and troops on 8 July, the deadliest day since protests against President Ortega’s government began in April. With paramilitary and police forces attempting to subdue protest strongholds and restore government control, the reported death toll since April now exceeds 350. Four people were killed during violent protests in Haiti after the government announced a hike in fuel prices.
In the Philippines, the long-awaited Bangsamoro Organic Law was finally signed into law at the end of July, the most important component of the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aimed at ending 40 years of conflict in Mindanao. As we argue, implementing this deal is essential to efforts to curtail the influence and spread of jihadist groups in the country.
Attacks against security forces and civilians continued in Sahel region in north. Unidentified gunmen 4 July killed customs officer near Sebba city. Unidentified gunmen early July killed presumed member of local self-defence group near Djibo village, Soum province. Unidentified gunmen 17 July killed two people, including chief of Hocoulourou village, Soum province after abducting them two weeks earlier. In East region, unidentified gunmen 23 July attacked gendarmerie in Matiakoali, wounding gendarme; 24 July killed two civilians in nearby Kpendima village. Army 18 July said 60 people had been arrested since 8 July in counter-terrorism operation in north. Burkina Faso and Niger mid-July said they had created framework for concerted action against insecurity in border area. In trial of 84 people accused of planning 2015 attempted coup, army officer Moussa Nébié 6 July admitted he had arrested then President Kafando, but denied this constituted coup.
Govt 5 July began collecting contributions from citizens to pay for elections in 2020; trade unions criticised multiple contributions demanded by govt. Tensions rose at University of Burundi: police and student members of Imbonerakure (ruling party’s youth wing) 2 July arrested three student members of Agathon Rwasa-led branch of opposition National Forces of Liberation; tracts threatening students who were resisting joining ruling party found at university 9 July. European Parliament 5 July adopted resolution heavily critical of govt actions and calling for halt to Burundian participation in African Union’s and UN peacekeeping operations. Tensions rose between Burundi and Rwanda following several cross-border attacks in southern Rwanda: unidentified armed group from Burundi 1 July raided Cyamuzi village in southern Rwanda near Burundi border, attack follows two similar raids in June; Rwandan President Kagame 13 July asserted army’s readiness to fight off any attack.
Anglophone conflict spread to new areas including Buea, capital of Southwest region, as Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Far North. Anglophone separatist militants carried out attacks almost daily in Southwest and Northwest regions, primarily on security forces and other state representatives, and for first time in Buea and Limbe, both Southwest, while military continued to attack militants and civilians. Religious authorities 25 July said they would convene Anglophone General Conference 29-30 Aug in Buea to agree on issues to address in national dialogue on Anglophone crisis. Major violent incidents include the following: separatist militants 8-9 July killed police commissioner in Kumba, Southwest and police officer in Buea; militants 12 July twice attacked convoy of minister-delegate for defence on Kumba-Mbongue road, military accompanying convoy killed six militants; militants 20 July burned teacher training college in Ndop, Northwest; militants 27 July killed traditional chief of Lysoka, Southwest; militants 28 July burned Ndop prison, Northwest, freeing dozens of prisoners; security forces and armed separatists clashed in Buea 30 July, four civilians killed. In Far North, BH militants continued attacks on civilians particularly near border with Nigeria, killing at least seventeen, and clashed with military. Govt 15 July reportedly arrested four soldiers suspected of appearing in video circulated in June that shows uniformed men killing two women and their children on grounds that women are BH militants. Govt had previously denied that video was recorded in Cameroon. President Biya 9 July set 7 Oct as date for presidential elections. Twenty opposition parties (“G20”) 20 July declared their support for Biya.
Armed groups in provinces continued to carry out attacks on each other, civilians, humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers. Clashes erupted 11 July between ex-Seleka and anti-balaka militias close to displaced persons’ camp in Bria in centre, UN mission (MINUSCA) managed to stop fighting. Armed men 5 July entered Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) base in Bria, stealing medical equipment and causing MSF to suspend activities; armed men robbed MSF staff residence in Kabo in north night of 15-16 July. MINUSCA 3 July confirmed violence targeting humanitarian workers has increased, with 143 cases reported in 2018. Anti-balaka militants 17 July attacked Pombolo village, Mbomou province in south east, injuring three MINUSCA peacekeepers who intervened, and 27 July attacked MINUSCA convoy 10km from Gambo on road to Pombolo, Mbomou province, injuring two peacekeepers. Unidentified assailants killed three Russian journalists near Sibut in centre night of 30-31 July. New movement known as Central African Republic’s Church Defence League emerged early July, denounced Church and govt for failing to protect priests and declared intent to avenge deaths; Central African bishops 13 July said they did not recognise group. Russia 12 July attempted to hold meeting between govt and armed groups in Sudanese capital, Khartoum, but was unsuccessful. Govt and donors 4-5 July held roundtable in Bangui to examine structure and use of army, currently only present in five cities while armed groups are present in 80% of country; govt plans include creation of four defence zones, increasing number of soldiers and police and creating garrison army stationed outside capital Bangui. Ex-Seleka commander Ahamat Markani sentenced 19 July to life of forced labour for crimes committed in capital Bangui in Sept 2015.
Boko Haram militants 19 July attacked village near Niger border, killing eighteen people and abducting ten women. Widespread social discontent continued as allowances withheld since Jan remained unpaid. President Déby met with head of Libya’s Presidency Council 25 July and agreed to cooperate on border security to combat terrorism and smuggling operations.
In constitutional referendum 30 July, 90% voted in favour of changes that would extend presidential terms and stop rotation of presidency among three main islands. Opposition boycotted vote and observers questioned its legitimacy. In lead-up, govt cracked down on dissent, and general strike held in Moroni on Grande Comore island. State media reported voting largely peaceful; two ballot boxes destroyed and policeman injured in Hankounou district of Moroni. Assailants 22 July attempted to assassinate Vice President Abdou.
Tensions rose within ruling coalition between President Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans (RDR) and former President Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) over merger of all six coalition members into one party ahead of 2020 presidential election; PDCI continued to insist that it should be able to choose new party’s presidential candidate. Ouattara 4 July dissolved govt, 10 July appointed new largely unchanged govt without consulting PDCI. Ouattara 16 July chaired new party’s constitutive assembly without PDCI. PDCI 20 July said it had expelled party members who had been appointed to new cabinet. Machete attack during general assembly of Rally for Côte d’Ivoire (RACI) close to Assembly Speaker Guillaume Soro in Korhogo in north 7 July killed party supporter. Govt 18 July said local and regional elections would take place 13 Oct.
President Kabila 19 July reaffirmed his commitment to respect the constitution, but remained vague on whether he intended to stand in Dec elections; according to electoral timetable, presidential candidates must register by 8 Aug. Major opposition parties 23 July jointly called for cleaning of voter list, cancellation of plans to use voting machines, confidence-building measures as outlined in Dec 2016 Saint Sylvester agreement and replacement of representative from opposition party Union for Democracy and Social Progress in electoral commission council. Opposition and ruling majority began talks on voter list. Opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) 13 July said it had chosen party leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, acquitted by International Criminal Court in June, as presidential candidate. MLC extended Bemba’s presidency of party for five years. Bemba returned to DR Congo 1 Aug. Ruling majority expressed doubt that Bemba was legally allowed run for presidency. Platform of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi 30 July said Katumbi would return to DR Congo 3 Aug. Electoral commission 24 June-13 July registered candidates for provincial elections and 26 July published provisional list of over 18,000 candidates for 715 seats. Govt reshuffled command positions in army 14 and 24 July. In first reshuffle, Gen John Numbi was appointed inspector general of armed forces and Lt Gen Amisi Kumba Gabriel was appointed deputy chief of staff; both have been sanctioned by international partners for involvement in human rights violations. Govt cancelled visits by UN sec-gen and U.S. ambassador to UN scheduled for July. Kabila reportedly also cancelled his visit to Angola planned for late July. Navies of DR Congo and Uganda 7 July exchanged fire on Lake Edward, which straddles disputed border, one Ugandan soldier killed. DR Congo 11 July accused Ugandan military of shooting dead twelve Congolese fishermen and arresting about 100 others. Congolese delegation visited Uganda late month to discuss issues over lake. Uganda 28 July said it had sentenced 35 Congolese to up to three years for illegal fishing. Govt 24 July declared over Ebola outbreak that killed 33 people.
Govt mid-July asked UN Sec-Gen Guterres to work with Security Council to mediate peaceful settlement of border dispute with Eritrea, said Eritrean troops still occupy Djiboutian territory.
Govt took further steps to make peace with Ethiopia paving way for further consolidation in Aug. During visit of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy to Eritrean capital, Asmara 9 July, he and President Afwerki agreed to end “state of war” between countries. Afwerki visited Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa 14-16 July and reopened Eritrean embassy. Countries restored telephone connections and Ethiopian Airlines 18 July resumed flights to Eritrea. Afwerki 23 July met Saudi King Salman in Jeddah. Next day Afwerki and Abiy in United Arab Emirates thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan for role in fostering peace between two countries; Prince Mohammed awarded both leaders highest civilian honour for ending war. Somali President Farmajo met Afwerki in Asmara 28 July; presidents said in joint statement that two countries would establish diplomatic relations and promote bilateral trade and investment. Djibouti mid-July asked UN Sec-Gen Guterres to work with Security Council to mediate peaceful settlement of its border dispute with Eritrea, said Eritrean troops still occupy Djiboutian territory.
PM Abiy took further steps to make peace with Eritrea paving way for further consolidation in Aug, and made progress in combatting repression and abuses by state forces domestically. During Abiy’s landmark visit to Eritrean capital, Asmara 9 July, he and Eritrean President Afwerki agreed to end “state of war” between countries. Afwerki visited Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa 14-16 July and reopened Eritrean embassy. Countries restored telephone connections and Ethiopian Airlines 18 July resumed flights to Eritrea. Abiy and Afwerki in United Arab Emirates 24 July thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan for role in fostering peace between two countries; Prince Mohammed awarded both leaders highest civilian honour for ending war. Govt 5 July removed from list of terrorist organisations three rebel groups (Oromo Liberation Front, Ogaden National Liberation Front and Ginbot 7) and opened access to over 200 previously banned websites. Same day senior prison officials were fired for failing to protect prisoners’ rights. Authorities 11 July released political prisoners from Jijiga prison in Somali region in east after Somali regional state President Abdi Iley admitted his forces had committed abuses. Parliament 20 July passed law granting amnesty to former political prisoners. Project manager of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam being built on Nile, Simegnew Bekele, found shot dead in his car in centre of Addis Ababa 26 July, hundreds immediately protested in Addis and his hometown Gondar in north west demanding justice.
Govt 19 July condemned former President Jammeh’s pledge in leaked phone call to return from exile in Equatorial Guinea, said comments were “shocking and subversive”. President Barrow 9 July swore in new Vice President Darboe along with eight ministers. Barrow 5 July swore in members of commission to investigate killing of three anti-mining protesters in Faraba Banta village, about 50km south of capital Banjul in June.
Almost daily demonstrations and general strikes took place in several cities throughout month after govt increased fuel price from CFA8,000 ($0.88) to CFA10,000 ($1.10) per litre 1 July; protesters clashed with police on serval occasions. Unidentified gunmen 8 July fired shots in Dara Labé area in north, seven people wounded. Parliament 5 July passed law reorganising electoral commission, reducing members from 25 to seventeen.
Public radio and television employees 17 July started three-day strike, joining ongoing civil servants’ protest movement to demand better salaries and working conditions.
As dry season sets in, rate of armed conflicts over natural resources, especially pasture and water, picked up in north. Armed ethnic Turkana herders clashed with security forces in Isiolo county; Turkana herders exchanged fire with police trying to recover stolen livestock near Isiolo-Marsabit road 14 July. Local residents in Turkana county in north blockaded camp of oil company Tullow Oil from 27 June demanding deployment of more security forces in area to combat cattle poaching and citing grievances over jobs, blockade interrupted Tullow’s trucking of oil to coast. Al-Shabaab militants 10 July attacked police station at Hamey, Garissa county near border with Somalia, reportedly injuring four officers, and damaged nearby telecommunications mast. Security forces continued operations against Al-Shabaab in Boni forest, Lamu county. Al-Shabaab ambushed police vehicle on Lamu-Mombasa road in Milihoi, Lamu county 26 July, killing one police officer, another three went missing.
Amid rise in violence, especially in centre and north, presidential elections took place 29 July with armed groups preventing voting in some places. Govt said armed attackers forced closure of 644 out of about 23,000 polling stations, about 3%. Before publication of official results, President Keita 30 July claimed to be in lead, same day party of rival Soumaïla Cissé said he had won enough votes to face Keita in run-off. Party of Aliou Diallo 31 July said he had come second and would face Keita in second round. In Timbuktu in north, Arab community protested against insecurity and clashed with security forces 25 July; next day Arabs and Tuaregs clashed with black community. In Mopti region in centre, intercommunal clashes between ethnic Dogon and Fulani self-defence groups continued, seventeen reportedly killed in Somena village 25 July. Situation worsened by alleged abuses and arbitrary executions by govt forces (FAMA). FAMA 9 July burnt 300 motorcycles reportedly belonging to Dogon combatants. Dogon militia “Dan Nan Ambassagou” then breached unilateral ceasefire they had declared 2 July saying it would fight all state representatives ahead of 29 July vote. Suspected jihadist attacks on national, regional and international forces and on civilians continued in several regions. Notable incidents include: in Gao region in north, ambush 1 July targeting French Barkhane convoy near Bourem town, left four civilians dead. Al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Muslims and Islam claimed mortar attack on Aguelhok, Kidal region 29 July causing pause in voting. In centre, explosive device killed three soldiers and separately assailants ambushed govt soldiers killing two, both incidents 11 July in Mopti region; jihadist militants 22 July ambushed army patrol in Soumouni forest in Ségou region, soldier and eleven assailants killed; suspected jihadists 31 July ambushed security patrol in Ségou region, at least four soldiers and eight assailants killed. In Ménaka region in east, armed individuals 15 July killed at least ten civilians in Injagalane village. In Koulikoro region in west, armed individuals 4 July killed two gendarmes.
In far north, suspected Islamist militants reduced rate of attacks as security forces increased presence. In Cabo Delgado province, militants 7 July beheaded four men and burned five houses in Macanga area; 10 July killed two and burned houses in Quisingule village. President Nyusi and leader of opposition Renamo party, Ossufo Momade, 11 July jointly announced that Renamo would disarm, condition set by ruling Frelimo party in June for holding of Oct local elections; Nyusi said parties would sign formal agreement to integrate Renamo fighters into police and defence force. Parliament 20 July passed electoral reforms in accordance with agreement between govt and Renamo to decentralise power.
Suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants continued attacks in Diffa region in south east. Suspected BH 1 July attacked military position in Bla Brin village in Lake Chad area, killing six soldiers. BH militants 19-20 July attacked military post in Baroua village near border with Nigeria, killing soldier, ten BH also killed. High Court in capital Niamey 24 July handed three-month suspended prison sentences to several prominent civil rights activists detained since March on charges of unauthorised public gathering; activists released same day.
Boko Haram (BH) maintained attacks on military and civilians in north east, herder-farmer violence continued in centre and banditry persisted in north west, as major faction pulled out of ruling party and allied with opposition ahead of 2019 general elections. In north east, BH continued attacks in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states despite military’s claimed gains against it. Notably, in Borno state, BH ambushed army convoy near Bama 13 July, with at least 23 soldiers missing or killed. BH killed six traders at Mussini village 17 July; killed at least 27 people near Gajibo village 18 July; at least seven in suicide attack at mosque in Konduga 23 July; 26 July attacked military in Jakana, at least thirteen killed including seven insurgents, four soldiers and two policemen. In Yobe state, BH attacked military base in Jilli 14 July, with scores of soldiers killed or missing after attack; army 22 July said troops had repelled BH attack on patrol at Sasawa village, several insurgents and troops killed. In Adamawa state, BH 10 July killed five civilians in Luru town. Special court in Kainji, Niger state 9-10 July sentenced 113 suspected BH to jail for involvement in terrorism, and dismissed cases against 111 other suspects for lack of evidence. Herder-farmer violence continued with at least four people killed in Plateau state, 24 in Taraba state and six in Adamawa state. Violence related to cattle rustling and banditry continued in north west, with at least 90 killed in Zamfara and Sokoto states. Armed bandits 9-10 July attacked several villages in Rabah area of Sokoto state, killing 39. Suspected armed bandits 17-19 July killed at least 30 people in attacks on five villages of Gidan Goga district, Zamfara state. Suspected armed bandits 24 July killed at least twenty people in attack on Kwaddi village, Zamfara state, and displaced over 12,000. Armed attacks on police spiked nationwide with at least 25 policemen killed, including nine in two attacks in or near capital Abuja 1-2 July. Political factions stepped up positioning ahead of 2019 elections. Major faction withdrew from ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party 4 July condemning govt’s alleged incompetence and, calling itself Reformed APC, 9 July formed coalition with opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and 38 other parties, resolving to field common presidential candidate. Benue state governor and over 40 federal legislators defected from ruling APC to opposition PDP.
Tensions rose between Rwanda and Burundi following several cross-border attacks in south: unidentified armed group from Burundi 1 July raided Cyamuzi village in southern Rwanda near Burundi border, attack follows two similar raids in June; Rwandan President Kagame 13 July asserted army’s readiness to fight off any attack.
Al-Shabaab escalated attacks and resumed bombings in capital Mogadishu after more than month-long lull. In Mogadishu, roadside bombing injured seven people 2 July; car bombings and gunfire at interior ministry 7 July and at hotel 14 July killed nine and three civilians respectively; over fourteen security officials arrested 9 July in connection with first attack. In Galmudug region in centre, local clan militias fought Al-Shabaab militants trying to forcibly recruit their children in Caad town, near Haradheere 4 July, at least seventeen people killed; in retribution Al-Shabaab 19 July stole herders’ livestock. In Puntland region in north, Al-Shabaab captured Af Urur town 20 July meeting little resistance from Puntland forces. In Lower Shabelle region in south, Al-Shabaab claimed roadside bombing that killed former district commissioner 7 July. Also in south, Al-Shabaab 23 July attacked army base at Baar Sanguni, about 50km from Kismayo, Jubaland region killing at least six soldiers. Fighting between semi-autonomous Puntland region in north and neighbouring Somaliland over disputed territories abated, but confrontation continued; elders from Somaliland 16 July visited Garowe in Puntland to discuss ceasefire options, but Puntland rejected elders’ conditions. Joint peace mission from regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and UN met with Puntland President Abdiweli Gaas in Garowe and Somaliland President Muse Bihi in Hargeisa 28-30 July, both sides agreed to work toward peaceful solution. Authorities of Jubaland federal state prevented newly appointed general from landing at Kismayo airport 12 July, accusing federal govt of breaching security pact by appointing general without consulting federal state leader. At second Somalia Partnership Forum, organised by EU, Sweden and Somalia govt in Brussels 16-17 July, donors pledged €1.2bn for country’s recovery to be channelled through federal budget. President Farmajo met Eritrean President Afwerki in Eritrean capital Asmara 28 July; presidents said in joint statement that two countries would establish diplomatic relations and promote bilateral trade and investment.
Fighting between Somaliland forces and Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region over disputed territories abated, but confrontation continued; elders from Somaliland 16 July visited Garowe in Puntland to discuss ceasefire options, but Puntland rejected elders’ conditions. Somaliland govt 17 July said elders did not represent govt and that it was committed to protecting its borders. Joint peace mission from regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and UN met with Puntland President Abdiweli Gaas in Garowe and Somaliland President Muse Bihi in Hargeisa 28-30 July, both sides agreed to work toward peaceful solution.
Following signing of framework agreement in June, govt and main rebel group signed further security and power-sharing agreements, creating opportunity for leaders to reduce fighting in Aug; other rebel groups raised objections to political deal and violence continued despite ceasefire. Govt and rebel representatives in Sudanese capital, Khartoum 6 July signed agreement on security arrangements that aimed at moving forces out of population centres, unifying and reorganising military, setting up joint security committee, and deciding where to base forces. Presidency said President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar had agreed on peace plan 8 July in Entebbe, Uganda that would see Machar reinstated as first vice president (VP), alongside three other VPs, but faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) allied to Machar 9 July rejected plan, saying rebels should hold two VP positions. Govt and SPLM-IO signed power-sharing agreement in Khartoum 25 July that envisages Machar as VP alongside four others and 35-member govt; twenty ministers from current govt, nine from SPLM-IO and six from other opposition groups. Other opposition groups said deal had shortfalls and lacked clarity on future of legislature. Parliament 12 July passed govt-proposed bill to extend Kiir’s term until 2021, SPLM-IO had called move illegal. UN Security Council 13 July passed U.S.-drafted resolution imposing arms embargo on S Sudan. Govt and rebel forces accused each other of violating ceasefire that came into effect 30 June: fighting 2 July at Maban in former Upper Nile state in far north east reportedly left eighteen civilians dead; fighting also erupted near Wau, former Western Bahr al-Ghazal state in west 20 July. Unidentified gunmen 4 July attacked humanitarian convoy near Mangalla, north of capital Juba, killing one man.
Govt 12 July said it had extended unilateral ceasefire with rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states until end of year. Egyptian President Sisi visited Khartoum 19-20 July in bid to strengthen bilateral relations. Opposition National Umma Party 1 July said Egyptian authorities had denied its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi re-entry into Egypt, where he had been living in self-imposed exile.
Navies of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo exchanged fire on Lake Edward, which straddles disputed border, 7 July leaving one Ugandan soldier dead. DR Congo 11 July accused Ugandan military of that day shooting dead twelve Congolese fishermen and arresting about 100 others; Congolese delegation visited Uganda late month reportedly to discuss issues over lake. Uganda 28 July said it had sentenced 35 Congolese to up to three years for illegal fishing.
First presidential, parliamentary and local elections since ouster of former President Mugabe held largely peacefully 30 July, results expected early Aug; if main contenders – President Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa – and citizens accept credible results, vote could lay foundation for country’s recovery from misrule, if losers reject results, violence is likely. On voting day, turnout was high at 75%. Chamisa 31 July accused Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of delaying presidential results to favour ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). ZEC reported both Mnangagwa and Chamisa to police for violating electoral law by issuing press statements in 24 hours before polls. Mugabe 29 July rejected Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF and endorsed Chamisa of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance; in response Mnangagwa said vote for Chamisa was vote to bring back Mugabe. About 600 international observers monitored vote. Defence forces 4 July vowed to remain neutral. Afrobarometer survey released 20 July found that over 40% of population feared election-related intimidation, violence and military intervention, while over 30% distrusted ZEC due to history of bias toward ZANU-PF. Police 25 July refused to allow opposition protest against ZEC; Chamisa same day accused ZEC of bias, but said MDC would not boycott vote. Govt from 1 July raised civil servant wages by 17.5% and allowances to security force personnel. Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 24 July commended open political rallies and presence of human rights organisations, but expressed concern at increasing reports of “voter intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and coercion, including people being forced to attend political rallies”.
Post-ceasefire resumption of violence continued; NATO 20 July reported Afghan national army (ANDSF) conducted more than 90 post-ceasefire operations, with 1,700 insurgents killed or injured; period also saw sharp uptick in civilian casualties caused by ANDSF and U.S. forces, with worst-hit provinces including Badghis (west), Farah (west), Faryab (north) and Ghazni (south). Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) suffered significant setbacks late June-early July from Taliban offensives in Laghman and Kunar provinces (east), and Jawzjan province (north), where local officials reported more than 250 killed on both sides during two weeks of fighting. Taliban reportedly captured territory from IS-KP in Darzab and Qush Tepa districts throughout July. U.S. military 7 July reported joint U.S.-ANDSF operations had retaken Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, from IS-KP. IS-KP continued attacks, with dozens killed, mostly civilians, in several suicide bombings in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province (east), and at least ten killed in suicide attack on govt ministry in Kabul 16 July. During two-day international conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 10 July, nearly 200 religious scholars called for Taliban to end insurgency and accept govt’s peace offer, issuing statement labelling ongoing bloodshed “religiously illegitimate” and conferring religious legitimacy to govt; Taliban condemned declaration. U.S. Sec of State Pompeo 9 July paid unannounced visit to President Ghani in Kabul, reiterated support for peace process; New York Times 16 July cited “senior American and Afghan officials” as saying U.S. President Trump was now seeking direct talks with Taliban. International media late July reported that direct informal talks took place between Taliban negotiators and senior U.S. diplomats in Doha, Qatar; both sides described meetings as positive. Special forces 2 July arrested militia commander and close ally of VP Abdul Rashid Dostum, Nizamuddin Qaysari, in Faryab province (north), resulting in clash with his supporters and death of four of his guards; arrests prompted protests in several northern provinces, subsiding after Dostum returned from exile in Turkey 22 July. UN mission 15 July said more civilians killed – 1,692 – in first six months of 2018 than any comparable period over past decade.
Ruling Awami League (AL) continued anti-narcotics drive with over 202 killed since May, some allegedly in staged police encounters by end of July. Opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) 20 July held rally in Dhaka demanding immediate release of its jailed leader Khaleda Zia, which it says is a condition for its participation in Dec parliamentary elections, also threatening to hold protests elsewhere in country. Supreme Court 2 July upheld its decision to reject High Court’s granting of bail for Zia (in March) in murder case from Feb 2015. Visiting Bangladesh at start of July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and World Bank President Jim Kim 1 July praised country for accepting Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in meeting with PM Hasina; 2 July visited refugees and humanitarian workers in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh and UN late June began formal registration of refugees aimed at facilitating reparation, stressing any returns would be safe and voluntary. Home Minister Asaduzzaman 11 July said registration process was completed and registration of children born in camps was ongoing; data to be ready by Nov and shared with Myanmar. UN investigators ending fact-finding mission in Cox’s Bazar camps 19 July noted that Rohingya refugees continue to arrive in Bangladesh from Myanmar, many reporting violence and persecution.
PM Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won all 125 seats in 29 July general election marked by voter intimidation and manipulation. Final vote count expected 15 Aug. Twenty parties registered to compete, but govt dissolved main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Nov 2017. UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith 20 July expressed concern over reports of voter intimidation, particularly statements by officials that abstaining from vote is illegal, and threats to withhold services from communities that do not support CPP. White House released statement declaring election “neither free nor fair”, and Australia expressed “disappointment that Cambodian people have been unable to freely choose their representatives”.
People’s Daily reported that authorities in Xinjiang had relocated 461,000 residents to work in other parts of region during first quarter of 2018, with plans to relocate 100,000 in southern Xinjiang by 2019. Scholar at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told Global Times that relocation will help maintain regional security and alleviate poverty; some observers cite move as part of campaign to weaken Uighur culture.
Following May visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Japan, Chinese foreign ministry 5 July announced invitation to Japanese PM Abe to visit Beijing later in 2018, ahead of planned visit by Chinese President Xi to Tokyo in 2019 for G20 summit. Li 24 July called for healthy, stable ties between China and Japan in meeting with speaker of Japanese parliament in Beijing. Japan reported it scrambled fighter jets 27 July to intercept Chinese Y-9 electronic surveillance aircraft over Sea of Japan.
In Jharkhand state, encounter between security forces and Maoist rebels 11 July left one officer dead. In Chhattisgarh state, suspected Maoist rebels 15 July killed two security forces in Kanker district; eight suspected Maoist rebels, including four women, killed 19 July in large-scale police operation in nearby Bijapur district.
Fall of Kashmir’s three-year-old coalition govt and New Delhi’s imposition of “governor’s rule” direct control in June continued to fuel unrest. In Hawoora Mishipora village, Kulgam district (west), paramilitary forces 7 July killed three protesters when clashes erupted after demonstrators, protesting alleged army beatings of villagers earlier that day, threw rocks at army patrol; govt temporarily suspended mobile services to prevent organisation of further protests. Separatists 7-8 July held strikes in south Kashmir, closing shops, schools and businesses. Army 11 July fired on youths throwing stones at patrol in Trehgam, Kupwara district (north west), killing one. Militants abducted and killed two policemen during month, in Shopian (west) district 6 July and in Kulgam 20 July; security forces 22 July claimed to have killed three men responsible for second attack, one allegedly from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and others from Hizbul Mujahideen, in operation in Kulgam. Suspected LeT militant killed in clashes with security forces in Handwara, Kupwara district 20 July. Security forces 25 July claimed to have killed two LeT militants in gunfight in Anantnag (south).
United Liberation Movement for West Papua reported that security operation in West Papua’s Nduga agency had conducted aerial campaign in pursuit of pro-independence fighters who claimed responsibility for late June attack on police at local airport; said operation resulted in several casualties and thousands displaced; military said reports of airstrikes and bombings were a hoax, and that it was working with police in “law enforcement activities” in Alguru in Nduga. Amnesty International 2 July said that security forces have committed almost 100 extrajudicial killings in Papua and West Papua since 2010, mainly in context of “unnecessary or excessive use of force during mass protests, during law enforcement operations or due to misconduct by individual officials”, and almost no accountability. Police chief mid-July said police had arrested almost 200 terror suspects and killed twenty who were resisting arrest since mid-May Surabaya attacks; early July told media police had foiled over 500 terror plots since 2012. Jakarta court 31 July banned Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group, blamed for Surabaya attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang 5-7 July for follow-up discussions after 12 June U.S.-DPRK Singapore summit; described talks as “productive” and “good-faith negotiations”, however North Korea released statement denouncing “unilateral and gangster-like [U.S.] demand for denuclearisation”, saying U.S. stance runs “against spirit” of Singapore summit, while saying that leader Kim Jong-un nevertheless wants to build on “friendly relationship and trust” forged with President Trump in Singapore. U.S. intelligence official 31 July told Reuters about further evidence of increased North Korean ballistic missile production activity, citing images showing trucks activity at Sanumdong factory. U.S. and North Korean officials 16 July met to coordinate repatriation of 50-55 sets of remains of U.S. servicemen killed in Korean War; repatriations took place 27 July. North Korea and South Korea resumed ship-to-ship radio communication links 1 July, ten years after their unilateral suspension by Seoul, which said move represents bid to defuse military tensions and prevent violent confrontation, especially around contested islands in Yellow (West) Sea. Koreas 17 July fully restored military communications line in western part of peninsula, suspended since early 2016 closure of Kaesong Industrial Complex. South Korea 10 July announced suspension of large-scale annual civil defence drills and independent military exercises, saying it plans to develop new drills to prepare for armed attacks “from outside as well as terrorism”; also affirmed intention that U.S. troops should remain in South Korea. South Korean defence ministry 24 July announced plan to gradually reduce troop numbers along demilitarised zone. Month saw further inter-Korean good-will gestures of sports engagements. South Korean workers travelled to Kaesong, North Korea, mid-July to repair facilities to be used for inter-Korean joint liaison office, as agreed during April inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom. China and North Korea 11 July celebrated 57th anniversary of DPRK-China Treaty of Friendship, which compels the two countries to defend one another in event of attack. China and Russia 20 July reportedly blocked U.S. request made at UN Security Council to stop oil transfers to North Korea.
EU 16 July warned it could adopt sanctions, including travel ban and assets freeze, on those responsible for human rights violations since Feb imposition of state of emergency and arrest of political opponents.
Amid continued occasional clashes between military and ethnic armed groups in Kachin and North Shan states, third “Panglong-21” Union Peace Conference was held in Naypyitaw 11-16 July. For first time, all ethnic armed groups attended, including those without ceasefires. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and commander in chief both struck slightly more conciliatory tone, but did not offer any major new concessions; conference outcome seen as not particularly substantive, no discussion of security sector and constitutional change. Govt reaffirmed intention to complete peace process by 2020 elections. Outgoing UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein gave strongly worded update on Rohingya human rights situation at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva 4 July, stating that, “people are still fleeing persecution in Rakhine”; member states expressed increased focus on accountability measures. UN Secretary-General António Guterres and World Bank President Jim Kim visited Bangladesh early July, including Rohingya camps; Guterres called for greater funding to support Rohingya and host communities, and for Myanmar to create conditions suitable for return. Bangladesh home minister 11 July said that Bangladesh and UN had completed process of formally registering Rohingya refugees, aimed at facilitating repatriation, registration of children born in camps ongoing. Following fact-finding mission to camps, UN investigators 19 July reported continued refugee influx, with violence and persecution ongoing. Leaked confidential memorandum of understanding between govt and UN on humanitarian and development assistance to northern Rakhine 29 June prompted criticism over lack of consultation with Rohingya refugees; failure to recognise the Rohingya identity; and denial of basic rights for Rohingya residents or returnees, including citizenship. Govt 30 July named two local and two international members of commission of inquiry into allegations of rights abuses in Rakhine state, which was announced in late May. Court 9 July decided to formally charge two Reuters journalists under Official Secrets Act over their reporting on massacre of Rohingya villagers perpetrated by security forces and local people; decision criticised by U.S., EU, and others.
Civil disobedience and concerns about the narrowing of political space dominated discussions between ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and opposition groups. Two simultaneous hunger strikes – by Dr Govinda KC, prominent doctor demanding medical sector reforms, and Ganga Maya Adhikari, demanding accountability for her son’s conflict-era killing in 2004 – created public pressure on govt. Opposition Nepali Congress (NC) and prominent civil society leaders subsequently criticised govt’s policy of restricting public protests to designated areas around country – first announced in April – as curtailing right to protest and contravening constitution. Supreme Court 6 July issued interim order to govt not to implement protest ban. NC 17 July announced nationwide protests to increase pressure against govt’s “totalitarian” decisions. UN Human Right Council experts 11 July claimed govt’s National Integrity Policy – aimed at monitoring and restricting NGO activity – could severely impinge on rights to free speech and association. Domestic activists and international organisations including Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists criticised draft legislation to amend 2014 transitional justice act for critical flaws; urged govt to reconstitute transitional justice mechanisms, ensure punishment proportionate to gravity of crimes, and undertake transparent consultative process with victims’ groups.
Deeply contested 25 July general election marred by high level of violence across country and allegations of fraud and vote-rigging; marking second time in country’s history that a civilian govt has transferred power to another civilian govt, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) won with 116 seats, emerging as largest party in National Assembly (lower house of parliament) but short of 137 required for an absolute majority. Former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 64 seats, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) 43. Losing parties claimed PTI was unfairly assisted by federal and provincial caretaker govts, military and electoral commission ahead of poll, including alleged clampdown on media and arrest of PML-N activists and restrictions on rallies. Parties also claim they were disadvantaged by court rulings against their leaders ahead of vote, including 6 July sentencing of PML-N leader and former PM Sharif to ten years’ imprisonment for corruption; and Supreme Court’s 9 July reopening of cases of suspicious financial transactions implicating PPP leader and former President Asif Ali Zardari. PTI dismissed claims as anti-Pakistan agenda. Judge 18 July criticised what he alleged was interference of intelligence agencies in affairs of judiciary in order to undermine election. Amid concerns over insecurity, electoral commission granted military unprecedented arresting powers and deployment of 371,000 troops – by far the largest ever for an election; concerns remain over risk of militant and extremist violence during post-election uncertainty. Death toll in attacks on candidates and supporters ahead of election and on polling day over 200, exceeding total for 2008 election; included second deadliest terror attack in Pakistan’s history in Mastung, Balochistan (south west) 13 July, killing at least 149; Islamic State (ISIS) claimed attack but security officials blamed sectarian extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. ISIS also claimed election day bomb killing 31 in Balochistan capital Quetta. Electoral commission allowed banned militant and new extreme groups to take part in election through political fronts and alliances; PPP’s Bhutto Zardari cautioned that extremists were being given space, however other front-line parties reportedly sought alliances with them. Other incidents of insecurity persisted, particularly in Balochistan.
President Duterte 26 July signed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which creates Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), implementing 2014 peace agreement between govt and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which ended 40-year conflict in Mindanao region. Senate and House earlier ratified BOL after bicameral conference committee approved final version 18 July. Bill provides for self-rule of entity, home to estimated five million Muslims, by 2022. BARMM to have more powers and cover bigger area than entity that it replaces: will have 80-member regional parliament which will select chief minister to head govt; will keep 75% of locally collected taxes and receive govt funds; manage natural resources; and incorporate Islamic law into regional justice system for cases exclusively involving Muslims. Central govt to retain control over police and military, MILF to lay down arms in phased approach and decommission its fighters, which leaders say number 30,000-40,000. First local elections to be held 2022; before then, Duterte will appoint 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). Martial law to remain in place in Mindanao until end of 2018 so that security forces can tackle Islamic State (ISIS)-linked groups. MILF leadership satisfied with BOL, which they said would help win back splinter rebel groups and make them less susceptible to ISIS-linked foreign groups. Regional referendum needed to ratify BOL anticipated for Oct; MILF began efforts to build support for BOL, including consultation at main MILF camp in Maguindanao province 29 July reportedly attended by tens of thousands of MILF members. MILF leaders visited national military HQ in Manila 12 July. Military retook town taken by ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao 4 July; military reported twelve BIFF killed in clashes in Maguindanao province 8 July. Army reported one soldier, five paramilitary troopers and four civilians killed by vehicle suicide bomb at checkpoint on southern island Basilan 31 July; ISIS claimed responsibility. Duterte 27 July offered to open talks with Abu Sayyaf rebel group; presidential spokesman said his remarks were calling for surrender. Amid stepped-up military offensive against communist New People’s Army in north late month, Duterte 26 July said he hoped govt and communist rebels would return to negotiating table.
Biennial U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises continued, scheduled to end 2 Aug, including some 25,000 personnel and 52 ships from 26 countries; China sent surveillance ship to monitor exercises. Vietnam’s participation for first time seen as significant sign of closer military relations with U.S. Department of Ocean and Fishery. China’s Hainan province 4 July released notice encouraging Chinese development of uninhabited islands in SCS; policy would particularly affect islands in Paracel archipelago, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. Reports emerged that Philippines govt is proposing new constitution that would make more explicit assertions of sovereignty over areas in SCS, which Manila calls West Philippine Sea. ASEAN and Chinese officials late June discussed proposed code of conduct (CoC) in meeting on implementation of 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the SCS, agreeing on a single draft CoC negotiating text and to move ahead with consultations to produce a unified draft document. Australia and UK 20 July discussed plans to send British aircraft carrier to Pacific and undertake joint naval operations to reassert international “norms and conventions”.
Amid ongoing govt divisions, political discourse continued to be dominated by extreme and violent statements from Sinhala and Tamil nationalists. United National Party parliamentarian Vijayakala Maheswaran 5 July resigned as state minister for child affairs following widespread criticism of 2 July speech in which she said return of LTTE (“Tamil Tigers”) was necessary “if we want to walk freely, if we need our children to attend schools and return back”, in wake of high-profile murder of northern Tamil child. PM 20 July condemned late June statement by Sinhala nationalist retired admiral calling for death penalty for alleged treasonous actions of chairperson of National Human Rights Commission. Controversy generated by late June New York Times article about Chinese govt companies’ control of strategically located but economically unproductive Hambantota port, particularly allegations of payment to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential election campaign in 2015, continued. PM Ranil Wickremesinghe promised to reopen criminal investigation into alleged campaign contribution, which company denied, while Rajapaksa-aligned legislators denounced story. Govt 17 July tabled in parliament bill to create office of reparations, which would be second of four key transitional justice institutions promised in Oct 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution; bill being challenged in Supreme Court. EU delegation and member states representatives, with Norwegian and Canadian ambassadors to Sri Lanka, issued 16 July statement requesting President Sirisena not to follow through on his 10 July decision to end 40-year moratorium on implementation of the death penalty.
Two U.S. warships sailed through Taiwan Strait 7 July; China next day accused U.S. of playing the “Taiwan card” to harm Chinese national interest; U.S. Navy said warships’ route “perfectly permissible”. Chinese navy 18-23 July conducted live-fire drill in East China Sea; China’s Global Times reported operation was over area “roughly the size of Taiwan” and designed to simulate real combat against Taiwan and show preparedness for conflict. Taiwan foreign ministry 26 July denounced Beijing’s efforts to stop private companies referring to Taiwan as separate country as “attempts to destroy Taiwan’s sovereignty”. Beijing 31 July said it had called on U.S. not to allow President Tsai to transit through U.S. en route to Latin America in Aug. Taiwan 17 July brought into service a second squadron of U.S.-supplied Apache AH-64E attack helicopters. Chinese President Xi 13 July met Lien Chan, former chair of Kuomintang party, in Beijing and urged more work on peaceful development of relations across Taiwan Strait and efforts toward peaceful reunification.
Amid ongoing violence in southern insurgency, series of five bombings targeting Buddhist-owned rubber plantations in Yala province 28 June-4 July wounded five, including in Krong Pinang district 2 July and Muang district 4 July. Villager shot dead at rubber plantation in Chanae district, Songkhla province 14 July. Motorcycle-borne gunmen shot dead policeman in Cho Airong district, Narathiwat, 10 July. Dialogue process between Bangkok and MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council) remains on hold pending decision by new Malaysian govt on its role as facilitator. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 27 June said another meeting with political parties would be held in Sept to discuss long-delayed national poll; commented that “national reconciliation” and stability must be achieved before general election; and dismissed as groundless speculation that he would compete for elected office. National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s hand-picked National Assembly 9 July unanimously approved twenty-year national strategy, including sanctions designed to prevent future civilian govts from revoking it, ruling that they must comply with strategy and stating that political parties are prohibited from advocating policies at odds with strategy; regime’s appointed Senate will ensure compliance, together with National Strategy Commission, which will include all military service chiefs.
New govt of PM Pashinyan, who continues to enjoy high popularity levels, arrested more former govt officials and their relatives, including launch of investigations into former President Sargsyan’s brother, nephew and niece, reportedly charged with conducting illegal business activities. Armenia’s second President Robert Kocharyan sentenced 27 July to two-month pre-trial detention in court investigation into his involvement in crackdown on protesters in March 2008 that left ten dead; former ruling Republican Party and Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun party spoke about possible political motivation of investigation. Amid ongoing uncertainty over date for new parliamentary elections, speculation increased that they will be postponed until 2019, as parliamentarians continue to amend electoral code. Armenia took part in Russia-led military exercises “International Army Games” late July.
Turbulence in second-largest city Ganja after attacker 3 July shot city’s unpopular mayor, seriously wounding him; police detained suspect identified as Russian national Yunis Safarov, later described by authorities as belonging to a radical Islamist group. Estimated 150-200 people 10 July joined protest in Ganja city centre, interpreted by some opposition politicians and observers as show of anger against corruption; two policemen stabbed and killed as they were confronting demonstrators. Next day govt launched security operation detaining more than 100 people and arresting more than 60; one suspect in death of police officer was shot dead 13 July. Interior ministry 9 July reported fourteen people jailed for online comments about shooting and about nationwide power blackout 3 July. President Aliyev 13 July made statement blaming events in Ganja on “religious radicals”; Iran dismissed and criticised speculation by Azerbaijani politicians of Islamic extremists with links to Iran. Azerbaijan took part in Russia-led military exercises “International Army Games” late July.
Turkey 4 July approved appointment of Jane Holl Lute as new UN special envoy on Cyprus; Holl Lute met 23 July with Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı to discuss ways forward on possible new round of reunification talks. No substantial progress was reported. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met same day with Akıncı, later stated that Turkish Cypriots would accept no less than political equality. Greek FM Nikos Kotzias 3 July expressed Greece’s desire for treaty with Turkey on issues of security and guarantees before holding an international conference on Cyprus; Greek PM Tsipras 12 July broached topic with Turkish President Erdoğan on sidelines of NATO summit in Brussels, emphasising importance of restarting talks and establishing close contact between Greek and Turkish FMs in process. UN Security Council 26 July unanimously voted to renew UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)’s mandate for six months until 31 Jan 2019.
President Margvelashvili announced at 11-12 July NATO summit that Georgia was ready to join NATO. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg 18 July said Georgia had right to choose for itself whether to join NATO, said Russian pressure was “totally unacceptable”. De facto leader of Georgian breakaway republic South Ossetia visited Syria and met with President Assad 23 July, two months after Syria recognised South Ossetia’s independence.
President Nazarbayev 5 July signed decree, which came into force 12 July, making him head of Security Council for life, and changing body’s status from consultative to constitutional. U.S. officials visiting Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan 20-23 July met with representatives from all five Central Asian states for meetings under C5+1 format which includes economic and security cooperation.
EU-facilitated talks between Kosovo and Serbia 18 July ended without apparent progress on normalisation of relations. EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos 18 July confirmed that Kosovo met criteria for visa liberalisation, having ratified border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and “demonstrated full commitment in fighting corruption and organised crime”; commissioner voiced hope that Kosovo citizens would be able to travel to EU countries without visas by year-end. At London summit on Western Balkans 10 July, EU countries pledged to increase funding for region; participants discussed ways to improve security and regional cooperation.