The President's Take
In my second monthly column to accompany CrisisWatch, our unique conflict tracker, I look at how outside actors are now openly fighting not for Syria, but over it. I also note more bad news from Venezuela, and flag our upcoming report on how the outside world and regional governments can avert disaster there. Read more …
President & CEO
Eight conflict situations around the world deteriorated in June 2005, according to the new issue of CrisisWatch,* released today. In Zimbabwe the government's "Drive Out Rubbish" operation left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, further deepening the country's humanitarian crisis. Interethnic clashes killed 100 people in Cote d'Ivoire, and a planned disarmament process failed to begin on time. Violence intensified in southern Thailand, where at least 40 people, mostly civilians, were killed by suspected insurgents.
Somalia's deadly rift over where to base the new government continued to deepen, leaving dozens killed and thousands displaced, and threatening to derail the country's fragile peace. In Sudan, the Beja Congress launched an offensive in June, bringing violence to the east of the country. Security remained dire in Haiti, with large parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, ravaged by armed gangs and a dramatic increase in kidnappings. Fear and disenchantment increased in Lebanon as elections were plagued by a sharp rise in sectarianism and prominent activists were assassinated. In Israel and the Occupied Territories, a summit of Palestinian and Israeli leaders ended in disappointment, and the informal ceasefire continued to unravel.
Two conflict situations also showed improvement in June 2005. After several delays, Burundi began a series of votes marking the end of the transitional administration. In Sri Lanka an agreement on a joint aid distribution mechanism was finally signed six months after the tsunami in a deal that sparked hopes of improved cooperation between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government.
For July 2005, CrisisWatch identifies Somalia as a Conflict Risk Alert, or a situation at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. No new Conflict Resolution Opportunities were identified for July.
After several delays, Burundi began series of votes marking end of transitional administration. Former rebel group CNDD-FDD won 57% of vote in communal elections 3 June; parliamentary vote to be held 4 July. Members of President Ndayizeye’s FRODEBU party claimed CNDD-FDD intimidation; 2 FRODEBU candidates killed in northern Bujumbura grenade blast 18 June. Violence by last remaining rebel group - Hutu Forces nationales de libération (FNL) - disrupted Bujumbura voting but no major electoral irregularities reported. Government and FNL agreed to resume ceasefire talks following collapse of earlier 15 May ceasefire; 15 FNL fighters and 100 captured at month-end. UN Security Council passed resolution supporting formation of mixed Burundian truth commission with 3 international and 2 Burundian members to investigate crimes 1962-2000; separate court to try crimes committed between 1972 and 1993. UNHCR expressed concerns over forced repatriation of 5,000 Rwandan refugees fleeing “gacaca” courts.
President Bozizé formally inaugurated 11 June; African Union lifted sanctions imposed since 2003 overthrow by Bozizé of President Patasse. Disarmament of Bozizé supporters began Bangui. UNHCR said 8,500 refugees fled to Chad following fighting between army and unidentified militia in Ouham region.
Referendum on constitutional amendments passed allowing President Déby to stand in 2006 elections; opposition claimed vote rigged and called for protests. Continuing difficulties in eastern Chad; over 200,000 refugees from Darfur.
With electoral preparations significantly behind schedule, parliament voted to postpone planned 30 June election by 6 months at electoral commission’s request. Voter registration began Kinshasa 20 June. Opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS) called for boycott, claimed 24 killed in 30 June protests against postponement in Kinshasa, Tshikapa and Mbuji-Mayi. 4 killed in Mbuji-Mayi (UPDS stronghold) 25 June; further violence in Lubumbashi, Katanga province. Clashes in Ituri persisted: 1 Nepali peacekeeper killed, 2 Médecins sans frontières staff kidnapped; major MONUC cordon-and-search operations around Medu village displaced thousands. MONUC expressed concern over militia remobilisation and reports rebel forces uniting against UN. Fighting continued North Kivu: 3 Congolese soldiers killed, hundreds of civilians displaced in clashes between army and FDLR, Miriki village, north Goma; Indian peacekeeper killed, 2 others injured by stray gunfire north Goma. EU Special Representative Aldo Ajello announced possible logistical support for action by Congolese army against FDLR; FDLR split with deputy commander Jeribaal Amani claiming he had taken control.
Officials said Hutu rebels under 14 at time of 1994 genocide exempt from “gacaca” courts; up to 800,000 Hutus expected to face courts. UN and U.S. expressed concern over Burundi’s forced repatriation of 5,000 Rwandan refugees; both countries termed asylum seekers “illegal immigrants”.
At least 22 killed by police in Addis Ababa riots following May elections; both PM Zenawi and opposition EPRDF claimed victory with final results to be announced 8 July. National Elections Board and international observers began to investigate fraud allegations in 135 contested constituencies. Eritrea urged greater international pressure to resolve dispute over Badme town.
Rift over where to establish base of new government risked derailing fragile peace and return to major factional fighting. President Abdillahi Yusuf failed to take his designated capital, Baydhowa, late May. Yemen talks between president and parliamentary delegation led by Speaker Sharif Hassan broke down end June; PM Geedi warned force would be used against ministers and MPs who obstructed government plans. Speaker Hassan currently based Mogadishu with over 100 MPs. Yusuf, encouraged to leave Kenya, arrived Jowhar 13 June. Mohamed Dheere, warlord ally of president, accused rivals of preparing to attack Jowhar with Eritrean-backed Oromo militia. Over 20 killed and 7,000 displaced by inter-clan clashes in Bur Hache and surrounding areas, south Somalia. Further clan violence Beletweyne, south-central Somalia; 30 feared dead and hundreds displaced.
Ongoing political tension ahead of planned September 2005 parliamentary elections. Opposition threatened impeachment of President Dahir Rayale Kahin if victorious. Somaliland leaders meeting Los Angeles committed themselves to free and fair September elections.
Non-Arab Beja Congress launched offensive around Tokar, 120km south Port Sudan, 19 June, bringing violence to eastern Sudan. Sudanese government said Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Eritrea backing rebels. Government allegedly responded with air attacks in east. Beja Congress said would consider talks if government released prisoners and undertook independent investigation into January 2005 Port Sudan deaths. Separately, AU-backed Abuja talks between JEM and SLA rebels and Sudanese government began 10 June; talks deadlocked over basic principles, presence of Chadian mediators and rivalries within SLA and JEM. ICC announced investigations into Darfur crimes, prompting Khartoum response that Sudanese courts would deal with any allegations. Draft interim constitution based on Naivasha north-south peace accord agreed by multi- party constitutional commission 26 June; text remains to be approved by parliament and SPLM. Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of Umma opposition party, said would boycott power-sharing government due to begin July. Hassan al-Turabi, political rival of president, released from prison ahead of power-sharing. Earlier, 100 people killed in interethnic clashes in Duékoué - Forces Nouvelles insurgents and supporters of President Gbagbo blamed each other. Gbagbo undertook private visit to U.S.; attempt to meet U.S. Sec. State Condoleezza Rice rebuffed. 62 military jeeps found Abidjan port in potential violation of embargo in place since November 2004.
Mediation efforts with Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels stalled as sporadic violence and abductions continued in north: 2 killed in LRA attack on Agoro IDP camp, Kitgum district, while army claimed deaths of 6 rebels, including top LRA commander Colonel Opiro Anaka. President Museveni repeated clemency offer to LRA leader Joseph Kony should he surrender. Museveni said would campaign in favour of return to multi-party system in 28 July referendum. Meanwhile, constitutional amendment to allow Museveni to stand for 3rd term in 2006 easily passed first parliamentary stage.
Debate continued over preparations for September 2006 elections. President Dos Santos asked Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of electoral law.
Joint sitting of parliament approved first constitution since 1978; criticised by opposition as institutionalising royal rule; political party ban upheld.
Government “Murambatsvina” (“Drive Out Rubbish”) operation - ostensibly to clear urban slums - expanded; at least 300,000 left homeless, 32,000 arrested (though most subsequently released). U.S., EU condemned mass demolitions; UN appointed Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka Special Envoy for Human Settlement Issues in Zimbabwe, calling situation “new apartheid”; Tibaijuka met Mugabe 29 June. AU initially rejected calls to pressure Zimbabwe, but 29 June announced fact-finding mission by Special IDP Rapporteur in African Commission on Human Rights, Brahame Tom Nyanduga. Opposition-planned general strike failed 9 June: poor organisation and feared police response blamed. Parliament to consider nationalisation of most rural land.
Disarmament failed to begin by 27 June deadline set by May 2005 Pretoria accords; at further South African-mediated talks sides agreed to disarm by end-August and implement legal reforms; South Africa warned of sanctions should sides fail to comply. UN Security Council voted to expand UN force by 850 soldiers and 375 police 24 June. Earlier, 100 people killed in interethnic clashes in Duékoué - Forces Nouvelles insurgents and supporters of President Gbagbo blamed each other. Gbagbo undertook private visit to U.S.; attempt to meet U.S. Sec. State Condoleezza Rice rebuffed. 62 military jeeps found Abidjan port in potential violation of embargo in place since November 2004.
Tensions high amidst fears over President Lansana Conté’s succession and dire economy. Government approved private access to airwaves - yet to be approved by president.
Continuing unrest amongst ex-combatants, with reintegration programs underfunded by $10m; LURD ex- combatants occupying country’s second largest rubber plantation. Soldiers looted Barclay Training Centre 14 June and blocked defence minister Chea in ministry to protest salary arrears. New Liberian army - to be recruited and trained by U.S. DynCorp - expected to number 2,000 rather than original 4,000. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended broadening of UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). International criticism over corruption of transitional government: UNSC extended sanctions on diamond and timber exports and donors proposed economic governance action plan. Chairman Gyude Bryant signed Truth and Reconciliation Commission Bill 10 June, to cover events from 1979 to October 2003.
National political reform conference adopted distribution plan giving 17% of oil revenues to producing regions; Delta region representatives demanded at least 25%. Cameroon’s President Biya complained of 4 “incidents” in oil- rich Bakassi peninsula including killing of Cameroonian soldier by Nigerian troops; planned conference to discuss implementation of 2002 International Court of Justice border ruling not attended by Nigeria. U.S. (amongst others) shut Lagos mission 17 June - later reopened - citing terrorist threat.
No movement in Yenga dispute with Guinea; planned meeting between President Kabbah and Guinean PM Diallo not held. Rising discontent over inability of government to tackle corruption, improve economy and attract investment.
President Faure Gnassingbé rejected conditions of 5 opposition parties - not including Gilchrist Olympio’s UFC - for participation in coalition; appointed elder brother Kpatcha as defence minister and veteran “moderate” Edem Kodjo as PM.
Popular long-time civil servant Donald Tsang named new leader of Hong Kong.
Month saw series of promising but largely symbolic diplomatic exchanges - as yet no date fixed for resumption of nuclear negotiations. In first meeting with senior South Korean official in more than 3 years, North’s Kim Jong-il met Unification Minister Chung Dong-young as part of commemorations of 2000 inter-Korean summit 17 June. Pyongyang secured food aid from U.S. and South Korea, and made positive comments on resumption of 6-party talks but definitive statement on timing yet to emerge. Conflicting messages from White House, Pentagon, and State Dept. reinforced perception in North East Asia that Bush administration yet to agree on strategy. Democrat senators Biden, Levin, Reid, Rockefeller urged special envoy appointment and new diplomatic effort in strong letter to President Bush 23 June. China remained against coercive measures, including referring North Korea to UN Security Council.
Amid signs of worsening Sino-American relationship, U.S. Sec. Defense Rumsfeld said Chinese military build-up threatening Asian security. Pentagon said would supply Taiwan with sophisticated missile and air defence radar system. Taiwanese National Assembly approved significant constitutional amendments: any move towards independence must now be approved by referendum. New system expected to block any radical pro-independence policy shifts.
Military operations intensified with major U.S./Afghan offensive in Zabul province. Afghan forces claimed more than 100 Taliban killed. At least 38 suspected militants reported killed in earlier clashes with Afghan forces and U.S. air strike in southern Zabul and Helmand provinces. Taliban claimed to have downed U.S. military helicopter Kunar Province 28 June; 16 Americans confirmed dead in worst ever single loss for U.S. in Afghanistan. Attacks on Afghan police forces continued. President Hamid Karzai called for Pakistan to act against Taliban sheltering on its soil. As preparations for September parliamentary elections continued, NATO announced plans to deploy 3 additional battalions from Spain, Romania and The Netherlands; Spain already agreed to send 500 additional troops. Plot to assassinate (departing) U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad allegedly foiled at last minute; 3 Pakistani suspects arrested. Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni, kidnapped in May, released 9 June.
Human Rights Watch reported increase in attacks by religious extremists on Ahmadiyya minorities - blamed government for complicity in violence for failing to act against those responsible. 2 Ahmadiya mosques torched and bombed 24 June in southeastern district of Brahmanbaria.
Conflict with Naxalites and northeastern separatists continued unabated. At least 20 killed in Maoist attack on police station and state-run banks in Bihar state 24 June while 10 reportedly killed as villagers and Maoists clashed in eastern Chhattisgarh state. 12 states affected by leftist insurgencies reportedly agreed to form joint task force to facilitate intelligence sharing and planning among state security agencies (according to Home Ministry’s latest annual report, 76 districts in 9 states affected by leftist rebels). Strike called 23 June in India’s northeastern Manipur state over alleged killing of civilian by paramilitary Assam Rifles. 8 suspected members of banned United National Liberation Front and People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak reportedly killed in encounter with military in Manipur 22 June. India and U.S. signed 10-year agreement to strengthen defence ties 29 June.
Moderate faction of Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Conference alliance (APHC) indicated desire to resume talks with Indian government after 2 week visit to Pakistan and talks with President Pervez Musharraf. But signs of disagreement among APHC leaders and counterparts in Pakistan- administered Kashmir on province’s future. Violence continued: 23 killed in separate car bombs 13, 24 June; other incidents included killing of 3 civilians in their home 30 June. Pakistan and India concluded round of talks on dam dispute 29 June - to have high-level contact early July at Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kazakhstan (as observer nations).
Maoist attacks continued, killing at least 45 across Nepal. 7-party alliance led by former PM and Nepali Congress party President G. P. Koirala asked Maoists to give up violence and support their agenda for restoration of democracy: Maoist chief Prachanda said would no longer target civilians and political workers, but failed to shun violence. Alliance said would not participate in municipal elections planned for 2006, claiming free and fair elections not possible under king’s direct rule. Kathmandu protest rally demanding restoration of media freedom led to arrests of 50 journalists - later released. Federation of Nepal (umbrella organisation of 2,600 NGOs) said would back 7- party alliance. Landmine exploded under bus in southern Nepal 6 June, killing 41 passengers and wounding 69; Maoists promised enquiry and apologised for deaths.
Sectarian violence continued in Karachi with 23 June killing of 2 Sunni Muslim clerics. Sub-committee of Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan released long- awaited recommendations, including development package and proposed gas and petroleum royalty be paid to extraction areas; report to go to Senate and National Assembly for approval.
Deal on joint aid distribution mechanism finally signed 6 months after tsunami: post-tsunami operation management structure (P-TOMS) - under which committees comprising rebels and government can recommend, prioritise and monitor projects funded by $3 billion in pledged foreign aid - signed 23 June. Deal sparked hopes of improved cooperation between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government but cemented political split between President Kumaratunga’s ruling People’s Alliance and coalition partner, leftist People’s Liberation Front, leaving Kumaratunga’s government with only 81 seats in 225-seat legislature. Chief of LTTE’s political wing welcomed deal, saying if implementation successful will “open the way for the peace process”. Tensions remained high however as 3 soldiers killed by suspected LTTE in eastern district of Batticaloa 30 June.
Jakarta rejected key Free Aceh Movement (GAM) peace talk demand GAM be allowed to run as local party in elections. Security Minister said Jakarta could not agree since would necessitate changes to law requiring parties be nationally based. Fifth round of talks to start from 12 July in Helsinki. Bloody clashes reported almost daily since peace talks began in January; army said would continue to fight GAM until deal reached. Security forces and GAM blamed each other for non-fatal shooting of Aceh aid worker 23 June. First ever direct elections for local government officials proceeding relatively peacefully, even in former conflict areas. Central Kalimantan candidate for governor who helped foment violence against ethnic Madurese in 2001 received only 4% of vote.
Several reports published documenting continuing human rights crisis of political prisoners and ethnic minorities. Report by British academic claimed government troops committing atrocities in Shan, Karen and Karenni states, amounting to “possible genocide”.
Protests against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo held throughout month amid graft accusations. To stem resignation calls, Arroyo announced departure from country of businessman husband and apologised for having spoken to election official during 2004 election claiming not intended to influence count. Leftist rebels and security forces clashed in north: 14 from Revolutionary Army of the People, breakaway faction of communist New People's Army, killed in army raid in Pampanga province 12 June - apparently sparking 14 June retaliatory ambush which killed 10 soldiers. Army announced arrest of top leftist rebel leader 29 June. Informal meetings between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front to narrow differences on issue of ancestral land for Muslims in south ended 21 June in Kuala Lumpur; parties agreed to resume talks July. Local clan wars in south increasing strain on peace talks; at least 15, including women and children, killed in Mindanao 28 June.
Violence intensified in south. Killing of government officials and civilians, both Buddhist and Muslim, increased: at least 40, mostly civilians, killed by suspected insurgents over month. Unprecedented number of beheadings in June; 7 in total, 2 in broad daylight before witnesses. Organisation of the Islamic Conference delegation assessed situation in south ahead of annual meeting 28-30 June, but criticism so far muted. FM Kantathi Suphamongkon travelled to Kuala Lumpur to bolster support for ending violence through Joint Development Strategy signed 2004.
Australia remained committed to suspended Enhanced Cooperation Program, but will not drop insistence PNG amend its constitution to allow Australian police immunity from PNG law and prosecution. Presidential election held successfully in autonomous Bougainville region.
Preparations for 3 July parliamentary elections increasingly plagued by accusations of intimidation and corruption. Country remained split between opposition Democratic Party led by former president Sali Berisha, and ruling Socialists led by PM Fatos Nano. OSCE’s international monitoring mission highlighted irregularities with voter register.
FM Mladen Ivanic sacked by Chair of BiH Council of Ministers Adnan Terzic. High Rep. Paddy Ashdown censured Vuk Draskovic, FM of Serbia and Montenegro, for linking status of Kosovo to that of Republika Srpska (RS). EUFOR removed General Novak Djukic, Chief of Staff of RS’s armed forces. RS officials continued to block efforts on police reform. Strong reaction by politicians and public to airing of Srebrenica video tape of executions by Serbian Interior Ministry “Scorpions”.
UNSG Annan appointed Kai Eide special envoy for evaluating Kosovo’s implementation of democratic standards. UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen convened first long- delayed meeting of Political Forum, aimed at building consensus among Kosovo politicians for final status process. Tensions rose in Mitrovica after UN formally reopened symbolic bridge across river Ibar; Serbs maintained human blockade to deny Albanians entry to Serb-dominated North Mitrovica; clashes between demonstrators and nearby Albanian residents ensued 19 June. Controversial journalist for Bota Sot daily, Bardhyl Ajeti, died following shooting near Gnjilane 3 June. Former PM Ramush Haradinaj returned to Kosovo 8 June, granted pre-trial release by Hague tribunal. Efforts by “Serb List for Kosovo and Metohija” to persuade Serbian government to allow them to take up Kosovo Assembly seats agreed to by Serbia-Montenegro FM Vuk Draskovic but rejected by Serbian PM Kostunica’s adviser Prorokovic 23 June.
Parliament began debating law regulating use of symbols (and flags) by ethnic groups, penultimate obligation of 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement. Archbishop Jovan (Zoran Vraniskovski) sentenced to 18 months for charges of “inciting national, racial and religious hatred”.
Serbian politics dominated by war crimes issue. Video shown in Hague Milosevic trial 1 June, rebroadcast throughout Serbia, directly linked Serbian Interior Ministry “Scorpions” unit to 1995 Srebrenica massacre, bringing condemnation from PM Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic; yet parliament failed to adopt resolution condemning massacre. Government denied media speculation was negotiating with Ratko Mladic. U.S. rewarded cooperation with Hague tribunal by resuming $10 million aid 9 June. Bosnia's High Rep. Paddy Ashdown censured FM Vuk Draskovic for openly linking future of Bosnia's Republika Srpska to Kosovo independence, implying Serbia should receive Bosnian territory. Kostunica outraged Montenegrins by presenting list of potential Montenegrin voters inside Serbia for referendum on Montenegro’s independence to EU.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted resolution 23 June expressing concern about course of constitutional reform, noting repeatedly missed deadlines for adoption of amendments designed to curtail presidential powers and demanding Yerevan put to referendum by November 2005.
15,000-18,000 people attended Baku rally organised by leading opposition “Freedom” bloc. Demonstrators, many wearing orange clothes and carrying carnations, demanded free, fair democratic elections, amendments to election code, release of political prisoners, and progress in investigating journalist Elmar Huseynov’s murder. Demonstration 3 days after large pro-government rally. Council of Europe and OSCE issued joint statement 14 June expressing regret at government’s failure to implement important amendments to election law ahead of November 2005 parliamentary elections.
Controversial “sweep” operation in Chechen village by Russian army unit caused 1,000 ethnic Avars to flee to Dagestan border. Presidential envoy Dmitrii Kozak condemned raid, which killed 2 and left 11 men missing presumed dead. String of bombings within Dagestan wounded at least 9, including 7 police. North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov stepped down after talks with Kozak; mothers of children killed in Beslan started hunger strike to protest new Kremlin nominee Teymuraz Mamsurov.
Government announced plans for major international conference in Batumi 10 July to advance president’s peace plan for South Ossetia, whose authorities said will not participate, calling it PR event. Situation in conflict zone remained tense as search for 4 kidnapped Georgians continued. To ease tensions, Joint Control Commission (JCC) met Moscow 22 June and agreed to jointly investigate recent incidents in zone.
Parties loyal to Karabakh leader Arkady Ghukasian won landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Though poll condemned by Azerbaijan and internationally unrecognised, observers recorded no serious violations. Preliminary results gave largest opposition faction only 3 of 33 seats in new assembly. Foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met 17-18 June in Paris under aegis of OSCE Minsk Group to continue discussions on resolving Karabakh conflict. Armenian FM Oskanian said meeting failed to build on progress achieved month earlier in Warsaw by 2 countries’ presidents.
Authorities sentenced 2 opposition politicians, Mikalay Statkevich and Pavel Sevyarynets, to 2 years in jail for staging unauthorised demonstrations in 2004 against referendum which allowed President Alexander Lukashenko to remain in office indefinitely. Lower chamber of legislature amended law on political parties 29 June, imposing further restrictions.
Chisinau gave qualified backing to peace plan of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, with parliament endorsing but government saying would not support elections in Transdniestria - as called for in plan - until basic rights respected in breakaway region. Earlier, Chisinau asked EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana for European help in monitoring border between Transdniestria and Ukraine. Russian official accused Chisinau of trying to “torpedo” peacekeeping operation after Moldovan officials skipped meeting of oversight body.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Ukraine 27 June to discuss reforms necessary for NATO and EU accession. Separately, government said would move ahead with mass privatisation of state-owned companies.
Division within Spain over possible negotiations with ETA terror group; 250,000 demonstrated against possible talks Madrid 3 June. Following week, ETA blamed for bomb attack on Zaragoza airport. ETA announced end to attacks on elected politicians 18 June; limited ceasefire deemed unacceptable by Spanish opposition, but welcomed by some in Basque Country. Nationalist Juan José Ibarretxe re-elected Basque premier with support from Communists; Ibarretxe subsequently expressed hope extremist Batasuna party could be present in local councils by 2007.
Head of UN political affairs Kieran Prendergast briefed UN Security Council following visit; warned against premature external initiative, following failure of 2004 Annan plan in referendum rejection by Greek Cypriots.
Anglo-Irish statement expected on IRA following 27 June summit. UK Sec. State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain said U.S. supportive of Anglo-Irish position. Concern ahead of 2005 Orange order marching season.
Continuing violence focused on Tunceli province killed at least 35 (including 25 Kurdish and leftist insurgents); Kongra-Gel (PKK) rejected plea by Turkish intellectuals to end violence; army undertook series of major security sweeps involving 2,000-3,000 troops. European Commission said 3 October start date for accession talks unchanged despite EU political crisis.
Debate continued over draft legislation designed to restrict activities of foreign NGOs. New bills, criticised by foreign minister Tokayev and daughter of President Nazarbayev, followed May passage by lower house of parliament of amendments to laws governing political parties, local NGOs and media.
Situation remained fragile ahead of 10 July presidential elections. Supporters of disqualified candidate Urmatbek Baryktabasov - many reportedly paid for turning out - stormed government building in Bishkek 17 June; ejected by police. In further incidents of violence, parliamentary deputy assassinated in Bishkek 7 June; bodyguards of Acting President Bakiev assaulted by unknown men 11 June; and clash between rival groups in southern city of Osh 13 June killed 1. Kyrgyz authorities forcibly returned 4 Uzbek asylum- seekers (of some 500 who fled following Andijon massacre), saying they were common criminals. Government stepped back from returning 29 more following international outcry.
Bomb exploded outside Emergencies Ministry building and major bank in Dushanbe 13 June, causing minor injuries. Similar explosion took place in January in same location. Motivation behind bombings unknown. Pressure on opposition parties continued, with arrest of 2 members of Islamic Renaissance Party, jailing of 2 members of Social Democratic Party for “hooliganism”, and sentencing of senior Taraqqiyot Party official to nearly 6 years in prison for insulting president and inciting conflict. Transfer of Tajik-Afghan border from Russian to Tajik control completed 14 June.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Yolly Gurbanmuradov charged with embezzlement and conspiring with foreign intelligence services to sell oil and gas illegally; arrested and rumoured to have been killed. Speculation continued over worsening health of President Niyazov after he reportedly required assistance to walk on Moscow visit.
Government continued to reject international calls for inquiry into Andijon events: meeting in Moscow 28 June, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared violence had been planned from abroad. EU threatened sanctions if Tashkent did not reverse position on investigation by end June. U.S. revealed Uzbekistan restricting operations of its Karshi-Khanabad airbase; Tashkent said restrictions unrelated to U.S. criticism over Andijon.
Political upheaval and mass demonstrations continued. President Carlos Mesa’s resignation finally accepted by Congress 9 June. Demonstrations against appointment of constitutional successor, Senate President Hormando Vaca Diez, led to Supreme Court Chief Eduardo. Rodriguez selection as caretaker. Rodriguez now charged with calling new presidential and congressional elections, made difficult as no consensus among social movements and political parties as to establishment of constituent assembly and holding of referendum on regional autonomy.
Controversial peace bill to demobilise paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces (AUC) passed by Congress 21 June. Domestic and international critics deem law too lenient. President Uribe’s policies for combating armed groups still drew 63% support in 24 June poll. Top AUC leader Diego Murillo, under indictment for killing representative of Cordoba department, disbanded 400 fighters in hope of reduced sentence and avoidance of extradition to U.S. on drug charges. In worst single day death toll of 3-year Uribe administration, 25 soldiers killed in 2 FARC attacks in Putumayo province 25 June. Liberal national convention 10-11 June elected César Gaviria party leader, with limited powers; Gaviria declared opposition to Uribe.
Former President Lucio Gutiérrez renounced own asylum status in Brazil (granted on condition he refrain from making political declarations) and traveled to U.S. to denounce 20 April “coup”. Government sent delegation to U.S. - resulted in heated exchange at Inter-American dialogue; meanwhile, lawyers filed charge against Gutiérrez at International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.
Strained relations with U.S. persisted: formal request to extradite Cuban terror suspect and Venezuelan citizen Luis Posada Carriles from U.S. made to U.S. government 16 June.
Security remained dire, with large parts of capital, Port- au-Prince, ravaged by armed gangs and dramatic increase in kidnappings. UN Security Council voted to send additional 750 peacekeepers (bringing total to 7,500) and 275 police to support autumn elections, and extended and strengthened MINUSTAH mandate to February 2006. But observers argued for larger international police presence to help control, reform, and expand Haitian National Police. Police raids in response to deadly attack allegedly by pro-Lavalas gangs on Port-au- Prince market and police station left up to 20 dead in pro- Aristide strongholds. Minister of Justice and Public Security Bernard Gousse resigned amidst criticism of continued detention without due process of former PM Yvon Neptune. Voter registration and electoral preparations behind schedule.
Palestinian and Israeli leaders’ summit ended in disappointment 21 June: sides failed to build on earlier progress over coordination of Israel’s planned August “disengagement” from Gaza Strip. Informal ceasefire announced in February continued to unravel: several Palestinian groups resumed armed and rocket attacks against Israeli targets and Israel announced resumption of initiated assassinations. Inter-Israeli tensions also rose: soldiers repeatedly clashed with settlers in Gaza as bulldozers levelled several dilapidated seaside buildings in preparation for demolition of settlements. U.S. Sec. State Condoleezza Rice warned Israel to stop settlement expansion elsewhere, including in Jerusalem - echoing May warning by President Bush - but construction continued unabated. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon pledged to hand over control of 2 West Bank towns to Palestinian Authority if latter takes steps to end violence; to date only 2 of promised 5 handed over. Earlier, Israel released 398 Palestinian prisoners as part of ceasefire deal.
Fear and disenchantment increased as elections plagued by sharp rise in sectarianism and prominent activists assassinated. Anti-Syrian coalition led by Saad Hariri, son of slain former PM Rafik Hariri, secured majority in parliamentary elections, winning 72 of 128 seats; nominated long-time aide of Rafik Hariri, Fuad Saniora, as PM. Implications for reform unclear, as leading power-brokers remained in positions of influence - though calls on pro-Syrian President Lahoud to resign mounted. Tensions rose as separate car bomb attacks killed anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir and former Communist party leader (and prominent Syria critic) George Hawi. UN team investigating murder of Rafik Hariri questioned head of presidential guard. Hizbollah mortar attack killed Israeli soldier 29 June; further clashes reported month-end.
U.S. Secretary Rice accused Damascus of fomenting instability in Lebanon, where 2 more leaders of anti-Syria opposition killed, and failing to stem flow of insurgents into Iraq. Iraqi Foreign Minister echoed her comments, saying Syrian political will necessary to tighten border controls. U.S. froze assets of Syrian interior minister and intelligence chief. Vice President Halim Khaddam resigned at Baath party congress on reform. Police broke up angry demonstrations by Kurds in northern town of Qameshli after missing Kurdish cleric found dead - Kurds believe killed by Syrian intelligence.
Police reportedly beat and arrested 50 people demonstrating against unemployment.
Fundamentalist conservative Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared victorious in presidential elections, defeating pragmatist former president Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by more than 7 million votes in poll’s second round. U.S., UK and Germany reacted coolly to results, questioning conduct of voting. In post-election comments, Ahmadinejad said would not change Iran’s policy on nuclear program; European diplomats expressed pessimism deal on program could be reached. Series of bombs exploded in Tehran and Ahvaz 12 June, killing 9 and wounding 70: Iraq-based People’s Mujahideen blamed for attempting to disrupt elections. Iran admitted to IAEA that it conducted plutonium experiments more recently than previously claimed.
Slow but steady progress on political front overshadowed by devastating violence across Iraq, with over 1,000 people killed in last 2 months. Iraqi police and soldiers continued to be primary target of attacks. Suicide bombers killed at least 36 in Mosul 26 June, targeting police station and Iraqi army base. Days earlier, string of car bombings killed dozens in Baghdad. Growing concern in U.S. over insurgency led President Bush to address nation 28 June. U.S. Sec. Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed U.S. negotiating with insurgent leaders. In positive development, Sunni leaders accepted 15 seats on 71- person constitutional council due to draft permanent constitution by 15 August. But issues such as role of Islam and power of regions, coupled with requirement that constitution be approved by consensus, likely to push deliberations beyond deadline. 1,350 Coalition soldiers, including 1,241 Americans, and thousands of Iraqis killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat operations 1 May 2003.
Interior minister dismissed call by Mohammad al-Zulfa, member of Shura Council, for lifting of ban on women drivers. Authorities released new list of most wanted terrorists; 21 of 36 names believed to be "abroad", but no suggestion from government as to where. Al-Qaeda chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, reportedly declared key Saudi militant killed in U.S. airstrike there.
Minor clashes continued between rebels and government forces, despite May agreement by rebel leader to possible peace deal. Foreign Minister Abubakr Al-Qirbi claimed troops control rebel areas in north and called for surrender. Continued instability hampering humanitarian efforts in Saada province, where most fighting took place. MP from ruling party shot dead in Sanaa; political motivation not ruled out.
At least 21 killed in series of attacks launched by Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC): in most violent attack since May, 13 local government guards died in bomb blast in M’Sila region, 200km south Algiers. GSPC further blamed for cross-border attack killing 15 Mauritanian soldiers. GSPC deputy leader Amari Saifi, captured June 2004, jailed for life.
U.S. Secretary Rice said at American University of Cairo 20 June policy of “stability at the expense of democracy” in Middle East was over but rejected engagement with Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian judges’ club reiterated threat to boycott September presidential elections if electoral law does not provide for greater judicial independence; claimed non-judicial supervision of vote unconstitutional. Opposition presidential candidate and chairman of Al Ghad party Ayman Nour banned from travelling to European Parliament; trial on forgery charges opened 28 June. 2 policemen killed in Sinai security operation to capture suspects in October 2004 Taba resort bombing.
Algeria-based Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) killed 15 soldiers in attack on garrison at Lemgheyti, near Algerian and Malian borders, 4 June. GSPC said attack revenge for imprisonment of Islamists in Mauritania. Ruling party organised Nouakchott demonstrations against attack. U.S.-launched Flintlock counter-terror exercises in context of wider Pan-Sahel Initiative.
Growing international concern over Sahrawi claims of repression by Moroccan authorities inside Western Sahara. Delegation of Spanish MPs turned back at Laayoune. Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos said status quo “unacceptable”, offered mediation and urged rapid appointment of UN envoy to replace Alvaro de Soto.