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
ChadEthiopia/EritreaEthiopiaSomaliaSudanGuineaSenegalKorean PeninsulaAfghanistanMacedoniaRussia/North CaucasusIsrael/PalestineMorocco
Prospects for peace between government and FNL rebels uncertain despite mid-June provisional agreement to end hostilities. Negotiations on permanent ceasefire, due to be concluded 1 July, faltered amidst FNL claims facilitating countries (S. Africa, Tanzania, Uganda) threatened military action if failed to sign. EU called for probe into allegations of graft in aid program, threatening to withdraw financial support. UN Security Council extended ONUB to end of 2006.
Situation remained bleak in lawless northwest with armed gangs killing dozens in village raids. Chad rebels launched cross-border raid; clashes with CAR troops and African peacekeepers killed over 40.
Relations with Sudan worsened while insecurity along border increased. Government forces and Chadian FUCD rebels renewed fighting. Janjaweed continued attacks on border towns and Sudanese SLA rebels continued to infiltrate refugee camps to forcibly recruit civilians, causing 10,000 to flee to Darfur within month. President Déby accused Sudan of exporting war and called for greater international support. Déby announced “internal political dialogue” with opposition after temporary civil servant strike. Unidentified rebels launched raid into northeast Central African Republic, clashing with CAR forces and peacekeepers; reports suggest Chadian and northern CAR rebels formed alliance.
Situation remained tenuous as country struggled to prepare for 30 July elections. Several major political parties continued to demand negotiations to ensure free and fair process. Official campaigning began 30 June, amid warnings from UN Security Council delegation over dangerous nationalist rhetoric. First day of campaign marred by unrest: 12 killed when police opened fire on anti-government protest in Matadi. 800 EU soldiers with UNSC mandate began deployment to Kinshasa, expected fully operational by 29 July; 1,200 troops to stand by in Gabon. UNSC extended MONUC mandate to end September. Clashes between soldiers, peacekeepers and militias persisted in Ituri, where estimated 4,000 remaining militiamen given new 30 June disarmament deadline. Ethnic Lendu militia threatened to kill 7 Nepalese peacekeepers taken hostage in May, but 2 released 27 June.
Former Justice Minister Ntamabyariro became most senior official charged with genocide in Rwandan courts 19 June. UN tribunal asked for international assistance tracking down genocide suspects still at large abroad, ahead of 2008 tribunal deadline.
Blow to border dispute resolution as Eritrea refused to attend Boundary Commission meeting in The Hague 15 June, citing Ethiopia’s failure to implement 2002 agreement. 111 Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front rebels, allegedly from Eritrea, reported killed by Ethiopian forces; Asmara denied reports. UN report found Eritrea providing military support for Somali-based insurgents attacking Ethiopia and for groups linked to Somali Islamic Courts militia.
Ethnic conflict in south escalated as 100 reported killed in land clashes between Guji and Borena groups and up to 90,000 displaced. Regional mediators sought to resolve separate inter-clan dispute that killed 39 in Daroor.
Islamic Courts militia seized control over Mogadishu 8 June, driving out U.S.-backed Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism; later consolidated control over most of south. Talks in Khartoum between Courts and transitional government led to mutual recognition and de facto ceasefire 22 June. But choice of radical cleric Hassan Dahir Aweys to head new Consultative Council of Islamic Courts may prove explosive and derail further talks. U.S. ruled out direct relations with Aweys and highlighted fears country could become radical Islamist training ground. IGAD and AU pressed ahead with plans for peace support mission over strong objections of Courts militia, while Courts claimed Ethiopian military incursion as Ethiopia consolidated border presence.
President Royale toured 5 East African countries to campaign for AU membership in wider pursuit of international recognition.
Implementation of Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) faltered as rebel divisions widened. Members of SLA Minawi faction announced suspension of DPA implementation, suggesting tacit split with Minawi ahead of his delegation’s visit to Khartoum for talks. Violent clashes between SLA factions further hindered Darfur humanitarian access. Joint commission inaugurated to monitor DPA ceasefire, but no action taken. President Bashir continued to refuse “colonial” UN Darfur peacekeeping mission, suggested alternate Sudanese force. UNSG Annan to press matter at AU Summit 1 July, but other UN official said no force feasible before January 2007. ICC lead prosecutor announced compilation of “Darfur crimes database”, said will prosecute “large-scale atrocities”; Sudan claimed ICC has no jurisdiction. South Sudan President Machar continued to arrange peace talks between Uganda and LRA rebels, as alleged LRA attack on Juba killed 9. In east, Khartoum signed ceasefire pact 19 June and agreed to July talks with Eastern Front rebels demanding greater autonomy.
Government delayed entering into talks with LRA rebels brokered by South Sudan’s government in Juba, saying 14-man LRA delegation lacked capacity for serious negotiations. ICC insisted peace efforts should not impede arrest and prosecution of indicted rebel leaders, while South Sudan VP Machar said ICC should give peace process chance before any legal proceedings. Government ruled out direct negotiations with indicted rebels in line with ICC position, despite President Museveni’s May statement guaranteeing LRA chief Kony’s safety if he surrendered. First televised interview with Kony aired on BBC. Dozen LRA fighters killed in separate clashes with Ugandan and South Sudanese forces.
Main opposition MDC faction leader Tsvangirai unveiled “roadmap” 9 June, calling for President Mugabe to accept new constitution, resign and allow transitional government to organise elections under international supervision, or face “mass action”. Mugabe repeated threat of crackdown on protests. Former ruling ZANU-PF member Daniel Shumba officially launched new opposition United People’s Party. Economic crisis with massive inflation continued.
Slow progress made toward October elections and crucial disarmament process delayed. Pro-government militias in west failed to hand over weapons, citing security concerns, while integration talks between government and ex-rebel forces stalled. UN Security Council increased strength of UN peacekeeping mission by 1,500: half the figure UNSG Annan had requested to ensure stability before polls.
Country crippled after leading unions called “indefinite” general strike 8 June; crisis ended 9 days later when government agreed to pay raise for workers. Strike led to clashes 12 June between students and security forces, killing 11 in 3 cities and prompting military patrols in capital.
Positive signs of stabilisation continued. UN Security Council lifted timber but maintained diamond sanctions, acknowledging increased fiscal control over resource industries but seeking further reforms; also partially lifted arms embargo to equip new national police and security forces. Truth and Reconciliation Commission began to investigate human rights violations in 14-year civil war 22 June.
Government announced peace deal with Tuareg rebels 30 June following Algerian-brokered talks between rebels and government. Rebels reportedly dropped demands for greater autonomy for northeast in exchange for poverty reduction; signing expected early July.
President Obasanjo agreed to withdraw troops from Bakassi peninsula within 90 days, ceding disputed region to Cameroon after talks brokered by UNSG Annan; sections of Nigerian majority in peninsula threatened violent resistance. Kidnappings of foreign workers by MEND rebels continued in Niger Delta region but all later released: 5 Nigerian soldiers died in kidnapping raid. Military deployed to Onitsha after clashes between police and Biafran separatist group killed 8; soldiers later killed 2, arrested 69. Ruling PDP party argued over successor to Obasanjo in April 2007 elections; police sealed party offices, and Obasanjo fired 8 aides of rival VP Abubakar.
Fighting intensified in Casamance region along border with Gambia between rival factions of Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance; 100 rebels reported killed.
Former Liberian President Taylor transferred to The Hague to face war crimes charges before Sierra Leone Special Court, after UK agreed 15 June to house him if convicted. Political parties began campaigning for 2007 polls; opposition leader Margai stoned by supporters of ruling SLPP party in visit to Kono. New UN peacebuilding commission announced redevelopment as working group subject.
Closed trial of New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, accused of leaking state secrets, ended in Beijing 16 June; verdict delayed until 25 July.
U.S. intelligence suggesting NK preparing to test intercontinental ballistic missile caused widespread alarm and strong statements from Washington and Tokyo. U.S. announced it would deploy interceptor missiles in Japan. NK delegate to UN said North wants to negotiate directly with Washington: Pyongyang issued invitation to Assistant Sec. State Hill to visit, but offer quickly rebuffed. Japan’s House of Representatives passed bill allowing economic sanctions if NK fails to help resolve abductions dispute.
President Chen Shui-bian’s political difficulties continued but renewed sovereignty pledge - not to allow Taiwan to “become second Hong Kong”. Chen survived recall vote in parliament but over half of legislature voted against him (two-thirds majority needed to force referendum). James Soong of opposition People First Party vowed to pursue no-confidence vote against government (which would only require simple majority). Relations with China improved slightly as sides agreed to start cross-Strait flights during holidays.
Civilian, military and insurgent casualties continued to rise steeply amid intense fighting. U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces launched Operation Mountain Thrust 15 June aimed at extending government control to south and east: over 60 suspected Taliban fighters reported killed. President Karzai criticised for appointment of police officers with history of corruption and brutality and ordering 2 former governors in south to rearm their illegal militias. Commander of NATO-led security force pledged new tactic of “people-friendly force” to take effect when NATO assumes control from U.S. in July. NATO reportedly to increase troops from 9,000 to 17,000 by end July. Taliban claimed responsibility for explosion of vehicle carrying workers to coalition base in Kandahar, which killed 10. 2 attempted car bomb attacks targetted U.S. forces during U.S. Sec. State Rice’s visit 28 June.
Clashes between police and protestors broke out during 13-14 June strike called by 14-party alliance led by Awami League (AL). Opposition demanded electoral reforms including removal of allegedly biased election commissioner and participation of AL in caretaker administration due to govern from October until January 2007 elections. Police later battled demonstrators trying to march to election commission offices in several towns. UN electoral assistance mission “deeply troubled” by high level of political violence.
Government held separate talks with representatives of 2 northeastern separatist groups, ULFA and NSCN-IM, 22 June. New Delhi said would consider releasing 5 ULFA leaders in goodwill move that would pave way for further talks. Series of attacks in northeast in run-up to talks killed 10: ULFA denied responsibility. Government and NSCN-IM held “fruitful” talks in Netherlands 22 June. Maoist violence continued: 7 villagers killed 20 June in Chhattisgarh; 6 Maoists killed in 28 June police raid. In Andhra Pradesh, 6 Maoists killed including key leader, M. Ravikumar. Sectarian tensions continued in northern Uttar Pradesh: 2 killed 18 June in arson attack on Muslim homes in Pratapgarh after shooting of Hindu village leader.
Sporadic violence continued throughout Indian-controlled Kashmir. 8 militants reportedly killed attempting to cross into Indian controlled territory 30 June. Previously militants attacked villagers in Udhampur district, killing 1 and mutilating 2 on suspicion of being informers. 8 lndian labourers from Bihar shot dead by suspected militants in Anantnag district. All Parties Hurriyat Conference called protest against alleged desecration of Koran and mosque by Indian security forces: 2 killed in demonstrations. Second bus service began linking Indian and Pakistani controlled areas but mutual accusations over failed prisoner swap dampened optimism.
Month saw some positive steps toward lasting peace but several fundamental problems still to be overcome. PM Koirala and Maoist chief Prachanda met 16 June. Koirala announced would dissolve parliament and form new interim government including Maoists. Mainstream parties signed 8- point agreement with Maoists reaffirming both sides’ commitment to multiparty democracy, arms supervision by UN and elections to constituent assembly. But process not yet clear and Prachanda reportedly retracted support for foreign supervision of arms. Harsh Maoist criticism of Nepalese Army also sparked controversy. Government scrapped contentious anti-terrorism laws and dropped cases against many detained Maoists; 190 rebels reportedly released. Parliament formally removed royal veto, reducing king to ceremonial monarch.
Violence in restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan province continued to intensify. Military raided suspected militant camp in North Waziristan 10 June, killing more than 30. Region experienced first suicide attack 2 June in Bakakhel, which claimed 5 soldiers; another killed 6 soldiers 26 June. Temporary ceasefire offer made month-end by tribal leaders in attempt to facilitate negotiations with military. In Balochistan, 5 militants reportedly killed in military raid on rebel camp in Dera Bugti district 11 June: Baloch regional party leader Nawab Akbar Bugti claimed 12 civilians also killed.
Violence continued to surge throughout north and east, risking escalation into full scale combat. Attacks included 15 June mine blast on bus carrying civilians in North Central Province, killing 64. Government blamed LTTE and launched retaliatory air strikes against rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi and positions in north and northeast. Catholic clergy blamed government forces for attack on church in Pesalai 17 June; 5 killed. LTTE suicide bomber killed third most senior army officer Major General Parami Kulathunge and 3 others 26 June. LTTE demanded removal of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission monitors from Sweden, Denmark and Finland by early September in reaction to EU placing LTTE on terror list in May, but agreed to protect monitors in north.
Radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, former leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, released after serving 26 of 30-month sentence. Human rights groups raised concerns over enactment of district-level regulations inspired by Sharia law and which may discriminate against women. 56 MPs signed petition urging head of parliament to write to president requesting these be revoked, while 134 MPs signed counter- petition. EU unlikely to extend Aceh Monitoring Mission beyond September but will send election observers to monitor local polls, doubtful before November. Concerns in Aceh that draft Aceh government law, to be passed July, does not sufficiently reflect spirit or letter of August 2005 Helsinki peace accord.
Army attacks on ethnic minority villages continued. Military junta postponed chairmanship of ASEAN regional bloc for second time after pressure from member countries. UN envoy Gambari reported government willing to engage with UN on “whole range of issues” following May visit. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under extended house arrest, allowed previously denied visit by doctor. EU, Asian, U.S. and UN human rights rapporteurs paid homage to Suu Kyi at inaugural meeting of UN Human Rights Council.
Government troops and MILF rebel group involved in fresh clashes on Mindanao, as peace talks remained stalled. Explosion at Maguindanao market 23 June killed 7 in suspected attack on local governor known for support of President Arroyo. MILF denied responsibility but National Police chief ordered arrest of 2 MILF commanders. Opposition parties filed impeachment claims against Arroyo, citing fraud in 2004 election and corruption. At least 25 killed in land dispute between tribesmen and Muslim clan in south.
Political and security situation remained tense. PM Alkatiri resigned 26 June after mass demonstrations and President Gusmao threatened to resign if he stayed in office: sparked new violence in Dili. Foreign and Defence Minister Ramos-Horta resigned in objection to ruling Frelitin party support for Alkatiri but appeared ready to resume duties if asked. Former Interior Minister Lobato arrested for arming rebels; Alkatiri claimed immunity to avoid investigation. Rebels agreed to disarm; Australian troops began process 16 June. Australian government pushed for greater UN involvement but U.S. opposed deployment of UN peacekeepers to replace Australian-led contingent. UN appointed 3-member commission of inquiry to investigate April-May violence. UN mission extended until 20 August.
Political uncertainty in Bangkok and southern violence continued. National Reconciliation Commission released report 5 June recommending shift from hard-line security response in south, and focus on justice and reconciliation through creation of 2 government agencies. As parliamentary debate began on report, 50 bombs exploded simultaneously at police stations, government offices and checkpoints in south, killing 3. Public prosecutors announced would submit petition to constitutional court charging 5 political parties, including governing Thai Rak Thai and opposition Democrat Party, with fraud in 2 April elections. Constitutional court decision to uphold fraud charges would dissolve political parties; decision in early July..
Plans to cut army from 3,000 to 1,700 rejected by home ministry after concern from military leaders. Commonwealth election observers accused military of having attempted to influence result of May election.
PM Sogavare dismissed police, tourism and culture ministers after being criticised for having appointed them while they remain in detention for inciting April riots.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement signed with EU in Luxembourg 12 June.
Contact Group announced plans to replace High Representative (HR) with EU-led mission June 2007. HR Schwarz-Schilling to continue as EU representative; move supported by Serbs, opposed by Bosniaks. Republika Srpska leadership opposed constitutional reform proposals of Council of Europe. Ethnic Croats and Muslims clashed in Mostar after Croatia World Cup match. Cabinet appointed 10 to new commission to investigate war crimes against Serbs and other groups in Sarajevo; PM Terzic’s refusal to form body had led to Serb boycott of parliament from May. Second round of EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks concluded 16 June; EU warned police reform delay could jeopardise talks.
Sudden departure of UNMIK Chief Soren Jessen- Petersen 30 June, and North Kosovo Serb measures to sever ties with Kosovo central authorities, prompted fears of instability ahead of status decision. Jessen-Petersen announced 12 June would step down with no successor designated and called for early decision on status. Russia hardened stance against early status determination. UNMIK postponed municipal elections until after status decision. 3 northern Serb-majority municipalities declared “state of emergency” in reaction to shooting incidents in north, including 1 June murder of Serb youth they say ethnically motivated. Serbs announced boycott of regional police and demanded role for police from Serbia, threatening formation of own defence militias otherwise. In effort to calm north, KFOR accelerated reopening of base, UN sent 500 extra international police and withdrew Albanian officers. Some Serbs returned to west Kosovo, but elderly returnee found shot dead 20 June. 82 pro-independence protestors arrested for picketing UNMIK HQ 9 June; 116 arrested for blocking highway ahead of Serbian PM Kostunica’s visit. Kostunica visited Gracanica, commemorating 1389 battle of Kosovo Polje and declaring Kosovo will always be part of Serbia.
Campaign for 5 July general election marred by violence. Series of incidents between 2 main Albanian parties, Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and Democratic Party of Albanians, included several shootings, a bulldozer attack on DUI’s Saraj office 15 June and grenade attack on DUI’s Struga office 17 June. U.S. Ambassador Milovanovic and EU Special Representative Fouéré held meeting with party leaders 20 June resulting in joint statement denouncing violence. NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer had earlier warned election must be “110% free and fair” or could jeopardise Euro- Atlantic integration.
Parliament declared independence 3 June. Iceland led international recognition, with Russia, all regional countries, EU and U.S. following. Serbia belatedly recognised Montenegro 15 June and moved to dissolve joint institutions. UN and OSCE accepted Montenegro as member.
Government unsettled by Montenegrin independence, but parliament proclaimed Serbia legal successor to State Union on 5 June; vote boycotted by opposition. Serbia belatedly recognised Montenegro 15 June and dissolved joint institutions. Ivana Dulic-Markovic appointed deputy PM following May resignation of Miroljub Labus. PM Kostunica told by UK PM Blair to prepare for Kosovo independence. Kostunica made provocative 28 June visit to Kosovo on historic Kosovo Polje anniversary and declared Kosovo will always be part of Serbia. President Tadic undertook goodwill tour of region. Second protected witness in Djindjic assassination trial found dead 3 June.
Tigran Torosian elected new chair of Armenian parliament 1 June. Independent A1+ television company evicted from state-funded Academy of Sciences building and editor-in-chief of independent Zhamanak Yerevan newspaper arrested on charges of draft evasion, in what observers claim state campaign against independent media.
6 October 2006 date set for repeat local elections in 141 municipalities where results of December 2004 polls annulled. Decision came shortly after Council of Europe threatened Azerbaijan with exclusion from Congress of Local and Regional Authorities if re-runs not held by year-end. Police dispersed demonstration outside Iranian embassy 9 June, briefly detaining 10 activists protesting recent violence against Azeri minorities in Iran.
Rebel leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev killed by pro-Moscow forces 17 June. Rebels named Doku Umarov new leader and notorious field commander Shamil Basayev as deputy. Exiled rebel foreign minister Akhmed Zakayev appealed for release of 4 Russian diplomats taken hostage in Iraq in later killed.
President Saakashvili met Russian President Putin before St. Petersburg G-8 summit amidst deteriorating relations; pledged to continue dialogue, but both later made accusatory statements on Georgia’s breakaway regions. On South Ossetia, international donors conference in Brussels raised €7.9 million to finance rehabilitation of conflict zone; Georgia pledged to match sum and Russia promised €3 million. Georgian minister of interior met with his de facto South Ossetian counterpart within Joint Control Commission for first time. On Abkhazia, UNSG’s Group of Friends on Georgia met with officials in Tbilisi and Sukhumi 23-25 May, welcoming resumption of Coordinating Council. First meetings of Council’s working groups on security and IDP postponed until July.
Second round of OSCE Minsk Group-mediated talks between Armenian and Azeri presidents in Bucharest failed to produce agreement on principles 4-5 June. Follow-up meeting between foreign ministers in Paris also failed. Minsk Group co-chairs said suspending intensive mediation efforts until sides demonstrate political will to overcome differences. Matthew Bryza replaced Steven Mann as American OSCE Minsk Group co-chair.
Ingushetia saw increasing political violence and lawlessness. Musa Nalygiyev, head of special operations police in Ingushetia, killed with his 3 children and 2 others by unknown gunmen 9 June; in almost simultaneous attack senior local administrator Galina Gubina, coordinator of ethnic Russian return program, also shot dead. Ingushetian health minister survived attack by unknown gunmen 1 June; 3 security force members killed in other attacks. Army launched offensive in south 11 June; 3 rebels reported killed while separatists claimed at least 15 soldiers died. In Daghestan, 2 senior police officers killed 21 June. In Kabardino-Balkaria, parliament approved Russian Andrei Yarin as new PM after resignation of Gennady Gubin and government.
Government announced ban on officials from EU, U.S. and other countries that imposed visa ban on senior Belarus officials in May. U.S. extended sanctions on President Lukashenko and 9 officials, freezing U.S.-based assets and banning business links. Russia and Belarus held largest ever joint military exercise 17-25 June. At least 30 opposition protestors detained outside Russian embassy 16 June.
Leaders of separatist republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria met 14 June, pledging mutual cooperation and praising Russian “peacekeeping” efforts throughout region. Moldovan PM Tarlev travelled to Moscow to negotiate new gas deal with Gazprom; latter announced 46% price increase. World Bank pledged to increase aid to help counter losses arising from Russian wine ban and increased gas prices. Transdniestrian officials arrested 5 Moldovan police officers on spy charges 14 June. Moldovan Interior Minister Papuc said detentions were “provocation”; all 5 later released. OSCE Chairman De Gucht said Russian-led peacekeeping operation in Transdniestria should be transformed into “internationally mandated, recognised operation”.
Our Ukraine party, Socialists and Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko agreed to form “orange” coalition with Tymoshenko as PM, ending months of uncertainty following March elections. However, appointment of PM and parliamentary speaker delayed by Party of Regions’ blocking parliamentary sessions from 27 June. After announcing coalition agreement, Tymoshenko pledged to revisit controversial January Russian gas deal. Protests by anti- NATO demonstrators in Crimea led to withdrawal of U.S. troops on short-term assistance mission and cancellation of planned 12-country joint military exercises with NATO.
PM Zapatero announced government will start talks with ETA. Earlier, at least 200,000 people protested in Madrid against talk plans, and main opposition Popular Party broke off cooperation with government over what it called “surrender” to ETA and Basque nationalist party Batasuna. ETA couple sentenced to 50 years prison for pivotal 1997 murder of Basque conservative councillor Miguel Angel Blanco.
Turkish Cypriot property commission ruled on 3 of 16 cases brought by Greek Cypriots, reinstating their property in north in 2 cases and offering compensation in third. Rulings came day before deadline set by European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for effective functioning of commission. ECHR to decide whether to transfer 1,400 claims to commission; Greek Cypriot government rejected process. UN Security Council extended UNFICYP peacekeeping mission until 15 December. Turkish PM Erdogan stated 16 June Turkey would not open ports and airports to Cyprus unless isolation of Turkish Cypriots ended; said prepared for suspension of EU membership talks. Earlier in month, Greek Cypriots threatened to block Turkish accession progress, but backed down after EU reminded Ankara of obligation to normalise relations with Greek Cypriot government. EU approved opening of office in July in north to distribute 139m euro aid package.
Orange Parade in Glengormley marred by violence, after attack on marchers saw 2 injured and 4 arrested 27 June. UK PM Blair and Irish PM Ahern held talks with political parties: said November devolution deadline “last chance” for process. NI Secretary Peter Hain intervened 12 June to appoint Jim Wells (DUP) and Francie Molloy (Sinn Fein) as rotating chairs of Stormont Preparation for Government committee, but said no debate until committee could agree on issues for assembly discussion.
Several bomb attacks in east and southeast left child dead; southern resort blast, claimed by Kurdistan Liberation Hawks, killed 4 tourists. At least 13 soldiers and 17 PKK rebels killed in southeast clashes. New anti-terror legislation adopted by parliament 29 June. 2 military police officers sentenced to nearly 40 years each for November 2005 Semdinli bombing; EU urged wider investigation into links of military hierarchy to attack. Trial brought by military against journalist Perihan Magden for defending conscientious objection adjourned to 27 July. First round of EU accession talks concluded on science and technology 12 June. Step nearly blocked by Cypriot veto, but EU agreed to Nicosia’s demand Ankara be reminded of obligation to normalise relations with Greek Cypriot government. Greek and Turkish FMs agreed to adopt confidence-building package after May warplane crash, but Turkey signalled may seek compensation for incident.
Trial of 10 accused of opposition leader Sarsenbaev’s February murder opened in Taldykorgan 14 June; 2 key defendents, former Senate staff chief Yerzhan Utembayev and former police officer Rustam Ibragimov, denied charges. Parliament approved new media legislation; OSCE said law would severely restrict media and should be withdrawn. Opposition Alga party activists clashed with police outside Justice Ministry 6 June: appealing against ministry’s rejection of party’s registration but Supreme Court upheld decision. Local elections in 10 cities and 49 districts, first such polls, set for October after President Nazabaev decreed one third of local administration heads should be elected.
Bilateral negotiations over rent increase on U.S. Manas airbase ended without deal. 25 June parliamentary by- election in Kurshab, Osh province, cancelled after large-scale clashes between candidates’ supporters. Supreme Court refused refugee status for Rasuljon Pirmatov, 1 of 4 in Kyrgyz detention having fled Uzbekistan after 2005 Andijon massacre; UNHCR appealed against deportation and for resettlement elsewhere. Supreme Court also upheld acquittal of 6 police suspected of killing 6 civilians during 2002 protests in Aksy.
Border guards accused Uzbekistan of sheltering rebels and refusing to demarcate minefields amidst worsening relations. Meanwhile, court in Sogd province gave 4 Uzbek citizens sentences up to 16 years for spying; Uzbek authorities also reportedly arrested a Tajik for espionage. 2 alleged members of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan arrested.
Rights groups expressed concern over detention and mistreatment of activists, journalist and relatives ahead of EU Parliamentary 19-23 June visit. Government accused foreign nationals including French diplomat, OSCE official and BBC journalist, of participation in plot against government. Government threatened to cut all gas supplies to Russia unless prices raised; talks with Ukraine also ended without gas deal 30 June.
Authorities accused by Tajik border guards of sheltering rebels and refusing to demarcate minefields. 4 Uzbek citizens sentenced in Tajik court for spying, while Uzbek authorities reportedly arrested a Tajik on similar charge. Senior opposition Birlik party activist Mamarazhab Nazarov arrested 22 June, reportedly on fraud charges. Clampdown on foreign NGOs continued; President Karimov authorised increased penalties for inciting ethnic or religious hatred, citing some religious groups’ “aggressive proselytizing activities”. Jailed opposition leader Sanjar Umarov reported in disciplinary cell, prompting concerns about detention conditions.
Tense build-up to 2 July referendum on regional autonomy and election of constitutional reform assembly, as opposition accused Venezuela of supporting President Morales’s MAS party, and mass rally held in Santa Cruz in favour of decentralisation. Morales pressed ahead with agrarian reform, giving peasant farmers 2.2 million hectares of public land despite breakdown in talks with landowners. 1 killed during police operation to evict illegal occupants from private land.
Turnaround in rebel strategy as FARC announced ready to negotiate with President Uribe, but stipulated government must first withdraw from rebel-dominated southern provinces and suspend Plan Patriota. FARC violence continued; rebel commander killed in clash with military in Santander. FARC declared war on leftist ELN rebels after attacks in contentious Arauca province. AUC spokesman warned of potential conflict as paramilitaries would prefer to die in combat than serve jail terms called for in newly amended Justice and Peace Law; Peace Commissioner Restrepo and others tried to defuse tensions. UN reported coca cultivation rose 8% in 2005, despite increased crop eradication.
PM Alexis’s new 6-party coalition cabinet sworn in 9 June. New outbreak of violence in Port-au-Prince slums left dozen dead and kidnappings increased as police continued crackdown on banditry. Haiti reinstated to Caricom after 28-month suspension, while EU increased development aid.
Presidential runoff poll 4 June deemed free and fair by EU and OAS. Former President Garcia won with 53% of vote, defeating nationalist candidate Humala whose party won largest share of seats in April congressional elections. Venezuelan President Chavez declared Garcia’s victory fraudulent, aggravating relations between countries.
Tensions rose dramatically as Israeli military launched operation in Gaza Strip following kidnapping by Palestinian militants of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas called for soldier not to be harmed but released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli PM Olmert rejected negotiations for release and threatened escalation. Israeli troops entered Gaza 28 June, 3 days after Palestinian raid on Kerem Shalom army post; subsequently arrested 8 Palestinian ministers and at least 20 legislative council members in West Bank. Earlier, Hamas and Fatah reached agreement on “Prisoners Initiative” implicitly backing 2-state solution and avoiding prospect of 26 July referendum promised by Abbas if Hamas rejected document. At least 13 Palestinian civilians killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza in month. Hamas ended informal 16-month ceasefire following killing of 7 members of Palestinian family on Gaza beach by suspected Israeli shelling. EU announced temporary aid mechanism to channel €100 million to Occupied Territories, bypassing Hamas-led government.
Head of UN investigation into murder of former PM Hariri announced progress and “potential links” between leader’s murder and assassination of 14 other Lebanese political figures. UN Security Council agreed to extend commission for additional year and authorised investigation into related attacks. National dialogue resumed 29 June.
4 gunmen and security guard killed in clashes between suspected jihadi militants and army in Damascus 2 June: officials said “terrorist” attack halted near offices of state television and radio. President Assad claimed security operations on armed militant groups have caused many to flee to Lebanon. Israeli warplanes flew over Assad’s residence in apparent warning against Syrian support for Hamas’ Damascus-based political chief, Khaled Meshaal, suspected of authorising kidnapping of Israeli soldier.
UN Security Council permanent 5 plus Germany offered incentives package 5 June. Package reportedly includes European aid in building of light water nuclear reactors, 5-year supply of nuclear fuel, agricultural technology and access to aircraft parts. In return, Iran to resume full cooperation with IAEA inspectors and suspend uranium enrichment activities until IAEA and UNSC are satisfied nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes. Ahmadinejad reiterated Iran’s “definite and legitimate rights” to nuclear program but said would respond by mid-August. G-8 foreign ministers and China called 29 June for response by 5 July. U.S. warned will push for sanctions if Iran rejects package.
Brutal insurgency and sectarian violence continued throughout country. Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed in U.S.-Iraqi operation 8 June: replaced by previously unknown Abu Hamza al-Muhajer. Widespread violence included 1 July market blast in Sadr City killing 60. PM Maliki presented national reconciliation plan in attempt to reduce sectarian violence: offers amnesty to some insurgents, militia disarmament and improvement of security forces. Plan welcomed as potential catalyst for talks leading to overall political agreement, but criticised for lack of detail on withdrawal of U.S. troops and amnesty for Saddam Hussein supporters. Mujahideen Shura Council killed 4 kidnapped Russian diplomats. U.S. and Iraqi troops began operation to retake Ramadi city from insurgents 25 June. High profile trials of U.S. troops accused of killing unarmed Iraqis began. Saddam Hussein lawyer shot dead 21 June: third defence attorney killed since trial opened in October 2005.
Riyadh gun battle between police and militants 23 June killed 7. Officials later arrested 40 militants.
Long-time leader President Ali Abdullah Saleh, having vowed not to seek new term in office, announced he would run for re-election after his General People’s Congress party said it could not agree on new candidate.
Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) blamed for increased attacks on military and civilian targets. Official figures released 20 June said at least 19 killed by rebels since 1 June, including ambush of 7 soldiers near Bouira and beheading of customs official and civilian in Tipaza; other sources said 31 killed. Military killed 10 suspected rebels. Interior Minister Zerhouni estimated 200 rebels had surrendered since February under conditional amnesty of 2005 national reconciliation pact; rebels have until end of July to do so.
Muslim Brotherhood said 110 detained and 10 injured as police broke up demonstration in support of Brotherhood member on trial for weapon charges; 31 later arrested for distributing leaflets. Al-Dustur editor and 2 journalists sentenced to 1-year jail terms for publishing article detailing lawsuit against President Mubarak and family. Trial of 3 journalists, charged with libel after publishing blacklist of judges implicated in election fraud, postponed to September. Mubarak promised “surge in constitutional reforms” in 2007. 24 pro- democracy activists, arrested 8 May, released after state prosecutor order. Police shot dead 2 suspected members of al- Tawhid wa ‘l-Jihad, group accused of April Dahab bombings, 27 June; wife of suspect also killed.
Referendum, establishing structure for March 2007 presidential election, backed by 97% with 76% turnout according to official figures 25 June; constitutional amendments limit presidents to serving two 5-year terms. Authorities detained 5 relatives of former President Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya suspected of plotting to sabotage referendum. 6 Islamists who repudiated former involvement with Algerian Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) released by Nouakchott court 14 June; other GSPC activists still detained.
Government launched unprecedented nationwide crackdown on Islamic Justice and Charity opposition movement, after group launched new open recruitment campaign. Authorities raided offices and arrested over 2,000 activists, most of whom quickly released.
In move seen as attempt to discredit refugee camp-based Sahrawi leaders and Algeria, Morocco urged UN probe into Algerian camp conditions; followed violent camp protests after May visit of UN human rights delegation.