Following the Belarus presidential election, protesters took to the streets claiming that the result was rigged. With Ukraine conflict continuing across the border, theirs was an act of courage. Riot police reacted with violence. President Lukashenko has been in power for 26 years and foreign election observers have been barred since 1995. Two days after the election, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, left Belarus for neighboring Lithuania. From safety in Vilnius she said, “The Belarusian people are no longer afraid. We will win.”Okumaya devam et →
China had a two-term limit on its president since the 1990s. Xi Jinping became president in 2012. In April this year, the National People’s Congress approved the removal the two-term limit, effectively allowing him to “remain in power for life”.
China is one of world’s leading powers. Henry Kissinger has said, “No other country can claim so long a continuous civilization, or such an intimate link to its ancient past and classical principles of strategy and statesmanship.” However, without even an interlude of democracy in its history, China has failed to make progress in that direction and President Xi’s two terms in office are no exception. Okumaya devam et →
At the end of September 2018, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States came together in New York and issued a statement. After repeating for the umpteenth time that there is no military solution to the conflict, they called on the UN and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to convene, as quickly as possible, a credible, inclusive constitutional committee that will begin drafting a new Syrian constitution. They also urged him to report back to the Security Council no later than October 31.
While Mr. de Mistura has said he is not going to lay down the charge until the last hour of the last day of his mandate, this gives him just another month since his resignation will take effect at the end of November.
On 27 October, Presidents Erdoğan, Putin, Macron and Chancellor Merkel met in İstanbul for the Quadrilateral Summit on Syria. Interestingly, the four leaders came together in this format for the first time and concluded their meeting with a joint statement expressing a commitment to working together. Whether such meetings would continue either at heads of State or ministerial level remains to be seen. Okumaya devam et →
After a confrontational NATO summit in Brussels where the primus inter pares target was Germany and a UK visit which was characterized by some observers as an “assault on diplomatic norms” President Trump met his Russian counterpart in Helsinki. He arrived in the Finnish capital leaving behind a week of controversy while the latter came from a successful World Cup which gave its host Russia added international visibility. At the beginning of the Helsinki meeting President Trump repeated his conviction that good relations between Washington and Moscow are good for both countries and the world. Okumaya devam et →
The following is from my summing-up of the year 2016 (*):
“The Ukraine conflict has led many analysts to frequently mention President Putin’s unpredictable tactics and actions if not policies. With Mr. Trump in the White House, world’s aggregate unpredictability will probably go up… Surely, one may understand a gradual shift of emphasis, setting of new priorities and a change in public discourse, but many already speculate on major changes to US foreign policy…”
What Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on relations with the US at the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum on December 5, 2017 is particularly revealing in this Okumaya devam et →
Russia’s military intervention in Syria was launched on September 30, 2015. On February 22, the United States and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. On February 27, despite reports of violations, guns fell silent giving rise to cautious optimism. On March 14 President Putin announced that having fulfilled their objectives “the main part” of Russian armed forces in Syria would start to withdraw. In a telephone conversation with President Obama he said that “this will certainly serve as a good signal to all conflicting sides and create conditions for the start of a true peace process.” In a nutshell, the past six months have been the most intense period of the five-year conflict opening a window of opportunity for re-energizing the political transition talks between the regime and the opposition. Okumaya devam et →
In early February scientists announced that they had finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space and time that Einstein predicted a century ago. They are only to be congratulated. Their achievement must have caused consternation among those who failed to foresee the ripple effect of the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year.
Middle East’s widened sectarian war, the chaos it has created, ISIL’s growing outreach, the recent string of terrorist attacks which have shaken Turkey and Europe and the refugee issue can all be traced to the beginning of the Syrian conflict. Regardless of his many shortcomings and failures one must credit President Assad for his self-fulfilling prophecy. In October 2012 he said that Syria’s downfall would put the entire Middle East on fire. Now it is not just the region that is on fire. The flames have reached Africa and Europe.
On February 22, the United States and the Russian Federation, Co-Chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), issued the “Joint Statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria”. As a first reaction, even the most optimistic observers remained cautious. Pessimists were easier to find. Indeed, on the one hand this is a positive development, at least an effort to bring some but not yet enough specificity to the hitherto broadly expressed concept of a ceasefire. And, most importantly, this is the first time since the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons that Russia and the US have a detailed agreement regarding the Syrian conflict. On the other hand, the complexity of the situation on the ground with nearly a hundred fighting groups, shifting alliances, lack of monitors are huge challenges. Some analysts believe that some groups would use this lull as an opportunity to regroup, rearm and get reorganized. One could say, therefore, that the Joint statement marks the beginning of what may prove to be a frustrating “ceasefire process” with many violations, ups and downs and with more than one devil in the details. Okumaya devam et →
The road map for Syrian political transition which the UN Security Council (UNSC) approved through Resolution 2254 envisaged the Syrian government and the opposition engaging in formal negotiations in early January 2016. It also envisaged a nationwide ceasefire, establishing of non-sectarian governance, drafting of a new constitution, free and fair elections within eighteen months. Okumaya devam et →
“Syria: Only More Trouble Ahead” was the title of a piece I wrote in early May. In a region characterized by abundance of gloom and scarcity of hope that much was easy to predict. I would readily admit, however, that the likelihood of a military incident between Turkey and Russia did not even cross my mind. Yes, Russia was supporting the regime, Turkish government the opposition and Ankara remained obsessed with Assad but Turkish-Russian relations seemed to be on track. All of a sudden the picture has changed. Because, what happened on November 24 was not an “accident” but an “incident”. President Putin is now venting anger over the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 warplane and the loss of a pilot. Moreover, he is directing far-reaching accusations against the Turkish government for having links to the Islamic State (ISIL). In response, Turkish leadership is saying that more than enough warnings had been issued for airspace violations. And, they are rejecting ISIL related accusations as slander. This much is clear: Turkey and Russia will stick to their diametrically opposite views on the incident. Okumaya devam et →