Monthly Archive for February, 2014

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Author; Ayah Aman Posted February 3, 2014

Translator; Kamal Fayad

From

CAIRO — The Egyptian-Sudanese dispute concerning the sovereignty of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle continues to be a source of constant tension in relations between the two countries. The escalatory rhetoric has risen between officials from both countries, without any real diplomatic solutions on the horizon for this issue, which has been on hold since the reign of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sudan’s independence in 1956.

Egypt and Sudan have traded fiery statements over the disputed border region of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle.

The debate between Egyptian and Sudanese officials was renewed this time around when Sudan’s Minister of State at the Presidency Al-Rashid Haroun announced on Jan. 6 that the Halayeb border region with Egypt was 100% Sudanese, and that discussions and understandings were possible with Cairo in this regard. Egypt, on the other hand, rejected this statement when its Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ambassador Badr Abdel Ati, issued a news release published by Egyptian media on Jan. 7, which read: “The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle is part of Egyptian territory and subject to Egyptian sovereignty. Cairo will not accept any compromise solutions because its position is clearly defined.”

In this regard, a diplomatic source with close ties to the Egyptian government told Al-Monitor: “The relationship with Sudan is marred by many unresolved issues, particularly the dispute over the Halayeb Shalateen Triangle, which remains unsettled despite all international legal or official efforts. Add to that Khartoum’s espoused stances, which might be detrimental to Egyptian interests, such as its support for the building of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, explained, “This is not the right time for Cairo to deal with the disagreement over the Halayeb area with Sudan. The country is living in a state of security alert, with army troops concentrating their efforts to secure Egyptian borders, particularly in Sinai and the western border with Libya. This is a result of the fears that elements might infiltrate the country to harm Egyptian national security. The present transitional period also does not allow entering into a regional engagement with another country. But there are policies that the Egyptian government has adopted to exploit the Halayeb area for the benefit of the Egyptian economy, and to achieve real development there.”

On Nov. 27, 2013, the Egyptian cabinet formed a special committee tasked with the implementation of an urgent plan to develop the Halayeb and Shalateen area, through investments totaling 764 million Egyptian pounds ($110 million). These investments were used to complete road and water networks as well as housing projects for the settlement of the regions inhabitants. This move reflected the government’s interest in this region, considered to be one of the most important tourist and investment destinations in Egypt.

“Egypt considers the Halayeb and Shalateen region to be rich in resources, and of special strategic importance politically and economically,” said Council of Ministers spokesman, Hani Salah, speaking to Al-Monitor.

Salah added that the cabinet was considering signing agreements permitting the exploitation of the region’s gold and manganese deposits, as well as activating the Shalateen Mining Co. through coordinated efforts between the Ministry of Petroleum and the armed forces.

Deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s administration faced overwhelming popular disapproval when Sudanese officials were quoted as saying that it had expressed willingness to negotiate on restoring the Halayeb and Shalateen region to Sudan, during a visit by Morsi to Khartoum in May 2013. However, the Egyptian presidency denied those statements at the time.

With the backdrop of Egypt asserting its claim on the Halayeb region, and its attempts to exploit the natural resources and riches there, Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt, Kamaluddin Hassan, spoke with Al-Monitor about his country’s position on this issue.

“We must recognize that an ongoing problem exists between Egypt and Sudan concerning the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle. In fact, a conflict exists as a result of Cairo and Khartoum’s insistence on their respective viewpoints in this regard. We hope that this conflict would soon be resolved in a brotherly fashion between the two countries. But I also hope that this issue not be raised again in Egyptian media because doing so has caused a lot of damage to Egyptian-Sudanese relations, and Sudan is of the opinion that our interests are greater than to be confined into one specific area,” said Hassan.

Similarly, Egypt’s ambassador to Sudan, Abdel Ghaffar al-Deeb told Al-Monitor: “The political leaderships of both countries had previously agreed that the Halayeb and Shalateen region be an integrated area used for economic development, especially after Sudanese President [Omar] Hassan al-Bashir announced that Sudan did not intend for Halayeb to be the source of disagreement and conflict with Cairo.”

Groups of political activists, headed by former member of parliament Ahmad Raslan, formed a popular delegation that went to Halayeb city, where it held a town hall meeting to assert Halayeb and Shalateen’s Egyptian identity, chanting the slogan “Halayeb is Egyptian.”

The Egyptian government also opened seven electoral stations in Halayeb and Shalateen cities during the constitutional referendum Jan. 14-15. According to official estimates, the majority of the region’s inhabitants voted in favor of the new Egyptian constitution.

The history of the conflict

The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle lies on the African side of the Red Sea, encompassing 20,580 square kilometers (7,946 square miles). Its three largest cities are Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateeen, with Egypt imposing its full security control over the region in 2000.

The conflict between Egypt and Sudan over the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle began in 1958, after Sudan gained its independence and decided to secede from Egypt. Subsequently, the Sudanese administration included the region in Sudan’s electoral districts. Friction endured between the two countries throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with the conflict primarily focusing on petroleum and gold resources. In addition, the Egyptian army made 39 raids inside Sudanese borders in 1995. The crisis emerged anew in 2010, when Sudan insisted that the region be considered part of its electoral districts.

Hani Raslan, an expert in Sudanese affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, spoke to Al-Monitor about this issue. “Sudan resorts to causing problems with Egypt every time it faces internal unification crises and every time it tries to prevent rifts from occurring inside the country. It would have been better if it had held on to larger and richer areas of land that became part of South Sudan when the latter seceded in 2010. Furthermore, the 1899 agreement states that the border line between Egypt and Sudan lies on the 22nd parallel north of the equator; yet Halayeb is located further north of that line,” said Raslan.

As of yet, neither Egypt nor Sudan announced the adoption of official measures to solve the ongoing conflict over the region. This comes at a time when the Egyptian government is fully exploiting the area’s resources and maintaining its security control over the region.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/egypt-sudan-halayeb-shalateen-border-region.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOa42NKC

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

Gul proposes Turkey-Iran cooperation in Syria

In his official visit to Italy Jan. 28-31, President Abdullah Gul met twice with Turkish columnists covering his trip. His remarks provided opportunities to observe how deep his longtime political differences with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is distancing himself from the political culture and foreign policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Author Kadri Gursel Posted February 3, 2014

Translator(s)Timur Goksel

From

As a columnist who took part in both meetings and asked questions of the president, my observation is this: Gul, who set up the Justice and Development Party (AKP) with Erdogan and who, until he became president, was the party’s second in command. He has plainly distanced himself from Erdogan’s wordview. It is not an exaggeration to say that the distance between them is becoming increasingly ideological.

We all know that the president, in contrast with the AKP government, defends Turkey’s EU perspectives, reforms, state of law and freedom of press. In the days following the dramatic intensification of the strife between the AKP and the Fetullah Gulen movement after the corruption investigations that directly targeted Erdogan’s family and close political associates, the divergence between the narratives of Gul and Erdogan was also reflected by their actions.

We have to remember the initiatives of the government to make legislative moves that would totally eliminate the independence of the judiciary were blocked, thanks to the firm stand of Gul, before the European Union stepped in.

As with many of the political developments in Turkey, it is also impossible to predict how the ideological divergence between Gul and Erdogan will affect the AKP. To make a reasonable guess, one has to wait for the outcome of the March 30 local elections. Only then we will be able to say what kind of role Gul is planning to fill in national politics and in the future of the AKP.

For the time being, let’s lay out how Gul has deviated from his old comrade Erdogan, especially in foreign policy.

The first issue is Syria. We can observe that the president of Turkey is more realistic and has a more rational approach as compared to that of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and that he doesn’t ignore politics the way they do.

In his Jan. 30 talk with journalists in Rome, Gul suggested working with Iran on the issue of Syria, saying,

“Iran’s launching of a dialogue with the international community and the Western world and better prospects for solving problems through politics will make the world a more comfortable place. The beginning of a new era with Tehran may also enable engaging Iran on the Syrian issue. We spoke with Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani on how essential it is to work together on the Syrian issue and develop alternatives. We tasked our foreign ministers to work on this. There is another opportunity that could arise from joint efforts. If Turkey can be in close and sincere cooperation with Iran on Syria, we can come up with proposals to the international community, and the Western world can take our proposals seriously.”

The prerequisite for Gul’s proposal is the development of a Syrian policy along rational and secular lines instead of the ideological basis favored by Erdogan and Davutoglu.

Gul’s words were made even more interesting by their timing, coming a day after Erdogan told the journalists in his plane returning from Tehran that “there was no agreement with Iran on Syria.”

For Ankara to work together with Tehran, which today is in the opposite camp over Syria, it first has to take a reality check and accept that the Syrian regime is not going away in the foreseeable future.

Gul has done this reality check and demonstrates that, unlike Erdogan and Davutoglu, he can empathize with the actors in the opposite camp. He said, “In an interview I gave to Foreign Affairs two years ago, I had said that there are no other countries committed to the opposition as much as Iran and Russia are for Syria. I was talking about the West and about Turkey. For Iran, Syria is an existential issue; for us, it is a humanitarian issue. For Russia, it is an issue of warm seas, of having a single base. On the other side, some talk about how [the United States] will be the one to end the war with its known policies. Today, Damascus has the stronger hand. How did they get to Geneva?”

In terms of Turkey’s threat analysis, Gul’s opinions are distinctly more realistic and up to date than those of Erdogan and Davutolgu, the architects of Ankara’s crumbled Syrian policy. Asked about the Turkish army’s retaliation for a Jan. 30 mortar round fired by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the president said, “We don’t have any reason to be optimistic about when Syria will achieve salvation. If a strong transition government had emerged from Geneva, we would have had some hope, but it wasn’t to be. The second point is the threats and dangers for Turkey of the existing situation. In that environment of uncertainty, many groups emerged. It is not only a war between the regime and the opposition but also within the opposition. There are no targets. If these [battles] are taking place along our 900-kilometer [559-mile] border, you can’t know where they will spread to. Such situations create and provoke extremism, radicalism. You will not know where they will end.

“This is why there is a big difference between our threat perception of four or five years ago, and our threat perception of today. At that time, the biggest threat for us was the struggle against [Kurdistan Workers Party] terror. Today, we see diverse, numerous groups. We have to be much more careful now. I want to say that our southern border is more difficult. If the Turkish armed forces today refrain from getting involved, who knows, tomorrow you may have to deal with a much more formidable force.”

It is a known fact Erdogan is defining the corruption investigations as an international conspiracy to remove him from power. His government allies and supportive media back this discourse.

On the evening of Jan. 28, Gul was asked a question about the conspiracy theory. A journalist from the pro-government media asked, “Don’t you think that in recent days, the Western media is drawing a portrait of an unstable Turkey?” He gave this interesting reply: “You complain. You gripe and demand that they should treat our affairs positively. Because of its nature, the press is generally expected to be critical. … You have to look at this as an objective media analysis. … There may well be those abroad who intentionally want to paint a negative portrait of Turkey, but it is not correct to group them together with ‘They want to show us in negative light; they are campaigning against us.’ Let’s not forget that these are newspapers that used to print headlines about the ‘reformist government in Turkey.’ They used to lavishly praise our successes. That is why we have to be objective. At times, you come across articles that stand out as excessively negative and biased. Some, however, write critically when they observe the debates in Turkey. You should not put them all in same basket as enemies of Turkey. That would be a mistake. We will then see everyone as our enemy, which, of course, is not the case.”

There are four main points to Gul’s response:

Gul is not giving credit to the conspiracy allegations of Erdogan and his coterie.
He is accepting that the press has to be critical, and supporting the freedom of the press.
His suggestion that a press that only sees the positive sides of the government will cease to be “the press,” a strong admonishment of the pro-AKP media.
Gul reminds us that newspapers currently critical of Turkey once wrote favorably of it. This is an implicit criticism by Gul of the negative direction the AKP government has been taking in recent years.

The president referred to recent unfavorable changes in Turkey when responding to a question about preparations for an international campaign on the centennial of the Armenian genocide. He said, “2014 and 2015 will be crucial years. Turkey will confront many tough questions on international platforms. Three or four years ago, as a shining country with many friends, we were thinking that we could overcome these tough questions. To be honest, with the global situation, our problems that require attention and our domestic issues will make these international questions more difficult to handle. Our government is making some preparations. … We have to find ways to remind others of the importance of being friends with Turkey.”

These remarks by Gul contain criticism of how Turkey has become isolated and suffered soft-power losses globally and regionally because of the policies pursued by the Erdogan-Davutoglu team since 2010.

We have to emphasize that Gul’s observations and attitude have strong and favorable reflection in the AKP base and within the party structure, and that he is not alone.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/gul-proposed-iran-joint-effort-syria.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129##ixzz2sOXJXQe1

Journalists under threat in Egypt

Living dangerously in the ‘new’ Egypt

by Ruth Pollard

Feb 1 2014

It doesn’t take long for a crowd to turn on you on the streets of Egypt these days.

A finger pointed, an accusation levelled, and you are literally running for your life.

For months now I have been hesitant to even pull my notebook from my bag when I am reporting from the street, such is the animosity against, and suspicion of, foreign journalists.

But I am lucky – I can usually move through a crowd, observe the mood, chat to a few people and leave quickly before drawing too much attention.
Advertisement

Not so photographers, whose cameras have become a magnet for angry crowds and security services who smash, grab and detain.

Two weeks ago I was a few blocks from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, interviewing stallholders and passers-by about the constitutional referendum due to begin the next day.

I had identified myself as an Australian newspaper journalist. As people began to speak, I took out my notebook.

A middle-aged man suddenly began paying close attention to my questions – simple inquiries about what people thought of the constitution, was it better than the last one they had voted in a little over a year ago?

“You are from TV?” he asked.

“No, a newspaper,” I replied, acutely alert to where the conversation was going.

“You are from Jazeera,” he shouted.

“No,” I insisted. “A newspaper – look,” I said, gesturing around me: “I have no camera crew.”

“You are a spy,” he yelled, as people crowded around us and began repeating his accusations as if they were facts. And again: “You are from Jazeera.”

The mood darkened. There was no possibility of negotiation, no hope of discussion. It was time to run.

I dashed through the all-but-stationary traffic, turned down a side street to avoid police gathered on one corner in case they grabbed me, and in a few short minutes I came to a roundabout where the cars were moving, flagged down a cab and went home.

It was an incident hardly worth mentioning. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not beaten by the crowd or detained by security forces.

It was just another day trying to report on the extraordinary wave of revolution and crackdown, fledgling democracy and repression that Egyptians are riding.

And it was another reporting exercise cut short by an angry crowd, encouraged by an interim government, backed by a powerful security establishment and fuelled by the country’s media which are loudly feeding a tide of xenophobia that threatens to spill over at the slightest provocation. Like taking out a notebook, or interviewing the other side of politics.

The threat of arrest is ever-present. The detention of our colleagues from al-Jazeera – Australian Peter Greste, dual Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, along with Egyptians Baher Mohamed, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Bader – weighs heavily on our minds.

The media have always had a difficult relationship with the powerful in Egypt. Repression was rife during President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi sought to quash criticism of his short-lived, dysfunctional administration.

But the targeting of journalists from al-Jazeera English over the network’s alleged pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance – a charge denied by al-Jazeera executives – has spilt over to encompass all foreign media. I will no longer answer “sahafia” – the feminine form of ”journalist” in Arabic – when I am asked what I do. Not since a taxi driver took a journalist straight to a police station after he revealed his profession.

Soon after the incident downtown I travelled with a photographer to Fayoum, two hours from Cairo, to report on the second day of voting in the constitutional referendum.

Groups of soldiers backed by local plain-clothes police armed with shotguns were in control of every polling booth. A judge oversaw the voting inside.

At many points during the day our every move – interviewing voters, taking photos or seeking a judge’s permission to enter the room – was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone. Our local driver was also filmed, his identity now inextricably linked to the small crew of foreign journalists he takes with extreme care from point A to point B.

During an earlier visit to the site of a bomb blast in Cairo’s Nasr City, my colleague and I lasted just over seven minutes on the street observing and photographing the wreckage before police challenged our presence and it seemed the crowd could turn on us.

Only a month ago I worried that a quick visit to a protest or bomb blast site was not enough to do a decent reporting job. Now I wonder if I should go at all.

At least 12 journalists were detained and several were wounded as they tried to cover the third anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak. Almost every journalist and photographer I know has been detained, and those of us who haven’t regularly run for cover, hiding in residential buildings, ducking into cafes, talking our way into the safety of a big hotel.

The threat of being detained, or a crowd turning on us, versus the need to cover the story, is a constant debate among those of us covering Egypt.

Every day we hope we have the right answer, because one wrong move can be devastating.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/living-dangerously-in-the-new-egypt-20140131-31sjk.html#ixzz2s0yJ0Zq2

Ed. note Australian journalist Peter Greste is detained, with 4 other al-Jazeera crew accused of spreading false news and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. These are obviously false accusations by anti-democratic forces. I also note that this article didn’t comment on the recent ‘crowd rapes’ that have occurred to female protesters and journalists who become obvious to the crowd. I hope these people are returned safely to their family in the very near future. Just how many foreign journalists did Morsi lock up?

Thoughts on Ukrainian nationalism, Feb. 2014

by Patrick Muldowney

Over in Ukraine ‘Christmas gifts’ are being unwrapped and all sorts of stuff is coming out from under the shiny paper that everyone wraps things up in. Hard to tell the real value of the ‘gift’ even when out of the paper, but it’s virtually impossible while it’s still wrapped up in paper. What’s the value of a V8 ute to a 18yr old high school student compared to a 36yr old builder?

Christmas only comes once a year, but wise people acquire gifts all through the year and they are put away for that one special day. When the day approaches a tree is set aside and decorated in the current fashion. The hidden gifts are then wrapped up in that shiny paper and left under the tree for anyone to wonder about.

By Christmas Eve most of the gifts have arrived and the pile sits there overnight in unseen beauty. The mystery of the decorated packages is only solved in the frenzy of opening and sometimes not even then. ‘Have I got what I asked for?’ is the unspoken thought from the children.

The kids get to the task of unwrapping the gifts, even if a beloved grandmother that bought some of them during the year has been dead and buried for months. They unwrap what is there and then make of it as they will!

They may have received blank paper and paints. It may be a model; or a flag; or a history book written by somebody with an ‘interest in promoting human rights’; or even a book written by a person keen on free and fair elections for a proportionately representative parliament that are IMV the foundation of those human rights.  It maybe a Crucifix the old woman had thought a sacred object and when it’s unwrapped a discussion might start that leads all the young people into a more solid understanding that they just don’t share the old ideas.  On the other hand it might get put up on the mantle piece and everyone begin a fervent prayer just to get the old girl out of Purgatory.  Who knows what the naked apes of Ukraine are making of the 21st C.  What is evident is that they are divided over how the country ought to orient it’s form of capitalism.  I think the majority favor a western lean away from what many see as ‘the old foe’ and half of the remainder would want to get more distance between themselves and Putin types generally.

We all know from experience that just as people change so do the organisations that they set up. It’s only in Neverland where people don’t change.  Self evidently many Ukrainians understand (even better than Syrians) that Putin is their enemy and that any political leadership that draws their country closer to Putin is to be opposed and struggled against.

The Irish up against the English is the best example of how a national movement of the Ukrainians against the Russians ought to be thought about, right down to the massive loyalist presence in a concentrated part of the country. The National question is still being resolved in Ukraine and Georgia and right across that big slab of territory north of the Caucuses that Putin has been waging his ruthless city smashing wars in for years.

Al Qaeda sorts thrive in the swamp that Putin is maintaining. Putin has not changed course and is not part of the solution to the national questions; or the struggle for democracy; nor women’s rights; or gay rights; and so on. His nonsense is a blockage to the swamp draining that extends right up into the Ukraine and beyond that. East European development is way behind Norway and the rest of the exemplar Scandinavian countries – even if the Norwegians have to deal with rightwing terrorists.

Putin keeps Assad’s air power going and democrats want to see that it gets smashed to bits.

Because the strategic grand plan is to fight oppression by uniting the many to defeat the few, we look to the current demands of the Ukrainians as Steve directed our attention with respect to the Sunni demands in Iraq.

Whatever the past role of Ukrainian nationalism way back at the time Stalin was coping with his problems, the current struggle is a no-brainer because the Ukrainian people are against Putin’s Russia.  I guess that the largest block of Ukrainian people want their government to resign and they want new elections to form a new government to lead their country away from Russia and towards greater connections with western Europe.  If they got that outcome it won’t solve all their problems anymore than the problems are solved in Ireland, Spain or Greece and I suppose that is obvious to them as they can see for themselves how bad things are in those Euro countries; but at least they will be that much further away from the system that Putin is running!

As with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt there are more than just a few “very conservative” democrats in the Ukrainian context, and just as there are Salafi parties that are more reactionary (and less democratic) in Egypt there are the equivalent in this part of the swamp.

As Arthur said re Egypt;

‘Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarak era.  So emphasizing the conservative or reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.’
END

My view is that issues that blow up this big ought to have been brought before the people in Referenda. The situation is well beyond that now and new elections are now how the issues of the Ukraine can be resolved. There is that, or a reasonably quick descent into the civil war scenario.   I think the police and the army would ‘quickly’ shatter and the country then divide along the two ethnic lines.  The Russian dominated regions – absent Putin meddling – would after a few months or whatever time it takes would lose out to the Ukrainian nationalist forces but Putin would/will meddle.  Eventually we could then see Putin’s tanks cross the border in the manner that he did with Georgia a couple of years back.

It is a little different to Georgia, but the resolution of the national question is at the heart of the issue and these are both historically ‘Promethean’ movement inspired countries.

Anyway the new Pinochet in Egypt has more support I’d bet than does the current friend of Putin running the show in Ukraine, where I’m sure ‘it isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army’ [but like Egypt] ‘if a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.’

Nations do want liberation and Putin works against them. Countries do want independence and Putin won’t let them have it, and as far as I can see the peoples’ do want a revolutionary change in the way they are governed by the knuckle-dragging-ruling-classes, and their increasingly inbred ruling-elites. Oh and Putin backs the Assad sorts!

Supporting the fight for democracy I have endorsed the COW liberation of Iraq. I don’t pretend there is a fight for socialism in regions threatened by Putin, but there is a struggle for national liberation and democracy. I have no trouble working out where to stand. As in the Syrian case there are unsavory sorts all over the place, but that was the way it was with the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam, and in Ireland as well for that matter.

Rwanda sends battalion to Central African Republic (CAR)

In efforts to stem the violence in the Central African Republic, Rwanda says it will send some 800 troops to the country. (ed. note this is somewhat out of date and now reads Rwanda has sent some 800 troops)

09 Jan 2014

Rwanda said on Wednesday it would send some 800 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) next week as part of an African Union (AU) force to help restore security.

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told local radio: “Our troops will arrive in CAR in about 10 days. AU asked us for a battalion, which is about 800 soldiers.”

Rwanda announced last month it would send troops but had not said how many would be dispatched or when.

Mushikiwabo acknowledged the problems in the CAR were “very complex” but stressed that Kigali’s stated policy was to “contribute to global peacekeeping”.

The troops are being briefed about the terrain and the conflict and the non-French speakers are receiving some language training, the minister said.

The AU force in the CAR is due to be 6 000 strong at full strength, working alongside some 1 600 French troops.

By late December, more than 4 000 troops were already deployed, with 850 Burundians, 800 Cameroonians, 850 from Congo Republic, 850 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 500 from Gabon, 200 from Equatorial Guinea and 850 Chadians.

Joint operation

European Union nations are considering a joint military operation in CAR to help the African and French troops already deployed, experts said on Wednesday. A decision is expected on January 20.

The CAR spiralled into chaos after a March coup in which the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew president François Bozizé.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia was installed as the first Muslim leader of the majority Christian nation and disbanded the Seleka, but many rebels went rogue, spreading terror which government forces could not stop.

Months of brutal massacres, rapes and looting have followed, with locals forming Christian vigilante groups in response to the atrocities. – (Sapa-AFP)

Q&A: Stand-off in Ukraine over EU agreement

Protests have gripped Ukraine since the government rejected a far-reaching accord with the EU in favour of stronger ties with Russia in November 2013.

They turned violent on 19 January, and deadly on 22 January in the capital, Kiev, where confrontation degenerated into rioting after the government brought in tough new legislation to end mass protests on the main square.

Opposition leaders and President Viktor Yanukovych then held talks, and on 28 January, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned, and the Ukrainian parliament voted overwhelmingly to annul the anti-protest laws.

In another apparent concession, parliament then passed an amnesty law for detained protesters – but the opposition dismissed it and the demonstrations continue.
How bad is the violence?
Rioters hurl petrol bombs in Kiev, 22 January Independence Square has at times resembled a war zone

The scenes overnight on 19 and 20 January were some of the worst in nearly two months of demonstrations, with protesters torching police buses and hurling paving stones and petrol bombs at lines of riot police, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

Two people were shot dead at the site of the Kiev protest camp on Independence Square on 22 January. Another was found dead with torture marks in a forest near the capital. On 25 January a fourth protester was said to have died from injuries sustained in earlier violence.

The interior ministry reported on 28 January that one of three policemen stabbed by protesters in the southern city of Kherson had died.

Hundreds of protesters and police officers have been injured in the unrest. Protests have spread to a number of Ukrainian cities, mostly in the west of the country but also in Mr Yanukovych’s traditional support base in the east.

Scores of protesters – by one estimate, more than 300 – have been arrested since the protests began.

What caused the protests?

Pro-EU rally on Kiev’s Independence Square, 15 December The pro-EU rallies in Kiev in December drew crowds of some 200,000

The anti-protest laws certainly raised passion among the protesters. They had prescribed jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings and banned the wearing of masks or helmets at demonstrations.

But the original trigger for the protests was President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a major partnership deal with the EU, despite years of negotiations aimed at integrating Ukraine with the 28-nation bloc.

Thousands of pro-EU Ukrainians poured on to the streets of the capital, urging President Yanukovych to cancel his U-turn and go ahead with the EU deal after all. He refused, and the protests continued.

When riot police first took action on 30 November, the images of them breaking up a student protest and leaving dozens of people injured only fuelled anger with the president and boosted the crowds in Independence Square.

The authorities sought to defuse the anger through measures such as the suspension of the mayor of Kiev and the release of detainees.

On 17 December, Russia and Ukraine announced a major deal under which Russia would buy $15bn-worth (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of Russian gas sold to Ukraine.

The deal appeared to take the wind out of the sails of the protest movement but when a pro-opposition journalist, Tetyana Chornovol, was beaten up by unknown assailants on 25 December, there was a renewed outcry.

Who are the protesters?

Boxer and politician Vitali Klitschko with raised fist at rally in Kiev, 1 Dec 13 Vitali Klitschko, with raised fist, hopes to become president in 2015. There are a number of main actors behind the rallies.

The protesters are mainly from the Kiev area and western Ukraine, where there is a greater affinity with the EU, rather than in the Russian-speaking east and south – though they include eastern Ukrainians too.

Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion and leader of the Udar (Punch) movement, has been a prominent demonstrator. He is very pro-EU and plans to run for president in 2015.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, parliamentary leader of the country’s second biggest party, Fatherland, is an ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister now in prison.

The far-right group Svoboda (Freedom) is also involved. Led by Oleh Tyahnybok (pictured second from left), it stirred unease on New Year’s Day with a torch-lit procession through Kiev.

Other radical right-wingers include Bratstvo (Brotherhood) and Right Sector.

How has the West reacted?

The US embassy in Kiev revoked the visas of “several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence” after the deaths on 22 January.

EU leaders expressed shock at the deaths and called on all sides to halt the violence. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, warned that the EU’s relationship with Ukraine might have to be reviewed.

The EU’s official position on the agreement abandoned in November is that the door remains open for Ukraine to sign but it has put any new negotiations on hold until there is a clear commitment to do so.

Both the EU and US condemned the now-revoked anti-protest laws, saying they were incompatible with Ukrainians’ democratic aspirations.

They also warned Ukraine not to introduce a state of emergency. Amid the concerns, top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton brought forward a trip to Ukraine to 28 January. She expressed alarm at the authorities’ handling of the situation and shock at the deadly violence.

Is Russia pulling the strings in Kiev?

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (left) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, 15 December The gas deal was announced after nearly four weeks of street protests in Ukraine

To many observers, the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine on 17 December points to a carrot-and-stick approach by the Kremlin.

The 2004 Orange Revolution led to Mr Yanukovych’s removal from power after his election was judged to have been fraudulent. Russia backed him then – and backs him now.

For centuries Ukraine was controlled by Moscow and many Russians see Ukraine as vital to Russian interests.

Ukraine map

After the riots erupted on 19 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the protests were “getting out of control”, and accused European politicians of stirring up the trouble.

What happens next?

Mr Yanukovych, who was democratically elected in 2010, still has a strong support base in eastern and southern Ukraine, and there have been street demonstrations by his supporters.

On 25 January the president offered the opposition a number of senior positions in the government – including prime minister – but the deal was rejected.

On 28 January, President Yanukovych accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet, and parliament repealed the anti-protest laws.

On 29 January, parliament backed an amnesty law that would see arrested protesters released if their fellow protesters vacated occupied government buildings and unblocked streets and squares within 15 days. But the opposition refused to back it.

The stand-off appears set to continue, amid warnings that the country risks sliding into civil war.
END

Ed. note I have just noticed that things are so bad that one protester was taken out and beaten and left for dead in a forest. Fortunately he survived but instead of seeking medical treatment he presented his freshly beaten body to the media. It was absolutely chilling, and brings to mind the wrongness of the words of the song the revolution will not be televised?..Oh yes it will.

Erdogan discusses Syria policy in visit to Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — In public, it was all about economies, treaties and bilateral relations. Behind closed doors, however, the visit to Iran by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was all about Syria, Syria and Syria.

Author Ali Hashem Posted January 30, 2014

Summary
Behind closed doors, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked with Iranian leaders about common ground on Syria and a more effective dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.

“There are still differences, that’s obvious, but they’re not as crucial as they were before,” a source in Tehran commented to Al-Monitor in discussing Erdogan’s visit. “Almost two years ago, Erdogan came to Iran and insisted on meeting [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to tell him that Iran’s bet on Assad would not yield any benefit. Back then, the leader told the Turkish guest, review your policies, your strategies, and come back. [Bashar al-] Assad won’t fall.”

Erdogan is back, and he is still in favor of toppling Assad, but according to the source, he is almost convinced that this is only a wish.

“There are alternatives that have been discussed during the past months, and in this visit, they were finalized. Turkey has its own people in the opposition, and they’ve been isolated by the current backed by Saudi Arabia,” the source explained. “The need for change in Syria can be met by bringing together both the regime and the opposition. [These] talks can be more efficient than the ones taking place in Montreux. Even if it took place at the same location, the idea is giving the talks a strong push, with both regional powers playing a positive role in convincing their allies to come to terms.”

Both Turkey and Iran have decided that they need to maintain good strategic relations, as both feel the heat of terrorism and regional differences vis-a-vis other powers. The Iranian supreme leader’s words were as clear as day. He was reported as saying that Iranian-Turkish relations are the best in centuries, and both countries have to seize the opportunity to solidify their relations. Erdogan, for his part, offered that when he visits Iran, it feels like a second home. He added that they have to work together to the extent that ministers of both governments feel as if they are working in the same government.

Khamenei is known to be extremely selective in his choice of words. He is, after all, the supreme leader, the head of the regime, the man who makes decisions on strategic matters. In speaking about Syria, he is saying what his allies in Damascus might be too intimidated to say to the Turks, although, according to Al-Monitor’s source, “it’s not the case” since they are aware of all the details and understand the need to have Turkey as an ally and a strategic partner.

The meetings are expected to continue between Ankara and Tehran to assess the situation on the ground. According to the source, coordination on the Syrian crisis is at the highest levels. “The countries are to unify their efforts. They see themselves in the same boat, and they have the same rivals. The region needs three main pillars to stand again. Turkey and Iran are two [of them]. An Arab partner is needed, and this is what they are working on. Iraq could play this role, but so can other countries in the region.”

Three weeks before Erdogan’s visit to Tehran, Al-Monitor learned that a high-ranking delegation from Iran had visited Ankara, carrying information about the situation in Syria. The delegation met high-ranking Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and there was agreement on exchanging information and coordinating closely on the situation in Syria. The meeting also included some non-Iranian and non-Turkish figures. The exchange apparently continues.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/erdogan-iran-syria-shift.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=c9c95b63ee-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-c9c95b63ee-93145129#ixzz2s1Bu3o9l