Conflicto territorial

Children ride bicycles next to a wall painted with the European Union flag last month in the southern Serbian town of Presevo. (Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images)

Serbia and Kosovo have been talking about a grand bargain to defuse lingering ethnic conflicts. Critics have been quick to weigh in. Some argue that the risks are simply too substantial for the international community to entertain the idea of “border adjustments,” or territorial exchanges, involving Serb-populated territories in northern Kosovo and Albanian-populated territories in southern Serbia, which is being subtly pushed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his Kosovar counterpart, Hashim Thaci.

The crux of the critics’ argument rests on the potential for spillover throughout the Balkans. If Belgrade and Pristina exchange territory, this will show Croats and Serbs in Bosnia that they, too, can find a way to secede and join their ethnic kin in Croatia and Serbia, breaking up Bosnia in the process.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man sits at a roadblock in Vojtesh, Kosovo, on Sept. 9. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are planning to swap territory. They say it will ease ethnic tensions and contribute to stability in the western Balkans. Some commentators and politicians think it is a great idea.

Don’t bet on it. The proposals present enormous risks — not only for the countries themselves but also for the broader region. Indeed, they could set an ominous precedent for leaders who harbor separatist ambitions.

What Kosovo President Hashim Thaci refers to as a “border adjustment” could easily prompt nationalists in this part of Europe to demand similar changes. It could offer destructive inspiration to Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia, where nationalist movements and some of the leaders yearn to have their own ethnically homogeneous countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

1. Una ventana de oportunidad

Veinte años después del final de la guerra, cuarenta años después del comienzo del conflicto, serbios y albaneses kosovares están por fin negociando. Y parece que esta vez las negociaciones van por buena vía y que existen esperanzas fundadas de que las partes lleguen a un acuerdo basado en el reconocimiento serbio de la independencia de Kósovo, acompañado, quizá, por una corrección de fronteras en busca la máxima homogeneidad étnica de los dos estados.

Y no es tan raro como a primera vista parece. Hay, desde luego, conflictos que terminan con la victoria total de una parte y el aplastamiento de la otra, pero es mucho más frecuente que los conflictos concluyan con algún tipo de negociación.…  Seguir leyendo »

Discussions between Serbia and Kosovo about the possibility of agreeing on border adjustments to settle a solution to the current frozen situation will be ephemeral, a short-lived romance. Not because the presidents of both countries could not finally agree on a deal, but because Europeans suspect the return of ‘Balkan ghosts’. The proposal discomforts the European Union and its member states. International leaders and analysts have already demonised this option, condemned their consequences and warned that another tragedy might befall Balkan people.

The weekend of September 8 and 9, Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, made a trip to Kosovo. On Saturday, he visited the Gazivode Lake – located in the majority-Serb northwest region, which is strategic for the supply of water and electricity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, national security adviser John Bolton said the United States “would not stand in the way” of a land swap deal between Serbia and Kosovo. Recent reports suggest the two countries are close to an agreement that would resolve one of Europe’s most challenging political standoffs since the end of the Cold War.

The plan would redraw the Serbia-Kosovo partition to allow a Serbian-speaking territory in Kosovo’s north to join Serbia, while an Albanian-speaking region in Serbia’s south would join Kosovo. The stakes are high: Resolving this impasse probably would pave the way for Kosovo to gain a seat at the United Nations.…  Seguir leyendo »

A PLA Navy fleet takes part in a review in the South China Sea on 12 April. Photo: Getty Images.

On 12 July 2016, an independent arbitral tribunal established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a clear and binding ruling on China’s claims vis-à-vis the Philippines in the South China Sea. China’s response at the time was to dismiss the ruling as ‘nothing more than a piece of waste paper’.

Interestingly, in the two years since then it has, in some small ways, complied with it. However, it is also clear that China’s behaviour in the South China Sea has not fundamentally changed. It is, in effect, using military force to try to extort concessions from its neighbours.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Ethiopian military officer stands guard in the outskirts of Badme, a territorial dispute town between Eritrea and Ethiopia.CreditTiksa Negeri/Reuters

Early this month, the Ethiopian government declared that it was finally ready to implement a peace deal it signed with Eritrea nearly two decades ago. The Eritrean government didn’t respond to the announcement for over two weeks — until Wednesday, when President Isaias Afwerki said that “the positive direction that has been set in motion is crystal clear.” Mr. Isaias also promised to send a delegation to Ethiopia “to gauge current developments directly and in depth.”

For many years, however, even as Ethiopia declared its willingness to implement a 2002 judgment about the two states’ border, it refused to withdraw its troops from Eritrean territory until other issues — about armed groups, trade, access to Eritrea’s ports on the Red Sea — were settled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abiy Ahmed, the newly elected chairman of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, in April.CreditMulugeta Ayene/Associated Press

If nature abhors a vacuum, politics abhors a military standoff, especially between two nations in one of the poorest, most volatile and most strategically sensitive regions of the world.

And so there was much excitement when the government of Ethiopia announced on Tuesday that it would fully accept the ruling of an international tribunal in the country’s boundary dispute with Eritrea — some 16 years after the judgment was issued.

In 2002, a special international commission delineated the border between the two countries, as they had agreed in the peace deal that ended their 1998-2000 war. Demarcation on the ground was expected to start swiftly, allowing cross-border trade and cooperation to resume.…  Seguir leyendo »

The springtime political upheaval in Armenia stunned neighbouring governments – not least that of Azerbaijan. Since 23 April, when mass demonstrations impelled Armenia’s long-time leader Serzh Sargsyan to resign, the Azerbaijani authorities have struggled to understand the implications for the three-decade-long conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Prior to Armenia’s “velvet revolution”, observers in the Azerbaijani capital Baku believed Sargsyan would continue indefinitely as prime minister. At the outset of the anti-Sargsyan unrest, the demonstrations were small, and Azerbaijanis remained doubtful that the unrest would force a change in Armenian politics. They drew comparisons to “electric Yerevan” – the 2015 protests in the Armenian capital against electricity rate hikes.…  Seguir leyendo »

En Arménie, la ligne rouge n’a pas été franchie. Mais l’Azerbaïdjan franchira-t-il la ligne de démarcation ? En Arménie, depuis le 13 avril, tout au long du mouvement #Im Kayle (ma démarche), initié par Nikol Pachinian contre le gouvernement de Serge Sarkissian et favorable à un changement de pouvoir, une question circule dans toutes les têtes : le conflit du Haut-Karabakh, province arménienne rattachée à l’Azerbaïdjan en 1921 et théâtre d’une guerre entre Arméniens et Azerbaïdjanais (1990-1994) – dont le règlement de paix est placé sous l’égide du Groupe de Minsk de l’OSCE (Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe) coprésidé par la France, les Etats-Unis et la Russie – va-t-il dégénérer ?…  Seguir leyendo »

An indigenous Sahrawi woman walks at a refugee camp of Boudjdour in Tindouf, southern Algeria, on 3 March 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Set deep in the desert outside Tindouf, Algeria, the Sahrawi refugee camps are a remote yet lively political hub. The camps are home to 173,000 refugees of a forgotten conflict: an older generation who remember the war against Morocco from 1975 to 1991, and a younger generation born in the camps since the latter year’s ceasefire agreement. All are active in the struggle for a return to the disputed territory of Western Sahara, a 100,000-square-mile coastal stretch of desert now mostly controlled by Morocco. The camps resemble other Saharan settlements, with trucks threading through low sand-clad structures and herds of camels, goats and sheep grazing the desert bush.…  Seguir leyendo »

The inauguration of a frigate built by Russia for the Vietnamese navy. Photo: Getty Images.

Russia’s new military agreement with Vietnam, which maps out cooperation between the long-time friends until 2020, has caused concern in Japan. An increased Russian presence brings into conflict two different foreign policies of Shinzo Abe’s government –maintaining a strong posture on power plays in the South China Sea and being careful to avoid confrontation with Russia.

The new agreement, which includes Russia agreeing to deploy rescue boats to Vietnam and to take part in rescue missions, follows a number of moves to deepen naval cooperation. Since 2011, four Russian-made naval vessels have joined the Vietnamese navy, and the two countries are planning a joint military exercise in the next three years.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mural at a Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria. Photo: Getty Images.

For more than 40 years Morocco and the Sahrawi independence movement, the Polisario Front, have contested claims to sovereignty over the Western Sahara. But two key UN players currently seeking to resolve the conflict are both seasoned and serious politicians who might just be able to provide a breakthrough.

The UN secretary-general and former Portuguese prime minister António Guterres, previously led the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, for more than 10 years. He has a special concern, as he wrote in an annual status report released by his office on 29 March, for the ‘exasperation’ of thousands of Sahrawi refugees stuck in camps near Tindouf in southern Algeria for over four decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party during a protest against Turkey in Athens last month.CreditAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

In a rapidly intensifying war of words, government officials of the nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey have been exchanging insults and threats in the past few weeks, recalling conflicts from a shared and bloody history. Relations have rarely been rosy, but the speed with which they have worsened, and the level of vitriol, have raised fears that the two heavily armed neighbors may be trash-talking their way to new conflict.

Adding to those concerns is the awareness that the two most credible mediators between the two sides — the United States and the European Union — appear to have little leverage with Turkey.…  Seguir leyendo »

Gibraltar, ciudad de las dos coronas

El vínculo político bilateral entre Madrid y Londres siempre ha estado muy por debajo de su potencial, considerando la intensa relación interpersonal y económicoempresarial entre España y Reino Unido; quizá la mayor del mundo entre dos países que no son vecinos ni comparten idioma. Pese a los muchos intereses y valores comunes, la relación solo puede calificarse como correcta y, así, Reino Unido es el único de los seis Estados miembros más grandes de la UE con quien España no ha institucionalizado una asociación. La visión tan distinta sobre la integración europea y Gibraltar explican ese perfil bajo. Paradójicamente, tras el Brexit aumentan los incentivos para que la diplomacia británica busque más complicidad con la cuarta potencia del continente.…  Seguir leyendo »

Se echa en falta una política de Estado por parte de España en el contencioso de Gibraltar. Si bien es cierto que, desde la pérdida del Peñón por el Tratado de Utrecht, todos los gobiernos han tenido como objetivo (yo diría obsesivo) su recuperación, no se vislumbra una clara estrategia para alcanzarlo sobre la base de planes y metas a corto y medio plazo y que suponga una verdadera política de Estado de cara a asegurar continuidad y coherencia en su ejecución a lo largo del tiempo, independientemente del partido(s) que tenga las responsabilidades de gobierno. En este sentido, la salida del Reino Unido (RU) de la UE es una oportunidad única para proceder a elaborarla, en conjunción con los principales partidos políticos.…  Seguir leyendo »


El Brexit abre una pequeña ventana de oportunidad para intentar resolver el estatus de Gibraltar.


La negociación del divorcio y futuro acuerdo de relación entre el Reino Unido y la UE obliga a abordar la situación de Gibraltar. En menos de un año deberán resolverse aspectos concretos complejos y, al mismo tiempo, se abre la posibilidad de abordar una solución general a la controversia de fondo sobre el estatus del territorio. Es una ventana de oportunidad de tamaño reducido y corta en el tiempo pero, por primera vez en la historia reciente, propicia para el acuerdo. El momento actual combina el interés gibraltareño por permanecer en la UE con una actitud española constructiva que se plasma en la propuesta de soberanía compartida sobre el territorio y el deseo de mantener estrechas relaciones con Londres en la perspectiva del Brexit.…  Seguir leyendo »

Politics and Security Hold Each Other Hostage in Nagorno-Karabakh

Sniper fire can hit almost every open-air spot in Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, an Armenian village in the Tavush region on the border with Azerbaijan. Nargiza, who runs a well-stocked shop out of an abandoned railway coach in the village centre, laments the locals’ fate: “We never feel safe. We hear shooting at night, and fear it during the day. My neighbours have stopped cultivating their vineyards. They were being shot at while at work.”

Nargiza means “daffodil”. It’s a common name in Azerbaijan and other Muslim cultures, but not in her native Armenia, especially since the start of the three-decade-long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taiwanese military maneuver during the Helicopter Landing Training and All-Out Defense Demonstration in Taipei, Taiwan on Dec. 14. (Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Chinese air force fighters have begun escorting bombers around Taiwan in “encirclement drills” and spokesmen for the Communist government have warned Taiwan to get used to it . On Wednesday, China’s president Xi Jinping, dressed in military fatigues, convened a military mobilization meeting— the first ever for the entire Chinese armed forces and commanded China’s military to become “battle ready.” Chinese officials are threatening that relations with Taiwan will turn “grave” because Taiwan’s government refuses to acknowledge that the island is part of China. A leading Chinese analyst predicts that China has accelerated its timetable to 2020 for taking over the island by military means.…  Seguir leyendo »

En un artículo anterior sobre el mismo tema, en el año 2011, después de examinar los antecedentes desde su conquista por los ingleses, terminaba manifestando que había dos maneras de recuperar Gibraltar, una utilizando la coacción necesaria para obligar a los ingleses a negociar sobre el traspaso de su soberanía; y la segunda, ofrecer ventajas a la población de Gibraltar como impositivas, de suministros y demás a fin de que los gibraltareños miren favorablemente las exposiciones españolas. Como dice Paul Preston, que los gibraltareños reconozcan una ganga cuando está a su alcance. Y esta segunda opción, después de los años transcurridos sin el avance en el traspaso de la soberanía, estimaba que no es viable ya que, a pesar de las facilidades de servicios de telecomunicaciones, espacio aéreo, etc., y contemplaciones realizados por el Estado español, no dan ningún resultado, por lo que la única solución, en un plazo razonable, es apretar la presión sobre Gibraltar.…  Seguir leyendo »