Conflicto territorial

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 »

After playing into Russia’s hands on Syria, the Trump administration now risks repeating the error in Ukraine, where diplomatic discussions over a Russian initiative are heating up. Moscow’s plan is to legitimize its invasion and control over parts of two eastern provinces by drawing President Trump into another bad deal.

Vladi­mir Putin’s pattern is familiar. He uses his military to escalate fighting on the ground and then approaches the West with a proposal sold as de-escalation. Appealing to European and U.S. desires for peace without Western intervention, the Russian president puts forward an alleged compromise. But in the details, Putin’s proposals are really designed to divide his adversaries and cement his gains.…  Seguir leyendo »

Almost exactly 70 years ago, Indian troops arrived in Kashmir to support its ruler’s decision to accede to India. The subsequent division of Kashmir between India and Pakistan has sparked occasional conflict between the two countries, and since 1989 Indian Kashmir has suffered from an ongoing insurgency, reflecting both discontent among Indian Kashmiris at poor governance as well as meddling from Pakistan.

The grievances of Kashmiris are manifold – unemployment and corruption are major concerns – and over the years the state response to protests involved human rights abuses which have fed into the cycle of resentment. While successive Indian governments have recognized the need for a political dialogue – and some form of political settlement – they have been loath to start a dialogue while significant protests are taking place.…  Seguir leyendo »

For almost three months now, there has been an astonishing lull along the Karabakh frontline. Instead of grenade launchers, guided missiles, drones, and guns, the sound of relatively less harmful small arms has been heard. For the first time since the clash of April 2016, both sides have put their weapons aside to take a breather before the long-awaited meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.

There have been no negotiations at the presidential level for more than a year. All prior requests to resume meetings by international mediators yielded no results. Instead of conversing at the negotiation table, the leaders occasionally donned military uniforms, and set out with binoculars to examine each other’s military positions.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is expected to hold its long-awaited referendum on independence. While it has generated much nationalist excitement among Kurds in the KRI capital of Irbil and abroad, the central government in Baghdad and the international community have objected to the vote. The United States has mobilized diplomatic capital to persuade Irbil to postpone the vote. Last week, Western diplomats offered an alternative proposal: Postpone the vote and enter into new mediated negotiations with Baghdad. But without ironclad guarantees or a specified timetable, Irbil has rejected those initiatives, continuing to prepare for the referendum.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesia has long been cautious in confronting China’s claims in the South China Sea, so its announcement on July 14 that it was renaming a part of the area the “North Natuna Sea” may have come to many as surprise. The new name encompasses a region north of the Natuna islands that partly falls within the infamous “nine dash line,” by which China claims the sea stretching fifteen hundred miles from its mainland coast almost to the shores of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Indonesia. China immediately demanded a retraction—which it will not get.

The naming was a reminder of how seriously Indonesia treats its position as the seat of ancient trading empires and location of some of the world’s strategically most important straits—Melaka, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar.…  Seguir leyendo »

For Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority group that returned to their ancestral home in Crimea after 1989, the Russian annexation in March 2014 was a hard blow. Three years later, the European Union is pushing back against the latest U.S. sanctions on Russia, passed by Congress in July. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel even floated the possibility that the E.U. would turn a blind eye to the contested status of Crimea.

Ukrainian officials, typically sensitive to signals about Russian sanctions and the status of the formerly Ukrainian peninsula, have been surprisingly silent. But Crimean Tatars have loudly denounced the E.U. move.…  Seguir leyendo »

La política internacional abunda en disputas territoriales sin resolver: desde las reivindicaciones de Japón y China sobre las Islas Senkaku/Diaoyu, al prolongado desacuerdo fronterizo entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán por Nagorno-Karabaj. En este ámbito, poca atención se presta al Sáhara Occidental, pese a que se ha abierto un periodo con expectativas claras de avances hacia la consecución de un acuerdo.

Con cerca de 600.000 habitantes y una superficie de 266.000 km2, el Sáhara Occidental —colonia española hasta 1975—, es el más grande de los 17 territorios no autónomos que figuran en el listado de Naciones Unidas (NNUU) cuyo status político definitivo está todavía pendiente.…  Seguir leyendo »