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  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkey and Armenia are close to settling a dispute that has long roiled Caucasus politics, isolated Armenia and cast a shadow over Turkey's European Union (EU) ambition. For a decade and a half, relations have been poisoned by disagreement about issues including how to address a common past and compensate for crimes, territorial disputes, distrust bred in Soviet times and Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani land. But recently, progressively intense official engagement, civil society interaction and public opinion change have transformed the relationship, bringing both sides to the brink of an historic agreement to open borders, establish diplomatic ties and begin joint work on reconciliation. They should seize this opportunity to normalise. The politicised debate whether to recognise as genocide the destruction of much of the Ottoman Armenian population and the stalemated Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh should not halt momentum. The U.S., EU, Russia and others should maintain support for reconciliation and avoid harming it with statements about history at a critical and promising time.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Genocide, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Turkey, Caucasus, Asia, Soviet Union, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the dispute between Georgia and Russia in a new, dangerously confrontational phase, the risk of war in the South Caucasus is growing. Concerned by NATO's plans for further extension to former Soviet republics and Kosovo's unilateral but Western-orchestrated independence, Russia has stepped up manipulation of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts. Georgia remains determined to restore its territorial integrity, and hawks in Tbilisi are seriously considering a military option. Both sides need to recognise the risks in current policies, cool their rhetoric and cease military preparations. Russia should cease undermining its peacekeeper and mediator roles and be open to a change of negotiating formats. Georgia should adopt a new approach to the Abkhaz, encouraging their links to the outside world to lessen dependence on Russia and emphasising incremental con­­fidence building to establish the mutual trust needed for successful negotiations. The U.S. and European Union (EU) should be firm and united in cautioning both Moscow and Tbilisi against military adventures.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, Soviet Union, Kosovo, Georgia, Tbilisi
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: North Korea's relations with Russia have been marked by unrealistic expectations and frequent disappointments but common interests have prevented a rupture. The neighbours' history as dissatisfied allies goes back to the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) with Soviet support and the Red Army's installation of Kim Il-sung as leader. However, the Soviets were soon written out of the North's official ideology. The Sino-Soviet split established a pattern of Kim playing Russian and Chinese leaders off against each other to extract concessions, including the nuclear equipment and technology at the heart of the current crisis. Since Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang in 2000, diplomatic initiatives have come undone and grandiose economic projects have faltered. Russia is arguably the least effective participant in the six-party nuclear talks.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, North Korea, Pyongyang
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Violence continues unabated in Pakistan's strategically important and resource-rich province of Balochistan, where the military government is fighting Baloch militants demanding political and economic autonomy. President Pervez Musharraf's government insists the insurgency is an attempt to seize power by a handful of tribal chiefs bent on resisting economic development. Baloch nationalists maintain it is fuelled by the military's attempts to subdue dissent by force and the alienation caused by the absence of real democracy. Whether or not free and fair national and provincial elections are held later this year or in early 2008 will determine whether the conflict worsens.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Civil War
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia, Balochistan
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: When local elections were held in Aceh on 11 December 2006, conventional wisdom (shared by Crisis Group) was that candidates from the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) would not do well. They might pick up two or three of the nineteen district races, but the biggest prize – the provincial governorship – was almost certainly out of reach. The old Jakarta-linked parties would benefit from deep pockets, established structures and a split in the former insurgency's leadership. Polls just before formal campaigning began showed GAM's governor/deputy governor slate – Irwandi Yusuf and Muhammad Nazar – virtually out of contention. But GAM won overwhelmingly, in what an analyst called “a perfect storm between the fallout from the peace accord and the failure of political parties to understand the changing times”. The challenge now is to govern effectively and cleanly in the face of high expectations, possible old elite obstructionism and some GAM members' sense of entitlement that it is their turn for power and wealth.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil Society, Politics
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The September 2006 coup in Thailand, despite its damage to democratic development, opened the way for improved management of the conflict in the Muslim South. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's interim government has overhauled some of its predecessor's worst policies and signalled willingness to address longstanding grievances. But verbal commitments in Bangkok have been difficult to translate into changes on the ground, and relations between security forces and local communities continue to be strained while violence mounts. Thais outside the South have exerted pressure for a return to heavy-handed crackdowns on suspected militants. The government must respond to the escalating attacks, but with care – widespread arbitrary arrests and civilian casualties would only increase support for insurgents.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Bangkok
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Fierce battles rage in southern Afghanistan, insurgent attacks in the east creep towards the provinces surrounding Kabul and a new campaign of terrorist violence targets urban centres. The country's democratic government is not immediately threatened but action is needed now. This includes putting more international forces into the battle zones but insurgencies are never beaten by military means alone, and there are no quick fixes. Diplomatic pressure on Pakistan is needed, and the government of President Karzai must show political will to respond to internal discontent with serious efforts to attack corruption, work with the elected National Assembly and extend the rule of law by ending the culture of impunity. Afghanistan needs a renewed, long-term effort to build an effective, fair government that provides real security to its people.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Asia, Kabul
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Although the dangers are evident, the international community continues to support General Pervez Musharraf because of his perceived cooperation in the war on terror, ignoring unconstitutional constraints on the civilian opposition. However, the military's refusal to cede real power to civilians and its marginalisation of moderate parties has boosted religious extremists. Instability is worsening, and sectarian conflict threatens to spin out of control. Lacking robust international support for a democratic transition, mainstream parties struggle to survive, subjected to coercion and violence. They can be the most effective safeguard against the religious lobby's manifestly anti-Western agenda, but only if allowed to function freely in a democratic environment. They need outside help but must also get more serious about reforming themselves.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After drifting toward crisis for much of 2004, the outlook for stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved. Constraints on Taiwan pursuing pro-independence initiatives that risk conflict with China will likely remain strong through to the end of President Chen Shui-bian's term of office in 2008. These include a reinvigorated political opposition and Chinese initiatives that have won some poplar support in Taiwan and weakened the drive for independence. Most importantly, the U.S. appears determined to deter not only a Chinese attack but also provocative Taiwan independence moves.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Taiwan, Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Elections for Afghanistan's National Assembly and Provincial Councils are a critical opportunity to achieve a sustainable peace in a country that is still emerging from a quarter century of conflict, created and exacerbated by ethnic, sectarian, regional and linguistic divisions. A representative and functional National Assembly could prove a crucial step in stabilising Afghanistan by allowing diversity of voices in decision-making. Provincial Councils could also help extend the authority of central government by introducing legally approved layers of devolution.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia