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  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power in 2019 promising to bring peace to Ukraine’s Donbas region, where government and Russian-backed separatist forces are locked in low-level combat. Yet a full, sustained ceasefire remains elusive. Although casualties have dropped from their 2014-2015 peak, fighting continues to kill soldiers and civilians. Why does it matter? Each of the warring parties wants a ceasefire but only if it will lead to peace on its own terms. All prefer to tolerate continued fighting rather than stop the shooting under conditions they deem unfavourable. What should be done? A comprehensive ceasefire is likely unattainable under today’s political conditions. In its absence, the parties should pursue sectoral bilateral disengagements with clear humanitarian and related goals, even as they seek a durable political settlement through talks.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Peace, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through. What’s new? Isolated and scarred by war, six de facto statelets that claim independence from successor states to the Soviet Union are acutely vulnerable to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why does it matter? Immediate and long-term suffering will not only cost lives but could also harden divides between these entities and the states that claim them, posing further obstacles to eventual normalisation and peace. What should be done? All parties and stakeholders should cooperate across front lines to ensure international humanitarian access, the only way to stave off suffering in the near and longer term.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Post-Soviet Europe
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Trafficking – a catch-all term for illicit movement of goods and people – has long sustained livelihoods in northern Niger. But conflicts are emerging due to heightened competition and European pressure to curb migration. Authorities should persevere in managing the extralegal exchange to contain violence. What’s new? Niger’s informal systems for managing violence related to drug, gold and people trafficking in the country’s north are under strain – due in part to European pressure to curb migration and in part to increased competition over drug transport routes. The discovery of gold could bring new challenges. Why does it matter? Tacit understandings between the authorities and traffickers pose dangers, namely the state’s criminalisation as illicit trade and politics become more intertwined. But the collapse of those understandings would be still more perilous: if trafficking disputes descend into strife, they could destabilise Niger as they have neighbouring Mali. What should be done? Niger should reinforce its conflict management systems. Action against traffickers should focus on those who are heavily armed or engage in violence. Niamey and external actors should reinvigorate the north’s formal economy. European leaders should ensure that their policies avoid upsetting practices that have allowed Niger to escape major bloodshed.
  • Topic: Economy, Trafficking , Conflict, Violence
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Niger
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Rebuilding war-torn Syria poses a formidable challenge for European governments, which are unwilling to legitimise the Damascus regime by funding reconstruction. Instead, the EU and its member states could consider bankrolling small projects without regime involvement and testing an approach that trades aid for reforms. What’s new? The Syrian war is drawing to a close, but whether the regime in Damascus can also win the peace is uncertain. Few appear willing or able to invest significantly in reconstruction, and Europe, which could make substantial funds available, is withholding support absent a genuine political transition. Why does it matter? Without reconstruction, Syrians’ living conditions could deteriorate and leave the country’s recovery indefinitely postponed, perpetuating current instability. Yet many European leaders believe reconstruction support without substantial reforms could have a similar effect, empowering a regime intent on repression, not reconciliation. What should be done? Europe should consider supporting small-scale rehabilitation projects on condition of no regime interference. It could also test an incremental incentives-based approach – a progressive lifting of sanctions, gradual normalisation of relations and staggered disbursement of reconstruction funds – in exchange for political reforms and regime steps to ease repressive and discriminatory practices.
  • Topic: Foreign Aid, Reconstruction, European Union, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Russia and the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s east are no longer quite on the same page, especially since the Kremlin abandoned ideas of annexing the breakaway republics or recognising their independence. The rift gives the new Ukrainian president an opportunity for outreach to the east’s embattled population, including by relaxing the trade embargo. What’s new? Russia’s gradual retreat from any plans to annex parts of eastern Ukraine has opened schisms between Moscow and its separatist proxies in the region. Why does it matter? For Kyiv, these divides could create opportunities to restart dialogue with the people of the east. Such contacts, in turn, could help lay the groundwork for Ukraine’s unification. What should be done? The rift between Moscow and its proxies should inform new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s policies. Kyiv should look to rebuild relations with the inhabitants of separatist-held areas, by easing the economic blockade on the east and increasing outreach to the population there.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Geopolitics, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Ukraine
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis crashed onto neighbouring Turkey's doorstep three years ago and the humanitarian, policy and security costs continue to rise. After at least 720,000 Syrian refugees, over 75 Turkish fatalities and nearly $3 billion in spending, frustration and fatigue are kicking in. Turkey's humanitarian outreach, while morally right and in line with international principles, remains an emergency response. Ankara needs to find a sustainable, long-term arrangement with the international community to care for the Syrians who arrive daily. While spared the worst of the sectarian and military spillover, Turks are reminded of the security risks by deadly car bombs and armed incidents on their territory, especially as northern Syria remains an unpredictable no-man's-land. The conflict was not of its making, but Ankara has in effect become a party. Unable to make a real difference by itself, it should focus on protecting its border and citizens, invigorate recent efforts to move back from the ruling party's Sunni Muslim-oriented foreign policy to one of sectarian neutrality and publicly promote a compromise political solution in Syria.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, Refugee Issues
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Ukraine's provisional government faces an uphill struggle to make it to the 25 May presidential election. Shaken by separatist agitation and distracted by Russian troops on its borders, it has not asserted itself coherently and has lost control of the eastern oblasts (regions) of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have voted for independence in contentious referendums. It appears incapable of keeping order in much of the south east, where separatists, supported and encouraged by Moscow, threaten the state's viability and unity. Kyiv and the presidential candidates should reach out to the south east, explaining plans for local self-government and minority rights, and for Ukraine to be a bridge between Russia and Europe, not a geopolitical battleground. With relations between Moscow and the West deeply chilled, the U.S. and EU should continue tough sanctions to show Russia it will pay an increasing cost for destabilising or dismembering its neighbour, while pursuing parallel, vigorous diplomacy to reach understandings that avoid the worst and respect mutual interest.
  • Topic: Territorial Disputes, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH, or Bosnia) poses little risk of deadly conflict, but after billions of dollars in foreign aid and intrusive international administration and despite a supportive European neighbourhood, it is slowly spiralling toward disintegration. Its three communities' conflicting goals and interests are a permanent source of crisis, exacerbated by a constitution that meets no group's needs. The political elite enjoys mastery over all government levels and much of the economy, with no practical way for voters to dislodge it. The European Union (EU) imposes tasks BiH cannot fulfil. A countrywide popular uprising torched government buildings and demanded urgent reforms in February 2014, but possible solutions are not politically feasible; those that might be politically feasible seem unlikely to work. Bosnia's leaders, with international support, must begin an urgent search for a new constitutional foundation.
  • Topic: Foreign Aid, Reform
  • Political Geography: Europe, Bosnia, Herzegovina
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The large emigration of youths is the clearest sign of extreme domestic discontent with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki's government. Social malaise is pervasive. An ever-growing number of young people have fled over the last decade, frustrated by open-ended national service – initiated in 1995 and expanded during the war with Ethiopia (1998-2000). Yet, this flight has resulted in neither reforms nor a viable movement to create an alternative to the current government. Once outside, the ties that bind émigrés to their birthplace are strong and lead them to give financial support to the very system they escaped, through the 2 per cent tax many pay the state as well as remittances sent home to family members.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Immigration, Youth Culture, Governance
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The peace process to end the 30-year-old insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) against Turkey's government is at a turning point. It will either collapse as the sides squander years of work, or it will accelerate as they commit to real convergences. Both act as if they can still play for time – the government to win one more election, the PKK to further build up quasi-state structures in the country's predominantly- Kurdish south east. But despite a worrying upsurge in hostilities, they currently face few insuperable obstacles at home and have two strong leaders who can still see the process through. Without first achieving peace, they cannot cooperate in fighting their common enemy, the jihadi threat, particularly from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Increasing ceasefire violations, urban unrest and Islamist extremism spilling over into Turkey from regional conflicts underline the cost of delays. Both sides must put aside external pretexts and domestic inertia to compromise on the chief problem, the Turkey-PKK conflict inside Turkey.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, War, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Eastern Mediterranean tensions have risen since late 2011, when Greek Cypriots unilaterally began drilling in their rich offshore hydrocarbon reserves and Turkey responded with tough criticism and threatening naval manoeuvres. Contested maritime boundaries and exploration of natural gas deposits off the divided island are the sources of the current dispute, but tensions also result from the slow-down of UN-mediated Cyprus reunification talks. A paradigm shift is needed. The gas can drive the communities further apart and increase discords, or it can provide an opportunity for officials from all sides, including Turkey, to sit down and reach agreements on the exploitation and transportation of this new find.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, NATO, Energy Policy, International Political Economy, Natural Resources, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Does anybody still believe in the Middle East Peace Process? Nineteen years after Oslo and thirteen years after a final settlement was supposed to be reached, prospects for a two-state solution are as dim as ever. The international community mechanically goes through the motions, with as little energy as conviction. The parties most directly concerned, the Israeli and Palestinian people, appear long ago to have lost hope. Substantive gaps are wide, and it has become a challenge to get the sides in the same room. The bad news is the U.S. presidential campaign, Arab Spring, Israel's focus on Iran and European financial woes portend a peacemaking hiatus. The good news is such a hiatus is badly needed. The expected diplomatic lull is a chance to reconsider basic pillars of the process – not to discard the two-state solution, for no other option can possibly attract mutual assent; nor to give up on negotiations, for no outcome will be imposed from outside. But to incorporate new issues and constituencies; rethink Palestinian strategy to alter the balance of power; and put in place a more effective international architecture.
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West have had their share of dashed expectations, but even by this peculiar standard, the recent diplomatic roller coaster stands out. Brimming with hope in Istanbul, negotiators crashed to earth in Baghdad, a few weeks later. That was not unexpected, given inflated hopes, mismatched expectations and – most hurtful – conviction on both sides that they had the upper hand. But if negotiations collapse now, it is hard to know what comes next. Washington and Brussels seem to count on sanctions taking their toll and forcing Iran to compromise. Tehran appears to bank on a re-elected President Obama displaying more flexibility and an economically incapacitated Europe balking at sanctions that could boomerang. Neither is likely; instead, with prospects for a deal fading, Israeli pressure for a military option may intensify. Rather than more brinkmanship, Iran and the P5+1 (UN Security Council permanent members and Germany) should agree on intensive, continuous, technicallevel negotiations to achieve a limited agreement on Iran's 20 per cent enrichment.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Europe's deadliest conflicts are in Russia's North Caucasus region, and the killing is unlikely to end soon. The state has fought back against attacks, first claimed by Chechen separatists, now the work of jihad-inspired insurgents, that have hit Moscow, other major cities and many Caucasus communities. But its security-focused counter-insurgency strategy is insufficient to address the multiple causes of a conflict fed by ethnic, religious, political and economic grievances that need comprehensive, flexible policy responses. Moscow is increasingly aware of the challenge and is testing new approaches to better integrate a region finally brought into the Russian Empire only in the nineteenth century and that has historically been a problem for the Russian state. Diversity in religion, ethnicity, historical experience and political allegiances and aspirations complicate efforts to alleviate local tensions and integrate it more with the rest of the country. Understanding this pluralism is essential for designing and implementing policies and laws that advance conflict re solution rather than make differences more irreconcilable.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Moscow
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After years of hesitancy, European Union (EU) member states should make 2011 the year when the lead international role in Bosnia and Herzegovina shifts from the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to a reinforced EU delegation. Bosnia has outgrown the OHR established in 1995 after the Dayton Peace Agreement and the creation of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC). Today the country needs EU technical assistance and political guidance to become a credible candidate for EU membership, not an international overseer to legislate for it or maintain security. Member states should rapidly install a comprehensive plan to reinforce the EU presence, including an embassy led by a strong ambassador, strengthen the membership perspective and build local credibility. OHR should withdraw from domestic politics and, unless a threat to peace emerges, focus on reviewing past decisions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Europe, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Balkans
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Hamas and Fatah surprised all with their announcement of a reconciliation accord. What had been delayed since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas asked Salam Fayyad to form a government in the West Bank was done in Cairo in hours. Shock was matched by uncertainty over what had been agreed and the course it would take. Would the factions produce a national strategy and unify fractured institutions? Or would the agreement codify the status quo? Even some of the more pessimistic scenarios were optimistic. Reconciliation stumbled at its first hurdle, naming a prime minister – though that is not the only divisive issue. Neither side wants to admit failure, so the accord is more likely to be frozen than renounced, leaving the door slightly ajar for movement. Palestinian parties but also the U.S. and Europe need to recognise that reconciliation is necessary to both minimise the risk of Israeli-Palestinian violence and help produce a leader- ship able to reach and implement peace with Israel.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkey is launching initiative after ambitious initiative aimed at stabilising the Middle East. Building on the successes of its normalisation with Syria and Iraq, it is facilitating efforts to reduce conflicts, expanding visafree travel, ramping up trade, integrating infrastructure, forging strategic relationships and engaging in multilateral regional platforms. For some, this new activism is evidence that Turkey is turning from its traditional allies in Europe and the United States. In fact, its increased role in the Middle East is a complement to and even dependent on its ties to the West.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than two years after declaring independence, Kosovo struggles with uneven rule of law and a weak justice system that is failing its citizens. The police, public prosecutors and courts are erratic performers, prone to political interference and abuse of office. Organised crime and corruption are widespread and growing. Realising that prosperity, relations with the European Union (EU) and affirmation as an independent state depend on the rule of law, the government has taken important steps, replacing key officials and passing long-delayed reforms. But critical weaknesses remain, notably in the courts, and the government, supported by the international community, must act swiftly to curtail them.
  • Topic: Government, Governance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Kosovo, Balkans
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: South Ossetia is no closer to genuine independence now than in August 2008, when Russia went to war with Georgia and extended recognition. The small, rural territory lacks even true political, economic or military autonomy. Moscow staffs over half the government, donates 99 per cent of the budget and provides security. South Ossetians themselves often urge integration into the Russian Federation, and their entity's situation closely mirrors that of Russia's North Caucasus republics. Regardless of the slow pace of post-conflict reconstruction, extensive high-level corruption and dire socio-economic indicators, there is little interest in closer ties with Georgia. Moscow has not kept important ceasefire commitments, and some 20,000 ethnic Georgians from the region remain forcibly displaced. At a minimum, Russians, Ossetians and Georgians need to begin addressing the local population's basic needs by focusing on creating freedom of movement and economic and humanitarian links without status preconditions.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Humanitarian Aid, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In the wake of the July 2010 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence, Kosovo and Serbia have an opportunity to resolve differences, establish bilateral relations and unblock their paths to greater European Union (EU) integration. The obstacles are formidable, including mutual suspicion, incompatible agendas and uncertainties about the true goals of each. Failure to negotiate in the next months would probably freeze the conflict for several years, as the parties entered electoral cycles, during which the dispute would likely be used to mobilise nationalist opinion and deflect criticism of domestic corruption and government failures. Enough has changed recently, especially the development of more realistic if not yet fully public attitudes in Belgrade and Pristina, to suggest a win-win solution is possible. Without preconditions and facilitated in particular by the EU, Kosovo and Serbia should promptly open talks with the aim of reaching as comprehensive a compromise settlement as possible.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Kosovo, Serbia, Balkans, Southern Serbia