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  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Candidate Obama pledged that his Middle East policy would include re-engagement with Syria; President Obama will find that the past is not easily overcome. The reasons behind his vow remain pertinent. Syria holds important cards in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine, is Iran's most important Arab ally and has substantial influence over Hamas and Hizbollah. There are indications of potential common ground on which to build, from resuming Israeli-Syrian negotiations, to consolidating progress in Iraq to blunting the rise of jihadi militancy and sectarianism. But significant obstacles to healthy, mutually beneficial relations remain, along with a legacy of estrangement and distrust. They dictate the need for a prudent approach that seeks first to rebuild ties and restore confidence. It will be critical to reassure Damascus that the U.S. is interested in improving relations and resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict, not in regime change. It is also equally critical not to compromise on core principles such as Lebanon's sovereignty or the integrity of the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • 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: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Over the past twenty years China has become an active participant in UN peacekeeping, a development that will benefit the international community. Beijing has the capacity to expand its contributions further and should be encouraged to do so. China's approach to peacekeeping has evolved considerably since it assumed its UN Security Council (UNSC) seat in 1971, when it rejected the entire concept of peacekeeping. Now, with over 2,000 peacekeepers serving in ten UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, China's motivations for supporting and participating in peacekeeping have led it to adopt a case-by-case approach that balances those motivations against its traditional adherence to nonintervention. This pragmatic policy shift paves the way for China to provide much-needed personnel as well as political support and momentum for peacekeeping at a time when both conflicts and peacekeeping operations are becoming more complex. China's involvement also further binds it to the international system.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy, Peace Studies, United Nations
  • Political Geography: China, Beijing
  • 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: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The policy of isolating Hamas and sanctioning Gaza is bankrupt and, by all conceivable measures, has backfired. Violence is rising, harming both Gazans and Israelis. Economic conditions are ruinous, generating anger and despair. The credibility of President Mahmoud Abbas and other pragmatists has been further damaged. The peace process is at a standstill. Meanwhile, Hamas's hold on Gaza, purportedly the policy's principal target, has been consolidated. Various actors, apparently acknowledging the long-term unsustainability of the status quo, are weighing options. Worried at Hamas's growing military arsenal, Israel is considering a more ambitious and bloody military operation. But along with others, it also is tiptoeing around another, wiser course that involves a mutual ceasefire, international efforts to prevent weapons smuggling and an opening of Gaza's crossings and requires compromise by all concerned. Gaza's fate and the future of the peace process hang in the balance.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Four years after Timor-Leste gained independence, its police and army were fighting each other in the streets of Dili. The April-June 2006 crisis left both institutions in ruins and security again in the hands of international forces. The crisis was precipitated by the dismissal of almost half the army and caused the virtual collapse of the police force. UN police and Australian-led peacekeepers maintain security in a situation that, while not at a point of violent conflict, remains unsettled. If the new government is to reform the security sector successfully, it must ensure that the process is inclusive by consulting widely and resisting the tempation to take autocratic decisions. A systematic, comprehensive approach, as recommended by the UN Security Council, should be based on a realistic analysis of actual security and law-enforcement needs. Unless there is a non-partisan commitment to the reform process, structural problems are likely to remain unresolved and the security forces politicised and volatile.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Development
  • Political Geography: United Nations, Australia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Armenia's flawed presidential election, the subsequent lethal crackdown against a peaceful protest rally, the introduction of a state of emergency and extensive arrests of opposition supporters have brought the country to its deepest crisis since the war against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994. The situation deprives Serzh Sarkisian, scheduled to be inaugurated as president on 9 April 2008, of badly needed legitimacy and handicaps prospects for much needed democratic reform and resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict alike. Unless the U.S., EU and others with significant diplomatic leverage over the regime in Yerevan exert pressure, Armenia is unlikely to make progress on either. The Sarkisian administration must urgently seek credible dialogue with the opposition, release prisoners detained on political grounds, stop arrests and harassment of the opposition and lift all measures limiting freedom of assembly and expression. Unless steps are taken to address the political crisis, the U.S. and EU should suspend foreign aid and put on hold negotiations on further and closer cooperation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Political Violence, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • 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: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kosovo's transition to the status of conditional, or supervised, independence has been greatly complicated by Russia's firm support of Serbia's refusal to accept that it has lost its one-time province. Recognition of conditional independence has broad international, and certainly European Union (EU) and American, support. Under threat of Moscow's veto, the Security Council will not revoke its Resolution 1244 of 1999 that acknowledged Serbian sovereignty while setting up the UN Mission (UNMIK) to prepare Kosovo for self-government pending a political settlement on its future status. Nor will the Council be allowed to approve the plan for a conditionally independent Kosovo devised by the Secretary-General's special representative, Martti Ahtisaari, earlier this year and authorise the EU-led missions meant to implement that plan.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Development, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Kosovo, Moscow, Serbia
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Niger Delta is again at risk of sliding into chaos. The 29 May 2007 inauguration of new federal and state governments offered an opportunity to resolve longstanding conflicts afflicting the oil-rich, deeply impoverished region. Six months later, the opportunity is unravelling amid new violence and criminality. Decisive action is necessary to stop militant violence and criminal hostage-taking, initiate quick-impact development projects that can build public confidence in President Umaru Yar'Adua's administration and tackle constitutional and legal issues that have fuelled unrest in the region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Development
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Southern Serbia's Albanian-majority Presevo Valley is one of the rare conflict resolution success stories in the former Yugoslavia. Outwardly, it is increasingly normal, with no major incidents in over three years. Yet, tensions linger: massive unemployment is still the single largest problem but the shadow of Kosovo's future status darkens the political landscape. How Kosovo's final status is determined in the next months will have a profound impact. If formal partition or large-scale violence accompanies independence, the peace could unravel; in a worst case scenario, ethnic cleansing in southern Serbia would be accompanied by significant, cross-boundary, two-way refugee flows. All parties – local Albanian politicians, the Serbian government and the international community – need to work with greater urgency on developing the region's economy and ensuring that developments in Kosovo do not disrupt its peaceful progress.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Balkans
  • 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: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Thailand's increasing reliance on paramilitary forces and civilian militias is hindering efforts to tackle the insurgency in its majority Muslim southern provinces. A bewildering array of paramilitary organisations works alongside and often in parallel to the regular military and police. There are advantages to using irregular forces. They are quicker and cheaper to train and deploy and tend to have more flexible command structures. Locally recruited volunteers have better local knowledge than troops brought in from outside. But they are also inadequately trained and equipped, confuse already difficult command and control arrangements and appear in some cases to make communal tensions worse. While paramilitaries are likely to continue to be deployed in the South, the government should move toward consolidating security arrangements and, in the longer term, concentrate on improving its regular security forces.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Civil War
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Southern Thailand
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The pro-reform AK Party's resounding victory in the July 2007 parliamentary elections gives both it and the European Union (EU) a chance to relaunch Turkey's accession process, which has floundered since 2005 due to Europe's enlargement fatigue and a neo-nationalist backlash in the country. That process, pursued with real application, has the capacity to help both sides. Popular opinion may show fatigue but leaders and diplomats need to keep avenues open for when political confidence returns, as past experience with the enlargement process suggests it can.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: L'accord de paix conclu le 4 mars 2007 à Ouagadougou entre Laurent Gbagbo et Guillaume Soro constitue un tournant majeur dans la résolution du conflit armé en Côte d'Ivoire, mais ne représente qu'un premier pas dans la bonne direction. Tous les Ivoiriens qui souhaitent une paix durable doivent maintenant se mobiliser pour exiger du gouvernement de transition la délivrance effective des titres d'identité prévus, la récupération des armes encore détenues par les milices, une véritable réforme du secteur de la sécurité et un processus électoral crédible. La communauté internationale a évité à la Côte d'Ivoire de sombrer dans le chaos au cours de ces quatre dernières années et doit maintenir intact son engagement militaire, politique et financier. L'évolution du processus de paix ne doit pas être dictée par les seules ambitions des deux signataires de l'accord de Ouagadougou mais aussi par l'objectif de la construction d'une paix durable en Côte d'Ivoire qui est cruciale pour la stabilité de toute l'Afrique de l'Ouest.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Civil War, Government, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Amid the media and military focus on Baghdad, another major Iraqi city – Basra – is being overlooked. Yet Basra's experience carries important lessons for the capital and nation as a whole. Coalition forces have already implemented a security plan there, Operation Sinbad, which was in many ways similar to Baghdad's current military surge. What U.S. commanders call “clear, hold and build”, their British counterparts earlier had dubbed “clear, hold and civil reconstruction”. And, as in the capital, the putative goal was to pave the way for a takeover by Iraqi forces. Far from being a model to be replicated, however, Basra is an example of what to avoid. With renewed violence and instability, Basra illustrates the pitfalls of a transitional process that has led to collapse of the state apparatus and failed to build legitimate institutions. Fierce intra-Shiite fighting also disproves the simplistic view of Iraq neatly divided between three homogenous communities.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Civil War, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Serbia finally has a new government but one that is deeply divided between pro-Western and nationalist forces. Facing two difficult issues–Kosovo status and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)–its choice is between moving towards European integration or on to a more isolationist path. The government's composition, deep mistrust among many of its members and the parliament's nationalist majority suggest it will follow the second option. Pro-Western forces have suffered a significant setback, the government is vulnerable to manipulation by the security services and oligarchs, and the system of divided responsibility for the security services renders unlikely serious cooperation with the ICTY, especially the arrests of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. Although Kosovo independence could destabilise the government, it may surprise and last far longer and prove more stable than expected. The West should prepare for Serbia turning increasingly away from Europe and towards Moscow.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Nationalism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Moscow, Serbia
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The debate on Kosovo's future status has reached a crucial point. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has begun to consider elements of a draft resolution to determine the entity's future, which could be put to a vote in the coming weeks. The best way of ensuring regional peace and stability and lifting Kosovo out of an eight-year-long limbo, with a tired, temporary UN administration and an undeveloped, low-growth economy, is a resolution based squarely on the plan of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. This would supersede UNSC Resolution 1244 (1999), define Kosovo's internal settlement and minority-protection mechanisms, mandate a new international presence and allow for supervised independence.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Kosovo, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The disbanding of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) between 2003 and 2006 is seen by the administration of President Alvaro Uribe as a vital step toward peace. While taking some 32,000 AUC members out of the conflict has certainly altered the landscape of violence, there is growing evidence that new armed groups are emerging that are more than the simple “criminal gangs” that the government describes. Some of them are increasingly acting as the next generation of paramilitaries, and they require a more urgent and more comprehensive response from the government.
  • Topic: International Relations, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America
  • 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