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  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? On 29 February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement meant to prompt peace talks between the militant group and the Afghan government. Many issues have delayed those talks, including widespread concerns about the Taliban’s willingness to compromise in a political settlement ending the war. Why does it matter? The U.S.-Taliban deal opened a fragile window of opportunity to settle the world’s deadliest conflict. But for talks among Afghans to progress, the Taliban will need to move beyond vague governing principles and put forth concrete negotiating positions on reconciliation, power sharing and governance. What should be done? The Taliban should swiftly determine clear negotiating positions and be prepared to debate – and eventually reach compromises – on these as intra-Afghan talks unfold. The U.S. and other donors should leverage prospects of post-transition assistance as encouragement, while the Afghan government and civil society should engage the group and its ideas.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Non State Actors, Taliban, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, United States of America
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Elections in 2022 will bring an autonomous regional government to the Bangsamoro, a part of the southern Philippines long riven by rebellion. To prepare for the 2014 peace deal’s last test, the area’s interim self-rule entity needs to accommodate the big families that dominate its politics. What’s new? One year after taking office, following a landmark peace agreement, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is trying to set the stage for regional stability and durable peace in Muslim Mindanao. In doing so, it needs to deal with powerful political clans that may provoke tensions in the run-up to 2022 elections. Why does it matter? Clans are predominant in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region’s politics, which could lead to tensions with the new authority. Confrontations among armed families could reverse peace process gains, as could a falling-out between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the former rebel group, and clans if the transition goes awry. What should be done? The Bangsamoro transitional government should create a strong regional institution that is pragmatic in finding arrangements with political families and capable of curbing inter-clan feuding as well as overcoming clan-linked patronage networks. Donors should support efforts to ensure the state’s primacy over kinship interests through a broad funding portfolio.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Conflict, Peace, Autonomy
  • Political Geography: Philippines, Asia-Pacific
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: For more than eighteen months, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional body mediating peace negotiations to end South Sudan’s civil war, has struggled to secure a deal in the face of deep regional divisions and the parties’ truculence. To overcome these challenges, it announced a revised, expanded mediation – “IGAD-PLUS” – including the African Union (AU), UN, China, U.S., UK, European Union (EU), Norway and the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF). The initiative is designed to present a united international front behind IGAD to the warring sides but so far it has failed to gain necessary backing from the wider international community, much of which is disillusioned with both IGAD and the South Sudanese. Rather than distance itself from IGAD, the international community needs to support a realistic, regionally-centred strategy to end the war, underpinned by coordinated threats and inducements. Supporting IGAD-PLUS’ efforts to get the parties’ agreement on a final peace deal in the coming weeks is the best – if imperfect – chance to end the conflict and prevent further regionalisation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Treaties and Agreements, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Whether the National Liberation Army (ELN) joins the current peace process is one of the biggest uncertainties around Colombia's historic opportunity to end decades of deadly conflict. Exploratory contacts continue, and pressure to advance decisively is growing, as the Havana negotiations with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) approach a decisive point. However, hopes fresh negotiations with the second insurgency were imminent were repeatedly dashed in 2013. Agreeing on an agenda and procedures that satisfy the ELN and are consistent with the Havana frame-work will not be easy. The ELN thinks the government needs to make an overture or risk ongoing conflict; the government believes the ELN must show flexibility or risk being left out. But delay is in neither's long-term interest. A process from which the ELN is missing or to which it comes late would lack an essential element for the construction of sustainable peace. Both sides, therefore, should shift gears to open negotiations soonest, without waiting for a perfect alignment of stars in the long 2014 electoral season.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements, War on Drugs, Insurgency, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Israel and Hamas are locked again in combat likely to yield – beyond tragic life and property loss – a return to a destructive status quo. The immediate triggers were the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli yeshiva students, for which Israel holds Hamas responsible, and the revenge torture and murder of a Palestinian teen by vigilante Israeli Jews. The nature and extent of Hamas's involvement in the initial obscenity remains unclear, but the attack's consequences are anything but. Since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July, 168 Palestinians have been killed (80 per cent civilians, a fifth of whom were children) and about 1,150 wounded. Some 1,000 rockets have been launched toward Israel, of which about 200 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system. Previous rounds ended with each side claiming at best a Pyrrhic victory, because Israel can achieve lasting stability only when Gaza does, and vice versa. Breaking this pattern is even more urgent today, because the stakes of this escalation could be higher.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Islam, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Water has long been a major cause of conflict in Central Asia. Two states – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – have a surplus; the other three say they do not get their share from the region's great rivers, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya, which slice across it from the Tien Shan, Pamir Mountains, and the Hindu Kush to the Aral Sea's remains. Pressures are mounting, especially in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The population in Central Asia has increased by almost ten million since 2000, and limited arable land is being depleted by over-use and outdated farming methods. Extensive corruption and failing infrastructure take further toll, while climate change is likely to have long-term negative consequences. As economies become weaker and states more fragile, heightened nationalism, border disputes, and regional tensions complicate the search for a mutually acceptable solution to the region's water needs. A new approach that addresses water and related issues through an interlocking set of individually more modest bilateral agreements instead of the chimera of a single comprehensive one is urgently needed.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Natural Resources, Water
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  • 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: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Alors que le Nord du Mali connait un inquiétant regain de violence, les négociations de paix à Alger constituent une chance unique de sortie de crise. Mais après deux mois de discussions, la paix semble encore loin. Le gouvernement malien et les groupes armés engagés dans les négociations peinent à trouver un terrain d'entente. Des groupes influents et radicaux qui manquent à la table des négociations sont tentés de faire dérailler le processus par la violence. La résolution du conflit passe par l'articulation complexe d'intérêts divergents qui touchent à la sécurité du Sahara, à la nature de l'Etat malien et aux équilibres locaux entre des communautés divisées. Face aux affrontements armés, la tentation est grande d'aller vite et de signer un accord à minima garantissant la sécurité à court terme. La précipitation est mauvaise conseillère. Il faut se donner les moyens et le temps de construire les fondements d'une paix durable.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Negotiations underway since late 2012 between Turkey's government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are stalling. A ceasefire announced on 23 March 2013 remains precarious, as maximalist rhetoric gains renewed traction on both sides. While the PKK should be doing more to persuade Ankara that it wants a compromise peace, the government has a critical responsibility to fully address the longstanding democratic grievances of Turkey's Kurds. One reason it frequently gives for its hesitation is fear of a nationalist backlash. In fact, the peace process has already demonstrated how willing mainstream Turks would be to accept steps towards democratisation. A much bigger risk for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it heads into a two-year cycle of local, presidential and parliamentary elections, would be if the three-decade-old conflict plunges into a new cycle of violence.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Peace Studies, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: If the Santos administration and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are to lay the foundations for lasting peace as they continue to make head-way toward successfully concluding talks underway since late 2012, they need to agree on a clear, credible and coherent plan for dealing with human rights abuses committed by all sides. This is not easy. Any sustainable agreement must be acceptable well beyond just the two parties. Finding common ground between the guerrillas, the government, the critics of the peace talks, victims and a public largely unsym- pathetic to FARC would be difficult at the best of times but will be even harder on the cusp of the 2014 electoral cycle. However, with courts, Congress and voters all having important roles to play in ratifying and implementing transitional justice measures, both parties' long-term interest in a stable transition should outweigh the costs of agreeing to a deal that goes beyond their own narrow preferences. Otherwise, flagging popular support, political controversy and legal challenges risk undermining both justice and peace.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, Peace Studies, Torture, Treaties and Agreements, Governance
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A negotiated political settlement is a desirable outcome to the conflict in Afghanistan, but current talks with the Taliban are unlikely to result in a sustainable peace. There is a risk that negotiations under present conditions could further destabilise the country and region. Debilitated by internal political divisions and external pressures, the Karzai government is poorly positioned to cut a deal with leaders of the insurgency. Afghanistan's security forces are ill-prepared to handle the power vacuum that will occur following the exit of international troops. As political competition heats up within the country in the run-up to NATO's withdrawal of combat forces at the end of 2014, the differing priorities and preferences of the parties to the conflict – from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership to key regional and wider international actors – will further undermine the prospects of peace. To avoid another civil war, a major course correction is needed that results in the appointment of a UN-mandated mediation team and the adoption of a more realistic approach to resolution of the conflict.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Treaties and Agreements, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Politics in the Sulu archipelago could be an unforeseen stumbling block for a negotiated peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the southern Philippines. So far the presumed spoilers have been Christian settlers, conservative nationalists, and recalcitrant members of the other insurgency in the Muslim south, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The islands off the coast of Mindanao have been all but forgotten. But the provincial governors of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, although Muslim, are wary of any agreement that would allow the MILF, dominated by ethnically distinct groups from Central Mindanao, to extend its sway and jeopardise the patronage system they enjoy with Manila. The challenge for the government of President Benigno Aquino III is to find a way to offer more meaningful autonomy to the MILF and overcome differences between the MILF and MNLF without alienating powerful clan leaders from the Sulu archipelago with a capacity to make trouble.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Israel, Philippines
  • 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: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kosovo has implemented much of the Ahtisaari plan – the blueprint for its democracy, providing substantial rights for Serbs and other minorities – and deserves to be fully independent, but there should be no slippage, and remaining parts of the plan should be honoured. The Pristina government mostly abides by it, and many Serbs south of the Ibar River now accept its authority, obey its laws and take part in political life in a way unimaginable four years ago. These achievements are threatened, however, by the tense Kosovo-Serbia relationship, declining Serb numbers and Pristina's frustration at its inability to extend its sovereignty to the Serb-majority northern areas and to achieve full international recognition. A surge in ethnically-motivated attacks shows peace is fragile. The government should remain committed to the Ahtisaari requirement for minorities. But the plan was not meant to work in isolation and cannot be separated from the overall Kosovo-Serbia relationship. Belgrade needs to earn Pristina's trust and acquiescence for its continued involvement on Kosovo territory, especially the south.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Kosovo, Serbia, Balkans, Pristina
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After decades of failed negotiations and attempts to defeat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) militarily, a political solution to the Western Hemisphere's oldest conflict may be in sight. Following a year of secret contacts, formal peace talks with FARC are to open in Oslo in October 2012 and continue in Havana. They may be extended to the ELN. There seems a firmer willingness to reach an agreement, as the government realises military means alone cannot end the conflict and FARC appears to recognise that the armed struggle permits survival but little else. With no ceasefire in place, both sides must act with restraint on the battlefield to generate immediate humanitarian improvements. And they will need to balance the requirements of fast, discreet negotiations and those of representativeness and inclusion. The government and the guerrillas have the historic responsibility to strike a deal, but only strong social and political ownership of that deal can guarantee that it leads to the lasting peace that has been elusive for so long.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Civil War, Government, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Armed Struggle, Narcotics Trafficking
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Latin America
  • 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: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are back on track, with one round of talks in Kuala Lumpur in February 2011 and another scheduled for late April. The obstacles to achieving a final peace are huge, but the administration of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III has at least brought some fresh air to the process. A new government peace panel seems determined to find a way out of a negotiator's nightmare: multiple parties engaged in parallel and sometimes contradictory talks; powerful potential spoilers; and ethnic divisions, feuding clans and divergent political interests among the Bangsamoro – the Muslims of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago – that make unity within the MILF's own constituency elusive.
  • Topic: Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Israel, Philippines, Kuala Lumpur
  • 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: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Philippine government is experimenting with a creative but risky strategy to bring peace to Mindanao. It has three goals: demonstrate that good governance in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is possible through a two-year reform program; bring separate discussions with two insurgencies, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the much larger, better-armed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) together; and hammer out the territory and powers of a future Moro “sub-state” in peace talks with the MILF. Until now, the government has not made clear how the three components fit together, but it may reveal its hand – at least in part – in mid-August 2011, when it is widely expected to present a new proposal to the MILF. After President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III took office in June 2010, he said that resolving the conflict in Mindanao was a priority, and the current occupants of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) are determined to find the formula for peace that eluded their predecessors. The idea of “convergence” is the result.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Israel, Philippines
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In diplomatic lexicon, September 2011 is shorthand for a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, ensuing Israeli and U.S. retaliation and, in fine, a train-wreck. There are legitimate fears about the fallout, but obsession with what will happen at the UN and the disproportionate energy invested in aborting it are getting in the way of clear thinking. This could well produce a cure more lethal than the ailment. Were Palestinian President Abbas to back down, he could decisively discredit his leadership, embolden his foes and trigger unrest among his people; quickly resuming peace talks as an alternative could lead to a breakdown with consequences far graver than anything that effort might induce. The focus should be on shaping a UN outcome that produces tangible gain for the Palestinians in their quest for statehood while providing some reassurance to Israelis, minimises risks of violence or the Palestinian Authority's collapse and enshrines core principles for a two-state solution. With little time remaining, the burden has shifted to the EU to craft this compromise. It has long sought that role. Now it must live up to it.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Israel, Arabia