2010 : a year of transition?
The year 2009 ended a year ago with an unpromising situation on the scene of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a tense political and economic situation in Egypt, while Dubai succumbed to the financial crisis, while we were attending the rise Turkey and Syria as strategic powers and while Libya was imposing its will to the European states. The year 2010 has confirmed some trends, overturned others and has also brought us some surprises.
Review of the EU’s Mediterranean policy
We chose to devote the last two weeks of the year with the publication of two reviews. The first concerns the Euro-Mediterranean and Euro-Arab relations while the second will outline the major events that have taken place in the Arab world in the second half of 2010.
First, it is noteworthy that during these six months of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union (EU), a slowdown in accession negotiations with Turkey have occurred.
Cooperation EU-Morocco: and after?
Three new agreements between Morocco and the European Union were signed at the ninth session of the Association Council EU-Morocco. These agreements are related to community programs, agriculture and settlement of disputes. Under the Agreement on Morocco's participation in community programs, the Kingdom is authorized to participate in all current and future programs of the European Union opened in Morocco.
Peace Process: Israel leads the game
On Tuesday, December 8, 2010, the United States announced that they were renouncing to obtain a new settlement freeze as a precondition for resuming negotiations.
Egypt : an unpromising poll
Last Sunday, the Egyptians went to the polls for the first round of the parliamentary elections. The results fell during the week and revealed, without surprise, a landslide victory for the National Democratic Party, which won 209 seats out of 221. Despite the ban on election polls in Egypt, the results were known in advance. Filigree behind these elections, 2011 presidential represent the real challenge of a ballot prepared long ago by the ruling party.
Lebanon: when the independence?
On Monday, November 22, Lebanon celebrated the 67th anniversary of its independence. In the presence of Presidents of the Republic, Michel Suleiman, of the National Assembly, Nabih Berry, and of the Council of Ministers, Saad Hariri. The celebrations were marked by a military parade organized in downtown Beirut. The Lebanese were proud and united behind their flag and anthem.
Israeli occupation and corporate responsibilities
If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undoubtedly a controversial subject, requiring many precautions in order not to be taxed of pro or anti, international law is often the ground on which everyone agrees at the end. Such a reflection led to the creation of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in March 2009. The idea was to create a people’s tribunal intended to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the basis to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also to identify shortcomings in the implementation of this right and to condemn all the perpetrators in the eyes of international public opinion.
A risky special treatment
On 1 November 2010, 46 Christian worshippers were killed in a terrorist attack against a church in central Baghdad, Iraq. Unquestionably, unequivocal condemnation is, and must be, the appropriate reaction to these dramatic set of events in Iraq. However, the treatment and attention given to victims of sectarian violence in Iraq must not differ according to the victims’ ethnicity.
Failure of the Union for the Mediterranean, the EU responsible
Will the Union for the Mediterranean really take place in November? This is a question that often comes up in discussions. It is true that after the postponement of the date, originally scheduled for June, and new threats of boycott by Arab countries, it is reasonable to ask whether the Union for the Mediterranean will come to life again one day... as long as it has ever existed.
A growing European interest for EU-GCC relations
The state of play of EU relations with its Partners of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was being discussed on Tuesday 26 October at the European Parliament, during a Public Hearing organised by the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs (AFET), in association with the Parliamentary Committee for International Trade (INTA). Experts on EU-Gulf relations had been invited to discuss, inform and insist upon the strategic importance of strengthened EU-GCC ties for the future.
$60 billion arms deal: a win-win solution for Obama
The Obama administration officially notified Congress of a contract of 60 billion arms sale with Saudi Arabia. This sale represents the largest arms deal ever concluded by the United States. It includes delivery of 84 new F-15 fighter jets, upgrades to 70 existing Saudi F-15s, 190 helicopters and a wide array of missiles and bombs, as well as accessories such as night-vision goggles and radar warning systems. Saudi Arabia committed to an immediate purchase of $ 30 billion, with the possibility of buying other $30 billion in the coming years.
A noticed visit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Lebanon
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was visiting Lebanon this week. The event was widely reported and commented in the Lebanese and the international press, and this because of national and regional issues it raises. In the words of Fares Souhaid, Secretary General of the March 14 coalition, "Iran said that Gulf security is in his hands, he also have a hand on Israel through Hamas and Hezbollah, and finally also on Lebanon, through his rejection of the STL"
Saudi Arabia’s Economic Cities: Islands of Change in the Land of Black Gold
Still today, oil remains the key to Saudi Arabian economic success and the backbone of the region’s might on international markets. Rightfully so, global demand for crude oil has relentlessly risen in recent years, causing Gulf economies to boom and Saudi Arabian oil revenues to remain sky high, with an estimate of USD165 billion for 2007 alone. As during any prosperous phase, Saudi Arabia’s oil-Driven economic boom has allowed the Kingdom to make plans for the future and look to secure other reliable, long-term non-oil export options.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process: a role to take for the EU
The media reported this week on frantic efforts to save the direct negotiations launched in early September between Palestinians and Israelis. Nobody, neither Barack Obama, nor Mahmoud Abbas or Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be blamed for the failure of the negotiations.
The Anna Lindh Report: a new life into the UfM?
On September 15 was presented in Brussels the Anna Lindh report Euromed intercultural trends 2010. The recommendations, far from being a list of good intentions, should now attract the interest of politicians on both sides of the Mediterranean when the Union for the Mediterranean Project makes no progress.
Bahrain : the spectrum of community quarrrels
Bahrainis are called to the polls on October 23. Despite progresses during the last decade, the approach of these elections has the effect to stress the regime and thus to revive the tensions between the Shia and the Sunni in the little oil kingdom. Within recent weeks, Human Rights organizations have raised the alarm given the tough political repression by the regime on the Shiite opposition movements.
A revealing Ramadan
Eid Mubarak Said! Ramadan ended yesterday for most of the Muslim world - some countries are ending today. The specificities of this month have contributed to highlight some of the current societal developments in the Arab countries.
Yesterday in Washington, the handshake between Mahmud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new round of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Only change noted yesterday, the leaders agreed to meet every two weeks to progress towards a peace agreement. But nobody could ignore the discontentment that has prevailed for two weeks in the Palestinian Territories
Israel-Palestine : EU raises its voice
This week, Lady Ashton created great astonishment by declaring herself concerned about the fate of Abdullah Abu Rahma, a leader of the popular resistance movement of the small village of Bil'in in the West Bank. The High Representative said that the “EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal" and that "the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non violent manner ".
Iraq : an uncertain future
Thursday at dawn, the last combat brigade left the Iraqi territory, ending the Operation Iraqi Freedom. Started March 19, 2003 by the doctrine of "shock and awe", it ends today in an illusory calm. Lasting since seven and an half years, this operation has left a bitter taste for both Americans and Iraqis. The U.S. has lost over 4,415 soldiers and more than $900 billions in a war whose unpopularity grew over the years, recalling the context of the Vietnam War.
Tensions between Israel and Lebanon
The clash between Lebanon and Israel was to be expected, as announced by the report just published by the International Crisis Group (Drums of War : Israel and the "Axis of resistance, ICG, 2/8/2010) the day before the incident between the two countries last week. The report highlights the explosive situation in Lebanon, located at the intersection of regional fault lines.
The lessons of Camp David
Ten years ago already, Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were negotiating at Camp David. The failure of these talks is often pointed as a cause of the second intifada. It was indeed a great disappointment for all those who had bet on peace, and even more for the Palestinians, still without a state.
Netanyahu’s visit to the White House
The meeting on Tuesday between U.S. President and the Prime Minister of Israel has been unusually positive given the differences and tensions that have existed for over a year between the two countries. Barack Obama called his interlocutor someone "willing to take risks for peace". The last visit of Benjamin Netanyahu in March at the White House had received a cool reception from the U.S. President. And since then, nothing seemed to augur a better relation.
First Mediterranean Citizens’ Assembly in Valencia
This July 2-3 and 4, the first Mediterranean Citizens’ Assembly (MCA) was meeting in Valencia (Spain). This civil society’s new initiative is one more effort to bring together the two shores of the Mare Nostrum, but it is definitely different and innovative.
The Tindouf Refugee camps
After the Berlin Conference (1884 – 1885), the Spanish established themselves on the coast of Western Sahara by establishing a protectorate in 1884. In 1956, Morocco claimed sovereignty over this territory based on historical rights. Dismembered by colonization, Morocco wanted to rebuild a national entity under the "Greater Morocco" gathering all the lands formerly under Moroccan rule. Then in 1963, the Spanish Sahara was included on the list of territories under Chapter XI of the UN Charter.
The Karama campaign
What if the peaceful economic resistance was the most effective and consensual weapon in the Middle East? Karama campaign backed by Al Karameh (dignity) fund was recently launched to organize the boycott of products from illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories in order to avoid the economic development of these settlements.
Since the Israeli raid on a humanitarian fleet, which has taken the lives of nine people on Monday, the media go wild, public opinion is shocked, and networks of solidarity with the Palestinian people are mobilizing. According to most, one thing is certain: the status quo is no longer possible.
Europe and Gaddafi’s whims
As we begin a new round of negotiations for an EU-Libya agreement, the Libyan government ordered to the United Nations refugee agency to leave the country.
Postponement of the Summit of the Union for the Mediterranean: a new failure
The Union for the Mediterranean’s Summit, bringing together 43 countries, was supposed to took place in June 7, 2010, under Spanish presidency. Unfortunately, Madrid has announced that this meeting would be postponed to November in the official purpose to allow more time for indirect negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Iranian nuclear issue: the exclusive preserve of old diplomacies
This week has been rich in diplomatic games in the Security Council of the United Nations. While the U.S. had almost secured an agreement with the other permanent members on a fourth set of sanctions against Iran, Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the Security Council, announced at the beginning of the week that they had reached a compromise with Tehran.
A ruling Shiite coalition in Iraq: What are the threats?
On March 7, 2010 legislative elections took place in Iraq. The main issue in these elections was national unity, but this is far from being reached. Since then, Iraq has no government. Parties are calling for a recount and the Iraqi political arena is not stable.
Fear of the « Goldstone effect »: Democracy endangered in Israel
More than a half of Israeli Jews supports a reduction of the freedom of expression for certain Human Rights organizations that condemn the immoral behavior of the State of Israel. On Tuesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz commented on the results of a study conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research of Tel Aviv University. The survey also shows that a majority of Israeli Jews are in favor of sanctions against the citizens who call for boycott actions against Israel or against the journalists who give a bad image of Israeli military actions.
Right to education or right to future for the Palestinian youth?
The Israeli occupation of Palestine is an obvious obstacle to the development of the West Bank. This is a fact. Checkpoints are an impediment to the free movement of people especially workers and a barrier to the movement of goods, squeezing trade within the region. The Palestinians are deprived from rights among the most basic, this is a well-known fact. However, there is a right that is often denied, which is hardly taken into account: the right to education.
The absence of Israel at the Washington Summit
Barack Obama has invited 47 countries to meet in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. The main topic is the need to fight against proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent nuclear terrorism. If one of the sensitive issues is Iran, Arab countries are preoccupied by another one: Israel.
The challenges of the opposition in Egypt
A year and a half before presidential elections in Egypt, speculations are already underway. The return of former Secretary General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed ElBaradei in late February strengthened the conviction that the system Mubarak was nearing its end. Nevertheless, the repression this week against a demonstration of the Youth Movement of April 6 shows that the change will not happen easily
34th Land Day: state of Palestinian nonviolent resistance
The 34th anniversary of Land Day this week is an opportunity to bring closer attention to the non-violent resistance organized in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Meanwhile, an harder and harder Israeli repression is cracking down on it. For Netanyahu’s government, the bigger and bigger echo it receives is a real threat.
Towards national reconciliation in Libya
By the Gadhafi Foundation, charitable foundation working for the Libyan development, created by Sheif El Islam, it has established a program of reconciliation between the government and Islamist militants. 214 detained extremists, who abandoned the fight, including the leaders of LIFG once linked to al-Qaida, were released in March 23, 2010.
Explosive situation in the Middle East: time to take a role for the European Union
Last week we heard about the disillusionment of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during his visit to the Middle East. Shortly after arriving, the latter heard that 1,600 new homes in a suburb of East Jerusalem, occupied by Israeli settlers. The Palestinian response was fast to come : Mahmoud Abbas refused to open negotiations, even indirectly, with the Israeli authorities.
The women’s condition in the Arab world
The balance of lasts years shows that the condition of women has evolved in the Arab world, even if it is not homogeneous. Managers, doctors, members of government, economists, artists, Arab women have found their place in different areas that had been impossible to integrate before. This March 8, 2010 gives us the opportunity to think about the Status of women in the Arab world.
The multiple challenges of the Iraqi elections
This Sunday, March 7, 19 million Iraqi voters are called to the polls for parliamentary elections where the challenges are numerous. The recent eviction of 500 Sunni candidates, suspected of being linked to the Baath party, threatens the country's unity ambitions. The results of these elections are crucial for the future of Iraq.
The European Union: an agent of peace in the Middle East?
It would be desirable that the peace process was revived with a new dynamism. Following the lack of success of policies launched by the United States, the Palestinian Authority puts his hope in the EU who would be able to give new impulse to negotiations. Yet the EU cannot play a double role: if it stands as a force in the negotiations, it must adopt a clear position in its relations with the Jewish state, and must protect the rights Palestinians.
Dubaigate : the inside story
"We are 99%, if not 100% certain of Mossad's involvement in this murder". These are the words of Dubai police chief, General Dahi Khalfan Tamim. On January 20, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior official from the military wing of Hamas was assassinated in his hotel in Dubai. The circumstances of the murder and the origins and occupations of the victim quickly oriented UAE investigators on the trail of the Mossad - the Israeli intelligence services.
Iran and nuclear: which future for the region?
Tehran: a nuclear power? On February 9, 2010, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has announced the setting up of a dozen uranium enrichment sites at 20%. Iran is already producing low enriched uranium (between 3 and 5%) which is used as fuel in nuclear power plants. To make a nuclear weapon would require uranium enriched product is 90%.
Israel: inquiry seems difficult to be avoided
The Secretary General of UN Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged yesterday evening the reception of Israeli and Palestinian responses to the UN accusations of war crimes during Operation Lead Cast. Israel has reiterated in its message to the United Nations that its behavior during Operation Cast Lead had been “in line with international law”.
Obama tempted by isolationism
Roger Cohen points out in an op-ed in the New York Times, “To judge by the nine paltry minutes devoted to international affairs in a State of the Union address of more than one hour, he’s weary of America policing the globe".
What is behind the Yemenite threat?
Following the failed attempt of the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab on December 25, Yemen occupies the attention of foreign affairs around the world. However, if some see there the new hiding place for Al Qaeda members and therefore a threat to the world, others remain more cautious.
Lady Ashton steering the CFSP: many question marks remain
Catherine Ashton, the new representative for External Relations of the EU, was the first member of the European Commission to be heard by the European Parliament on Monday. During the hearing, Lady Ashton said: "Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran, the Middle East, Somalia and Yemen are clearly among some of the top priorities".
EU – Turkey : the consequences of a blocked process
Edito 28/12/2007 Could the resurgence of the Kurdish terrorism, as well as the current Turkish air strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan be seen as a symptom of the state of negotiations between Turkey and the European Union? In any case, the carrot of membership doesn’t seem to lead to more work for further reforms, particularly regarding the...