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  • Author: Nathalie Tocci, Riccardo Alcaro, Francesca Caruso, Silvia Colombo, Dario Cristiani, Andrea Dessì, Flavio Fusco, Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Winds of change are blowing in North Africa and the Middle East. They originate from Washington, where the new Biden administration is expected to abandon its predecessor’s zerosum, erratic approach and take steps towards supporting regional balances and cooperation. Effects are visible especially in the Gulf, with the US pondering its options to re-activate nuclear diplomacy with Iran and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates grudgingly agreeing to put their feud with Qatar on ice. One way or another, these winds of change are working their way through the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. Admittedly, they are still feeble and can easily fade out like a morning breeze. Were that to happen, Europeans would be amongst the most affected – aside, of course, from regional populations themselves. It is now high time for the EU and its member states to leave the backseat they have (un)comfortably been sitting in for years, seize the opportunity of a cooperative US administration and work to play a more proactive role in North Africa and the Middle East commensurate with their considerable financial, diplomatic and military resources.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Anahita Motazed Rad
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: As the Biden and Rouhani administrations’ position to renew diplomatic efforts on the Iranian nuclear file with European support, they face more challenges than their predecessors did in 2015, when the Iranian nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was originally signed. Today, domestic, regional and international confrontations have increased; hardliners and conservatives in Tehran and Washington, on the one hand, and in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the other, are now more aligned and coordinated against a diplomatic success than they were in 2015.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Power, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michaël Tanchum
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: As Algeria and Morocco enter 2021, the bilateral relationship stands at a crossroads in which the status quo is no longer tenable. The COVID-19 pandemic and Morocco’s spate of diplomatic successes during 2020, culminating with the US’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara in December, have altered the long-standing, geopolitical dynamics of the Western Maghreb. Algeria now faces the critical decision of whether and how to attempt to offset Morocco’s rising power. The enduring détente between Algeria and Morocco had been characterised by limited coordination against shared threats such as terrorism and a contained competition in the Western Sahara. Since 1991, the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which seeks to establish an independent Sahrawi state in the Western Sahara, abandoned its armed struggle in favour of working through the framework of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Politics, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Algeria, Morocco, Sahara
  • Author: Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Historically speaking, the European Community and then the European Union have always reacted with paradigm changes in their foreign policies to watershed moments in the Middle East. In response to the two Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973, the European Community actually set up its own foreign policy in the first place and initiated the Euro-Arab Dialogue. After the Camp David Accords, the nine foreign ministers came out with the Venice Declaration in 1980 which reminded its partners in Washington and Tel Aviv that the Palestine question had been ignored and set the parameters for diplomacy in the 1990s. After the Cold War, however, the European Union became absorbed into the so-called Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), resulting in less independent EU agency on Israel/Palestine. This trend has become particularly obvious over the past four years of the Trump presidency, during which time the EU seemed almost paralyzed. While Europeans are now counting on the incoming Biden administration, during the election campaign Joe Biden stated that he will leave the US embassy in Jerusalem and that he is also favourable of the normalization deals between Israel and certain Arab states which President Trump had pushed for. At the same time, the Biden team seems hesitant to return to negotiations.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Human Rights, Territorial Disputes, European Union, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Dario Cristiani
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Russia’s return as a major geostrategic actor in the Mediterranean is one of the most significant trends characterising this area over the past few years. Part of a broader geopolitical pluralization of this space, Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria marked a new phase in Moscow’s Mediterranean engagement. Based on a stringent logic of intervening where other powers leave strategic vacuums, Russia has succeeded to carve out an increasingly central role in Mediterranean equilibria, despite its limited resources. Russian diplomatic and economic support for the Syrian regime in Damascus had steadily increased since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Yet, it was Moscow’s direct military intervention in September 2015 that signalled a decisive upgrade in engagement. Moscow’s military involvement shifted the tide of the conflict, proving decisive in avoiding the collapse of the Syrian regime, which is also backed by Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Civil War, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Economy, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Anas El Gomati
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: COVID-19 has changed the world and the way we live it, establishing something of a “new normal” as states and societies battle the pandemic and learn to accommodate its multidimensional effects. For Libyans’ living in the midst of conflict, normality and a new normal are difficult to determine. The economy, healthcare system and everyday lives of Libyans’ have been far from normal as a result of the 18-month conflict sparked by General Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to overthrow the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. However, the pandemic and its dynamism has had an impact far beyond the everyday lives of citizens. The lifecycle of the pandemic has had a major impact on the conflict itself. It first served to distract international powers from their diplomatic obligations and peace building in Libya, acting as a cover for local factions and their foreign sponsors to intensify the conflict during the initial global shockwave of the pandemic at the beginning of 2020. Towards the end of 2020, however, the pandemic compounded socio-economic and political pressures in Libya, sparking national demonstrations and dissidence towards the rival factions, leading to political resignations and renewed diplomatic negotiations in the process.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economy, Conflict, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa