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  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Deadly July 2020 clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces left dozens dead, civilians among them, and forced villagers to flee their homes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. Shooting across the trenches along the border is more frequent today than anywhere else on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s front lines. Why does it matter? Efforts by Baku and Yerevan, including through limited diplomacy, a communication channel set up in 2018 and an agreement between the two sides to safeguard farmers, have largely failed to create conditions that would deter people from leaving border areas. Violence there also risks permanently damaging wider peace efforts. What should be done? The two sides should use the communication channel to warn each other about planned engineering works or other activities that might be misconstrued and lead to escalation. They should begin talks on limited cooperation to allow farmers to harvest crops, repair water networks and clear mines.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Violence, Peace
  • Political Geography: Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Hundreds of troops loyal to the Federal Government of Somalia, on one side, and Jubaland regional state, on the other, are locked in a tense showdown in the Gedo region of southern Somalia. Clashes between them have already resulted in fatalities and uprooted thousands from their homes. Why does it matter? Neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, which are both troop contributors to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia, seek to avoid direct confrontation but respectively support the opposing federal and Jubaland administrations. The situation plays into the hands of the Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgency, which is further entrenching its presence in Gedo. What should be done? The African Union, along with the eastern African sub-regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, and Somalia’s bilateral partners, should lean on Ethiopia and Kenya to push the two sides to de-escalate tensions. Talks would allow the sides to refocus energies on stemming Al-Shabaab’s gains.
  • Topic: Conflict, Negotiation, Islamism, Al Shabaab, African Union
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Horn of Africa
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib paused, the time is now for a deal sparing the rebellion’s last stronghold the full wrath of reconquest. The parties should pursue an improved ceasefire including the regime, Russia, Turkey and the Islamist militants entrenched in the province. What’s new? A Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive against rebel-held Idlib halted when Russia and Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in March. Turkey is sending reinforcements, signalling a military response to what it deems a national security threat. For now, this step may dissuade Russia from resuming the offensive, but the standoff appears untenable. Why does it matter? Successive Russian-Turkish ceasefires in Idlib have collapsed over incompatible objectives, diverging interpretations and exclusion of the dominant rebel group, Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is UN-sanctioned and considered by Russia and others a terrorist organisation. A Russian-backed regime offensive to retake Idlib likely would result in humanitarian catastrophe. What should be done? All actors should seek a more sustainable ceasefire – optimally including HTS, notwithstanding legitimate concerns about the group – that avoids the high military, political and humanitarian price of another offensive. Turkey should push HTS to continue distancing itself from transnational militancy and display greater tolerance for political and religious pluralism.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Syrian War, Islamism, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • 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
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Naval incidents in the Gulf have spotlighted the danger that a U.S.-Iranian skirmish could blow up into war. The two sides have little ability to communicate at present. They should hasten to design a military-to-military channel to lower the chances of inadvertent conflagration. What’s new? Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have repeatedly brought the two sides to the brink of open conflict. While neither government seeks a full-fledged war, a string of dangerous tit-for-tat exchanges amid mounting hostile rhetoric underscores the potential for a bigger military clash. Why does it matter? Due to limited communication channels between Tehran and Washington, an inadvertent or accidental interaction between the two sides could quickly escalate into a broader confrontation. The risk is especially high in the Gulf, where U.S. and Iranian military vessels operate close to one another. What should be done? The U.S. and Iran should open a military de-escalation channel that fills the gap between ad hoc naval communications and high-level diplomacy at moments of acute crisis. A mechanism facilitated by a third party might contain the risk of conflict due to misread signals and miscalculation.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs, Conflict, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire. What’s new? In January, Turkey stepped up military support to Libya’s UN-backed government of Prime Minister Faiez Serraj, stalling an offensive by forces allied with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Its foray, underpinned by its own strategic, political and economic interests, has further complicated the already multi-layered Libyan crisis. Why does it matter? Turkey’s intervention has neither de-escalated the conflict nor yielded productive negotiations between rival political and military factions. It has instead exposed a different risk: the more outside actors provide military hardware and fighters to their respective Libyan allies, the longer the conflict may last and the deadlier it may become. What should be done? As Turkey’s intervention appears not to be producing a ceasefire or a return to negotiations, and since no outside actor is likely to back out unilaterally, Ankara should engage with other external players involved in the conflict to explore potential compromises regarding their respective interests in Libya and beyond.
  • Topic: Military Intervention, Conflict, Negotiation, Crisis Management, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A Huthi offensive threatens to engulf Marib, a province controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognised government and full of internally displaced people. Outside powers should act now to halt the fighting, which could deepen the existing humanitarian crisis and ruin peace efforts elsewhere in the country. What’s new? A showdown looms in Yemen’s Marib governorate between the Huthis, who control much of north-western Yemen, and forces allied with the internationally recognised Yemeni government. Why does it matter? An all-out battle for Marib could precipitate an enormous humanitarian disaster, as the province hosts at least 800,000 Yemenis already displaced from homes elsewhere. It could also scotch already dwindling chances of a nationwide de-escalation that in turn could lead to talks to end the war. What should be done? Outside powers should urgently convene an international contact group under UN auspices to press for a comprehensive ceasefire and inclusive negotiations to stop the war. The Huthis and Yemeni government should drop maximalist demands, and Saudi Arabia should work with the U.S., UN and others to halt the hostilities.
  • Topic: Conflict, Crisis Management, Peace, Houthis, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Isolated from the international community, Myanmar is deepening its dependence on China. But closer ties, Beijing-backed megaprojects and private Chinese investment carry both risks and opportunities. Both states should proceed carefully to ensure local communities benefit and avoid inflaming deadly armed conflicts. What’s new? The Rohingya crisis has strained Myanmar’s relations with the West and much of the Global South, pushing it to rely more on diplomatic and economic support from China. With a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor proceeding, and smaller private-sector projects proliferating, China’s investments in Myanmar are poised to shift into higher gear. Why does it matter? Many of these projects are located in or near areas of active armed conflict, and are often implemented without sufficient transparency, consultation with local communities or awareness of the local context. They risk empowering armed actors, heightening local grievances and amplifying anti-Chinese sentiment, which could lead to a popular backlash. What should be done? China needs to take more responsibility for ensuring that its projects benefit local communities and Myanmar’s economy, and do not exacerbate conflict. The Myanmar government should enhance its China expertise to negotiate and regulate projects more effectively. Both sides need to practice greater transparency and meaningful community consultation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • 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: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The African Union is best positioned to send peacekeepers to the continent’s various war zones. But it often lacks the funds available to the UN’s blue helmets. A compromise over co-financing peacekeeping missions would serve the conflict prevention goals of both institutions. What’s new? Attempts to reach agreement upon a UN Security Council resolution on using UN assessed contributions to co-finance African Union (AU) peace support operations have ended acrimoniously, damaging relations between the Council and the AU Peace and Security Council. Discussions are now on hold, offering the parties an opportunity to clarify positions. Why does it matter? Access to UN financing offers the hope of predictable and sustainable funding for vital AU peace operations, whose offensive mandates are often better suited to current conflict dynamics in Africa. An AU summit in February 2020 could determine if and how the proposal is pursued. What should be done? The UN and AU should pursue a compromise. It could involve agreeing to treat AU troop contributions as in-kind payment, creating a joint mechanism for monitoring human rights compliance, and stipulating that a commander reporting to both institutions will lead co-financed missions.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Conflict, African Union
  • Political Geography: Africa