AEGEE International Politics Journal

By Armenak Minasyants (AEGEE-Yerevan, Armenia)

For this time in the introduction part of the Newslfash, I would do something extraordinary.

A lot of people interested with the international politics, as well as I, may have noticed that this year is full of the international political developments and processes. If for my readers and in general for news watchers it is interesting just to watch and read news, for me, as the Chief Editor of our lovely newsletter, there are more interesting things to do with the news flows. Every time, while preparing our newsletters I am facing with a very difficult and sometimes even not-solvable task; that is, what shall I include in the newsletter and what not. So in order to make my life easier and our newsletter more interesting, I would kindly like to ask everybody who are reading IPWG newsletter to be more active and please clearly dedicate through your comments what types of news you like to be mentioned in the newsletter.

So, let’s better pass to our business. These last 10-15 days there really full of interesting events and I would try to highlight most of them. Also pay attention to “Focus on” part of this newsletter, as we would have two Focuses.

Mubarak vs. Egypt

On February 11 this year, it was time to say goodbye for long-time Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Having hung onto office in the face of protests, he finally abandoned his palace, his presidency and wealth, flying away in a helicopter to an uncertain future. Three months on, he has been ordered to stand trial on charges including “premeditated murder.”After Tunisia, it was Egypt’s turn to make history in the so-called ‘Arab Spring.’ Mass protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere demanded freedom, democracy, better living standards and Mubarak’s departure. But the price paid was a heavy one. A crackdown claimed more than 800 lives. Ousting the president however was not enough. With years of pent-up rage unleashed, Egyptians continued to demonstrate, this time demanding that the former first family be made to face justice. Hence the “intentional murder” charges facing the ex-leader and his sons Alaa and Gamal over the violent repression of the revolt. This, as well as allegations they abused their power to line their pockets. Mubarak’s wife Suzanne has also been questioned amid claims the family amassed a fortune worth tens of billions of euros. While she has been released from custody, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak are behind bars in Cairo. Their father is detained in hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, after suffering reported heart problems. Many Egyptians had speculated that the military rulers now in charge were protecting one of their own. Mubarak was a decorated air force commander before becoming president. News that he will be tried came ahead of another planned demonstration demanding he face justice. For 30 years, Hosni Mubarak was Egypt’s figurehead, symbolising the country’s strength and stability. But for a new generation, not afraid to express itself, he embodied the arrogance of power. They believe Mubarak must be tried like a common criminal, with the death penalty hanging over him.

Egypt’s military rulers have ordered that former president Hosni Mubarak must stand trial for his role in a crackdown that led to the killing of more than 800 people in demonstrations demanding he end his 30 years in power. His two sons Alaa and Gamal face the same charges, which can carry a death sentence. The public prosecutor said Mubarak, who is detained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, would be tried on charges including “pre-meditated killing”.The decision was announced days before another planned demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising. Activists had called for a big turnout on Friday to demand faster reforms and a public trial for Mubarak and others. Mubarak fell ill and went to the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh when he was first questioned in April. A medical source said that his condition was stable but he could not be moved to a Cairo prison hospital as it was not equipped to treat him.

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Sudan, Libya, Uganda and Ivory Coast

Dear reader, please do not get amused, nothing has happened, this states do not have any problems with each other, they just have two similarities; they are geographically located in the African Continent and political unrest.

The situation in Sudan’s disputed Abyei region has worsened with armed looters setting fires in abandoned towns. North Sudanese forces took control of Abyei at the weekend, claiming they were driving out southern troops they said had illegally moved in. The oil-rich region is the main sticking point in the separation of Sudan after the south voted for independence in January. President Omar Bashir says he wants a peaceful solution to the crisis. But his Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Amin Hassan Omar, insisted it had been the northern army’s duty to enter Abyei, to keep the peace and expel southern forces. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the violence, including an attack on a UN convoy. Analysts fear the dispute over Abyei could drag Sudan – which is due to separate in July – back into a civil war.

Details have emerged of where Colonel Gadaffi put billions of Libya’s oil earnings. A campaigning anti-corruption group – Global Witness – says it has obtained a document listing the banks that held 38 billion euros, as of a year ago. France’s Societe Generale is said to have had over seven hundred million euros worth of investments. Other major western investment banks allegedly with Libyan oil wealth include Goldman Sachs in the US, Japan’s Nomura, and in London Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, which reportedly had just over 200 million Euros. A much larger portion of the Libyan Investment Authority’s deposits – 13.5 billion Euros worth – was said to have been held in Libyan and Middle Eastern banks. Much of its assets have been frozen under international sanctions since February. The leaked document said the LIA also had billions in shares of companies such as BP, Deutsche Telekom, General Electric and Vivendi.

Simultaneously, NATO continues to pressure Muammer Gaddafi from the sky following a fourth night of air strikes on the capital Tripoli. Several large explosions rocked the city as NATO aircraft targeted Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound. As the conflict continues Libyan government officials have been in contact with a number of coalition members with the offer of a ceasefire. The Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi made the following statement: “The African Union and the United Nations need to set a date and time for a ceasefire so we can all be held accountable to the international community. We are ready for dialogue with the leadership of the People’s Committees that represents all Libyans.” The call appears to have fallen on deaf ears as the US announced that the ceasefire offer had no credibility. The deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, speaking at the G8 meeting in France, said Libya was refusing to comply with UN demands and its forces were still attacking population centres.

The leader of Uganda’s opposition Dr. Kizza Besigye returned to Kampala from medical treatment in Kenya on the day his arch-rival, President Yoweri Museveni, was sworn in for a fourth term. Besigye had been injured during anti-governmemt protests, and thousands turned out to greet him before police dispresed them, firing tear gas. It appeared the police had received orders to allow the march because several African leaders were in Kampala for Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony. Some of them had to make their way past the crowds after the ceremony to get to Entebbe airport, and one of them, Nigeria’s Goodluck Johnathon, found himself surrounded by people who began stoning his car. Ugandan soldiers then opened fire, killing at least one person. Besigye alleges the February elections were rigged in Museveni’s favour, although he only managed to get half of Museveni’s votes. Museveni has been in power since 1986. Before that Besigye had been Museveni’s personal physician in the early 1980s, and had a role in his first governments, but fell out with him 10 years ago.

Alassane Ouattara was inaugurated as Ivory Coast’s new president on May 21. The country has gripped by a decade of instability and six months of violence following November’s presidential vote. His predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, had refused to accept defeat, creating the five-month political deadlock. Ouattara told guests that it was a historic moment for the people of Ivory Coast. “Yes, today is the beginning of a new era for all of us, that marks our common will to write a new page in our country’s history.” He appealed to Ivorians to stand united and forgive their former foes. But allegations of crimes against humanity on both sides as his forces battled troops loyal to Gbagbo over the last six months may make that task harder.

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Civil War in Yemen?

The death toll from civil unrest in Yemen continues to rise. Around 30 people are said to have been killed in an explosion at a munitions depot in the capital Sanaa. Forces loyal to long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been battling with those loyal to tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar, with casualties mounting on both sides. There were further clashes near Sanaa’s main airport. The fighting erupted once again on Monday, a day after Saleh pulled out for the third time from a Gulf Arab-brokered deal for him to step down and make way for a national unity government. Saleh shows little sign he will leave. His attempts to stop opposition protests by force have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Al-Ahmar, the head of a federation of Yemeni tribes said Saleh would never engage in meaningful negotiation and promised Saleh would be forced to leave the country “barefoot.” Ordinary Yemenis are fleeing the capital. Washington has warned that the unrest makes it extremely unsafe in Yemen, and has ordered its non-essential nationals to leave.

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USA-Pakistan and USA-Israel Relations

There was a warm welcome in Islamabad for Hilary Clinton but the smiles will do little to gloss over soaring tensions between Pakistan and the US. The US Secretary of State is in the country for what are expected to be tough talks over America’s killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Ahead of her arrival Clinton said Pakistan had much more to do to defeat Islamist militancy. Illustrating the point was a suicide bombing on Thursday in the town of Hangu that killed at least 25 people. It was the latest in a series of attacks, apparently in revenge for the death of the al Qaeda leader. Pakistani leaders were outraged not to have been consulted over the covert operation by US forces. But Washington remains deeply troubled that Bin Laden was able to live safely in a Pakistani garrison town.

Heading to Washington, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu knew his task was a tricky one, with the stalled peace process far from the only challenge. He would also have to deal with one of the deepest divides in years with Israel’s closest ally. The problem? His host President Obama’s vision of a future Palestinian state largely drawn along lines existing before the 1967 war. “Israel cannot go back to the 1967 lines because these lines are indefensible, because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground. Demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years,” Netanyahu told Obama in the Oval Office of the White House. America’s powerful Jewish lobby was also outraged by President Obama’s proposals although he later made clear that Israel would likely be able to negotiate keeping some settlements. “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” Obama said. Going back to Israel’s pre-1967 borders would mean giving up the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Eventually, Israel would also be forced to hand over the water-rich Golan Heights to Syria. Yet, today, around 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, behind Israel’s pre-1967 borders. As for the demographics, the growing Israeli Arab and Palestinian populations are also part of the complex mix when it comes to any final agreement. Some claim Netanyahu is seeking to buy time, hoping turbulence in the Arab world will divert US attention from the peace process.

In its turn, President Mahmoud Abbas plans to seek UN recognition for a Palestinian state in September, despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to US Congress. Speaking to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Abbas said the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech contained “nothing we can build on” and described his words as travelling “far from peace”. President Abbas said: “We will ask the states of the United Nations to recognise our state. In doing this, we do not aim to isolate Israel or deprive it of legitimacy. Work on these negotiations is not unilateral, but the continued construction of settlements is a unilateral action by the Israeli government.” Never likely to be known as a dove, from his first mandate in 1996, the Israeli leader rejected the Oslo Accords. More recently, the Obama White House was angered when Netanyahu refused a US demand to halt Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. Netanyahu, who heads a right-leaning coalition, is under pressure at home to stand his ground. For Obama, picking a fight with Israel could be politically risky as he seeks re-election next year.

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On G8 and its Latest Meeting

In this part of the Newsletter I would like to share with you my ideas concerning G8. The G8 is an exclusive club, formed in 1975, with six members at first, then seven and now including Russia. But does it still have a purpose? Apart from photo opportunities, what is the point when the influence of developed countries on the world economy is diminishing? Major emerging countries are noticeable by their absence, according to analyst Alan S. Alexandroff of the G20 Research Group. “The Chinas, Indias and Brazils have become significant actors in the global economy”, he said, describing it as “a little odd” that they are not involved. In 1990, the US represented a quarter of the world economy with Brazil, Russia, India and China, together, only accounting for 10 per cent. Yet by 2014, the so-called BRIC countries are set to overtake Uncle Sam. Ever since an economic crisis that the G8 was not able to predict or avoid, the institution has faced growing criticism. So does the future lie in the G20, incorporating big emerging economies with a scope spanning the likes of Saudi Arabia, Mexico and South Africa? While certainly more in keeping with changing trends, could the bigger body be too cumbersome? And should the G8 be redefining its role? In my position, maybe they need to rethink what the G8 does and go back to what it was originally intended to do which was not to issue massive communiques about every world event in conferences that go on and on. They would actually just sit and get to know each other personally and build up a level of personal trust. The G8 summit provides a pretext and opportunity for the maintenance of bilateral ties. Reason enough, say some, to preserve the institution. Amid strained relations between Paris and Washington over the US-led invasion of Iraq, the 2003 summit in the French town of Evian was a chance for Presidents Chirac and Bush to talk. Despite the media hype, the thousands of participants, journalists, demonstrators, and police out in force, the G8’s identity crisis cannot be ignored.

Financial help for Arab countries who move towards democracy was a main talking point at the G8 summit in Deauville. Top of the aid list are Egypt and Tunisia, whose prime ministers will meet the G8 heads of state on Friday. In a move to support uprisings like those seen in the Arab Spring, the plan could see billions of euros given to countries that carry out democratic and financial reforms. However not everyone is happy with the G8 stance of better regulation rather than a ban, when it comes to nuclear energy. Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace, was not satisfied with the measures proposed. Talk at the summit of nuclear safety will not close the debate opened up by the Fukushima crisis. Answers dealing with public fears will come after the Japanese investigation, with the results due to be discussed at an international meeting in Tokyo next year.

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Unrest in Georgia

Georgia is marking its Independence Day but there seems to be little to celebrate with anti-government protests set to continue for a sixth day. Riot police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili and early elections. Thousands of riot police went in after midnight, detaining several dozen people, to end five days of protests. According to the authorities a policeman died after being hit by a vehicle in the convoy of cars carrying opposition leader Nino Burjanadze.

There is no suggestion that she or her husband were behind the wheel of the vehicle in question. The opposition accuse the pro-Western Saakashvili of monopolising power since the 2003 Rose Revolution that ousted the post-Soviet old guard in the Caucasus state.

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Focus on Eurovision Song Contest 2011 and Ratko Mladic

As I have promised in the beginning we would have two Focuses in this newsletter. One would be cultural with the political background and the second one would be with the historical background. Let’s start with the cultural.

Some countries go years without success. Not so the latest winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. Just three years after entering for the first time, Azerbaijan is officially Europe’s favorite following a spectacular show in Dusseldorf. Ell & Nikki led the field throughout the voting, notching up 221 points with their love song “Running Scared”. The duo are veterans of music festivals but the spectacle in front of a TV audience of an estimated 100 million has catapulted them into superstardom. It also means that the small Caucasus state of 7 million people gets to host next year’s contest.

From my side, I would like to congratulate Azerbaijan as well as the members of AEGEE-Baku with this victory. But, but and again but…. I also truly believe and hope that this victory would not become a political tool in the hands of Azerbaijan authorities…

And the second Focus is on the Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic.

Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime general, has been captured after years on the run. Commander of Bosnian Serb forces in the 1992-95 Bosnia war, Mladic was indicted by an international war crimes court in 1995 on genocide charges for the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Serbian President Boris Tadic confirmed the arrest of the warcrimes fugitive: “On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The extradition process is underway,” he told reporters in Belgrade.
Mladic, seen by many Serbs as a hero for his loyal and fearless service to the Serb cause, is expected to quickly be transferred to the Hague court to face a trial.
The President Tadic said Mladic was arrested in Serbia, which had long said it could not find him. “This removes a heavy burden from Serbia and closes a page of our unfortunate history,” he said. Tadic refused, however, to give details of the operation or circumstances which led to his arrest. The former military leader of Serbs in Bosnia has been sought by the UN War Crimes Tribunal on genocide and war crimes charges and was the most prominent Bosnian war crimes suspect. His capture has also been an outstanding requirement for Serbia’s membership of the European Union.

The EU’s head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, welcomed the arrest and called for Mladic to be brought to The Hague as soon as possible. “This is an important step forward for Serbia and for international justice,” Ashton said in a statement. “We expect Ratko Mladic to be transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia without delay. Full cooperation with the ICTY remains essential on Serbia’s path towards EU membership.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bild added praise for Tadic and said the arrest would help Serbia’s EU aspirations, calling the news “obviously highly important”.
He added: “We can start to close a tragic chapter in the history of Europe. I warmly congratulate President Tadic. I knew his determination to achieve this, and know how hard he worked for it. The European prospects of Serbia are now brighter than ever.”

The capture of Ratko Mladic has opened old wounds for some relatives of those killed in the massacre at Srebenica. Many family members of the Muslim men and boys killed in Srebenica in 1995 have died in the 16 years it has taken to detain Mladic. Every July, bodies of massacre victims found are buried at the Srebenica Memorial cemetary. Last year on the 15 anniversary, 775 new graves were dug for the commemorative mass burial. The systematic killings happened when the army of the breakaway Republika Srpska, under the command of Mladic, arrived in Srebenica, part of Bosnia Herzegovina and a supposed ‘safe area’ under UN protection.

The French General Philippe Morillon met Ratko Mladic every week when he was commander of the UN forces in Bosnia in 1992 and 93. It was a time when he was trying to negotiate peace there. Morillon said he even played chess with him. Mladic was someone who exercised true command on the ground. Karadzic, who was the president of the Bosnian Serbs, was just a puppet in his hands. He never got anything in the various negotiations without it first passing by Mladic. Mladic thought he was like Napoleon, and he loved his entourage to tell him so.

Without a doubt Mladic prolonged the troubles. He was the one who opposed the peace accords negotiated in Geneva. It was Mladic, and Mladic alone, who carried out a real putsch in Pale and who got the Bosnian Serb parliament to reject the plan against the wishes of Karadzic.

So he prolonged the suffering of the whole region by at least two years, and instead of serving his country, he wanted to be the great savior of the greater Serbia. He triggered the Serb defeat and gave it this appalling image of the Srebrenica massacres at the end of July 1995.

For the unfortunate mothers of Srebrenica, those who cannot forgive Mladic, we have to understand their pain, it’s a kind of mad pain. The young generations who aspire to peace themselves know that peace will come from mutually accepted independence. At least, those aged between 20 and 30 today and who barely knew the war, expect only that.

Simultaneously, in my opinion, besides the humanitarian part of this development and no matter the opportunities which Serbia will get after his arrest, we shall also realize that even today for thousands of Serbs living in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia Mladic is an unchallenged authority, a person who has protected thousands in Bosnia during the wartime, and for that people allegations of the International Criminal Court and statements of different officials mean nothing, as during the Balkan War, not the officials residing in Brussels or somewhere else in the world were protecting their homes, but Mladic and his forces…..

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