During his annual address to Russian lawmakers, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is ready for dialogue with its international partners, but will not allow them to infringe on its interests or meddle in its decision-making. He noted, however, that Russia is ready to participate in solving global and regional crises when necessary. Putin also said that Russia’s policy towards its Asian partners, China and Japan, is not opportunistic or a response to the deterioration in US-relations, but based on Russia’s plans for long-term development. In his speech, the Russian President also urged the United States to join Russia to jointly fight international terrorism. It has been the 23rd such event in Russia’s modern history and the 13th speech delivered by Vladimir Putin.
An impeachment vote against South Korea’s scandal-hit President will be postponed by at least a week, lawmakers said on Wednesday, after Park Geun-Hye announced she was willing to stand down early. Lawmakers from Park’s own party had backed moves to impeach her this Friday, but now want the issue discussed in Parliament before holding a vote, likely to be scheduled a week later.
The 48-hour cease-fire in place from November 19 to 21 between the Al Houthis and forces loyal to President Hadi in Yemen has failed. Since the beginning of the truce, violations have been committed by both sides, thus an extension resulting impossible. Similarly, the ceasefire scheduled for the night of 17 November did not take place, following the clashes occurred in the city of Taiz, which had killed more than twenty people.
If the end of hostilities on the ground is still a dream, it is even more unlikely for a political settlement -which should end a conflict that has affected the country for 20 months- to be set in the near term. In the past few weeks, negotiations and meetings have taken place between the US Secretary of State John Kerry, the special UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and mediating countries such as Oman in order to deal with the conflicting parties and to draw up an acceptable plan to restore stability and security in the country.
Several proposals have been rejected, including the last one presented by Kerry, according to which President Hadi would relinquish his power to a new vice president in return for the Al Houthis withdrawal from all major cities and the handover of their weapons to third neutral parties.
To date, indeed, no agreement has been achieved, considering the reluctance of both the players to give up those power and control they have in the country. On the one hand, President Hadi refuses to relinquish his powers; on the other, the Al Houthis want to keep their weapons. This allows them to maintain a certain power in national politics, making them a good candidate to be a new Hezbollah in Yemen -not just a major political opponent but also a militarily strong one. Although international attention is currently focused on other issues, the conflict in Yemen becomes day after day more relevant in regional and international political games.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the conflict, in November 2011, when following a popular uprising, the then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to give in power to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The new president, however, did not manage to deal with several domestic issues, such as unemployment, corruption, hunger, terrorism, leaving the population at the mercy of plagues that eliminate any hope to restore stability in the country. In September 2014, with the support of former President Saleh, the rebel group known as Al Houthis, Zaidi Shia-led political-religious movement, took control of the northern region of the country, entering the capital Sana’a. The then-President Hadi was put under house arrest and forced to flee to Aden the following month.
Confrontations started between two factions: the Al Houthis, allied with Saleh, who control the capital Sana’a and the internationally recognized government of President Hadi, based in Aden. Supporters and allies on both sides complete the bigger picture. In March of 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition began an air campaign against rebel positions, in order to restore Hadi government. Since then more than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict and living conditions in the country have deteriorated drastically, resulting in a humanitarian crisis.
On the other side, though repeatedly denied, there seems to be Iran’s political and military support, something similar to what we have already seen in Lebanon with Hezbollah. According to Brigadier General Ahmad Asseri, spokesman for the Saudi coalition, a link would exist between the terrorist group Hezbollah and the Houthis. Members of the Lebanese group have been seen among the Shiite militants in Yemen.
Moreover, the terrorist groups of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (ISIS) add chaos to this picture, exploiting the instability of the region to pursue their political agenda. Indeed, they managed to take control of some areas in the southern provinces (government-controlled area), making even more difficult to restore security in the country.
It is clear that the conflict in Yemen is not limited to the political parties on the ground, but affects several external actors and is connected to the political dynamics of the Middle East. Once again, in fact, we see the couple Saudi Arabia-Iran, fighting for hegemony in the region and the division between a Shiite component, currently controlling the North of the country, and a Sunni-dominated south region, headed by Hadi government.
It should be added that the conflict in Yemen in not just a theatre for the proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, but also a destabilizing factor for the international trade. Houthis’ missile arsenal, indeed, guarantees the rebels an effective means to hit ships transiting the Strait of Bab el-Mandab, one of the busiest routes of world trade. About 4 million barrels of oil a day pass through this strait; therefore, the security in this area is a necessary condition not only for regional actors but also for other stakeholders, such as European countries and the United States, heavily dependent on energy coming from this region.
It is more understandable why negotiations held by US and UN include the handover of rebels’ weapons to neutral units; similarly, it is clear why the Houthis want to maintain at least their light weapons, as a key tool to keep power in national, regional and global dynamics. Consultations will continue in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible. However, it has to be seen how the new US administration will deal with this issue. According to Donald Trump, the United States should stay out of conflicts that do not directly threaten its national interests and the war in Yemen does not seem to be a priority.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko will pay an official visit to Azerbaijan on 28-29 November, the Belarus president’s press-service said in a statement on Nov. 25. While in Azerbaijan Alexander Lukashenko is expected to meet with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev for face-to-face negotiations and expanded-participation negotiations. A number of international documents will be signed as a result of the talks.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday reiterated Russia’s firm stance towards a political solution to the crisis in Syria, adding that “Sadly for us, without meeting reciprocity from the current US administration.” Peskov added that “It is premature to say how the new US administration will act, which position it will take” regarding the crisis in Syria and the situation in the whole region. He added that “Neither the Kremlin nor representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry have had anything to do with an event in Paris on the situation in Syria, in which US President-elect Donald Trump’s son took part.”
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will meet leaders of the pro-Serb opposition in Montenegro even though some of them have been accused of involvement in a coup attempt. The leaders of the pro-Serbian opposition and Serb organisations demanded an urgent meeting with Vucic in Belgrade two weeks ago about what they said was the “intolerable situation” facing the Serb community in Montenegro, but Vucic told journalists that he had not meet them yet because he was too busy.
On Sunday, Russian President’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, affirmed that Moscow and Tokyo are thoroughly preparing the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan and the meeting between Russian President and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was largely dedicated to that. Peskov said that Japan’s Foreign Minister, who will also hold talks on preparation of the visit, is expected to come to Moscow shortly. He also added that many issues still have to be discussed, so that the President and the Prime Minister moved on “ready ground” during the visit. Specific cooperation projects were also discussed during talks, he added.
On Friday, Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin’s spokesman, affirmed that the Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold talks with the leaders of China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Peru on November 19 on the sidelines of the APEC summit due to open in Peru’s capital of Lima, which Putin will attend. Peskov went on saying that the administrations of the Russian and US presidents did not arrange a separate meeting of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama. However, the two leaders will be able to talk with each other in Peru. The Kremlin spokesman declined to specify the possible topics of the conversation, adding that the two leaders may discuss about “the most pressing issues.”
Prime Minister of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa has once again refused the request made by opposition parties for early elections. According to Mustafa, the elections are being requested for political reasons and not for the issue of the border demarcation. Meanwhile, the opposition continues insist on the holding of fresh elections. According to it, now there are more reasons than ever to head to the polls.
Over the last two years, the relations between Cuba and the US have improved significantly. Obama’s administration carried out a great negotiation process through the last presidential mandate. The major points of Obama’s foreign policy towards Cuba have been the restore of diplomatic ties, the efforts to lift the embargo and the fight to close the Guantanamo prison. However, this period of reconciliation between the two countries is now threatened by the uncertain position that will assume the next President of the US, Donald Trump.
Cuba and the US severed diplomatic ties in 1961, after the revolutionaries headed by Fidel Castro took the power in 1959. The main reason of this choice was the fact that the new Cuban government nationalized all the US Companies and properties on the island. As a consequence, since 1960 the US government imposed progressive economic sanctions on Cuba.
In 2014, after a period of bilateral talks, Obama and Raúl Castro announced that the two countries would restore diplomatic relations. In that occasion they reached an agreement on a prisoner swap. The peace talks were encouraged by Pope Francis.
In April 2015, President Obama and Raúl Castro met at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. It was the first time the leaders of the two countries met since 1961. Finally, in July 2015 Cuba and the US succeeded in restoring diplomatic ties, and embassies were opened in both countries. The reconciliation was accomplished when Obama visited Cuba in March 2016.
Nevertheless, there are some unsolved problems between the two countries. The first and the most difficult to solve is the embargo. The embargo has been partially lifted by Obama’s administration, by restoring commercial flights between the two countries, removing travel bans as well as restrictions on remittances and bank services. However, Obama couldn’t lift the embargo in a definitive way because of the opposition of the US Congress, which has to express its approval on the measure. Another unsolved problem of the negotiations with Cuba is the Guantanamo prison. The prison was opened in 2002 on a piece of territory of the Cuban island, which was taken by the US as a compensation in 1903 since they sustained Cuba in its independence war against Spanish colons. Cuba claims that territory since the revolution succeeded. Obama promised to close the prison in Guantanamo, because the public opinion and many organizations protested for the violations of human rights that were committed in it. In that prison, people suspected of terrorism were detained after the terrorist attacks of 2001, without having access to a fair trial. Even though Obama transferred most of the prisoners to other places, assuring the respect of their rights, he couldn’t close the prison so far.
The recent election of President Donald Trump on the 8th of November is probably going to affect the relations between the two countries. However, the way in which the situation will change is not clear enough. In fact, Trump didn’t express a clear position on Cuba. He just said few things about the relations with the Caribbean country. He criticized the agreement reached by Obama, saying that he would probably renegotiate a more advantageous deal. But at the same time he was accused, during the presidential campaign, of violating the embargo some years ago by sending executives of his Company to Cuba in order to find out if it was possible to do business on the island.