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Commentary
Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

the European Council which gathers the 27 EU member states and the institutions, agreed to give Ukraine and Moldova candidate status with immediate effect. It gave Georgia "a membership perspective", with candidate status in the future if they can get their act together quickly. The Ukrainians were delighted. President Zelensky described it as a victory and promised not to rest until Russia’s defeat and full membership had been secured. In Moldova, the pro European government was ecstatic. Things had moved much faster than they had anticipated. In Georgia the situation is different, and the country is somewhat grumpy. Georgians do not  like to be last, and in a sense in this process at which they were until last year at the centre, they find themselves lagging behind the other two trio countries. The government has tried to put on a brave face saying that being given a membership perspective was a victory for Georgia too. The opposition accuses the government of squandering a historic opportunity which will have long lasting impact. In many ways both are right. An EU membership perspective is important for Georgia, even if it is largely an abstract term. It consolidates the relationship. But it would have been much better for Georgia if they had been given candidate status with the others. The ball is now in the court of the Georgian politicians, and the world will be watching.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Israel and Lebanon move towards resolving a long standing dispute on their maritime border

Opinion: Israel and Lebanon move towards resolving a long standing dispute on their maritime border

There are reports that the US may be about to broker a deal between Israel and Lebanon, resolving a long-standing dispute about their maritime border and the exploitation of two large oil and gas fields in the Levantine Basin. Amos Hochstein, the US Senior Advisor for Energy Security, this month mediated indirect talks between the two countries, who technically are still at war with each other, and have no formal diplomatic relations in an attempt to resolve the issue. After his meetings in Lebanon last week, it seemed that a breakthrough had finally been reached, when the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, reportedly presented a unified position on behalf of the government, which offered the prospect for a compromise This new proposal would create an S shaped maritime border, granting Lebanon access to the whole of the Qana field, while leaving Israel the entirety of Karish. In the past, the lack of agreement within the Lebanese government, and its unwillingness to compromise had been the key factors holding back negotiations, and this new approach led Hochstein to strike an optimistic note, saying that Lebanon had taken “a very strong step forward”. The US Energy advisor will now relay the offer to Israel and await a response. Both countries stand to gain from a swift and peaceful resolution to this decade long problem which has prevented them from extracting any value out of the fields. 
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News
The great Saudi-Turkish restart

The great Saudi-Turkish restart

After years of dispute during which relations fell to a historical low, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday sealed a restart in their relations during a state visit to Turkey by the Kingdom's Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman. The turquoise carpet was laid out at the presidential palace in Ankara as the Crown prince arrived to be greeted by Turkey's president, Recip Tayip Erdogan. The two men held discussions on bilateral relations and regional and international issues. But this visit was mainly about symbolism. The substance had already been sorted over weeks and months of discussions involving senior officials from the two countries. President Erdogan was himself in Saudi Arabia only a month ago. But the visit of Mohammad bin Salman to Ankara had huge symbolic significance and it marked the final act in a process that saw the two countries draw back from years of animosity, rooted mainly in different perspectives on the future of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world. Both countries see themselves as leaders in the region, as well as a beacon for Muslims worldwide. Prior to visiting Turkey, the Saudi Crown Prince also visited Egypt and Jordan. In a few weeks time he will welcome in Riyadh US President Joe Biden, in a final act that will see the complete rehabilitation of the heir to the Saudi throne who had been caught in international controversy.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Azerbaijan’s vision for Karabakh’s future does not envision autonomy or secession

Opinion: Azerbaijan’s vision for Karabakh’s future does not envision autonomy or secession

“Azerbaijan does not intend to grant its Karabakh region any special status that is different from other regions of the country, but it will ensure the provision of cultural rights and  guarantee the security of its inhabitants as is provided throughout the rest  of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, says Vasif Husseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu He says that Baku and Yerevan can agree on the specific arrangements under which these are provided. “The temporary deployment of international observer missions of the United Nations, the OSCE or the European Union can be also considered to ensure stable and peaceful transition of the region under the control of Azerbaijani government.“

Focus on Yemen

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News
Yemeni civil society pushes for opening of roads to the city of Taiz despite Houthi reluctance

Yemeni civil society pushes for opening of roads to the city of Taiz despite Houthi reluctance

Yemeni civil society groups are campaigning actively for the opening of roads connecting the Yemeni city of Taiz with other major urban centres despite reluctance by the Houthi rebel group. UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg, on Saturday  (28 May) concluded an initial round of discussions in Amman, Jordan, attended by representatives of government and rebels on options to open key roads in Taiz and other governorates, as per the UN-mediated truce agreement signed in April. A proposal for the phased re-opening of roads, including an implementation mechanism and guarantees for the safety of civilian travelers was drawn up based on the three-day discussions and options presented by both sides. Civil society actors and local mediators, many of whom are from Taiz, also took part in the discussions by offering their insights and expertise as well as practical options for road openings. Dozens of human rights groups, activists, government officials and Taiz residents have launched a new campaign on social media, using hashtag #Siege_of_Taiz_crime, calling for the opening of roads to the city. Yemenis widely circulated images of cars loaded with goods and fuel overturning on the steep and unpaved slopes drivers were forced to turn to after the Houthis blocked the city’s main entrances.

Voices - Opinion and analysis

Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Autonomy is one way in which some of the problems in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations can be resolved

Opinion: Autonomy is one way in which some of the problems in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations can be resolved

"As Armenians and Azerbaijanis are finally trying to build a lasting peace, autonomy can be a powerful tool that brings people together instead of dividing them. It is important to give it a chance", argues Kamal Makili-Aliyev in this op-ed.  "Autonomy is a viable compromise that can lead to a lasting peace when it is implemented carefully and properly, with the aim of bringing the two nations together." "One good example is the Aland Islands, a Swedish-speaking autonomous region within Finland. That arrangement celebrated its 101st birthday this year as a successful means of bringing Swedes and Finns together politically, culturally, in education and interpersonal relations. Its secret? Carefully thought-out structures for separating powers between the autonomy and the central government, respect for minority rights, and security guarantees in the form of demilitarization (including, no local conscription or military bases) and neutralization (the autonomy cannot participate in wars neither passively, nor actively) of the region.".
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Autonomy within Azerbaijan is not a solution for the future of Karabakh

Opinion: Autonomy within Azerbaijan is not a solution for the future of Karabakh

As Armenia and Azerbaijan seek ways in which they can normalise relations between them, the discussion on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, and particularly of the Armenian population living there, is also gathering pace. On 8 June commonspace.eu published an op-ed by Kamal Makili-Aliyev suggesting autonomy may be one way of moving relations forward. In this counter opinion, Vahagn Avedian disagrees and says that governance problems in Azerbaijan make the prospect of an autonomy within that country unattractive for the Armenian population of Karabakh. He argues that "the only viable path forward is still what the Madrid Principles envisioned, namely granting the Karabakh population the right to determine their future."
Editor's choice
Interview
Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Recently, the Government of Kosovo submitted a formal application to join the Council of Europe as a full member. The international community remains divided on the issue of Kosovo's international recognition. Yet in the few years since its independence Kosovo has made great strides forward, and today has one of the most dynamic economies in the Western Balkans, a vibrant cultural life, and a solid track record on human rights and the fight against corruption. commonspace.eu interviewed the Ambassador of Kosovo to the Netherlands, Dren Doli, about the current state of play in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and on the thorny issue of whether the recognition of Kosovo has emboldened secessionist movements elsewhere. Ambassador Doli said that "the tendency to use Kosovo as a model for other cases is a strategy to generalise the rules that guide the creation of states and inflict confusion, deflect the truth, and deny the significance of objective arguments that differentiate Kosovo from other cases". Doli told commonspace.eu that "Kosovo is one of the rare examples of successful democratic state-building supported by western democracies". Ambassador Doli said that the government of Kosovo is committed to further develop and improve its relations with Serbia and welcomes any initiative  by the EU and the US in this direction.
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Opinion
Armenia-Azerbaijan connectivity is crucial for the future of the South Caucasus, and important also for partners beyond

Armenia-Azerbaijan connectivity is crucial for the future of the South Caucasus, and important also for partners beyond

Johnny Melikian and Ramazan Samadov are members of a Joint Liaison Group of Armenian and Azerbaijani experts preparing a report on how confidence building measures can support lasting peace in the South Caucasus. In this joint paper they discuss the important role of connectivity, which they say is a key factor in building the region's future.
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Opinion
Opinion: UNBA makes a landmark contribution to Ukraine as a state governed by Law

Opinion: UNBA makes a landmark contribution to Ukraine as a state governed by Law

In essence, European standards in relation to the status and operation of the Ukraine National Bar Association have been in place for more than nine years, writes Lydia Izovitova. This is a truly landmark contribution to the development of Ukraine as a state governed by law. This important achievement turns the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens into real opportunities, and provides a mechanism for their protection, primarily from the encroachments by the State.

Focus on the South Caucasus

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News
Yerevan meeting welcomes recommendations on confidence-building measures proposed by joint expert group

Yerevan meeting welcomes recommendations on confidence-building measures proposed by joint expert group

The conclusions of the report “The South Caucasus from War to Peace: 30 measures between now and 2030”, recently published by the Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani Working group on Confidence-Building Measures in support of lasting peace in the South Caucasus (JOLIG), were presented in Yerevan on Monday, 30 May to an audience of diplomats, officials and civil society representatives. Armenian members of the Joint Liaison Group: Stepan Grigoryan, Benyamin Poghosyan and Johnny Melikyan, spoke about the process of dialogue with Azerbaijani counterparts in the preparation of the report, and highlighted the report’s conclusions, including thirty recommendations to help the process of building trust and confidence between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Addressing the event, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, congratulated the joint Liaison Group for its successful work. She said the report was important and timely and  offered many useful ideas that could be implemented in the short, medium and long term in support of peace in the South Caucasus.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

On May 22, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels with the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the peace process. It is worth noting that since the beginning of this year, the representatives of the two South Caucasian republics have met exclusively via the mediation of the EU, while the only Russia-mediated meeting – that of the foreign ministers held on May 12 –  took place on the sidelines of another major event and brought about no novelty in the negotiations. The Brussels summit, however, delivered some very important outcomes which, if implemented, will constitute a critical breakthrough in the peace process. The quick implementation of some of the issues agreed by president Aliyev and prime minister Pashinyan at their meeting in Brussels, can be described as truly historic, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "But the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time, and necessitate an agreement not only between Baku and Yerevan, but also between Moscow and Brussels", he adds.
Promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and a secure and prosperous Europe in friendship and solidarity with its neighbours

commonspace.eu  is an activity of LINKS Europe, an independent foundation based in The Hague, The Netherlands. We focus on issues related to European peace and security, Europe's neighbouring regions, including Eastern Europe, The Caucasus and Central Asia; North Africa and the Sahel, The Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. We aim to provide insights and analysis on different topics in our area of interest, and a platform for diverse opinions.