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Monday Commentary
 Monday Commentary: NATO’s new sense of purpose well reflected during last week’s Bucharest Ministerial Meeting

Monday Commentary: NATO’s new sense of purpose well reflected during last week’s Bucharest Ministerial Meeting

The Foreign ministers of NATO member states met in Bucharest on Tuesday and Wednesday,  (29 – 30 November), at a time when, as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe faces one of the most serious security challenges since the alliance came into being in 1949. It was not NATO that triggered the Ukraine crisis. Indeed NATO, in its’ past quest not to alienate Russia, is sometimes accused of being overcautious in its relations with Ukraine prior to February. The Russian invasion has tested the alliance in many ways – the political will and unity of the member states; the capability of the alliance to support an ally who is not a member through a hybrid response; and the speed with which it could bolster its military capability on its Eastern flank to reassure member states. So far one can say that NATO has performed well, writes Dennis Sammut in today's Monday Commentary on commonspace.eu. This response however needs to be sustained. NATO comes out from the Bucharest Ministerial meeting strengthened and resolute. It is an alliance that is on the move as it responds to new challenges. But NATO also remains rooted in its principles. As the foreign ministers declared in their final statement, NATO is a defensive alliance. “We will continue to strive for peace, security and stability in the whole of the Euro-Atlantic area”, they declared.
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News
Borrell: Russia is waging total war against Ukraine; we must respond with total support

Borrell: Russia is waging total war against Ukraine; we must respond with total support

On Thursday (1 December) EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, addressed the annual Ministerial Council of the OSCE, which this year is meeting in Poland. Speaking about the conflict in Ukraine, Borell said that Russia was waging total war against Ukraine, and this requires total support for Ukraine in response. Borrell said that Russia has brought the war back in Europe. Russia is now turning this into a purely punitive campaign, trying to inflict as much pain as possible on Ukrainian citizens, using winter as a weapon, putting them into the darkness and the cold. The Russian army is deliberately targeting energy and water infrastructure on which normal Ukrainian citizens depend

Focus on Central Asia

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Monday Commentary
Monday Commentary: Why Central Asia matters

Monday Commentary: Why Central Asia matters

Very often, Central Asia is referred to as Russia’s back yard, even though today the region feels more like China’s front garden. But whilst the two “inseparable” friends, compete for influence and resources, the five Central Asian countries have set on a course to integrate themselves in global processes, break out of their geographic - and more importantly their geo-political constraints - and deliver better for their people. In this week's Monday Commentary on commonspace.eu, Dennis Sammut says that the Central Asian states have been reaching out to the EU and the US, whilst domestically some of them have embarked on deep reforms considered all but unimaginable until recently. The visit of European Council president Charles Michel to the region on 27-28 October marked a high point in a new phase in the relationship between the EU and Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, Michel not only met the Kazakh leadership, but also held a summit with the five Central Asian leaders in Astana, before travelling to Uzbekistan. For both the Central Asians and for the EU this is a watershed moment, and the beginning of a long journey. Europe’s approach to Central Asia needs to be respectful, both to the five countries themselves, and to their existing partners. Arrogance, even of the intellectual kind will simply backfire. But respect does not mean meekness. As a heavyweight in international relations, even if for the moment its economic weight dwarfs its political weight, the EU needs to approach Central Asia neither as a supplicant, nor as a benefactor, but simply as a reliable partner. Furthermore, this partnership needs to be diverse, multi-tiered and nuanced. It must take in relations with citizens, where Europe has much to offer both in terms of being a model, but also in terms of what it can share in areas such as education, innovation, youth welfare, women’s rights and diversity.

Voices - Opinion and analysis

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Interview
Nikoloz Samkharadze: "Georgia does not have any hidden agenda other than having peace and stability in the South Caucasus"

Nikoloz Samkharadze: "Georgia does not have any hidden agenda other than having peace and stability in the South Caucasus"

Prof. Dr. Nikoloz Samkharadze is the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Georgia. On 21 November 2022, during his visit to The Hague, Prof. Dr. Samkharadze spoke to commonspace.eu about Georgia's Euro-Atlantic trajectory, the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, Georgia's relations with Russia and Ukraine, and recent successes in Georgian rugby. On the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, Prof. Dr. Samkharadze says, "Georgia has a very big asset in its hands, and this is trust and credibility in both the Azeri and Armenian capitals. Georgia is equally respected in Yerevan and in Baku, and equally trusted by Yerevan and Baku. And no other player around us, no big regional power, has the same trust and credibility. This is very important in the South Caucasus. As you know, we came up with the Peaceful Caucasus initiative, and this initiative is supported by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Recently we have had very productive visits of high-level Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations in Georgia, and I believe that there is room for reaching a comprehensive peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We will do our most, we will facilitate, we will mediate, because it is in Georgia’s interests to finally have long-lasting peace and stability in the region. I believe that our partners in Yerevan and Baku also know that we don’t have any hidden agenda other than having peace and stability in the South Caucasus. So we will play a very active role despite the fact that some of our neighbours might not like our activity in that regard."
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Monday Commentary
Monday Commentary: Let sports unite us

Monday Commentary: Let sports unite us

The 2022 FIFA World Cup opened in Doha on Sunday (20 November) with a lavish half an hour opening ceremony full of music and colour. It will be followed by weeks of football extravaganza that millions are looking forward to watching. It was a proud moment for the small Arab Gulf country which has put a lot of effort and resources towards making the event a success, writes Dennis Sammut in today's Monday Commentary on commonspace.eu. Ever since it was decided to hold the FIFA world cup in Qatar there have been those who questioned the decision. Some said the climate was too hot; others criticised the working conditions of the labour force that built the facilities; others questioned Qatar's human rights record, especially on gay rights. Some of the criticism was justified. The world cup helped put attention to such problems and that is how it should be. But frankly, a lot of the criticism of Qatar went over the top and reeked of racism. Qatar has its shortcomings, but the hundreds of thousands of people who flock there to work, and others who just visit, appreciate it for what it is: a young nation that is trying to play a positive role in the world and to offer opportunity for work and business to whoever wants to work with it. It is ofcourse easy to say that sports and politics do not mix. Since sports is an expression of human talent and human feelings politics cannot be excluded. It needs to be managed. People watching football do not need expressions of political opinions shoved down their throats. Many even find such expressions as an insult to their intelligence. But that does not mean that the occasion of a global sports event cannot be a way of transmitting a dignified message with political connotations. One such example happened yesterday when the captain of the Iranian team sent a message to his compatriots back home.
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News
Landmine Free South Caucasus by the end of the decade

Landmine Free South Caucasus by the end of the decade

The 2022 Landmine Free South Caucasus campaign is calling for the region of the South Caucasus to be cleared of landmines and other unexploded remnants of war by the end of the decade. In an appeal published to launch this year's campaign it is pointed out that the South Caucasus remains one of the areas most infected with contamination by landmines and other unexploded remnants of war in the world. Apart from the thousands of casualties caused directly or indirectly by landmines and other unexploded ordnance over the last three and a half decades, including several hundred in the last year, this contamination negatively impacts whole communities across the region, affecting their economic well-being, and exposing them to the constant threat of risk and danger. 30th November will this year be marked as a Day of Solidarity with the victims of landmines and other unexploded remnants of war in the South Caucasus. For the rest of the year and in the first half of 2023 the regional campaign Landmine Free South Caucasus will work to raise awareness of the impact of landmines and other remnants of war on individuals and communities across the region.
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Opinion
Opinion: Armenia and Azerbaijan have embarked on a long and arduous journey towards sustainable peace. Continued lack of trust seriously hampers the process, and needs to be addressed as a priority.

Opinion: Armenia and Azerbaijan have embarked on a long and arduous journey towards sustainable peace. Continued lack of trust seriously hampers the process, and needs to be addressed as a priority.

In this Joint Policy Discussion Paper, Ahmad Alili and Benyamin Poghosyan welcome the start of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan on a meaningful peace treaty. They warn however that, at all levels, trust between the two sides remains very low and that this will make the process difficult. They urge both sides to conduct the negotiations with a strong sense of realism, and to ensure that the speed of the negotiations is well calibrated.
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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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Event
Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani expert group on confidence-building measures agrees to intensify efforts

Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani expert group on confidence-building measures agrees to intensify efforts

The Joint Armenian-Azerbaijani Liaison Group on Confidence-building measures in support of lasting peace in the South Caucasus (JOLIG), made up of 11 Armenian and Azerbaijani independent experts and opinion-shapers, met in Kachreti, Georgia on 27 and 28 June 2022 to review its activity, and agree on a strategy as to how its work on confidence-building measures can contribute to efforts aimed at bringing lasting peace in the South Caucasus. Participants discussed ongoing efforts aimed at establishing the right conditions for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan being undertaken by the governments of the two countries with the support of international players. They called on the leadership of the two countries to remain focused and committed to this mission. The group emphasised its belief that confidence-building measures are necessary to be implemented in the current state of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and were indispensable as the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan seek peaceful solutions to long lasting disputes and controversies between them.

Focus on Yemen

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Analysis
Analysis: Origins of the Houthi supremacist ideology

Analysis: Origins of the Houthi supremacist ideology

One of the several, often overlooked, challenges facing Yemen is the supremacist and divisive ideological basis of the Houthi movement. The movement’s ideology has rebellion and violence at its core, a recipe that can perpetuate crises within a society. In this analysis for commonspace.eu, Noman Ahmed and Mahmoud Shamsan shed light on the ideological fault lines that fuel the current conflict in Yemen, highlighting the nature of this ideology, which suggests that Ahl al-Bayt — descendants from the family of the Islamic Prophet — are, by divine decree, considered to be more deserving of the right to greater political and religious rule than other socio-political components. The analysis then looks into the background of the Houthis and argues that the ideology is a catalyst for conflict rather than peaceful political competition, and that so long as the Houthi political goal of Hashemite dominance remains unrealised, Houthi desire for conflict will not recede.

Focus on the South Caucasus

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Monday Commentary
Monday Commentary: Clearing the South Caucasus of landmines must remain a priority

Monday Commentary: Clearing the South Caucasus of landmines must remain a priority

Making the South Caucasus free from landmines and other explosive remnants of war must remain a priority. "2023 should be a turning point in the efforts in this direction", writes Dennis Sammut in this week's Monday commentary on commonspace.eu. More awareness of the problem within the three countries, more commitment and better leadership by the international community, and increased understanding of the provisions of the 'Ottawa convention' are important steps that need to be taken. In the meantime the issue of landmines and other explosive remnants of war should not be instrumentalised for short-term political gain. This is everyone's problem and a regional approach is the best way to tackle it going forward. The launch of this year's regional campaign 'Landmine Free South Caucasus' on 30 November should help focus attention on these issues.
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Interview
Stepan Grigoryan: "The current Armenian government really wants peace"

Stepan Grigoryan: "The current Armenian government really wants peace"

Dr Stepan Grigoryan, the Chairman of the Board of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, is a respected analyst and opinion-shaper in Yerevan who has over many years been a moderate voice in what has often been a toxic inter-Armenian debate on the prospects for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the wider region. He spoke to commonspace.eu in Tbilisi on 22 October 2022 about the current state of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, recent events surrounding it, and prospects for the future. Speaking about the current political situation in Armenia Stepan Grigoryan said "We have a strong civil society, active NGOs and active experts, and they act like pillars of independence in Armenia. And this civil society also criticises Nikol Pashinyan, but they are trying to help him. Yes, I myself am sometimes not happy with what Nikol Pashinyan is doing, but I try to help him with my advice, with my publications, with my speeches. So in Armenia one should not only look at the political field - which is polarised - but civil society too. We shouldn’t think that we have an ideal government, they have made many mistakes, but they really want peace."
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.