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Macron travels to New Caledonia to solve the crisis on volatile territory

Macron travels to New Caledonia to solve the crisis on volatile territory

French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a flight to New Caledonia Tuesday night (21 May) to address an ongoing crisis following a violent insurrection on the French territory. The archipelago, over 15,000 kilometres from mainland France, has become a top priority for the government after a week of violent protests left six people dead. The protests, between pro-independence supporters and French loyalists, were triggered by the French National Assembly’s vote to allow all citizens who have been living in New Caledonia for over 10 years to elect the local legislature. Voting in these elections has previously been reserved for citizens who settled in the archipelago before 1998 or their descendants. Pro-independence forces argue that expanding the electorate would further reduce the influence of the indigenous Kanak population, whose share of the population has decreased since France took control of the territory over 170 years ago. Proponents of the reform argue it is a democratic necessity, noting that current rules exclude even certain New Caledonia-born citizens from voting. 

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Balochi separatists attack Pakistani port of Gwadar, hub of Chinese Pakistani Economic Corridor

Balochi separatists attack Pakistani port of Gwadar, hub of Chinese Pakistani Economic Corridor

Baloch separatists armed with guns and bombs, on Wednesday (20 March) attacked the strategic port of Gwadar, key to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the audacious assault which once more highlights controversy around Chinese backed infrastructural projects on the Belt and Road project. Pakistani security forces later reported that they had killed eight Baloch Liberation Army militants who stormed a complex outside the strategic port of Gwadar. Armed with guns and bombs, the militants attacked the complex that houses offices of government departments, intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces. They detonated a number of bombs before opening fire, said Saeed Ahmed Umrani, a government commissioner. China has invested heavily in the mineral-rich southwestern province of Balochistan, including developing Gwadar, despite a decades-long separatist insurgency. The deep-water port in the Gulf of Oman near the strategically important Strat of Hormuz is key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which also encompasses roads and energy projects and is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative. The Baloch Liberation Army, the most prominent of several separatist groups in Balochistan, has previously been involved in attacks on Pakistani and Chinese interests in the region and elsewhere. Chinese targets have also come under attack by other Baloch militant groups in Pakistan, who have been fighting for decades for a larger share in the regional wealth of mines and minerals that they say is being denied by central government in Islamabad. Belt and Road projects in Pakistan have been plagued by security concerns. In 2021, a bus carrying engineers to a construction site near a dam in northwestern Pakistan was hit by a bomb, killing 13 people including nine Chinese workers.
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In Yerevan, Stoltenberg says that stability in the South Caucasus matters for NATO

In Yerevan, Stoltenberg says that stability in the South Caucasus matters for NATO

The Secretary General urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach an agreement to pave the way for the normalisation of relations and a durable peace. “This matters for Euro-Atlantic security as we face a more dangerous world,” he emphasised, reiterating that “NATO supports Armenian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and your peaceful aspirations.”  Mr Stoltenberg praised Armenia for its long-standing partnership and contributions to NATO operations, including increased troop numbers in KFOR’s peacekeeping mission. “For nearly 20 years, Armenia has been a key partner in NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping mission, helping to ensure a safe and secure environment for all communities in Kosovo,” he said. During his visit, the Secretary General discussed the progress in Armenia’s domestic reforms. He highlighted Armenia’s commitment to ensuring democratic control of its armed forces, including by participating in NATO’s building integrity programme. “You have also shown a real commitment to tackling corruption, strengthening your democratic institutions, and upholding the rule of law,” he stated. The Secretary General warned that “Russia’s war in Ukraine is a sobering reminder that we cannot take peace for granted… If Putin succeeds in Ukraine, there is a real risk that his aggression will not stop there and other authoritarian actors will be emboldened,” he said. Mr Stoltenberg called on all NATO partners to “do what they can to ensure Putin does not win his war of aggression.” “The situation on the battlefield remains difficult, but this is a reason to step up, not to scale back our support,” he said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited the three South Caucasus countries from 17-19 March for meetings with the leadership of the three countries and as an expression of support for their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
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In Tbilisi, Stoltenberg reaffirms NATO support for Georgia's territorial integrity

In Tbilisi, Stoltenberg reaffirms NATO support for Georgia's territorial integrity

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg continued his tour of the South Caucasus on Monday (18 March 2024), meeting with President Salome Zourabichvili and Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze of Georgia in Tbilisi. “Georgia is one of NATO’s closest partners. We highly appreciate your substantial contributions to NATO missions and operations and we fully support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia,” Mr Stoltenberg said. He called on Russia to reverse the recognition of Georgian territories South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and added that Russia’s organisation of elections in occupied parts of Georgia and Ukraine is completely illegal. “Russia’s presidential election was clearly neither free nor fair,” Mr Stoltenberg said. The Secretary General welcomed Georgia’s substantial contributions to NATO operations and support to Ukraine. Georgia is hosting thousands of Ukrainian refugees and providing crucial humanitarian and financial aid. “Russia persists in its pursuit of imperial ambitions. And in Ukraine, the situation on the battlefield remains difficult,” he said. “But, with our support, Ukraine has pushed back - destroying or damaging a significant part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet,” allowing Ukraine to re-open grain shipping that is vital for their economy and for global food security. The Secretary General will conclude his three day visit to the South Caucasus in Yerevan on Tuesday, meeting with President Vahagn Khachaturyan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia. On Sunday and Monday, he met Azerbaijan’s leadership in Baku.
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Sombre mood across the Islamic world as Muslims think of Gaza at the start of Ramadan

Sombre mood across the Islamic world as Muslims think of Gaza at the start of Ramadan

Muslims round the world today marked the first day of fasting at the start of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan in a sombre mood, as communities reflected on the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. In Gaza the population is on the verge of starvation, and in other Palestinian territories the shadow of war is not far away either, with tensions high in East Jerusalem. Thousands of Israeli police have been deployed around the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshippers are expected every day at the Al Aqsa mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Israel's relentless campaign in Gaza has caused increasing alarm across the world as the growing risk of famine threatens to add to a death toll that has already passed 31,000. In the ruins of Gaza itself, where half the 2.3 million population is squeezed into the southern city of Rafah, many living under plastic tents and facing a severe shortage of food, the mood was correspondingly sombre. "We made no preparations to welcome Ramadan because we have been fasting for five months now," said Maha, a mother of five, who would normally have filled her home with decorations and stocked her refrigerator with supplies for the evening Iftar celebrations when people break their fast. "There is no food, we only have some canned food and rice, most of the food items are being sold for imaginary high prices," she said via chat app from Rafah, where she is sheltering with her family.
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Swedish flag flies at NATO headquarters

Swedish flag flies at NATO headquarters

The Swedish flag was raised at NATO Headquarters for the first time on Monday (11 March) in a ceremony to mark the country’s membership of the Alliance. Sweden became NATO’s 32nd Ally on 7 March upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the United States government in Washington D.C. NATO's Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, welcomed Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to NATO Headquarters for a flag-raising ceremony to mark Sweden’s accession. Speaking ahead of the ceremony, the Secretary General thanked Prime Minister Kristersson for his strong personal leadership and commitment to leading Sweden into NATO. He said: “Sweden has taken its rightful place at NATO’s table under the shield of Article 5 protection – the ultimate guarantee of our freedom and security. All for one and one for all.” Sweden’s flag was hoisted to join the flags of the other 31 Allies, as the Swedish national anthem and the NATO hymn were played. Flag-raising ceremonies took place simultaneously at Allied Command Operations (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium) and Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia (United States). Standing alongside Prime Minister Kristersson, the Secretary General said: “Sweden’s accession shows again that NATO’s door remains open. No one can close it. Every nation has the right to choose its own path, and we all choose the path of freedom and democracy.” Noting that NATO will mark its 75th anniversary this year, Mr Stoltenberg underlined that the transatlantic bond between Europe and North America has ensured our freedom and security. Sweden will help to build an even stronger NATO at a critical time for Euro-Atlantic security, he said, adding that “joining NATO is good for Sweden, good for stability in the North, and good for the security of our whole Alliance.”
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Anger across the Muslim world and the Global South as US vetoes Gaza cease fire resolution for the 4th time

Anger across the Muslim world and the Global South as US vetoes Gaza cease fire resolution for the 4th time

Commentators and opinion shapers across the Muslim world and the global south on Wednesday (21 February) were unanimous in their condemnation of the American veto of an Algerian resolution in the UN Security Council which called for an immediate cease fire in Gaza. Many commentators in Western countries were similarly appalled after for the fourth time since the start of the war in Gaza, the US on Tuesday vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in the embattled territory. It said such a resolution would interfere with ongoing, “sensitive” negotiations, led by Washington, that are attempting to broker an end to the hostilities. Thirteen of the 15 council members voted in favor of the resolution, which was drafted by Algeria. The UK abstained. In addition to the call for an immediate ceasefire, the Arab-backed draft resolution did also demand the immediate release of all hostages. It also rejected the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, called for the unrestricted flow of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and reiterated council demands that both Israel and Hamas “scrupulously comply” with the rules of international law, especially in relation to the protection of civilians. It also condemned “all acts of terrorism,” without explicitly naming either side.
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Africa honours the memory of "Mwalimu" Julius Nyerere

Africa honours the memory of "Mwalimu" Julius Nyerere

Africa has honoured the memory of Julius Nyerere, founder and first president of Tanzania and an icon for Africa's quest for freedom from colonialism and apartheid. A statue of Nyrere has been unveiled outside the African Union offices in Addis Ababa. Known as Mwalimu, Swahili for teacher, he was a committed pan-Africanist and hosted independence fighters opposed to white minority rule in southern Africa. He played a key role in the creation of the Organisation of African Unity, which later became the African Union. Nyrere was president of Tanzania (initially called Tanganiyka) from 1961 to 1985. Unveiling the statue at a ceremony attended by numerous African heads of state, AU Commission leader Moussa Faki Mahamat said: "The legacy of this remarkable leader encapsulates the essence of Pan Africanism, profound wisdom, and service to Africa." He recalled Nyerere's own comments at the inaugural OAU summit in 1963. "Our continent is one, and we are all Africans." But when he became prime minister of what was then Tanganyika in 1961, his first task was to unite the new country, made up of more than 120 different ethnic groups, including Arab, Asian and European minorities. He managed to do this, by promoting the use of Swahili as a common language and through his vision of "African Socialism" or ujamaa (familyhood). In 1964, Tanganyika united with the Zanzibar archipelago to form Tanzania. Paying her tribute to Nyerere, Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan said: "To him, Africa's wellbeing came first, before popular approval, personal fortune or country wellbeing." He was a trained teacher and became the first person from Tanganyika to study at a British university, when he went to study in Edinburgh in 1949, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He died in 1999, aged 77, and the anniversary of his death, 14 October, is a public holiday.
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Busy time for Aliyev and Pashinyan at the Munich Security Conference

Busy time for Aliyev and Pashinyan at the Munich Security Conference

Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, are this weekend both attending the Munich Security Conference. On the margins of the big event the two leaders have held a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders and statesmen. Of special significance however was their own bilateral meeting, which followed a trilateral meeting hosted by the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. In a short read out of the Aliyev-Pashinyan meeting, the website of the Azerbaijani president said "Negotiations on the peace treaty between the two countries, normalization of relations, border delimitation issues were discussed at the meeting. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs were instructed to hold a meeting on the peace agreement and a meeting of the border delimitation commission soon. The mutual compromises and progress achieved during COP29 between the two countries were positively evaluated." The website of the Armenian prime minister makes no mention of the bilateral meeting but highlights the meeting with Scholz, adding that "the process of regulating Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and steps aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the region were discussed. It was agreed to continue the work on the peace treaty." Both Aliyev and Pashinyan have also had bilateral meetings with the German Chancellor, as well as with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta Ian Borg. The meetings highlight the interest of the international community to support Armenia and Azerbaijan in their quest for peace, despite on-going problems and incidents on the ground. For Azerbaijan the meetings in Munich are also an opportunity to prepare for COP29 - the Climate Convention framework meeting which is scheduled to be held in Baku in November. Aliyev met with US Special Envoy on Climate, John Kerry, and also invited him for the Baku event.
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Oil markets jittery after Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire

Oil markets jittery after Israel rejects Gaza ceasefire

Oil prices were little changed on Friday, staying on track for weekly gains, but the markets remained jittery with tensions persisting in the Middle East after Israel rejected a ceasefire offer from Hamas, according to Reuters. Brent crude futures slipped 1 cent to $81.62 a barrel by 6:34 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 3 cents to $76.25 a barrel. Both benchmarks rose about 3 percent in the previous session as Israeli forces bombed the southern border city of Rafah on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal to end the war in the Palestinian enclave. The tensions have kept oil prices elevated, with Brent and WTI both set to gain more than 5 percent for the week. “The move yesterday seemed a bit excessive on the back of not very much at least in terms of fundamentals,” ING’s head of commodities research Warren Patterson said. “I still expect the rangebound trading that we have become accustomed to recently will continue given the comfortable oil balance.” US officials made their most pointed criticism so far of Israel’s civilian casualties in Gaza as it turned the focus of its offensive to Rafah. A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Thursday for ceasefire talks with mediators Egypt and Qatar. While the conflict has propped up prices, there has been no impact on oil production. Non-Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries output from Norway and Guyana is increasing while Russia is exporting more crude in February than it planned following a combination of drone attacks and technical outages at its refineries that could undermine its pledge to curb sales under a pact from OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+ Under the deal, Russia committed to capping crude output at 9.5 million barrels per day. It is also voluntarily cutting crude exports by 300,000 bpd and fuel exports by 200,000 bpd from the average May-June level.