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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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UN General Assembly overwhelmingly votes for a humanitarian truce in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities

UN General Assembly overwhelmingly votes for a humanitarian truce in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday (27 October), voted overwhelmingly, with 120 countries in favour, 14 against and 45 abstentions, to a resolution calling for an end of hostilities in Gaza and for humanitarian relief to the Palestinian people of Gaza. The resolution calls for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.” The vote, whilst not binding, gives moral support to efforts to get a similar resolution passed in the Security Council. As decided by the General Assembly earlier, the resolution required a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting to be adopted. There are 193 members of the United Nations. Most members of the Non-Aligned Movement, eight members of the European Union, and UN Security Council members France, China  and Russia were amongst those voting for the resolution. There could be noted however divisions in the voting patterns of EU members: Several of the EU 27 member states voted for the resolution, including: Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia. Five, joined the United States and Israel to vote against, namely Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary Most EU countries abstained, including Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland and Romania, Slovakia and Sweden. Of the three South Caucasus countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan voted for the resolution, Georgia abstained. Ukraine and Moldova also abstained.
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Silk Road Forum opens in Tbilisi

Silk Road Forum opens in Tbilisi

The two-day Tbilisi Silk Road Forum “Connecting Today, Resilient Tomorrow” opened on October 26 with a speech by Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili. Over 2000 delegates from 63 countries, including the Prime Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Montenegro, are attending the event. In his address to the fourth edition of the Forum, Garibashvili said the Georgian Dream Government had built and maintained an “unprecedented and uninterrupted” decade of “peace and stability” since 2012, and had brought “confidence and predictability to our nation and our partners”. One of the major goals of my Government is to avoid war and secure peace. Despite issues posed by our geographic location, regional and global security challenges, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and alarming tensions in the Middle East, through prudent policies and close coordination with our partners, we have managed to keep our people and country safe while contributing as a responsible member of the international community”, he told the audience. Garibashvili reminded the Forum participants about a "full-scale military aggression" that Georgia experienced in 2008 and "continues to endure its consequences". This is still evident in the occupation of 20 percent of the Georgian territory by the Russian Federation and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. I confidently state that despite the devastation that we have suffered, we have not hesitated to pursue our ambitions. We have been gradually transforming Georgia into a dynamic society fully committed to peace, stability and economic development", he said. The PM also reviewed his Government’s Peaceful Neighbourhood Initiative for the region by saying “we are prepared to engage our neighbours and friendly nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan to finally bring lasting peace to the South Caucasus”.  Today, I am delighted to host both of my dear colleagues - [Armenian] Prime Minister Pashinyan and [Azerbaijani] Prime Minister Asadov”, he continued in the opening address. The Georgian official also stressed “permanent peace” would “benefit all of our countries” as well as the wider region, and bring “deserved prosperity to our nations”. 
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EU and US leaders say they are "bound together by the most dynamic relationship on earth"

EU and US leaders say they are "bound together by the most dynamic relationship on earth"

A summit between the US and the EU has re-affirmed the resilience of the transatlantic relationship at a time of increased global turmoil. On Friday (20 October), EU leaders, notably the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, met with US President, Joe Biden, and the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Washington DC. The summit was an opportunity to review the close transatlantic partnership and areas of cooperation within the partnership. At the end of the summit the leaders adopted a joint statement, which includes a roadmap to underpin and further strengthen the relationship for years to come. A statement issued at the end of the meeting said: Representing nearly 800 million citizens, united by our values and bound together by the most dynamic relationship on earth, we reaffirm our commitment to a transatlantic partnership that delivers for all our people. The statement added that the EU and the US are close and like-minded partners that share a strong bond and a commitment to a rules-based international order and effective multilateralism. The summit also discussed global issues, including Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Indo-Pacific Region. On the Caucasus, the summit statement said that the EU and the US remain fully committed to supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and its European perspective.  They also said that they remain committed to advancing a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on mutual recognition of sovereignty, inviolability of borders and territorial integrity. We urge Azerbaijan to ensure the rights and security of those who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as for those who wish to return to their homes. We also call for all parties to adhere to the principle of non-use of force and threat of use of force.
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Gutteres insists two-state solution is only way forward in the Middle East

Gutteres insists two-state solution is only way forward in the Middle East

UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, on Monday, 9 October, made a passionate call for a return to negotiations between the sides in the Middle East, and said that "only a negotiated peace that fulfills the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis, together with their security alike – the long-held vision of a two-State solution, in line with United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements – can bring long-term stability to the people of this land and the wider Middle East region." Gutteres was speaking as the most serious crisis in the middle East in half a century unfolded following the Saturday morning raids by Hamas militants on towns and settlements in the south of Israel. Whilst unequivocally condemning the attacks, Gutteres said that "this most recent violence does not come in a vacuum. The reality is that it grows out of a long-standing conflict, with a 56-year long occupation and no political end in sight." "It’s time to end this vicious circle of bloodshed, hatred and polarization", the UN Secretary General said in the press briefing, which he held in New York following a meeting with other senior UN officials. Clearly, the UN sees the crisis as one of the most significant in recent years and is brazing itself for a humanitarian catastrophy as Israel launches a large scale punitive action in Gaza with the aim of eradicating completely Hamas, and its political and military capacity. In his statement, Gutteres said that "Civilians must be respected and protected at all times".
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Biggest crisis in the Middle East for half a century

Biggest crisis in the Middle East for half a century

The biggest crisis in the Middle East, since the October War in 1973, unfolded yesterday as hundreds of Palestinian fighters broke out of the Gaza Strip, and attacked Israeli towns and settlements nearby. In what is being described as an audacious operation, which was undetected by the Israelis despite it needing months of meticulous preparations and involving large numbers of people, it is reported that three hundred Israelis died and hundreds more were injured. The Palestinian fighters also took dozens of Israeli prisoners. Israeli has unleashed a punitive operation against the Gaza Strip, with rocket raids hitting the densely populated area which is the home of more than three million Palestinians, in what is sometimes described as "the biggest prison in the world".  International Community scrambles to react The international community is scrambling to deal with the situations, and possible fall-out. There has been largely condemnation of the Palestinian attack, especially from the US and Europe, whilst other countries, such as Turkey, called for restraint. In the neighbouring Arab countries the events are being watched closely. Official statements from Arab capitals generally condemned the violence, but in the proverbial "Arab street" the mood is more sympathetic to the Palestinian fighters. The United Nations Security Council will meet Sunday (8 October) in New York. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland is expected to brief the members of the Council. The meeting was called by Malta, but later the United Arab Emirates also joined the call. According to the authoritative publication "Security Council Report", the meeting was initially requested in the private meeting format but was later changed to consultations after several members expressed a preference for the latter format. While both formats are closed to the public, consultations differ from a private meeting in that it is not a formal meeting of the Security Council. In addition, only Council members can participate in consultations, whereas member states whose interests are directly affected may be invited to participate in a private meeting in accordance with rule 37 and rule 39 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
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Biden meets C5 leaders to confirm commitment for Central Asian countries security and prosperity

Biden meets C5 leaders to confirm commitment for Central Asian countries security and prosperity

US President, Joe Biden, on Tuesday (19 September) met in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly, the leaders of the five Central Asian Republics. Attending the meeting were the presidents of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This was the inaugural C5+1 presidential summit.   A readout from the White House said that the leaders discussed a range of issues, including security, trade and investment, regional connectivity, the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, and ongoing reforms to improve governance and the rule of law. 
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Biden to meet Central Asian leaders in the first C5+1 presidential summit

Biden to meet Central Asian leaders in the first C5+1 presidential summit

For a number of years, the United States has promoted a mechanism for dialogue with the five Central Asian Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Known as the C5 + 1 these meetings have usually be en held at the level of foreign minister. The first meeting was held in 2015, and the mechanism now also has a secretariat to ensure continuation between meetings. Today (19 September) in New York, US president Joe Biden will take the relationship further, by upgrading the dialogue to presidential level. This is both symbolic and significant. For a long time the United States has been accused of abandoning Central Asia, tacitly accepting that this was Russia's back yard. Well if it ever was, it no longer is. China has become an even more important player in Central Asia than Russia, and the Central Asian Republics are desperately trying to open up to the world. A slow, painful but hugely necessary process of reform is taking place in the five countries, in some pursued with more enthusiasm than others. At today's meeting, President Biden is expected to give encouragement to this reform process, but the key message will be one of support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the five countries - a welcome message in the region given Russia's continued pressures.  Also on the US president's agenda will be Afghanistan, which neighbours a number of the C5 countries. And of course there is the issue of sanctions against Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been trying to use the Central Asian republics to circumvent the sanctions. This is an important issue for the international community and the US president will seek the best way to secure the support of the C5 governments.
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India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) hails a new era in global connectivity

India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) hails a new era in global connectivity

India, the European Union, the United States and Saudi Arabia announced a mega deal to establish the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) at an event on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Saturday. The leaders of India, Italy, France, Germany, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union and Saudi Arabia signed the memorandum of understanding. While announcing the corridor at the G20 summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that IMEC will usher in a new chapter in global connectivity and sustainable development. He also stated that the corridor would act as a "major medium of economic integration between India, West Asia, and Europe”. The project will be developed under the G7 nations’ Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (PGII) initiative. PGII aims to bridge the infrastructure gap in developing countries. The new IMEC project is being seen as a response to China’s Belt and Road initiative. While the cost of the project has not been officially announced, reports indicated that the countries might spend around $20 billion on developing the corridor. The new project will consist of two corridors. The east corridor will connect India with Gulf countries and the northern corridor will connect Arabian Gulf with Europe.  The corridors will consist of a ship-to-rail transit network to facilitate cost-effective transport routes for the countries. The memorandum of understanding read,” It will enable goods and services to transit to, from, and between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Europe.” The countries also plan to lay down a cable network for electricity and digital connectivity along with pipes for clean hydrogen export. EU President Ursula von der Leyen said that IMEC will be the most direct connection between the countries and it is expected to cut travel time by 40 per cent.