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UN Security Council calls for an end to the siege of el-Fasher in Sudan's North Darfur province; Russia does not vote

UN Security Council calls for an end to the siege of el-Fasher in Sudan's North Darfur province; Russia does not vote

The UN Security Council, at the initiative of the United Kingdom, recently adopted a resolution on Thursday (13 June) calling for an immediate end to the siege of Al Fasher, the capital of Sudan's North Darfur state. The city, some 800 kilometres west of Khartoum, remains a key conflict zone as it is the last major western city not yet in the hands of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF, a former elite unit made up of ethnic Arab militias and once part of the regime of dictator Omar Hassan al Bashir, is now led by General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo. Daglo, a military leader and wealthy businessman from Darfur, plays a central role in the current power struggle in Sudan. The violence has killed at least 14,000 people and displaced more than 10 million others, according to UN estimates.

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Commentary: encircled by war, violence and turmoil, can the six GCC countries sustain their quest for development?

Commentary: encircled by war, violence and turmoil, can the six GCC countries sustain their quest for development?

The six Gulf monarchies that form the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – project themselves as islands of peace and stability regardless of their difficult neighbourhood. For some time now their main focus has been the development of their economies – this to ensure that they can maintain their prosperity as the world transits away from hydrocarbon energy resources which up to now has been their main source of income. This they need to do not least to sustain the high standard of living to which their citizens have got used to. Ambitious plans, many costing tens of billions of euros to be implemented, are now in place. Most depend on peace, stability and tranquillity for their success. These attributes are these days in short supply in the wider region in which the GCC countries sit. An unprecedented level of war, crises and turmoil encircles the six countries. In this commentary commonspace.eu Managing Editor, Dr Dennis Sammut says that questions arise if the Gulf Monarchies have what it takes – not just in financial resources, and those things these resources can buy - but also in terms of wisdom, internal cohesion and strategic depth, to weather the storms of the future. Even if they are able to navigate the geopolitics of the moment, what impact is the tension that surrounds the region having on its domestic politics? Are the grandiose economic plans still viable, or is a more modest approach going to be necessary?
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UN Security Council adopts strongly-worded resolution condemning Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

UN Security Council adopts strongly-worded resolution condemning Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday evening (10 January) adopted a resolution condemning Houthi attacks against international maritime shipping in the Red Sea. The resolution condemns “in the strongest terms” multiple Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea over the past two months, which have raised concerns over disruptions in global trade and regional security.  The council demanded that the group immediately cease such behavior and release the Galaxy Leader, a Japan-operated cargo ship with links to an Israeli businessman, and its 25 crew members.   Authored by the US and Japan, the resolution stated that there should be respect for international law that upholds the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms by operators of merchant and commercial vessels. It also noted that member states have the right to defend their vessels from attacks.  Since mid-November 2023, the Houthi rebels have repeatedly attacked commercial vessels in the Red Sea, at last count 24 times, and threatened to continue to do so until Israel ends its war on Gaza.   The capture of the Galaxy Leader was followed by an attempt to seize another commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Nov. 26. There have now been almost daily, and indiscriminate, attacks in the Red Sea.  Prior to voting on the draft resolution, Council members voted on three amendments to the text that Russia had proposed, none of which were adopted. In all three votes, four members voted in favor (Algeria, China, Russia, and Sierra Leone), two members voted against (the UK and the US), and nine members abstained. The Council then voted on the Japan-US draft text, without any of the Russian amendments, which received 11 votes in favor and four abstentions (Algeria, China, Mozambique, and Russia). The draft text was adopted as resolution 2722.
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UAE president, Mohamed bin Zayed, in Baku for talks with Aliyev (Updated)

UAE president, Mohamed bin Zayed, in Baku for talks with Aliyev (Updated)

A high level delegation from the United Arab Emirates, led by President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, travelled to Baku on Monday afternoon (8 January) for talks with president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. On Tuesday, President Mohamed bin Zayed and his delegation held talks with the president of Azerbaijan and other Azerbaijani officials. The official website of the Azerbaijani president also listed a number of documents agreed by the two sides that were signed in the framework of the visit. At the start of the visit, Sheikh Mohamed laid a wreath at the tomb of Heydar Aliyev, the founder of modern Azerbaijan, as well as at the Eternal Flame monument, according to UAE state news agency, Wam. The President was accompanied by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court; Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region; Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, Adviser for Special Affairs at the Presidential Court; Ali Al Shamsi, deputy secretary general of the Supreme National Security Council; Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the President and former minister of state for foreign affairs; Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure; Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology; Mohamed Al Suwaidi, Minister of Investment; Ahmed Al Sayegh, Minister of State; and Mohammed Al Balushi, ambassador to Azerbaijan. President Aliyev later in the evening hosted an official dinner for the Emirati guests. No information has been released regarding the nature of the talks under discussion, but for sure Azerbaijani is keen to learn from the experience of the UAE in hosting COP28 in December, as it prepares to host COP29 in Baku later this year. COP29 will be the biggest international event ever held in the South Caucasus. 
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Borrell holds talks with Saudi leaders

Borrell holds talks with Saudi leaders

EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, visited Saudi Arabia on 7-8 January for talks with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi. A statement from the European External Action Service  in Brussels said that the mission follows his trip to Lebanon and is part of Borrell’s engagement with regional partners to advance diplomatic efforts with a view to creating the conditions to reach a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine and in the region. "The trip will be an occasion to discuss all aspects of the situation in and around Gaza, including its impact on the region. He will also address the worrying escalation in the Red Sea", the statement added. During the meetings with Saudi officials in Al-Ula bilateral cooperation and regional priorities in the framework of the EU’s partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council were discussed.
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New flashpoint in the Horn of Africa after self-declared Somaliland grants sea access to Ethiopia

New flashpoint in the Horn of Africa after self-declared Somaliland grants sea access to Ethiopia

Tension is high in the Horn of Africa after the self-declared state of Somaliland made a deal with Ethiopia granting it sea access. Ethiopia has been a landlocked country since granting independence to Eritrea in the 1990s following a prolonged struggle. Somalia has described the agreement as an act of "aggression". Somaliland seceded from Somalia more than 30 years ago, but is not recognised internationally. It said that Ethiopia agreed to recognise its independence at some point in the future in exchange for military access to the coast. Ethiopia has not confirmed this aspect of Monday's contentious deal. The office of Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed the country had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) "to secure access to the sea and diversify its access to seaports". Mr Abiy had previously described sea access as an "existential issue" for his country. His national security adviser, Redwan Hussein, said the arrangement could enable Ethiopia to access a "leased military base" on the Red Sea, but gave no further details. In a related development, Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has pledged support for Somalia in its row with Ethiopia. Egypt already has strained relations with Ethiopia over issues related to the flow of the Nile River, which passes through Ethiopia before it continues on to Sudan and Egypt. In a phone call with Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Mr Sisi pledged "Egypt’s firm position to stand by Somalia and support its security and stability". In a statement on Tuesday (2 January), the European Union reminded of the importance of respecting the unity, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Somalia pursuant of its constitution, the Charters of the African Union and the United Nations. "This is key for the peace and stability of the entire Horn of Africa region", the statement added. The signing of the MOU between Ethiopia and Somaliland came on the same day that Ethiopia became a full member of BRICS. Apart from its five founding members: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the Group now also includes Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.