Einzeltitel - Europäische und Internationale Zusammenarbeit
Conflict Weekly, Vol.3, No.14, 06 July 2022
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and KAS-India Office
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Libya: The continuing political stalemate
In the news
On 30 June, Libya's rival authorities concluded UN-brokered talks in Geneva without finding a solution to conduct parliamentary and presidential elections. The UN’s envoy to Libya said some progress was achieved in the meeting between the parliamentary speaker of the House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, and the president of the High Council of State of the internationally-recognized government, Khaled Al-Mishri, to discuss a draft framework for the elections. However, this progress was not enough to urge the two sides towards elections.
On 1 July, protesters demanding an end to the political deadlock stormed the parliament in Tobruk and reportedly burnt a part of the building. Protests were also held in different cities across the country, including in the capital Tripoli.
On 2 July, the UN envoy said: “The people’s right to peacefully protest should be respected and protected but riots and acts of vandalism such as the storming of the House of Representatives headquarters late yesterday in Tobruk are totally unacceptable.”
Issues at large
First, political stalemate in Libya since 2011. In 2011, the overthrow of dictator Ben Ali in Tunisia sparked anti-regime protests across several Arab countries, including Libya. Widespread protests were held against Muammar al Gaddafi, who had been in power for four decades. In February 2011, Gaddafi was killed in a NATO-led intervention leading to a sudden power vacuum in the country and in 2014, Libya witnessed the beginning of a civil war, leading to two parallel authorities in the country. The civil war led to the involvement of external actors, on both sides, like Turkey, Qatar, Italy, Russia, France, Egypt and the UAE, who had their own interest in Libya’s oil reserves.
Second, two rival governments. Currently, Libya has two rival governing authorities, one backed by the UN and one based in the country’s east, appointed by the House of Representatives. The UN-backed, internationally recognized interim government, based in Tripoli, is led by prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, appointed in early 2021. In February 2022, the House of Representatives, based in Tobruk, approved Fathi Bashagha as the new prime minister. Bashagha’s appointment was rejected by the High Council of State.
Third, the political deadlock. The appointment of Bashagha took place after Dbeibah refused to step down from his position for the parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2021, thereby leading to the two rival sides. The House of Representatives maintained that Dbeibah’s term had officially ended and, therefore, his position was not legitimate. However, this is not the first time that Libya witnessed such a division between the eastern and western sides. After the civil war broke out in 2014, the UN officiated the interim Government of National Accord (GNA) in 2015. However, the east formed its own governing authority, the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar and speaker Aguila Saleh. In 2020, the LNA and GNA reached an agreement and in March 2021, the Government of National Unity (GNU) was set up with Dbeibah as the head.
Fourth, response from the people of Libya. Popular unrest has been a constant factor in Libya’s politics since the Arab Spring in 2011. Since then, several oil facilities have been controlled by rebels or by the eastern authorities, thereby impacting the economy. Protesters demand a solution to the political stalemate and improvement in their living conditions.
More than a decade after the fall of Gaddafi, Libya remains more divided than ever. It is far from achieving the dream of a peaceful life that sparked the protests in 2011. Meanwhile, an immediate solution to the current political crisis does not seem possible and Libya will witness the continuation of sharp political differences between its east and west. If the situation worsens, the involvement of foreign actors will increase, despite international organizations’ calls for the evacuation of foreign troops.
Ukraine: Fall of Lysychansk gives Russia control over the Luhansk region
In the news
On 3 July, Russia’s defence minister Sergey Shoigu reported that the Russian Armed Forces and the People's Militia of the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) had entirely established control over the city of Lysychansk.
Ukraine’s general staff after the withdrawal of troops from Lysychansk stated: "In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw." However, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged that the Ukranians will regroup and retake Lysychansk. He stated: “If the command of our army withdraws people from certain points of the front where the enemy has the greatest fire superiority – in particular this applies to Lysychansk – it means only one thing: we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons."
On 4 July, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin declared victory in Luhansk: “The units that took part in active combat operations and achieved success and victories in the Lugansk direction, of course, should rest and build up their combat capabilities. Other military formations, including the East Group and the West Group, must carry out their tasks according to the previously approved plans, according to the single scheme, and I hope that everything will happen in their directions in the same way as it has happened in Luhansk.”
Issues at large
First, the geographic and ethnic significance of Luhansk. Russia recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics on 21 February 2022. East Ukraine consists of two self-declared states, Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic. Due to its significant Russian-speaking population and over 40 per cent ethnic Russian population, Luhansk historically has a stronger affinity for Russia. The major Russian speaking regions have aspired to secede from Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.
Second, Russia’s strategy since February 2022. Russia started the war on several fronts, including the eastern region and around Kyiv. Their primary target could have been Kyiv. After failed attempts to take over Kyiv, Russia shifted its strategy towards the Donbas region. Through continuous battles in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the LPR and DPR forces’ support, Russia first targeted Mariupol, and later Sievierodonetsk, and now Lysychansk, thereby bringing Luhansk under its control. This means redrawing the borders of Ukraine without Luhansk and Donetsk.
Third, the withdrawal of Ukraine. A key reason for Ukraine to withdraw its forces from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions is because it is largely occupied by DPR and LPR infiltrating and evacuating the people. Although Luhansk has several industries and was a contributor to Ukraine’s food exports, Ukraine withdrew to avoid a larger offensive, recoup its military personnel and possibly strike later using the help of NATO and the EU. On the ground, Russia had an advantage over the firepower in Lysyhank, forcing the Ukrainian army to withdraw from the city to protect themselves and the civilians. The move can be to reinforce the defences around the cities of Donetsk, particularly Sloviansk and Khramatorsk.
First, for Russia, after emerging victorious at the battle of Lysychansk, it declared that it has liberated the Luhansk Oblast from Ukraine. Russia perceives it as a major development to control the Donbas region entirely and build a bridge to the south with Crimea. By controlling Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Russia would be in a better position to launch an offensive against cities to the southwest, particularly Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, and Bakhmut. Luhansk also provides access to the warm waters of the Azov Sea.
Second, for Ukraine, its army expected the fall of Luhansk when Russians crossed the Severdontsk. The battle of Lysychansk was to slow down the advancement of Russian troops to enter Donetsk. Russian artillery may have been depleted, and the troops may have been worn out during the battle of Lysychansk, affecting its momentum towards Donetsk. This may give Ukraine the opportunity to build its defences around the cities of Donetsk. The battle for Donetsk will be a long one with the influx of weapons from the West and may change the tides.
Third, for Europe, there has been no victory so far. The continuous and vast supply of arms and aid from the west has not stopped the fall of Luhansk. Since the start of the conflict, Ukraine has not witnessed any major victory in terms of controlling territory. The recent summits and conferences of international organizations have made commitments for Ukraine in the long term. NATO countries have agreed to increase their troops in Eastern Europe, however, the conflict might henceforth focus only on the Donbas region.
Also from around the World
By Avishka Ashok, Arshiya Banu, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Rashmi BR, Apoorva Sudhakar, Harini Madhusudan, Rishma Banerjee and Padmashree Anandhan
East and Southeast Asia
China: World Peace Forum discusses European security and world order
On 3 July, China hosted the World Peace Forum in Beijing themed "Preserving International Stability: Commonality, Comprehensiveness and Cooperation." Over 300 former senior officials, diplomatic envoys and scholars participated online and discussed issues such as preservation of world peace, European security order, and the United Nations and the world order. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “In this period of uncertainty and change, we need more people to participate in social construction, cooperate with governments and other key stakeholders to meet pressing global challenges and strengthen commonality, synthesis and cooperation.” The forum was initiated by Tsinghua University and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2012.
China: Personal information of a billion Chinese people stolen by hackers
On 4 July, Chinese industrial analysts claimed that the greatest cybersecurity breach in Chinese history occurred when unidentified hackers broke into a database of the Shanghai police and claimed to have stolen information on as many as a billion Chinese citizens. An anonymous post on a cybercrime forum stated that the person or group who claimed responsibility for the attack had offered to sell more than 23 terabytes of database data that had been stolen, including names, addresses, birthplaces, national IDs, phone numbers, and details about criminal cases. The unknown hackers demanded 10 bitcoins, which is equivalent to almost USD 200,000.
Hong Kong: President Xi addresses the city on 25th handover anniversary
On 1 July, President Xi Jinping addressed the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China and validated the country’s actions and rule in the former British colony. President Xi congratulated the city and the country on the occasion and officially welcomed the new Chief Executive of the HKSAR John Lee and the members of the executive council while appreciating the “one country, two systems” in the city. Xi said: “Hong Kong's return to the motherland marked the beginning of a new era for the region. Over the past 25 years, with the full support of the country and the joint efforts of the HKSAR government and people from all walks of life in Hong Kong, the success of ‘one country, two systems' has won recognition throughout the world.”
Taiwan: Philippines complaint regarding drills in the South China Sea rejected
On 29 June, Taiwan rejected a complaint from the Philippines on a live-fire near an island under Taipei's control in the South China Sea, claiming that it had the right to conduct the drills and that it always gave advance notice of them. In a tweet posted late on Tuesday, the Philippines department of foreign affairs voiced "strong objection" to Taiwan's planned live-fire drills surrounding the island, also known as Itu Aba. The island is referred to as Taiping in Taiwan and Ligaw Island in the Philippines.
Japan: Chinese navy ship spotted in disputed East China Sea
On 4 July, Japan's defence ministry said a Chinese naval vessel was sailing close to the disputed islands in the East China Sea; a Russian navy ship was also spotted later in the vicinity. The islets, referred to as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing, are the subject of a longstanding dispute between Japan and China. According to NHK, Japanese officials have been protesting the presence of Chinese coast guard vessels in the area of the islands on a regular basis, but this is the first time a naval ship has been sighted there since 2018.
South Korea: Dam opened without notice on the Korean border prompting evacuation
On 5 July, South Korea's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs stated that tourists in South Korea were forced to leave due to rising water levels on the Imjin River after North Korea appeared to have released water from the Hwanggang dam close to the border. Government statistics revealed that the water level at a bridge over a river in the border county of Yeoncheon, in the South, exceeded 1m, forcing those on the riverbank to leave.
Canada and Australia: China’s Defence Ministry justifies military’s actions
On 30 June, China's ministry of national defence's spokesperson Tan Kefei responded to Australia's and Canada’s provocative acts by the military aircrafts and said that Beijing would respond aggressively to uninvited passers by. Tan justified China’s actions and said the country handled the issue in a professional way. He accused the Australian aircrafts of repeatedly approaching Xisha Islands’ territorial space and disregarding the warning issued by the Chinese authorities. On the Canadian aircrafts, he said: “The Canadian military aircraft, meanwhile, increased close-in reconnaissance and made provocations to the Chinese side in the name of implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions, undermining China's national security.”
Australia: Protests held across country against the US ruling on abortion
On 2 July, thousands in Australia protested against the US Supreme Court decision to abolish women’s constitutional right to abortion. The landmark Roe v. Wade decision from 1973 was reversed by the Supreme Court in June, reinstating the right of individual states to impose abortion bans. Around 15,000 women and men participated in the largest rally in Australia by marching through Melbourne with placards that read, "I borrowed this sign from my grandma," and "Everyone deserves the right to bodily autonomy." One of the protest organisers in Melbourne said: "We are here to stand up for women's rights in Australia and around the world. Millions of women in the United States have had their rights stripped from them, and we are angry about that."
Australia: Flood crisis worsens as scale touches 800mm forcing thousands to leave home
On 5 July, heavy downpours continued to pummel Australia's east coast, worsening the flood in Sydney, and forcing thousands more families to evacuate their homes overnight as rivers quickly surged above danger levels. The emergency management minister Steph Cooke stated that more than 50,000 New South Wales residents—the majority of whom live in Sydney's western suburbs—were ordered to evacuate. New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet said: “Wherever you are, please be careful when you’re driving on our roads. There are still substantial risks for flash flooding.” Since 2 July, some areas have seen 800 millimetres of rain, above Australia's 500 millimetres annual average.
Pakistan: Chief suspect of Karachi University bombing taken into custody
On 4 July, the Sindh police chief in a meeting with a visiting China’s delegation disclosed that an “important suspect” of the Karachi University suicide bombing had been taken into custody. The 13-member China’s delegation, led by a counterterrorism official met with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and discussed security measures for Chinese nationals working in Sindh and the progress of investigations into the Karachi University attack.
Pakistan: Gwadar rights leader threatens to close Gwadar port
On 4 July, Dawn reported that Maulana Hidayatur Rehman Baloch, the leader of the Gwadar rights movement threatened to close the Gwadar port from 21 July if the demands agreed by the provincial government earlier in April were not fulfilled. He said that the demands of the Gwadar rights movement included, freeing the coast of Balochistan from the trawler mafia, opening border points in Gwadar and eliminating drug trafficking and removing unnecessary check-posts.
Pakistan: Reversal of FATA merger with KP is our primary demand, says TTP chief
On 29 June, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud said: “Our demands are clear and especially the reversal of FATA merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is our primary demand which the group cannot back down from.” This comes after the federal interior minister ruled out the reversal of FATA merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Further, Mehsud said the talks with the government are yet to reach a conclusion and stated that if the government showed “seriousness,” then a breakthrough in talks would be possible. He claimed that Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was representing the Pakistan government in talks while from the TTP he was leading its delegation.
Afghanistan: Loya Jirga call for recognition, unfreezing of assets and modern education for all
On 28 June, Islamic clerics held a three-day meeting at the Loya Jirga Hall in Kabul. Following the meeting, a resolution of 11 principles was released. The resolution called on the international community to release Afghan assets and termed the current government as "legitimate," calling for its recognition. Additionally, the resolution did not directly mention the reopening of girls’ schools but called on the Taliban government to provide modern and religious education for men and women.
Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa
Uzbekistan: 18 people killed during unrest in Karakalpakstan
On 4 July, the office of Uzbekistan’s prosecutor general stated that 18 people were killed during unrest in the country’s autonomous region of Karakalpakstan. Protests broke out on 1 July in Nukus, the regional capital of Karakalpakstan, as well as other cities in response to the government’s plans to change the constitution of Uzbekistan and remove the right of the region to secede, should its citizens choose to hold a referendum. Following the outbreak of protests, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that the government has decided to forgo its plan to amend articles of the constitution relating to Karakalpakstan’s autonomy.
Yemen: Blast in Aden kills five and injures several others
On 29 June, a blast targeting Saleh al-Sayed, the security chief of Lahj province, killed four civilians and one bodyguard, while injuring several others. Al-Sayed, who was traveling in the car planted with an explosive, escaped narrowly. He is loyal to the Southern Transition Council and is known to have led troops against Al-Qaeda and Daesh factions. He also commanded troops that battled the Houthis in Aden. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
Yemen: Houthis mobilise troops around Taiz
On 4 July, military officials in Yemen stated that they are bracing for an increased Houthi offensive on Taiz, the third largest city in the country. Houthis have reportedly mobilized new fighters, heavy artillery, and military vehicles outside the city. Taiz has been virtually under Houthi blockade since 2015, blocking the entry of essential supplies and giving rise to a humanitarian crisis in the city. An UN-brokered truce pushed the Houthis towards lifting the blockade partially, however, with the current rate of mobilization, the situation is expected to worsen.
Yemen: Campaign against al Qaeda begins
On 3 July, Yemeni Special Forces launched a campaign against al Qaeda in the southern province of Abyan. The troops have been deployed in mountains and valleys in Abyan as a measure to stop the al Qaeda factions (AQAP) from occupying or using the Arabian Peninsula for a reported comeback. In 2015, AQAP controlled large swaths of Arabian Peninsula, including Hadramout, Lahj and Abyan, and reportedly kidnapped residents. They were pushed back by the Arab Coalition and Yemeni forces.
Israel-Palestine: US releases statement on killing of Abu Akleh
On 4 July, the US Department of State said the independent investigators “could not reach a definitive conclusion” regarding the death of Palestinian-American journalist Abu Akleh, but an Israeli gunfire was “likely responsible” and is “unintentional.” The Department also said that the “ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.” Akleh was shot on 11 May, during the Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.
Lebanon-Israel: Dispute erupts over the Karish gas field
On 2 July, Israeli army spokesperson said that three drones coming from Lebanon’s side were interrupted by warplanes and an Israeli missile ship. According to Lebanon’s militant group, Hezbollah, the three drones targeted towards the Karish gas field an Israeli gas installation were unarmed. Since the Karish gas field is located in the disputed economic waters of Lebanon and Israel, the drone interruption has turned into a maritime conflict. The Lebanese Prime Minister and Foreign Minister criticised Hezbollah for provoking Israel by targeting an area which is under dispute between the two countries, and disturbing a UN and US-led mediations that are underway.
Ethiopia: Government claims successful military operation against rebels
On 30 June, prime minister Abiy Ahmed's spokesperson said successful military operations were conducted against rebels in the Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia and Amhara regions. The spokesperson said the rebels' training bases had been destroyed and weapons were confiscated. The development comes after the government said 338 civilians, mostly of Amharic origin, had reportedly been killed by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The UN-appointed Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia is investigating the incident and says that the increasing violence in the country is "an early warning indicator of further atrocities."
Sudan: Nine dead as anti-military protests turn violent
On 1 July, the death toll from protests against the military rule in Sudan rose to nine. On 30 June, Sudan witnessed the largest protests since the military coup in October. Doctors said several victims had been shot while security forces tackled protesters. A BBC news report quoted doctors as saying the security forces tried storming into hospitals while protesters were being treated. Police also used live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons against the protesters. Internet and telephone services were also blocked.
Nigeria: Several killed, four Chinese nationals kidnapped in gunmen attack
On 30 June, the State Commissioner for Internal Security said many people, including soldiers, police officers and local vigilante members were killed and four Chinese nationals were kidnapped by gunmen in an attack on a mining site in Niger State on 29 June. On 1 July, president Muhammadu Buhari said atrocities by terrorists strengthen Nigeria’s fight against them. Buhari said: “We say it again that we have reduced Boko Haram to a shell of its former self. But terrorists are parasites. They thrive when the world is suffering.”
Sudan-Ethiopia: AU calls for restraint amid diplomatic tensions
On 29 June, the Africa Union called on Sudan and Ethiopia to refrain from military action amid border clashes between the two countries. The AU statement came after Sudan reportedly fired artillery on the Al Fashaqa region along its border with Ethiopia and captured the Jabal Kala al-Laban area on 28 June. Previously, on 26 June, Sudan’s foreign ministry said it would recall its ambassador to Ethiopia and also summon Addis Ababa’s ambassador over the alleged killing of seven Sudanese soldiers by the latter’s military. Ethiopia denied these allegations.
Europe and the Americas
Russia: Putin gets updates on Ukrainian losses
On 3 July, following the Russian declaration of the capture of Lysychansk, and the complete control over Luhansk, the defence minister delivered an update on the conflict to President Putin. He revealed that the Ukrainian troops had faced over 2,200 fatalities and over 5,400 casualties in two weeks. He also reported the hardware losses faced by Ukraine which includes six long range air defence missile systems, 12 warplanes, 97 rocket artillery launches and almost 200 tanks and armour. No information on the Russian losses in the same region have been made so far.
Europe: NATO prepares for a cyber defence project
On 29 June, NATO members agreed to establish a program called “virtual rapid response cyber capability,” for defence against cyber attacks from Russia. The initiative was taken following multiple cyberattacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and increasing concern that Moscow may target the US and other NATO countries. The US has volunteered to offer “robust national capabilities,” to this program. Furthermore, during the summit, NATO reiterated that the North Atlantic Treaty's Article five might also be triggered by a cyberattack, making it an attack against the alliance as a whole.
Portugal: UNEP and EIP launch a new project to help conserve the Mediterranean sea
On 28 June, during the Ocean conference in Lisbon, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) inaugurated the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Mediterranean Pollution Hot Spots Technical Assistance programme to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment. The programme will prepare priority investment projects to reduce pollution in the marine and coastal environments of Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia. The Mediterranean Pollution Hot Spots Investment Programme of USD five million is a subsidiary project of GEF-funded MedProgramme established by the Barcelona Convention.
Denmark: Three killed in a shooting at a shopping mall in Copenhagen
On 3 July, a 22-year-old Danish man was arrested and charged with manslaughter for shooting at a shopping centre in Copenhagen killing three and injuring several others. Armed officers arrested the suspect. The initial investigation states the suspect was alone and witnesses said the man was seen holding a rifle and started shooting at the crowd all of a sudden. The killer was determined to be an Islamic militant. Denmark last saw a militant attack in 2015.
Czech Republic: Fighter jets to be sent to Slovakia to protect its airspace
On 3 July, prime minister Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic said that the country would provide fighter jets to protect Slovakia's airspace until it has new planes at its disposal. Slovakia had previously asked its NATO allies to help guard its skies after it decided to not use the Soviet-designed MiG-29 aircraft. It is expecting a late delivery of the US-built F-16 fighter jets. Fiala said that Ukraine is not only fighting for its independence but also the liberty and the security of the West.
Europe: NATO adopts new strategic concept for 2022
On 29 June 2022, at the NATO summit held in Madrid, the heads of the State and Government revealed NATO’s new Strategic Concept which listed the security challenges of NATO, its purpose and principles, the current strategic environment it faces, and its core tasks of “deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security.” According to NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg: “NATO’s new Strategic Concept is the blueprint for the Alliance in a more dangerous and competitive world.”
Europe: NATO holds summit to discuss the security challenges in the Euro-Atlantic
On 29 June, leaders of the 30 NATO members, and other NATO partners from Europe, Asia-Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea met in Madrid. The meeting took place in the backdrop of growing Russian attacks and NATO's expansion in Europe. The two-day summit discussed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, increasing security in member countries and allies, and Sweden and Finland's formal invitation to join NATO. The alliance also reaffirmed its open-door policy officially inviting Sweden and Finland to join NATO. It gave assurance to protect the territories and sovereignty of its member states and allies. Other issues such as food security, terrorism, climate change, cyber security, and space were also addressed.
Poland: Construction of border wall with Belarus completed
On 30 June, Poland completed the construction of a 186-kilometre-long wall along their border with Belarus. This is a 5.5-meter high steel wall and took EUR 294 million to complete. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other top government officials visited the border area. This wall has been built to deter migrants from Belarus, especially Iraqi Kurdish migrants from entering the country. They will now lift the state of emergency that blocked journalists and rights workers from entering the border region. Poland said that the wall is also a part of their protest against Russia and Belarus.