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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the crisis in Ukraine could lead to a major war, or even a nuclear war. In an interview with a German magazine, he criticized both Russia and the West.
In an interview with the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, 83-year-old former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said the crisis in Ukraine could lead to large-scale war in Europe or even a nuclear war. "We won't survive if someone loses their nerves in the current tension."
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate decried the "loss of trust" between Russia and the West as "catastrophic," and said ties must be "defrosted."
Gorbachev accused the West and NATO of destroying the structure of European security by expanding its alliance. "No head of the Kremlin can ignore such a thing," he said, adding that the US was unfortunately starting to establish a "mega empire."
The man seen as a key player in the reunification of former East and West Germany in 1990 also accused Germany of interfering in Ukraine's crisis, saying, "The new Germany wants its hands in every pie. There seems to be a lot of people who want to be involved in a new division of Europe.
"Germany has already tried to expand its influence of power towards the East - in World War II. Does it really need another lesson?"
He said Western attempts to disempower Russian President Vladimir Putin and destabilize Russia were "very stupid and extremely dangerous."
He defended the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula last year, but criticized the Russian leader's authoritarian style of leadership. He said Russia needed free elections and "the participation of the people in free elections.
"It is simply not acceptable when someone such as the anti-corruption blogger and politician Alexei Navalny is under house arrest for speaking out."
Gorbachev has warned of a nuclear war on a number of occasions in recent months. In an article for the Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published on December 11, he said: "The situation in Europe and the world is extremely alarming … the result of the events that took place in the last months is a catastrophic loss of trust in international relation," which could lead to war.
He urged Russia and the US as well as Russia and the EU to hold talks "without preconditions" and without fear of "losing face."
"We must think of the future," the former leader said.
On Monday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are set to meet in Berlin to launch another attempt to break the deadlock in the Ukraine conflict.
The ministers are expected to discuss the possibility of a summit of the four countries' leaders in Kazakhstan, which Ukraine had suggested take place on January 15.
Regarding the fragile four-month-old ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, which has been broken on a number of occasions, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said everything should be done to reach a compromise, adding, "It would be wrong not to try it."
sb/glb (dpa, Reuters)
Ethiopian opposition parties say they are facing roadblocks in their efforts to register for the May elections. The parties say the National Election Board is complicating procedures for no good reason, and raising doubt that the elections will be free or fair.
The Unity for Democracy and Justice party has the only opposition member in Ethiopia's 547-seat parliament. But it is unclear if the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections, as the National Election Board has rejected UDJ logos.
Wondimu Golla of the National Election Board said it was not about the logos, but about procedural rules.
“According to their bylaws it says, the president of the party shall be nominated or elected by the general assembly. But they nominate by some few persons, the high officials there. So we oppose this. They have to strictly follow the bylaws, their own bylaws,” said Golla.
The National Election Board has given UDJ two weeks to organize a general assembly, and if its conduct is approved the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections. But the UDJ has decided to not hold another general assembly.
UDJ vice chairman Girma Seifu -- the only member of parliament not affiliated with Ethiopia's ruling party -- said the election board's actions were not justified.
“They do not have any legal ground or moral ground or administrative guideline to do these things. Because this is just an interference just to put a block on our active participation in the election,” said Seifu.
Voter registration in Ethiopia began last week and up to 60 parties may run for seats in the upcoming elections.
The Blue Party, formed in 2012, will be contesting elections for the first time. Blue Party chairman Yilkal Getnet said he was pessimistic about the elections as the party has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to work with the election board on certain issues.
"They are reluctant, and they did not give us any positive report or signs to improve these things. We did not get any signs that improve the political climate. Now for the coming elections to be free and fair we need to discuss about the political climate, to have a free media, to have international observers to observe the election, and including the budget sharing systems, and so on,” said Getnet.
During the 2005 elections opposition parties won about a third of the seats, but accusations of vote rigging led to mass demonstrations in which at least 200 protesters died and thousands were arrested.
The ruling Ethiopia’s Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front has been in power since the overthrow of the military junta in 1991
The strain has been created due to the recent abandonment of the Hanish Islands by Yemeni forces as the Houthis continue to consolidate their advance after they took over Yemen's Hudaydah port
As of late, there has been a fresh strain of relations between Iran on one side and the U.S. and NATO on the other. But it is Iran's increasing influence on the Bab el Mandeb waterway – not its nuclear program – that has caused a fresh diplomatic and military stress.
The strain has been created due to the recent abandonment of the Hanish Islands by Yemeni forces as the Houthis continue to consolidate their advance after they took over Yemen's Hudaydah port.
A Djiboutian marine source told The Anadolu Agency on Monday that the loss of the Hanish Islands to the Houthis militants would diminish Yemen's influence. According to the source, this has become a cause of concern for an international coalition against piracy and contraband.
The Hanish Islands dominate the strategic Bab al-Mandeb straight between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, one of the world's busiest waterways.
Yemen's loss of the islands serves to facilitate smuggling into and out of the Arab world, although the anti-piracy coalition has for the most part managed to deter piracy in the region.
Another source who insisted on anonymity said: "The security gap in the Red Sea is largely caused by Yemen's weakening military institutions as a result of the considerable inroads made by the Houthis."
The militant Shiite Houthi group currently controls vast swathes of Yemeni territory, including most of capital Sanaa and the port city of Al-Hudaydah.
But given the Houthis' lack of air and sea power, the situation, the source said, had created a conducive atmosphere for Al-Shaabab, Al-Qaeda and other militant organizations operating in the region.
A diplomatic source said: "Eritrea and Yemen have restored diplomatic relations suspended since the 1995 war."
Their relations were suspended due to claims and counterclaims on the strategic Hanish Islands, which Eritrea invaded. The resumption of diplomatic relations was reflected by the recent visit of a Yemeni ambassador to Eritrea, with whose leader, Isaias Afeworki, he held closed-door talks.
According to the diplomatic source, Eritrea gave Yemen assurances that it would respect the decision of an international arbitration panel that awarded the islands to Yemen in 1998.
But the visit also shed light on Eritrea's increased significance. It came at a time when Yemen faces its own internal political problems.
The hopes of Yemen's government remain alive because the Houthis have not captured the entire country: Yemen's marine and air forces remain under the command of the government led by Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
On another front, Eritrea has been in contact with the Houthis, which has brought Eritrea closer to Shiite Iran, which supports the Shiite Houthi group. According to sources, Houthis injured in frequent clashes with their local opponents are receiving medical treatment in Eritrea. These allegations have been corroborated by Eritrean opposition groups operating in Ethiopia.
In addition to this, there have been reports of Iranian marine forces at Eritrea's port of Assab on the Red Sea coast. Such activities have led many Arab countries to follow the situation closely.
The current situation has given Eritrea the opportunity to play a leading role. Political pundits say Eritrea is the major beneficiary from this, while the latter does not deny that it has maintained good relations with Iran recently.
Meanwhile, the Houthis' capture of the Hudaydah Islands comes as good news for Iran, which has always wanted to expand Shiite influence in the region.
But this could bring Iran into direct conflict with Saudi Arabia. Saudi's former head of security, Amir Sukri al-Faisal, has condemned Eritrea for this. He claims that Eritrea had earlier lent its support to both Iran and Israel by allowing the two countries to use its ports.
The allegation, however, was denied at the time by Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel, who said neither Israel nor Iran had access to any of Eritrea's military bases in the Red Sea.
Eritrean Foreign Minister Usman Saleh also reassured the Yemeni ambassador that Eritrea would support Yemen with a view to forging a durable peace in the fractious country.
Some diplomatic sources approached by AA said Iran's scramble for influence in the Horn of Africa was intended to offset Western-imposed sanctions.
According to diplomatic sources, Houthi control of Hudaydah would bolster Iran's regional influence.
Iran's Red Sea policy, according to the sources, is geared towards bolstering its influence in international sea lanes. Currently, Iran has influence in the Strait of Hormuz and seeks indirect influence along the Red Sea via Eritrea and Yemen.
Eritrea, meanwhile, has long felt isolated from the international arena and now wants a new power alignment in the region.
It should be remembered that the Hanish Islands had been the primary cause of the bloody 1995 war between Yemen and Eritrea. Later, in 1998, an international arbitration committee awarded the islands to Yemen.
In 1962, when Eritrea was still part of Ethiopia, Yemen had demanded that its boundaries with Ethiopia be demarcated. Then, the islands were given to both claimants.
While Yemen had expected the boundary demarcation to be implemented as demanded, Ethiopia entered into war with Somalia, thus delaying the demarcation issue.
Arab states, for their part, supported Eritrea's wish to secede from Ethiopia.
Upon the secession of Eritrea, Yemen once again requested that the boundaries be demarcated. Eritrea, however, delayed the move until the issue led to armed conflict in 1995.
The Hanish Archipelago includes three main islands: Jebel Seqer, Hanish al-Kubra and Hanish al-Sughra. Together they form the Hanish Islands, a strategic area that dominates the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandeb.