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Eurasia Security Watch - No. 260
Edited by Jeff Smith and Tyler McKinley
June 22, 2012
ABBAS' NEW ALLY
It would seem that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has found a new ally in recently elected French President François Hollande, granting Abbas the confidence to once again try to circumvent direct peace talks with Israel. In a joint news conference with Hollande, Abbas stated that if Israel did not restart negotiations, he was ready to go the United Nations General Assembly in a bid for “non-member state” status. It is a move reminiscent of Abbas’ bid for full UN member-state status last September, which was supported by 120 General Assembly members but ultimately failed when the United States threatened to veto the measure in the Security Council. With the United States powerless to veto a bid for non-member-state status it is likely Abass’ attempt would succeed where the previous effort failed. Israel strongly opposed any Palestinian attempt to gain UN State recognition amid fears the move is designed to delegitimize the state of Israel. (BBC News—June 08, 2012)
CHINA'S GROWING TIES WITH UZBEKISTAN AND OTHER CENTRAL ASIAN NATIONS
At the 12th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Beijing, China and Uzbekistan elevated ties to a strategic partnership with five agreements signed to boost cooperation. The agreements ranged from economic and technology cooperation, to deals on issues regarding animal hygiene and plant protection and quarantine. Sun Zhuangzhi a researcher on Central Asian and SCO studies believes that these agreements and the announced strategic partnership will allow China and Uzbekistan to “have a clearer plan for long-term cooperation, build more consensus and share the same stance on regional and international issues.” While Uzbekistan is clearly becoming an important Central Asian ally for China, it is not the only country that Beijing is cozying up to in the region. President Hu has also held talks with his counterparts from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in an attempt to strengthen relations and ultimately set up security, energy and infrastructure construction agreements with these two countries. (China Daily—June 07, 2012)
ISRAEL EXCLUDED FROM U.S. COUNTERTERRORISM FORUM
The United States and Turkey are co-chairs in a new initiative—The Global Counterterrorism Forum—that brings together 29 countries and the European Union to share information and help integrate efforts in the fight against international terrorism (Israel was not invited nor was there any mention of groups that support terrorist attacks against Israel). During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s opening remarks on June 7, she stressed the importance of building civilian institutions, coordinating anti-terror efforts, and establishing a unified, long-term strategy for fighting terrorist groups’ ideologies and their sources of funding. Clinton went on to say “[The United States] view this forum as a key vehicle for galvanizing action on these fronts and for driving a comprehensive, strategic approach to counterterrorism."
The exclusion of Israel by the Obama administration was a surprise to many observers. In a letter of protest written to Hillary Clinton by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), the two senators voiced their objections to the omission and went on to state “We strongly believe that Israel would both benefit from, and contribute enormously to, this kind of exchange…Israel rightfully belongs as a full participant in the [forum] and what, if any, steps you are prepared to take to right this wrongful omission”. It has been reported that multiple Congressmen have been privately approached by Israeli officials, saying that the Israeli government was unhappy about being excluded. (Foreign Policy—June 12,2012)
THE DISSOLUTION OF EGYPT'S LOWER HOUSE
A large security presence and crowd of protesters was on hand to hear the Egyptian Supreme Court announce its ruling in regard to the validity of last year’s parliamentary election. It has ruled that the lower house of the parliament must be dissolved, because a third of seats elected under the "first-past-the-post" system were "illegitimate.” MENA, an official Egyptian news agency reported that, "The constitutional court affirmed in the details of its verdict that the parliamentary elections were not constitutional, and the entire composition of parliament has been illegitimate since its election." Many of the seats in question were won by candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood. In a separate ruling the court decided that the Political Exclusion Law—a law passed by the now dissolved parliament—was unconstitutional. This law would have banned senior officials from former President Hosni Mubarak's regime from standing for office. With the court ruling, presidential hopeful and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq will now be able to continue his campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi. The two are scheduled to have a run-off election in what promises to be a close race. (BBC—June 14, 2012)
ERDOGAN: A MODERN-DAY SULTAN?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that last July’s election victory would be his last run for parliament. However, his announcement does not mean he will be giving up the power that he has amassed since the AKP came to power in 2001—at least not without a fight. Erdoğan seems to have his eye on transforming the traditionally symbolic presidency into his next bastion of power. In televised remarks made on June 6, Erdogan stated, “A further step should be taken to get more successful results for our country; it could be either a presidential or a semi-presidential system.” The suggestion that presidential powers should be increased has set off a bitter debate within Turkey’s political establishment. Supporters believe a strong Turkish President would translate into a stronger and more successful Turkey, but critics are not convinced. Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University believes that the Prime Minister has increasingly acted authoritarian in his demeanor and that “The presidential system that Erdoğan himself appears to have in mind is ‘[m]ore like [the] system of the president in Russia, than in the United States; a lot of power concentrated in the hands of one individual’". The idea has created fears among the political establishment and ordinary citizens that Erdoğan’s plan could place the drafting of a more democratic constitution in jeopardy. (Eurasianet: Weekly Digest—June 14, 2012)