Showing posts tagged as "sabine freizer"

Showing posts tagged sabine freizer

30 Apr
Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey
Antakya/Ankara/Istanbul/Brussels  |   30 Apr 2013
As the humanitarian crisis reaches catastrophic proportions,Syria needs to open its borders to external aid, while Turkey and its international partners need more long-term planning to meet growing refugee needs and avoid having instability spill over the porous border.
Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the issue of cross-border aid and the situation of Syrian refugees in the border province of Hatay, which epitomises the humanitarian and security challenges Ankara faces. Turkey has generously welcomed up to 450,000 refugees, but this is unlikely to be sustainable if the war continues past 2013 and the international community does not share the burden.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Turkey should allow entry to all Syrians who flee and have massed on the Syrian side of the border, and it should facilitate quick registration for international humanitarian organisations offering aid to Syrians. The international donor community should increase funding and assistance, and European states should share the burden by accepting more Syrian refugees. 
 UN agencies should engage immediately with Damascus. Members of the UN Security Council on 18 April underlined the need to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance, including across borders. Syrian authorities should cooperate fully with the UN and relevant humanitarian organisations and allow them to deliver cross-border aid.
In the meantime, the international community, where security allows, should scale up existing cooperation with Syrian local communities and organisations across the Turkish border to help Syrians in the north, particularly in cut-off areas. All parties should ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organisations. 
Turkey should stop betting on a quick resolution of the Syria crisis, give full support for a negotiated settlement, and take steps to avoid any perception in the region that it is seeking to act as a partisan, Sunni Muslim hegemon.
Timely Turkish precautions have calmed sectarian tensions in the pivotal Turkish border province of Hatay, and Ankara should sustain initiatives to keep off-duty Syrian opposition fighters away from Alevi-populated areas and to settle new Sunni Muslim refugees elsewhere.
“Turkey has responded remarkably to the humanitarian crisis on its border, accepting ever larger numbers of Syrians and meeting their needs with little international support”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “But as the Syrian crisis is likely to continue, Ankara needs to open up more to international partners and develop a comprehensive multi-year plan to ensure the sustainability of its response”.
“Ankara wants to build a sphere of influence, stability and prosperity in the Muslim countries to its south”, says Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus Project Director. “A well-planned, non-sectarian policy to care for the large refugee population inside Turkey will allow Ankara to lay the foundation for friendly relations with whatever Syria emerges from the conflict”.
FULL REPORT

Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey

Antakya/Ankara/Istanbul/Brussels  |   30 Apr 2013

As the humanitarian crisis reaches catastrophic proportions,Syria needs to open its borders to external aid, while Turkey and its international partners need more long-term planning to meet growing refugee needs and avoid having instability spill over the porous border.

Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the issue of cross-border aid and the situation of Syrian refugees in the border province of Hatay, which epitomises the humanitarian and security challenges Ankara faces. Turkey has generously welcomed up to 450,000 refugees, but this is unlikely to be sustainable if the war continues past 2013 and the international community does not share the burden.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Turkey should allow entry to all Syrians who flee and have massed on the Syrian side of the border, and it should facilitate quick registration for international humanitarian organisations offering aid to Syrians. The international donor community should increase funding and assistance, and European states should share the burden by accepting more Syrian refugees. 
  •  UN agencies should engage immediately with Damascus. Members of the UN Security Council on 18 April underlined the need to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance, including across borders. Syrian authorities should cooperate fully with the UN and relevant humanitarian organisations and allow them to deliver cross-border aid.
  • In the meantime, the international community, where security allows, should scale up existing cooperation with Syrian local communities and organisations across the Turkish border to help Syrians in the north, particularly in cut-off areas. All parties should ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organisations. 
  • Turkey should stop betting on a quick resolution of the Syria crisis, give full support for a negotiated settlement, and take steps to avoid any perception in the region that it is seeking to act as a partisan, Sunni Muslim hegemon.
  • Timely Turkish precautions have calmed sectarian tensions in the pivotal Turkish border province of Hatay, and Ankara should sustain initiatives to keep off-duty Syrian opposition fighters away from Alevi-populated areas and to settle new Sunni Muslim refugees elsewhere.

“Turkey has responded remarkably to the humanitarian crisis on its border, accepting ever larger numbers of Syrians and meeting their needs with little international support”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “But as the Syrian crisis is likely to continue, Ankara needs to open up more to international partners and develop a comprehensive multi-year plan to ensure the sustainability of its response”.

“Ankara wants to build a sphere of influence, stability and prosperity in the Muslim countries to its south”, says Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus Project Director. “A well-planned, non-sectarian policy to care for the large refugee population inside Turkey will allow Ankara to lay the foundation for friendly relations with whatever Syria emerges from the conflict”.

FULL REPORT

15 Apr
Security on the line in Kosovo-Serbia | Today’s Zaman
By Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director
The situation between Kosovo and Serbia has just become a lot more insecure. Last week, EU Special Representative Catherine Ashton announced it was the last time that she was meeting Kosovo and Serbia prime ministers formally in the context of the mediation effort she has led since October 2012. Serbia said that it rejects the European proposals. Unless some form of talks continue, tensions will rise, and the EU’s credibility as a conflict resolution actor will suffer another serious blow.


After years of posturing, punctuated by outbursts of violence in 2009 and 2011, Kosovo and Serbia first agreed to take part in EU facilitated talks in March 2011. They clinched agreements on trade relations, participation in regional meetings and recognition of one another’s diplomats. Ashton then took up the reins of the dialogue to focus more broadly on the political challenge of normalizing Kosovo-Serbia relations and transforming Belgrade-financed institutions in Serb majority northern Kosovo into ones that could fit into Kosovo’s jurisdiction.

FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)
Photo: Flickr/European Parliament

Security on the line in Kosovo-Serbia | Today’s Zaman

By Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director

The situation between Kosovo and Serbia has just become a lot more insecure. Last week, EU Special Representative Catherine Ashton announced it was the last time that she was meeting Kosovo and Serbia prime ministers formally in the context of the mediation effort she has led since October 2012. Serbia said that it rejects the European proposals. Unless some form of talks continue, tensions will rise, and the EU’s credibility as a conflict resolution actor will suffer another serious blow.

After years of posturing, punctuated by outbursts of violence in 2009 and 2011, Kosovo and Serbia first agreed to take part in EU facilitated talks in March 2011. They clinched agreements on trade relations, participation in regional meetings and recognition of one another’s diplomats. Ashton then took up the reins of the dialogue to focus more broadly on the political challenge of normalizing Kosovo-Serbia relations and transforming Belgrade-financed institutions in Serb majority northern Kosovo into ones that could fit into Kosovo’s jurisdiction.

FULL ARTICLE (Today’s Zaman)

Photo: Flickr/European Parliament

10 Apr
"It would not help Abkhazia’s cause to restrict its access to the outside world to its road to Russia."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

"The international community, particularly the EU, should remain engaged in Abkhazia, seeking ways to increase the entity’s access and exposure to information and expertise."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

"All sides would benefit by seeking creative ways to facilitate trade and travel across the ABL for family visits, and trade, health or education purposes."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

"Despite the seeming intractability of political questions, taking up any chance to enhance security in the region would be positive for all sides."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation
Tbilisi/Sukhumi/Moscow/Istanbul/Brussels  |   10 Apr 2013
More than two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the three-sided conflict involving breakaway Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia is far from a solution, so all should concentrate on achievable goals, including intensified dialogue on basic security-related and humanitarian issues.
Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation, the latest International Crisis Group report, analyses developments after Georgia’s peaceful change of government in 2012 stoked optimism about reducing open hostility with its would-be secessionist entity as well as Russia. Since the 2008 war and Russian recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state, diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been cut, and the entity’s financial and military security has become fully dependent on Russia.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
All sides should agree to a joint statement on non-use of force as proposed by the co-chairs – the UN, EU and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – of the Geneva International Discussions. Delay has largely been caused by political posturing. They should also resume cooperation in the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and in fact-finding missions when security incidents occur.
Georgia should show good-will by suspending its annual efforts to obtain a UN General Assembly resolution on Georgian internally displaced persons (IDPs). In exchange, the Abkhaz should commit to a real dialogue on property return and compensation for the IDPs, who continue to be denied the right to return.
Maximum flexibility is needed on humanitarian issues. It is urgent for the Abkhaz and Russians to honor their promises to increase freedom of movement for the ethnic Georgians in the Gali district, while Georgia should streamline or remove legal hurdles, so that residents of Abkhazia can, for instance, obtain visas to study abroad or more easily engage in trade.
External actors, particularly the EU, should make all efforts to remain engaged in Abkhazia, despite the entity’s increasing international isolation, eviction of a large UN monitoring mission and moves to limit the work of the few NGOs still on the ground.
“With no prospect of widespread recognition anytime soon and its development fully tied to Russia, Abkhazia’s ‘independence project’ faces an uphill battle”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director. “But enhancing security in the region, especially with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to take place just a few kilometres from Abkhazia and a string of alleged terror plots uncovered in the entity over the last year, should be a natural priority for all sides”.
“While Moscow’s disregard of the EU-mediated 2008 ceasefire that required it to withdraw troops should in no way be acquiesced in, Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia should still take steps to gradually repair ties”, says Europe Program Director Sabine Freizer. “For the immediate future, there should be a focus on small steps, including dialogue and basic security-related and humanitarian issues. Otherwise this no-win, long-term conflict will continue to harm all parties”.
FULL REPORT

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

Tbilisi/Sukhumi/Moscow/Istanbul/Brussels  |   10 Apr 2013

More than two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the three-sided conflict involving breakaway Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia is far from a solution, so all should concentrate on achievable goals, including intensified dialogue on basic security-related and humanitarian issues.

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation, the latest International Crisis Group report, analyses developments after Georgia’s peaceful change of government in 2012 stoked optimism about reducing open hostility with its would-be secessionist entity as well as Russia. Since the 2008 war and Russian recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state, diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been cut, and the entity’s financial and military security has become fully dependent on Russia.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • All sides should agree to a joint statement on non-use of force as proposed by the co-chairs – the UN, EU and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – of the Geneva International Discussions. Delay has largely been caused by political posturing. They should also resume cooperation in the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and in fact-finding missions when security incidents occur.
  • Georgia should show good-will by suspending its annual efforts to obtain a UN General Assembly resolution on Georgian internally displaced persons (IDPs). In exchange, the Abkhaz should commit to a real dialogue on property return and compensation for the IDPs, who continue to be denied the right to return.
  • Maximum flexibility is needed on humanitarian issues. It is urgent for the Abkhaz and Russians to honor their promises to increase freedom of movement for the ethnic Georgians in the Gali district, while Georgia should streamline or remove legal hurdles, so that residents of Abkhazia can, for instance, obtain visas to study abroad or more easily engage in trade.
  • External actors, particularly the EU, should make all efforts to remain engaged in Abkhazia, despite the entity’s increasing international isolation, eviction of a large UN monitoring mission and moves to limit the work of the few NGOs still on the ground.

“With no prospect of widespread recognition anytime soon and its development fully tied to Russia, Abkhazia’s ‘independence project’ faces an uphill battle”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director. “But enhancing security in the region, especially with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to take place just a few kilometres from Abkhazia and a string of alleged terror plots uncovered in the entity over the last year, should be a natural priority for all sides”.

“While Moscow’s disregard of the EU-mediated 2008 ceasefire that required it to withdraw troops should in no way be acquiesced in, Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia should still take steps to gradually repair ties”, says Europe Program Director Sabine Freizer. “For the immediate future, there should be a focus on small steps, including dialogue and basic security-related and humanitarian issues. Otherwise this no-win, long-term conflict will continue to harm all parties”.

FULL REPORT

26 Feb
Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism
Sarajevo/Istanbul/Brussels  |   26 Feb 2013
Occasional violence notwithstanding, Islamism poses little danger in Bosnia, whose real risk stems from clashing national ideologies, especially as Islamic religious leaders increasingly reply with Bosniak nationalism to renewed Croat and Serb challenges to the state’s territorial integrity.
Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines a growing fusion between Bosniak nationalism (which can be Islamic or secular) and Bosnian state identity. Political Islam is a novelty in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and its rise is seen as threatening to secular parties and non-Muslims. A dozen or so attacks attributed to Bosniaks in the past decade have raised fears of terrorism. However, the plethora of non-traditional Salafi and other Islamist groups that have appeared on the margins of society remain small and isolated.
“Virtually every act of violence inspired by Islamism has come from places where Islamic institutions – džemat (congregation), mosque, madrasa and family – are weak or absent, and many perpetrators have a troubled past”, says Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Balkans Project Director. “There is a lot of anger and frustration among Bosniaks, and leading figures in the Islamic establishment have sought to harness it to advance their political aims”.
The Islamic community (Islamska zajednica, IZ) in BiH has grown from a religious organisation into an important political actor that has helped shape Bosniak identity. Its influential and charismatic former leader, Mustafa ef. Cerić, painted a BiH which, though multi-ethnic, should be a Bosniak nation-state, since, he argued, Croats and Serbs already had countries of their own. That vision is appealing to many Bosniaks, including some who are thoroughly secular, but it repels most Croats and Serbs. If this becomes the dominant Bosniak view, it is hard to see how it could be reconciled with the viewpoints of Bosnia’s other communities; persistent conflict and instability would then be likely. Instead, the IZ should foster a view of the state as a shared enterprise in which all groups feel equally at home and focus on renewing its own institutions.
Bosnia’s Salafis are divided over loyalty to the state and the IZ. Most of those who accept these institutions are fiercely patriotic, and some fought as mujahidin in the war of the 1990s. Those who reject them as un-Islamic tend to withdraw to isolated settlements to practice their faith and are more interested in the global umma (Islamic community) than the fate of Bosnia. Neither group has shown a tendency to violence; most attacks have been the work of émigrés or persons with documented criminal or psychological records. The IZ and Bosnian state officials should cooperate to engage non-violent Salafis, especially those returning from the diaspora, in dialogue to encourage their integration.
“The Islamic community has been promoting a patriotic embrace of the state. Stability depends on whether it succeeds in framing a vision of Bosnia that can be shared by Croats and Serbs”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “Having stepped into the political arena, the Islamic community has a responsibility to re-commit to interfaith dialogue and advance compromise solutions that can avoid the country’s further fragmentation”.
FULL REPORT

Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism

Sarajevo/Istanbul/Brussels  |   26 Feb 2013

Occasional violence notwithstanding, Islamism poses little danger in Bosnia, whose real risk stems from clashing national ideologies, especially as Islamic religious leaders increasingly reply with Bosniak nationalism to renewed Croat and Serb challenges to the state’s territorial integrity.

Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines a growing fusion between Bosniak nationalism (which can be Islamic or secular) and Bosnian state identity. Political Islam is a novelty in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and its rise is seen as threatening to secular parties and non-Muslims. A dozen or so attacks attributed to Bosniaks in the past decade have raised fears of terrorism. However, the plethora of non-traditional Salafi and other Islamist groups that have appeared on the margins of society remain small and isolated.

“Virtually every act of violence inspired by Islamism has come from places where Islamic institutions – džemat (congregation), mosque, madrasa and family – are weak or absent, and many perpetrators have a troubled past”, says Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Balkans Project Director. “There is a lot of anger and frustration among Bosniaks, and leading figures in the Islamic establishment have sought to harness it to advance their political aims”.

The Islamic community (Islamska zajednica, IZ) in BiH has grown from a religious organisation into an important political actor that has helped shape Bosniak identity. Its influential and charismatic former leader, Mustafa ef. Cerić, painted a BiH which, though multi-ethnic, should be a Bosniak nation-state, since, he argued, Croats and Serbs already had countries of their own. That vision is appealing to many Bosniaks, including some who are thoroughly secular, but it repels most Croats and Serbs. If this becomes the dominant Bosniak view, it is hard to see how it could be reconciled with the viewpoints of Bosnia’s other communities; persistent conflict and instability would then be likely. Instead, the IZ should foster a view of the state as a shared enterprise in which all groups feel equally at home and focus on renewing its own institutions.

Bosnia’s Salafis are divided over loyalty to the state and the IZ. Most of those who accept these institutions are fiercely patriotic, and some fought as mujahidin in the war of the 1990s. Those who reject them as un-Islamic tend to withdraw to isolated settlements to practice their faith and are more interested in the global umma (Islamic community) than the fate of Bosnia. Neither group has shown a tendency to violence; most attacks have been the work of émigrés or persons with documented criminal or psychological records. The IZ and Bosnian state officials should cooperate to engage non-violent Salafis, especially those returning from the diaspora, in dialogue to encourage their integration.

“The Islamic community has been promoting a patriotic embrace of the state. Stability depends on whether it succeeds in framing a vision of Bosnia that can be shared by Croats and Serbs”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “Having stepped into the political arena, the Islamic community has a responsibility to re-commit to interfaith dialogue and advance compromise solutions that can avoid the country’s further fragmentation”.

FULL REPORT

3 Jan
2012 ends with little progress in EU enlargement | SE Times
By Muhamet Brajshori
The EU concluded its annual enlargement report in December, but it did not meet the expectations of the regional countries.
Albania was not offered a candidate status, and while candidate countries Serbia and Macedonia made progress in the accession, they were not given concrete dates. Kosovo is still waiting for a date to launch stabilisation and association agreement talks.
Sabine Freizer, director of Europe program at the International Crisis Group, told SETimes that while EU member states have come out with conservative conclusions on enlargement for the Western Balkans, the European Commission (EC) wants to keep some dynamism in the process.
FULL ARTICLE (SE Times)
Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

2012 ends with little progress in EU enlargement | SE Times

By Muhamet Brajshori

The EU concluded its annual enlargement report in December, but it did not meet the expectations of the regional countries.

Albania was not offered a candidate status, and while candidate countries Serbia and Macedonia made progress in the accession, they were not given concrete dates. Kosovo is still waiting for a date to launch stabilisation and association agreement talks.

Sabine Freizer, director of Europe program at the International Crisis Group, told SETimes that while EU member states have come out with conservative conclusions on enlargement for the Western Balkans, the European Commission (EC) wants to keep some dynamism in the process.

FULL ARTICLE (SE Times)

Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

9 Nov
Armenia Accuses Neighbor of Stoking Conflict | Wall Street Journal
By Joe Parkinson
YEREVAN, Armenia—Armenia’s president is increasingly concerned about what he sees as neighboring Azerbaijan’s willingness to engage in armed conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, he said in an interview, warning that Armenian forces would deliver a disproportionate blow should conflict erupt between the neighbors.
FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)
Photo: Davit Hakobyan

Armenia Accuses Neighbor of Stoking Conflict | Wall Street Journal

By Joe Parkinson

YEREVAN, Armenia—Armenia’s president is increasingly concerned about what he sees as neighboring Azerbaijan’s willingness to engage in armed conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, he said in an interview, warning that Armenian forces would deliver a disproportionate blow should conflict erupt between the neighbors.

FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)

Photo: Davit Hakobyan