Decoding two sets of surprising Asia peace talks

Written on February 21, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy

Is there something in the water?

Suddenly peace, or at least peace talks, are breaking out in the most unlikely places. In Asia, entrenched enemies – China and Taiwan, North and South Korea – have agreed to sit down at the table.

In an effort to decode the surprising developments, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke on Tuesday with Kurt Campbell, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who is widely credited with being the key architect of America’s “Pivot to Asia.”China and Taiwan are holding their first-ever official face-to-face talks since Mao Zedong’s communists won their civil war in 1949 – a “quite significant” turn of events, Campbell said.“Over the course of the last 30 years, people thought that the most tense situation in Asia was between China and Taiwan, but in recent years the relationship has improved substantially – commercially, economically, and now politically.”What both sides are getting out of the talks, he told Amanpour, is “a greater sense of predictability.”

China does not recognize the independence of Taiwan, and Taiwan is not a U.N. member state, but the island is self governing and generally conducts itself in terms of bilateral relations as an independent country.Over the years, Taiwan and China have built a thriving commercial relationship, with hundreds of billions of dollars in trade.Some sectors, he told Amanpour, think of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou as “pro-Beijing,” but that view is “probably simplistic.”

“I think he is actually a Taiwan nationalist. I do believe he thinks that closer economic and commercial ties are just the wave of the future, and that Taiwan has few other options, and that to stand against the giant just across the Taiwan straits in a sort of militaristic pose makes no sense.”

Another surprise set of Asian talks, between North and South Korea, has grabbed attention in diplomatic circles.North Korea offered talks with South Korea, and “high-level” officials are set to meet on the two countries’ border on Wednesday.“I do not believe that it holds the same hope that we’ve seen between China and Taiwan. If anything, North and South Korea are more estranged than ever,” Campbell said.The talks come ahead of planned reunions between Korean families estranged by the Korean war more than half a century ago.

“These family reunifications and meetings have taken place over a period of decades, and they almost always get abruptly cancelled at the last minute or abbreviated,” Campbell said.Indeed, Pyongyang said last week it may back out of the reunions of the families if South Korean forces participate in annual joint military exercises with the United States later this month – Campbell said such exercises “will not” be cancelled.

“It’s really North Korea playing on the heartstrings of the South Koreans.”“South Korea has had almost no contact with this new government, and now suddenly North Korea dangles what really matters a lot to South Korea, which is the family reunifications.”The talks, Campbell said, will not lead to a significant “warming.”“On every issue – whether it’s the territorial issue, the islands, the manufacturing that’s on-going inside North Korea – tensions abound.”

Published on Feb. 11, 2014

By Mick Krever, CNN http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/11/kurt-campbell-north-korea-south-korea-taiwan-china-talks/

  • The winning project, Citizen Five.O Travels (CFT), was presented by BIR students Claudia Ochoa and Corine Ackermann.
  •  Find and Seek and Polkrom won second and third places.

Primer premio Business Plan Challenge IE University2

Two students from the Bachelor in International Relations, Claudia Ochoa and Corine Ackermann, were the winners  of the first prize of the second edition of the IE University Business Plan Challenge, with their project Citizen Five.0 Travels (CFT). This competition rewards the best business plan ideas, pitched by the all first year students of both the Segovia and Madrid campuses.

CFT, the winning idea, is an online travel agency specialized in humanitarian travels for young people. It has the objective of simplifying the process of finding volunteering and philanthropic opportunities with NGO’s and charity organizations around the globe. The second prize was given to the project Find and Seek, presented by Arla Takala, Carlos Sahuquillo and Carmen Martí,  Bachelor in Business Administration students from the Madrid Campus. This business idea consists of a smartphone app that makes it easier for people to find objects that are commonly lost, such as the keys or wallet. Finally, the third prize was won by BBA students María Luisa San Salvador, Víctor Cazal, Sara Chebbi, Zi quiang Zhu and Ana Bello, for Polkrom: a business idea that seeks to provide an accessible and complete 3D printing service to the public.

The jury of the second edition of the Business Plan Challenge was formed by three experts: Joe Haslam, Ángel Largo and Fabrizio Polini, who analized the business ideas and their possible success in the current market. The jury highlighted the diversity and quality of the projects presented, which demonstrated the good ideas that young entrepreneurs are capable of generating. The BBA Program of IE University is the organizing force behind the Business Plan Challenge, an effort to acknowledge that the university has many young entrepreneurs who are able to come up with great business ideas and successfully embark in the first steps towards their creation. The objective of this event is to promote the exchange of knowledge, stimulate innovation and maximize the entrepreneurship spirit at IE University.

Gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ieuniversity/sets/72157641152807725/


By Roberto Arribas http://news.university.ie.edu/2014/02/an-online-agency-specialized-in-humanitarian-travels-wins-the-first-price-of-the-business-plan-challenge-of-ie-university.html


On Thursday February 13th, the IE School of International Relations, with the collaboration of the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax), had the honor of hosting the lecture “Iran and Europe: Friend or Foe?” given by Dr. Rouzbeh Parsi. Dr. Parsi is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Rights at Lund University, Director of the European Iran Research Group and former a Senior Analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies (2009-2013).



After the institutional presentation by Dean de Areilza and Ambassador Casinello, Director General of CitPax, Dr. Emma Hooper introduced the theme of the lecture: the EU- Iran relationship.

Dr. Parsi began his lecture with a historic overview of Iran, starting with the revolution of 1979. He defined the term revolution and its consequences, which is usually exemplified by the wish to spread ideals, such as in the Russian Revolution. In his introduction Dr. Parsi highlighted the incongruity of the term Islamic Republic. Iran is neither purely a Theocracy nor is it a Republic. This is because the revolution did not have a religious origin. If they remove the term Republic, then they would have to renounce the revolution as well. Hence the inherent contradiction in the name.

After these preliminary words, Dr. Parsi discussed modern Iran. He believes that the Islamic republic is a post-revolutionary state that “everyone considers to be predictable but the truth is that every time there is a presidential election everyone is surprised by the person elected”. He supported this argument by giving the example of how the Iranian government dealt with the crisis in Bahrain, preferring to keep ties with the Sunni regimen instead of supporting its Shiite counterparts.

Dr. Parsi then discussed the defense situation of Iran. He considers it to be quite weak without an air force and with a non-existing fleet which was bombed by the US in the 80s. The Iranian situation has nothing to do with that of Egypt. Using an XVIII century Prussian quote to illustrate this point, he stated that Egypt was “not a state with an army but an army with a state”. The fact that after 18 years the Iran nuclear program remains in its infancy demonstrates how controversial this theme is in domestic politics.

The last part of the lecture was dedicated to Iran–EU international relations, which used to be quite good until the UN sanctions. Because of its proximity the EU was a closer commercial partner to Iran than the US. EU has always followed US policy on the Middle East. Here lies the main issue as US is not clear in foreign affairs. For instance the Obama administration wants to lift Iranian sanctions but the Republican Party controlled Congress is against it. The EU works as an intermediary in the US-Iran relations. Dr. Parsi concluded his lecture stating “officially neither of them wants to reestablish relations, but in reality both of them are looking forward to it”.

At the end of the conference the floor was opened to questions. Most of them addressed Iranian foreign policy, the US Democratic Party split over the issue and the role of Israel.


Local leadership key in Arab world

Written on February 14, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

It’s popular these days to say the Arab Spring has gone badly awry. It’s a bit early to make these judgments – think of what America looked like in 1779, three years after its revolution – but if you were to compile a mid-term report, Syria would get a failing grade, Egypt’s revolution has faltered badly, Libya is a mess. But there is one spark of hope for the revolutions of the Middle East, and it’s a country that could be a model for all the others: Tunisia, which was the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

What has Tunisia done right?

Well, let’s start with history. Tunisia has been quite different from Egypt and its neighbors for centuries. It was the first Arab state to develop a modern constitution, all the way back in 1861. Over time, Tunisia has developed stronger civic institutions than its Arab neighbors, including a human rights league that was founded nearly four decades ago. About a fifth of the government’s budget has been allocated to education. And the demographics are largely homogenous: while Syria and Iraq are divided along sectarian lines – Shia or Sunni – some 98 percent of Tunisians are Sunni Muslims.

But perhaps more important than all of these historic differences are the choices that modern Tunisians have made.

Tunisia’s military has stayed out of active politics. Contrast that with Egypt, where the military controls anywhere from 10 percent to 40 percent of the economy and business. Four of Egypt’s last five presidents came from the military. And the one that didn’t – Mohammed Morsy – was toppled by the military.

Another factor behind Tunisia’s relative success is the foresight of its civilian leaders.

Three years ago, Tunisia had a similar trajectory to Egypt. Both nations voted for Islamist leaders whose movements had either been suppressed, banned, or exiled. Look at what happened next. In Egypt, when a fresh spate of protests began, President Morsy battened down the hatches and refused to reach out to his detractors. He was removed by force. On the other hand, in Tunisia, the coalition government actually stepped aside of its own accord, handing power to a temporary government. Now that is how democracy is supposed to work – by making painful compromises.

In Cairo, people didn’t make those concessions. Egypt’s Islamists wanted to push through a constitution that would be unacceptable to liberals, and then to rule by presidential decree. Tunisia’s new constitution – which was approved overwhelmingly by a majority of Islamists – is being hailed as the most progressive constitution in the Arab world, with equal rights for women and minorities.

Last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with top leaders from the Arab world, Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi explained why his party, the Islamist party, willingly stepped down from government last year in Tunisia. “We had two choices,” he said. “Either we stay in power and we lose democracy … or we gain democracy and give up power.” He chose the latter. It was a selfless choice, but also a savvy one: It wouldn’t be surprising if he and his party are back in power later this year.

The Tunisian model is not flawless, but it has powerful lessons for the rest of the Arab world. This is a country that has learned the most difficult lesson of democracy: how to be inclusive and how to compromise. It has learned this lesson without the West, without aid money, without compromising on its religious ideas (remember, the new constitution firmly enshrines Islam, but alongside women’s and minority’s rights.) So before we start blaming Washington or the West for not doing enough in the Arab world, let’s learn from Tunisia that local leadership is the key – and that right now there is little of it in the Arab world.

BY GPS editor, Jason Miks

Published on Feb. 9th, 2014 http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com



Written on February 13, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Master in International Relations (MIR), Middle East, Op Ed

Los kurdos son una población de unos 20 millones de habitantes que antes de la I Guerra Mundial se extendían por la geografía de Irán y el Imperio Otomano pero que, desde las particiones del Tratado de Versalles, quedaron también bajo la soberanía de Siria e Irak. Es entonces cuando los problemas de los kurdos se hacen de verdad existenciales. Esas nuevas entidades políticas, Turquía, Irak y Siria, e incluso Irán, se basan en el constructo del Estado nación y el desafío de encajar a los kurdos en ese modelo de convivencia está todavía abierto. Y es que como ya nos previno el magisterio de Hossbawn, el Estado nación no es la única ni la más universal manera de acomodar poblaciones y poder.

Es en Turquía donde el enfrentamiento ha resultado más sangriento y duradero. Si bien el Tratado de Sèvres (1920) recogía la obligatoriedad de un referéndum para la autodeterminación del pueblo kurdo, el golpe de estado de Kemal Ataturk y sus victorias en la Guerra de Independencia dieron nacimiento a un nuevo Tratado, el de Lausanne, donde desapareció esa exigencia. Los kurdos se definieron como “turcos que han olvidado su idioma en las montañas” y hablar en kurdo empezó a castigarse como traición. Sucede, sin embargo, que cuando un país subdesarrollado y sin historia nacional intenta imponer al 20% de su población, igualmente subdesarrollada pero con aguda conciencia étnica, las exigencias de un Estado nación, no puede conseguirlo a la francesa, con unas pocas guillotinas. Ha de emplear a sus Fuerzas Armadas en guerra abierta. Así fue y ya en 1925 se produce el levantamiento de Sheik Said, ahogado en sangre. Ya fuese “reaccionario” como lo quiere la narrativa turca o “nacional” como lo describe la kurda, lo cierto es que su derrota resultó uno de los pilares del kemalismo, junto con la purga que siguió al intento de asesinato del propio Kemal Ataturk en 1926. Así pudieron promulgarse los tres pilares de la revolución kemalista. La Ley del Vestido (1925) la Ley del Alfabeto Latino (1928) y el Código Civil (1928).

Cuando un país subdesarrollado y sin historia nacional intenta imponer al 20% de su población, igualmente subdesarrollada pero con aguda conciencia étnica, las exigencias de un Estado nación, no puede conseguirlo a la francesa, con unas pocas guillotinas. Ha de emplear a sus Fuerzas Armadas en guerra abiertaLa rebelión de Sheik Said no fue el final de la insurgencia, sino más bien lo contrario. Consta que de 1924 a 1938 hubo 17 enfrentamientos entre el Ejército turco y los kurdos.

La cuestión kurda toma un giro nuevo en 1945, esta vez en Irán. Como el shah Rheza (1925-1941) parecía demasiado cercano al Eje, Inglaterra y EEUU ocuparon el país; Inglaterra y los EEUU el Sur, la URSS el Norte. Al abandonar la URSS Irán, dejó un recuerdo en forma de República Independiente de Mehabad, primera entidad política kurda y única soberana hasta hoy. Duró once meses. Su Jefe Militar fue el iraquí Mustafa Barzani.

En 1958 la caída de la monarquía en Irak abre el capítulo kurdo de la República, con antecedentes de rebelión tribal antes y después de la II Guerra Mundial, ocasiones que le permitieron a Inglaterra ensayar el arma química en poblaciones civiles. Leer mas…

Por el Embajador Jose A. Zorrilla, publicado el 8.02 en el http://www.elconfidencial.com

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