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Showing posts from May 14, 2014

Kosovo Struggles to Create an Army

Members of the Kosovo Security Force in Pristina.(ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)


Kosovo's plans to form an army are creating new tensions between the Albanian majority and the Serb minorities living in the north of the country, as well as between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo will hold early parliamentary elections June 8, with the hope that the new parliament will be able to approve such a controversial move.

Since both Kosovo and Serbia are interested in improving their relationships with the European Union, intense negotiations over the creation of a Kosovar army will probably take place in the coming months. Some sporadic episodes of violence could take place in northern Kosovo, but neither Pristina nor Belgrade is interested in a significant escalation of hostilities.


On March 6, Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci proposed the creation of an army to "protect the sovereignty" of Kosovo. According to Thaci, the Kosovar army could have roug…

Sudan Slips Soldiers Into the Halayeb Triangle

Sudanese soldiers cheer on a military vehicle in the oil town of Heglig bordering South Sudan on April 24, 2012.(EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/Getty Images)


According to statements from Sudanese and Egyptian officials, Sudan deployed a platoon-sized military force by sea into the port town of Halayeb, located on the Red Sea coast, around May 5. The town is located within the Halayeb triangle, a disputed territory between Egypt and Sudan that is under de facto Egyptian control. However, neither country has given much public attention to the incident because they are focused on expanding their diplomatic relations. Egypt and Sudan have been trying to set up a joint border force; both countries are involved in negotiations relating to the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam; and Egypt is currently attempting to overturn its suspension from the African Union. These ongoing diplomatic initiatives -- along with a lack of demonstrated intent to make the movement a major issue -- mean that events in th…

Libya: Western Oil Production Restarting, but Underlying Challenges Remain

Oil tankers wait to refill at the Zawiya oil refinery outside Tripoli in 2011.(MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)


On May 12, Libya's state-owned National Oil Corp. announced that agreements had been reached with various tribal and militia authorities to resume oil production in western Libya, perhaps within the day. International energy markets have responded optimistically; improved relations between Tripoli and local authorities in the country's western region could increase national oil production by some 500,000 barrels per day, up from the current levels of around 150,000 barrels per day.

Renewed production would provide much-needed income for the weak central government in Tripoli, as well as energy relief for the city as summer temperatures begin to rise. However, Libya's political environment is still not conducive to long-term stability, and the broader competition for authority is far from over. Fluctuations in Libyan oil production in the coming months are lik…

Uganda Courts Russia to Develop Its Oil Sector

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa in Moscow on May 12.(YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)


Uganda has long relied on purchases of Russian weapons to fuel a regional strategy based on an enduring ability to intervene militarily in its neighbors' disputes and to sometimes act as a regional arbiter. Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa's three-day visit to Moscow, which started on May 11, will focus in part on securing continued military equipment and training from Russia.

Energy, however, will be the most pressing topic during Kutesa's meetings with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Uganda wants to build an oil refinery and a Russian state-owned consortium is one of six finalists for the contract. Uganda wants to use its relatively large pools of oil reserves to position itself as a hub for fuel products in the Great Lakes region, thus countering Kenyan influence within the East African Community.


Kenya and Uganda…

Saudi Arabia Extends an Invitation to Iran

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Cairo.(MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)


A Saudi minister's purported invitation to have his Iranian counterpart visit Saudi Arabia could be a sign that Riyadh is acknowledging the need to talk directly with its longtime archrival. While the two countries see each other as their main competitor for influence in the region and are unlikely to come to any sort of accord, there is no shortage of matters on which the Iranians and the Saudis need to deal with one another, in particular regarding Syria and Lebanon. By opening up talks, Tehran and Riyadh could bring tensions down to a more manageable level.


Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on May 13 told a news conference in Riyadh that his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, had been invited to visit the kingdom. Prince Saud was quoted as saying "any time that (Zarif) sees fit to come, we are willing to receive him. Iran is a neighbor, we have relations with them …