Greater Middle East
Levant Basin

Hydrocarbons at issue in Israel-Lebanon dispute

US-mediated talks opened between Israel and Lebanon, aimed at resolving the long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries. At issue in the talks, held in Lebanon’s coastal border town of Naqoura, is an 860-square-kilometer patch of the Mediterranean where each side lays territorial claim. The conflict stems from differing demarcation methods: Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline. The issue grew more pressing with the discovery of abundant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Basin. Lebanon, which sought to pursue gas drilling off its coast, submitted its demarcation of the maritime borders to the UN a decade ago, claiming this area as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Israel called this an infringement of its rights, and submitted its own version of the border demarcation to the UN. (Photo: US Energy Information Administration)

The Caucasus
tovuz

Armenia-Azerbaijan border as regional flashpoint

Several have been killed in ongoing clashes that broke out along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. An Azerbaijani general is among the dead in the heaviest fighting between the two nations in years. Villages in Azerbaijan’s northern Tovuz rayon (district) have come under artillery fire by Armenian forces, causing property damage.¬†Officials in both countries blamed each other for starting the fighting. But some¬†see an Armenian design to involve Russia in the conflict. This time the fighting is not in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia does not have internationally recognized sovereignty. An attack there would fall outside the purview of¬†the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member. Under Article 4 of the CSTO Charter, an attack on a member state is considered an attack against all members. (Photo: Axar.az)

South Asia
Kashmir

Himalayan border conflicts escalate

China has mobilized thousands of troops backed up by armored vehicles to a contested area along the border with India in the Himalayas, where troops last month hurled stones at each other across the unmarked boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The area in question is in the Galwan River valley between Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir, and Chinese-administered Aksai Chin. Top generals from both sides held talks in Moldo, on the Chinese side, but tensions remain high. India charges that Chinese forces are hindering patrols by its troops along the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim, and refutes Beijing’s claim that Indian forces have crossed to the Chinese side. (Map via Wikipedia)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia

China-Indonesia maritime stand-off

Dozens of Chinese vessels that were fishing in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone¬†off the disputed island of Natuna began leaving the area after days of stand-off. Indonesia deployed eight warships and four fighter jets to the area, and summoned Beijing’s ambassador to complain. China reportedly sent three coast guard cutters into the area during the stand-off. The Natuna archipelago, off the northwest coast of Borneo, occupies a strategic spot in the South China Sea. Its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves, and it guards the eastern opening of the narrow Malacca Strait, a critical chokepoint for shipping lanes. The archipelago falls within China’s “nine-dash line,” covering nearly the entirety of the South China Sea. (Map: Perry-Casta√Īeda Library)

The Caribbean
Esequibo

Venezuela revives claim to Guyana territory

Venezuelan prosecutors finally announced charges against opposition leader Juan Guaid√≥ for “high treason”‚ÄĒbut not for colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the government. No, Guaid√≥ is to face charges for his apparent intent to renounce Venezuela’s¬†claim to a disputed stretch of territory that has been controlled by neighboring Guyana since the end of colonial rule.¬†The Esequibo region covers 159.000 square kilometers‚ÄĒnearly two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory. The old territorial claim languished for generations‚ÄĒuntil ¬†2015, when ExxonMobil announced discovery of a big offshore deposit in waters off the Esequibo coast.¬†This came just as Venezuela was sliding into crisis, providing¬†President Nicol√°s Maduro with a nationalist rallying cry. (Map via El Tiempo Latino)

Syria

Did Assad sign off on Israeli air-raid in Syria?

After years of presumed Israeli air-strikes on Iranian forces in Syria, the IDF finally carried out air-strikes that were publicly acknowledged,¬†hitting a compound near Damascus supposedly shared by the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force and Hezbollah militants. The strikes follow reports in the Israeli press that there is an “undeclared pact” between Assad and Netanyahu allowing Israel to¬†strike Iranian targets in Syria in exchange for diplomatic assistance in regional “normalization” of the Assad regime. (Photo:¬†Israel Aerospace Industries via¬†Jerusalem Post)

South Asia
Kashmir

Militarization as Delhi prepares to dismantle Kashmir

India’s government has flooded the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir with troops and cut off internet access upon announcing¬†the revocation of its constitutionally protected autonomy,¬†and plans to divide the disputed territory into two new political entities with reduced power. Article 370 of India’s constitution grants Jammu & Kashmir a high degree of autonomy, a concession to the demands of the territory’s Muslim majority, many of whom favor independence or union with Pakistan. In addition to abrogating Article 370, Delhi announced plans for a bill to divide India-controlled Kashmir into two “union territories,” which have lesser powers of self-government than states. A reduced Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory would continue, at least, to have a legislature. But it would be separated from the Buddhist-majority region of Ladakh, which is to become its own union territory, without a legislature. Complicating matters further is that the populace of Ladakh itself is divided along sectarian and regional lines. News of the plan to separate Ladakh from Jammu & Kashmir was met with jubilation in the principal Buddhist town of Leh, but with foreboding in Kargil, an enclave within Ladakh inhabited by Ismaili Muslims. ¬†(Map via Wikipedia)

Africa

General Assembly: UK must return Chagos Islands

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months.¬†The non-binding resolution follows an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in February, finding that the UK is “under an obligation” to end¬†its administration of the islands “as rapidly as possible.” The UK retained control over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, following a supposed compensation deal between the two states. Mauritius now rejects the deal as having been imposed unilaterally.¬†The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a joint US-UK military base, which is still in place on the island of Diego Garcia. Before the UN vote, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravid Kumar Jug-Nauth told the General Assembly the forcible eviction of Chagossians was akin to a crime against humanity.¬†(Photo: WILPF)

The Andes

Bolivia: did opposition call for US ‘intervention’?

Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally in the Chapare region where he began his career as a peasant leader a generation ago. But the country’s political opposition charges that Morales is defying a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected a fourth consecutive term. The referendum results were later overturned by the Plurinational Constitutional Court‚ÄĒsparking a wave of protest. The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to Donald Trump jointly calling for his “intervention” against Morales’ re-election. (Photo:¬†Apporea)

Africa

ICJ urges UK to end rule over Chagos islands

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion outlining the legal consequences of separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. The UK detached the Chagos Archipelago form Mauritius upon decolonization and established the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The British subsequently allowed the United States to establish a military base on the island Diego Garcia, with many inhabitants forcibly removed, and those who left voluntarily prevented from returning. The ICJ opinion says the UK did not lawfully decolonize the islands, and urges the UK to end its continued administration over Chagos Archipelago: “[T]he United Kingdom has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible." (Photo: WILPF)

The Andes

ICJ rejects Bolivia ocean access claim against Chile

The International Court of Justice ruled that landlocked Bolivia cannot force neighboring Chile to grant it access to a portion of its Pacific coast. Bolivia controlled a portion of coast until 1904, when Chile successfully annexed the territory. The day of the 1904 treaty has since been commemorated each year by lamenting Bolivians, and the nation has attempted to renegotiate coastal access for over 100 years. A dispute over water rights in the contested border region remains pending. (Image via Stratfor)

Africa

World Court hears Mauritius claim against UK

The government of the island nation of Mauritius presented its claim to the International Court of Justice that the British government forced the transfer of the Chagos Islands as a condition of independence in 1965. The UK leased the island of Diego Garcia within the archipelago to the US in 1966, which was used to build a military base that required the forced removal of around 1,500 people. The population has yet to be allowed to return home. Former prime minister of Mauritius and current parliamentarian Anerood Jugnauth told the ICJ, “The choice we were faced with was no choice at all: it was independence with detachment [of the Chagos archipelago] or no independence with detachment anyway.” The location of the Chagos Islands in the central Indian Ocean is seen as strategic for policing the Persian Gulf. In 2016 the US lease for the base was extended until 2036. (Photo: WILPF)