During his trip to South Korea at the end of April, American President Barack Obama announced a “pause” in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, nine months into Secretary of State John Kerry’s flailing initiative. As the plan’s April 29, 2014 deadline approached, progress towards a first framework-agreement remained slow, if not inexistent. Washington hedged its bets on an exchange to prevent the process from complete derailment: the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) acceptance to postpone the deadline for talks, in return for a package making such extension acceptable, including most notably a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s follow up on his July 2013 promise to release a number of Palestinian prisoners. » More
The M23’s recent abandonment of its armed struggle has renewed hopes for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, it also underlines a major problem that has characterized peace negotiations over the past decade – namely their primary focus on the “noisiest” actors whose actions aim to shock the collective international conscience. For peace to be sustainable, greater efforts are needed to localize peace initiatives.
From the battlefield to the negotiation table
On 5th November 2013, the Head of M23, Bertrand Bisimwa declared that the organization would henceforth end its armed revolt in the eastern DRC and pursue its objectives through political dialogue. This change of approach can be explained by four factors. First, the M23 experienced some important losses on the battlefield after the United Nations bolstered its MONUSCO stabilization mission with an intervention brigade that possesses a robust mandate to neutralize armed groups. Ground was also lost to the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) after it was strengthened, restructured and made more capable of going after M23 rebels. In addition, diplomatic pressure and suspension of development aid, mainly by the United States and European Union, prompted Rwanda to decrease its backing of the M23. Finally, the appointment of Mary Robinson as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and Russell Feingold as US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their diplomatic engagement has undoubtedly played a part in moving the warring parties from the battlefield to the negotiation table. » More
If recent press reports are to be believed, the United States will soon present Israeli and Palestinian negotiators with a framework agreement – a non-binding proposal that would begin to sketch out an elusive middle ground between both sides. Yet, some six months into a nine month window dedicated to achieving a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this only serves to highlight the lack of progress achieved so far.
Despite widespread warnings that time is running out for a two-state solution, even President Obama remains sceptical that a final status agreement will be reached in the foreseeable future. In the absence of any tangible prospects for advancing discussions on final status issues, the US President has lowered expectations, describing current US efforts as merely intending to “push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us”. » More