Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Smoke-filled cafe diplomacy at the United Nations

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UNITED NATIONS – High-level diplomacy usually occurs behind closed doors, but at the United Nations on Thursday, a smoke-filled basement cafe was where Arab ministers at one point haggled over the final text of a ceasefire resolution for Gaza.
 
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa puffed on a chunky cigar in the modest Vienna Cafe, joined at the table by foreign ministers of Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and a few other Arab countries trying to stop Israel’s incursion into Gaza. 
 
At one point late in the afternoon, a British diplomat joined the ministers at the table, showing them proposed amendments to the resolution while the Arab diplomats chewed in public view on a late lunch of sandwiches and muffins and sipped espresso.
 
Mindful of journalists’ eavesdropping on their conversations, the ministers then moved back to their private conference room to talk further and await answers from the British, French and U.S. foreign ministers to changes to the text.

  – Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Segar (Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa (L) greets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. headquarters on Jan. 5)

Is Sri Lanka’s long civil war nearing an end?

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By C. Bryson Hull

Sri Lanka’s army has the Tamil Tigers on the run with a string of convincing military victories. Many people are asking if one of Asia’s longest-running civil wars is near its end after 25 years.

 Sri Lankan tanks patrol near the town of Kilinochchi (REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasingh)

The rise and fall of George Alogoskoufis

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Just a year ago, Greek Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis was riding high as the man who rescued his conservative New Democracy party from election defeat with his handling of forest fires so deadly and devastating that they could have toppled any other European government. His star rose and he was seen even as a possible successor to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

On Wednesday, the man once praised by the European Union for cutting budget deficits and pushing reforms, was sacked by Karamanlis in a reshuffle aimed at reviving the government’s
ailing fortunes.

Iraq: Let History Judge

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  As Iraq and the United States looked ahead to a new era of bilateral relations this week with the inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, it was history, not the future, that seemed to dominate the minds of Iraqi and U.S. officials.

    It was a beautiful, sunny winter day in the Iraqi capital when dignitaries from the Iraqi government mingled with American officers and diplomats outside the embassy, a sprawling collection of boxy, coral-coloured buildings by the Tigris.

    The flag-raising over the hyper-secure embassy, the largest in the world, was one of the last Iraq milestones the Bush administration, leaving office this month, presided over nearly six years after it led the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

from Africa News blog:

Which way will Somalia go?

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The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia has left a nation beset by conflict for nearly two decades at a crossroads.

Ethiopia invaded to oust Islamists from the capital, but insurgents still control much of southern Somalia and more hardline groups that worry Washington have flourished during the two-year intervention.

from India Insight:

Is India playing its hand well over Mumbai?

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It has been a tense game of poker between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks. On the face of it, India had the much stronger hand -- not least because it captured one of the attackers alive and got him to confess to being trained in Pakistan.

But has it played its cards well?

Some analysts say India overplayed its hand in the initial days after the attack by saying the military option remained open.

from MacroScope:

Political poster child?

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George Alogoskoufis is a hardly a household name outside Greece and EU financial circles. But the newly sacked Greek finance minister could yet become a poster child for politicans struggling to fight off economic decline and banking industry collapse. His demise was in large part due to a public perception that he was helping out the banks but ignoring rising joblessness.

Greece, of course, is a special case at the moment, still recovering from riots over the police shooting of a teenager. But finance ministers, central bankers and other responsibles are probably not immune from Alogoskoufis Syndrome. Balancing the need to bail out the finance industry with rising economic misery among everyday people is not easy. Fat cats are not exactly in favour at the moment.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

What price Russian cooperation on Afghanistan?

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According to the Washington Post, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sees opportunities for the United States to cooperate with Russia on Afghanistan. The newspaper says Gates, a longtime Russia analyst during his years with the CIA, sees Moscow as less of a threat than do many inside and outside the U.S. military establishment. "Russia is very worried about the drugs coming out of Afghanistan and has been supportive in terms of providing alternative routes for Europeans in particular to get equipment and supplies into Afghanistan," it quoted him as saying.

The story is interesting in the context of the United States searching for new supply lines through Central Asia into Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan before it sends in thousands more troops.  "The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass," the New York Times said.

Russia-Ukraine row: up close and personal

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Could it be that the gas dispute between Moscow and Kiev broke out because Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin felt personally slighted by his Ukrainian opposite number, Yulia Tymoshenko?
It may seem far-fetched that two countries would risk leaving half of Europe without gas over something so apparently petty. But a look at the sequence of events that led up to this crisis suggests there just might be something in it.

Rewind back to Oct. 2, and Tymoshenko is meeting Putin at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. It is a lodge in forested parkland where, as a rule, he only invites people on whom he wants to make a good impression.

Samson in Gaza

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Gaza was the place where, in Biblical times, the Jewish hero Samson took up with a harlot. That was before he met Delilah and, succumbing at last to her charms and tricks, revealed the secret of his strength. Shorn of his curly locks while he slept, Samson lost his superhuman strength. He was taken to Gaza and blinded by the Philistines with a white-hot poker. But his hair, and his strength, gradually grew back unnoticed, and at last Samson pushed over a pillar in their temple and brought the building down upon them, killing many. Or so the Bible story goes.

After 38 years of military occupation, Israel handed Gaza back to the Palestinians in 2005. But it has not led to peace. Hamas Islamist militants opposed to the Jewish state in 2007 ousted those Palestinians disposed to make peace with Israel, and have fired crude but potentially lethal rockets into the land lying to the east for months, in a constant skirmish with the Israelis. Israel struck hard with an aerial offensive a week ago.

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