Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gorbachev issues new warning of nuclear war over Ukraine | News | DW.DE | 09.01.2015

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the crisis in Ukraine could lead to a major war, or even a nuclear war. In an interview with a German magazine, he criticized both Russia and the West.

Michail Gorbatschow ehemaliger sowjetischer Staatspräsident in Berlin 7.11.2014
In an interview with the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, 83-year-old former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said the crisis in Ukraine could lead to large-scale war in Europe or even a nuclear war. "We won't survive if someone loses their nerves in the current tension."
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate decried the "loss of trust" between Russia and the West as "catastrophic," and said ties must be "defrosted."
Gorbachev accused the West and NATO of destroying the structure of European security by expanding its alliance. "No head of the Kremlin can ignore such a thing," he said, adding that the US was unfortunately starting to establish a "mega empire."
The man seen as a key player in the reunification of former East and West Germany in 1990 also accused Germany of interfering in Ukraine's crisis, saying, "The new Germany wants its hands in every pie. There seems to be a lot of people who want to be involved in a new division of Europe.
"Germany has already tried to expand its influence of power towards the East - in World War II. Does it really need another lesson?"
He said Western attempts to disempower Russian President Vladimir Putin and destabilize Russia were "very stupid and extremely dangerous."
He defended the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula last year, but criticized the Russian leader's authoritarian style of leadership. He said Russia needed free elections and "the participation of the people in free elections.
"It is simply not acceptable when someone such as the anti-corruption blogger and politician Alexei Navalny is under house arrest for speaking out."
Recent warnings
Gorbachev has warned of a nuclear war on a number of occasions in recent months. In an article for the Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, published on December 11, he said: "The situation in Europe and the world is extremely alarming … the result of the events that took place in the last months is a catastrophic loss of trust in international relation," which could lead to war.
He urged Russia and the US as well as Russia and the EU to hold talks "without preconditions" and without fear of "losing face."
"We must think of the future," the former leader said.
Ukraine talks
On Monday, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine are set to meet in Berlin to launch another attempt to break the deadlock in the Ukraine conflict.
The ministers are expected to discuss the possibility of a summit of the four countries' leaders in Kazakhstan, which Ukraine had suggested take place on January 15.
Regarding the fragile four-month-old ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, which has been broken on a number of occasions, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said everything should be done to reach a compromise, adding, "It would be wrong not to try it."
sb/glb (dpa, Reuters)

Ethiopian Opposition Faces Difficulty in Entering Upcoming Elections

Ethiopian opposition parties say they are facing roadblocks in their efforts to register for the May elections. The parties say the National Election Board is complicating procedures for no good reason, and raising doubt that the elections will be free or fair.
The Unity for Democracy and Justice party has the only opposition member in Ethiopia's 547-seat parliament. But it is unclear if the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections, as the National Election Board has rejected UDJ logos.
Wondimu Golla of the National Election Board said it was not about the logos, but about procedural rules.
“According to their bylaws it says, the president of the party shall be nominated or elected by the general assembly. But they nominate by some few persons, the high officials there. So we oppose this. They have to strictly follow the bylaws, their own bylaws,” said Golla.
The National Election Board has given UDJ two weeks to organize a general assembly, and if its conduct is approved the party will be allowed to participate in the May elections. But the UDJ has decided to not hold another general assembly.
UDJ vice chairman Girma Seifu -- the only member of parliament not affiliated with Ethiopia's ruling party -- said the election board's actions were not justified.
“They do not have any legal ground or moral ground or administrative guideline to do these things. Because this is just an interference just to put a block on our active participation in the election,” said Seifu.
Voter registration in Ethiopia began last week and up to 60 parties may run for seats in the upcoming elections.
The Blue Party, formed in 2012, will be contesting elections for the first time. Blue Party chairman Yilkal Getnet said he was pessimistic about the elections as the party has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to work with the election board on certain issues.
"They are reluctant, and they did not give us any positive report or signs to improve these things. We did not get any signs that improve the political climate. Now for the coming elections to be free and fair we need to discuss about the political climate, to have a free media, to have international observers to observe the election, and including the budget sharing systems, and so on,” said Getnet.
During the 2005 elections opposition parties won about a third of the seats, but accusations of vote rigging led to mass demonstrations in which at least 200 protesters died and thousands were arrested.
The ruling Ethiopia’s Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front has been in power since the overthrow of the military junta in 1991

Ethiopia: Why Getting Assab Port Back Matters to Ethiopia | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

Ethiopia: Why Getting Assab Port Back Matters to Ethiopia

According to the United Nations Human Development Report of 2013, Ethiopia is one of the eight countries in the world with the lowest human development index (HDI) and one of the two countries, Niger being the other, with the highest multidimensional poverty index (MPI). Despite the much publicised double-digit economic growth over the last 12 years, Ethiopia has one of the lowest per capital gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, just a little ahead of Burundi, Niger and Central African Republic (CAR), based on the 2012 World Economic Outlook Database of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Further, compared to its immediate coastal neighbors, it has the lowest per capita GDP, less than those of Somalia and Eritrea; the highest MPI; and the lowest HDI, excepting Eritrea.
The country is also one of the most populous in the league of landlocked countries, with a population size fast approaching above 90 million. It was officially rendered landlocked by a dubious and ignominious decision of the government in power and its international backers.
Since most of the country’s import-export trade is conducted through sea transport, and because Massawa and Assab are no longer viable options, Ethiopia is forced to rely on the ports of neighboring countries, especially Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and occasionally, Somalia. However, the costs of transportation to most of the destination ports are very prohibitive in view of the long distances and poor land transport facilities.
About 90pc of the country’s import-export trade is now conducted through the port of Djibouti. Reports show that even the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport (MoTr) acknowledges relying on a single port has become a bottleneck for the development of import-export trade.
In the mid of the year 2008, the cost of using the port of Djibouti increased alarmingly. Until the 2008 fee increase, Ethiopia used to pay more than 850 million dollars to DP World Djibouti in port fees, annually. The port is administered by DP World Djibouti, a part of DP World, formed in September of 2005 with the integration of the terminal operations of the Dubai Ports Authority (DPA).
According to July 6, 2008 edition of Sudan Tribune, the sudden and unexpected new rates involved an increase of up to 25pc in marine charges, cargo port dues and storage charges, and a 15pc increase in the cost of container stevedoring. This added an additional cost of at least 210 million dollars for the use of the port by Ethiopia.
To put this all in context, a 2010 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) has shown that the amount landlocked countries spent for the payment of transport and insurance services was more than twice the average spent by developing countries, and more than three times the average for developed economies.
Paul Collier (Prof.), a renowned development economist, argues that while the majority of the five billion people in the “developing world” are getting richer at an unprecedented rate, a group of countries (mostly in Africa and Central Asia) are stuck with some sort of development traps and suggests that development assistance should be focused heavily on them.
According to Collier, these countries typically suffer from one or more development traps: conflict; natural resources; bad governance and landlocked with bad neighbors. Poor landlocked countries with bad neighbors find it almost impossible to tap into world economic growth.
Collier explains that countries with coastline trade with the world, while landlocked countries only trade with their neighbors. Landlocked countries with poor infrastructure connections to their neighbors will necessarily have a limited market for their goods.
Thirty two of the forty-five landlocked countries belong to what is called the Land-Locked
Developing Countries (LLDCs), with Africa contributing half of them. These thirty-two LLDCs collectively account for only two of the world’s GDP, while occupying 12.5pc of the world’s total land surface area.
Economic and other disadvantages experienced by these LLDCs make the majority of the landlocked countries Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and their inhabitants occupy the bottom billion tier of the world’s population in terms of poverty. The sea-borne trade of the landlocked countries largely depends on transit through other countries.
Additional border crossings and long distances from the market substantially increase the total expenses for the transport services. Therefore, the economic performance of landlocked countries reflects the direct and indirect impact of geographical situation on their key-economic variables.
For example, based on the 2012 World Economic Outlook Database, the average GDP per capita for the world is about 15,000 dollars. Of the forty-five world’s landlocked countries, only eight have GDP per capita that is higher than this average; and all of these eight countries are in Europe.
The average of all landlocked countries is only about 13,000 dollars. It may be noted that even this average is further distorted by the inclusion of countries like Switzerland, Luxemburg and Lichtenstein, which have per capita GDP as high as 118,000 dollars. Excepting Hungary and Kazakhstan that have 12,736 dollars and 11,774 dollars, respectively, all of the other landlocked countries have much smaller GDP per capita ranging between Burundi’s 282 dollars and Botswana’s 9,893 dollars.
Some researchers even argue that landlocked countries experience weaker growth than oceanside countries. More specifically, controlling for the effects of other factors, being landlocked reduces average growth by about 1.5pc, and on average, landlocked countries have dependence on foreign assistance much longer than coastal countries.
Further, similar studies have reported that, other factors remaining constant, landlocked countries that rely on transoceanic trade tend to incur a cost of trade that is twice the amount incurred by their maritime neighbors, and experience six percent less economic growth compared to their non-landlocked neighboring countries.
Over all, the landlocked countries do worse than their maritime neighbors in each component of the HDI. The average GDP per capita of landlocked countries is approximately 57pc less that of their seaside neighbors. Life expectancy index scores are 0.3 lower on average, equivalent to 3.5 years, and education index scores are 0.36 lower.
Progress in many landlocked developing countries has also been slow. In the Human Development Report, twenty out of twenty-seven landlocked countries with adequate data are considered ‘top priority’ or ‘high priority’ due to their lack of progress towards the internationally agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Brining it all closer, according to the aforementioned Sudan Tribune report, the Port of Djibouti is used not only as a gateway for Ethiopian transit cargo, but also as a point of destination. The volume of Ethiopia’s import and export cargo has risen from 3.9 million tons in 2006/07 to 4.6 million tons in 2007/08.
With the volume of this import-export projected to grow by 20pc in 2009/10, the total annual fee would was then projected to be in excess of 1.2 billion dollars – a very huge and unsustainable expense for a resource-constrained country like Ethiopia.
It is thus clear that Ethiopia’s trade flow, as a function of both the cost of using alternative sea ports of other countries and distance traveled, would stifle any genuine policy of economic development. The huge fees paid out annually to the coastal countries for port services are drain the economy of the country, which is a net importer.
This is, of course, money that could instead be invested internally for port service improvement, infrastructure development and other related transportation projects. The latter in turn could immensely improve the trade balance and flow of the country by reducing the cost of exports and imports, and could increase the aggregate demand for domestic goods and services related to the infrastructure development and port services.
The prudent investment of the money paid as port fees could also necessitate increased employment of labor and other resources to meet the accompanying increased demand. With a very conservative estimate of 95pc increased consumption spending (which entails a 0.95 marginal propensities to consume) for any amount of additional income Ethiopians get on the average, one would have a corresponding large spending multiplier of 20.
This implies that the total fees lost in the form of direct payment for the use of the port of Djibouti could add billions of dollars to the GDP of Ethiopia annually. Evidently, the unnecessary leakage in the national revenue reduces the value of export, and increases the cost of imports, thereby shrinking the volume of the GDP and depressing the economic growth and development prospects of Ethiopia for years to come.
In addition, the landlockedness imposed on the country has deprived the people of other economic opportunities. Most notably, the loss of access to the sea was accompanied by the loss of maritime resources, including fisheries, as means of food security, and revenues from tourism. In a country like Ethiopia that has experienced vicious cycles of famine and drought, it is hard to overestimate the significance of healthy fish stock as a critical alternative for food security and for sustaining economic prosperity and social and cultural well-being.
In the backdrop of these unfavorable economic realities, to a degree resulting from the landlockedness of the country, the ruling party in Ethiopia does not appear to be poised to seek a framework that will address effectively the loss of the country’s legitimate access to the sea. Tragically, our beloved country still ranked as one of the poorest nations in the world by almost all measures of economic development.
The deplorable economic condition of the country is expected to continue in this hapless path as long as it remains landlocked and a meaningful and balanced policy of economic development cannot be implemented through good governance. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to revisit the adverse impact of being landlocked on the economy of Ethiopia.
There is mounting evidence that the bogus international treaties that the people of Ethiopia have been forced to accept have no binding force from a legal, historical or economic standpoint. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the international community and the peoples of the concerned countries to seek a lasting solution to the problem that has been an impediment to peace and prosperity in that part of Africa.
In the search for a viable solution, I believe, it is critical that the pros and cons of all available options be explored, taking into account the historical, socioeconomic and national security imperatives in the region. Such a methodical and unbiased approach to the issue is guaranteed to lead to an incontrovertible solution that will affirm the unconditional and rightful return of the port of Assab to Ethiopia, thereby heralding a new era of peace, stability and prosperity for the brotherly peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea whose common heritage is much more deep-rooted than the shortsighted machinations of politicians that purport to divide them.
Source: Addis Fortune

Houthi rise in Yemen raises alarm in Horn of Africa | Middle East | Worldbulletin News

Houthi rise in Yemen raises alarm in Horn of Africa

The strain has been created due to the recent abandonment of the Hanish Islands by Yemeni forces as the Houthis continue to consolidate their advance after they took over Yemen's Hudaydah port

As of late, there has been a fresh strain of relations between Iran on one side and the U.S. and NATO on the other. But it is Iran's increasing influence on the Bab el Mandeb waterway – not its nuclear program – that has caused a fresh diplomatic and military stress.
The strain has been created due to the recent abandonment of the Hanish Islands by Yemeni forces as the Houthis continue to consolidate their advance after they took over Yemen's Hudaydah port.
A Djiboutian marine source told The Anadolu Agency on Monday that the loss of the Hanish Islands to the Houthis militants would diminish Yemen's influence. According to the source, this has become a cause of concern for an international coalition against piracy and contraband.
The Hanish Islands dominate the strategic Bab al-Mandeb straight between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, one of the world's busiest waterways.
Yemen's loss of the islands serves to facilitate smuggling into and out of the Arab world, although the anti-piracy coalition has for the most part managed to deter piracy in the region.
Another source who insisted on anonymity said: "The security gap in the Red Sea is largely caused by Yemen's weakening military institutions as a result of the considerable inroads made by the Houthis."
The militant Shiite Houthi group currently controls vast swathes of Yemeni territory, including most of capital Sanaa and the port city of Al-Hudaydah.
But given the Houthis' lack of air and sea power, the situation, the source said, had created a conducive atmosphere for Al-Shaabab, Al-Qaeda and other militant organizations operating in the region.
A diplomatic source said: "Eritrea and Yemen have restored diplomatic relations suspended since the 1995 war."
Their relations were suspended due to claims and counterclaims on the strategic Hanish Islands, which Eritrea invaded. The resumption of diplomatic relations was reflected by the recent visit of a Yemeni ambassador to Eritrea, with whose leader, Isaias Afeworki, he held closed-door talks.
According to the diplomatic source, Eritrea gave Yemen assurances that it would respect the decision of an international arbitration panel that awarded the islands to Yemen in 1998.
But the visit also shed light on Eritrea's increased significance. It came at a time when Yemen faces its own internal political problems.
The hopes of Yemen's government remain alive because the Houthis have not captured the entire country: Yemen's marine and air forces remain under the command of the government led by Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
On another front, Eritrea has been in contact with the Houthis, which has brought Eritrea closer to Shiite Iran, which supports the Shiite Houthi group. According to sources, Houthis injured in frequent clashes with their local opponents are receiving medical treatment in Eritrea. These allegations have been corroborated by Eritrean opposition groups operating in Ethiopia.
In addition to this, there have been reports of Iranian marine forces at Eritrea's port of Assab on the Red Sea coast. Such activities have led many Arab countries to follow the situation closely.
The current situation has given Eritrea the opportunity to play a leading role. Political pundits say Eritrea is the major beneficiary from this, while the latter does not deny that it has maintained good relations with Iran recently.
Meanwhile, the Houthis' capture of the Hudaydah Islands comes as good news for Iran, which has always wanted to expand Shiite influence in the region.
But this could bring Iran into direct conflict with Saudi Arabia. Saudi's former head of security, Amir Sukri al-Faisal, has condemned Eritrea for this. He claims that Eritrea had earlier lent its support to both Iran and Israel by allowing the two countries to use its ports.
The allegation, however, was denied at the time by Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel, who said neither Israel nor Iran had access to any of Eritrea's military bases in the Red Sea.
Eritrean Foreign Minister Usman Saleh also reassured the Yemeni ambassador that Eritrea would support Yemen with a view to forging a durable peace in the fractious country.
Some diplomatic sources approached by AA said Iran's scramble for influence in the Horn of Africa was intended to offset Western-imposed sanctions.
According to diplomatic sources, Houthi control of Hudaydah would bolster Iran's regional influence.
Iran's Red Sea policy, according to the sources, is geared towards bolstering its influence in international sea lanes. Currently, Iran has influence in the Strait of Hormuz and seeks indirect influence along the Red Sea via Eritrea and Yemen.
Eritrea, meanwhile, has long felt isolated from the international arena and now wants a new power alignment in the region.
It should be remembered that the Hanish Islands had been the primary cause of the bloody 1995 war between Yemen and Eritrea. Later, in 1998, an international arbitration committee awarded the islands to Yemen.
In 1962, when Eritrea was still part of Ethiopia, Yemen had demanded that its boundaries with Ethiopia be demarcated. Then, the islands were given to both claimants.
While Yemen had expected the boundary demarcation to be implemented as demanded, Ethiopia entered into war with Somalia, thus delaying the demarcation issue.
Arab states, for their part, supported Eritrea's wish to secede from Ethiopia.
Upon the secession of Eritrea, Yemen once again requested that the boundaries be demarcated. Eritrea, however, delayed the move until the issue led to armed conflict in 1995.
The Hanish Archipelago includes three main islands: Jebel Seqer, Hanish al-Kubra and Hanish al-Sughra. Together they form the Hanish Islands, a strategic area that dominates the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandeb.

Ukraine crisis