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Yemeni government confirms participation at peace talks

The government backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries has said it will send delegates to UN-backed peace talks. The last set of peace talks in September failed after Houthi rebels failed to show up. The Saudi Arabia-backed government of Yemen confirmed on Monday that it would take part in peace talks sponsored by the United Nations. The government also called on the UN to "pressure" Yemen's Houthi rebels to attend the talks without conditions. The announcement coincided with a speech by Saudi Arabia's King Salman in which he reiterated his country's support for the UN efforts to end the war. The Iran-backed Houthis have fought a three-and-a-half-year-war with the Yemeni government and an alliance of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia UN envoy Martin Griffiths is set to travel to Yemen finalize arrangements for peace talks in Sweden. Both sides had previously given "firm assurances" to him that they would attend. On Sunday, Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi called on rebel fighters to stop attacks against the Saudi-led coalition and said the group was ready for a ceasefire. Attempts to hold peace talks in September failed after Houthi representatives failed to show up. Fighting has intensified recently around the port city of Hodeida, sparking fears that millions could face starvation in the event of a blockade. More than 10,000 people have died in the war, according to official figures, but activists say the actual death toll could be far higher.

The government backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries has said it will send delegates to UN-backed peace talks. The last set of peace talks in September failed after Houthi rebels failed to show up. The Saudi Arabia-backed government of Yemen confirmed on Monday that it would take part in peace talks sponsored by the United Nations. The government ... Read More »

Colombia’s president to allow congressional debate on peace deal

President Juan Manuel Santos said Colombia’s congress will debate a revised peace deal with rebels before it is signed into law. It is uncertain whether the new deal will face another referendum. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced his country's congress will be allowed to debate a ratified peace deal. "I agree that the discussions should move to Congress, and we will do so next week, on Wednesday,” said Santos in a televised address Saturday. The Colombian government published a revised peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) this week after the original deal was rejected in a referendum in October. The original draft was considered too favorable to the rebels. Critics of the initial deal, led by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, outlined approximately 500 modification proposals on 57 topics that were then given to FARC. The Colombian government and FARC agreed to modifications on 56 topics, all but one would have banned rebels from politics or holding office once the treaty is initiated. A second referendum is not expected. The most critical component of the peace treaty is reintegrating rebels into society through the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). Since peace talks started in 2003, Colombia has maintained a DDR program that significantly reduced FARC numbers and helped former rebels learn basic skills and find jobs. A fragile cease fire is in effect in Colombia, and Santos argued for implementing the accord as soon as possible. His comments come after two FARC members were killed while in combat with security forces in an incident that is being investigated by UN-sponsored monitors. The Colombian civil war has lasted for more than half a century and claimed more than 220,000 lives. Nearly 8 million were displaced due to the conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos said Colombia’s congress will debate a revised peace deal with rebels before it is signed into law. It is uncertain whether the new deal will face another referendum. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced his country’s congress will be allowed to debate a ratified peace deal. “I agree that the discussions should move to Congress, and ... Read More »

Ingrid Betancourt: “I forgive my tormentors”

Colombia is poised to end 52 years of civil war. Ahead of the peace treaty between the government and FARC guerrillas, ex-hostage Íngrid Betancourt speaks exclusively to DW about reconciliation and the chance for peace. She was kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas and held captive for six years in the jungle. Since her rescue in July, 2008, she has been pushing for an end to the civil war in her country. A few days before the signing of the peace treaty between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels on September 26th, DW reporter Astrid Prange met her in Paris, her second home. She appeared calm, friendly and strong-minded, but even in this moment full of hope, the hostage drama and politics still determine her life. Deutsche Welle: What was your first thought when your heard about peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC rebels in 2012? Ingrid Betancourt: We were not really surprised by the news. But even though we were expecting it, when it happened I found myself very emotional. I remember I went to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur to give thanks, and it was amazing because I found so many other Colombians doing the same. We had some hours of just celebrating, hugging and crying. What helped you get through the suffering of captivity? My mother's voice through the radio waves was my biggest kind of safety net. It kept me thinking that I was a human being, that I was loved, and that was important. In the jungle, faith also became something very real; it helped me to understand what was happening to me and changed my questions. In the beginning, I asked: why me? But then, it changed to: How can I make the best of this? How can I be a better person? How can I understand what I am here to learn? That wouldn't have been possible without faith. If you don't think that God is there, and that there is a reason, even if you don't understand it, you are enticed to slip away to bitterness and revenge. During all these years in the jungle were you afraid that you might never be released? I remember guards telling me that I wouldn't be free before being a grandmother. It tortured me in a sense that I was calculating how old my daughter was, my son, and what that meant in terms of time; emotionally, it was really very painful. But I always thought I would be back home some day. Sometimes home was even dying because it was a way of getting away from the control of the guerilla, a form of liberation. But when I was rescued - because it was so sudden and there was no way that we could foresee that this was going to happen - the emotion was enormous. Do you think that the peace treaty between the Colombian government and FARC rebels takes in consideration sufficiently the suffering of the victims? What is sufficient? Nothing is sufficient. In my own case, what could be justice for me? Nothing! How to replace the people I missed? My father was gone while I was in captivity. How to replace the years without my children? So I don't think that this is the right question. What would be the right question then? For me, the right question to ask and to answer is: Why are we doing this? I think, we are doing this, so that no other Colombian in the future will suffer what we have suffered. We have the right answer because we are saving lives. We are saving traumas, we are saving families - and we are giving to Colombians the opportunity of being a country at peace. In my generation, we have never experienced what that means. As a Colombian, the only way I can relate to my country, is through suffering. I hope that my children and my grandchildren will relate to the beautiful country in a way that it is positive and loving. The Colombian people will be asked in a referendum if they agree with the peace treaty. Why? Are there many people against it? On one hand, it seems strange that a country that has suffered so much from violence and war, would be debating if they want peace or not. But in Colombia, a part of society is deeply connected with the war as a means of making a living. So you have the business of war that enriches many people, you have the politics of war that give power to many leaders, and you have corruption which depends on the war. The people, who vote “no” are not able to say that they want the war to continue, because they are making money. So they have to use other arguments, and that is what's happening. The Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was considered to be a hardliner. He wanted to defeat FARC with military means. Now, he will be signing a peace treaty with them. What has made him change his mind? Juan Manuel dos Santos was a hardliner indeed, but he is a leader with a reflection on the history of Colombia. And he understood that because the initial chiefs of FARC have died - Manuel Marulanda, Raul Reyes, Alfonso Cano - and were replaced by people that were younger, that didn't have the same military skills, they were open to a political solution. He seized the opportunity with a counterpart that was willing to negotiate peace. Did you get to know him? Yes, very much! Did you convince him to change his mind? No! I think he really was convinced that this was the way to go. And I can only applaud, because there are so many forces in place that the war continues, endless! I think he is brave and courageous. If he succeeds in his plan, he will be the Colombian that we will remember in history. It seems that most of the victims, like you, are calling for reconciliation. Can you speak for the majority of them? Forgiveness is a VERY personal and intimate thing. Forgiveness is not something that you can speak for others because it includes not only your desire and will, your reflection and intellect, but also your emotions. And who is in control of one's own emotions? I am still struggling with mine! So even though I committed myself to forgive, I understand perfectly that other victims are unable to do so. Depending on your suffering and the way you deal with it, sometimes it is impossible to forgive. Do you think that there is a real chance of integrating the FARC rebels back into society? Can they make a living in peace time? Or will they be hired by the drug cartels? This is the big challenge we have as a society. The Colombians are asked to receive these people of the FARC that are going to give up their arms and be demobilized. They must be able to pursue an activity that is dignifying, that they can live legally, out of misery and poverty. The previous examples similar to this situation are the case of the paramilitaries. And it was kind of a fiasco because some leaders were extradited and the outcome of these extraditions was not very clear because they ended paying less time in jail than they would have been paying in Colombia. More than that: Many people of the paramilitary organizations just changed the label and became crime organizations linked with the drug business and other illegal activities. Their presence disrupts peoples' security even today in Colombia. You have always been involved in politics. Are you are thinking about running for president in the next election? (laughing) Not at all! I have never thought about running for the presidency, nor for a mandate in parliament. There is no plan of going back to Colombian politics, even if President Santos would ask you? No. It doesn't mean that I won't. But things can change. I don't have a crystal ball, so I can never say never. If President Santos would ask me, I would come, naturally. But there are other determining factors that make an answer to this question very complicated. This interview was conducted by Astrid Prange.

Colombia is poised to end 52 years of civil war. Ahead of the peace treaty between the government and FARC guerrillas, ex-hostage Íngrid Betancourt speaks exclusively to DW about reconciliation and the chance for peace. She was kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas and held captive for six years in the jungle. Since her rescue in July, 2008, she has been pushing ... Read More »

Family reunion: A Syrian refugee is reunited

Alaa Houd fled Syria's civil war and went to Germany. His greatest wish was to bring his wife and son to a safe country. Now, the young family is finally reunited. Little Gabriel is only three years old but he has already gone through a lot. He did not see his father for over a year - in fact - for 400 days. Alaa Houd, a 29-year-old man, fled Syria's civil war and went to Germany. Now, a year after his escape, the father can finally take his son into his arms. "In Syria, he always held a pillow against his ears at night to stop hearing the airplanes and bombings," says the child's mother, Hiba. The twenty-six-year-old traveled one and half days with her son to reach Germany. First, the two drove in a car from their home in Damascus to Lebanon. After that, they flew from Beirut to Belgrade and then, to Düsseldorf. Despite the long journey, the stress has not left its mark on her. "I am so happy about my new, safe life in Germany. I can finally be together with my family again." The best day of my life "We were separated one year, a month and five days. It was pure agony. I missed everything about him," she says and gives her husband a loving glance. They have known each other for nine years and have been married for four years. Alaa, the proud father, is rocking his son on his lap and cannot stop smiling. "This is the best day of my life," he says. A lot has happened since he last saw his wife and his son. First, he undertook a dangerous journey from Syria to Europe. His boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Greece. He floated in the sea for hours until the Greek coast guard finally pulled him out. After that, he traveled to Frankfurt with the help of a smuggler in Athens. In the winter of 2014, after experiencing a personal odyssey, going to several refugee reception centers, he finally ended up in Radevormwald, a town near the western Germany city of Wuppertal. For ten months, he lived in crowded quarters with seven other refugees, always hoping that his asylum application would be accepted and that he could bring his family to Germany. In July 2014, after months of waiting, he finally received notification of his right to remain in Germany. Shortly thereafter, he moved into a shared apartment in Bonn. Family life in the chatroom All the while he used his smartphone to stay in touch with his wife and son. The Internet connection in Syria was often not good enough for a video call on Skype; a chat had to do. Concern and longing for his family sometimes drove him mad. "Before this, I had never been separated from my family more than three days," he said. Back to the reunion: Alaa was so excited the night before his family arrived; he hardly slept a wink. But he is not tired now. He wants to go out to buy his son a bicycle today. His family never tires him. Hiba has already warned him to clear away all the fragile articles in the room and put them out of their son's reach. "He has too much energy," say the two parents laughingly. The young family does not have much time to rest. The first appointment at the Immigration Office is on Monday: Applications for a new apartment must be filled out. Gabriel is going along. He will soon learn that applications are a part of life in Germany - as is safety.

Alaa Houd fled Syria’s civil war and went to Germany. His greatest wish was to bring his wife and son to a safe country. Now, the young family is finally reunited. Little Gabriel is only three years old but he has already gone through a lot. He did not see his father for over a year – in fact – ... Read More »

US, Russian defense chiefs discuss ‘de-conflict’ in Syria

The US and Russia's heads of defense have discussed ways to tackle the Syrian conflict amid a Russian military buildup in the country. The conversation follows Kremlin's announcement that it could deploy troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first step in "military-to-military" talks on Syria following a Russian buildup in the war-torn country. Peter Cook - the Pentagon's press secretary - said the conversation between the two defense chiefs was constructive, adding that the discussion revolved around the need to "de-conflict" Russia's presence, largely seen as a means to prop up the Syrian government under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad. "[Carter] emphasized the importance of pursuing consultations in parallel with diplomatic talks that would ensure a political transition in Syria. He noted that defeating ISIL [another name for the self-styled "Islamic State"] and ensuring a political transition are objectives that need to be pursued at the same time," Cook said in a statement. The Russian defense ministry's spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov also noted the positive outcome, saying that "the course of the conversation has shown that the sides' opinions on the majority of issues under consideration are close or coincide." "The ministers noted the restoration of contacts between the countries' defense ministries and agreed to continue consultations," Konashenkov added, referring to the breakdown of defense-related contact on both sides following Russia's invasion and annexation of the former Ukrainian region Crimea. A 'partner' in Assad? The defense chiefs' conversation comes amid a Russian buildup in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Since the onset of the Syrian civil war, Russia has avidly supported Assad's regime, urging the US and its allies to engage the Syrian government as a "partner." Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Friday that Moscow would consider sending Russian troops to Syria if "a request" was made. "If there is a request… then in the framework of a bilateral dialogue it would be, naturally, discussed and considered," Peskov told journalists in a conference call. "For now, it's difficult to speak hypothetically." Syria's civil conflict has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than half the country's population displaced, leading to Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II.

The US and Russia’s heads of defense have discussed ways to tackle the Syrian conflict amid a Russian military buildup in the country. The conversation follows Kremlin’s announcement that it could deploy troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first step in “military-to-military” talks on Syria following a Russian buildup ... Read More »

South Sudan’s shaky ceasefire in doubt

The South Sudan army has continued its campaign against insurgents despite a new truce, a rebel group says. The government in turn accuses the rebels of trying to sway the global media with falsehoods. South Sudan's rebels and government traded accusations on Sunday just hours after a ceasefire between the two came into affect. Rebels said the army had fired on some of their positions along the White Nile river, which the South Sudanese military dismissed as "mere fabrications" intended to hoodwink the international media. "A military convoy - two barges, seven gunboats - has been moving…Whenever they see our positions on the banks, they shell," said rebel spokesman Dickson Gatluak. "The cessation of hostilities started at midnight on Saturday but the government has broken it. They are not committed to it," Gatluak added, saying that they would report the attack to IGAD, the eight-nation regional bloc who helped engineer the truce. The military wasted no time refuting the accusations. Army spokesman Philip Aguer told the press that "there is no force operating in that area," before adding that the stories of bombardments were "mere fabrications by the rebels. We don't have any report of clashes in that area as of today." "As we said, we want IGAD to station monitors in all the counties so as to monitor and see who is violating the ceasefire instead of us answering to the international media on fabrications by the rebels," he said. For their part, IGAD said they had been unable to independently verify the claims of either side. After initially wavering, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir signed the peace accord on Wednesday, which had already been approved by rebel leader Riek Machar. The truce was aimed at ending a brutal civil war in the country that began in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar, his one-time deputy, of planning to overthrow him. The ensuing conflict has seen 2 million people displaced, and atrocities such as ethnic cleansing, gang rape, and the use of child soldiers.

The South Sudan army has continued its campaign against insurgents despite a new truce, a rebel group says. The government in turn accuses the rebels of trying to sway the global media with falsehoods. South Sudan’s rebels and government traded accusations on Sunday just hours after a ceasefire between the two came into affect. Rebels said the army had fired ... Read More »

South Sudan journalist killed days after president Kiir issues warning

A journalist has been shot dead in South Sudan's capital, Juba. Just days ago, the country's president issued what sounded like a threat to the media. The US has called for a thorough investigation. Peter Julius Moi, who worked with the independent New Nation newspaper in Juba, was shot as he was heading home after work on Wednesday evening, his colleagues said. Residents in the area said Moi was shot with two bullets in the back, adding that none of his belongings, including his mobile phone, had been taken. The shooting comes just days after South Sudan President Salva Kiir (pictured above) issued a warning to reporters before flying to Ethiopia for peace talks aimed at ending more than 18 months of fighting in the world's newest nation. "Freedom of the press does not mean you that work against your country," Kiir told journalists Sunday. "If anybody among them does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day on them," he added. US urges investigation The United States called for a thorough investigation of Moi's death and for Kiir to renounce his comments. "We're very concerned about this development," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters, speaking of Moi's death and urging authorities in South Sudan "to expeditiously and thoroughly investigate this incident." "Separate and distinct, we are obviously deeply concerned by President Kiir's comments regarding journalists earlier this week, and we call on him to disavow those words," Kirby added. The Committee to Protect Journalists east Africa representative Tom Rhodes called the killing a "very foreboding sign." "It is still too early to tell whether there is a link [with Kiir's remarks], but this tragedy will certainly cast a pall over independent reporting in the country as South Sudanese journalists are increasingly forced to self-censor as a means of survival." Moi is the seventh journalist to be killed this year in South Sudan, which has been engulfed in civil war since December 2013 when clashes erupted following a political row been Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar. Numerous rounds of peace talks held in Addis Ababa have failed to produce a lasting agreement, while thousands of people have been killed. Earlier this week, Kiir put off signing a power-sharing deal which had already been agreed to by rebels.

A journalist has been shot dead in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Just days ago, the country’s president issued what sounded like a threat to the media. The US has called for a thorough investigation. Peter Julius Moi, who worked with the independent New Nation newspaper in Juba, was shot as he was heading home after work on Wednesday evening, his ... Read More »

US says South Sudan’s President Kiir promises to sign peace deal

Washington claims President Salva Kiir has given assurances that he will sign an agreement to end the civil war, after delaying to do so earlier this week. The US has said it will nonetheless press for an arms embargo. South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has assured the US he will sign a peace deal to end the fledgling country's 20-month-old conflict, Washington said on Wednesday. According to a US State Department spokesman, Kiir told Secretary of State John Kerry by phone on Wednesday he had every intention of signing the peace agreement. "He said he need a couple of more days of consultations but he made it very clear it was his intention to sign, which is encouraging," said spokesman John Kirby. On Monday, Kiir refused to sign the deal brokered by regional leaders, despite traveling to Addis Ababa over the weekend for the signing ceremony. One of his ministers had escribed the peace accord as a "sell-out." South Sudan's civil war broke out in December 2013 when clashes erupted following a political row been Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar. The conflict took on an ethnic dimension and saw Kiir's Dinka people pitted against Machar's Nuer. Following Kiir's decision, Washington warned it would call for a United Nations arms embargo against South Sudan and impose further targeted sanctions - unless the deal is signed. A US diplomat said on condition of anonymity that a draft resolution would be circulated to the 15 Security Council members shortly. Fighting resumed on Wednesday between government troops and rebel forces, a South Sudan military spokesman confirmed. Analysts said peace efforts were left in tatters as the warring sides blamed each other for attacks. African Union Commission Chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned that: "Deadlock in the peace process can only spell further disaster for South Sudan and its people, with far reaching implications for regional security and stability." Around 200,000 people have been forced from their homes due to the fighting and nearly 70 percent of the population is facing food shortages.

Washington claims President Salva Kiir has given assurances that he will sign an agreement to end the civil war, after delaying to do so earlier this week. The US has said it will nonetheless press for an arms embargo. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has assured the US he will sign a peace deal to end the fledgling country’s 20-month-old ... Read More »

Report: European firms helped fund CAR civil war

A report by NGO Global Witness reveals that the multi-million euro profits of the logging trade between the Central African Republic and Europe have been used to fund the African country’s civil war. European firms and governments are playing a significant role in the funding of conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) through aid and the timber trade, according to a new report. The NGO Global Witness has calculated that in 2013, around 3.4 million euros ($3.74 million) was paid to rebels as bribes, to pass roadblocks, for armed escorts and for the protection of logging sites. Two years ago, Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in CAR and many fighters were ordered to the country's rainforests to generate funds to continue fighting the rebellion. They quickly struck lucrative deals with European and Chinese timber companies. Seleka rebels have since been swept from power and a transitional government has been installed. But another armed group, the anti-Balaka is now benefiting from regular payments, their report said. 'Blood Timber' in Central African Republic Titled "Blood Timber", the paper singled out Germany's Johann D. Voss, IFB and Tropica-Bois from France as three traders who allegedly played a key role in paying off rebels. France, Germany and China are the biggest buyers of timber from the Central African Republic. The French government was also criticized for paying out millions of euros in development aid to CAR's logging companies. EU members states are also failing to keep illegal timber off European markets with most of CAR's wood going to Germany, France and the UK, the report highlighted. Global Witness has called for EU countries to cut trade and aid to the rebels and for the EU to delay talks with the CAR on a timber trade agreement until the country is on a more stable footing. CAR was a major exporter of diamonds until it was banned from the shipment of rough diamonds under the UN rule that prevented so-called "conflict diamonds" from entering the market. The conflict in the Central African Republic has left more than 5,000 people dead while more than a million people have been displaced.

A report by NGO Global Witness reveals that the multi-million euro profits of the logging trade between the Central African Republic and Europe have been used to fund the African country’s civil war. European firms and governments are playing a significant role in the funding of conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) through aid and the timber trade, according ... Read More »

Opinion: Time to intervene in Burundi

سیاسی افراتفری کے شکار افریقی ملک برونڈی میں گزشتہ روز منعقدہ پارلیمانی انتخابات میں صدر پیرے نکورونیزیزا کی جماعت نے برتری حاصل کر لی ہے۔ ان انتخابات کا متعدد سیاسی جماعتوں نے بائیکاٹ کیا تھا۔ الیکٹورل کمیشن کی جانب سے جاری کردہ اعلان میں کہا گیا ہے کہ حکمران جماعت نے پارلیمان کی سو نشستوں میں سے 77 پر کامیابی حاصل کی۔ برونڈی میں صدارتی انتخابات 15 جولائی کو منعقد ہونا ہیں اور حکومت ان انتخابات کے التوا کے خلاف ہے۔

The ruling party has been declared the winner of the parliamentary elections in Burundi. The polls were a farce which has heightened the risk of civil war ahead of the presidential poll, writes Andrea Schmidt. The results of the parliamentary elections in Burundi will have surprised no one. The poll was neither free nor fair; there was neither an independent ... Read More »

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