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September 9, 2008
Middle East discusses peace in Damascus

Patrick Seale, blogging for Syria Comment, is a leading British writer on the Middle East and the author of “The Struggle for Syria.”

Rescuing peace in the Middle East

The four leaders who met in Damascus this past week have this in common: they recognize the extreme danger of the present situation in the region, and the unwelcome fact that U.S. President George W Bush, far from acting to resolve conflicts, is largely responsible for the prevailing tensions.The mini-summit in the Syrian capital brought together President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar, and their host, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.

These four leaders are not seeking to expel the U .S. from Middle East peace-making. On the contrary, they concede that a U.S. role will ultimately be indispensable. But they feel the urgent need to step into the vacuum created by American failure and wrong-headedness — a vacuum likely to last well into 2009, until the next U.S. President gets into his stride and Israel resolves its current political turmoil.

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The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Associated thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user nicholas macgowan under a Creative Commons license.

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September 9, 2008
Legislation could alter Colombia’s constitution

Steven L. Taylor, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Political Science at Troy University in Alabama who discusses Colombian politics in his blog. Via El Tiempo: Proyecto de referendo por la reelección de Uribe será presentado mañana en el Congreso.

Proposal for amendment to allow Uribe term hits Congress this week

The legislation in question would, if passed, lead to a referendum on whether or not the constitution would be amended to allow sitting President Álvaro Uribe to stand for a third term at the polls. I have not read the text of the legislation, but assume it removes the current two-term limit and makes it a three-term limit, although I am not certain of that at this point. For those unfamiliar with Colombian politics, it should be noted that Uribe came to office in 2002 under a one term-limit, but the constitution was amended during his first four-year term to a two-term limit. Uribe handily won re-election in 2006 and currently is slated to leave office in 2010.

One of the more interesting aspects of this situation (to me, anyway, as a student of Colombian parties) is that while Uribe has majority support in the Congress, it is based on a coalition of parties, and the drive for a third term has been driven by only one, the Party of National Social Unity, known colloquially as the “Partido de la U” (for the “Unity” part, but the fact that Uribe’s last name start with a “u” is no coincidence).

One of the partners in the pro-Uribe bloc is the Conservative Party (PC), which, as I noted a while back, has appeared somewhat tepid towards the re-election bid. Indeed, ET notes in the piece:

Pero una de las mayores incógnitas de este proceso legislativo la constituye el camino que tomará el Partido Conservador en torno a la segunda reelección del presidente Uribe.

Basic translation:

One of the major unknowns in this process is the road that will be taken by the Conservative Party in regards to a second re-election of President Uribe.

The PC, and the other parties in the coalition, have to weigh the short-term benefit of remaining in a pro-Uribe coalition after 2010 to the possibility of offering their own candidates for the highest office in the land themselves. Do they forgo their own party-building to continue to support Uribe? What about all the other high ambition politicians that support the coalition now, but were doing so to bid their time until Uribe’s time ran out?

There, too, is the question of whether a third term would be healthy for Colombian democracy, an issue that will not be lost on many politicians as well as many in the public. As such, this is no minor issue.

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The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Associated thumbnail courtesy of the United Nations.

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September 9, 2008
Turkish-Armenian relations warm in the aftermath of regional conflict

Stepan Grigoryan is chairman of the board of the Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation in Yerevan. He writes about European affairs in his blog for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Could Turkey abandon preconditions for relations with Armenia?

Two months ago, during a summit in Astana on July 7, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian extended an official invitation to his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to travel to Yerevan so they could watch together as their national soccer teams played a match. Since then, public opinion in both countries has been divided as to what lay behind the invitation, whether Gul would accept it, and whether he should.

There are, of course, many factors hindering the normalization of relations between the two countries. Several external players, in particular Russia, have no interest in the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, as this could lead to Armenia turning toward the West. Any positive developments in Armenia’s relations with Turkey would be painful for Azerbaijan. And within Turkey, the normalization of relations with Armenia is not viewed as an urgent priority.

Even before Sarkisian’s initiative, Turkey was trying to use its strategic partnership with Georgia and Azerbaijan to broaden its influence in the South Caucasus without regard for its lack of formal relations with Armenia. For that reason, it appeared that Armenia needed a normalization of relations more than Turkey did. It was also clear that Turkey required something more substantial than Sarkisian’s proposals to begin normalizing relations, a process that would have to include establishing a joint commission to evaluate historical issues, before it would agree to open the border.

To read more, visit the original post.

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Associated thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user shioshvili under a Creative Commons license.

For more Worldfocus coverage of Turkey, visit our extended coverage page: Turkey between East and West.

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Perspectives highlights the best of the blogosphere by cross-posting columns culled from a network of contributors. We cut through the noise of tens of millions of bloggers worldwide and bring you commentary from experts and voices on the ground.


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