Subscribe to an email

If you want to subscribe to World & New World Newsletter, please enter
your e-mail

Defense & Security
Main img

European Union to continue to support Ukraine over the long term

by Petteri Orpo

The European Union will continue to provide strong military, financial, economic, and diplomatic support and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The EU leaders decided on the matter on the closing day of the European Council held in Brussels on 26–27 October. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo represented Finland at the meeting. Prime Minister Orpo highlighted the importance of the EU’s pledge to provide security commitments to Ukraine in the future. “It is important that we reach an agreement quickly on the EU’s security commitments to Ukraine. We should be ready to make political decisions on the matter at the December European Council,” Orpo said. The EU leaders had already exchanged views on Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine in a video discussion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the first day of the Council. The EU will speed up the delivery of military support, such as missiles, ammunition, and air defence systems, to Ukraine. “We must strengthen the EU’s defence sector and reinforce the capacity of the European defence industry as quickly as possible. A strong EU also strengthens NATO and transatlantic cooperation,” said Prime Minister Orpo. Prime Minister Orpo also called for progress on the use of frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine. The Euro Summit held in connection with the European Council focused on the overall economic and financial situation and economic policy coordination. In Prime Minister Orpo’s view, the EU must be more competitive both internally and globally given the current geopolitical situation. “A well-functioning and competitive single market, for example in the service sector, plays a key role. Fair competition is an important factor in ensuring growth capacity. We must return to the normal State aid rules as soon as possible,” said Prime Minister Orpo. In its conclusions, the European Council emphasises the need to speed up work on developing digital services, clean technology, and clean energy production, transitioning towards a more circular economy and reducing the regulatory burden. “The EU must continue to be a global leader in the energy transition and clean technology solutions. I highlighted the potential of the bioeconomy and circular economy in renewing European industry. At the same time, we must reduce the regulatory burden on businesses,” Orpo emphasised. On the last day of the meeting, the EU leaders also held a strategic discussion on migration. Prime Minister Orpo stressed that migration is a common European challenge and called for long-term solutions. “We need to build well-functioning partnerships with countries of origin and transit. We must also be able to return people who do not have a legal right to reside in the European Union,” said Prime Minister Orpo. In their discussion on other items, the EU leaders condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and France, which killed and injured Swedish and French nationals. The discussion on external relations focused on the tensions between Kosovo and Serbia and between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and on the situation in the Sahel. The European Council also received an update on the preparations for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

Diplomacy
Main img

The 2023 Election in New Zealand and its Foreign Policy Implications

by Robert Patman

Foreign policy has yet to feature significantly in New Zealand’s elections despite its obvious implications for national security and development. Internationally, observers are looking for what the elections will mean for policy towards AUKUS, the Ukraine War, and, crucially, climate change. The world is at an inflection point in history. Putin’s Russia is attempting to annex Ukraine, the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict has exploded again, China’s security pact with the Solomon Islands highlights a growing Pacific presence, and the tempo of climate change seems to be overwhelming efforts to counter the single biggest threat to life on earth. However, these issues have yet to feature prominently in the New Zealand general election scheduled for 14 October. The political campaigns of the two major parties, Labour and National, and those of the minor parties, the Greens, ACT and New Zealand First have largely focused on what they see as domestic concerns – inflation and the cost of living, crime, tax cuts, public services, and co-governance. To some degree, this reflects the fact the Labour and National leaderships have adopted a largely bipartisan approach to foreign policy Chris Hipkins and Chris Luxon say they support an independent, principled New Zealand foreign policy that is committed to advancing an international rules-based order that is enshrined in institutions such as the United Nations and norms such as multilateralism. Both leaders view Australia as New Zealand’s closest and most important ally, and declare their backing for international human rights, the expansion of free trade, the maintenance of a non-nuclear security policy, and a strong focus on the Indo-Pacific, especially the Pacific Island states region. In the area of defence, there is slightly more daylight between the major parties. Both Hipkins and Luxon recognise that a declining international security environment requires greater New Zealand defence spending. But Labour claims its defence spending commitment is more credible than that of National. For one thing, Labour’s NZD$4.7 billion capital investment in the defence sector during its six years in government is double what National did in nine years at the helm. At the same time, Labour has pledged to improve retention in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) by tasking the Remuneration Authority to independently set pay rates and allowances for uniformed defence personnel. Furthermore, many New Zealand politicians and media commentators readily assume “bread and butter” domestic issues are simply more important to New Zealand voters than questions of foreign policy. It is almost as if domestic issues in New Zealand are somehow divorced from developments in the international arena, but that is a shaky assumption in an increasingly interconnected world. Whoever forms the next government of New Zealand will have to deal with at least three major “intermestic” issues that blur the boundaries between domestic and international policy, and to date have not received the attention they deserve in the 2023 election. First, the Putin regime’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has had significant economic and diplomatic consequences for the Indo-Pacific region and also for New Zealand. In the Indo-Pacific, Russia’s assault on Ukraine led to soaring prices for food and energy and a regional awareness that heavyweights like China and India remain important partners of Moscow. In New Zealand, the continuing volatility in international commodity markets has led to increased prices for imported goods and growing pressure on domestic inflation and business margins. Meanwhile, Russia’s Ukraine invasion – which flagrantly violates UN principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity – confronts New Zealand with the greatest threat to the international rules-based order on which it critically depends. To date, New Zealand has contributed more than $70 million in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, but that amount pales in comparison with the scale of the aid provided by Australia and Canada to Kiev. This raises a key question for Kiwi voters. Is New Zealand providing sufficient military aid to Ukraine to safeguard a core national interest in helping to ensure Vladimir Putin’s land grab fails? Second, New Zealand faces a potentially momentous decision in relation to whether it should join the second pillar of AUKUS – the tripartite security partnership established by the US, UK, and Australia in September 2021 – to share information in state-of-the-art defence technologies to deter or counter China’s assertiveness. In March 2023, the Biden administration had indicated that the door was open for New Zealand to join the second pillar of this Anglosphere security partnership. New Zealand’s non-nuclear stance meant the country was not invited to participate in the first pillar of AUKUS, an initiative whereby the US and UK are committed to supporting Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines over the next three decades at a cost of somewhere between AUD$268 billion and AUD$368 billion. The case for New Zealand’s membership of the second pillar rests on the conviction that Wellington needs to more closely align itself with like-minded democratic partners at a time of intensifying US-China rivalry and growing assertiveness by an authoritarian regime in Beijing in Indo-Pacific and beyond. However, partial membership of AUKUS does not sit comfortably with an evolving New Zealand identity based on non-nuclear security, closer ties with the Pacific, and a worldview seeking to strengthen, not merely uphold, an international rules-based order (through measures like UN Security Council reform) to enhance global security. To date, neither the Labour or the National leadership seem willing to adopt a clear position towards AUKUS before the October election. Third, New Zealand’s response to climate change has struggled to get much traction as an election issue. Like many countries, New Zealand has experienced cyclones, floods, wildfires, and other extreme climate-related events with increasing frequency in recent years. As a signatory to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, New Zealand has pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions by 50 percent in 2030 but remains, according to the IMF, significantly off track to meet this target. This slippage, in turn, places a big question mark over whether New Zealand can reach a target – supported by all political parties except the ACT party – to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. As a major exporter of agricultural products, New Zealand clearly has a big economic stake in reversing the national and global impact of climate change. However, with the exceptions of the Green Party and Te Pāti Māori, New Zealand’s political parties, including Labour and National, generally seem to be putting short-term economic concerns above future climate needs. On balance, while political leaders and the media may have shown little interest in foreign policy during the 2023 election, the rise of “intermestic” issues that straddle aspects of both domestic and international affairs is likely to have a significant impact on the lives of New Zealanders regardless of how they vote.

Diplomacy
Main img

Turkey faces competing pressures from Russia and the West to end its ‘middleman strategy’ and pick a side on the war in Ukraine

by Ozgur Ozkan

From the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Turkey has performed a delicate balancing act, portraying itself as an ally to the warring sides while reaping economic and political benefits from its relationship with both. Turkey has condemned Russia’s invasion and extended diplomatic and material assistance to Ukraine’s war efforts. At the same time, the country’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has pointedly opted not to join the Western-led sanctions against Russia or cut ties with Moscow. But Turkey’s neutrality in the Ukraine conflict is seemingly meeting with growing impatience in Washington and Moscow, and may be difficult to sustain amid a shifting geopolitical landscape. In September 2023, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Turkish companies and a businessman accused of helping Russia to circumvent U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, Erdoğan has failed to revive a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that allowed the export of Ukrainian grain shipments via Turkey’s Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and eased global food prices. The developments suggest that both Washington and Moscow are seeking to pressure Turkey into taking a decisive stand. Already there are signs of Erdoğan bending. On Oct. 25, 2023, Erdoğan signed Sweden’s NATO accession protocol and sent it to the Parliament for ratification, having earlier refused to endorse the move – much to the annoyance of Turkey’s NATO allies. The move may be interpreted as a sign that Turkey’s balancing strategy is reaching its limits. But it may also be another tactical move in Erdoğan’s geopolitical chess game, which has expanded as he seeks to position Turkey as a diplomatic force amid escalating violence in the Middle East. As an expert on Turkish politics and international affairs, I have watched as Erdoğan walks a fine line between the country’s commitments as a longtime NATO member and its reliance on Russia for trade, economic resources and energy imports. But this balancing act is becoming increasingly difficult the longer the war goes on. The middleman strategy Erdogan’s approach aligns with Turkey’s historical foreign policy trajectory. Turkey has maintained a balance between Western European powers and Russia since the latter emerged as an ambitious regional player along Turkey’s northern border in the early 18th century. The balancing act allowed the Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s predecessor, to survive the 19th century largely intact despite mounting pressures from the Russian Empire and European powers. Failure to utilize a balancing strategy in the First World War facilitated the empire’s demise. Joining forces with the losing Central Powers, Turkey had to share a catastrophic fate. In contrast, in World War II, a strategy of neutrality helped Turkey to weather the war unscathed. Against a mounting Soviet threat during the Cold War, Turkey took refuge under Western security guarantees, joining NATO in 1952. Relieved of the Soviet threat in the 1990s, Ankara sought greater foreign policy autonomy. However, it lacked the necessary economic and military resources and domestic political will to fully realize this ambition, leading to alignment with U.S. policies in the Middle East and Balkans until the early 2010s. Splintered support But U.S. support to Kurds in northern Syria, aligned to the militant separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and the 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan marked the beginning of a more confrontational relationship between Washington and Ankara. Blaming the U.S. and its Persian Gulf allies for complicity in the coup, Erdogan began to court Putin, who openly stood behind him during and after the attempted coup. Ankara’s acquisition of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles led to its removal from the U.S.‘s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and a set of U.S. sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry. Coupled with its repeated military interventions in Syria, Turkey’s closeness with Russia has, critics say, reduced it to a status of “unreliable partner” in the North Atlantic alliance. But it didn’t take long for Ankara’s flirtation with Moscow to reach a deadlock. The death of 34 Turkish soldiers in a Russian bombardment in northern Syria in February 2020 prompted a renewed effort to seek reconciliation with the U.S. However, the Biden administration hesitated to reset relations due to concerns over Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. The balancing act and Ukraine War in Ukraine offered a new boost to Erdoğan’s balancing act. Turkey’s control of two major straits and established ties with Ukraine and other states along the Black Sea provided significant leverage for a multifaceted and neutral approach. Erdoğan seemingly hoped that maintaining trade relations with Russia and arms sales to Ukraine would bolster the struggling Turkish economy and rehabilitate his image in the West. But Erdoğan’s early blocking of Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into NATO stirred resentment in Washington and Brussels. As the Ukraine conflict continued and Erdoğan’s domestic popularity dipped in the lead-up to the May 2023 elections, the sustainability of Turkey’s balancing act seemed uncertain again. In need of financial and political support, Erdoğan has turned to the West and Persian Gulf countries. He approved Finland’s NATO accession and forged economic deals with West-friendly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – Turkey’s two bitter rivals in the Middle East. In summer 2023, Erdoğan announced a new cabinet that projected a pro-Western outlook. He mended ties with Egypt, another traditional regional rival, aligning with the new balance of power that the U.S. and its regional allies were shaping in the Middle East. And then, at the July 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Erdoğan announced the withdrawal of his veto against Sweden’s accession to NATO. Erdoğan’s pro-Western moves have prompted a cautiously optimistic approach by Western leaders, using both incentives and punitive measures: extending a US$35 billion World Bank credit to aid Turkey’s economy, while penalizing Turkish entities for violating U.S. sanctions. The latter has been taken as a not-so-veiled message to Ankara to take a definitive stance in its foreign affairs. Erdoğan has received a similar message from Putin. Disappointed in part by Turkey’s reconciliation with the West, Putin chose not to renew the Ukrainian grain deal despite Erdoğan’s earlier successful brokerage. It was a considerable blow for Erdoğan, who sought to position himself as a crucial power broker in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Although Erdoğan faces pushback from the U.S. and Russia, this does not necessarily signal the demise of his middleman strategy. Turkey’s location on the Europe-Asia boundary and historical ties to neighboring regions provide Erdoğan opportunities to sustain and even expand a strategy of neutrality among regional and global actors. Developments in the South Caucasus and the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip are two recent examples. They add a new layer of complexity for Erdogan’s balancing act, but also more room for him to maneuver. Turkey has been a key backer of Azerbaijan’s military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh – something that has exposed Russia’s waning influence in the region and created a major geopolitical setback for Iran. Meanwhile, Erdoğan’s ties with both Hamas and the Israeli government provide an opportunity for him to play a mediator role there.

Defense & Security
Main img

The Next Surge of Conflict in the South Caucasus Is Still Preventable

by Pavel K. Baev

The tragic exodus of the Armenian population from the Nagorno Karabakh region has closed a chapter in the long saga of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The disappearance of this self-proclaimed republic provides the opportunity to bring these bitter hostilities to an end; it takes, nevertheless, plenty of wishful political thinking to believe that a peace treaty could be swiftly negotiated. Mutual animosity is a profound, but not necessarily insurmountable obstacle. The greater problem is that it is hard to expect from Azerbaijan, ruled by the hereditary autocratic regime of President Ilham Aliyev, a magnanimity in victory. Pushing the defeated adversary further yet and maximizing the damage is much more in the nature of this regime, rendering the prevention of a new spasm of armed conflict an urgent task for all stakeholders in peace in the South Caucasus. The fate of Nagorno Karabakh was predetermined by the outcome of the 44-day long air-land battle in autumn 2020, in which the Armenian forward defense positions were breached, leading to the capture of Shusha, a key stronghold in the rugged theater of operations, by the Azeri forces. In that triumph, Aliyev showed strategic patience and accepted the Russian offer of a ceasefire. Much in the same way he calculated the right moment for starting the offensive operation, he assumed a total victory was inevitable in a matter of a few years, lessening the need to push forward with the military conquest of the whole enclave. The timeframe for the Russian peacekeeping operation was set on five years, but Russia’s aggression against Ukraine made it possible for Azerbaijan to force the closure of the postponed final act of geopolitical drama two years beforehand. It is futile to look for a direct connection between the wars in Ukraine and in the South Caucasus, but the start of the former, with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, altered the political context of the latter. The escalation of violent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the start of the 1990s was one of the peripheral ruptures caused by the generally peaceful breakdown of the Soviet Union, and the determination of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh to secede from Azerbaijan was perceived by many international observers (who at that time did not qualify as stakeholders) as a case of national self-determination. Russia, which in the early 1990s managed to negotiate and enforce ceasefires in chaotic hostilities in Moldova and Georgia, was seen as a natural external manager for this conflict, and the ceasefire was indeed agreed upon in May 1994, though no peacekeeping force was deployed. Moscow had few doubts selling arms to both parties of the smoldering conflict, but Azerbaijan was able to diversify its military modernization by importing high-tech arms systems from Turkey and Israel. Twenty years later, not only did Russia’s role become dubious due to its grab of Ukrainian lands, but also the occupation by Armenian forces of vast territory in Azerbaijan beyond Nagorno Karabakh was then perceived as crude aggression. Yerevan remained blind to these changes, and also underestimated the shift in Moscow’s attitude following the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia. For President Vladimir Putin, who positions himself as a champion of the counter-revolution cause, every step Armenia took in upholding democratic institutions became a personal challenge warranting punishment. In Baku, on the contrary, both the changed context of the old but never solidly “frozen” conflict and Russia’s altered stance were assessed carefully, so the opportunity to deliver a decisive blow for breaking the seemingly immovable deadlock around Nagorno Karabakh was identified and exploited to the maximum. International mediators, who maintained that a military solution to this entrenched conflict was impossible, were proven wrong. Moscow was also surprised by the collapse of the habitual and exploitable structure of irreconcilable conflict, and it appears probable that Russia’s assessments of the balance of forces in the General Staff were influenced by Armenian confidence in its impregnable defensive positions. What the Russian military and policy planners had underestimated most of all, prior to the surprise Azerbaijani offensive (that they are still having trouble digesting), was the strength of the security cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as the readiness of the Turkish leadership for proactive engagement with the South Caucasus. The Kremlin presumed that its initiative in terminating the active phase of hostilities in November 2020 and the deployment of the Russian peacekeeping force would restore its dominant role in the region, only to be proven wrong once again. The failure of Russian peacekeepers to deliver humanitarian aid to Nagorno Karabakh during the nine month-long blockade since the start of 2023 proved the irrelevance of this operation, and Baku is now in a perfect position to prompt its discontinuation. Turkey’s role in the South Caucasus has gained new prominence since the start of the war in Ukraine, as Moscow is compelled to go to great lengths in order to uphold its strategic partnership with Ankara. Turkey has played the balancing act very skillfully, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan assumed that his key role in negotiating the “grain deal” in July 2022 would lead to his ascension to the role of mediator. Putin’s decision to cancel that deal in July 2023 was seen in Ankara as a bargaining tool, and it was only at the meeting in Sochi on September 4th that Erdogan discovered that the agreement was beyond rescue. Two weeks later, Azerbaijan delivered the final blow to the rump Nagorno Karabakh, and while Aliyev made his own calculations in terms of timing, conspiracy is typically the prevalent pattern of thinking in the Kremlin, thus making a retribution by Erdoğan likely for Putin’s uncompromising stance. The forceful elimination of the Nagorno Karabakh autonomy by Azerbaijan was definitely a setback for Russia, but one proposition Moscow is certain about is that the conflict in the South Caucasus is far from over. Many international stakeholders tend to assume that the removal of the long-festering core of the conflict opens opportunities for a peace process, but the Russian leadership believes that its ability to keep Armenia anchored to its security structures, ensured by the continuation of Russia’s military presence on its territory, depends on the unfolding of a new phase of the old conflict. The focal point has shifted to the Zangezur region, where Armenia borders Iran. The geopolitical issue with this region is that it separates the main territory of Azerbaijan from the Nakhichevan enclave, which has a small (just 17 kilometers long) but crucially important border with Turkey. Baku has long cherished the vision of a transport corridor to this province and managed to insert a point on its implementation into the ceasefire agreement of November 2020. Yerevan had to accept this proposal, hoping that it would ensure survival of the curtailed autonomy for Nagorno Karabakh (which no longer exists), but never agreed on the condition of “extraterritoriality”, which implies ceding control over this as of now hypothetic transport route. Azerbaijan and Turkey could now join efforts to pressure Armenia in the hopes of maximizing gains from its military defeat and political isolation. A large-scale military offensive by Azerbaijan might seem too ambitious, not least because it would constitute – unlike the establishment of full control over Nagorno Karabakh – an act of aggression and a violation of Armenia’s territorial integrity. Azerbaijan, nevertheless, is not only advancing a discourse on its “historic rights” to Zangezur and the “voluntarist character” of old Soviet borders. It has also executed several incursions into Armenian territory in the course of hostilities, while Armenia has been very cautious not to put any pressure on Nakhichevan, which is a “home ground” for the Aliyev political clan. Preventing this transformation of conflict from an externally supported secession to an inter-state war over territory is a difficult and urgent task, and Yerevan cannot count on support from Moscow in working on it. Russia will be interested primarily in ensuring its control over the as of now hypothetic “extraterritorial corridor” across the Zangezur region by deploying a grouping of military and border guard forces. In case of a large-scale offensive by Azerbaijan, the Russian 102nd military base in Gyimri would probably remain “neutral”, so that in the post-conflict phase, it would be conveniently positioned to provide “peacekeepers”. Rushing forward with the new military operation may seem out of Aliyev’s character, as he had carefully prepared every previous strike and waited patiently for the right moment. The stalemate in the trenches of Russo-Ukrainian war does not quite fit into the risk-opportunity calculations, but a possible Ukrainian breakthrough toward Tokmak, for instance, may be recognized as a useful opening. Erdoğan is also attentively monitoring the flow of combat operations, particularly on the maritime Black Sea theater, and will evaluate the response in Moscow to the international conference on promoting peace plans for Ukraine, scheduled to take place in Istanbul in late October 2023. A new impact that may resonate in the South Caucasus is the war in the Gaza Strip caused by the massive attack by the Hamas terrorists on Israel. This escalation focuses international attention to such extraordinary degree, that Baku may assume its invasion to be barely noticed. Such calculations may be underpinned by the fact that the exodus of Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh has not produced a lasting impression on Western policymaking nor on public opinion. Dissuasion – if applied convincingly and consistently by a broad coalition of external actors (including even Iran) – can work for deterring this escalation. Conflict prevention is a political endeavor that the European Union is supposed to be good at, and its closer engagement with the fledgling democracy in Armenia combined with its cultivation of energy ties with Azerbaijan might make a difference in keeping the geopolitical rivalries in check.

Diplomacy
Main img

In a high-stakes election, Poland returns to the European mainstream

by Shairee Malhotra

The Polish elections are a harbinger of hope that populism and illiberalism, however entrenched, are reversible. Amidst a week of global headlines captured by terror attacks and hospital bombings, it was easy to miss a general election that took place on October 15 in Central and Eastern Europe. Yet the Polish elections, with their ramifications beyond Poland’s borders, were a crucial event for Europe and the future of democracy worldwide. An existential election The election yielded a loss for the Eurosceptic right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party—a party that has ruled Poland for eight years since 2015 and was responsible for much democratic backsliding, leading Poland down the rabbit hole of illiberalism and authoritarianism. The Opposition, led by Donald Tusk’s (former Polish Prime Minister and President of the European Council) liberal Civic Platform, won 30.7 percent of the total vote and 157 seats in the Parliament and is likely to form a coalition government with the centre-right Third Way. Third Way has 14.4 percent of the vote and 65 seats, and the New Left has 8.6 percent of the vote and 26 seats. Together, the three parties won 248 out of the 460 seats in the Parliament. Even though the ruling PiS at 34 percent won the most votes and 194 seats in the Parliament in this tight election, its alliance with the far-right Confederation that won 7.2 percent of the vote and 18 seats was insufficient to form a majority. This is despite a heavily polarised and inflammatory campaign, where the odds were in the ruling party’s favour, given its capture of state media, institutions, and resources. The statement from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Election Observation Mission in Poland deemed the election as taking place on “an uneven playing field”. Besides the elections, the ruling party also held a referendum with questions involving immigration that would cast a negative light on the European Union (EU), and by extension the pro-EU Opposition, and which rewarded localities with the highest voter turnouts, particularly small towns in rural areas that are supportive of PiS. PiS’s socially conservative agenda and dramatic takeover of Poland’s democratic institutions including the judiciary led to bitter rule of law disputes, with the European Commission withholding €36 billion of pandemic recovery funds until this backsliding was reversed. Under PiS rule, Poland saw poverty and unemployment decline and the economy grow by over 50 percent. Yet the repercussions from the pandemic and the Ukraine war amounted to Poland suffering amongst the highest inflation rates, at over 18 percent in parts of 2022, in Europe. Scandals such as PiS officials allegedly selling visas for bribes also contributed to dwindling support amongst voters. Thus, in a record voter turnout of 74.4 percent—greater than the turnout of 63 percent recorded in the historic 1989 Polish election when voters rejected communism—the 2023 polls were existential in nature, marking a moment of truth for the overall direction and future of Poland as a liberal European democracy. This close win by progressive pro-European forces marks an opportunity for the EU’s fifth-largest country with a GDP of US$ 700 billion to return to the European mainstream. A string of reversals Amongst a new Tusk-led government’s top aims will be the unblocking of EU funds, a reversal of illiberal reforms including the reinstating of judicial and media independence, and restoration of abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Yet unwinding a lot of what PiS put in place will not be an easy task, starting with the transition of power, which will likely be complicated by Poland’s PiS-aligned President Andrzej Duda, who will remain in power until 2025 and will initially give PiS, the party with the largest votes, the chance to form a government. Besides, ideological differences within Tusk’s coalition could also complicate decision-making. Crucially, Poland is a front-line state in the Western coalition against Russia and amongst the staunchest supporters of Kyiv, both in terms of political support and military supplies. The country is hosting over a million Ukrainian refugees and has become a critical Western transit hub for arms and aid. However, relations between Warsaw and Kyiv came under strain with the Polish embargo on Ukrainian grain imports in a bid to appeal to Polish farmers for votes, with even talks of halting military aid and cutting back support for Ukrainian refugees. A new government in Warsaw is likely to iron out these tensions and continue supporting Kyiv, which is good news for an increasingly fragile Western alliance. Brussels’ delight Despite looming political uncertainties, the results will reset Poland’s relations with the EU and restore Polish credibility. This presents opportunities for Warsaw to reposition itself from ‘pariah’ to power centre in the EU and NATO, particularly as Europe’s centre of gravity shifts from West to East. A progressive government in Poland will also break with the anti-EU Budapest-Warsaw alliance—an alliance that was tearing apart at the foundations of the EU itself, given that the EU is a rule of law construct—and render it incapable of playing spoiler at the EU level in tackling issues such as migration. Ultimately, the Polish elections are a harbinger of hope that populism and illiberalism, however entrenched, are reversible. And a reminder that every vote counts. The folks in Brussels are right to rejoice.

Diplomacy
Main img

President Meloni’s address at the Cairo Summit for Peace

by Giorgia Meloni

President Al-Sisi, thank you for the speed and determination with which you have organised this conference. I consider this to be a very important conference following the terrible attack by Hamas on 7 October which, we must remember, was carried out against unarmed civilians with unprecedented, appalling brutality, and which, from our point of view, it is right to unambiguously condemn. It was only right for Italy to participate in this conference, given its historical role as a bridge for dialogue between Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and also considering the opportunities presented by this summit, despite the fact that starting positions may seem somewhat distant at times because, even if our starting viewpoints may not perfectly overlap, what does perfectly overlap is our interest – the interest of all leaders sitting around this table, and that interest is to ensure what is happening in Gaza does not become a much wider conflict, that it does not turn into a religious war, a clash of civilisations, as that would mean the efforts courageously made over the last years to the contrary, to normalise relations, would have been in vain. The impression I get – and I am saying this with my usual frankness – is that, considering the way Hamas carried out its attack, its real objective was not to defend the right of the Palestinian people, but rather to force a response against Gaza that would fundamentally undermine any attempts at dialogue and create an unbridgeable gap between Arab countries, Israel, the West, thereby definitively compromising peace and well-being for all citizens involved, including those it says it wants to defend and represent. This means that we are all the target, and I do not think we can fall into this trap: that would be very stupid indeed. This is why I believe it is important to be here, why I believe it is very important to continue dialogue and discussions. I believe there are a number of key points to be reiterated. Firstly, terrorism has hit the Muslim world more than it has the West. In fact, terrorist acts over time have weakened peoples’ legitimate demands, especially in the Muslim world. Within this dynamic, there is the choice of Hamas to use terrorism to prevent any kind of dialogue and any prospect of arriving at a concrete solution, also for the Palestinian people. However, no cause justifies terrorism. No cause justifies actions that are knowingly designed to target unarmed civilians. No cause justifies women being massacred and newborns being decapitated, deliberately filmed on camera. No cause. When faced with such actions, a State is fully entitled to claim its right to exist, defend itself and ensure the security of its citizens and borders. However, and this brings me to the second point, a State’s reaction cannot and must not ever be driven by feelings of revenge. This is why States are what they are; they are our point of reference. A State bases its reactions on precise security reasons, ensuring proportionate use of force and protecting the civilian population. These are the boundaries within which a State’s reaction to terrorism must remain, and I am confident that this is also the will of the State of Israel. Thirdly, our immediate priority remains humanitarian access, which is essential to prevent further suffering among the civilian population as well as mass exoduses that would contribute to destabilising this region. This is something we do not need. I consider the mediation work that has been carried out in this regard by several players attending this conference to be very important. I consider the European Commission’s decision to triple its humanitarian aid for Gaza, taking the total to over EUR 75 million, to also be very important. Italy is also working to increase bilateral aid, but an increase in resources must clearly be accompanied by very strict control over who uses those resources. Encouraging developments are coming from this morning. President Al-Sisi, I thank you for this too. We are very concerned about the fate of the hostages in the hands of Hamas, and, as you know, there are also Italians among them. We ask for the immediate release of all hostages, clearly starting with women, children and the elderly. It is important to keep working together to get vulnerable people and foreign civilians out of Gaza. Above all, we must do the impossible to avoid an escalation of this crisis, to avoid losing control of what may happen, because the consequences would be unimaginable. The most serious way to achieve this goal is to resume a political initiative for a structural solution to the crisis based on the prospect of two peoples and two States. This solution must be concrete and, in my view, it must have a defined time frame. The Palestinian people must have the right to be a nation that governs itself, freely, next to a State of Israel whose right to exist and right to security must be fully recognised. In this regard, Italy is ready to do absolutely everything that is necessary. Thank you again, Mr. President.

Diplomacy
Main img

Russia-Iraq talks

by Vladimir Putin , Mohammed Chia al-Soudani

Vladimir Putin met with Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani, currently on an official visit to Russia. The beginning of Russia-Iraq talks President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues, friends, Welcome to Russia and Moscow. Mr Prime Minister, We are delighted to see you. Relations between our countries are developing rather successfully. Next year, we will mark the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations. In previous decades, our country accomplished very much in building relations with Iraq, and in the most diverse fields – first and foremost in the economic sphere. An intergovernmental commission is working on this today. In 2022, our trade soared by 43 percent but, unfortunately, dropped this year. We have a lot to discuss. In this sense, of course, your visit is quite timely. The energy sector is certainly the main aspect of our collaboration. Our largest companies operate rather successfully in your country. Our companies have invested a total of about $19 billion, and our collaboration, already quite effective in this area, is only going to expand. We coordinate our work within the OPEC + format, and we are doing this rather successfully in order to stabilise the situation on global markets. On the whole, we are enjoying much success, and I hope that we will continue working in this manner moving forward. We have many bilateral objectives, and we will focus our attention on all of them. Tomorrow, we will take part in a plenary meeting of the Russian Energy Week. This is a valuable and respectable international event in the field of global energy, during which specialists and experts can convene and discuss current developments, as well as shorter-term and remote prospects. Of course, your visit to Russia is taking place amid crises: the Ukrainian crisis continues, and, unfortunately, we are witnessing a sharp deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. I think that many will agree with me that this is a clear example of the United States’ failed policy in the Middle East, which tried to monopolise the settlement process, but, unfortunately, was not concerned with finding compromises acceptable to both sides, but, on the contrary, put forward its own ideas about how this should be done and put pressure on both sides, truly both: first on one, then on the other. But each time without considering the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people, bearing in mind, first of all, the need to implement the decision of the UN Security Council on the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state. But in any case, no matter what happens there… I know your position, Mr Prime Minister, and our position is that harm to the civilian population should be minimised and reduced to zero, and we call on all sides of the conflict to do so. We will certainly talk about this, as well as other problems, during your visit today. After the expanded meeting, we are also planning a face-to-face conversation during a private lunch. There will be an opportunity to discuss everything in detail. Welcome again, Mr Prime Minister. Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq Muhammed Shia Al-Sudani (retranslated): Thank you very much, Mr President. Greetings to the members of the delegations. Thank you very much for the invitation to visit Russia. Russia is a friendly country we have deep and historic ties with. I would like to once again express Iraq’s gratitude to Russia for its support in the fight against terrorism, the war against terrorism, for providing us with weapons so that we could resist armed terrorist gangs. Without a doubt, this episode in the relationship is very valuable; 2014 was of great importance for relations between our countries. With our visit, we want to strengthen interaction and develop relations that have excellent prospects in the political, security, cultural and economic spheres. We have many different opportunities before us. We have a good foundation; there are Russian companies that operate, for example, in the oil and gas sector. Our countries play an important role on the oil market, and therefore it is important for us to continue bilateral coordination and cooperation within the OPEC+ format. This coordination should be based on consideration of supply and demand mechanisms, and the interests of investors, producers and consumers. We will, of course, touch on and discuss these issues during today’s meeting. And tomorrow we will also have a good opportunity to discuss these issues, as well as energy issues, which, of course, are the focus of many, including the Iraqi government. Our visit is taking place at a time when we can see the implementation of a large development project that will ensure trade between Asia and Europe and contribute to the integration of transport corridors, I mean the North – South Transport Corridor first of all. This will support all countries in the region and the entire world and have a positive effect on them. Now, developments in Palestine have taken a complicated and dangerous turn. This is the natural result of the fact that Israel has continued to violate the rights of Palestinians, while the international community has remained silent and failed to live up to its obligations under internationally recognised resolutions. We are now witnessing another Intifada: an uprising of Palestinians demanding to put an end to such violations of their rights. An obvious escalation, and a very dangerous one, with civilians killed as a result and spontaneous bombings carried out, including against civilian targets: all this may result in the destruction of the Gaza Strip. Now we all, as Arab and Islamic countries, and also together with Russia, a permanent member of the [UN] Security Council, a great power, have a responsibility here. This is a moral responsibility, including on major powers, to stop these violations of the rights of Palestinians and to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Of course, today Iraq is trying to maintain stability in all regions through its policies, including with regard to the Ukrainian crisis. We have suffered greatly from blockades and war; of course, that is why our position is firm: we support the search for peaceful solutions through dialogue to end conflicts that have very negative consequences at the humanitarian level and at the economic level. Obviously, the purpose of this visit is discussing these issues and our common positions as well as strengthening our bilateral relations. We also want to contribute to relieving the suffering in the region and ensuring stability in the Middle East and the entire world. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Thank you. <…>

Diplomacy
Main img

Understanding Türkiye's Attitude Towards the Israel-Hamas Conflict

by Cheuk Yui (Thomas) Kwong (Chinese: 鄺卓睿)

Türkiye has firmly opposed any harm to civilians and innocents in Gaza and Israel. Despite keeping with his unwavering support for Palestine and maintaining a close relationship with Hamas, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not want the conflict to hinder the process of normalising relations with Israel.   Türkiye has delicately navigated both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict while pursuing its own interests, including drawing international attention away from Türkiye’s military action against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated militant groups in Syria and Iraq. During the 1990s, Türkiye and Israel developed a quasi-alliance marked by robust security cooperation over shared objectives and concerns, including mutual apprehensions regarding Syria, arresting the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and deepening intelligence sharing. This approach persisted during the early years of Erdoğan’s leadership, exemplified by his 2005 visit to Israel alongside a sizable delegation of corporate representatives. During this visit, Erdoğan proposed to mediate peace between Israel and the Arab world while seeking a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Regrettably, this proposal did not yield positive results, and a series of events unfolded between 2008 and 2010 that impaired the Türkiye-Israel relationship, including the Israel-Gaza conflicts, a heated exchange between Erdoğan and the Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Davos forum in 2009, the visit of Hamas leader Khalid Mashal to Türkiye, and the Mavi Marmara Incident.   In 2016, Israel and Türkiye tried to reconcile their strained relationship. However, this attempt faltered following the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s condemnation of Türkiye’s military campaigns in north-eastern Syria in 2019. Türkiye also sheltered Hamas leaders, further upsetting Israel and deteriorating the bilateral relationship until Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s state visit to Türkiye last year.   For now, Türkiye finds itself in a dilemma. If Erdoğan does nothing on the Palestinian issue and the current conflict in Gaza, his loyal voters, particularly the Muslim conservatives, will abandon his ruling coalition in the upcoming local elections on 31 March 2024. Moreover, his Islamist and moderate conservative rivals like Ahmet Davutoglu, the former prime minister, have shown considerable support for Palestinians along with some critical figures inside the coalition, like Devlet Bahçeli. These groups have called for active intervention in Gaza with a potential success in attracting the Muslim conservatives, presenting a challenge to Erdoğan.   However, if Türkiye fully supports Hamas, such an endorsement will cause Türkiye more harm than good. The rapprochement with Israel would disappear, and the relationship with the US and other Western allies would dilapidate, exacerbating economic conditions and national security. On both fronts, Ankara believes that rapprochement with Israel can persuade the Jewish lobbyists and pro-Israeli, cross-party groups to support Türkiye in securing the sale of F16 fighter jets on Capitol Hill, modernising its air force. Moreover, Israeli investments and possible bilateral cooperation in the energy sector can contribute to improving the economic conditions in Türkiye. These efforts will come to nought if Erdoğan expresses solidarity with Hamas. Its NATO allies and Israel would further suspend cooperation in other security areas, such as addressing Ankara’s insecurity along its south eastern border close to Kurdistan in Syria and Iraq, and intelligence sharing, leaving Türkiye more isolated in the international community.   Domestically, Turkish nationalists, the king-maker of the last Turkish presidential election, have criticised Hamas’ actions and the Arab people for chanting support for Hamas and Palestine in Türkiye. Meral Akşener, an opposition leader in Türkiye, denounced Hamas’ actions as terrorism during her party’s group meeting. Meral argued that the Syrian refugees should go and fight themselves instead of chanting for the sending of Turkish military forces to Gaza.     The MetroPoll further shows that a majority of the Turkish voters want Erdoğan to be either neutral (34.5 percent), play a role in mediating the conflict (26.4 percent) or keep a distance from Hamas while expressing his solidarity with Palestinians (18.1 percent). It is notable that few are asking for direct support for Hamas or Israel. Although the country is highly divided, a clear majority want their government not to support Hamas and upset Israel.   To be sure, these results put Erdoğan and his coalition in a dilemma on how to appease religious conservatives, moderates, Turkish nationalists, and the people who want their government not to support Hamas but can express solidarity with Palestinians simultaneously. If Erdoğan cannot secure the continued support from Turkish nationalists and religious conservatives, then these voters are expected not to support Erdoğan in the upcoming local elections amid having a profoundly fragmented opposition. This risk remains even if these voters choose to back his allies in the MHP, as it could erode Erdoğan’s standing within the ruling coalition.   For now, Erdoğan has been able to minimalise the damage to Türkiye-Israel relations. He has opposed the attacks and killings of civilians in both Israel and Gaza, and has decried the humanitarian situation in Gaza, while also advocating for creating a free state of Palestine amid a two-state solution. Erdoğan has also spoken with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian/ Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas in expressing his proposal to allow Türkiye to be a mediator.  Furthermore, Erdoğan has called for dialogue and mediation between Israel and Palestine while distancing himself from supporting Hamas, but calling Israeli behaviour a war crime during the “Great Palestinian Meeting” in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport last Saturday. The attempt to mediate conflict may perhaps be a bridge too far for Türkiye given Erdoğan’s speeches and the close relationship with Hamas. Regardless of its apparent lack of potential, this approach has received endorsement from the Turkish nationalists while not displeasing the religious conservatives.     In the meantime, Erdoğan has taken full advantage of the Israel-Hamas conflict by attacking the PKK in northeast Syria and Iraq. The 1 October terrorist attack in Ankara targeting the headquarters of the Turkish National Police has triggered massive counterterrorism operations across the country and the neighbouring states conducted by the Turkish military force and the Interior Ministry. Ankara, following the attacks, immediately began its military operation, striking the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ‘s military camps in north-eastern Syria and Iraq, destroying critical energy infrastructure.   The ongoing Israel-Hamas Conflict has now placed Türkiye and its relations with the United States in a challenging position. This situation is further compounded by recent events, such as the US jet shooting down a Turkish drone in Syria and Türkiye’s reluctance to impose sanctions on Russia. Nonetheless, the Israel-Hamas Conflict has effectively redirected international attention away from Türkiye’s actions in Syria and Iraq, easing some of the pressures on Ankara.  While the conflict presents President Erdoğan with a dilemma, it could offer a unique opportunity to pursue his national and regional political aspirations and strategic objectives, including winning the 2024 local elections by a significant margin and working towards Türkiye’s goal of becoming a leading state in the Middle East and South Caucasus.  

Diplomacy
Main img

Political Insights (2): The Chinese Position on the Israeli War on Gaza

by Dr. Mohammad Makram Balawi

Developed Chinese-Israeli Relations… However: China’s diplomatic relations with Israel began in 1992. Beijing has believed that its relations with Tel Aviv would help improve its image in the West and enable it to obtain Western military technology, where bilateral trade reached about $24.4 billion in 2022. However, it has been proven to China, on several occasions, that Israel is not completely immune to US pressure, as it has faced several difficulties in implementing some Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in the port of Haifa. It was prevented from winning a bid to operate the Sorek desalination plant for 25 years, because it is adjacent to the Palmachim Air Base, where US forces are stationed, and is near the Nahal nuclear research facility. Israel has also terminated an arms deal with China and was forced to pay financial compensation, etc. The Israeli position on the Russia-Ukraine war and the Western alliance against Moscow, has reinforced China’s belief that Israel is aligned with the US-Western powers, and that Israeli calculations may change if Western powers decide to take more hostile steps against China, for it’s a fact that the US openly declares that Beijing is its next most dangerous enemy. Furthermore, Israel’s participation in the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) project that Biden announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on 9–10/9/2023, linking India to the Middle East and then into Europe via Israel, and which Netanyahu hailed, have given negative indications. For China sees it as an alternative project to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and that it aims to challenge it. China is seeking to enhance stability in the region for the sake of the BRI projects. It has been working on political initiatives, the most prominent of which was the Saudi Arabia-Iran announcement to resume diplomatic relations, which came following Chinese-brokered talks held in Beijing. However, the US, in partnership with Israel, are working to threaten Tehran and maintain its conflict with regional countries, which counters China’s endeavors, destabilizes the region and harms China’s strategic projects. The Position on Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and the Aggression Against Gaza From the onset of the Ukraine war, China has increased its interest in the region, especially Palestine. This was evident following the 20th Communist Party Congress in October 2022, the subsequent summits held by the Chinese President in the Gulf and Arab region, the quiet rapprochement with Hamas and its invitation to visit China, and China’s offers to mediate between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. On the internal level, a small segment of the Chinese elite has shown admiration for the Israeli model and sympathized with it as modern and advanced. However, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood dispelled these illusions and revealed Israel’s bloody racist nature and showed that the West, which established international law and imposed it on the world, does not abide by it, but rather uses it selectively. This has united the Chinese popular and elite position, which considers Israel an occupying state obstructing the two-state solution, and supports the Palestinian people in obtaining their rights. Operation Al-Aqsa Flood strengthened the Chinese conviction of the importance of the region to the Chinese strategy, and the importance of its relationship with Hamas in the Palestinian context, which is consistent with the Russian stance—China’s undeclared ally—regarding the region and the Movement. This consistency in positions was demonstrated in the Russian-Chinese diplomatic support of Hamas, albeit indirectly, and refusing to classify it as a “terrorist” movement. The official Chinese position can be summarized as follows: • Calling on all parties to exercise restraint and ceasefire. • Expressing dissatisfaction with the continued Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip and targeting of civilians, and fear of not maintaining the minimum level of respect for life and international law. • Emphasizing the historical injustice that occurred against the Palestinian people and that it cannot continue; and stressing that the long-term stagnation of the peace process is no longer sustainable. • Using the veto power in partnership with Russia against the US proposal to condemn Hamas and label it as “terrorist.” Concerns about Western US Intervention The Chinese are concerned about the US-Western offensive and defensive military mobilization in the region (including the arrival of US aircraft carriers). They believe that such mobilization is not only related to supporting Israel in its war on Gaza, but also to controlling the regional environment in a way that prevents any force from intervening to support the Palestinian resistance. In addition, it may be intended to exploit the situation to impose Western agendas on the region, including dominating energy sources and prices, especially in light of the significant restrictions imposed by the US and its allies on Russian oil. It may be considered a direct threat to the Chinese economy that depends mainly on energy coming from the Middle East and Gulf oil, and it also threatens China’s projects and economic relations in the region. Supporting Palestine Based on Accurate Calculations It may be in China’s interest to support the Palestinian resistance, even if only politically, and to perpetuate the exhaustion of the US in the region, to reduce Western pressure on East Asia. However, Chinese policy has so far distanced itself from direct intervention in regional conflicts and from direct entry into a conflict—that has military dimensions—with Western powers. This means that China will be very reluctant to do any move beyond the political and humanitarian support of the Palestinian people, and if it is forced, it will be in the near term indirectly, and through intermediary or third parties such as Syria and Iran. However, if the conflict is prolonged and Chinese interests are severely damaged, China may review its policies to protect its interests, including strengthening its military presence and supporting its allies and friends in the region.

Defense & Security
Main img

Speech Minister Bruins Slot at the UN Security Council open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

by Hanke Bruins Slot

Speech by Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, at the UN Security Council quarterly open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 24 October 2023. The spoken word applies. Thank you, Mr President, I thank the Secretary-General for his briefing. Mr President, On 7 October, the world witnessed a horrific terrorist attack on Israel. The horrendous violence carried out by Hamas was not aimed at military targets. Rather, it was an attempt to destroy people’s souls. By taking hostages and, murdering civilians, and this threat from Hamas is far from over. In this context we should all stand united: by supporting Israel. And its right to self-defence against the terror threat of Hamas. As we’ve said before: the use of force in self-defence must be necessary and proportionate. And international humanitarian law must be respected. By all parties. This means that every possible measure to protect civilians must be taken. That humanitarian workers must be able to do their job safely and unhindered. And that UN premises and personnel remain safe from harm. All of this requires restraint on the part of Israel in the use of force. Mr President, the Kingdom of the Netherlands shares the concerns voiced by so many today. The situation for civilians in Gaza is catastrophic. They are in dire need of aid. We cannot afford to lose more time. So far, the first convoys have entered Gaza. We need a sustained flow of humanitarian aid of all basis needs. And much more is needed, including fuel. Water supplies need to be restored immediately. Humanitarian pauses are crucial to allow much-needed aid to get through. And a permanent humanitarian corridor is the only way to prevent the situation getting much worse. The Netherlands will step up its humanitarian response. We’ve committed an additional 10 million euros for immediate humanitarian relief; 8 million euros of which is for UNWRA. This funding aims to improve the living conditions for Palestinian citizens, including mental health and psychosocial support. We are also extremely concerned about the conflict spreading beyond the borders of Israel and Gaza. And we call on all concerned to prevent this from happening. We also urge all parties to do their utmost to prevent further escalation in the West Bank. In this context, we will continue with our development aid for stability. The Palestinian Authority fulfils an important role within their power in preventing a further deterioration and deserves our strong support. Settler violence is worsening an already tense situation. This must stop. Let me conclude, Mr President, by saying that our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims and the hostages that need to be released immediately and unconditionally. When the UN was created in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of the first major crises calling for urgent attention. Today, more than 75 years later, the need to find a solution to this conflict is more pressing and crucial than ever. The Netherlands calls on this Council to provide the leadership required to manage this crisis, contain it and provide perspective on sustainable peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians as the only way forward. In this context I would like to thank the tireless efforts of the UN and express my gratitude to the UN staff acting on the ground. We cannot go back to the status quo; the two-state solution is more urgently needed than ever. Because both sides need it, both sides are entitled to it, and both sides deserve it. Thank you, Mr President.