Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Irene Villora discuss the Colombian government resuming peace talks with an armed dissident group of the disbanded FARC guerrillas, plus more on a trans-Pacific free trade pact meeting, the Black Sea grain deal expiring, Syria facing allegations of torture at the world court, and Israel’s president addressing the U.S. Congress..
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This episode includes writing from Factal editors Irene Villora, Joe Veyera, Alex Moore, Sophie Perryer and Agnese Boffano. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is July 13.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got Colombia resuming peace talks with an armed dissident group, a trans-Pacific free trade pact meeting, the Black Sea grain deal expiring, Syria facing allegations of torture at the World Court, and Israel’s president addressing the U.S. Congress.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
FARC peace talks resume
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at the situation with a dissident group in Colombia. For more on that I’ve got our lead for the Latin America desk, Irene Villora.
JIMMY: Hello, Irene.
IRENE: Hello, Jimmy.
JIMMY: All right, Irene, I know you'll get to the latest developments in a bit, but it's been a -- it's been a while since we've covered peace talks in Colombia, so can you give us a bit of a recap on how exactly we got here?
IRENE: So for a bit of context, in 2016, the government of Juan Manuel Santos struck a historical peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla and this involved the demobilization and transition into civilian life of thousands of fighters, as well as the transition into political life of FARC leaders who formed their own political party. This was a landmark in Colombia's history after decades of internal conflict between government and different armed groups. But not all factions of FARC accepted the agreement. So, the Estado Mayor Central was one of the factions that rejected this treaty and they continued fighting the state during the next administration when Ivan Duque was in office. His government was very openly against the peace agreement. His approach was military offensive against the armed groups that remain active in the territory. Now, when current President Petro was running for office in 2022, one of his main campaign promises was to achieve “total peace” with the country's main guerillas and this has been one of the central efforts of his administration since he took office almost a year ago. So, so far his government has achieved a six-month ceasefire with ELN that will be enforced in August and negotiations with the EMC faction of FARC have been going on for months now. Now, the peace talks with EMC were halted in May after four indigenous teenagers were killed after being forcibly recruited by FARC when they were trying to escape one of their camps, and also after a few apparent bumps in the negotiations and miscommunications between the party the talks just stopped. After this, we got a joint statement from both parties on July 7, saying that they would embark in a new round of talks and they would announce the official date soon.
JIMMY: Well, what's the latest then? You know, where are things at the moment?
IRENE: So far we know very little on the progress towards the start of the official negotiations. We know that the teams that are going to take part in the talks will be announced soon and that the main thing they will focus on will be to reach a temporary ceasefire nationwide first before moving on to issues like the logistics of the talks, which will be most likely held in different venues in different countries, establishing mechanisms of verification of the process, as well as international observation, guarantor countries, and the participation of civil society. In terms of violence during this period, the violent actions attributed to FARC have remained steady recently, without evident signs of escalation. And the same goes for the Colombian army offensives, really. An increase in use of force by both could really jeopardize the process.
JIMMY: What -- how has all of this been received by the Colombians and, you know, I guess, what's the international reaction been like as well?
IRENE: This is a highly divisive subject among Colombians. There's two very clear groups. So, conservative parties tried to boycott the peace process of 2016 and their position has really not changed very much toward the policy of the new administration. Their supporters basically disagree with any concessions to guerrillas and they advocate for a zero tolerance policy and they prefer a full-on military offensive on groups as opposed to dialogue and peace processes. But on the other hand, the supporters of the progressive government, a lot of young people, and a significant part of victims of the conflict, especially in rural and impoverished areas, have been quite keen on the advancement of the negotiations as a potential solution to more than five decades of war. The international reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, I will say, with a lot of countries like Spain, Norway, Brazil, the US, you know, among others, expressing their availability to help in the process, offering their own countries as venues to hold the talks and their international observers to guarantee that the process is taking place within the adequate international standards.
JIMMY: Well, Irene, given that, what do you think folks should be watching for in the days, weeks and months ahead?
IRENE: So until a ceasefire is announced, it is still considered kind of fair game to engage in fighting and offensive actions, so we cannot really expect a total halting of violence until further notice, and this applies to both sides of the conflict. We are likely to still see a few military operations from the government and it wouldn't be rare to see a few attacks from the FARC side, but as I said before, violence hasn't been very enhanced recently so hopefully we won't see many of those. The next thing we should see in this process is: One, the announcement of the key negotiators for the talks and hopefully very soon an official day for the start of the talks. And next to that, we should have a date and a duration for a temporary ceasefire.
JIMMY: Well, Irene, I guess we'll leave it there for today, but as always, I thank you for keeping us informed. Always appreciate your insight.
IRENE: Thank you very much.
JIMMY: Take care.
CPTPP meets in New Zealand
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: Members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership will gather in Auckland starting Saturday.
The United Kingdom expected to formally join the pact after two years of negotiations for that country's biggest trade deal since Brexit.
The free trade agreement was initially signed by 11 countries in March 2018, with the Indo-Pacific bloc combining to generate 14 percent of the world's income.
With the United Kingdom's ascension complete, the focus is expected to shift to China's effort, with Taiwan, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay and, most recently, Ukraine submitting their own requests to join.
In an attempt to boost their bid, China will ease several economic and trade rules on a trial basis.
Now, all member countries must approve an application to join the group, setting a high bar for entry.
The United States remains conspicuously absent from the pact, after then President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2017.
That dealt a significant blow to hopes the pact could serve as a counterbalance to Chinese influence in the region.
Black Sea grain deal expires
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: An agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations to facilitate grain shipments through the Black Sea is once again set to expire on Monday.
The deal, which was initially struck nearly a year ago, helps facilitate shipments of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea following months of blockade since Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine last February.
While the agreement initially helped stabilize global food prices and stave off a crisis, its future has been in limbo on multiple occasions.
It has faced three last-minute extensions, most recently in May when the agreement was extended for 60 days.
Now, Russia is once again issuing threats to let the agreement die unless certain demands are met, including reconnecting Russia’s Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT international payment system.
Diplomatic efforts are already underway to reach an agreement with Moscow to extend the arrangement for a fourth time.
Failure to reach an extension risks worsening ongoing humanitarian crises in countries reliant upon Ukrainian grain, such as Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Preparations are already underway in Ukraine in the instance the agreement is not extended, including bolstering exports on land through Poland and Romania.
World Court to hear Syria torture claims
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague will begin hearing a case over allegations of torture against Syria on Wednesday.
It will be the first time the World Court has weighed in on any aspect of the conflict in Syria since a civil war broke out 12 years ago.
The body announced in June it had received an application from Canada and the Netherlands, asking for emergency intervention to protect civilians from torture and seeking to prosecute Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for human rights violations under the U.N. Convention against Torture.
Now, the ICJ typically takes years to rule on a case like this, although it can recommend measures in the interim to prevent a situation from deteriorating.
However, given the court has no way of enforcing its rulings, it is highly unlikely any decision would make a significant difference on the ground in Syria.
Still, it would serve as a symbolic victory against al-Assad’s government if he is found to be in breach of the U.N.’s torture convention.
Israel's President Herzog to address joint meeting of U.S. Congress
Information compiled by Agnese Boffano
JIMMY: Israeli President Isaac Herzog has been invited to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.
His visit is aimed at celebrating Israel’s 75th anniversary.
Despite the president's position being a largely ceremonial role in Israel, Herzog’s meeting comes at a time of great tension with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Netanyahu said he was no longer seeking to grant the parliament the authority to overturn Supreme Court rulings, which was one of the key elements of the contested judicial reforms.
Now, Israel and the United States continue to hold relatively strong ties, evident in a statement by U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in which he said that “the world is better off when America and Israel work together.”
But Netanyahu has yet to receive a formal invitation to the White House, despite serving for a sixth term, which analysts describe as an “apparent signal of U.S. displeasure over his policies.”
The Biden administration has previously criticized Israeli authorities advancing plans to build about 5,700 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, though the U.S. has taken little action to stop that project.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Alex Moore, Sophie Perryer and Agnese Boffano. Our interview featured editor Irene Villora and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe