A way forward in Venezuela, Ukraine and Yemen

This week’s blog post highlights the prospects for progress in peacefully resolving three international crises where Canada is deeply implicated — Venezuela, Ukraine and Yemen.

A diplomatic solution for Venezuela

After a failed opposition uprising to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in April, a discreet diplomatic effort by Norway now offers the best prospect for finding a peaceful negotiated settlement to the country’s political crisis and averting more violence and instability. – ICG Report 15 July 2019

Key facts:

  • The opposition campaign to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, backed by numerous foreign governments, including the USA and Canada, has stalled.
  • Neither side can claim victory, but each still believes that time is on their side.
  • Exacerbated by crippling American sanctions, the Venezuelan economy is in free fall with an ever-increasing risk of violence, including regional spillover.

What should be done? In the view of ICG:

Pragmatic elements on both sides should seize this fleeting opportunity to seek a compromise solution including early, free, fair and internationally monitored elections and guarantees against a winner-take-all outcome. External allies of government and opposition, together with more neutral international actors, should back these efforts and coordinate their support.

Whither Canada?

The ICG recommends that the Lima Group, chaired by Canada, increase its alignment with the more neutral EU-led International Contact Group and work with them to bolster the Norwegian-led process.

We call on Canada to undertake immediate consultations with the Lima Group so this vital window of opportunity for a compromise solution is not lost.


Dialogue and outreach in Eastern Ukraine

In a recent blog post, we highlighted an analysis by Canadian Andrew Rasiulis on the new scope for diplomacy occasioned by the recent election of President Volodymyr Zelinskiy.  See: Canada needs more courage in its Ukraine policy (5 July 2019).

Now a 16 July Report by the International Crisis Group asserts that Russia’s gradual retreat from any plans to annex parts of Eastern Ukraine, much to the dismay of its separatist “proxies” in the region, opens up real opportunities for the new Ukrainian President to restart dialogue with the people of the east and help lay the groundwork for Ukraine’s unification, based on withdrawal of Russian troops and some level of autonomy for eastern Ukraine:

If the Ukrainian government wants to peacefully reunify with the rebel-held territories, it cannot avoid engaging the alienated east…. Over time, such policies could bring a population in the east that feels abandoned by both Russia and Kyiv back into the Ukrainian fold.

Whither Canada?

We call on Canada to offer its full diplomatic support for this approach.


Saving the Yemen peace process and avoiding a wider war

Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Yemen. As the UN-led peace process flounders, and the US-instigated crisis with Iran exponentially increases the prospects of a region-wide conflagration, a new International Crisis Group report sets out the urgent steps necessary to avoid catastrophe:

International actors, notably the UN Security Council’s permanent members, ought to seize the initiative, revive their active support for UN-led mediation, and pressure the parties to de-escalate.

Whither Canada?

As we have noted before, Canada’s welcome aid to help mitigate the horrific humanitarian crisis in Yemen is tragically undermined by our continued military support to Saudi Arabia, a key architect of the ongoing misery of innocent Yemeni civilians.

Despite a Canadian suspension of future arms sales and a never-ending “review” of current military exports, the Report of 2018 Exports of Military Goods (Global Affairs Canada), tabled in Parliament on 20 June, shows that Canada’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia more than doubled from 2017 numbers and represented 62% of our non-USA destined arms exports.

RI President Peggy Mason, in a recent interview with the Hill Times, called the spike in arms sales “absolutely shocking” and further stated:

It makes one really question whether the review is just window dressing to placate those calling for Canada to immediately suspend its exports… and it puts the lie to any serious consideration by the government of a strong response.

In an Open Letter released on 26 June more than 100 academics, labour activists and others urged the Canadian Labour Congress to denounce Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia on the basis of “credible evidence” they are using Canadian-made weapons in their devastating war in Yemen.

We call on all Canadians who wish to end Canada’s ongoing complicity in Saudi human rights abuses in Yemen by clicking on this link to the Open Letter and associated petition.

We call again on the Government of Canada to join the side of peace in Yemen by immediately ending any further arms exports to Saudi Arabia.


Photo credit: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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