Talking Peace: This week in global diplomatic negotiations

Diplomats around the world are meeting for negotiations on military withdrawals, peace treaties, human rights issues, and power transfers.

The UN has stepped into tensions in Guinea, the French president is set to visit Tunisia, and John Kerry has been on a two-week tour that has included stops in Russia and Israel to chat with fellow leaders.

Here are some of this week’s updates on important peace talks to keep an eye on:


French President François Hollande will be the first French President to visit Tunisia since 2008— three years before the country’s revolution, which overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben—prompting Human Rights Watch to announce concerns about free speech they think should be addressed during his July 4 and 5 visit.

Despite increased freedom of expression since the ouster, the statement said, authorities are still using repressive laws to prosecute “objectionable” speech that harms “public morals,” or “public order.”

“No one should be prosecuted for peacefully voicing political, religious, or cultural dissent in Tunisia’s new era,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “Hollande should use France’s leverage as a key trading partner and ally to press Tunisia to protect freedom of expression.”

According to the report, there are currently two Tunisians in prison for “nonviolent speech offenses”—one of them is a 15 year-old boy who was sentenced to two years for posting a video clip of a song called “Cops Are Dogs.” One Tunisian fled the country to evade punishment and received asylum in France, while at least five more are presently on trial for similar offenses.


The United Nations has stepped in to mediate talks between Guinea’s government and opposition parties that have been frozen for two weeks following an attack on an opposition leader, Reuters said yesterday.

The negotiations are aimed at ensuring opposition participation in an upcoming election—which has been postponed from an initial date of June 30—brining political closure to the nation’s transition to civilian rule after a bloody 2008 coup.

The spokesman for Guinean President Alpha Conde said nothing “stands in the way of a comprehensive political agreement” now that security guarantees have been granted to all opposition leaders. All are hopeful that the talks will result in a set date for the previously canceled election.


While US Secretary of State John Kerry may not have made a break-through in resuming peace talks this weekend between Palestine and Israel, he remains optimistic, saying he had “narrowed the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians,” the Associated Press reported.

Kerry said he is working together with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to build a “package” that will bring the sides together. Details on the contents of the package remain a mystery, as Kerry and officials on both sides of the negotiations have refused to comment at length.

Talks have been stalled since 2008, due in large part to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.


Just a couple of weeks after the UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi expressed doubts that Syria peace talks would even take place this month, John Kerry said that the US and Russia are “committed” to holding a peace conference on Syria.

While both the US and Russia agreed that the conference should happen quite soon, GlobalPost reported yesterday, it may not take place until after a busy August for Europeans.

Both Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they are serious about sticking to the June 2012 Geneva process, and agreed that the best solution for Syria is a political transition in which the opposition and the regime each choose members of a transitional administration.

A controversial decision to arm Syrian rebels, made by the Obama administration last month, Kerry said, was meant to create more balance in the conflict because Assad may not join the conversation if he is seeing “victories on the ground.”


British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Afghanistan on Saturday and was very vocal about his support for Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban, despite unenthusiastic comments made by his top general, Nick Carter.

Carter told the Guardian newspaper that the West had missed its opportunity to bring peace to the country in 2002, when the Taliban was vulnerable following 9/11. Contrary to that, Cameron said he believes the time to call on the Taliban is now.

"There is a window of opportunity and I would urge all those who renounce violence, who respect the constitution, who want to have a voice in the future prosperity of this country to seize it," Cameron told reporters in Kabul.

The Taliban must realize, he added, that it cannot use violence to secure its place in Afghanistan’s future—that place can only come if they drop their weapons and commit to a political process.

There is still no set date for negotiations to begin.