In a move that may compromise diplomatic ties between Norway and the People’s Republic of China, this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace has been awarded to 54 year-olf Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident currently still incarcerated by the regime. The decision follows weeks of steady pressure from the Chinese Foreign Ministry urging the Nobel Committee to reject Liu as an unsuitable candidate. The Chinese government considers him to be a criminal.
The President of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, instead hailed Liu as “the foremost symbol of the wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China”. Announcing the citation, Jagland said that China must live up to a new level of responsibility commensurate with its increasing status in global affairs, noting that its behaviour towards its citizens was in material breach of international agreements to which it is a signatory and also its own laws.
This is the basis of Liu Xioabo’s own critique of his country. He was jailed on December 25th, 2009 for drafting Charter 08, which calls for multi-party democracy to be established in China, ending single-party Communist rule. He has consistently affirmed that the sentence was in violation of China’s own constitution.
Abbas seeks Arab League backing for suspending talks
On Friday, direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority seemed on the verge of collapse when it was reported that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, will be asking for the backing of the Arab League in suspending dialogue. The reason for the proposed halt in negotiations is the contentious decision of the Israeli government that a ten-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank would not be extended. The move was announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September.
Arab foreign ministers are due to meet on Friday in the Libyan city of Sirte and, according to Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas will tell them “resuming negotiations requires a full freeze of settlement activities”. Abbas is seeking a three to four month extension of the moratorium. The talks, brokered with the aid of the United States, are meant to lead to a two-state solution within a year. Both Washington and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have urged Abbas to continue the peace talks. There are currently 500,000 Israeli settlers living in over 120 settlements in the West Bank.
Peacekeepers kidnapped in Darfur
On Thursday evening armed men attempted to kidnap two UN civilian peacekeepers in El Fasher, the capital of Sudan’s north Darfur state. One peacekeeper managed to escape but the other remains captive. The incident occurred just hours after UN Security Council envoys arrived in El Fasher on a week-long visit to try to press the warring sides for progress in ending the seven year conflict. Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for UNAMID, the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force operating in Darfur, said that armed men entered a residence where four civilian members of staff were staying. They then tied two of the staff up, and attempted to kidnap the other two.
Saiki said that the missing man was not Sudanese, but did not release any more details. He also stated that, although the town is subject to car-jackings and break-ins, this is the first time that an international worker had been abducted in El Fasher. Outside the city, however, there have been 22 reported abductions of aid workers and peace keepers since March 2009. The rise in hostility is attributed by aid groups to the International Criminal Court’s issuing an arrest order for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on the charge of orchestrating war crimes in Darfur.