News

Tamil families confront Sri Lanka army, Trump edges away from two-state solution, Slovenian criticism to Austria

10 to 16 February

A group of women rest during their protest in Keppapulavu (Mullaitivu).
A group of women rest during their protest in Keppapulavu (Mullaitivu). Author: Garikaalan @ Twitter.
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. In an unusual appearance in headlines, the Slovenian minority in Austria is making its voice heard as it perceives itself being marginalized in the draft Constitution of the state of Carinthia. Way worse than that since years, some 80 Tamil families are holding a protest against the Sri Lankan army, from which they demand the return of their lands, which the military has been occupying since 2009. The week has also been full of referendum-related news in places as diverse as the Faroe Islands, Catalonia, Scotland or Nagorno-Karabakh. Details follow.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT:

Protest against army of Sri Lanka by over 80 Tamil families who demand return of their land enters third week. Those families from the island's northern area of Keppapulavu (Mullaitivu) say that they were displaced from their own lands after these were confiscated by the armed forces of Sri Lanka in 2009, at the final stage of the war against the Tamil Tigers. On January 31, the families argue, the military promised that their lands would be handed over to them on the same day. It was not the case. The protesters have since organized a camp, and say they will not leave until they are allowed to reclaim their land. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has denounced the case at the Parliament of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government has promised to examine it.

MOREOVER:

Trump avoids endorsing the two-state solution as solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president said that any solution should require "flexibility" and "compromise", and recalled that his government does not rule out any option as long as it is accepted by both Israelis as Palestinians. Trump's words have been rejected by the Palestinian camp, which has been understood by them as a step backwards in the last 15 years' insistence from Washington on the two-state solution. UN secretary general António Guterres has warned Trump that "there is no alternative" to the two-state solution.

Spanish Constitutional Court nullifies Parliament of Catalonia's agreement over September 2017 independence referendum. On 15 December 2016,the court had provisionally suspended a resolution that had been agreed by pro-independence parties Together for Yes and CUP in October. The text had opened the road to an independence referendum from Spain. After the court's ruling, the Catalan government has said that the decision does not alter its "will" to hold the vote, and has insisted that it will continue to prepare the referendum so that it can be held before the end of September. In addition, the TC has also agreed to open the door to a case against Parliament of Catalonia chairwoman Carme Forcadell and another four members of the Parliament Bureau.

Faroe Islands head for constitutional referendum in 2018 that could open door to self-determination. The holding of the vote was announced by Faroese Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen, who dubbed it "a triumph for the Faroese people and for democracy in the Faroe Islands." Nationalia has published an extensive report on the issue, with an overview of the whole Nordic Europe as a whole, in its Catalan language section.

Carinthia controversy after new Constitution draft ignores Slovenian minority. The coalition government of the south Austrian Land of Carinthia had agreed that the region's new Constitution should specify that speakers of German and Slovene should be treated on an equal footing. But under pressure of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), the mention has been removed from the draft —only an indirect mention has been preserved—  and the wording now reads that German "is the only official language". National Council of Carinthian Slovenes (NSKS) president Valentin Inzko has described it a "catastrophe" and a "humiliation." Slovenian president Borut Pahor has warned Austrian authorities that cross-border tensions could reignite if the protection of Slovenian speakers is ignored. The European Free Alliance has asked Austria to promote Carinthia's "bilingual and plurinational" nature.

Salmond forecasts second independence referendum in Scotland by October 2018. Speaking to the BBC, the former Scottish PM and current SNP's spokesman for International Affairs at Westminster has linked the decision to the eventuality that Scotland could be left outside the European single market as a result of Brexit. That will be exactly the case, UK PM Theresa May announced last month.

Thousands of Kurds demand release of jailed PKK leader in Strasbourg. In a yearly event for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan, protesters have also asked the Turkish authorities to grant political and cultural rights to the Kurdish people. The Turkish consul in the Alsatian city had unsuccessfully asked that the demonstration be banned. Meanwhile in Kurdistan, the Hüda Par Islamic party has announced its support to amendments to the Turkish Constitution giving the president extra powers, to be voted in an April referendum.

Government of Azerbaijan again rejects Nagorno-Karabakh referendum. Authorities in Baku argue that the vote in the Armenian-majority self-styled republic violates the Azerbaijani Constitution and international law. Nagorno-Karabakh citizens have been called to vote on the adoption of a presidential system for their republic on 20 February.

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