Americas: Colombian government and ELN guerrillas to resume formal peace talks in November

Sectors: all; oil and gas; electricity
Key Risks: terrorism; insurgency; targeted attacks; kidnapping

In Colombia, on 4 October President Gustavo Petro’s government and the leftist ELN guerrillas announced that formal peace talks between the two parties would resume in November. Norway, Venezuela and Cuba were named as “guarantor states”. The location of the talks is yet to be confirmed. The widely expected joint announcement followed meetings in Caracas, Venezuela. Peace talks with the ELN were first launched by former president Juan Manuel Santos in 2017 and were suspended by his successor Ivan Duque in 2019. The expected negotiations may set the path for similar peace processes with armed criminal groups, some of which have agreed to unilateral ceasefires amid interest in launching formal talks with Petro, who has pledged to achieve ‘total peace’ in the violence-ridden country. The start date for the fresh ELN peace process is expected to be announced in early November.

Asia Pacific: Malaysia’s PM Ismail bows to political pressure and triggers early general election

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; economic risks; civil unrest

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved Parliament and called for a general election nearly a year ahead of schedule in a bid to win a stronger mandate and secure political stability following months of pressure from his own party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). The Election Commission has yet to announce a date for the vote, which by law must be held within 60 days of the Parliament’s dissolution. Allies of former prime minister Najib Razak, including party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had vigorously pushed for early elections to capitalise on UMNO’s recent state election victories despite PM Ismail’s insistence on more time to focus on the country’s economic recovery. The decision was called despite protests by the opposition cautioning against holding elections during the monsoon, as floods are likely to hamper logistical arrangements and negatively impact voter turnout.

Eurasia: Russian forces launch series of missile strikes against major cities across Ukraine 

Sectors: all
Key risks: war on land

In Ukraine, on 10 October Russian forces launched a barrage of missile strikes against major cities nationwide, killing at least 11 people and injuring over 60 others. The casualty toll could further rise as rescue operations continue. President Vladimir Putin stated that the strikes came as a response to what he calls a ‘terrorist attack’ against the Crimea bridge on 8 October. Putin alleged that Ukraine’s special services were behind the blast which left at least three killed. The series of strikes also came only two days after Sergei Surovinik – an alleged advocate of strikes against infrastructure facilities and civilian targets – was appointed as the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine. Putin warned that further such strikes should be expected if Kyiv were to carry out further attacks against Russia’s assets. Further attacks against civilian targets and critical infrastructure are highly likely.

Europe: German police launches investigation into alleged rail sabotage 

Sectors: all; transportation
Key Risks: sabotage; transportation 

In northern Germany, on 8 October the national rail lines went offline for nearly three hours. State-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn alleged that the incident was caused by sabotage to radio communication cables. The fibre optical cables were reportedly damaged in Hohenschönhausen, a north-eastern suburb of Berlin, and in the town of Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia. No potential suspect was immediately identified but police later stated that there were no signs of any foreign state’s involvement. The attack came amid increased concerns over the security of European critical infrastructure following the explosions of the Nord Stream gas pipelines on 27 September, which authorities believe were acts of sabotage. On 10 October police in the western city of Bochum stated that the state protection unit was investigating potential political motives behind the incidents.

MENA: No resolution on border dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean

Sectors: energy; oil and gas
Key Risks: war; economic

Israel and Lebanon remain engaged in a contentious border dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean. With substantial potential economic benefits at stake, US-mediated talks have reached a stalemate. While Israel maintains that the Karish gas field falls entirely within its exclusive economic zone, Lebanon claims that part of the field is in its own territorial waters. After rejecting Lebanon’s latest revisions to the draft agreement, Israel’s Energy Ministry authorised testing to start on the disputed field. Tel Aviv could be looking to take advantage of Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis to effectively claim exclusive rights on Karish. There is a high risk of escalation. Hizbullah has already threatened attacks on Israeli offshore installations and Israeli Defence Forces have been put on high alert. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid could be tempted to take a hardline position for political gains as he faces an arduous electoral battle on 1 November election.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Newly formed RFP set to win Lesotho’s 7 October general election

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; policy uncertainty

In Lesotho, hundreds of thousands of voters took to the polls on 7 October to vote in the country’s general election. Although the final results will be released on 11 October, preliminary results show that the newly-formed Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party led by Sam Matekane is set to win the election with a simple majority. The current ruling coalition All Basotho Convention (ABC) has fared poorly and is at risk of not winning seats. The RFP, which was formed in March, has promised to diversify the economy, improve state institutions and increase investment in agriculture and natural resource exploration. The country has previously experienced bouts of political instability due to infighting in the ruling coalition. However, the RFP’s parliamentary majority will likely see Matekane lead the government without the need for a coalition.