Americas: US eases sanctions as Venezuelan government begins fresh talks with the opposition

Sectors: all; energy
Key Risks: sanctions; business risks

In Venezuela, on 26 November the US eased oil sanctions on the country to support the start of fresh Oslo-mediated talks between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and opposition representatives in Mexico’s capital Mexico City. The official negotiations are focused on agreeing on conditions for the 2024 presidential elections and on a US$3bln humanitarian aid programme via funds that were previously frozen by US financial sanctions. The easing of sanctions – in place since January 2019 – allowed US Chevron Corp and other firms to resume the production and export of Venezuelan oil. International efforts to relieve Venezuela’s multiple crises have grown in recent months as pressure on global energy supplies increased following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The further easing of US and other sanctions will likely remain contingent on meaningful progress during the government-opposition talks, which remains uncertain.

Asia Pacific: Rare protests erupt across China over prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; violent clashes; political instability

In China, thousands reportedly took part in an unprecedented wave of protests that began on 25 November against prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns and stringent social restrictions in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Lanzhou, Urumqi and other cities. The protests were prompted by an apartment fire in Urumqi on 24 November which killed 10 people after they were reportedly trapped, partly due to ongoing lockdown measures. Protesters in Shanghai and Beijing openly called on President Xi Jinping to resign and condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s enforcement of its zero-COVID-19 policy. While protests are unlikely to be sustained given the government’s advanced social surveillance measures, there is an elevated risk of violent clashes between security forces and an increasingly agitated public. With further protests likely, authorities are expected to intensify censorship and bolster security force presence to clamp down on public displays of dissent.

Eurasia: Ukraine prepares for further Russian missile strikes against power infrastructure 

Sectors: all; energy
Key risks: war on land 

In Ukraine, on 27 November President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of further Russian attacks on energy infrastructure amid freezing temperatures. The warning came after Ukrainian officials in Kyiv announced that heat, water and mobile networks had been restored in the city following the 23 November massive barrage of Russian missile strikes which left millions of people without power nationwide, including 600,000 people in the capital. Despite the restoration, Kyiv authorities warned that planned outages and local power failures were possible. Russian strikes against Ukraine’s infrastructure risk causing a major humanitarian crisis as winter temperatures can drop to -20C. On 25 November President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated that the EU would support Ukraine to maintain power during the season. Further Russian strikes and further aid from the EU are likely.

Europe: NATO foreign ministers set to meet at enlarged summit in Romania 

Sectors: all
Key Risks: war on land 

In Romania, foreign ministers from NATO member countries will meet on 29 and 30 November for their last ministerial meeting in 2022. Foreign Ministers from Finland and Sweden will be in attendance as invitees, as Turkey and Hungary have not yet approved their accession to the alliance. Additionally, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba will participate in the meeting, as well as counterparts from other non-NATO partners including Moldova, Bosnia and Georgia. The meeting will take place as Moscow intensifies attacks on energy infrastructure. Bucharest has a clear symbolic meaning. It is on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Ukraine and is the city where, in 2008, NATO stated that Ukraine and Georgia could potentially become members, angering Moscow. NATO members are likely to discuss further military aid to Kyiv.

MENA: Kurdish-Turkish conflict ignites in northern Syria

Sectors: all
Key Risks: war; political violence; terrorism

In Syria, on 26 November the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a Kurdish-majority rebel militia backed by the US-led coalition – announced that it had ceased anti-Islamic State (IS) operations in northern Syria. Kurdish groups had been effective at fighting IS militants in northern Syria and northern Iraq. Since the start of Operation Claw-Sword on 20 November, Turkish airstrikes have targeted SDF sites in Aleppo and al-Hassakah provinces – including the SDF-controlled al-Hawl camp – detaining the families of IS militants captured by the US-led anti-IS coalition. The strike on al-Hawl could be Turkey’s attempt to destabilise Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria by undermining the coalition’s effort to dismantle IS in Syria and Iraq. With SDF pulling out of the fight against IS and near-daily Turkish airstrikes hitting northern Syria, an escalation of hostilities is expected, possibly leading to a resurgence of IS across Syria and Iraq.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Soldiers in Sao Tome and Principe thwart coup d’état attempt  

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence; political instability

In Sao Tome and Principe, on 25 November Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada announced that the military had thwarted a coup in the capital Sao Tome. Four armed assailants launched an attack on the military headquarters in the Bairro Militar area at 00:40 local time before being neutralised by security forces at 06:00. At least 12 active-duty soldiers allowed the assailants to gain access to the barrack while others waited in vans parked outside. Trovoada accused two people of orchestrating the coup and arrested outgoing President of the National Assembly Delfim Neves and Arlecio Costa – a South African mercenary of the dissolved Buffalo Battalion who was convicted in 2009 for an alleged coup in the country. Authorities have launched an investigation into the attempted coup and judicial authorities will be assisted by a team of investigators from Portugal.