Americas: Paraguay’s 30 April general elections to determine future of ties with Taipei

Sectors: all
Key Risks: policy shifts; political instability

In Paraguay, general elections will be held on 30 April ending a tight election race that has been in the spotlight due to opposing views about whether to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The incumbent Colorado party’s presidential candidate Santiago Pena has pledged to extend decades-long relations with Taipei, whereas opposition candidate Efrain Alegre – who represents the centre-left Concertacion coalition – has vowed to switch recognition to Beijing to boost the agriculture-based economy. Amid a fragile global economy, Paraguayans – particularly agricultural lobby groups – have increasingly called for establishing ties with Beijing, which is the largest importer of the country’s main exports – beef and soybeans. Irrespective of the election results, pressure to switch ties to Beijing is set to continue to increase. The risk of political instability and significant policy shifts will remain heightened in the short to medium term.

Asia Pacific: Indonesian military heightens security posture in Papua

Sectors: oil and gas; mining; transportation
Key Risks: violent clashes; separatism; insurgency; internal security

In Indonesia, on 21 April the military clarified that its ‘combat alert’ status in the Papuan provinces would not lead to additional troops or a change in overall strategy and would only be in effect in particularly ‘vulnerable’ areas where separatist activities and operations persist. The heightened security posture was announced on 18 April by Armed Forces Commander Admiral Yudo Margono following the 15 April ambush carried out by West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) separatists which killed at least five soldiers in Nduga regency, Papua Highlands province. The soldiers were in the midst of a rescue operation for New Zealand national and Susi Air pilot Philip Mehrtens – who was taken hostage by the TPNPB on 7 February. While Mehrtens’ location remains publicly unknown, the military claims to have made substantial progress in their rescue efforts. This is expected to heighten the likelihood of further clashes.

Eurasia: Azerbaijan establishes check-point on Lachin corridor 

Sectors:  all
Key risks: war on land 

On 23 April Azerbaijan established a check-point on the Lachin corridor – the only road that links Armenia and the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh (NK). According to Baku, the move aimed to stop the rotation of Armenian forces allegedly stationed in the area, the transfer of weapons and the trafficking of natural resources. The move appears to be a culmination of the Lachin corridor blockade by alleged environmental activists who set up barricades on the road on 12 December 2022. Since then, only vehicles of Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross were allowed to pass. Yerevan and Stepanakert (Khankendi) deny Baku’s allegations and instead claim that Azerbaijan’s moves to take control of NK by force are aimed to ethnically cleanse the region by encouraging ethnic Armenians to leave. The risk of violent escalation will remain heightened for the foreseeable future.

Europe: Ethnic Serbs boycott north Kosovo’s local elections amid Kosovo-Serbia normalisation efforts 

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability

In northern Kosovo, on 23 April ethnic Serbs boycotted local elections claiming that their demands for more autonomy had not been addressed. The move came after Belgrade and Pristina verbally agreed to a deal aimed at normalising ties on 18 March. Ethnic Serbs are demanding Pristina creates the association of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo before they participate in local elections. On 18 April Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti claimed that Belgrade was pressuring Serbs in Kosovo to boycott the elections. The boycott heightens fears that the two sides will struggle to implement the normalisation deal just days after Pristina and Belgrade appeared to make progress by establishing a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on 18 April to oversee the implementation of the deal. Tensions will likely persist between the two sides as progress on the deal’s implementation stalls.

MENA: Arrest of Jordanian MP threatens further degradation of Israeli-Jordanian relations

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political violence; regional stability; internal conflict

In the West Bank, on 23 April Imad al-Adwan, a member of the Jordanian Senate’s Palestine Committee, was detained by Israeli police at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank, on suspicion of smuggling 100 kg of gold, 12 machine guns and 270 medium and small weapons. Israeli authorities reportedly obtained information relating to the weapons trafficking and effected a search on al-Adwan’s vehicle. Although parliamentarians do not typically have diplomatic immunity when travelling abroad, the MP’s car was not expected to be searched. The Israeli government has yet to comment on the matter while Jordanian MPs have called on the government to secure al-Adwan’s release. Following repeated Israeli incursions on al-Aqsa compound – under Amman’s custody – Israeli-Jordanian tensions are particularly heightened. This latest incident will add to ongoing disputes and will likely stoke further tensions.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Governments begin evacuating diplomatic staff and citizens from Sudan

Sectors: all
Key Risks: evacuation; war on land

In Sudan, between 22 and 23 April several countries including the US, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK launched separate evacuation operations to rescue diplomatic staff and some of their citizens from the capital Khartoum and from Port Sudan. South Korea and Japan have troops stationed in nearby countries and are also preparing evacuation operations in the coming days. Evacuation operations from Sudan remain high-risk endeavours as attacks on evacuation convoys have been reported. On 23 April a French national was injured by gunfire as his convoy was attacked when travelling from the city of Bahri in Khartoum to Omdurman. Most evacuations have so far focused on diplomatic staff and their families. The US estimated that there were about 16,000 US nationals still stranded in Sudan, although Washington has no immediate plans to evacuate other US citizens from Sudan.