Tribune Take: Major international political developments of 2018

Published: December 17, 2018
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The Express Tribune retraces some of the major international political developments of 2018.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The Express Tribune retraces some of the major international political developments of 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

The year 2018 was a roller coaster in international politics and diplomacy. Certain events during the year would have far-reaching effects on geopolitics.

We retrace some of the defining international events of 2018 and how they played out.

Kim and Moon’s meeting 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae held a historic meeting in Pyongyang in May,  The North, which had remained isolated since the Korean war, unconventionally approached South at the start of the year.

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In. PHOTO: REUTERS

Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In. PHOTO: REUTERS

South Korea’s presidential Blue House welcomed the New Year address, as Kim showed his willingness to discuss with Seoul regarding DPRK’s possible participation in the South Korea-hosted winter Olympics.

Come February, in an invitation delivered by Kim’s visiting sister, the DPRK leader said he was willing to meet the South’s leader “at the earliest date possible”.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April as the latter crossed a military demarcation line to enter the South for the first summit between the two sides in more than a decade.

Smiling and holding hands, Kim and Moon met at the heavily fortified demilitarised zone.

The meeting, aimed at ending their decades-long conflict and easing tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons program, came weeks before Kim was due to meet US President Donald Trump.

The two pledged to work toward the “complete decentralisation of the Korean peninsula,” and sought to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean War and establish a permanent peace agreement.

In a significant compromise, North Korea also pledged to dismantle its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, while both countries aimed to restore their fragile relations.

Trump pulls US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

Terming the deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, “a poorly negotiated deal”, President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that he was reimposing economic sanctions on Iran and pulling the United States out of an international agreement aimed at stopping Tehran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

President Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS

President Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Iran nuclear deal was negotiated by the permanent members of security council which include the US, China, Russia, United Kingdom, and France along with Germany aiming to lift all nuclear economic sanctions on the Iranian government.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. PHOTO: REUTERS

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.
PHOTO: REUTERS

Mahathir’s surprising victory

A 92-year old Mahathir Mohamad won a historic election victory in the Malaysian elections in May, after going up against favourite Najib Razzak, and toppling a regime which had ruled the country for over six decades.

Mahathir Mohamad. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mahathir Mohamad. PHOTO: REUTERS

The thumping victory capped a dramatic political comeback for the veteran politician, who previously ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years and came out of retirement to take on Prime Minister Najib Razak after the leader became embroiled in the massive 1MDB corruption scandal.

Trump – Kim meeting

Donald Trump formed a “special bond” with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, at the end of a historic meeting during which the two former foes pledged to meet again.

The pair signed what Trump called a “pretty comprehensive” and “very important” document, which spoke of “new US-DPRK relations” and committed Washington to “security guarantees”.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. PHOTO: REUTERS

US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. PHOTO: REUTERS

The extraordinary Singapore summit, seemingly impossible until recently, came after the two nuclear-armed foes appeared on the verge of conflict late last year as they slung personal insults and Kim conducted nuclear and missile tests.

The meeting was a first between the sitting leaders of the two countries and was closely watched and followed around the world.

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

The Singapore summit is a potentially legacy-defining meeting for both men — comparable to president Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, or Ronald Reagan’s 1986 summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

The summit was more likely the start of a long process of negotiation, with another meeting expected at some point next year.

US inaugurates embassy in Jerusalem

Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Trump in May went ahead with his pledge to move and inaugurate the deeply disputed US embassy in Jerusalem.

The embassy inauguration was attended by a delegation that included US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, both White House aides.

The city of Jerusalem. PHOTO: REUTERS

The city of Jerusalem. PHOTO: REUTERS

Clashes along the Gaza border left 55 Palestinians dead from Israeli fire in the conflict’s bloodiest day in years on the day of the embassy inauguration.

Khashoggi killed in Saudi consulate 

The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was perhaps the single most important incident that undermined the authority and influence of Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.

The disappearance of Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Western allies. Arab allies have rallied to Riyadh’s support, but Western pressure has intensified on Saudi Arabia to provide convincing answers.

Photo of Jamal Khashoggi. PHOTO: REUTERS

Photo of Jamal Khashoggi.
PHOTO: REUTERS

Riyadh initially claimed to not have any knowledge about the Washington Post Columnist’s disappearance, however, Turkish officials believed that he was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi’s killing provoked global outrage but little concrete action by world powers was taken against Saudi Arabia.

Turkish President Recep Teyep Erdogan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Turkish President Recep Teyep Erdogan. PHOTO: REUTERS

‘Come back home’

Syria denounced US, French and Turkish forces operating in the war-torn country as “occupying forces” and demanded that they leave immediately.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, who serves also as Syria’s deputy prime minister, also called on Syrian refugees to come home, even though the country’s war is now in its eighth year.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. PHOTO: REUTERS

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
PHOTO: REUTERS

Moualem said the foreign forces were on Syrian soil illegally, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and “will be dealt with accordingly”.

In his address, Moualem insisted that the “war on terror is almost over” in Syria, where more than 360,000 people have died since 2011, with millions more uprooted from their homes.

World War I commemoration

2018 also marked the 100 years to the culmination of World War I fought from 1914-1918, and world leaders from across the world descended on France as French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Bridgette Macron hosted the leaders at a special commemoration ceremony.

The commemoration was the centrepiece of global tributes to honour the 10 million soldiers killed during the Great War and mark the moment the Armistice, signed in northeastern France, came into effect at 11 am on November 11, 1918.

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

World leaders, including Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the commemoration ceremony.

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

May survives vote of ‘no confidence’

British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a challenge to her premiership after emerging successful in a vote of no-confidence triggered by ministers from her own party earlier in December.

Despite winning the vote, 117 of her lawmakers said she was no longer the right leader to implement Britain’s exit from the European Union.

British Prime Minister Theresa May. PHOTO: REUTERS

British Prime Minister Theresa May.
PHOTO: REUTERS

Brexit negotiations have been subjected to many disagreements between May, the parliamentary opposition and even members of her own cabinet.

Britain’s March 29 exit from the European Union has been plunged into crisis by parliamentary opposition to the divorce deal she struck with the EU last month, which has opened up possibilities including a delay to Brexit or even another referendum on membership.

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