Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Steele’

Remembering the Baltic Way

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 26th August, 2009

The Baltic WayLast night I attended a reception and the opening of a video installation at the 12 Star gallery at the London offices of the European Commission, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way. That was the human chain made up of well over a million people on 23 August, 1989, stretching from the bottom of Toompea in the Estonian capital Tallinn to the base of the Gediminus Tower in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, via the Latvian capital Riga: 600 kilometres of an unbroken line of people of every age and walk of life. Those demonstrators were marking the 50th anniversary of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, but they were also demanding the right to run their own affairs, free from the shackles of Moscow. This would indeed soon lead of the regaining of independence by the three Baltic states, with Lithuania making the bold move first.

Jonathan Steele of the Guardian, who had been the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent at the time of the Baltic Way, spoke at last night’s event and reminded people that the demonstration was preceeded by moves within the local Communist parties to gain greater autonomy. Moreover, some members of the substantial Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia took part in the human chain. Even some of the state security police drove round in their cars waving the national flags of the three states. By then, Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow must have known that Soviet control of the region was in its twilight days.


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Darfur: The Road to Peace

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th September, 2008

Anyone who thought that the conflict in Darfur is a black-and-white case of good versus evil, black versus Arab, would have been quickly disabused had they attended a seminar put on by Okra Express at the Royal Overseas League in London this evening. Ostensibly, the event was a launch for the new, updated edition of David Hoile’s book Darfur: The Road to Peace, but in fact it was much more. An impressive range of speakers, including Jonathan Steele of the Guardian, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC (who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague) and Khalid Al Mubarak from the Sudanese Embassy, with the barrister Kevin Metzger as Chair, outlined some of the major complexities of the situation. Jonathan Steele — who has made a dozen visits to Sudan, and whose articles are more nuanced than most of what we see in the British Press — emphasized the dangers of falling into the trap of Khartoum-bashing. Geoffrey Nice warned against overblown rhetoric — as well as accepting at face value exaggerated statistics. Even Khalid Al Mubarak admitted that the government in Khartoum had made some serious mistakes, but so too have various rebel groups. The answer is not a massive intervention by UN troops, nor even sending President Al Bashir for trial at the International Criminal Court, or so seemed to be the consensus; instead everyone should be working to bring the conflicting parties together for a negotiated settlement while enabling the displaced people of Darfur to return to their villages in security.

David Hoile admits that he likes to be controversial, and some readers will consider that he has been too kind to the Sudanese government in his analysis. But it is important that a balanced view of this complex problem is taken, based on accurate information, not emotion and rhetoric, before the Western world rushes in to do anything that would actually make instability in the region much worse.


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