Friday 21 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 21/7/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy


Speaking terms

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to build bridges. Following his narrow re-election in May, he hired a more conventional economic team to please international markets and, last week, stunned analysts by agreeing to Sweden’s Nato membership. As he attempts to bolster Turkey’s standing among its Western allies and rescue its flailing economy, the most problematic members of his circle have been sidelined. In the Caucasus, however, developments are threatening to derail a rapprochement.

Turkey and its neighbour Armenia have been steadily rebuilding ties since 2021, with the initial interest coming from Yerevan. The capital was humiliated and destabilised after Azerbaijan, with the backing of the Turkish military, reclaimed a large part of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region that has been occupied by the Armenian administration since 1992. Despite Azerbaijan’s claim to victory and the bad blood between Turkey and Armenia, the two countries are communicating with each other once again.

Since then, direct flights between Istanbul and Yerevan have been launched and negotiations to open the land border are under way. But tensions are rising again in Nagorno-Karabakh. In December 2022, Azerbaijan blockaded the remaining Armenian-controlled area, home to about 150,000 people who are running short of fresh food, water and energy. Even the ICRC, the sole organisation allowed to access the blockade and evacuate the injured and the sick, was briefly barred from entry last month.

That puts Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian prime minister, in a difficult position. For Armenians (and Azerbaijanis), Nagorno-Karabakh is an emotive issue. Azerbaijan is Turkey’s closest ally and its security operations are directly supported by Ankara. Though normalising relationships with old enemies may spark fury from Armenians, it is a necessary step to avoid making new ones.

Hannah Lucinda Smith is Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Cambodia

Work to rule

Cambodia will hold a general election this Sunday to elect a new parliament. Seventeen political parties are on the ballot but the main opposition, the Candlelight Party, has been barred from running. A mix of voter intimidation, press crackdowns, the jailing of critics and other tactics have virtually ensured that the long-time incumbent, Hun Sen (pictured), and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party will remain in office.

The leader’s son, Hun Manet, is running for a seat in the National Assembly at the weekend. It’s widely expected that his father, who is 70, will use Sunday’s assured victory to lay the groundwork for his succession. Though Hun Sen’s authoritarian bent is not new, he has become increasingly autocratic in recent years. The weekend’s election will be democratic in name only; the predictability of its results signals an increasingly repressive future for the southeast Asian nation.

For more on Cambodia’s forthcoming elections and Hun Sen, tune in to Wednesday’s explainer edition of The Foreign Desk on Monocle Radio.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Belgium & France

Slow and steady

This week, France and Belgium’s national rail operators have announced plans to launch a new, slower service between the two countries’ capital cities. The service is likely to be operational by late 2024 and will connect Brussels’ Midi station (pictured) with Paris’ Gare du Nord. The additional line will complement the existing high-speed train link between the two countries, making stops at less-frequented regional stations along the way.

Journey times are expected to be about three hours, meaning that it will be faster than the four-hour drive but slower than the current hour-and-a-half high-speed train service. While companies are still discussing the full details of the project – timetables and intermediate stops are yet to be confirmed – it is expected that the journey will cost a fraction of that of the existing service, providing a more accessible travel option between the two cities. Allons-y!

Mexico / Culture

Life of the party

Image: Jillian Mitchell
Image: Jillian Mitchell

Mexico City is enjoying an influx of creatives and influences from the wider Latin American region, energising both new and historic dancefloors across the city. The Barba Azul Cabaret is one such example, where cumbia music can be enjoyed by young and old in a 1950s setting, complete with red lighting, silver tinsel and waiters in waistcoats. And in 2020, Brenda Lopez and Los Angeles transplant Quentin Ferry founded the pop-up club and dance party Diaspora, which has become one of the hottest tickets in town.

Events range from dance competitions to DJ sets and special dress codes are announced on social media a day in advance. The clientèle, staff and performers come from Nigeria, Costa Rica, Colombia, Haiti and the UK, reflecting a truly international scene. “Mexicans love to party 24/7,” Lopez tells Monocle on a recent visit. “There’s a market to host an event every week.”

A longer version of this article appears in our July/August issue, which features our Quality of Life Survey and is available on newsstands now.

Image: Otherway

Advertising / London

Brand new

Founded in London, Otherway is a strategically-led, design-focused ad agency that launches, transforms and invests in brands to help them stay ahead of the competition. Its founder, Jono Holt, reflects on the creative studio’s 10-year anniversary, expanding operations to San Francisco and its goal to design a better world.

How do you work together with entrepreneurs to help them realise their ideas?
Maintaining great relationships with the founders that we work with has always been a priority for us. We want to do our best for the brands that choose to work with us and that starts by taking full accountability. We have expanded considerably over the past 10 years and our business model has changed but we have always stayed true to the fact that if we met someone with a great idea, we would help them take their business to the market.

What kinds of brands do you work with?
We are always looking to work with brands that will genuinely make a difference and have a positive effect on the world. There are some amazing agencies out there that work to make brands more sustainable, for example. We want to go on a similar journey. Otherway isn’t just about selling anything – we want to actively design a better world.

What are your long-term goals?
To be at the forefront of innovation and make a positive impact. We want to continue talking about brands that we are changing for the better, whether we have partnered with them or invested in them. We have also recently launched a studio in San Francisco, which will enable us to work closely with our clients on the West Coast. Depending on how that goes, we might try to expand to Los Angeles too.

For the full interview with Jono Holt on Otherway, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Entrepreneurs’, on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Cabramatta, Sydney

This week we head to the southwestern suburbs of Sydney to visit one of the city’s top food destinations, Cabramatta. It’s a vibrant southeast Asian melting pot full of Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian and Chinese restaurants, alongside other food outlets and shops. Our guide on this journey is writer Sheila Ngoc Pham.

Monocle Films / Culture

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness.


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