Thursday, 01 October 2009

30 September 2009 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/1/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

U.S. sees Turkmenistan as energy leader 22 September The U.

U.S. sees Turkmenistan as energy leader 22 September The U.S. government expressed its desire to see Turkmenistan emerge as a leader in terms of energy security and energy supply, officials say. Robert Blake, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the South and  bureau, briefed reporters on a bilateral meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. "On the energy front, the secretary said that we want to see Turkmenistan really be a leader in terms of energy security and energy supply," said Blake.  He added that Turkmenistan had an "important role to play" in the development of the $10.3 billion Nabucco pipeline for Europe. A January gas row between Kiev and Moscow exposed gaps in the regional energy transport sector. Europe aims to diversify its gas transport options through Nabucco. Nabucco is designed to have the capacity to move 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year to European customers from Caspian and Middle Eastern suppliers. The pipeline would run from the Caspian region through Turkey to Austria along a route through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Despite political backing for the project, it lacks firm commitments from potential gas suppliers. Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the Nabucco international consortium, however, said supply options were diverse. "We see Azerbaijan, Iraq and Turkmenistan as the first suppliers," he told an Azeri press service. "Other options will also be considered in the future." (UPI)

Saakashvili meets Clinton 22 September In remarks before the meeting with President Saakashvili in New York on September 21, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reiterated Washington’s support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and democratic reforms. “We are working to try to ensure that Russia abides by the 2008 ceasefire, and hopefully to eventually reintegrate your country as it should be,” Clinton said. “We also know that working toward democracy and the changes that you’re attempting to achieve are challenging, but we want to support and encourage the steps that need to be taken. And the United States supports Georgia, and we want to make that very clear and unequivocal statement here today. President Saakashvili thanked the Secretary of State “for all the support you’ve given us.” “I also saw your article [on missile defense] this morning in the Financial Times of London, and it was very impressive because the message was very clear-cut, very unambiguous… and we are very grateful to you for that moral clarity, as well as strategic vision of what U.S. role in our region should be,” Saakashvili told the Secretary of State before the meeting. Clinton responded: “We think this approach is much more effective, and it will certainly cover Georgia and the Caucasus and it will send a clear message that the United States is committed to the defense of all of Europe in the years going forward. Thank you very much.”After the meeting Philip H. Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told journalists that during the talks, Clinton emphasized that the U.S. “does not and will not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” (Civil Georgia)

Administration denies involvement with Nazarbayev presidency initiative

23 September The Kazakh presidential administration has not  come  up  with  an  initiative  to  make  Nursultan  Nazarbayev
president for life, Deputy Presidential Chief-of-Staff Maulen Ashimbayev said. The   presidential   administration  is  not  discussing  any  such proposals, either, Ashimbayev told a congress of political scientists on Wednesday. "This  initiative belongs to certain people, representatives of the intelligentsia  and political parties. But it has nothing to do with the authorities.  This  issue  is  not  being  discussed  at  Ak  Orda  [the presidential  residence in Almaty]. It is not on its agenda, either," he said. Last week, Darkhan Kaletayev, first deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's ruling Nur  Otan  party,  proposed  discussing and adopting a law on the nation's  leader,  which  could  allow Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has led Kazakhstan  since  it  gained independence in the early 1990s, to become the country's president for life. Nazarbayev is leader of the Nur Otan party. (Interfax)

Rosneft interested in BTC pipeline 24 September In a major turnaround of Russian policy, the country's largest oil producer has expressed interest in using the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline. AzerNews reported Thursday that Rosneft's President Sergei Bogdanchikov has told journalists his firm could benefit from transporting crude via BTC, commenting, "Turkey is the second-largest consumer of Russian fuel, next to Germany. If the project meets the economic interests of both sides, naturally, we will be able to export our oil through the BTC." The State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijani Republic President Rovnag Abdullayev noted in turn, "Everything is possible. If a proposal is received, it could be considered, and even its realization in the future is possible."  The $3.6 billion, 1 million barrel per day, 1,092-mile BTC pipeline, which began operations in May 2005, pumps oil extracted from Azerbaijan`s major Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields in the Caspian Sea, as well as condensate produced at the offshore Shahdaniz field. Moscow had originally strongly opposed its construction, preferring that Azerbaijan continue to use the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, which transits Russian territory.  (UPI)

Former Armenian foreign minister slams Turkey deal 24 September Former Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has said that the proposed agreement normalizing relations between Ankara and Yerevan will give the Turks "everything they have wanted for 17 years," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. In an emotional speech in Yerevan on September 22, Oskanian argued that opening the border with Turkey cedes the country's "historical rights" because it would "close the possibility, no matter how formal, of restoring historical justice" regarding territories in eastern Turkey that many Armenians believe should be a part of Armenia. Oskanian also objects to the creation of a joint panel of Armenian and Turkish experts that would examine the mass killings of Armenians nearly 100 years ago in the Ottoman Empire. The idea for a study was first floated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a 2005 letter to former President Robert Kocharian, who dismissed it. But the panel is now a part of the agreement between the two countries that is expected to be signed before October 14. Oskanian, who served for 10 years in Kocharian's government, added that Armenia "is very far from being a democratic country," even though "that's what our future and security depend on." (RFE/RL)

Zakayev needs help returning to Checnya – Kadyrov  24 September Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said he is ready  to  help  former  separatist  emissary  Akhmed  Zakayev and thousands of Chechens living in Europe return to Chechnya. "We  have talked on the phone many times. I told him [Zakayev]: 'If you approve of me, why don't you come home?' he told me: 'Understand me! Understand  me!' I told him: 'I understand you. What are you missing? Do you support  my  policies?'  He  said  he does. 'Then come back.' He was silent,"  Kadyrov  said  in  an  interview  with  the  newspaper  Zavtra published on the official website of the Chechen government on Thursday. Kadyrov believes Zakayev, like many Chechens living in Europe, need
help returning to their home country. "He probably needs help. And so do thousands  of Chechens who left for Europe because of the war. There are 100,000  Chechens  living  in  Europe who left [Chechnya] because of the
war," Kadyrov said. At the same time, Kadyrov believes Zakayev is experiencing pressure abroad.  "Zakayev  is  not  independent.  He is afraid of someone. He is afraid to say what he thinks," Kadyrov said. (Interfax)

Possible new Kazakh-Azeri pipeline 25 September Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are discussing the construction of a new pipeline through Azerbaijan to the Black Sea to handle Kazakh oil exports. KazInform news agency reported Friday that the chairman of the Kazenergy association, Timur Kulibayev, told participants at an energy forum in the capital Astana, "Yesterday we held talks with Azerbaijan's national oil and gas company, and agreed to carry out research on transporting Kazakh oil through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black Sea." Kulibayev said that the new pipeline was being discussed as paralleling the existing Baku-Supsa pipeline, which terminates in Georgia's Supsa Black Sea port, utilizing its land corridor. In response to a question on the priorities of Kazakhstan in the field of energy exports and how the new pipeline might impact Kazakhstan's relations with Russia Kulibayev replied, "We have excellent relations with all our neighbors. This primarily, of course, means Russia. As you know, in the oil sector we share the Atyrau-Samara pipeline and Caspian Pipeline Consortium system." (UPI)

Turkmen Detainees From Brawl Released After Chinese Request 25 September The last 30 of some 200 Turkmen workers detained after a huge brawl between Chinese and Turkmen workers at an energy company in eastern Turkmenistan have been released, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports. The September 12 clashes involved workers for a Chinese energy company building a natural-gas pipeline in the eastern Samandepe and Yoloten regions of Turkmenistan. The brawl left at least 15 Chinese workers hospitalized with injuries and hundreds detained, including about 200 Turkmen. Turkmen workers had complained of discrimination -- with Chinese employees allegedly getting higher wages for the same work -- and poor working conditions. The release of the detainees reportedly comes after a request by officials from the Chinese company following a strike by the Turkmen workers who had been released, which resulted in a 10-day work stoppage. The Chinese company has reportedly pledged to fulfill the demands by the Turkmen employees to improve working conditions. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Ashgabat have not commented on the issue. The $7.3 billion Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline project began in 2007 and will take natural gas from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and on to China. Gas is scheduled to begin flowing by the end of this year and will be at full capacity in 2011. (RFE/RL)

Armenian Academy of Sciences Support Turkey Deal 25 September Armenia's National Academy of Sciences has officially given its support for its country's proposed normalization of diplomatic ties with Turkey during a closed-door session with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and more than 150 academics, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The state-funded institution, which rarely challenges government decisions, discussed the matter as part of the internal political consultations which Ankara and Yerevan agreed to hold with their constituencies before signing the deal next month. Academy of Sciences President Radik Martirosian reportedly praised Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian for his "dynamic and active foreign policy." He said that although all Armenian presidents had sought to normalize relations with Turkey, only Sarkisian has made progress. A press statement from his office also welcomed the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border "without preconditions" and Sarkisian's efforts to "settle relations with neighbors and get Armenia out of the [Turkish] blockade." Many Armenian opposition parties and their leaders have sharply criticized the rapprochement efforts of Ankara and Yerevan. (RFE/RL)

Uzbeks Suspend Gas supplies to South Kyrgyzstan 26 September Uzbekistan has suspended its gas supply to the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz and Uzbek services reported. Osh Deputy Mayor Alymzhan Baygazakov told RFE/RL that gas supplies were suspended recently to the southern Kyrgyz cities of Osh, Jalalabad, and Batken.  He added that Osh owes some $2 million of Kyrgyzstan's overall $18 million gas debt to Uzbekistan. Salamat Aytikeev, the head of the KyrgyzGaz state energy company, traveled to Tashkent to conduct negotiations with his Uzbek counterparts on September 24. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov previously told RFE/RL that Kyrgyzstan would hold negotiations with the Uzbek side in order to decrease the price of gas. Kyrgyzstan currently buys Uzbek gas for $240 per 1,000 cubic meters. On January 1, Uzbekistan increased the gas price it charges neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, saying last year's price of $145 per 1,000 cubic meters was far below market rates. Uzbekistan provides energy resources to Kyrgyzstan and the Uzbeks are dependent on the Kyrgyz for water. Uzbekistan has on several occasions stopped exporting energy to Kyrgyzstan, souring relations. Ties between the two have worsened over Kyrgyz plans to build hydroelectric power plants that might reduce the amount of water Uzbekistan would receive Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL)

Afghan Minister Ismail Khan Escapes Taliban Attack 27 September A roadside bomb targeting an Afghan cabinet minister has exploded in the western city of Herat, killing at least three people, officials said. Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Ismail Khan, a prominent anti-Taliban commander, was not hurt, police said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Khan, a key member of the Northern Alliance (aka United Front) whose forces helped U.S. forces in toppling the Taliban in 2001. "The target was Ismail Khan," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. The explosion occurred outside a school in Herat, killing three people and wounding 16, residents and a doctor said. Police in Kabul said Khan survived the attack unscathed. "He was on his way to Kabul and is fine," a police source in Kabul said. "But civilians have been killed." (Reuters)

Russian Patrol Boats Expected in Abkhazia in November 27 September A unit of Russian coast guard boats will be deployed in Ochamchire to protect Abkhaz “territorial waters” in mid-November, Yuri Zvirik, commander of the Russian Federal Security Service’s boarder guard unit deployed in the breakaway region, said on September 28. “Number of modern boats will join our family to become reliable guards of the Abkhaz borders,” Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported quoting Zvirik. Russian coast guard vessel, Novorossiysk, which was sent to patrol the breakaway region’s waters on September 21, will be joined with Mangust and Sobol types of patrol boats. Russian reports said that total of ten boats would be deployed in Ochamchire. Novorossiysk docked in Sokhumi on September 27 as part of ceremonies marking, what Abkhazia calls “the day of liberation of Sokhumi.” On this day, sixteen years ago, Abkhaz forces, backed by their allies from Russia, captured Sokhumi after almost two weeks of siege. Meanwhile in Tbilisi, as usually the day of fall of Sokhumi was marked with wreath laying ceremony at the memorial of Georgian fallen soldiers. New Defense Minister, Bacho Akhalaia, told journalists after paying tribute to the Georgian fallen soldiers at the memorial on September 27: “It is our duty – of our structure [MoD] and of the entire society and of the state – to accomplish this deed for which these people [fallen soldiers] sacrificed their lives.” (Civil Georgia)

Saakashvili Meets Clinton 28 September Russia and Abkhazia have signed a memorandum,  whereby  Abkhazia  receives  Russian  fixed line and mobile telephone  codes,  which could be introduced by the republic as early as next week,  said  Kristian  Bzhania,  head  of  the  Abkhaz presidential department of governmental information and mass media. "One  of  the important aspects of the Memorandum of cooperation in the communications  sector, signed between Russia and Abkhazia in Moscow today is  the change of the telephone codes. As for the change of codes, there will  be  two  of  them: for fixed-line operators the code will be 840, for  mobile  operators - 940. Most importantly, Abkhazia will be in
the seventh  zone,  that is under Russia's international code," Bzhania, the Abkhaz signatory to the memorandum, told Interfax on Monday. On   the  part  of  Russia,  the  document  was  signed  by  Deputy Communications Minister Naum Marder. (Interfax)

Romania, Azerbaijan sign oil, gas accord 28 September Romania and Azerbaijan signed an accord to cooperate on bringing oil and gas from the energy-rich Caucasus nation into Europe, their leaders said on Monday. The strategic accord includes "cooperation on the Nabucco gas pipeline and the Pan-European Oil pipeline," Romanian President Traian Basescu told reporters after signing it with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev. He said that the Azerbaijani state oil company Socar "plans to expand its activity into the European Union through Romania," which joined the bloc in 2007. The Pan-European Oil pipeline (PEOP) is an EU-backed project aiming to pipe oil from the Black Sea to Italy. Nabucco is a key pipeline project aimed at reducing Europe's dependence on Russian gas supplies. Basescu said Socar may ship crude to the Romanian black sea port of Constanta and refine some of it in Romania, or pump oil from Constanta to the northeastern Italian port of Trieste. The European Union said earlier this month it was in talks with Azerbaijan on providing gas to supply Nabucco, a 3,300-kilometre (2,050-mile) pipeline between Turkey and Austria scheduled to be completed by 2014. Monday's accord between Romania and Azerbaijan also included cooperation agreements on security and culture. (EU Business)

Five Militants Killed In Suspected U.S. Drone Strike In Waziristan 29 September A suspected U.S. drone aircraft fired two missiles at a Taliban commander's house in Pakistan's South Waziristan region, killing five militants, intelligence officials said. The strike on September 29 took place about 60 kilometers northeast of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, the Pakistani officials said. South Waziristan is on the Afghan border and a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. "The house of the commander has been completely destroyed and five dead bodies, three Pakistanis and two Uzbeks, have been recovered," one of the intelligence officials, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. He identified the commander as Irfan Mehsud. Residents said six militants were wounded and that Pakistani Taliban fighters had cordoned off the area and were not letting people approach. The United States stepped up its attacks by pilotless drones on militants in northwestern Pakistani border sanctuaries last year as the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan intensified. There have been nearly 60 such strikes since the beginning of 2008, including one in early August that killed Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. About 500 people, most of them militants, have been killed in the strikes since early last year, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani security officials and residents. Pakistan officially objects to the drone strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and the civilian casualties they sometimes inflame public anger. (Reuters)

Roadside Bomb Kills 30 Afghan Civilians, Official Says 29 September A roadside bomb killed 30 civilians in southern Afghanistan, including 10 children and seven women, the Interior Ministry said. At least 39 others were wounded when the bomb hit a bus in Maiwand district outside the southern city of Kandahar, it said in a statement. Provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi said the bomb went off on a highway where a similar blast killed three civilians a day earlier. He blamed the Taliban for planting the devices. Homemade bombs have become by far the deadliest weapon used by insurgents fighting Western and Afghan government forces, and civilians are frequently killed in the blasts. Reuters could not immediately reach the Taliban for comment, but the militants usually distance themselves from blasts when civilians are the victims. In a separate bomb attack, one woman was killed and another was wounded in the Spinghar district in east Afghanistan. Ousted from power in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the resurgent Taliban largely rely on roadside bombs and suicide attacks in their campaign against the foreign and Afghan forces. More than 1,500 civilians have been killed by violence in Afghanistan so far this year, the United Nations said last week. It said 68 percent of the civilian killings were a result of militant attacks, while 23 percent were caused by Afghan and foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military. (Reuters)

KyrgyzGaz Says It Can't Repay Debt To Uzbekistan 30 September KyrgyzGaz head Salamat Aytikeev says the energy company is unable to pay Kyrgyzstan's natural gas debt to Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Uzbekistan began suspending its gas deliveries to the southern Kyrgyz cities of Osh, Jalalabad, and Batken on September 22, citing the debt as the primary reason. Aytikeev told RFE/RL that unpaid energy bills from residents amount to $5 million and that debts by companies and electric power plants make up the rest of KyrgyzGaz's $18 million debt to Uzbekistan. Aytikeev said the only possible way to resolve the situation would be a state credit or after intergovernmental negotiations that would allow payment of the Kyrgyz debt to be delayed. Kyrgyzstan currently buys Uzbek gas for $240 per 1,000 cubic meters, up from the $145 per 1,000 cubic meters that Uzbekistan charged the previous year but which Tashkent said was far below market prices. Uzbekistan provides energy resources to Kyrgyzstan, while the Uzbeks are dependent on Kyrgyz water supplies. Uzbekistan has on several occasions in previous years stopped exporting energy to Kyrgyzstan, souring relations. Ties between the two have worsened over Kyrgyz plans to build hydroelectric power plants that might reduce the amount of water Uzbekistan would receive from Kyrgyzstan. Russia's state-controlled Gazprom owns 75 percent of KyrgyzGaz. (RFE/RL)

Kazakh weekly offers bank debt cancellation to pay fine 30 September The independent Kazakh weekly "Respublika" is offering the BTA Bank a mutual cancellation of debts in order to pay off a court ordered fine for libel, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Guzyal Baydalinova, the newspaper's owner and editor in chief, told journalists in Almaty that she is prepared to pay the fine by cashing in some 40 million tenge ($267,000) in bonds she has with the TuranAlem Finance Bank, an affiliate of BTA Bank. Baydalinova said that in the event that TuranAlem cannot repay her bonds, the BTA Bank is legally obliged to cover for it, as an affiliate bank. She added that if the court and BTA Bank reject her proposal for a crosscancellation of debts between "Respublika" and BTA she will file a lawsuit in Kazakhstan and Great Britain against the bank to have it recognized as bankrupt. An Almaty district court ruled on September 9 that "Respublika" must print an apology to BTA Bank and pay 60 million tenges (some $400,000) to BTA as "compensation for moral damage" for an article the weekly published that was deemed libelous by the court. Oksana Makushina, the deputy editor in chief of "Respublik," said the case against the newspaper is politically motivated and the verdict means the weekly will have to close. Last month the newspaper's editors told journalists that they would likely move their operations to the Internet if they lost the court case. Earlier this summer, the opposition newspaper "Taszharghan" (The Stone Breaker) had to end publication after it lost a similar libel case. (RFE/RL)

Uzbekistan Halts gas supplies to Tajikistan 30 September Uzbekistan has halted natural gas supplies to neighboring Tajikistan due to an $18 million debt, leaving all Tajik households without gas, a source at the Tajik state gas company has said. "Households have been switched off completely," the source said. "[Aluminium producer] TALCO and [cement maker] Tajikcement are receiving gas from local deposits." The source said Tajikistan was in talks with Uzbekistan to renew supplies and postpone debt repayment. The two countries are at odds over a number of issues including energy and water resources. Uzbekistan this week also reduced gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan, another former Soviet Central Asian republic, for the same reason. (Reuters)

Eighty-four militants killed in Chechnya in 2009 - minister

30 September Eighty-four  militants, including  three  group leaders, have been killed in Chechnya this year, and 16 militants  have  died  in security operations in Chechnya and the neighboring  Russian republic of Dagestan, the Chechen interior minister said on Wednesday. "According  to  our  information,  43  people living in the Chechen Republic  have  been  recruited  and  joined  bandit  groups  this year, including  11  in  September,"  the  minister,  Ruslan Alkhanov, said at conference  between  Chechen  President  Ramzan  Kadyrov and top Chechen security officials. Alkhanov  added  that  police  had  identified  four recruiters and arrested one of them. "Seventy-two  caches  of  weapons and ammunition have been found on the territory  of  the  Chechen Republic since the start of 2009, and 11 groups of militants have been routed," he said. (Interfax)
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