Friday, 20 August 2010

18 August 2010 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (8/20/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)





21 July

Kazakhstan accuses shareholders of the Tengiz oil field of producing more oil than contracts specify as part of a possible takeover bid, an analysis suggests. Financial authorities in Kazakhstan accuse Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other shareholders in the giant oil field of producing $1 billion more in oil than contracts allow at the Tengiz field, a review of the Kazakh oil sector in the news magazine Foreign Policy stated. The move, the report suggests, is part of a pressure tactic by Astana meant to acquire a larger stake in its domestic oil production. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, is seeking to acquire a stake in the Karachaganak oil and natural gas field, which is owned by BG Group, Italian energy company ENI, U.S. supermajor Chevron and Russia's Lukoil. Kazakhstan, Foreign Policy said, is chasing after a stake in Karachaganak that is around 15 percent, roughly the size of Lukoil's. The Central Asian republic is threatening to break production sharing agreements with the shareholders and accusing them of fraud at Karachaganak. The report describes Kazakhstan's moves as a "time-tested regional approach" in energy-rich Central Asia. (UPI)



22 July

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today received French oil company TOTAL`s President for Exploration and Production Yves-Louis Darricarrère and his accompanying delegation. Discussions focused on TOTAL`s activity in Azerbaijan. (AzerTAC)



22 July

Whether the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline can be realized depends also on whether the Europeans can secure natural gas supplies from northern Iraq. Nabucco, a proposed 2,500-mile pipeline stretching from Azerbaijan to Austria via Turkey, is aimed at breaking the Russian domination of gas import routes to Europe. Moscow's answer was the creation of South Stream, a competing pipeline launched by the Kremlin to torpedo the European project. Nabucco would be designed to carry 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year to Europe but from where that gas will come remains unclear. Azerbaijan recently signed a memorandum of understanding on natural gas with Turkey, technically opening the way for Azeri gas exports to Europe -- but there have been no firm commitments forthcoming. Neighboring Kazakhstan, which also owns significant reserves of gas, recently spoke hesitantly about Nabucco. "Kazakhstan has never been against Nabucco, the issue is that in Europe there is a lot of talk about Nabucco ... but in practice little is being done," Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was quoted as saying this past weekend by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti. That leaves northern Iraq's Kurdish province as a potential supplier of Nabucco. Kurdish Prime Minister Barham Salih told CNN's Marketplace Middle East during a London economic summit that his government was making moves to participate in Nabucco. "We want to be part of the system," he said. As much as 520 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year could be made available for Nabucco, Kurdish officials have said. Kurdish-governed northern Iraq is much more stable than the rest of the country, enabling investments and business deals to go through in an easier manner. But completing a deal with the Kurds won't be easy as Baghdad will be trying to prevent such a unilateral energy policy move. In planning for almost a decade, Brussels this year allocated some $270 million to finally jump start Nabucco. While EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said a decision on the construction of the pipeline should be made this year, it's clear that the original completion date -- 2014 -- can't be realized. Moreover, financing isn't secured, nor has any country signed a contract for supplying the European pipeline with gas. Its competitor South Stream, intended to move 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then on to Western Europe, gets gas from Russia and is backed by Italian company Eni. The Russians are eager to complete the $27 billion project by 2015, in a bid to beat Nabucco and at the same time bypass transit countries Belarus and Ukraine. (UPI)



23 July

Two Russian military servicemen were killed and one seriously wounded when unidentified gunmen fired at a group of servicemen from the 136th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Buinaksk, Dagestan, a source from the Dagestani Interior Ministry told Interfax."Preliminary reports indicate that two military servicemen were killed and one more was badly wounded," the source said. (Interfax)



25 July

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has promised that Venezuelan ships will be calling on Abkhazia in the nearest future. "Ships from Venezuela will arrive in Abkhazia in the nearest future. I also promise that I will soon arrive in Sukhumi for a visit," he said seeing off Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh who was on an official visit in Venezuela. Sources on the Abkhaz delegation told Interfax that the visit of the Abkhaz leaders to Venezuela lasted longer than expected due to the tensions between Venezuela and Colombia. Bagapsh is expected to leave Caracas for Sukhumi Sunday morning (local time). (Interfax)



26 July

NATO Military Committee Chairman Adm. Giampaolo di Paola said in a television interview on Sunday that Europe faces a threat of a missile attack from "a certain country to the south" without naming the nation. Asked in an interview with Russia Today, the state English language channel, to elaborate on a statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that there is an increasing threat of missile attacks in Europe, Di Paola said: "It's clear, we know that there is [such a threat], generally speaking - both looking from Russia and also the European side - for the alliance it's clearly from the south that there is an emerging threat. And there is a certain country to the south and we know what we're talking here in particular which can be a matter of concern. So, I think protection of the people of the alliance, but also of the Russian people, from a potential threat it is important." "I believe first of all that Russia and the alliance have a common interest to protect themselves from new emerging threats. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery, including ballistic missiles, is one of these threats. So there is, I believe, in general terms, an interest on both sides to protect themselves from this," he said. Asked whether he thought NATO and Russia were working closer today, he said: "I think it has a potential to become stronger, because we've gone through a period of difficulties and when you manage, if you manage to go through the period of difficulty, then if you restart you have a new determination to do it. So I think normally when you go through difficulty and then you emerge out of difficulty, then there is much more solid base for moving forward." (Interfax-AVN)



27 July

Kazakhstan's GDP grew 8% year-on-year in the first half, according to the early figures, Economic Development and Trade Minister Zhanat Aitzhanova said during a governmental meeting in Astana on Tuesday. "GDP growth was 8% for the reporting period, according to the initial estimate," Aitzhanova said. Prime Minister Karim Masimov said at a Tuesday press conference that the Kazakh government would be revisiting its macroeconomic forecasts by September. "I think that we will be reconsidering our macroeconomic positions, along with an adjusted budget, by September. For now, our official forecast is economic growth of 4% before year-end," he said. As to oil prices, Masimov said Kazakhstan bases its "budget policy on an oil price of $65 per barrel." "Oil prices rising or falling will depend on the state of the world economy. I don't see any serious fluctuations in the coming six months," Masimov said. Kazakhstan's GDP expanded 8.3% year-on-year in January-May. It grew 1.2% in 2009 overall. (Interfax)



27 July

Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz said on Tuesday that the bilateral relations between Turkey and Turkmenistan should be reshaped under the perspective of the highest level cooperation, the semi- official Anatolia news agency reported. Speaking at the third meeting of Turkey-Turkmenistan Inter- governmental Economic Commission in the Turkish capital Ankara, Yildiz said that further development of Turkey-Turkmenistan relations would make significant contributions to the regional stability."We need to make more efforts to diversify and improve our economic and commercial relations as well as our cooperation ties, " he said. "Turkey is a powerful country with a well functioning market economy. We have succeeded in ensuring macroeconomic stability as a result of our determined economy policies," he said. "We attach great importance to our relations with Turkmenistan which succeeded in increasing its trade volume 55 percent to 10 billion U.S. dollars in the last five years. Turkish contractors have undertaken more than 600 projects in Turkmenistan worth of 17 billion U.S. dollars. Investments with Turkish capital amounted to 1.3 billion U.S. dollars," he said. Meanwhile, Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of Turkmenistan Muhammedow said that they aimed at further increasing trade volume with Turkey. "Commercial and economic relations between our countries have gained momentum lately. We also want to further develop our cooperation in the areas of energy, agriculture, tourism, education, health and construction. Turkey is our second biggest commercial partner," he added. (Xinhua)



28 July

Violent clashes between Uzbek and Kyrgyz migrant workers in Moscow have left one person severely wounded, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Dozens of ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz clashed near the Profsoyuznaya subway station on the night of July 26. One of the participants in the clashes was hospitalized with knife wounds.

Almaz Abdisyaev, the legal attache at the Kyrgyz Embassy in Moscow, told RFE/RL that four people were arrested for allegedly organizing the clashes. Last month, police prevented a similar clash between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz near the Kazansky railway station. There are hundreds of thousands of Central Asian migrant workers in Russia. The latest tensions are a consequence of the clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad last month. At least 355 people were killed and hundreds of thousands fled their homes due to the unrest. (RFE/RL)



29 July

The European Union considers construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline as a priority issue, said the EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, at the International Odessa Forum.  Oettinger said “Nabucco delivers some of the strategic benefits that public policy demands. First of all, it tackles a public interest: the interest in energy security.” The Commissioner noted “we will develop the Southern corridor in a manner that will balance the interests of the producing countries, of the transit countries and of the consumer countries…”  “…Azerbaijan is a major energy player in the region and a key partner for the European Union,” said Oettinger.  The Commissioner pointed out “…our co-operation is built on solid foundations, underpinned by clear mutual interests. The participation of Azerbaijan in the Eastern Partnership is a historic milestone and by signing the Southern Corridor Declaration in Prague, Azerbaijan has confirmed its critical role and commitment to building bridges to the EU. We are following closely the award of gas from Shahdeniz-2. The Commission has long underlined its interest in a strategic allocation of gas from Shahdeniz-II that allows the Southern Gas Route to develop.” (AzerTAC)



31 July

The U.N. Security Council removed five members of the Taliban from its sanctions list, a move seen as crucial to Afghanistan’s future stability, officials said. The three were among 20 names the government of President Hamid Karzai submitted to the Security Council committee responsible for maintaining the blacklist, The New York Times reported Saturday. Reconciliation with the Taliban is being discussed by many as the only way of ending the Afghan war, the Times reported. Karzai has talked about taking all Taliban members off the sanctions list, currently about 135 of them, but has not submitted any more requests, diplomats said. One of the people removed from the list, a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, said more needed to be done. "It will build trust between both sides, but on one condition," Abdul Salam Zaeef said. "This process should continue and does not stop right here. They should remove the names of more and more people from this list -- one or two or five names are not enough." (UPI)



1 August

One aspect of U.S. policy in Afghanistan is succeeding -- targeted killings of Taliban insurgents, military sources tell The New York Times. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a new war plan for Afghanistan last year, including an addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to the 65,000 NATO troops already in the country. The focus of that new plan, the Times said, was to keep the Afghan people safe, set up a competent government and win the public's allegiance. But that strategy has seen little success, indicated by faltering military operations in Marja and Kandahar, plus the spread of Taliban influence in other parts of the county, the report said. The Obama administration, facing its own deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, is relying more on targeted attacks and the hunting down of insurgents, the Times said. In the view of some officials, the report said, the targeted attacks could hasten a political settlement with the Taliban. Raids during the last five months have removed more than 130 significant insurgents, while interrogations of captured fighters are giving a better intelligence picture of the war, sources told the Times. U.S. intelligence indicates growing examples of Taliban fighters who are fearful of moving into higher-level command positions because of targeted killings, one senior U.S. military source said. (UPI)



2 August

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan's Kandahar province killed six children Monday but did not injure the intended target, a government official, police said. The explosion in the Dand district west of Kandahar city occurred as people -- including the apparent target, district government chief Hamadullah Nazak -- were heading for work, the Los Angeles Times reported. Schoolchildren also were also out on the street when the blast ripped through a busy market area in Gohsi Khan. Five of the children died at the scene and a sixth died later, provincial government spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said. He said all of the children were under the age of 10. Nazak was not hurt, although a bodyguard was wounded, officials said.  In a separate incident, Waheedullah Sabawon, an adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on tribal affairs, and seven members of his entourage were wounded Monday when a roadside bomb detonated near their convoy in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, a senior military official told Xinhua, China's state-run news agency.  A military official said an explosive device was planted in rickshaw and remotely detonated when Sabawon's motorcade passed. On Sunday, two British troops were killed in separate incidents in separate incidents in Helmand province, where Afghan and coalition forces have been fighting to remove insurgents from around the town of Saidabad, the BBC reported. The British Defense Ministry said the two deaths did not appear to be tied to the military operation that began Friday. (UPI)



2 August

A Kazakh journalist threw dung at the Almaty city court building today to protest the court's rejection of her lawsuit against Prime Minister Karim Masimov and other politicians, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.  Zhanna Baytelova had filed a case against Masimov, Senate speaker Qasymzhomart Toqaev, and lower house speaker Oral Mukhamedzhanov in the Zhetysu district court for what she termed their "illegal decision to sign the law on the 'leader of the nation,'" which became official in mid-June. The district court decided not to accept Baytelov's case, so she took it to the Almaty city court, which refused her case on July 27. The law on the "leader of the nation" widened the rights and powers of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his relatives. Baytelova, who works for the opposition newspaper "Golos Respubliki" (Voice of the Republic), told journalists that by throwing dung at the court building she wanted to register her protest against the Kazakh courts' "illegal decisions."  (RFE/RL)



2 August

Kazakh prison officials have said that six inmates in the Almaty detention center cut open their abdomens on July 30 to protest prison conditions, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Irina Yakubova, the deputy chairwoman of the Department for Control of the Penal System in the Almaty region, told journalists that the six inmates had been given medical assistance and their current condition was satisfactory.  She said the group of inmates managed to organize mass phone calls to their relatives and media outlets from their jail cells informing them about alleged mass beatings and torture of the inmates by prison guards. "All the allegations about mass beatings and cruelty are absolutely groundless," Yakubova said. Yakubova said that the inmates were also protesting the appointment of the detention center's new chief, Dimash Asqaruly. On July 30, dozens of the inmates' worried relatives gathered in front of the detention center in Almaty demanding a meeting with their loved ones.  But officials did not allow them to meet with the inmates, saying that two of the convicts had cut themselves open. On July 31, human rights activists Roza Akylbekova and Ardaq Zhanabilova were allowed to visit the prison. They told journalists later that four inmates had maimed themselves. They did not give any further details. Meanwhile, human rights activist Vadim Kuramshin told RFE/RL that the conflict was caused by a decision by Asqaruly, the new prison chief, to ban mobile phones in the penitentiary. Kuramshin said the inmates protested and the guards beat them, causing the situation to get out of control. (RFE/RL)



2 August

Russia has denied providing S-300 missile system to Azerbaijan. Last year Russia became the world's second-largest arms exporter after the United States and one of Rosoboronexport's, Russia's governmental arms export agency's most popular items after aircraft and warships is the S-300 anti-aircraft system. A high-ranking official at the Russian Defense Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the system was delivered to oil-rich Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea. The official told Russia's Interfax -- Agenststvo Voennykh Novostei: "At present supplies of Russian S-300 systems to Azerbaijan are not possible. First and foremost, for political reasons. Bearing in mind the difficult relations between Baku and Yerevan, exporting S-300 systems to Azerbaijan would certainly upset the balance of power in the region. "Besides, Armenia is Russia's ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and Yerevan might regard such arms contracts between Moscow and Baku as a betrayal." Analysts have speculated that Azerbaijan could be a launch point for any Israeli or U.S. aerial attack on suspected Iranian nuclear facilities. Russia's arms export agency, Roobornexport, enthusiastically describes the system on its Web site: "The S-300V surface-to-air missile system is designed to provide all-weather defense for vital front- level and rear facilities, country's administrative and political centers from various air attack weapons in a severe clutter and jamming environment of the modem warfare. "The system comprises a command post, a sector scanning radar, an all-round surveillance radar, a multi-channel missile guidance radars (up to four), two types of launchers (up to 24), two types of loader-launchers (up to 24), SAMs (two or four for each launcher and loader-launcher)." Controversy over the past few years has repeatedly swirled around proposed Russian exports of the S-300 system to potential clients such as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Iran, reported to defend the Bushehr nuclear station being completed by Russian specialists. The S-300s operational range extends to 100 miles, further than other Russian systems such as the Strela-10, Tunguska, Osa, or Tor, while the range of target detection by individual stations is up to 200 miles. (UPI)



3 August

Bank robbers in northern Afghanistan poisoned and then beheaded the bank's guards before making off with almost $300,000, authorities said. A provincial police spokesman said the Monday robbery occurred at the Kabul Bank branch in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balk province, Indo-Asian News Service reported. "This morning when the staff of the bank came to their office, they found six beheaded bodies of the guards that were locked inside a room," Sherjan Durani said. Officials suspect that an insider was involved, as the guards' food had been poisoned beforehand, the BBC reported. "It has the hallmark of an inside job. How do you poison the food of guards without someone inside?'' a senior security officer said. Abdul Rauf Taj, deputy police chief of Mazar-e-Sharif, said no militant involvement was suspected. "This is a criminal matter," he said. (UPI)



3 August

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District has contracted ITT Corp. for work in Afghanistan. The two contracts -- to provide facilities operations, maintenance and training services for the Afghanistan National Security Forces -- are each for 1-year periods with options for four additional years. The contract for northern Afghanistan is valued at up to $450 million and the contract for southern Afghanistan is valued at up to $350 million for a total of $800 million if all options are exercised, ITT said in a news release. Under this award, ITT will provide operations and maintenance support for ANSF facilities, while also training Afghan personnel to assume responsibility for operating and maintaining the facilities. "Under the unique structure of this award, we'll be providing a robust support capability for ongoing security operations in Afghanistan, while training and developing local ANSF personnel to eventually take over this critical support mission in the future," said ITT Systems President and General Manager Michael Gulino. (UPI)



3 August

An Afghan court has sentenced a former senior police officer to 10 years in prison for helping traffickers smuggle drugs from Afghanistan to Iran. The jury found Commander General Malham Khan guilty Tuesday of cooperating with drug dealers and receiving bribes.  He was also fined $14,000. Authorities arrested the general, who was in charge of Afghan provinces bordering Turkmenistan and Iran, earlier this year.  Khan has denied all charges against him.  The prosecution's evidence was based on the testimony of two police officers who worked with the general. Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of poppies, the raw material for opium and heroin.  The country's multi-million- dollar drug trade is seen to be aiding the Taliban-led insurgency and encouraging corruption. (Voice of America)



3 August

The Kyrgyz Ombudsman's Office has set up its own commission to investigate the deadly clashes last month between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in the southern part of the country, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun told RFE/RL that the commission is made up of 13 people from different ethnic groups, including Uzbeks. He said the commission is working in Osh and Jalal-Abad in tandem with a national commission established by the government to look into the tragedy. President Roza Otunbaeva also pledged to allow for an independent international investigation into the bloodshed, which included allegations of police and security forces' involvement. Local and international rights groups have said an impartial probe is necessary to establish the causes and help avert further violence. Akun, who was a longtime human rights activist before becoming ombudsman in 2008, said the results of his commission's work will be made public on September 30. At least 356 people died and hundreds of thousands fled their homes during the violent clashes in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions from June 10-15. The outbreak followed by just two months political protests and a security crackdown that eventually forced then-President Kurmanbek Bakiev to flee the country and ushered in an interim government led by Otunbaeva. (RFE/RL)



3 August

Two men have been hospitalized after a massive brawl in Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken region, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The August 2 incident reportedly began with an argument in a cafe in the village of Masaliev between young ethnic Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks. The argument escalated into violence. Dozens of people from the three ethnic groups then rushed to the scene and joined in the fighting. Kyrgyz National Security Service officials told journalists police had to fire into the air to disperse the crowd and finally managed to bring the situation under control.  Nine suspects were detained by police and the situation is now reportedly stable.

The Batken region has large populations of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks and is also where three exclaves belonging to Uzbekistan are located. There are also two exclaves of territory belonging to Tajikistan located in Batken. (RFE/RL)



5 August

In Kyrgyzstan an attempt to seize power by force was foiled earlier on Thursday, President Rosa Otunbayeva has said. "It was another attempt to destabilize the country," she declared. Otunbayeva stressed the fact that the abortive coup was well funded. During the suppression of attempts to take power no one was hurt. "The situation in Bishkek is now fully controlled by the legitimate authorities," she added. The capital and suburbs of Kyrgyzstan’s capital on Thursday saw mass rallies by supporters of politician Urmat Baryktobasov and clashes between them and law enforcers. Police and military managed to disperse the crowd with special equipment. As the head of the National Security Service, Keneshbek Dushebaev, said the funding was provided by the family of the former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. "We do know who gave the money for that, how and how much," he said. Deshebayev said that 27 troublemakers were detained for organizing unrest and that several pieces of firearms were confiscated. A criminal case has been opened against them. Several thousand gathered for a rally in Baryktobasov’s support on Thursday. Another several hundred were sealed off by police on the eastern outskirts of the city, where clashes with police occurred a while later. At negotiations with the authorities Baryktobasov demanded the post of prime minister for himself, termination of the criminal proceedings against him, and permission to convene a conference of his supporters in Bishkek. Baryktobasov in 2005 ran for the presidency. But the CEC did not give him a chance to participate in the presidential race, because law enforcement agencies managed to prove he had Kazakh citizenship. In response, several thousand of Baryktobasov’s supporters seized the government building. A criminal case against the politician was launched. Over the past five years he has lived in the United Arab Emirates. He returned home as soon as power changed hands in Kyrgyzstan last April. He was not detained by law enforcement officials and settled in his hometown of Balykchi, the Issyk-Kul Region. As the head of the information and coordinating center of under the presidential staff, Farid Niyazov, has said, the Prosecutor-General’s Office on Wednesday received a request for Baryktobasov’s extradition to Kazakhstan, where he is suspected of committing an economic crime. (Itar-Tass)



5 August

Afghanistan's government says an investigation shows that 39 civilians -- all women or children -- were killed by a NATO rocket attack last month, fewer than first reported but dozens more than NATO forces have conceded.

NATO says it has been checking reports of civilian deaths since Kabul first claimed nearly two weeks ago that more than 50 people were killed by the rocket strike in Helmand Province. A NATO spokesman said today he could not comment on the report of 39 civilian deaths by President Hamid Karzai's office. NATO previously said an initial assessment showed six people were killed in the area at the time of the rocket strike and that a "majority" of the victims were insurgents. Karzai's office said those killed by the rocket were civilians who had crammed into a house to flee a clash between the Taliban and joint Afghan and NATO forces. (Reuters)



5 August

Iran's president told the leaders of Aghanistan and Tajikistan today that the three neighbors could provide a counterweight to NATO in Asia once foreign troops exit the region. Mahmud Ahmadinejad said the three countries should strengthen economic and security ties. At a summit in Tehran of the three Persian-speaking countries -- the fourth in two years -- Ahmadinejad said Tajikistan and Afghanistan had emerged from Soviet rule and occupation just as Iran had shaken off U.S. influence after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ahmadinejad said they should join forces and become an "obstacle" to what he said was Western expansion through NATO. "Those who came in from Europe representing NATO, they want to put pressure on China, Russia, and India, and if they are confronted by three independent, empowered countries here, then that is an obstacle," he said. Ahmadinejad called on foreign troops to leave the region. Ahmadinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon agreed to work for greater cooperation in economic, trade, and transport matters. (Reuters)



6 August

Officials in Kabul have announced the graduation of more policewomen as Afghanistan bids to increase the female presence in its security forces, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports. The class of 16 women received their certificates in a ceremony in Kabul on August 5 after eight months of training at the national police academy. They will soon be assigned to different parts of the country according to the needs of various districts. Police academy General Director Sayed Mohammed Qudusi told reporters at the ceremony that Afghanistan's Interior Ministry is doing all it can to make the newly established education and police training system for women effective.  The academy is funded by the U.S. government. Cadets at the academy were taught how to conduct house searches, methods of recognition, explosives neutralization and dismantling, use of firearms and making arrests, as well as techniques used in detecting the smuggling of drugs. "Our aim is to bring and restore social order [to Afghanistan]," Qudusi said. "We have to organize our programs and bring the quality of education to a level that is in accordance with the needs of society. We have to realize these needs on the ground and act accordingly." Qudusi said the academy's goal is to have trained 5,000 female police officers by 2015. He said that so far a few hundred female cadets have graduated. Policewomen serve several important functions in Afghanistan. For example, they are more adept at dealing with female criminals or in frisking women. Many say their existence in a strict Islamic society like the one in Afghanistan can help counter negative female stereotypes. But policewomen are also often the victims of abuse or public acts of disrespect by people who think they should be living a more traditional way of life.

Some 1,500 Afghan police were killed between 2007 and 2009, three times as many deaths as those suffered by Afghan Army soldiers. There are more than 80,000 police in Afghanistan, and the Interior Ministry wants to eventually have some 160,000 in line with international calls for Afghan security forces to play a bigger role in the fight against insurgents. (RFE/RL)



6 August

The OSCE Ministerial Council has decided to hold an OSCE Summit in Astana on 1-2 December 2010.  Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, which holds the OSCE`s rotating presidency, welcomed the decision.  He said the Astana Summit should identify the strategic areas of work and road map for the OSCE`s development.  The decision also says that the Review Conference will be held in Warsaw, Vienna and Astana in September-November ahead of the Astana Summit, which will be the seventh in the Organization`s history. (AzerTAc)



9 August

Kyrgyzstan’s Defense Ministry has denied foreign media reports saying a US military base is about to emerge in the country along with the transit center at Bishkek’s Manas airport. "The foreign media rumors about the forthcoming creation of a U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan do not correspond to the reality. Such claims have appeared periodically, and all of them discredit the country’s bilateral relations with the United States," the deputy chief of the Defense Ministry’s press-center, Aizada Igibayeva, told news agency on Monday. A story about U.S. Defense Department’s plans for building a military base in the south of Kyrgyzstan was published in the Washington Post, and then quoted many a time by other media. The paper quoted Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Robert Blake, who, speaking in Washington at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, expressed concern about security on the southern borders of Kyrgyzstan. He claimed that militants from Afghanistan might try to penetrate this border. As it has been stated by the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry press-center’s official, there are plans for constructing in the south of the country a training center for the country’s own military. The 5.5-million-dollar project is to be entirely financed by the American side on the disinterested basis. In an official statement the Defense Ministry of Kyrgyzstan said that "the center will include barracks buildings, a dining hall, classrooms, an obstacle course, and so on. It will be used to train crack units for all of the country’s military and security forces." The Defense Ministry stressed the idea that the construction of this facility was not directed against any third countries. Nor does it contradict the country’s obligations within the CSTO and other international organizations. In March, the Pentagon announced plans for building in Batken an anti-terrorism training center for Kyrgyz troops to undergo combat training. This project was estimated at 5.5 million dollars. On August 7 The Washington Post mentioned a figure of 10 million dollars. The U.S. side considers this project as part and parcel of broader cooperation between the U.S. and the Kyrgyz Republic in the sphere of security, which includes the recent completion of a hospital in the village of Besh-Kungei and of a training complex for special operations forces in the town of Tokmak. The US Air Force Base that has existed in the territory of Kyrgyzstan since December 2001 was renamed to the Center for Transit last summer. Its task is to support the international coalition’s anti-terrorist operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. (Itar-Tass)



11 August

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey has made strenuous efforts to position itself as a regional energy hub. Its facilities have frequently been the targets of attacks, however. Two people died and one person was injured in a suspected terrorist attack about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline in Turkey's Mardin region near the village of Midyat. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline carries about a quarter of Iraq's crude exports. A Turkish government official, speaking to the Anadolu Ajansi news agency on condition of anonymity, blamed the explosion on the outlawed militant group, the Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan -- Kurdistan Workers' Party -- which has battling the Turkish government since the late 1970s. The 600-mile, 40-inch Kirkuk-Ceyhan export pipeline, built in 1970, terminates at Turkey's Dortyol port on the Mediterranean coast near Ceyhan. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline was closed by U.N. sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime during 1991-2003. Turkey estimated that in supporting sanctions it had lost $80 billion in transit fees. The pipeline had a pre-invasion capacity of about 1.5 million to 1.6 million barrels per day but shipped around 800,000 bpd. Kirkuk-Ceyhan is Iraq's largest operable crude export pipeline but repeated insurgent attacks inside Iraq since 2003 have lowered its output to around 600,000 bpd. Last October a blast near Mosul halted oil supplies through the pipeline. The crown jewel in Turkey's hydrocarbon export facilities is the $3.6 billion, 1 million bpd 1,092-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which began operations in May 2005 and supplies an estimated 1 percent of global daily energy needs. BTC transits high-quality crude from Azerbaijan's offshore Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli fields to Turkey's deep-water Mediterranean terminus at Ceyhan. The BTC pipeline has also been attacked by the PKK. On Aug. 5, 2008 the BTC Refahiye pipeline segment at Yurtbasi village exploded, which resulted in a conflagration sending flames 160 feet into the air and halting oil flow. After Ankara was notified, valves were closed as officials waited for the oil contained in the 4-mile segment to burn out, with BTC operator British Petroleum declaring force majeure. The same month as the BTC attack the PKK's Abd-al-Rahman Chadarchi stated that if PKK forces in northern Iraq were attacked by units of the Turkish armed forces, his group would assault Turkish oil targets, "since they bring huge amounts of money to Turkey," adding, "The military regime in the country will use this (energy revenues) to develop its war machine to utilize it against the Kurdish people in Turkish Kurdistan." (UPI)



13 August

Turkmenistan, long slow to respond to foreign efforts to enter its energy sector, is now considering tenders for development of its Caspian offshore hydrocarbon deposits. The bids are yet another sign of the dramatic changes occurring since the death of the country's mercurial autocrat, "president for life" Saparmurat Niyazov in December 2006. Among the companies submitting tenders are from the U.S. are Chevron, TX Oil and ConocoPhillips along with Mudabala of the United Arab Emirates, ITAR-Tass reported Friday. For companies seeking to enter the Turkmen energy market, negotiations in some cases have dragged on for years. ConocoPhillips, in conjunction with its partner Lukoil, in 2007 began discussions with the Turkmen government about developing Turkmenistan's offshore Caspian hydrocarbon blocks N19, 20, and 21. Niyazov's successor, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov told a meeting with his energy officials on Thursday, "Turkmenistan will have to choose the best option for the development of its sea shelf sections number 9 and 20" while urging energy bureaucrats to "keep strict control over and to speed up environmental impact assessment works." The winners of the contracts will join Malaysia's Petronas, Dubai's Dragon Oil and Canada's Buried Hill in developing Turkmenistan's Caspian offshore hydrocarbon reserves, with Russia's Itera and Germany's RWE now ramping up projects in Turkmenistan's Caspian sectors 21 and 23. According to expert estimates, Turkmenistan's Caspian hydrocarbon resources could total roughly 18 billion tons of oil. Since 1991 the Caspian basin has emerged as the world's leading untapped energy source. According to the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration, the Caspian's 143,244 square miles and attendant coastline could contain as much as 250 billion barrels of recoverable oil besides an additional 200 billion barrels of potential reserves. Additionally, the EIA places the Caspian basin's natural gas reserves at up to 9.2 trillion cubic meters of recoverable natural gas. (UPI)



14 August

Ex-governor of the Naryn region Tynchtybek Chekiyev was shot dead overnight, AKI-Press agency reported here on Saturday. It occurred in Bishkek's suburbs, in the village of Jalal, where Chekiyev lived with his family. Unidentified attackers broke into his house and fired several shots at him and his wife. The ex-governor died on the way to hospital. His wife is hospitalised. No information about her state is available. The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the murder. Several versions are under consideration, including links with the ex-governor's work. Chekiyev was appointed governor of the Naryn region in November 2009, and he resigned in March 2010.  (Itar-Tass)



14 August

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry expressed discontent over the deployment of Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile systems in Abkhazia.  Commenting on a statement made by Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Alexander Zelin, the ministry said, “It is absolutely unclear what are the purposes of this extremely dangerous and provocative step, which poses a threat not only to the Black Sea region but also to European security as a whole.” The Georgian ministry calls on “the international community and international organisations to take decisive measures to convince Russia to fulfil its obligations in compliance with the ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008”.  Earlier in the day, Zelin said the S-300 systems were deployed in Abkhazia to strengthen national defence on border areas and did not threaten anyone. (Itar-Tass)



16 August

Tajik authorities in the southern Khatlon Province have banned the export of grain and potatoes to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan until spring 2011, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. They say the decision was taken after Russia placed a ban on grain exports, which affects Tajikistan's grain stocks. Tajik exports of grain and potatoes to neighboring Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are routed primarily through the Khatlon region. Tojiddin Sodiqov, who heads Khatlon's agricultural department, told RFE/RL that Tajik farmers last year produced 1 million tons of grain, which is 60 percent of the country's annual needs. He said this year Tajikistan will harvest less grain than last year, which is why exports need to be restricted in order to prevent a rise in prices. But Tajik-based analyst Davlat Shoetibor said prices will go up despite the export restrictions. Shoetibor pointed out that the price of grain has already risen sharply both at local bazaars and on the world market.  One kilo of wheat currently costs 1.3 somonis (31 U.S. cents) in Qurghonteppa, compared with 0.60 somonis one year ago. (RFE/RL)



16 August

All Georgian schoolchildren must learn to speak English as a second language over the next four years, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in Batumi at a meeting with a group of English-speaking volunteer teachers. The teachers arrived recently from the United States, Canada and Poland. They will live with Georgian families and teach English in Guria, Samegrelo and Adjara. This is the second group of teachers to arrive to Georgia in the framework of the "Teach and Learn for Georgia" project.  Saakashvili said English must become the second language of local schoolchildren, followed by Chinese, Arabic, Turkish and Russian. "But the main requirement is for all Georgian children to speak English," he said. Saakashvili called the process an "educational revolution," and his biggest contribution to the development of the country. A third group of teachers is expected to arrive Aug. 30.  Roughly 1,000 teachers will arrive to Georgia by late 2010. Saakashvili added that 10,000 teachers will arrive to Georgia over the next four years, who will then be "Georgia's goodwill ambassadors" after leaving the country. (Trend)



16 August

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met with Acting Moldovan President Mihai Ghimpu in Batumi yesterday. The two presidents discussed bilateral cooperation and coordinated their activities in international organizations, economic projects and regional security issues. After the meeting, Saakashvili and Ghimpu attended the open air concert of British singer Chris de Burgh. De Burgh thanked the Georgian president for his attention, made a toast to Georgia's prosperity, and sang the song "Russian Vodka." Ghimpu visited a special summer camp on Saturday for Moldovan children in Anaklia. Earlier the Georgian government arranged for 170 Moldovan children from areas affected by heavy flooding to vacation in Anaklia free of charge. They arrived in Georgia Aug. 6. (Trend)



17 August

A website linked to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) appears to confirm the death of Tahir Yuldash, an Al-Qaeda-linked Uzbek militant and Central Asia's most wanted Islamist fighter. The website has posted a series of photographs showing the body of a man whom it describes as Yuldash, aslo known as Yuldashev. It also carries a statement saying Yuldash was killed a year ago in a U.S. drone attack. It said the information had been kept secret as the IMU was engaged in fierce fighting against "Islam's enemies" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yuldash has been declared dead several times before. In 2009, Pakistani intelligence officials said he was killed in a U.S. drone attack in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, but militants at the time posted videos on the Internet saying that their leader was alive. (RFE/RL)



17 August

The long-standing Nagorny Karabakh conflict can be easily settled if Armenia withdraws its "occupation forces" from the disputed area, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said, Novosti-Azerbaijan news agency reported on Tuesday. During a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, Aliyev said Armenia and Azerbaijan were in the final stages of talks. The two countries have discussed several ways of settling the dispute over the territory in the last five or six years. One possible solution proposed by Azerbaijan to the problem is withdrawal of Armenian "occupation forces" from the occupied Azeri regions,  and letting people return to the motherland, Novosti-Azerbaijan cited Aliyev as saying. "In order to ensure safety in the region, a peacekeeping contingent should be deployed there," Aliyev said, adding the conflict may be settled soon if Armenia complies with all international resolutions. Gul expressed his support for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. "Undoubtedly, the conflict should be resolved within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan...since international law cannot positively regard any form of violation of the UN-accepted state borders by another state," Gul said. On June 18, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and President Aliyev discussed the Nagorny Karabakh issue in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg.

During the talks, Sargsyan and Aliyev agreed to continue negotiations on the basis of the OSCE Madrid principles adopted in November 2007. They envisage a stage-by-stage resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that would start with the gradual liberation of parts of Azerbaijan bordering Karabakh that were partly or fully occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces during the brutal war over the region in early 1990s. The conflict over Nagorny Karabakh first erupted in 1988, when the region claimed independence from Azerbaijan  and sought support from Armenia. The 1991-94 war claimed more than 30,000 lives on both sides. Karabakh has since remained under Armenian control. (RIA Novosti)



17 August

A car bomb exploded outside a cafe in a restive region of southern Russia on Tuesday, injuring 23 people, police said. The explosion occurred just outside the cafe in downtown Pyatigorsk, a city in Russia's North Caucasus, said Stanislav Belyayev, a spokesman for the Stavropol regional police. The wounded were cafe customers and passers-by, and all were hospitalized, three of them in serious condition. Belyayev said a powerful homemade explosive blew up in a Russian-made Lada, which was parked outside the cafe. Investigators were treating it as a terrorist attack. Bombings and other attacks occur regularly in the North Caucasus, where violence has spread following two separatist wars in Chechnya. While most attacks are carried out by militants targeting police and other officials, some are the result of business disputes. Tuesday's car bombing drew the immediate attention of the Kremlin. President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Federal Security Service and the Prosecutor General's Office to do everything possible to identify and capture those responsible for the bombing. Pyatigorsk is the center of a new federal administrative district, created last year to oversee Kremlin efforts to bring stability to the region. Hours earlier Tuesday, a suicide bomber killed a police officer and wounded two others in the neighboring North Caucasus province of North Ossetia. The attacker blew himself up at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Vladikavkaz, regional police spokesman Aslan Dzgoyev said. The bomber, who died in the explosion, was accompanied by two other men. One of them was captured after police shot and wounded him, while the other escaped. In Dagestan, a North Caucasus republic that sees daily violence, two men were killed Tuesday in an exchange of gunfire with police in the provincial capital, Makhachkala, police said. One policeman and two passersby were wounded. (AP)



18 August

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Masimov said at a government meeting on Monday that the country plans to open more gateways on its border with Kyrgyzstan, local media reported on Tuesday. The government meeting on Monday mainly discussed the issue of providing humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan. During the meeting, Masimov urged Kazakhstan's Border Control Department and Customs Department to study the possible locations of the additional gateways to be opened, Xinhua reported. He stressed that the additional gateways must be placed in the areas which can be controlled by the Kyrgyz side. According to Kazakhstan's First Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeev, relevant authorities of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have made consultations on the issue of increasing border gateways, and the specific arrangements will be announced soon. Kazakhstan closed its border with Kyrgyzstan after large-scale riots erupted on April 7 in the neighboring country. It reopened the border on May 20. (Trend)






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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.


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