Thursday, 24 July 2008

23 July 2008 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (7/24/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)


9 July

The Afghan government is ready to support the parliamentary decision of the possible withdrawal units of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from Kabul this October, Afghan Interior Minister Ahmad Moqbel Zarar said on Wednesday in Dushanbe, where he is staying on a four day working visit. "The government will back this decision and coalition troops have already agreed to the redeployment because they understand that civilians are the ones that usually fall victim to terrorist attacks directed against troops," the minister said. "I think that the redeployment of ISAF troops will not have a negative influence in the security of Kabul residents in general," the minister said.


9 July

The Afghan government is ready to support the parliamentary decision of the possible withdrawal units of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from Kabul this October, Afghan Interior Minister Ahmad Moqbel Zarar said on Wednesday in Dushanbe, where he is staying on a four day working visit. "The government will back this decision and coalition troops have already agreed to the redeployment because they understand that civilians are the ones that usually fall victim to terrorist attacks directed against troops," the minister said. "I think that the redeployment of ISAF troops will not have a negative influence in the security of Kabul residents in general," the minister said. (Interfax-AVN)



9 July

JSC Shardara GES is going to invest 50 million euro to upgrade the Shardara hydro plant in South Kazakhstan region, said Erzhan Kudaibergen, the general director of the company. "We have sealed an agreement with a German bank to borrow 46 million euro plus we are going to use our own monies. We are planning to invest a total of 50 million euro," he told journalists on Wednesday without giving the name of the bank. The 10-year upgrade plan will include replacement of the main units at the plant, 4 turbines, working chambers and generators. Shardara hydro is managed by JSC Samruk Energy (a subsidiary of Samruk Holding for State Assets Management). (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



9 July

The retired major general of Kazakh special services Zhomart Mazhrenov, who was detained a day earlier, committed suicide in a pre-trial detention center of the Kazakh National Security Committee in Astana, the press office of Kazakh National Security Committee told Interfax. A criminal case on charges of abuse of office or inactivity that resulted in serious consequences was opened against the general on June 6, the press service said. The general committed suicide on July 8 after he was detained. Mazhrenov faced charges after new circumstances related to the KNB Special Information Department case were revealed, the press office of the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) said. The case was against some officers of the Special Information Department who are alleged to have committed serious crimes. The press office did not disclose any details of this criminal case, but noted that 12 of Mazhrenov's subordinates were convicted earlier. Mazhrenov was the chief of the Special Information Department of the Kazakh National Security Committee since 2001 until his resignation in 2007, the press office said. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



9 July

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev has attended a kicking off ceremony of cargo ferry Karabakh, Aliev's administration told Interfax on Tuesday. The ferry with 6,000-ton tonnage was constructed at Croatia's Pula shipyard. The vessel can carry 52 rail cars. The ferry will link Baku with Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan and Aktau in Kazakhstan. (Interfax)



10 July

According to tentative estimates, construction of the Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline will come to $6 billion, the general director of Asia Gas Pipeline, Beimbet Shyakhmetov, told journalists on Wednesday. "There is still no design and budget documentation for the compressor equipment, automatic controls and auxiliary equipment. However the preliminary cost comes to $6 billion-$6.5 billion. This is for the phase of construction covering the Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border to Horgos - 1300 kilometers," he said, adding that the overall cost for the gas transportation project between China and Turkmenistan comes to around $20 billion according to estimates. On Wednesday, around the 42nd kilometer mark of the Almaty-Kapshagai highway a groundbreaking ceremony of Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline took place. It will become part of an international trunk pipeline system running between China and Turkmenistan. According to earlier reports, Asia Gas Pipeline, the operator of the Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline, plans to raise at least $6 billion in loans by this summer repayable in 15 years. "A CNPC corporate guarantee will be in effect for the first five years," Shyakhmetov said, commenting on the loan plans. He added that following the pipeline's construction a contract would be signed with Chinese production companies for the transport of gas from Turkmenistan to China under a "transport or pay" regime. Elaborating on this scheme, Shyakhmetov said: "We are minimizing the risks of there being the absence of gas in Turkmenistan, which the Chinese could produce. The same risks for Kazakhstan will be next to zero." The project's recoupment period will come to 12 or 13 years with funds being raised over a period of 15 years. "There will be no state budget funds [in the project], all funds will be borrowed," he said. The likely subcontractor for the project on Kazakhstan's part will be KazStroiServis while CPPE (China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering) will fulfill the Chinese end of the deal. Asia Gas Pipeline was founded in February 2008 on a parity basis between KazTransGaz, a subsidiary of KazMunayGas, and Trans-Asia Gas Pipeline Company Limited. The company is based in Almaty. Shareholders of Trans-Asia Gas Pipeline are CNODC (a subsidiary of CNPC)and PetroChina. KazTransGaz was established in 2000 to acquire, operate and service trunk gas pipelines in Kazakhstan. The company controls the main network of gas pipelines with an overall length of 11,000 kilometers and an annual capacity of 190 billion cubic meters. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



10 July

Kazakhstan has paid $95.213 million as contribution to the registered capital of the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), the bank says in a Thursday statement. Thus, the statement says, the republic has fulfilled its obligations to contribute a total of $500 million to EDB registered capital. The formation of EDB registered capital in the amount of $1.5 billion has been finalized after Russia contributed $1 billion and Kazakhstan $500 million, according to the statement. EDB is an international financial organization established by Russia and Kazakhstan in January 2006 to support the economies of the countries, their steady economic growth and expansion of trading and economic relations. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



10 July

Three people were killed and 21 others injured when a series of blasts rocked an ammunition depot in Uzbekistan on Thursday. "Three were killed and 21 others sustained injuries in an emergency - blasts in the Kagan district of Bukhara Region," Uzbekistan's Emergency Situations Ministry reported on Thursday. All those injured in the blasts are being given medical attention, the ministry said. It said the blasts occurred early on July 10 at an artillery depot, sparking a fire and detonating ammunition, it said. The scene was cordoned off by regional police and Defense Ministry forces. "Civilians living near the ammunition depot have been evacuated. Defense Ministry servicemen, regional emergency situations department personnel and interior troops are dealing with the aftermath," the ministry said in a statement. A government commission has been set up, comprising the leaders of ministries of the National Security Service, the Prosecutor General's office, the defense, emergency situations and interior ministries, and other agencies, "to neutralize the aftermath, to provide safety and aid the victims," it said. The Commission is investigating. (Interfax)



11 July

Tajikistan has begun supplying electricity to neighboring Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The announcement came from the Barki Tojik state energy holding company, which said exports were possible following a sharp increase in output in the nation's hydropower stations.The head of the energy holding company's press office, Nazir Yodgori, said June's high temperature had led to a thaw in glaciers in the Pamir Mountains, which resulted in reservoirs filling up. Tajikistan was then able to completely lift restrictions on power supply after its use had been limited to four hours a day for more than seven months, Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported. Currently the energy holding company supplies Uzbekistan with up to 6 million kilowatt hours of power a day and plans to pay off its debts to Uzbek suppliers over the summer months. (UPI)



11 July

Kazakh national oil and gas company KazMunayGas (KMG) is purchasing a 51% stake in MangistauMunayGas (MMG), an oil producing company, and planning to finalize the deal this year. KMG former president Uzakbai Karabalin has been appointed head of MangistauMunayGas. "We have signed an agreement with MangistauMunayGas shareholder for KazMunayGas to purchase a controlling stake, which is 51%," KazMunayGas president Serik Burkitbaev told a Friday press briefing in Astana. "We have reached an agreement with MangistauMunayGas that KMG will be managing the company during the transition period. (...) Mr Karabalin has been appointed head of MangistauMunayGas," he said. Karabalin had been president of KazMunayGas for a long time and was recently replaced by Burkitbaev. At the press briefing the journalists wondered why KMG purchased a 51% stake in MangistauMunayGas but not a 71% stake as planned before. Burkitbaev answered them that KMG has a very important and rather tough investment program. That's why the company decided to buy a 51% stake, he commented. Burkitbaev said that KMG is planning to finalize this purchase deal this year. On July 9 KMG officially announced its intent to purchase a controlling stake in MangistauMunayGas from Central Asia Petroleum. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)



11 July

Russian Consul to Georgia Alexander Smaga was summoned to the Georgian Foreign Ministry on Thursday and handed a protest note. Director of the Russian Department at the Georgian Foreign Ministry Irakly Torondzhadze handed the protest note, the Georgian Foreign Ministry told Interfax. In the note, the Georgian Foreign Ministry "protests the violations of Georgian airspace by Russian Air Forces on July 8, 2008," the ministry said. (Interfax)



11 July

On Friday Russia's Federation Council ratified the agreement between the Russian and Kazakh governments on creation of a joint venture on the basis of the Orenburg Gas Processing Plant (GPP). The agreement is aimed at organizing a Russian-Kazakh company to develop the hydrocarbon resources in Orenburg region and at Karachaganak field in Kazakhstan. The JV is to operate on conditions that long-terms agreement (not less than 15 years) be concluded with respect to purchase and processing of the Karachaganak gas in the amount of at least 15 billion cubic meters per year and sales of the processed Karachaganak gas in Russia and Kazakhstan and its exports through a single export channel which is Gazprom. Before the joint venture the hydrocarbon feedstock from Karachaganak field was supplied on the basis of direct contracts concluded by subsidiaries of the authorized organizations. (Interfax)



16 July

China says it dismantled 12 terrorist groups this year in the country's far western Xinjiang Uighur region, where much of its Muslim population is concentrated. Quoting local police, the China Daily reported Wednesday the groups allegedly were sub-branches of transnational terrorist organizations, including the "Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement" and "Hizb-e Tahrir Organization." Kashgar Police Chief Huang Sanping was quoted as telling a Hong Kong newspaper the groups' members are mostly jobless drifters or ex-convicts. The region is near the borders of five countries, including Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Human rights groups have accused China of using its anti-terrorism campaign against the 8 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, the country's largest province. They say authorities have fought opposition from the Uighurs by encouraging the migration of ethnic Han Chinese. "Kashgar was the site of riots in the early 1990s, but the evil forces have been steadily nipped in the bud since 2000," Huang was quoted as saying. Last week, Chen Zhuangwei, Urumqi's public security head, said five "terrorist groups" accused of plotting attacks at next month's Beijing Summer Olympics had been foiled and 82 people had been arrested. Five others accused of being part of a "holy war training group" were shot and killed by police. (UPI)



17 July

The government of Azerbaijan has been lobbying the French presidency of the European Union to back its energy projects, officials said. French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Gabriel Keller told reporters in the capital, Baku, Thursday that EU member states should support energy programs in the Caspian state to meet their rising energy demands, Trend Capital News said. "The bilateral and multilateral talks on this issue in France-Azerbaijan and EU-Azerbaijan format are going on. The only reason of the lingering is that EU includes 27 states and the consent of all of them is required for this purpose," Keller said.The ambassador said French support for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, which will connect to the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, points to a positive working relationship between Europe and Azerbaijan. France holds the EU presidency through 2008. (UPI)



18 July

Diplomats from Turkey and Armenia, neighbours without diplomatic relations, met secretly in Switzerland this month in a bid to normalize ties, the mass circulation daily Hurriyet reported Friday. The delegations met in Bern on July 8 and held talks for several days, Hurriyet said. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan did not deny the report, saying the two countries have contacts "from time to time" and stressing that Ankara favours dialogue with its northeastern neighbour. The meeting reflects a softer attitude towards Turkey by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, elected in February, Hurriyet commented, and reported that the United States and some European Union countries were informed of the talks. Ankara has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Yerevan since the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991 because of Armenian efforts to secure international recognition of Armenian massacres under the Ottoman Empire as genocide. In 1993, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with its close ally Azerbaijan, then at war with Armenia, dealing a heavy economic blow to the impoverished nation."We have contacts with Armenian colleagues from time to time," Babacan told reporters Friday. "It is important to discuss how relations between the two countries can be normalized through dialogue."Turkish and Armenian leaders have met on the sidelines of international gatherings, including a Black Sea regional summit in Istanbul last year. In 2006, Ankara disclosed that Turkish and Armenian diplomats had held three rounds of talks "to determine whether there is common ground on which to make progress in bilateral ties." More recently, Sarkisian invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul to watch a football World Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Armenia in Yerevan in September. Gul is yet to reply. (AFP)



21 July

Georgia's Interior Ministry said on Monday that four people have been arrested in the breakaway province of South Ossetia, following claims by local authorities that the men were abducted by Georgia. "We can confirm that these people were detained. They were detained on suspicion of committing various crimes, including drug-related offenses," ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. Earlier in the day, authorities in the rebel region issued a statement saying: "On July 20, at around 11:00 p.m. [20:00 GMT], Georgia took four citizens of the republic of South Ossetia hostage."  South Ossetia's interior ministry told RIA Novosti that according to preliminary information the four South Ossetian residents had been seized by Georgian security forces in the village of Eredvi, located on the territory of the self-proclaimed republic, and were currently being held in the Georgian town of Gori. "Georgia asserts that the hostages were taken in response to the detainment by South Ossetia of Georgian citizen Teimuraz Goginashvili, a resident of the village of Nikozi, who is suspected of murdering Ossetians," the department said. It also said that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was involved in attempts to resolve the issue. South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, resulting in a bloody conflict that killed hundreds of people. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region, along with the rebel region of Abkhazia, back under Tbilisi's control. (RIA Novosti)



21 July

A joint military training program is involving more than 1,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers and troops from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The exercise in Georgia was planned months ago, but it follows sporadic clashes between Georgians and separatists in two breakaway regions closely tied to Russia. And it comes amid friction over Georgia's bid for NATO membership, viewed by Moscow as hostile. The American group in Georgia includes Marine Captain James Haunty of Columbus (Ohio), the commander of Lima (LEE'-muh) Company. He says he's keeping an eye on the simmering conflicts. Lance Corporal Jonah Salyers of Columbus is a Marine reservist. He says the trip is his first outside the United States. (AP)



21 July

Armenia attaches great significance to its upcoming chairmanship in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and will work to improve interaction with all of its member states, Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandyan said at a meeting with CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha on Monday. The meeting focused on Armenia’s upcoming chairmanship and events scheduled for that period. Nalbandyan and Bordyuzha discussed “the need to consider the biggest problems Armenia plans to address within the CSTO during its chairmanship”.  They also exchanged views on the CSTO agenda and ways to implement it, including the preparation of the meetings of the Collective Security Council and other CSTO bodies provided for in the organisation’s charter, after which Armenia will assume the chairmanship. Nalbandyan and Bordyuzha also talked about the CSTO joint command and staff exercise Rubezh-2008 to begin in Armenia on July 22. “The first and second stages are essentially political stages, during which the steps will be determined for the CSTO states and the organisation as a whole to take on the basis of the situation simulated in the course of the exercise in order to reduce tensions caused in the collective security region by destructive forces, and a mechanism for ensuring a political settlement of the acute situation will be worked out,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said. “The first and the second stages are more interesting for the CSTO Secretariat than the subsequent ones when purely military actions, traditional for all command and staff exercises, are to be practised ,” Bordyuzha said. (Itar-Tass)



22 July

Azerbaijan is not concerned over secret talks between Armenia and regional ally Turkey, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has said. Spokesman Khazar Ibrahim said on Monday that the Azerbaijani government was interested in Turkey's official position, which Ankara said has not changed. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan confirmed last week that there had been secret talks between Turkish Foreign Ministry diplomats and Armenian officials earlier this month but underlined that such talks were taking place from time to time to discuss ways to normalize relations between the two estranged neighbors. The Foreign Ministry also said no special meaning should be attributed to these talks. "What is important for us is the official statements of the Turkish officials. Mr. Babacan said Turkey's policy has not changed, and we hope that future steps Turkey will take will be in line with this policy," Ibrahim, speaking at a press conference, was quoted by the Anatolia news agency late on Monday as saying. Turkey closed its border and severed its diplomatic ties with Armenia in protest of Armenia's occupation of the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. Ankara says normalization of ties depends on Armenian withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh, a change of policy in Yerevan on claims of an Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and formal recognition of the Turkish-Armenian border by Armenia. The Turkish-Armenian talks, which reportedly took place on July 8 in Switzerland, came amid calls for dialogue from Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan. Sarksyan repeated his call for closer ties with Turkey on Monday, telling a news conference that the improvement of ties between Armenia and Turkey is mutually beneficial. Sarksyan said earlier this month that he had invited his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül, to visit Yerevan and watch a football match in September. (Zaman Online)



23 July

Central Asian nations are working together on electricity issues. The fourth session of the Coordination Council on Power Industry of Central Asia was recently concluded.The first deputy chairman and chief engineer of the Tajik electricity company said the heads of electricity companies from the member states, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan took part in the session. According to him, during the session an agreement was reached between Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.Turkmenistan will supply Tajikistan with about 1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually until 2010. The issue of electricity supply from Uzbekistan has not been resolved. However, nearly 600 million kilowatt-hours could be sent from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan in the near future. Turkmenistan may also be joining the organization soon. (UPI)



23 July

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama says Afghanistan might end up being tougher to subdue than Iraq, days after visiting both war zones.The White House hopeful told Time magazine in an interview that his two trips had confirmed in his mind many of his earlier thoughts about future US policy towards the two countries. "I think in Afghanistan, looking at the landscape and the extraordinary poverty involved, makes you realise what a daunting task our efforts there are going to be," Senator Obama told Time. "It redoubles my belief, or deepens my belief, that if we're going to get that done we're going to have put in more resources."Both issues (Iraq and Afghanistan) are very difficult. Both situations are very difficult, but it is not clear to me that in the long term Afghanistan isn't a tougher job than Iraq is." The Illinois senator has laid out a plan to start withdrawals of combat troops from Iraq as soon as taking office, and would hope to get most US soldiers out of the country within 16 months. He wants to divert at least two combat brigades to Afghanistan, amid worsening insurgent violence and security problems. (Daily Telegraph)



23 July

A British soldier died after being ambushed in southern Afghanistan, while U.S.-led coalition troops killed several militants near the capital, officials said Wednesday. Militants also killed a district police chief in the eastern Nangarhar province Wednesday after striking his convoy with a roadside bomb, said Sayed Mohammad, a provincial official. The militants attacked the British patrol in Kajaki district of Helmand province on Tuesday, a statement from the British Ministry of Defense said. A soldier was killed and two other troops were wounded, it said. More than 2,600 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally of official figures. Monthly death tolls of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan surpassed U.S. military deaths in Iraq in May and June. The growing Taliban-led insurgency is primarily concentrated in the south and east, but significant fighting is occurring in the west and central parts of the country. In central Wardak province, U.S.-led coalition forces killed "several militants" while hunting for a Taliban leader said to have been behind an attack that killed three American troops and their interpreter last month. Coalition forces were searching compounds in Saydabad district in Wardak on Tuesday when militants attacked with grenades, machine guns and small-arms.The troops fired back and called in an airstrike. The coalition statement did not say whether the Taliban commander was among the dead. Militants had attacked a coalition convoy on June 26 in Saydabad, killing the Afghan interpreter and three troops. Separately, a civilian vehicle struck a mine in Khost province in Afghanistan's east Tuesday, killing four people and wounding three, provincial police official Yaqub Khan said. The dead included a 2-year-old and a woman. (AP)

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