Wednesday, 29 October 2008

29 October 2008 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/29/2008 issue of the CACI Analyst)

BP sees boom in Azeri energy sector 17 October BP-Azerbaijan said its total investments for oil fields and pipeline arteries in the region could total $28 billion, top officials said Friday. BP Global Executive Director Andy Inglis said production from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and

BP sees boom in Azeri energy sector 17 October BP-Azerbaijan said its total investments for oil fields and pipeline arteries in the region could total $28 billion, top officials said Friday. BP Global Executive Director Andy Inglis said production from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and Shah Deniz fields could bring major investment opportunities to the oil-rich region, Trend Capital News reported. Gas production from the Shah Deniz field alone is expected to reach 8.6 billion cubic meters, with those volumes expected to reach 20 billion cubic meters in 2012. Meanwhile, the Azeri Press Agency noted the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan said it would increase the volume of gas exports to Georgia from the Shah Deniz and ACG fields. "Because of recent happenings, Georgian companies terminated cooperation with Russian Gazprom. Azerbaijan will probably offer an increase in gas exports to this country," said SOCAR's Murad Heydarov. The region hosts the 1,099-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, with BP-Azerbaijan as the majority shareholder. (UPI)


Vast new mosque opens in Chechnya 17 October A new mosque in the Russian region of Chechnya - described by the authorities as the biggest in Europe - has opened. The Heart of Chechnya mosque has been built in the centre of the capital, Grozny - on a spot where civil war raged only a few years ago. Hundreds of local people attended the opening of the mosque, which was built in memory of Chechnya's assassinated pro-Kremlin leader Akhmad Kadyrov. His son Ramzan - the present ruler - led the inauguration ceremony. Muslims played traditional instruments outside the mosque, built in the classical Ottoman style, and reminiscent of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. The Turkish-built structure, which can hold 10,000 worshippers, has risen where there was only rubble, says BBC correspondent James Rodgers. Its minarets tower over the centre of Grozny, where many of the streets are still being rebuilt. It is only a few years since the site of the mosque and the entire surrounding area were nothing more than a layer of fractured masonry. Ramzan Kadyrov has presided over a massive, Moscow-funded reconstruction programme, of which the mosque is the centrepiece. Like his father, Mr Kadyrov once took up arms against Moscow's rule, but later switched sides. At the opening ceremony he stressed his loyalty to the Kremlin - saying that with the help of the federal authorities, the Chechen people had thwarted plans to bring about Russia's collapse. "The Chechens... have defended the integrity of Russia and the purity of Islam," he said. (BBC)


Kazakhstan to inject $15B into economy

20 October The Kazakh government said Monday it will inject billions from its oil coffers to keep the country afloat during the global economic crisis. Kazakhstan has emerged as a bright spot amid the world economic collapse. Steven Mann, the U.S. State Department's envoy to the region, said last week the country was paving the way in the new global energy market. "Kazakhstan is the world leader in energy resources," he said.  Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said his government plans to dump a large portion of the oil-rich country's gross domestic product into the economy to stave off a recession, RIA Novosti reported. "An additional $15 billion will be injected into the economy by the end of the year, or about 15 percent of the country's GDP," the premier said. The freezing of world credit markets and the subsequent downturn in the economy has some oil-producing countries postponing or delaying planned expansions. (UPI)


Abkhazia to Host Two Russian Bases – Shamba 21 October

Russia will station troops in Abkhazia at two military bases – in Gudauta and Ochamchire, Sergey Shamba, the breakaway region’s foreign minister, said on October 21. Russian troops will also have outposts in upper Kodori Gorge, he said, according to the Abkhaz official news agency, Apsnipress. Russia will have 3,800 servicemen in Abkhazia, Shamba said. Russia plans to leave the same number of troops in South Ossetia, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. “As a result, Abkhazia will be provided with appropriate security guarantees from Russia,” the breakaway region’s foreign minister said.

He also said that it was planned, as envisaged in a partnership and cooperation treaty with Russia, to sign an agreement with Russia that would pave the way for Russian assistance in protecting the Abkhaz border with Georgia. Meanwhile, the Russian daily, Kommersant, reported on October 21 that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) planned to take a lead in protecting the Abkhaz and South Ossetian borders. The border guard unit in Russia is under FSB subordination. A relevant agreement, according to the newspaper, will be signed as soon as the Russian parliament ratifies the partnership and cooperation treaties with the two breakaway regions. (Civil Georgia)


Return of Georgians to All Parts of Abkhazia Impossible – Shamba 21 October While not resisting the return of Georgians to Gali district and upper Kodori Gorge, the Abkhaz authorities will not allow them to return to other parts of Abkhazia, Sergey Shamba, the Abkhaz foreign minister, said.

At a meeting with a group of experts from the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Sokhumi on October 20, Shamba said, according to the Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress, that Sokhumi had encouraged the return of Georgian displaced persons and had “even accomplished this process” in the Gali district. The Abkhaz side, he said, was not preventing the return of residents of upper Kodori Gorge who fled the area after it was taken over by the Abkhaz forces during the August war between Russia and Georgia. “However, at this stage, against the background of tensions and confrontation coming from the Georgian side, it seems impossible to consider the return of Georgian refugees to other parts of Abkhazia,” Shamba said. (Civil Georgia)


Tajikistan clears debts to Russia - finance minister 23 October

Tajikistan's finance minister said on Thursday the country had completely repaid its debts to Russia.

"The remaining part of the debt, worth $15 million, has been repaid over the nine months of this year," Safarali Nadzhmuddinov told a news conference. The Central Asian country owed Russia $50 million, which Russia has invested in the Sangtuda-1 hydropower plant project under a 2004 agreement.

The minister also said as of October 1, his country's foreign debt stood at $1.383 billion, or 29.1% of GDP.

Tajikistan's main creditors are the World Bank, the Asian and the Islamic development banks. (RIA Novosti)


Tbilisi Condemns Russia’s ‘Provocative Actions’ in S.Ossetia 23 October Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said a Russian troop increase in South Ossetia was “a provocation,” adding that Russia wanted to destabilize Georgia so as to hamper economic development and investment. Georgia claimed on October 23 that Russia had increased its military presence in the breakaway region by 2,000 troops in the previous week, brining the total number to 7,000. Russia denied the report, saying it was deliberate disinformation.“It is absolutely clear that they have been brought for provocative purposes,” Vashadze told journalists on October 23. “Russia has a single goal – to maintain instability in Georgia as long as possible. You know that not only military force is a weapon for Russia, but the same can be said about instability that will ensure that the Georgian economy receives as little investments as possible.” Vashadze also said that the Georgian side had informed international organizations of the troop increase. The Georgian deputy foreign minister also commented on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement, in which he accused Georgia of violating the ceasefire agreement and deploying special purpose units near the administrative borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “Georgian troops remain at the places of their permanent locations – in Senaki and Gori. As far as special troops are concerned, you know that the EU monitors are stationed there, who observe violations from time to time. But no violations by the Georgian side have ever been observed,” Vashadze said. (Civil Georgia)



Medvedev in Armenia for economic talks

24 October Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Armenia Tuesday as the country struggles with oil infrastructure and energy imports. Russia said earlier it had pulled out of development of an oil refinery in Armenia. Igor Levitin, the Russian transport minister, said Moscow investors are no longer interested in developing a 35 million-barrel-per-day refinery because of the high cost of oil processing, Trend Capital News said Tuesday. Armenia lacks domestic oil production, leaving the country reliant on Iran and Russia for energy imports. The country imports about 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas from Russia each year and converts Iranian gas to electricity to trade back to the Islamic Republic. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said the domestic consumption in Armenia is completely dependent on imports.

Territorial disputes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, which Armenia occupies, have brought difficulties to the country economically. Though Medvedev said his country was interested in brokering an agreement of the territories, his prime objective was to ease regional repercussions from the global economic crisis. (UPI)

Abkhaz authorities blame Georgia for bridge blast24 OctoberThe explosion of the railway bridge over the river Inguri in the security zone on the Georgian-Abkhaz border is an act  of  sabotage  perpetrated  by  Georgia,  said  Abkhaz Defense Minister Mirab Kishmariya. "We  believe  it is another act of sabotage by Georgia," Kishmariya said in an interview with Interfax. (Interfax)

Georgia Says Bridge Blown Up in Gali 24 October

Russian forces in Abkhazia destroyed the Shamgona-Tagiloni bridge connecting the Gali region of Abkhazia with the Zugdidi region early on October 24, the Georgian Interior Ministry said.

This is the second bridge destroyed in Abkhazia within the past few days, according to the Georgian Interior Ministry. “Such an action aims at cutting off the Gali population from the rest of Georgia,” the Ministry said in a statement. (Civil Georgia)


Caspian energy corridor developing 10 October Opening an office of the state-run Azeri energy company in Kazakhstan is a sign of the desire to move ahead with the Trans-Caspian oil pipeline, officials said.

In an interview with Trend Capital News, the director of the Kazakh office of the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan, Vurgun Jafarov, said proceeding with Trans-Caspian energy transport pipelines was dependent on bilateral relations between the two countries. "I hope this will help intensify business cooperation as a whole and enhance the process of such a large project as the Trans-Caspian oil transportation system," he said. The Trans-Caspian oil pipeline is a proposed 435-mile route from the Aktau port in Kazakhstan to Baku in Azerbaijan with connections to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the second longest in the world. There are plans for a similar natural gas pipeline. Jafarov said the volatile world economic situation made it necessary to move quickly on the project. "Lost time means a lost project, more so now, when all formats are changing," he said. Construction on the pipeline is intended to move ahead to the point that operations can commence by 2012. (UPI)

Reported incident in Georgia terrorist attack – ministry 25 October A reported landmine explosion that killed the governor of Tsalendzhikha, a district bordering Abkhazia on Saturday, should be qualified as a terrorist attack, Georgia's Foreign Ministry said. In explaining the death of governor Gia Mebonia, the ministry said European   Union   observers,   Georgian   police  and  members  of  the Tsalendzhikha  administration  went  to  the  village  of Muzhava in the district  on Saturday, to investigate an alleged incident the day before in which fire was opened toward Muzhava from Abkhaz territory controlled by Russian armed forces. "As the motorcade was  approaching the site of the incident, two delay activation  landmines  exploded  and  fire was opened with grenade launchers," the ministry said in a statement. "As a result, the head of administration of Tsalendzhikha district, Gia Mebonia, was killed," the document said. "The EU observers remained unhurt," the statement added.  On   Friday,  about  200 Russian  troops  approached  the  village Khurvaleti  in  the  Georgian district of Gori and that "it was only the intervention  of  members  of  the  European  Union mission that made it possible to defuse the situation," the statement said. The ministry urged  resolute international measures "to prevent a  new wide-scale  provocation  against  Georgia  that  is being planned by Russia." Interfax has  been unable to obtain comments on the statement from any Russian official so far. Earlier, the police chief  of the Abkhaz district of Gali denied that Abkhazia   was   responsible   for   the   alleged   attack  on  of

Tsalendzhikha. "There  have  been no incidents or armed attacks in the communities near the  Georgian  border  over  the  past  twenty-four hours," Lourens Kogonia told Interfax. Kogonia  said,  however,  that  a  villager  had  been injured by a landmine  near  his  home  in  Muzhava.  The police chief claimed it was unclear who had planted the mine. The villager "had been gathering and selling nonferrous metal scrap

and the  incident  most  likely  had to do with his activities," Kogonia said. He named the villager as Otar Sabulua. (Interfax)


Pakistan troops kill 11 Taliban militants: official

26 October Pakistani troops on Sunday killed 11 Taliban militants in clashes in a tribal area on the border with Afghanistan which is seen as a safe haven for Islamic extremists, officials said. The clashes in Bajaur came one day after the military announced it had recaptured an Al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold in the area after two months of fighting which left 1,500 rebels and 73 soldiers dead. In one incident, insurgents attacked a security post on the outskirts of Bajaur's main town of Khar. Troops retaliated, killing six rebels, a security official said. Five more fighters were killed when troops attacked a suspected militant base in Charmang district, another security official said, adding that two militant vehicles were destroyed by helicopter shelling. On Saturday, the head of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps, Major General Tariq Khan, said forces had driven insurgents out of Loisam, a strategic town in Bajaur which is at a crossroads of extremist supply routes. Security forces captured more than 300 foreign militants in the operation, mainly from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Khan said. Pakistan's tribal belt became a haven for hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists who fled the US-led toppling of Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime in late 2001. Islamabad has previously hailed its operation in Bajaur as proof that it is responding to US and Afghan demands to take action against extremists, who are accused of launching attacks on US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan. Khan said the operation in Bajaur "could go for several months before the area is completely cleared of militants". In neighbouring Mohmand tribal zone, 12 people, mainly paramilitary soldiers, were wounded late Sunday in a suicide car bomb attack on a checkpost, a senior security official said. Elsewhere, 15 people including 10 Taliban militants were killed in a gun battle with locals in the restive northwestern Swat valley, which has been rocked by a violent campaign for Islamic law, officials said. (AFP)


Abkhazia may make territorial claims to Georgia 27 October In  the  future Abkhazia may make territorial   claims  to  Georgia,  head  of  the  Abkhaz  parliamentary committee  for  education,  science and culture Valery Kvarchia has told Interfax. "Several  [up  to  14]  frontier villages currently under Georgia's jurisdiction such as Khurcha, Pakhulani and others historically belonged to Abkhazia  and were given over to Georgia without any justification in Soviet times," he said. Kvarchia  said  a  parliamentary  commission set up to describe the border of  Abkhazia  has compiled a memo on the eastern and southeastern borderline. He accounted the formation of the commission to new circumstances - "the international recognition of the independence and sovereignty of Abkhazia, and  the  final  liberation  of  its  territory and return of primordial lands." Last   Friday  the  parliament  of  Abkhazia  passed  a  resolution approving  the  state border of Abkhazia which indicates that the border with Russia  in  the  north  and  northwest  will  run along the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range from Mount Donguz-Orunbashi to Mount Agepsta and along the Psou river from its source to the Black Sea. In the south the border will run along the coastline. In the east and southeast  Abkhazia  will  border  with  Georgia  from Mount Donguz- Orunbashi,  along the Neskra river to the Inguri and along the Inguri to the Black Sea.(Interfax)


Over 200 militants seized in Chechnya in 2008 – Nurgaliyev27 OctoberChechen  police  have proven to be efficient,  Russian  Interior  Minister  Rashid  Nurgaliyev  said at the opening of the Sever battalion's compound in Grozny on Monday. "The  Chechen  Interior  Ministry  seems  to  be  one  of  the most efficient  entities  in the entire Russian police force. We judge by the number of prevented terrorist acts and strikes on militants," he said. "Four  gangs  were  neutralized  and  more  than 200 militants were seized in  the first nine months of this year. The overall crime rate in Chechnya dropped by 22%," the minister said. (Interfax)
Russia seeks long-term cooperation with Muslim world – Tatarstan’s  president28 OctoberRussia has become a predictable  partner of the Muslim world, President of Russia's internal republic of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiyev said. "One  can say that Russia has clearly defined its strategic path in the Muslim  East.  It  has  become  a  predictable partner to the Muslim world," Shaimiyev told the opening ceremony of the fourth meeting of the Russia and Islamic World strategic vision group in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Shaimiyev,  who  is  one  of  the Russian co-chairmen of the group, noted that  the  meeting will primarily be about "restoring the required level of  trust  and  predictability in our relations, as well as making clear that  the  aspiration  to  develop  long-term cooperation with the Islamic world is not a timeserving issue to Russia." The president of Tatarstan also said that there is mutual interest in developing cooperation between Russia and Muslim countries. "One should bear in mind the fact that strategic partnership with Russia, which seeks multi-polar world order and does not encroach on values,  traditions,  authenticity  and  sovereignty of countries of the Muslim East, is very important to Muslim countries as well," he said. The Russia and Islamic World strategic vision group was established in 2006.  Shaimiyev  and head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs  (RUIE)  Yevgeny Primakov co-chair the group on the Russia side. The  group  is  a  consultative  body  whose  goal  is  to  expand cooperation in all spheres between Russia and Muslim countries. (Interfax)

Azeri oil exports up seven-fold

28 October Crude oil exports from major pipeline arteries in Azerbaijan generated about $36 billion from January to September, state officials said Tuesday. Azerbaijan exported around 454 million barrels of crude oil, worth an estimated $36.2 billion, from January. Around 13 million of that oil traveled by rail, with the remainder channeling through major pipeline arteries originating in the capital, Baku, the Azeri Press Agency reported. Those exports were 7.1 times greater than during the same period last year. BP-Azerbaijan, a major operator in the region and majority shareholder of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, forecast $28 billion in infrastructure investments in the coming years. Meanwhile, the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan said plans to expand its offices into Kazakhstan would help boost regional pipeline capacity through the Trans-Caspian energy routes. "I hope this will help intensify business cooperation as a whole and enhance the process of such a large project as the Trans-Caspian oil transportation system," SOCAR's Vurgun Jafarov said earlier this month. (UPI)


Russia determined to broaden interaction with Islamic world – Medvedev 28 October

President Dmitry Medvedev has sent greetings to the fourth meeting of the Russia-Islamic World strategic vision group in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin reported on Tuesday. "Russia's  developing  cooperation  with the Islamic states remains highly dynamic.  Your Group is playing no small part in this," Medvedev writes. "Russia, a country with observer status in the Organization of the Islamic  Conference,  intends  to  abide  firmly to its course to expand active interaction  with  the  Islamic world. I think in connection with

this, that  a  broad  discussion  of  the  initiative to further develop interregional  dialogue,  proposed  by  King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saudi of  Saudi  Arabia, is of crucial importance, taking into account a significant  role  the  religious  factor  is  playing  in international affairs," he said. "I   am   also   convinced,   that   the   implementation   of  the Russia-proposed  idea  of  forming  a  consultative council of religions under UN  aegis,  will  help  strengthen  the  moral principles of world politics,  facilitate  deeper inter-confessional communication and, in a broader  context,  promote  the  dialogue of civilizations," the Russian president writes. "The illusion of the uni-polar world is becoming a thing of the past in   front   of   our   eyes.  Forums like yours can contribute significantly to the search for ways to make the situation in the world healthier and  to  attain  a new level of global partnership," Medvedev said. "I am convinced that Russia's active interaction with the Islamic world will help build a fairer system of international relations, where the factor  of  force  will  finally  stop playing the role of universal instrument of settling all emerging problems," he said. The message of greetings was read out at the meeting by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev, on behalf of the Russian president. (Interfax)


Swiss Expert to Lead International Probe into August War – Kouchner 28 October

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant, published on October 28, that a group of “intellectuals, politicians and lawyers” will make up an international investigative commission, which would probe the causes of the August war between Russia and Georgia. Kouchner said that “a lady from Switzerland” would chair the commission. Although he refused to name her, he ruled out Carla Del Ponte and added that the person in question was an expert on Caucasus issues. The French foreign minister said that he hoped both Russia and Georgia would cooperate with the commission and “open up their archives.” He said that a refusal to cooperate would cause international condemnation. “The commission will be meeting with defense ministers, presidents. I do not know whether Mr. Medvedev will agree. Anyway, why should he refuse to cooperate with the investigation?” Kouchner said.The Georgian leadership has stated several times it would cooperate with an international investigative group. Eka Tkeshelashvili, Georgia’s foreign minister, told the Georgian parliamentary commission studying the August war on October 25 that Tbilisi was “open for cooperation with an international investigation.” (Civil Georgia)


Tehran interested in ties with SCO: Davoudi 29 October

First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi said on Wednesday that Tehran is determined to further expand ties with member states of Shanghai Cooperation Organization. He made the remark prior to his departure for Astana, Kazakhstan, to attend regular session of Prime Ministers Council of Shanghai Cooperation Organization to be held on October 29-30. Iran attaches special importance to its relations with the SCO member states, Davoudi told reporters gathered at Mehrabad International Airport. He added that russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan are the SCO member countries and Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan are the observer states. Iran share common interests with the SCO member states, he said, adding that the two sides cooperate in the areas of expansion of exports markets, transit of goods, and transportation. The two sides also cooperate in the areas of security, campaign against extremism and anti-drug combat in the region, the VP added. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an intergovernmental mutual-security organization which was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Except for Uzbekistan, the other countries had been members of Shanghai Five, founded in 1996, after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the Organization. (IRNA)


Tbilisi Refutes ‘War Crime’ Claims 29 October BBC reported on October 28 that it had obtained evidence suggesting Georgia used indiscriminate force and may have targeted civilians in South Ossetia during the August war. BBC also reported that during its first unrestricted visit to the region, it had also seen homes in ethnic Georgian villages “not just burned by Ossetians, but also bulldozed.” “We strongly deny any accusation of war crimes; but of course, we are very open for any kind of comments, we are very open for any kind of investigation,” President Saakashvili told BBC. “We called for the international investigation into conduct of this war, in the conditions leading to this war, into circumstances leading to this invasion.” “When you are talking about indiscriminate use of fire, we have clear-cut evidence that town of Tskhinvali was shelled from dozens and maybe hundred [of times] – but dozens we can prove at this moment with video footage as well as documentary evidence from the Russian army and from the Russian journalists indeed – by the Russian troops for several days.”

“There were certainly war crimes committed, certainly not by us and certainly we want investigation of those war crimes; we demand that that people who are responsible for those war crimes are brought to international justice,” Saakashvili added. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told BBC that during his visit to Georgia he had raised “the questions that have been asked and raised about war crimes and other military actions by the Georgian authorities… We have acted in this without fear, without favour.” “I think the Georgian action was reckless, I think the Russian response was disproportionate and wrong… It's important that the Russian narrative cannot start with Georgian actions; it has to start with the attacks on the Georgians from the South Ossetians and that is the tit-for-tat that got out of control. And that is the series of events that have landed us where we are.” BBC also reported that houses burnt in ethnic Georgian villages in the breakaway region “are now expected to be replaced by a brand-new housing complex with a cinema and sports facilities to be financed by the city of Moscow.” (Civil Georgia)


Medvedev: Re-Arming of ‘Saakashvili Regime’ Underway 29 October Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on October 28 that plans were underway to re-arm "the Saakashvili regime." “We will continue supplying weapons and equipment exclusively for the purpose of maintaining the defense capabilities of our partner [states],” Medvedev said at a meeting of the State Commission on Foreign Military Cooperation on October 28. “But as the August events have demonstrated, not all members of the international community abide by such an approach. We know how diligently a number of states delivered arms to the Saakashvili regime, thus actively encouraging it in its aggression. Now, plans are underway to re-arm this regime.” “Unfortunately, a number of states close to us also participated in this. We will not forget this and we will certainly take this into consideration in our practical policies. I would like everybody to bear this in mind.” (Civil Georgia)
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