Wednesday, 19 August 2009

19 August 2009 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (8/19/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Iran, Russia conduct naval exercise 30 July Iran and Russian launched their first-ever joint maritime operations in the Caspian Sea touted as part of an effort to enhance security in the region.

Iran, Russia conduct naval exercise 30 July Iran and Russian launched their first-ever joint maritime operations in the Caspian Sea touted as part of an effort to enhance security in the region.The joint operation was launched from the northern Iranian port city of Bandar Anzali under the slogan of "clean and secure Caspian Sea depends on regional interaction," reports the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network. Ali Taher Abadi, the managing director of the Ports and Navigation Organization in Iran, said the operation included measures to stem environmental pollution in the Caspian Sea. Lawmakers with an environmental party in Azerbaijan complained recently that activity related to the energy sector in the Caspian Sea was creating financial difficulties as a result of environmental pollution. Saeed Izadian, who oversees the naval operation for Iran, said 30 advanced boats, 2 Iranian helicopters and around 500 military forces will take part in the exercise alongside their Russian counterparts. He said the strategic emphasis of the operation was meant to train forces on search and rescue operations, adding the exercise fell within the framework of international obligations. Claims to the Caspian Sea are contentious among the littoral states, which are at odds over a 1921 treaty that divided the region between Iran and the Soviet Union. Only Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan have settled their territorial claims in the Caspian Sea, leaving Iran and Turkmenistan with frustrating differences. (UPI) Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan recognized results of presidential elections legitimate 30 July The Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan has recognized the presidential elections legitimate and having been held in conformity with the Constitution of the country, the agency reports citing the press service of the Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan. Central Election Committee of Kyrgyzstan directed on July 27th the results of the presidential elections of Kyrgyzstan to the Constitutional Court. According to the Code on Elections, the court must confirm the results not later than seven days after the last election day. Today, the Constitutional Court recognized the presidential elections of the country legitimate. According to the legislation, the elected leader of the state will take the oath to the people of Kyrgyzstan in the presence of deputies of Parliament within 30 days. According to the President's Administration, inauguration is planned for August 2, 2009. The current head of the state, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has received 76.12 % of votes. 1 million 772 thousand 849 people voted for K. Bakiyev. (Kazakhstan Today) Russia, Kyrgyzstan sign base deal at CSTO summit 1 August The Russian and Kyrgyz presidents have tentatively agreed to establish a second Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiev signed the deal on the second day of an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, a regional security grouping dominated by Moscow. The three-day summit opened on July 31 at the Kyrgyz lakeside resort of Cholpon-Ata. Under the joint memorandum, Kyrgyzstan allows Russia to establish a military base on its territory for a period of up to 49 years. The document states that Russian forces will be charged with "protecting Kyrgyz sovereignty" and repelling attacks by international terrorist groups. Moscow has said the planned base would operate under the umbrella of the CSTO. A definitive agreement detailing the status of the proposed base is due to be signed by November. This would be Russia's second base in the mountainous ex-Soviet republic. It already operates an air base in Kant, about 20 kilometers east of Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. The memorandum said the size of the contingent could be up to a battalion but gave no specifics on the location of the new base. Media reports suggest it could be deployed to Batken Province, near the border with Uzbekistan on the edge of the Ferghana Valley, a region that spreads across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and has become a hotbed of Islamic militancy. One potential obstacle to that location might come from Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who is thought to be opposed to the idea of having a Russian base close to his borders. While Moscow may seek to turn an existing military facility near the southern city of Osh into its base, impoverished Kyrgyzstan reportedly wants the military base to be built from scratch using Russian money. (RFE/RL) Iran must warm to U.S. before Nabucco 3 August Iran is in a position to play a role in the Nabucco gas pipeline to Europe, though it needs to establish ties with the United States first, analysts say. Turkey hosted regional and international supporters in July for the signing of a milestone intergovernmental agreement on the $10.3 billion Nabucco project. Nabucco is seen as the foundation to European efforts to diversify an energy sector dependent on Russian natural gas. Despite political support for Nabucco, the project lacks financial backing and firm commitments from supplier nations. Janine Mitchell, a research fellow at Columbia University, told an audience at the Center for Strategic Studies under the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan that Iran must first meet with Washington on the issue, the Trend news agency reports. "To ensure Iran's involvement in Nabucco project, it is necessary to restore friendly relations between Iran and the United States," she said.Iran was not specifically included in the provisions of the Ankara agreement in order to win the explicit backing of Washington. The language of the Ankara agreement, however, was crafted in such a way that Iran may still play a role. (UPI)


Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan will discuss prospects of bilateral relations in Baku in October 3 August Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed over telephone the implementation of agreements reached in the negotiations in Moscow in July, 2009, and preparations for Nazarbayev's upcoming visit to Baku, the official website of the Kazakh president reported. The presidents discussed the current state and prospects of bilateral relations, particularly, issues of economic cooperation in energy and transportation of hydrocarbons, during the conversation. The presidents also discussed the development of multilateral cooperation in the Caspian region. Both leaders reached an agreement to continue bilateral high-level contacts also as part of official visits and informal summits. According to initial data, Nazarbayev will pay an official visit to Azerbaijan on Oct.1, the Azerbaijani embassy in Kazakhstan told Trend News. "The visit will be held as part of the next summit of Turkic-speaking countries, which is scheduled in Baku on Sep.30 -Oct.1. We have invited Kazakhstan, but have not yet received confirmation," the same source said. (Trend Capital)


Russia boosts readiness of troops in South Ossetia 4 August Russia said it was putting its troops in South Ossetia on alert after it warned Georgia it had the right to use force in the breakaway region over which Moscow and Tbilisi fought a war a year ago. "Provocations from the Georgian side ahead of the anniversary of the August events last year are not stopping," Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement. "In connection with this, we have stepped up the combat readiness of Russian troops and border guards." South Ossetia accused Georgian forces of firing mortars at the rebel territory last week, underscoring simmering tension in the region. Tbilisi denied the charge and monitors from the European Union said they have seen "no evidence" to confirm any shelling. (Reuters) Energy overshadows Caspian border disputes 5 August Demarcation of disputed waters in the Caspian Sea between Ashgabat and Baku should not delay potential joint development of oil and gas fields, officials say. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov ordered a national investigation to examine Azeri claims in the Caspian Sea with the intent on taking the matter to the International Court of Arbitration. Berdimuhamedov claims Baku started developments at oil and gas fields and plans to explore additional deposits in disputed waters. Sabit Bagirov, the former president of the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic, said it is unlikely the dispute will be resolved at the international level, the Trend news agency in Azerbaijan reports. Bagirov notes that Baku has come forward with offers to jointly develop several fields in territorial border regions despite the disputed claims. Baku offers a durable infrastructure with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and its related arteries, which may help Ashgabat overcome technological setbacks, he said. Meanwhile, development of major Caspian fields, notably the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli complex, by international energy majors positions the region as a vital energy partner. The Caspian border row could present another challenge to the $10.3 billion Nabucco gas pipeline for Europe. The project reached a milestone this month with a signing ceremony in Turkey, though the pipeline lacks firm commitments from potential suppliers. Though Azerbaijan appears ready to supply gas to Nabucco, Turkmenistan is expected to provide the bulk of the 1.1 trillion cubic feet of gas slated for the pipeline each year. (UPI) Abkhaz opposition resists ethnic Georgian “citizens” 5 August Opposition groups in Abkhazia are calling on the breakaway Georgian republic's leader to veto legislation that would grant some 50,000 ethnic Georgians Abkhaz "citizenship," RFE/RL's Georgian Service reports. The People's Unity Forum of Abkhazia, the Arua war veterans movement, and the Akhatsa civic movement in a joint statement on August 4 called on Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh to reject an amendment to the citizenship law that would allow ethnic Georgians who reside in the southeastern Gali district to gain Abkhaz citizenship.  The amendment, passed by the Abkhaz parliament on July 31, would allow Georgians who returned to the Gali district before 2005 to be able to get "Abkhaz citizenship." There are about 50,000 such residents in Gali, and granting them "citizenship" would alter the ethnic balance to make the republic roughly half ethnic Georgians and half ethnic Abkhaz.  Abkhazia has had de facto independence since a brief war with Georgia in 1992-93. It was recognized as an independent country by Russia and Nicaragua last August after the Russian-Georgian war over South Ossetia. (RFE/RL) Uzbekistan opinion to be considered in agreement on Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan 6 August Russia and Kyrgyzstan will consider Uzbekistan's opinion while preparing the agreement on opening of the military base of the Russian Federation in the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The CSTO Secretary General, Nikolay Bordyuzha, informed journalists, the agency reports citing RBC. "Certainly, taking into account that CSTO considers opinions of all states, the Russian and Kyrgyzstan leadership will consider the statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan and will, probably, hold corresponding consultations with Uzbekistan," he said. According to N. Borduzha, the management of two countries is ready to address those concerns expressed by the Uzbek party. As informed earlier, on August 1, the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Kyrgyzstan, Dmitry Medvedev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, signed, during the informal CSTO summit, the memorandum of intention on location in the territory of the Republic of an additional Russian military contingent for training of Kyrgyz and Russian military men. (Kazakhstan Today) Turkmenistan invites Uzbek president to visit country 6 August Turkmen President Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov invited his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov to pay a visit to Turkmenistan at any time of convenience during a telephone conversation. Karimov accepted the invitation. The terms of the visit will be coordinated through diplomatic channels, the governmental said. Turkmenistan initiated the conversation. The large multinational energy project connects two neighboring countries. The Turkmenistan-China pipeline project, which will pass through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, close to completion, Berdimuhamedov said. With this regards, Karimov was invited to take part in the opening ceremony. Under the project, design capacity of the new pipeline will be 40 billion cubic meters of gas and its opening is scheduled for early 2009. "Gas pipeline is a bright symbol of friendship and cooperation between the neighboring nations," Karimov said. Heads of States emphasized that the transnational project is intended to become an effective factor in the socio-economic development of project participant-countries. (Trend News) Tensions endure on anniversary of Georgia-Russia war 7 August Georgia and Russia on Friday mark a year since the outbreak of their war amid enduring tensions and international concern over instability in the volatile Caucasus region. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was to make an address to the nation late Friday following a day of ceremonies, including a nationwide minute of silence, to commemorate the victims of the war. Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, which was at the heart of the conflict, was also to mark the day with a memorial procession, a moment of silence and a speech by rebel leader Eduard Kokoity. The anniversary follows a week of rising tensions around South Ossetia and accusations from both sides of small-scale attacks and "provocations". The United States and European Union have raised concerns about the tensions and called on all sides to tread carefully. In an article headlined "Russia and Georgia Play their Trump Cards", the daily Kommersant said Moscow and Tbilisi were ready to meet the anniversary of their war with an information battle targeting Western diplomats. "One year after the August conflict, Russia and Georgia start a new war -- an information war. The prize is to win the good opinion of the West," it wrote. Violence has also flared in the run-up to Friday's anniversary, with Georgia and South Ossetia accusing each other of carrying out several small-scale attacks with mortars, grenade launchers and machine guns. No one was reported injured in any of the attacks. Russia said it had put its forces in South Ossetia on high alert and warned in a startling statement Saturday that it reserved the right to use force in case of Georgian "provocations".  It has also accused Georgia of aggressively re-arming and the United States of quietly supplying Tbilisi with arms. The European Union issued a statement calling for calm and US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden called Moscow and Tbilisi, respectively, shortly before the anniversary to urge restraint. The EU's 225-strong monitoring mission in Georgia also said Thursday it was intensifying its patrols because of "heightened tension" surrounding the anniversary. "Our patrols are working day and night to monitor the situation on the ground, with the aim of maintaining security and stability," the mission said in a statement. (AFP) U.S. targets Afghan drug lords ties to Taliban 10 August The United States has placed 50 suspected Afghan drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, "The New York Times" reported on August 10, citing a Congressional report to be released this week. Major drugs traffickers with proven links to the Taliban have been given the same target status as insurgent leaders, and can be captured or killed at any time, two U.S. generals serving in Afghanistan said in interviews with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is releasing the report. "The New York Times" said the generals told Senate staff members that there are about 50 major traffickers who contribute money to the Taliban on the list. The pursuit of Afghan drug lords reflects a major shift in U.S. policy and is likely to raise legal concerns from some NATO countries that have troops in Afghanistan, the newspaper said. U.S. military commanders have told Congress they are convinced that the policy is legal under the military's rules of engagement and international law, the report said. They also said the move is an essential part of a new plan to disrupt the flow of drug money that is helping finance the Taliban insurgency, the "Times" reported. Several people suspected of ties to drug trafficking have already been captured and others have been killed by the U.S. military since the policy went into effect earlier this year, the "Times" reported, citing a senior military official with direct knowledge of the matter. Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ryder, would not comment on the Senate report nor directly address the existence of the target list, the newspaper said. However Ryder said it was "important to clarify that we are targeting terrorists with links to the drug trade, rather than targeting drug traffickers with links to terrorism." (Reuters) Kyrgyzstan Uighur leaders detained after protest 10 August Kyrgyzstan’s police detained two Uighur community leaders after they accused China of “state terrorism” at a rally today and called for an independent investigation of last month’s clashes in neighbouring Xinjiang. About 500 Uighurs gathered at a building on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek with photographs posted to the walls showing what they said was abuse of their kinfolk in China. The pictures portrayed people being beaten up and held at gunpoint as well as unconscious or dead people lying in the streets. “The Chinese started mass pogroms on June 26, scores of people have been killed, but the Chinese government is concealing those facts,” Dilmurat Akbarov, the head of local Uighur society Ittipak (Unity), told a meeting. “We demand that those responsible are punished.” People in the crowd chanted “Freedom to Uighurs” and banners reading “We accuse China of state terrorism against the Uighur people” hung on the walls. The police did not interfere but detained Akbarov and his deputy Zhamaldin Nasyrov after the protest was over. Kyrgyzstan’s ombudsman Tursunbek Akun, who was present at the rally, told reporters Akbarov and Nasyrov were held for staging a rally not sanctioned by the government.  (Reuters) Two Kazakh citizens sentenced for publishing state secrets 10 August The owner and editor of a Kazakh independent weekly and a fellow defendant have been sentenced to jail terms in connection with the publication of state secrets, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. The Almaty-based "Alma-Ata Info" weekly's Ramazan Esergepov was ordered by a court in the city of Taraz to spend three years in jail for publishing state secrets, while local businessman and fellow defendant Sultan Makhmadov received a seven-year sentence for tax evasion, illegally obtaining state secrets, and revealing them via media. Esergepov's wife, Raushan, told RFE/RL that the verdict was pronounced behind closed doors and neither defendants' relatives nor their lawyers were allowed to be present in the courtroom. Kazakh authorities first tried to arrest Esergepov in December, but he entered the U.S. Consulate in Almaty and hid out there for several days. He later left the consulate and was hospitalized with heart problems. On January 6, Esergepov was officially arrested in Almaty and transferred to the city of Taraz. He told journalists on August 8, when escorted from the courtroom by police, that the case represented a test of freedom of speech and that he was going to fight it to the end. Sultan Makhmadov was under house arrest while investigations continued, but he managed to escape on August 6 and was apprehended in Bishkek in neighboring Kyrgyzstan later the same day and returned to Taraz. The press secretary of the Committee of National Security, Kenzhebulat Beknazarov, accused Sultan Makhmadov of running an illegal shadow business and trying to discredit that committee by publishing classified information through Esergepov's newspaper. The chairwoman of Kazakhstan's Journalists in Trouble NGO, Rozlana Taukina, told RFE/RL that Esergepov was merely doing his job as a journalist and therefore was not guilty of revealing any secrets. (RFE/RL) Ingush Leader recovers to fight rebels, corruption 10 August Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, seriously wounded in a suicide bomb attack, has made his first public appearance, pledging to step up the fight against rebels and corruption among his own officials. The 46-year-old former paratrooper general was unconscious for many days fighting for his life after suffering head injuries, burns, and damage to internal organs when a car loaded with explosives wedged into his motorcade on June 22. Russian television showed Yevkurov walking with a stick and dressed in a black suit as he spoke to the media before leaving a Moscow hospital on August 10. "The policy will largely remain the same, although it may become slightly tougher, including towards those involved in corruption," Russian news agencies quoted Yevkurov as saying. Yevkurov, nominated for the job by the Kremlin last October, has said he believes it is not only militant Islamist propaganda but also widespread poverty aggravated by deep-rooted corruption that push many young people to join the rebels. "If I could catch that suicide terrorist, I would have probably forgiven him," Vesti-24 channel showed Yevkurov telling reporters. "I have no intention to take revenge." "But I repeat once again -- those who surrender will be prosecuted by the law.... The ones who do not lay down weapons and do not surrender will be destroyed -- this is the law, this is not my whim, and everyone must understand that." Human rights activists say that apart from poverty and corruption, tough official methods also push locals to take up arms and join the insurgents. (Reuters) Armenia, Azerbaijan “coming closer” to peace 11 August The top U.S. official for Nagorno-Karabakh talks insists that Armenia and Azerbaijan are moving closer to a framework agreement over the disputed territory, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.  Ending a two-day visit to Yerevan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza also downplayed the significance of recent changes made to the peace proposal principles formally put forth by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group in Madrid in November 2007. He told RFE/RL that the "fundamental formulations that are in the Madrid document remain, and what has changed is a few slight technical points that are important, of course, but they are technical and in no way disadvantage either side."  Some opposition politicians in Armenia claim that the newly revised version of the "Madrid Principles" disadvantages the Armenian side, requiring it to make more concessions to Azerbaijan on key issues.  Bryza dismissed those claims as "ridiculous" and "empty." The "updated version" of the peace plan was devised at a July meeting of the Minsk Group in Krakow, Poland.  Bryza said Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders agree on the "fundamental concepts" of the proposal but that a final solution is still a long way off. (RFE/RL)

U.S. official hopes Sarkisian visits Turkey 12 August A U.S. official says he hopes Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian will visit Turkey in October to continue the fence-mending "football diplomacy" between Yerevan and Ankara, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza also acknowledged, though, that the U.S.-backed dialogue between Turkey and Armenia has stalled recently and that he is less optimistic about the chances for the normalization of relations. He told RFE/RL that, "I do have some hope that that will happen, but I can't predict how quickly or what can be agreed." Sarkisian has been invited by Turkish President Abdullah Gul to watch the October 14 World Cup qualifying match between the two countries' national soccer teams. But Sarkisian has made it clear that he has no intention of attending unless Turkey takes steps to reopen the border with Armenia. Sarkisian has expressed frustration with Ankara in recent months, implicitly accusing the Turks of reneging on agreements reached during yearlong negotiations with his government. (RFE/RL)

Russia's Putin visits rebel Abkhazia 12 August Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went to Abkhazia on Wednesday on his first visit to the breakaway Georgian region since Moscow recognised it as an independent state last year. Putin had announced earlier that Moscow would spend almost half a million dollars in boosting its security presence in Abkhazia, in a sign of Russia's commitment to the lush mountainous region on the Black Sea coast. He started his visit by laying a wreath at a memorial to the victims of the 1992-1993 war between Abkhaz separatists and the Georgian government after the break-up of the Soviet Union, an AFP reporter said. "Thank you for your bravery and steadfastness," Putin told the local onlookers, who in turn thanked him for Russia's support. Donning a white coat, he was then shown round a maternity ward alongside Abkhazia's rebel leader Sergei Bagapsh, where two male twins had been born minutes before his arrival. In honour of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, the pair were named Vladimir and Dmitry. "This is his first visit" to the region of 250,000 since Russia recognised Abkhazia and fellow breakaway Georgian region South Ossetia as independent following the five-day war with Georgia last August, a spokesman for Putin said. Sukhumi lies just south of the Russian city of Sochi which is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in a major event for Russia's prestige. Moscow is keen to prove the region's stability to the world ahead of the Games. Russia caused an outcry from the West when it recognised pro-Moscow Abkhazia as independent after the August war with Georgia. Only distant Nicaragua has so far followed the Kremlin's move in recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin's visit came just days after Russia marked the first anniversary of the Georgia war amid rising tensions between the two countries along the de-facto Georgian border. Medvedev had for his part made a high-profile visit to South Ossetia at the weekend. In an interview with Abkhaz media before his visit, Putin announced that Russia intended to boost its security presence in the region amid continued tensions. "Russia will deploy forces in Abkhazia. We will build a modern border-guard system.... All these measures are additional serious security guarantees for Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Putin said. "All this will cost about 15-16 billion rubles" (463 million dollars/328 million euros, he added. Putin said he could not rule out another conflict in the tense Caucasus region as long as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Moscow's arch foe, remained in power. "Given today's Georgian leadership it is impossible to exclude anything," he said. (AFP)


EU Statement on Putin’s Abkhaz Visit 13 August EU’s Swedish presidency said in a statement on behalf of the bloc’s member states on August 13, that it did not consider Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to breakaway Abkhazia “helpful for the international efforts to stabilise the region.” “The European Union notes with concern that the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, has paid a visit to the Georgian region of Abkhazia, without prior consent of the Georgian authorities,” the statement reads. “The EU does not consider this visit compatible with the principle of territorial integrity nor helpful for the international efforts to stabilise the region. The EU reiterates its support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Putin visited the breakaway region on August 12, month after President Medvedev paid a visit to Georgia’s another breakaway region of South Ossetia. A statement, similar to this recent one, was made by the EU’s Swedish president month ago in connection with Medvedev’s visit to breakaway South Ossetia. (Civil Georgia)


By quitting CIS, Georgia does not lose anything economically, but gains politically: state minister 17 August Georgia will not have an economic damage as a result of quitting the CIS, Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili told Trend News. "Leaving multilateral agreements under the CIS, we could conclude bilateral agreements with the CIS member countries in 2008, so the losses will be minimal," he said. The State minister emphasized that in political terms, "Georgia could get out of a fictitious post-Soviet space, which is dominated by Russia." "For us, this is a chance to develop towards democracy and integration with NATO and the EU which is our country's geo-strategic choice," emphasized Yakobashvili. The state minister stressed that strive in these organizations and membership in the CIS does not meet priorities of the Georgian foreign policy. On Aug. 18, Georgia officially leaves the Commonwealth of Independent States, when one-year term of the application for withdrawal expires. Georgia decided to quit the CIS last year after the occupation of its territories. (Trend News)


Georgia Detains Cargo Vessel En Route to Sokhumi 17 August Georgian coast guard detained a Turkish cargo vessel en route to breakaway Abkhaz capital Sokhumi on August 17, the Georgian and Abkhaz sides reported. The vessel was carrying 3,000 tones of petrol and 775 tones of diesel fuel, according to the Abkhaz Shipping Company, Apsnipress reported. According to the Georgian Border Police, crew members include 13 Turkish and four Azerbaijani citizens. According to the Abkhaz side it was the third case this year when the Georgian coast guard seizes Turkish vessels carrying cargo en route to Abkhazia. (Civil Georgia)


Suicide bomb kills 20 at ingushetian police station 17 August A suicide bomber in a truck packed with explosives has left at least 20 people dead and 80 wounded in Russia's volatile republic of Ingushetia, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports. Ingushetian presidential spokesman Kaloy Akhilgov told RFE/RL that the suicide bomber drove a Gazel mini-truck through a gate and into the courtyard of the city's police headquarters, where police officers were gathering for their morning assignments. Akhilgov said the vehicle had been reported stolen. The police station was severely damaged and 20 police cars were destroyed by the explosion of the equivalent of 50 kilograms of TNT, Interfax reported, citing a law enforcement source. Several nearby apartment buildings also sustained heavy damage, and 11 children are reported to be among those wounded. Ingushetian officials announced three days of mourning in the republic. No one has claimed responsibility for the rare suicide-bomb attack, but the terrorist group Riyad-us Salihin (Gardens of the Righteous) Martyrs Brigade -- which was led by Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basayev until his death in 2006 -- is suspected of involvement. Before this latest attack, 25 police officers had been killed in Ingushetia during the first six months of the year. Prime Minister Rashid Gaysanov noted last week that there had not been a single attack on police in Ingushetia during the first 10 days of August, however. Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was badly injured in June when a suicide bomber attacked his car. He left a Moscow hospital last week and is expected to return to his post in the coming weeks. (RFE/RL)


Top US general visits Uzbekistan for security talks 18 August Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov met Tuesday with US General David Petraeus, the US embassy said, underlining that the strategic Central Asian state seeks closer ties with Washington. In a statement, the US embassy said Petraeus discussed with Karimov "key regional security issues" focusing on the situation in nearby Afghanistan, but did not provide details. Petraeus also met senior officials from Uzbekistan's national security council and the ministries of defence and foreign affairs here, the statement said. Karimov said afterwards that Uzbek-US ties were improving. "Uzbekistan attaches great importance to further development of relations with the United States and is ready to expand constructive bilateral and multilateral cooperation based on mutual respect and equal partnership," he was quoted by the state news agency UZA as saying. Speaking on state television later, he added: "Relations between our countries are developing in an upwards direction. The fact we are meeting again shows that the both sides are interested in strengthening the ties." Uzbekistan possesses extensive railway links to Afghanistan and earlier this year permitted the United States to use its territory for delivery of non-military and humanitarian cargo to US forces in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan allowed the United States to open an airbase near the Afghan border to support action against the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. The Uzbek leadership however subsequently evicted the United States from the base when relations with Washington became strained over criticism of the Uzbek government's handling of an armed uprising in the eastern city of Andijan. The United States and Russia have in recent years vied for influence in Uzbekistan and Tashkent's relationship with  Washington has recently begun to warm again while ties with Moscow have waned. Uzbekistan recently blasted a proposal from Russia to set up a second military base in neighboring Kyrgyzstan near the Uzbek border, saying such a move would upset the balance of power in the vital region. It was a stinging rebuff for the Kremlin from a one-time close ally and former Soviet republic, and experts say diplomatic tension between Uzbekistan and Russia is presently at levels not seen in years. (AFP)


Experts not believe in quick solution of Caspian status 19 August The issue of defining a legal status of the Caspian Sea will not be solved in the near future, experts believe. "One can expect intensification of the talks on this issue in the near future, but it is too early to wait for a final decision and adoption of a convention on this matter," Chief Editor of the Kommersant newspaper Azar Mursalov told Trend Capital in a telephone conversation from Moscow. This week the Russian president at a meeting on the Caspian cooperation has urged to intensify negotiations on the status of the Caspian Sea. He said "Russia is vitally interested in the fact that the Caspian Sea will continue to be a zone of good-neighborliness, stability and mutually beneficial cooperation, and in this regard, it is necessary to intensify the negotiating process to define the legal status of the Caspian Sea." Mursalov said this statement is not the first by the Russian President. It is possible to adopt this kind of an agreement only with agreement of all parties, he said. "But as practice shows, it is too difficult for the five countries to agree on this issue," said Mursalov. The coastal countries do not need to resolve the status of the Caspian Sea, Russian experts said. An interim solution to this issue has already been found - that the bilateral agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, said Mursalov. That is, a "working model" exists. But the issue of adopting the improved and profitable models can be discussed for years. The countries' positions on the Caspian Sea are not only far, but also fundamentally contradict one another. It is too difficult to convince Iran, and the country will not concede its position, Mursalov believes. (Trend Capital)


Armenian Opposition Calls President’s Planned Turkey Visit ‘Irrelevant’ 19 August he main Armenian opposition group says a possible visit by President Serzh Sarkisian to Turkey in October would be "irrelevant" to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.  Levon Zurabian, the central office coordinator for the Armenian National Congress (HAK), told RFE/RL that Sarkisian has committed "irreversible mistakes" in his policy of rapprochement with Turkey. “Those mistakes cannot be rectified by his going or not going to Turkey," Zurabian said. Sarkisian has been invited by his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul to the Turkish city of Bursa on October 14 to watch the return match of the two countries’ national soccer teams. Gul made a historic trip to Yerevan to watch the first match last September. Sarkisian made it clear in July that he will continue this “football diplomacy” only if Ankara takes “real steps” to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border.  The HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, and other opposition members have repeatedly denounced Sarkisian’s Turkey policy as a failure, even though many in the West have welcomed it. (RFE/RL)




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Screen Shot 2023-05-08 at 10.32.15 AMSilk Road Paper S. Frederick Starr, U.S. Policy in Central Asia through Central Asian Eyes, May 2023.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, "Promise and Peril in the Caucasus," AFPC Insights, March 30, 2023.

Oped S. Frederick Starr, Putin's War In Ukraine and the Crimean War), 19fourtyfive, January 2, 2023

Oped S. Frederick Starr, Russia Needs Its Own Charles de Gaulle,  Foreign Policy, July 21, 2022.

2206-StarrSilk Road Paper S. Frederick Starr, Rethinking Greater Central Asia: American and Western Stakes in the Region and How to Advance Them, June 2022 

Oped Svante E. Cornell & Albert Barro, With referendum, Kazakh President pushes for reforms, Euractiv, June 3, 2022.

Oped Svante E. Cornell Russia's Southern Neighbors Take a Stand, The Hill, May 6, 2022.

Silk Road Paper Johan Engvall, Between Bandits and Bureaucrats: 30 Years of Parliamentary Development in Kyrgyzstan, January 2022.  

Oped Svante E. Cornell, No, The War in Ukraine is not about NATO, The Hill, March 9, 2022.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, Kazakhstan’s Crisis Calls for a Central Asia Policy Reboot, The National Interest, January 34, 2022.

StronguniquecoverBook S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell, Strong and Unique: Three Decades of U.S.-Kazakhstan Partnership, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, December 2021.  

Silk Road Paper Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr & Albert Barro, Political and Economic Reforms in Kazakhstan Under President Tokayev, November 2021.

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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