Wednesday, 28 October 2009

28 October 2009 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/28/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)


14 October

Uzbekistan intends to remain a member of the Central Asian integrated energy system. Asia-Plus informatsionnoe agentsvto reported Tuesday that a source at the Ozbekenergo (Uzbek energy) state joint stock company speaking off the record said that the corporation had notified the relevant authorities in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan of its intention to discuss revising the terms for its provision of transmitting electricity to Kyrgyzstan through Uzbek territory. Speaking on condition of anonymity the Ozbekenergo source said, "We want to introduce payments for electricity transmission to Kyrgyzstan which earlier flowed free of charge.


14 October

Uzbekistan intends to remain a member of the Central Asian integrated energy system. Asia-Plus informatsionnoe agentsvto reported Tuesday that a source at the Ozbekenergo (Uzbek energy) state joint stock company speaking off the record said that the corporation had notified the relevant authorities in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan of its intention to discuss revising the terms for its provision of transmitting electricity to Kyrgyzstan through Uzbek territory. Speaking on condition of anonymity the Ozbekenergo source said, "We want to introduce payments for electricity transmission to Kyrgyzstan which earlier flowed free of charge." Ozbekenergo's comments follow earlier reports that Uzbekistan allegedly was considering withdrawing from Central Asia's integrated electrical grid. Such an action would have deprived Tajikistan of an opportunity to receive Turkmen electricity, as the transmission lines transit Uzbek territory. For the last several years Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have clashed over the issue of Kyrgyz hydroelectric facilities autumnal and winter water discharges disrupting the agriculture of downstream states Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. (UPI)



16 October

Afghanistan and Pakistan want China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to support them in their anti-terrorism efforts, two leaders said. The appeal came from Afghan Second Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili and Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani during interviews with China Daily. The report said the two leaders suggested China and the SCO can help in such areas as capacity building, reconstruction, poverty relief and intelligence exchange. Khalili and Gilani were in Beijing as observers to attend a meeting of the leaders of the SCO, whose members are China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. "The western countries are working to train the security forces in Afghanistan and help the Afghans have the ability to help themselves. The SCO can play a role in building capacities" in training national police and national security forces, Khalili told China Daily. He said poverty is the "root cause of rampant terrorism" in Afghanistan. Gilani called for more help in intelligence work, the report said.  "One thing I will show you (that) we have the ability, we have the will to fight against terrorism," Gilani said. "The SCO can play an extremely important role in combating terrorism and extremism," Gilani said. Chinese experts said China should have a comprehensive plan to help neighboring countries in fighting terror. They said China should keep away from military engagement, because dispatching more troops will not resolve the problem, the report said. (UPI)



16 October

Russian energy giant Gazprom signed a purchase and sale contract for more than 1.7 billion cubic feet of gas from the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic. Alexei Miller, chairman of the Russian gas monopoly, led a delegation to Baku to sign a natural gas purchase and sale contract with SOCAR. "Our partnership is logically consistent and fully meets our mutual interests," said Miller. "I am confident that in the coming years the volume of Azerbaijani gas supplied to Russia will increase and today's contract will lay the foundation for the long-term strategic cooperation in the oil and gas sector between Gazprom and SOCAR." The initial volume of gas delivered to Gazprom is for 1.76 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year with increases dependent on Azerbaijan's export potential, Gazprom said. The contract puts no limit on purchase volumes. Exports begin in January. Azerbaijan holds as much as 45.9 trillion feet of recoverable gas reserves. Gazprom and SOCAR signed a series of preliminary agreements on natural gas earlier this year. (UPI)



17 October

A Russian military court found a serviceman of the Russian armed forces, Jemal Nakaidze, guilty of spying in favor of Georgia and sentenced him to nine years in prison, RIA Novosti news agency reported on October 16. According to the same report, the North Caucasus District Military Court found that Nakaidze was recruited by the Georgian side in February, 2008 and was gathering and passing sensitive information to the Georgian special services till November, 2008, in exchange of financial award; he was also promised to receive a house in Georgia’s black sea town of Batumi. In August the same military court found a former deputy commander of one of the Russia’s military units of North Caucasus Military District, Lt.-Col Mikhail Khachidze, guilty of spying in favor of Georgia and sentenced him to six years in prison. (Civil Georgia)



19 October

Kazakhstan positioned itself as a potential supplier to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline ahead of a meeting in Ankara with Turkish officials. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev hailed the bilateral ties between his country and Turkey, saying he would like to expand cooperation in the energy sector, Turkish daily Today's Zaman reports. "In the near future, we want to lend support to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline," he said. A conflict between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in August 2008 complicated transits through BTC. The current capacity is 1 million bpd. Observers point to Kazakh oil as a vital resource for the viability of BTC. Nazarbayev said his country would start production at its massive Kashagan field in 2013. "That's why we need new corridors and new routes," he said. He pointed to a recent deal with French companies to build a $2 billion oil pipeline to link his country to the Caspian Sea. Development is expected on that project in 2012, though Nazarbayev said it was an "extremely important" project to transport Kazakh oil to European markets. Nazarbayev is expected in Ankara later this week. (UPI)



19 October

Sets are being built outside the Parliament preparing ground for a scene that will revive August 12, 2008 rally when tens of thousands of Georgian gathered to show unity amid war with Russia. The filming of the scene will be part of yet untitled movie about the last year’s August war, directed by Renny Harlin, best known for his Hollywood big-budget action movies such as Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. Andy Garcia, who took on the role of President Saakashvili, started shooting in the Georgian president’s palace on October 19; before arriving in Tbilisi, he met with Saakashvili in Batumi. The scene in the presidential palace in Tbilisi involves the Georgian President discussing tactics with his aides amid Russian invasion, according to the Georgian co-producers. One of the co-producer is a ruling party lawmaker, Papuna (Mirza) Davitaia. Another scene, in which Garcia will be shot, according to Georgian co-producers of the film, will be outside the Parliament on October 20 to depict the rally, which was also attended last August by leaders from the Baltic States and also by the President of Poland. The main plot of the film follows an American journalist – played by British actor Rupert Friend, and his cameraman who get caught in the midst of the August war. Some battle scenes were shot in Tsalka, south of Georgia and also in Gori, the town, which along with Tskhinvali suffered most from the August war. (Civil Georgia)



20 October

Tajik police have arrested four armed men in the Tajik enclave of Vorukh in Kyrgyzstan's Batken Province, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. The police believe the men, who were detained on October 19, were part of the armed group that crossed from Tajikistan's Isfara district into Kyrgyz territory after a shoot-out at the Koktosh border crossing last week. Kyrgyz border guards have surrounded the enclave, while Tajik police forces search for the armed group. In a separate police operation in Isfara on October 17, four suspected followers of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were killed and another was arrested. It remains unclear if the armed men arrested in Vorukh were connected to the IMU. (RFE/RL)



20 October

Azerbaijan is ready to sell its gas to Iran and Russia amid lingering disputes over the sale price for its natural gas to Turkey, said Azeri executives. Rovnag Abdullayev, president of the State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijan Republic, said his country had the technology in place to export natural gas to Iranian customers, the Azeri Press Agency reports. "Currently, the pipeline between Iran and Azerbaijan is being repaired," he said. "Compressors are being upgraded to allow as much as possible gas exports to Iran." He did not indicate the price Azerbaijan would charge Iran for natural gas. Abdullayev indicated gas exports to Russia could reach 247 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year with the reconstruction of gas infrastructure. His comments come as Turkey and Azerbaijan wrangle over gas prices. Azerbaijan currently charges Turkey about 30 percent of the market price for natural gas, and Abdullayev said he was waiting for Ankara to respond. (UPI)



21 October

Turkey has officially protested the removal of its national flag from a building in the Azerbaijani capital that belongs to the Turkish Embassy in Baku, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told journalists that the ministry received an official note from the Turkish officials and is investigating the incident. Muzaffar Shahin of the Turkish Embassy told RFE/RL that several men in civilian clothes removed the flag on October 21 from the building housing Turkish Embassy's Office for Religious Affairs without explanation. On October 17, Azerbaijani authorities removed Turkey's national flag from Baku's Alley of Martyrs shortly after the Azerbaijani flag was not allowed at the historic Armenian-Turkish soccer match in the Turkish city of Bursa that was attended by Armenian and Turkish leaders. Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey have grown tense since Armenian-Turkish fence-mending protocols were signed in Zurich on October 10. (RFE/RL)



21 October

Frustrated by Turkey's historic normalization of relations with Armenia earlier this month, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has threatened to stop selling Turkey natural gas at low prices and announced that Baku will look for routes around Turkey to ship gas to Europe, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Days later, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that "Azeri soil is as sacred for us as our own" and "liberating this soil from occupation" -- referring to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory -- "is one of our primary national issues." "Even if the skies fall down, Turkey's position will not change," Davutoglu told reporters. "The fact that a country is occupying the territory of another country is unacceptable." His statements came amid reports in Baku that Turkish flags had been removed from the graves of Turkish soldiers who fought for Azerbaijan in the early 20th century. (RFE/RL)



21 October

Washington supports efforts by the Turkish government to reconcile its differences with the Kurdish minority, U.S. State Department officials said. Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, called on members of his blacklisted organization to form "peace groups" in an effort to resolve the so-called Kurdish question. Ankara is pushing forward with its own plans to find a political solution to its decades-old conflict with Kurdish minorities and the PKK separatist group. As many as 34 PKK members from the Makhmur refugee camp in northern Iraq turned themselves over of their own free will this week. Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said that while Washington considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization for its militant activity in the region, the reconciliation effort was a welcome move. "We support the efforts of our Turkish allies to deal with the problem of the PKK," he said. He went on to call on Ankara to offer cultural and language rights to the Kurdish minority as part of a broader reconciliation effort. The U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control last week froze the assets of three leaders of the PKK identified as "significant foreign narcotics traffickers." (UPI)



22 October

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian says Turkish-Armenian rapprochement protocols have nothing to do with the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. Speaking to journalists in Baku, Kirakosian said the Karabakh issue concerns only Azerbaijan and Armenia. He said the Turkish-Armenian protocols have been signed without any preconditions and that, in general, the Karabakh issue is nearing resolution as the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents have met seven times to discuss the issue in the last six months. Kirakosian is in Baku to participate in the Black Sea Cooperation Organization's session. (RFE/RL)



23 October

About 90 percent of the heroin imported to Russia comes from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, a Russian drug-control official said Friday. Viktor Ivanov, head of the Federal Drugs Control Service, said Russia then serves as a conduit to the rest of Europe, the Novosti news agency reported. Ivanov, speaking at a meeting of the General Staff Academy, argued the warlords in northern Afghanistan who provide a "bridgehead" for drug trafficking are a greater threat than the Taliban. "The coalition forces are not conducting an effective fight against them," he said. The Afghan region near the borders with the central Asian countries has modern drug-processing labs, Ivanov said. He said the United States has made a "mistake" with its continued support of the Northern Alliance. (UPI)



25 October

Despite war, still ongoing global economy crisis and deepening of unemployment problem in recent months, now it is “a turning point” for Georgia’s economy, President Saakashvili said on October 24. He was speaking in an outdoor ceremony of opening a new terminal in port of Poti. In his speech Saakashvili spoke much about Georgia’s importance as a transit route. Standing in front of a large-scale map of Eurasian continent he was explaining importance of Georgia’s geographical location. “Georgia is the only route to Europe for six landlocked states in Central and Caspian region and the shortest route from north China to most of the European destination,” Saakashvili said. “One can not bypass Georgia. Cargo should either go via Russia, but this route is risky, full of corruption and full of political risks; or the second option is a direct route via Georgia. And if someone wants to know why this port was bombed last year and if someone wants to know why [Russia] troops are stationed here [referring to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia], one should look at this [map],” he said. He also said in his speech that Georgia “should not be an ordinary eastern European country.” “We do not have time and luxury to simply follow this ordinary route,” Saakashvili said. “Georgia has more than those countries [in Eastern Europe]. We have very wealthy neighbors – they have gas, oil… But we have what other countries of the region do not have – we have lowest taxes.” (Civil Georgia)



26 October

President Hamid Karzai's rival in a November 7 runoff presidential vote has demanded that Afghanistan's chief election official be sacked, laying out a ultimatum that could complicate the pre-election process. The events come in a politically charged period as Afghanistan braces for the runoff after the first-round election in August was marred by allegations of widespread fraud. The poll, pitting Karzai against ex-Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, is crucial to Western efforts to stabilize Afghanistan at a time when the insurgency is at its strongest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in 2001. In a move that could fuel tensions further, Abdullah demanded Afghanistan's top election official Azizullah Ludin be sacked and the interior, education, and tribal affairs ministers suspended during the election period. "We will wait for the commission's reply until October 31 and until then we suspend all of our relations with the commission," he told reporters in the garden of his house in Kabul. He refused to say what he would do if these condition were not met. Ludin said he will not stand down. "No, why should I resign?" Ludin told Reuters in response to Abdullah's demand. "I don't know if the constitution gives [Abdullah] authority to ask of such a thing." Concerns about a repeat of the fraud that tainted the first round have cast a shadow over election preparations. More than 200 election officials are being sacked or replaced to prevent a repeat of fraud and many suspect polling stations will be closed. Ali Daoud Najafi, Ludin's deputy, could not immediately say if there was any suggestion that the election chief might be removed but shrugged off Abdullah's statement."It has no affect on us at all," he told Reuters. (Reuters)



26 October

Gazprom welcomes the prospect  for  a  resumption  of  natural gas imports from Turkmenistan, Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said on Monday at the Fourth International Energy Week event. "We are conducting productive  talks  with  our  partners  from Turkmenistan  and  welcome the prospect of resumed gas exports to Russia in the near future," he said. An explosion  on  the Central Asia-Center pipeline in Turkmenistan

halted gas supplies to Russia in April. Turkmenistan blamed the blast on Russia,  claiming it had not notified Turkmen pipeline personnel that it would dramatically  reduce  the amount of gas it took from the pipeline,

creating  an  overpressure  on  the Turkmen side. The pipeline was later repaired, but gas exports have not resumed. The  price Russia paid for Turkmen gas had risen to European levels effective  from  the  beginning  of the year. However, Gazprom officials said there  was  little  demand  for  the  higher  priced  Turkmen  gas, prompting  Gazprom  to  propose  that Ashgabat either lower the price of delivery volumes. Russian  President  Dmitry  Medvedev's  visit  to  Turkmenistan  in September  produced  a  political agreement to resume the gas deliveries

and Gazprom  is  currently  translating that agreement into a commercial contract. (Interfax)



26 October

Kazakhstan  plans to promote a common security  vision  in  its  chairmanship  of  the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010, Kazakh Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Bulat Sembinov told a Monday press briefing. The briefing was dedicated to a visit of foreign military observers to Kazakh military sites. "It   is   no  secret  that  OSCE  member  countries  have  certain disagreements about security issues, so our chairmanship will target for the rapprochement  of  positions  on  many  items  of the organization's agenda. Such positions have been invariable for many years," he said. "The  profound political changes of recent years show that there is no European  or Asian security. Instability in a particular country or a region endangers  the security for the whole of Eurasia, and security is the key activity of the OSCE," he said. The  Kazakh  chairmanship  "is bound to enhance the Asian agenda of the OSCE  and  to  increase  the  organization's  activity in the dialog between the West and the East," he said. "My country wishes to strengthen arms control, solve the problem of small firearms  and the stock of conventional armaments. We have ensured over 50  inspections  on  the national territory within the framework of

the Vienna document," he said. Forty-five military observers from 25 OSCE member states will visit an airbase  and  a paratrooper brigade stationed in the Almaty region in southeastern  Kazakhstan  on October 26-30 in the course of Kazakhstan's preparations  for  chairing  the  OSCE  and in fulfillment of the Vienna document on confidence building measures and security adopted in 1999. Kazakh representatives took part in similar inspections in Austria, Norway, the Czech Republic and Germany this year. (Interfax-AVN)



27 October

The European Union on Tuesday dropped the last remaining sanctions against Uzbekistan imposed after a 2005 crackdown on an uprising. EU foreign ministers said they ended the arms embargo against the Uzbek government to encourage it to further improve the human rights situation and the rule of law in the country. The phasing-out of sanctions came after the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation helped support U.S.-led military operations in neighboring Afghanistan, leading to better ties with the West. The sanctions were imposed after government troops opened fire on a crowd of mostly peaceful protesters in Andijan, a city in the east of the country, four years ago, killing at least 700 people, according to rights groups and witnesses. The government insisted 187 died and blamed Islamic militants for instigating the violence. Despite the normalization of relations, EU ministers said in a statement they remain "seriously concerned about the human rights situation." The EU did acknowledge that Uzbekistan has made some tentative commitments to address human rights issues. Amnesty International said that four human rights activists have recently been convicted while 10 more are already serving long prison sentences. Dozens more are being persecuted, it said. The human rights group said authorities continue to deny full access to U.N. monitors.

President Islam Karimov has ruled resource-rich Uzbekistan with an iron fist since before the 1991 Soviet collapse. He fell out of favor with the United States and other Western countries after the government's violent suppression of an uprising in the city of Andijan in 2005. Karimov has recently sought to mend ties with the West, and the fighting in Afghanistan offered an opportunity because NATO allies have been seeking safer transit routes. (AP)



27 October

A Turkish parliamentary delegation has arrived in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, for a visit aimed at easing tensions over Turkey's rapprochement with Armenia, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. The Turkish Embassy in Baku told RFE/RL that the delegation consists of 10 members of Turkey's Grand National Assembly and will hold talks with several key Azerbaijani officials, including President Ilham Aliyev and parliament speaker Oktay Asadov. The Turkish lawmakers will also take part on October 29 in a special event in Baku's Gulistan Palace devoted to Turkish independence day, which was established on October 29, 1923.Turkish-Azerbaijani relations became tense after Turkish-Armenian protocols that could lead to improved relations were signed in Zurich on October 10. Aliyev made very critical comments about Turkey during a cabinet session on October 16. (RFE/RL)



28 October

Twelve people, including six foreign UN workers, were killed in Kabul when armed men stormed a guest house compound used by UN staff early on October 28. The dawn attack has raised questions and fresh concerns about security for a presidential election run-off due in 10 days. The UN said nine of its staff were injured in the attack, claimed by the Taliban who said it was the "first step" to disrupt the November 7 presidential runoff. The nationalities of the dead are not known, but officials said one U.S. citizen was among the casualties. Afghan police said the three attackers, two Afghan security personnel, and an Afghan civilian were also killed. Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesman in Afghanistan, described the attack as a well-coordinated assault by gunmen on a compound that was separate from any military base.. "Three armed attackers, including at least one suicide bomber, attacked a private guest house here in Kabul which is approved for use by United Nations personnel,” Siddique said. “The gunmen entered the guest house and fighting ensued."  The attackers reportedly wore police uniforms to secure entry into the guest house. Correspondents report seeing at least one badly burned body being carried out of the building after the shooting stopped. Officials said one female guest was missing inside the building, which was covered by bullet holes and badly damaged -- its walls charred and windows shattered. Interior Ministry spokesman Zamarai Beshari told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghan that the area where the attack took place was considered relatively safe, and that there were not many security forces in the neighborhood.  "We have already started our investigations and other immediate details related to this case will be disclosed soon," Beshari said. Later, the bodies of three of the suspected suicide bombers, apparently ripped apart when they detonated their explosives, could be seen lying inside the compound. Abdul Ghaim, a policeman at the scene, told Reuters: "We think [the militants] are Pakistani." (RFE/RL)



28 October

Uzbekistan  reduced cotton fiber production 14.5% to 696,623 tonnes in January-September 2009 compared to the same  period  of  2008,  the  State  Statistics Department said in a statement. Production of cotton yarn at textile companies fell 9.4% to 103,671 tonnes in  January-September,  while  cotton  fabric production declined 23.5% to 60.063 million square meters. Uzbekistan  increased cotton fiber production 4.4% to 1.174 million tonnes in 2008. Uzbekistan  is  the  sixth  largest  cotton  producer and the third largest  exporter in the world. The republic annually produces about 3.5 million  tonnes of raw cotton and 1 million-1.2 million tonnes of cotton fiber, exporting roughly 75% of that amount. (Interfax)



28 October

Kazakhstan has accused the key shareholders of local lender Alliance of stealing $112 million from the bank which is in talks to restructure its $4.2 billion debt, Kazakh financial police said on Wednesday. Margulan Seisembayev and Yerlan Seisembayev, who own a majority stake in Alliance through a holding company, have been charged in absentia, it said. "A court has sanctioned their arrest and an international warrant has been issued," financial police spokesman Marat Zhumanbai told a briefing. None of the accused could be reached for comments. Earlier this year, the financial police arrested Zhomart Yertayev, the former chief executive of Alliance, charging him with a $1.1 billion theft. Yertayev has denied any wrongdoing. Seisembayevs' company offered to hand most of its stake in Alliance to the government for free in February, saying it could no longer support the bank. Their holdings in the bank are due to be diluted into a minority stake as part of Alliance's planned debt restructuring deal. State welfare fund Samruk-Kazyna will then own a majority stake. (Reuters)



28 October

The Georgian side demanded from Russia to “immediately” release those 16 Georgian citizens, who were detained by the Russian Federal Security Service’s border guards on October 25 for “violation of the South Ossetian border.”The Georgian Foreign Ministry passed a protest note to the Russian Foreign Ministry through the Swiss embassy. Switzerland represents Russia's diplomatic interests in Georgia and Georgia's interests in Russia after the two countries cut diplomatic ties after the August war. “The detainees are still kept illegally in custody at the so-called prosecutor’s office of the occupied district of Akhalgori,” the note reads. “The Georgian side assesses the aforesaid fact as yet another crime committed by the occupation forces and a provocation carried out by Russia on the sovereign territory of Georgia.” “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia expresses its strong protest over the aforesaid actions of the Russian side and categorically demands the immediate release of the detained citizens of Georgia,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on October 28. In a statement issued on October 26 EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) said it was concerned with the arrest of sixteen Georgian citizens by Russian border guards in the vicinity of the South Ossetian administrative border. (Civil Georgia)



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