Wednesday, 13 June 2012

13 June 2012 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Oskar von Schreeb (6/13/2012 issue of the CACI Analyst)


May 31

Uzbeks living in Sweden say they believe the February shooting of a well-known Islamic cleric was a political act perpetrated by the Tashkent regime. Imam Obid Nazarov, considered one of the most powerful opponents of the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, was in a coma this week after being shot in the head Feb. 22 in the northern Sweden city of Stromsund.


May 31

Uzbeks living in Sweden say they believe the February shooting of a well-known Islamic cleric was a political act perpetrated by the Tashkent regime. Imam Obid Nazarov, considered one of the most powerful opponents of the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, was in a coma this week after being shot in the head Feb. 22 in the northern Sweden city of Stromsund. A married Uzbek couple was arrested May 14 in connection with the shooting and an arrest warrant has been issued for an Eastern European man, now said to be residing abroad and who is believed by Swedish prosecutors to have carried out the shooting. There is little doubt among some Uzbeks living in Stromsund that Nazarov's shooting was ordered by the Tashkent regime, the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra reported. The 54-year-old imam was granted asylum in Sweden in 2006 after he had been targeted by the Uzbek government as terrorist, a charge he denied as a politically motivated attempt by Tashkent to suppress Islamic dissenters. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its annual report on Uzbekistan that Nazarov is one of three Uzbek imams prominent in the 1990s whose followers were labeled as extremists despite their defense of religious freedom and condemnation of violence. Two of the leaders have disappeared in Uzbek prisons, the group said, also Nazarov’s son Khusnuddin disappeared in 2004 shortly after police questioning in Tashkent. (UPI)


May 31

The Islamic theologian has confuted the statements on jihad against Kazakhstan police according to the head of Department on Control over Application of Laws on Countering Extremism and Terrorism of Kazakhstan General Prosecutor’s office. “Prominent Islamic theologian sheikh Abu Mundhir Ash Shanqitee has publicly confuted the fatwa On jihad against Kazakhstan police spread on the Internet,” Nurdaulet Suindikov said at the conference called Consolidation of the community and the state in countering terrorism: new approaches and principles. According to the General Prosecutor’s office, this information appeared on the Internet in May 2011 and called for active violence against officers of Kazakhstan law-enforcement authorities. The fatwa was allegedly written by sheikh Abu Mundhir Ash Shanqitee. “The sheikh said that neither him, nor the members of his family ever made any fatwas calling for murder. In conformation of his words, he passed a personally signed statement with the official and public confutation of the fatwa made by some unidentified persons,” Suindikov said. According to Kazakhstan General Prosecutor’s office, 46 people were convicted for crimes related to extremism and terrorism in Kazakhstan in 2011. 10 of them were convicted for creation and management of a terrorist group. The prosecutors have studied over 62 thousand websites to make sure that spread of extremist information on the Internet is suppressed. The court banned over 400 Internet-resources for spreading damaging information. (Tengrinews)


May 31

A natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan has the political backing needed to progress, though regional instability could pose problems, an analyst said. The government of Turkmenistan signed agreements last week to sell natural gas to its Asian partners through a 1,043-mile pipeline through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Saqib Sherani, a former adviser to the Pakistani Finance Ministry, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Pakistani officials remain skeptical about the prospects for the pipeline. "I think it is going to be a big challenge because no consortium is really going to start work or put their money where their mouth is until the Afghan situation settles down," he said. Islamabad, he added, is leaning toward an alternative project proposed by Iran. That pipeline would be "much more feasible," he said, especially if India came on board. TAPI, supported by the United States and backed by the Asian Development Bank, is seen as a rival to a pipeline planned by Iran. Tehran said much of the pipeline is built through its territory and it was ready to help Pakistan build its part of the project. (UPI)


May 31

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan signed a decree on Thursday to dissolve the country’s government following the first session of the newly elected parliament earlier in the day, Armenian media reported. The proposal for the cabinet’s resignation was submitted to the president by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisyan in line with the country’s Constitution that stipulates formation of a new government after parliamentary elections. Eight parties and one party alliance ran in Armenia’s May 6 parliamentary elections, with the Republican Party of Armenia eventually winning by gaining 44.05 percent of the vote and taking the majority of seats in the country's 131-seat parliament. The Armenian president has now 10 days to name the new prime minister and endorse other new ministers. The current cabinet will continue in a caretaker role until then. Opposition leaders contested the results of the May 6 elections and submitted a motion with the Supreme Court of Armenia, but the court rejected it on Thursday ruling that the results were fair. This year’s elections in Armenia were marred by a tragic accident, when 144 people were injured after balloons filled with flammable gas caught fire at a Republican Party of Armenia rally in the capital on May 4. The balloons were supposedly filled with helium, a non-flammable gas, but some other gas had been used instead, Armenian media reported. (RIA Novosti)


June 1

Kazakhstan Engineering national company signed several contracts totally worth $1.8 billion dollars at KADEX-2012 Fair in Astana, according to Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense press-office. In particular, the company signed a treaty with Ukrspetsexport on joint production of BTR-4 (8x8 wheeled armored personnel carrier). Kazakhstan engineering signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cessna Aircraft Company on Cessna Grand Caravan 208B maintenance, as well as with Korean STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co., for joint construction of a shipbuilding and repair yard in the Caspian Sea. The company also reached an agreement with Turkish OTOKAR Otomotiv ve Savunma Sanayi A.S. on production and maintenance of Cobra wheeled armored vehicle.  An MoU was signed between Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering and Kazakhstan Aselsan Engineering, which will make it possible to equipment EC-145 helicopters with additional avionics. The company also signed Protocols of Intent with MBDA France SAS and Indra Sistemas S.A. (Spain) on construction of a coastal antiship missile system. The company is negotiating purchase of technology and equipment (rotary line) from Luganskiy Ammunition Factory to produce infantry ammunition in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan might also start producing its own gunpowder. It is also expected that Kazakhstan will start producing powder charges for 125-millimeter practice projectile. There is an agreement between Kazakhstan Chief Directorate of Ammunition, Kazakhstan Engineering and Splav Federal State Unitary Enterprise (Russia) to set up certification procedures for maintenance and upgrading of Grad Multiple Artillery Rocket System and to increase its destruction range from 20 kilometers to 40 kilometers. (Tengrinews)


June 1

KazTransGaz  has prolonged the contract to supply 70 million cubic meters of gas to Kyrgyzstan, according to Deputy Director General of Kyrgyzgas  Yevgeny Orlenko. KazTransGas prolonged the contract of gas supply amounting to 70 million cubic meters at $224 per one thousand cubic meters. This amount of gas will be enough till October, Orlenko said. According to him, Uzbekistani gas should be enough till the end of the year. "The whole South Kyrgyzstan is supplied by gas from Uzbekistan. The yearly demand is 40 million cubic meters. The contract with Uzbekistan on supply of 100 million cubic meters of gas to Kyrgyzstan was signed back in December, 2011. In case North Kyrgyzstan will run out of gas, they may use the gas supplied by Uzbekistan," Orlenko said. A new contract with KazTransGas will be signed this autumn, and a new contract with Uzbekistan will be signed at the end of December. An increase in KazTransGas' gas price is still possible. "Taking into account the debt of Kyrgyzgas, and in order to the return money owed to KazTransGas, there is a possibility that the gas price is going to be increased. But the size of the increase will depend on amount of debt repaid," General Director of KazTransGas Nurbol Sultan said. According to the company, Kyrgyzstan debt for the nature gas from Kazakhstan amounts to $31.2 million as of May 8. (Tengrinews)


June 4

Thirteen people were jailed on Monday for rioting in a Kazakh oil town, prompting courtroom scuffles between relatives and police at the end of a 10-week trial that followed deadly labor unrest in the country. Twenty four of the 37 defendants accused of rioting in the town of Zhanaozen last December were freed by the court. Three were acquitted and the remainder amnestied or given suspended sentences. The violence, in which at least 14 people were killed, shattered Kazakhstan's image of stability and posed the most serious challenge to President Nursultan Nazarbayev in more than two decades in charge of the oil-producing former Soviet state. Police used live rounds in Zhanaozen after months of protests by sacked oil workers erupted into riots on Dec. 16, the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union. Many residents of Mangistau, an oil-producing region on the Caspian shore, say Kazakh authorities failed to address the grievances of oil workers, who had demanded higher salaries. They also question why police opened fire. Kazakh authorities say police were resorted to lethal force only after being attacked by violent protesters. Under scrutiny from the West, they have pledged to hold a fair investigation. Six policemen, tried separately, were jailed last month for abusing their power. They include the deputy police chief for Mangistau and the head of a detention centre who failed to allow medical care for a 50-year-old man who later died. (Reuters)


June 4

Kyrgyz protesters have removed a blockade of the road leading to Centerra Gold's Kumtor mine, allowing supplies to resume without any disruption to production at an enterprise crucial to Kyrgyzstan’s economy. Villagers who had blocked the only road to the mine for three days allowed trucks to pass freely from Saturday evening after officials held talks with protesters. "There has been no damage to the company. Production at the mine was not stopped and supplies to the mine have resumed," said Sergei Dedyukhin, spokesman for Kumtor Operating Company, the local unit of Centerra Gold. The economy in Kyrgyzstan relies heavily on Kumtor's gold production and remittances from migrant workers. Kumtor contributed nearly 12 percent of gross domestic product and more than half of Kyrgyzstan's export revenues last year. More than 100 members of a national youth movement had stopped miners and fuel supplies from entering the gorge that runs to the mine on Wednesday evening. Their demands included environmental protection for the region around the mine. Naris Kalchayev, a local leader of the Kyrgyz Youth Council, said by telephone that politicians had agreed to form an ecological commission and that the issue would be raised in parliament this month. Toronto-based Centerra Gold has said any repeat of a 10-day strike in February could jeopardize the mine's ability to meet a 2012 output target that has already been reduced by a third due to ice movement in the high-altitude pit. (Reuters)


June 4

A Harvard-educated political activist was freed from jail on Monday after Azerbaijan's Supreme Court granted his request for early release, days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev was jailed last year for evading Azerbaijan's mandatory military draft, a charge he said was politically motivated, and had about nine months left of his two-year sentence. The court gave no specific reason for the release order. The 30-year-old was one of the organisers of a nationwide anti-government protest in March which was quashed by the authorities. "My arrest was politically motivated and my release should be politically motivated too," Hajiyev told journalists after his release. The activist, who studied at Harvard and returned to Azerbaijan from the United States in 2010, said he had written a letter to President Ilham Aliyev from jail saying his conviction was unjust. Last year, Hajiyev's mother wrote a letter to Clinton asking for help in freeing her son from prison, where he suffered health problems. Opposition politicians and rights groups had said Hajiyev's imprisonment highlighted shrinking freedoms under Aliyev, who succeeded his long-serving father as president in 2003. Critics accuse Aliyev's government of trampling on democracy under the cover of an oil-fuelled economic boom in the former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea. The country's human rights record was in the spotlight last month when it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, watched by a TV audience of 100 million. (Reuters)


June 4

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a trip to the South Caucasus region on Monday calling on arch rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan to renounce violence that she warned could slip into a broader regional conflict. Post-Soviet nations Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations on Monday ahead of Clinton's arrival over violence that killed three Armenian soldiers and wounded soldiers on both sides of their shared border. "I am very concerned by these incidents and have called on all parties, all actors, to refrain from the use or threat of force," said Clinton speaking to journalists. "There is a danger that it could escalate into a much broader conflict that would be very tragic for everyone concerned." Clinton was scheduled to meet Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian during a less than five-hour visit before traveling on to Georgia and then Azerbaijan, a major oil and gas producer. The Secretary of State also urged Armenia and Turkey, whose border has been closed since 1993 to work towards a normalisation of relations. Clinton also urged Armenia, whose closed borders make it largely dependent on Iran and its former Soviet master Moscow to pursue reforms to improve its economy as well as to strengthen democratic institutions. "Private sector investors are looking for an open business climate with predictable rules and independent judiciary, transparent regulations, taxes and customs," she said, adding that the United States was pleased at progress Armenia had made. (Reuters)


June 5

Vitaly Orozaliyev, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s state drug control service, on Tuesday proposed inspecting the cargoes that transit the U.S. Transit Center at Manas Airport near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, the news agency reported. Orozaliyev said current regulations prohibit inspection of cargoes and officials from the Transit Center, but cited reports the center is used for drug trafficking from Afghanistan. “The issue of cargo inspections should be raised,” he said at a meeting of the parliamentary law and order committee. The United States began operations at the Manas base in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to support military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It remains a key supply facility for the ongoing military campaign there. When Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev assumed his post in December 2011, he stated that Kyrgyzstan would not prolong the lease contract with the United States, which expires in 2014, saying that he did not want to provoke retaliatory strikes against the civilian airport by third countries. Pentagon officials have since been trying to persuade the Kyrgyz authorities to change their mind. (RIA Novosti)


June 5

China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) could begin exploring for oil and gas in Tajikistan after signing a deal on Tuesday that would expand Beijing's influence in the country. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, also secured a $50 million Chinese loan toward a road project and invited Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd to explore for copper. "Tajikistan is interested in establishing cooperation with CNPC and is prepared to create all the conditions needed for its successful work on the republic's territory," Rakhmon said. Russian gas monopoly Gazprom OAO is one of two foreign firms currently drilling for gas in the country. The other is Toronto- and London-listed Tethys Petroleum Ltd. Independent analyst Jamshed Kadyrov said China's financial muscle and thirst for natural resources would challenge Russia's traditional dominance in the region, giving Rakhmon more leverage in dealings with the Kremlin. Tajikistan did not disclose any details of the memorandum of cooperation with CNPC, beyond Rakhmon's invitation to explore for deposits. Chinese money and engineers have built a pipeline to carry gas from Turkmenistan through Central Asia to its western border. Tajikistan's debt to the Export-Import Bank of totaled $878.5 million at the beginning of this year, or more than 41 percent of the country's total external debt. Rakhmon's press service also said the Tajik president invited Zijin Mining Group to develop a sulphide ore deposit in the north of the country with a view to building a copper plant. (Reuters)


June 5

Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaida's No. 2 man, has been killed in Pakistan, the White House confirmed Tuesday. An unidentified U.S. official told The Washington Post al-Libi was taken out by a drone strike, but White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to confirm the manner of the militant leader's death. Carney told reporters that U.S. intelligence has information "that leads them to believe" al-Libi is dead. "I can't get into details about how his death was brought about," he said. "But I can tell you that he served as al-Qaida's general manager, responsible for overseeing the group's day-to-day operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and he managed outreach to al-Qaida's regional affiliates.” Carney declined to discuss what another drone strike would mean for already-tense U.S.-Pakistani relations. Al-Libi rose to No. 2 in al-Qaida after the death of bin Laden, and al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's post-Osama bin Laden leader, became the terrorist group's leader. The U.S. government said he was captured in 2002 and imprisoned at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, but he escaped in 2005. A senior Pakistani security official said the country continues to oppose the U.S. drone strikes, the Times reported. "Practically speaking, the drone strikes are a big success. But strategically, they are a huge loss. They create more polarization, more enemies and are an attack on our sovereignty," he said. "We have always told the Americans that if anyone should carry out these strikes, it should be us." (UPI)


June 5

NATO says three central Asian countries have agreed to provide supply routes in and out of Afghanistan. In a news conference Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have agreed to allow NATO to move supplies and equipment through their countries. "These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need," Rasmussen said Monday at a news conference. "I thank all three partner countries for their support. And NATO will continue to actively engage with Afghanistan's neighbors to build wider support for the country's stability." CNN said Pentagon officials are still in talks with Pakistan on reopening supply routes to the country's southern port of Karachi. The land lines were closed last November after NATO forces mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops along the Afghan border. Rasmussen said NATO's transition plan for Afghanistan is moving ahead as scheduled. Afghan army and police are taking the lead for the security for 75 percent of the population and more than 100 districts and cities in Afghanistan will transition to Afghan security responsibility in coming weeks, he said. (UPI)


June 5

Armenia is now a center of anti-Iranian activity. The role of Casablanca during World War II is played by Armenia now, head of the Center of Political Innovations and Technologies, political analyst Mubariz Ahmadoglu said at a press conference on Tuesday. "The United States turned Armenia into an important anti-Iranian sphere," he said. "All important chemical, biological, radiological facilities allowing monitoring the development of Iran's nuclear program have been established in the territory of Armenia. Russian military in Armenia become much more active. Russia increased its attention to the military base in Armenia." He said that Israel's relations with Armenia rather intensified. "Armenia's interest in expanding the ties with Israel is obvious," he said. "A delegation of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh separatists has recently visited Israel. Later, Armenian agricultural specialists took part in the agricultural forum, 'Mashav-2012,' which took place in Israel. Israeli Agriculture Minister paid a visit to Armenia. Kuwait, UAE and Amman have intensive relations with Armenia. None of these countries has strong Armenian diaspora. Armenia does not have a large trade and economic potential. These three Arab countries, as well as other Arab countries have a bad attitude towards Iran." (Trend)


June 5

Clinton's comments on military support will likely antagonize Russia. Clinton promised that Washington would provide training and support for Georgian forces to better monitor their coasts and skies and upgrade its transport helicopter fleet so it can more easily move supplies and people around the country. "With these efforts, Georgia will be a stronger international partner with an improved capacity for self-defense," Clinton told reporters. The efforts would involve training in the use of radar systems to monitor the country's coasts. The United States will refurbish Georgia's existing helicopters but not sell it new ones, said a U.S. official on condition of anonymity. The official also said the training would help Georgia better use its existing radars, saying much of its infrastructure was destroyed in its 2008 war with Russia. Russia's recognition of the two as independent nations has clouded Saakashvili's hopes of bringing Georgia into the NATO Western security alliance and the European Union, which may be loath to accept a member with territorial disputes with Moscow. "We reject Russia's occupation and militarization of Georgian territory and we call on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement," Clinton said earlier, calling for Russia to withdraw its forces to pre-war positions and to allow in humanitarian aid. (Reuters)


June 5

Visiting the Black Sea resort of Batumi, Clinton made clear the United States hopes to see democracy strengthened after Mikheil Saakashvili's two terms as president end next year. While praising Georgia's economic reforms and anti-corruption push, U.S. officials fear the dominance of Saakashvili has made it hard for other leaders to emerge ahead of October's parliamentary vote and the 2013 presidential poll. "Though you did make history with the "rose revolution" the more difficult and ultimately the more important work may well be ahead - the work of building the habits and practices that sustain democracy over time," Clinton said in a speech citing labor rights, independence of the judiciary and media freedoms. "We urge Georgia's leaders to ensure that it will be a competitive campaign and that elections are free and fair, both on election day and in the months running up to it." One possibility that worries officials in Washington is that Saakashvili, 44, might emulate Russian President Vladimir Putin by shifting to the prime minister's post to retain power when his presidential term expires. In the middle of a three-day trip to the South Caucasus, Clinton met five Georgian opposition members as a way of illustrating the U.S. desire to see competitive elections. Billionaire politician Bidzina Ivanishvili did not attend, though his Georgian Dream bloc that has pledged to beat Saakashvili's United National Movement party was represented. (Reuters)


June 6

Regional security is the focus of a two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is getting under way in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The summit is expected to culminate on June 9 with the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signing a joint declaration outlining joint measures to combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism during the period 2013-2015. Quoted in Chinese state-run media, Chinese President Hu Jintao singled out Afghanistan as a challenge, saying the Shanghai group planned to "play a bigger role in Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction." Islamic militant groups operating in Russia, China, and Central Asia have roots in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas. Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said on May 4 that China and Afghanistan were expected to announce a "new strategic level" in their bilateral relationship. The Beijing summit is expected to grant Afghanistan observer status, putting it on the same level as Iran, Pakistan, India, and Mongolia. But the Russian president's representative to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kirill Barsky, said Afghanistan's new status as an observer would not obligate the group to provide security for that country. In particular, the summit is expected to discuss the best ways to help Afghanistan prepare for the planned withdrawal of some 130,000 foreign troops by the end of 2014. Barsky said Iran's request to become a full member of the organization could not be met as long as the United Nations has sanctions on the country. (RFE/RL)


June 7

Russia and Kazakhstan agreed on Thursday to extend their bilateral Friendship Treaty, originally signed in 1992, for an additional 10 years. The protocol on amendments to the treaty was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev after talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana. The sides also agreed to step up efforts to expand bilateral cooperation and integration. Moscow and Astana are planning to increase trade from the current $24 billion to $40 billion annually over the next few years. Nazarbayev said the sides would focus on cooperation in the energy sector, nuclear and space industry, and exploration of resources in the Caspian Sea. Russia and Kazakhstan have adopted a special statement on preserving the infrastructure of the Baikonur Space Center, which the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos uses to launch various spacecraft into orbit. Nazarbayev also confirmed plans to build a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan with Russia’s assistance. Kazakhstan has tried to balance relations with Russia and the West since becoming independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. (RIA Novosti)


June 7

The killings last week, at a high-altitude border post in southeastern Kazakhstan, shocked the coutnry. President Nursultan Nazarbayev called the crime a "terrorist act" and told security chiefs to spare no effort in their investigation. Border guard Vladislav Chelakh was found on June 4 at a herders' winter camp, said Nurdaulet Suindikov, spokesman for the prosecutor-general's office. "On that day, interrogated in the presence of a defense lawyer, Chelakh confessed to killing his fellow servicemen and (herder) Ruslan Kim," Suindikov told a news briefing, adding that hazing, or severe bullying, and an unexplained mental black-out, may have prompted the massacre. Chelakh, who has yet to undergo a psychiatric examination, said he had acted alone. Hazing, the humiliating bullying of younger soldiers by older ones was widespread in the Soviet armed forces and has survived in the Kazakh armed forces. Chelakh's mother, Svetlana Vashchenko, said she believed her son was innocent and would appeal to an international court to investigate the case, RIA reported. Suindikov, citing Chelakh's confession, said the killings took place at about 5 a.m. on May 28 when everyone at the border post was asleep except one sentry. Chelakh took a sub-machinegun from the armory and killed the sentry, and then returned to the barracks to kill the rest of the guards, followed by herder Ruslan Kim. To hide the evidence, Chelakh set fire to the barracks and other buildings and to the sentry's body. (Reuters)


June 7

On Thursday at a joint session of parliamentary committees on Social Policy and Human Rights, hearings on "return and resettlement" were held. At the hearing, Parliamentary Committee on Social Policy head Hadi Rajabli said that the creation of a legal framework for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons is an important task. "Children of children of refugees and internally displaced persons have already been born. We must prepare children to return," Rajabli said. He said the outcome of the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proved that the solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is close. "Her statement made in Azerbaijan, is a message to international organizations, the return process is near, and they should be ready for it. We must be ready for it now, and the legislative framework should be improved," Rajabli said. Deputy chairman of the Azerbaijani parliament Bahar Muradova who participated in the discussion said that the return in part of Aghdam and Fuzuli regions has already taken place, and this gives reason to say that there are precedent and experience in this area. Muradova also stressed the importance of creating a legal framework for the return and resettlement. He said that last year discussions were held and decisions made to improve the social situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, to raise employment growth and improve financial position. (Trend)


June 7

Natural gas pipelines stretching from Azerbaijan to Europe would be emblematic of emerging bilateral ties, a European official said from Baku. Azerbaijan is hosting an international Caspian oil and natural gas conference this week. The country is emerging as a major oil and natural gas supplier, with significant reserves in its waters of the Caspian Sea. European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger delivered a message to the conference stating projects planned in the Southern Corridor of natural gas transit networks would solidify Europe's relationship with Baku. "With a strong pipeline link between Azerbaijan and Europe, the relationship between us could become much stronger," his message was quoted by the regional Trend news service as stating. British Prime Minister David Cameron this week stated similar sentiments. British energy company BP is leading developmental efforts at the Shah Deniz natural gas field in the Caspian Sea. Reserves there are expected to play a major role in Southern Corridor projects. Oettinger, meanwhile, said the emerging role of Azerbaijan in the energy sector was a positive development for the country. "Over 20 years of independence Azerbaijan has been transformed," he said. "The achievements of the country in energy sector, as well as the positive environment, in particular transparent legal regime allows international companies to invest in Azerbaijan." (UPI)


June 7

At least one fighter was killed when troops from Azerbaijan tried to enter the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a ministry official said. Several Armenian and Azeri troops were killed during skirmishes earlier this week as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the region. The countries went to war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s. Azerbaijan considers the region to be part of its territory. A defense minister from the region said one of its forces was killed and two others were wounded in fighting overnight with Azeri forces. Fighting erupted when "Azerbaijani troops attempted to enter the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh," a statement was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as saying. Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was at the top of the agenda during his talks with Clinton in Baku earlier this week. Talks between Armenian and Azeri officials on the issue are scheduled for June 18 in Paris. Mammadyarov said the meeting was aimed at reaching a "breakthrough in regard to this very longstanding conflict." (UPI)


June 8

China and Afghanistan said Friday they would work together to combat threats including terrorism, illegal immigration and illegal arms and drug trafficking. In a joint declaration after talks in Beijing between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, the two countries expressed "strong rejection" of the "three forces" of terrorism, extremism and separatism, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. The New York Times noted China is attempting to ensure a Muslim separatist group doesn't benefit from the Taliban when Western forces leave Afghanistan. Xinhua reported Hu said China would be a "reliable neighbor to Afghanistan" and "unswervingly stick to friendly policies and continue to provide sincere and selfless help to the country." Afghanistan was granted observer status this week in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, comprised of China, Russia and four former Soviet republics in central Asia. Hu expressed gratitude for what the government news agency called Karzai's "long-term commitment to bilateral friendly cooperation and his contribution to the development of bilateral ties." China and Afghanistan also agreed to improve intelligence exchanges and boost cooperation in prevention of infectious diseases and disaster prevention and reduction. (UPI)


June 8

Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces are ready to clear Nagorno-Karabakh of its "Armenian occupiers" anytime, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Ali Gasanov said on Friday. “The head of state has repeatedly stated that Azerbaijan will never put up with the injustice. This statement holds true to date,” he said. Commenting on the recent Armenian “provocation” on the frontline, which led to the death of five Azerbaijani servicemen, Gasanov said it was evidently aimed against U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the region, also dropping a vague hint at Russia. “Presumably, some states patronizing Armenia were unhappy with the U.S. state secretary’s visit, and they organized that incident,” Gasanov said. On Thursday, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia did not want an escalation of tensions with Azerbaijan but promised to respond to any attacks on its citizens, borders and Nagorno-Karabakh. Five Azerbaijani soldiers were killed on Tuesday at the contact line between the armed forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan, amid escalating Armenian-Azerbaijani tension, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said. An Azerbaijani commando group attempted to penetrate Army positions in Karabakh in the early hours of Wednesday but was pushed back, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Army press and propaganda department said. Russia has been mediating peace talks for nearly two decades. The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers have agreed to hold talks over Nagorny Karabakh on June 18 in Paris, following a call from the OCSE Minsk Group mediating the conflict. (RIA Novosti)


June 9

Fortune-telling is alive and thriving in Tajikistan, despite a 2008 law that outlaws soothsaying as a form of "witchcraft." Now, authorities in Dushanbe are pressuring soothsayers to pay income taxes as if the profession was legal. To be sure, some of Tajikistan's fortune tellers are well-known to authorities. Relatives of high-ranking military and government officials are among the clients of the most elite soothsayers, who often take payments of more than $100 for their consultations. Although 90 percent of Tajikistan's population is Muslim,  a religion that considers soothsaying to be a sin, many Tajiks also hold superstitious beliefs in spells, fortune-tellers, and paranormal powers. Munira, who lives on the outskirts of Dushanbe, has built such a reputation over the years as a soothsayer that she now has a long line of visitors at her house every day seeking help or advice with problems. Munira has avoided penalties for her illegal profession by simply declaring herself a practitioner of "folk medicine." She has even obtained a certificate from the Health Ministry confirming her status as a folk doctor. Munira says she should not have to pay income tax because she considers her work as charity, even though she does receive payments from her clients. That's because she is "helping people," she says. (RFE/RL)


June 9

Now significant opportunities for an integrated pipeline infrastructure for the withdrawal of energy from Central Asia to China, South Asia and Middle East are created, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said in Beijing at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting. The President said the pipelines from Turkmenistan to China and Iran constructed in recent years confirms the success and viability of such plans. Another strategic project, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline is in the stage of implementation. "I am convinced that the construction of an extensive, modern pipeline network of continental value - is the imperative of time. Implementation of these projects will give a powerful impetus to economic development in the region and beyond, will be the incentive for efficient activity on the part of foreign investors," Berdymukhamedov said. "Turkmenistan is ready to hold constructive discussion and to develop joint plans in this direction. We are ready to provide our powerful resource potential, the benefits of geo-economic position, the experience of interaction with partners in the implementation of major energy projects for the implementation," the president said. The extra pipeline to Russia (Caspian gas pipeline - through Kazakhstan), Europe (Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Nabucco or as part of the AGRI, below the Caspian Sea) and India (TAPI) are among the planned gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. (Trend)


June 9

Foreign Ministers from Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey met on June 8 in Trabzon on Turkey's Black Sea coast and pledged to further boost “already existing successful cooperation” between the three countries. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu and his counterparts from Azerbaijan and Georgia, Elmar Mammadyarov and Grigol Vashadze, respectively, agreed to hold trilateral foreign ministerial meetings on the regular basis. The meeting resulted into a Trabzon Declaration, which outlines priority areas of cooperation between the three countries ranging from mutual support in international organizations to joint energy and transportation projects. “All the issues that are important for us are reflected in this declaration, including, of course, respect towards territorial integrity and sovereignty. This format is not directed against anyone; this is directed towards protection of our countries national interests and towards further deepening of our strategic relations,” Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze said. The declaration says that “protracted conflicts emanating from existing occupations are the main obstacle to peace and stability in the South Caucasus.” It says that the three countries agree to “promote further development of their relations in every field, especially in the field of trade, energy, transport, finance and banking, environment by means of joint projects and cooperation plans and if needed through trilateral cooperation mechanisms.” The foreign ministers agreed to hold second trilateral meeting in Georgia in the second half of this year and then in Azerbaijan in the first half of 2013. (Civil)


June 11

NATO forces in Afghanistan said they'd restrict airstrikes on Taliban targets close to local populations in an effort to cut down on civilian deaths. A NATO airstrike targeting a senior Taliban commander in Logar province last week left 18 civilians dead. "Given our commitment to protect Afghan civilians, restricting the use of air-delivered munitions against insurgents within civilian dwellings is a prudent and logical step in the progression in the campaign," Jamie Graybeal, a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, said in a statement to The New York Times. Afghan President Hamid Karzai met last weekend with top U.S. military officials and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker to express frustration with last week's attack. International forces in Afghanistan are looking to drawdown their forces by 2014 as Afghan forces start taking the lead in major combat operations. Washington and Kabul signed a 10-year military commitment that outlines U.S. support for the country beyond 2014. The Times reports the latest NATO regulations on Taliban targets don't place restrictions ground operations. (UPI)


June 11

Breakaway Abkhazia’s foreign ministry said use of term “occupied territory” in reference to Abkhazia by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was an “insult” to the Abkhaz society. “We regard totally unacceptable and illegitimate use of term ‘occupation’ by Madam Secretary in respect of presence of the Russian troops on the territory of Abkhazia. Exploiting propagandistic and false thesis about ‘Russian occupation’ insults people of Abkhazia and damages image of the United States in the Abkhaz society,” the breakaway region’s foreign ministry said. “Having experienced multiple acts of aggression from Georgia, we know too well the price of peace and security. Security guarantees, provided by the Russian Federation, is a conscious choice of the people of Abkhazia and is a result of the bilateral agreements between our states. Therefore, thesis about ‘Russian occupation’ is in conflict with international law and its support directly fuels revanchist stance of the leadership in Tbilisi,” it said. In the same statement, the breakaway region’s foreign ministry again slammed the U.S. decision to accept Georgia’s neutral travel documents issued for the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It said that with this decision the U.S. “risks committing act of ‘collective punishment’ of the Abkhaz citizens by encouraging policy of the authorities in Tbilisi to isolate Abkhaz society.” (Civil)


June 12

"We are considering the option of importing gas from Turkmenistan which can provide about five billion cubic meters of gas a year," said the Ukraine Minister of Energy and Coal Industry, Yuriy Boyko. UNIAN notes that in exchange for gas, Turkmenistan is ready to consider Ukrainian companies participating in implementing infrastructure projects. "However, such an arrangement requires permission from Russia to use its pipelines," the media said. Earlier, Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov, who was received by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, expressed that Ukraine hopes for direct supplies of Turkmen gas. Ukraine can get access to Turkmen gas through the Gazprom controlled Central Asia-Centre (CAC) pipeline, which passes through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. According to Kiev, there is a point in the agreement on the free trade zone of the CIS that provides equal access to the gas transport capacity of the CIS countries. Furthermore, Kiev recently reported that Ukrainian enterprises and companies are willing to participate in the Turkmenistan important infrastructure projects of national importance, such as gas pipelines. In particular, participation on the East-West project within the country and internationally on the TAPI route is of interest General contractor for the East-West project is Turkmengaz. This pipeline will connect fields in the east with the western part bordering the Caspian Sea. Azarov also announced Ukraine’s readiness to promote the implementation of the Trans-Caspian project. (Trend)


June 13

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has urged the scientists of the Academy of Sciences to develop innovative pipeline-building technologies for the Caspian Sea bed. The president said fundamental research must be conducted in Turkmen seismology, new techniques and technologies must be introduced. Ashgabat believes the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project is the best way for Turkmen gas to reach the European market. The EU has already begun negotiating to conclude the agreement on the project. Commission president Barroso stressed the importance of building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to ensure the safety and security of energy supplies to Europe, as well as a stable demand for Turkmen gas. During talks about the Trans-Caspian project, Russia and Iran discussed potential risks to the Caspian ecosystem. However, Gazprom continues to implement even more ambitious projects via the Black and Baltic seas. Turkmen ecologists recall that "there has been a pipeline at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea since the 1970s". Furthermore, marine pipelines "are much more practical, cheaper and environmentally safer" because they are "virtually isolated from the influence of human activity due to being under a layer of water and away from the coast." Turkmenistan has expressed willingness to supply the Nabucco project annually with 40 billion cubic meters of gas, part of which could be provided from works on the Turkmen sea block, and the rest through the East-West pipeline being built in Turkmenistan to connect the deposits of Southern Yoloten and with the coast of the Caspian Sea. (Trend)


June 13

The OSCE is concerned about the recent incident between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, told reporters in Baku."I and the OSCE are concerned about recent incident on the contact line between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops. There is no retaliation and I would like to see put in place investigation mechanism through which the OSCE will look at the activities when they occur," Gilmore said. "Ultimately, we would want to achieve this and I hope that this will contribute to peaceful and negotiated resolution of the conflict." During his visit to Baku Gilmore met with Azerbaijani officials, as well as leaders of political parties. OSCE activity in the region, cooperation between OSCE and Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other issues were discussed at the meetings. Previously, Gilmore visited Georgia and Armenia as part of his South Caucasus tour. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France and the US - are currently holding peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. (Trend)


June 13

Leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said he would not pay GEL 148.68 million fine, imposed on him by the court upon the state audit agency’s request. “Of course I am not going to pay this sum,” Ivanishvili said in an interview with a local media outlet in Guria region, Guria News, released on June 13. Ivanishvili condemned court’s ruling on his multi-million fine as “absurd”, saying “the court has lost sense”. In its two separate rulings on June 11 Tbilisi City Court imposed total of GEL 148.68 million (about USD 90.9 million) fine on Ivanishvili after the state audit agency decided that the Georgian Dream leader violated party funding regulations. Ivanishvili’s lawyers appealed the ruling to higher court on June 13, which has to consider the appeal within 48 hours. Ivanishvili’s lawyers said there was no chance of success in appeals court, accusing judiciary of partaking in the authorities’ campaign of targeting the billionaire politician. Asked how the case would develop as he refuses to pay the fine, Ivanishvili responded: “We should ask the authorities what they plan to do next. One thing I can say is that everything will be all right.” “They [the authorities] are in agony; he [President Saakashvili] is in hysteria, because he understands very well that everything goes towards its logical end,” Ivanishvili said. (Civil Georgia)
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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.


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