Wednesday, 27 June 2007

27 June 2007 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (6/27/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION SEEKS REFERENDUM ON UNION WITH RUSSIA

14 June

The Kyrgyz opposition movement United Front for a Worthy Future for Kyrgyzstan on June 14 formally submitted documents to the Justice Ministry requesting a national referendum to consider a proposal to form a union between Kyrgyzstan and Russia. An unnamed official from the Bishkek headquarters of the Ar-Namys (Dignity) party, which is a part of the United Front, said the documents meet all the legal requirements for a referendum, and added that "we hope that the Justice Ministry will officially register our campaign in the near future in line with the prescribed procedures." The opposition is also seeking Justice Ministry registration of an "initiative group" created specifically to advocate holding the referendum, and requested official state-issued "identification cards" to assist members in collecting signatures throughout the country.

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION SEEKS REFERENDUM ON UNION WITH RUSSIA

14 June

The Kyrgyz opposition movement United Front for a Worthy Future for Kyrgyzstan on June 14 formally submitted documents to the Justice Ministry requesting a national referendum to consider a proposal to form a union between Kyrgyzstan and Russia. An unnamed official from the Bishkek headquarters of the Ar-Namys (Dignity) party, which is a part of the United Front, said the documents meet all the legal requirements for a referendum, and added that "we hope that the Justice Ministry will officially register our campaign in the near future in line with the prescribed procedures." The opposition is also seeking Justice Ministry registration of an "initiative group" created specifically to advocate holding the referendum, and requested official state-issued "identification cards" to assist members in collecting signatures throughout the country. According to Kyrgyz law, any issue can be put forth in a referendum as long as at least 300,000 citizens sign a supporting petition. Earlier in June, former Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, the leader of the United Front, explained that "a union with Russia will preserve the unity of Kyrgyzstan and its people," and threatened to seek the dissolution of parliament if the Kyrgyz authorities failed to consider his proposal. (akipress.org)

 

KAZAKHSTAN, AFGHANISTAN TO FORM INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODY

14 June

In a statement released on June 14 in Astana, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov announced the creation of a bilateral Kazakh-Afghan intergovernmental commission to boost investment and trade ties. The agreement to form the body was made in a meeting between Masimov and visiting Afghan First Vice President Ahmad Zia Mas'ud in Astana earlier the same day. Masimov also noted that the Kazakh government is currently considering a special program on cooperation with Afghanistan aimed at strengthening Kazakh investment, agricultural trade, and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is also seeking Kazakh assistance in developing the country's large but underdeveloped mining sector. (RFE/RL)

 

AZERBAIJANI POLICE FORCIBLY DISPERSE DEMONSTRATION BY JOURNALISTS

15 June

Over 200 Azerbaijani police and security forces forcibly dispersed on June 14 a demonstration in Baku by a group of 50 journalists protesting the government's pressure on the media and suppression of freedom of speech, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported. Police initially arrested Rauf Arifoglu, the editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," and two others before releasing them later in the day. One unnamed protester required hospitalization after police used force to break up the demonstration. An earlier plan to stage a rally to protest restrictions on media freedom by the journalists' group the Union of Editors was recently postponed to June 23 after the Baku municipal authorities ordered that it must be confined to within an area where extensive road construction is under way. (RFE/RL)

 

GEORGIAN SPEAKER URGES RUSSIA TO TAKE 'POSITIVE STEP' OVER SOUTH OSSETIA CONFLICT

15 June

Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze called on June 14 for Russia to take a "positive step" over the South Ossetia conflict, proposing that Russia agree to joint control over the Roki tunnel that connects South Ossetia with neighboring North Ossetia. Burdjanadze added that Georgia is "disposed toward continuing dialogue and promoting positive aspects" in its relationship with Russia. She made the comments while accompanying President Mikheil Saakashvili and Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili on a state visit to France where they met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns in Paris. (Civil Georgia)

 

EU ENVOY MEETS WITH ARMENIAN OFFICIALS

15 June

Peter Semneby, the EU's special envoy for the South Caucasus, met in Yerevan on June 15 with top Armenian officials, including Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and parliament speaker Tigran Torosian. Semneby stressed the need for Armenia and Azerbaijan to take "qualitative steps" and lay the foundation for the peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict. He said the EU was disappointed that at their talks in St. Petersburg on June 9, the presidents of the two countries failed to make further progress toward such a solution. Semneby also said that the opinion of the disputed region's population should be taken into account. Sarkisian for his part criticized Azerbaijan's steadily increasing defense spending and the "lack of positive impulses" from Baku, which he contrasted with Armenia's "constructive" approach to resolving the conflict. He ruled out unilateral concessions on the part of Armenia, saying a solution should be based on mutual compromise. (Noyan Tapan)

 

KYRGYZ PREMIER REMAINS HOSPITALIZED IN TURKEY

15 June

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev is continuing to receive medical treatment in a Turkish hospital, but is reported to "feel well" and in stable condition. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Atambaev on June 13 and discussed several issues in an hourlong meeting, including trade and economic relations and measures to promote Turkish investment in Kyrgyzstan. Atambaev is being treated for complications after being poisoned by an unknown toxin, which his doctors said caused "acute toxic hepatitis of indeterminate aetiology," or origin. Atambaev says that he became seriously ill from drinking water in his office on May 11, and that he was unconscious for two days after the incident. A round of medical tests confirmed that Atambaev was poisoned (RFE/RL)

 

TURKMEN PRESIDENT CONCLUDES VISIT TO IRAN

16 May

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov returned to Ashgabat on June 16 after a two-day state visit to Iran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. In a meeting in Tehran with the Iranian president and senior officials, Berdymukhammedov signed several bilateral agreements, including new accords to expand railway links between the two countries. Trade between the two countries surpassed $1.3 billion in 2006 and is expected to further increase as the level of Turkmen gas exports to Iran is projected to double this year. Berdymukhammedov also formally invited the Iranian president to visit Turkmenistan in the "near future." (ITAR-TASS)

 

BOMBING DAMAGES TAJIK SUPREME COURT BUILDING

18 June

An explosion on June 16 struck the Tajik Supreme Court building in the capital Dushanbe, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. No one was hurt in the explosion, although windows were shattered and a part of the structure was damaged. Dushanbe's chief prosecutor, Kurbonali Mukhabbatov, contended that "terrorists" may have been behind the attack, which he said was "aimed at intimidation." The incident appears to be linked to a series of explosions in January and June 2005 that Tajik authorities have attributed to a banned group known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The bombing also coincides with the first anniversary of three smaller explosions in different places in Dushanbe, which also did not result in any injuries. (RFE/RL)

 

KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S FORMER SON-IN-LAW ISSUES APOLOGY

18 June

In an interview published in Kazakhstan's "Vremya" newspaper on June 16, Rakhat Aliev, the former son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, said he is "prepared to answer personally to the president" for his recent "political statements," and offered "apologies" to Nazarbaev. Aliev, who until recently was married to Nazarbaev's eldest daughter, Darigha Nazarbaeva, said he regretted a May 26 speech in which he decried the "curtailment of democratic processes in Kazakhstan," adding that the speech "was made in a fit of passion." He also stressed that he has not spoken out against the recently adopted constitutional amendment allowing Nazarbaev to run for the presidency an unlimited number of times. A former Kazakh ambassador to Austria, Aliev is now facing extradition to Kazakhstan on criminal charges relating to the abduction and assault of two senior officials of Nurbank, a bank Aliev controls. The officials' abduction was allegedly intended to force them to sell their interests in a building in Almaty. Meanwhile, in comments during a visit to the northern city of Ustkamenogorsk, President Nazarbaev said on June 15 that he opposes a constitutional amendment that lifted the limit on the number of terms he can serve as president, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The Kazakh parliament voted last month to remove the term limits for Kazakhstan's first president, allowing Nazarbaev, whose current term runs through 2012, to run as many times as he likes. Nazarbaev added that he "did not propose this amendment" and noted that he actually "reduced the presidential term from seven to five years and proposed that a president should be elected for a maximum of two successive terms." He did, however, sign the constitutional amendment into law after parliament approved it. (RFE/RL)

 

FATHER CLAIMS AZERBAIJANI YOUTH ACTIVIST MALTREATED IN JAIL

18 June

Jalal Bashirli has written to Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis and to Andres Herkel, the Estonian parliamentarian who serves as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's rapporteur for Azerbaijan, to solicit their help in securing the release of his son, Ruslan. Ruslan Bashirli, a leading member of the youth organization Yeni Fikir (New Idea), was arrested in August 2005 and sentenced 11 months later to seven years' imprisonment on charges, which he denies, of accepting money from Armenian intelligence to try to overthrow the Azerbaijani leadership in the run-up to the November 2005 parliamentary elections. Jalal Bashirli claimed his son is being subjected to mental and physical abuse in jail. (day.az)

 

GUAM summit to open in Baku on Tuesday 19 June A summit of the GUAM organization, which includes Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, is to open in Baku on Tuesday. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko and Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev arrived in the Azeri capital on Monday to attend the summit, which will also involve Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and officials from other countries. Security, the fight against international terrorism, ways to ensure the security of transport corridors, and economic and humanitarian integration are expected to dominate the event's agenda. A declaration and a number of other documents are to be adopted at the end of the summit. (Interfax)

 

Azerbaijan ready for joint use of Gabala radar by Russia, U.S. - defense minister 20 June Azerbaijan is prepared for the joint use of the Gabala radar station by Russia and the United States, Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiyev told Interfax. "During today's bilateral meeting in Moscow with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, we confirmed Azerbaijan's preparedness for the joint use by Russia and the U.S. of the radar station in Gabala and signed a relevant protocol," Abiyev said. (Interfax-AVN)

 

Nazarbayev dissolves lower chamber of Kazakh parliament 20 June Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced the dissolution of the 3rd Majlis, the lower chamber of the parliament. The president explained his decision by an address from a number of Majlis members he received on Tuesday, in which the parliamentarians said they did not want to obstruct the implementation of political reform in the country. (Interfax)

 

Nazarbayev's daughter confirms her divorce 20 June Dariga Nazarbayeva, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's daughter, has confirmed that she and Rakhat Aliyev have divorced. "There are indeed a lot of rumors. I can confirm only one of them - about the divorce. This was a difficult trial for my family. I can only add that this was a painful and deliberate choice on my part," Nazarbayeva, a parliament member, told local media. Aliyev announced in an earlier interview that his marriage with Nazarbayeva was officially ended at an Almaty court on June 6. (Interfax)

 

Four Defense Ministry servicemen killed in armed clash in Grozny 21 June Four servicemen from the West battalion of the Russian Defense Ministry's 42nd motorized rifle division were killed in an armed clash in the Staropromyslovsky district of Grozny on Wednesday night, a local police source told Interfax on Thursday. Traffic police stopped an UAZ jeep without license plates at a checkpoint on Staropromyslovskoye Highway on Wednesday evening, suspecting that the driver, who was a trainee from the West battalion, could have been drunk. (Interfax)

 

Another amnesty possible for Chechen militants – Patrushev 22 June

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) head Nikolai Patrushev believes that another offer of amnesty could be extended to members of illegal armed groups, although he cautioned against repeating such actions too often. "I think it is possible to issue another appeal; however, of course it cannot be done too often," Patrushev said in the Federation Council on Friday when asked whether it was possible to offer another amnesty to militants this fall. Patrushev said that, judging by the results of previous appeals, "the action was useful and well organized."  (Interfax)

 

Over 30 Mln rubles raised in Chechnya to help sick children

24 June Thirty-five million rubles have been collected in the Health of the Nation charitable action in Chechnya on Saturday to be spent on the medical treatment of children with congenital heart problems. "Initially, we planned to raise 10 million rubles, but the result has surpassed all our expectations," Chechen presidential chief of staff Abdulkakhir Izraiilov told Interfax on Sunday. "People kept coming to the Dynamo stadium in Grozny, where the TV marathon was being held, to the last minute. The action continued late into the night," he said. "Some would donate large sums on condition of anonymity, while others would bring a mere ten rubles, but all of them contributed to an effort to save children," Izraiilov said. The Bakulev Heart Surgery Institute Director, Leo Bakeria, told Interfax that, "several dozen children suffering from congenital heart problems have been selected for emergency surgery." "Massive medical checkups on children were impossible in the troubled Chechnya, which made serious health problems common among children," Bakeria said. (Interfax)

 

Putin, Erdogan hail Russian-Turkish relations

25 June President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on Monday.

The Turkish administration is grateful for Putin's attendance at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization summit, Erdogan said. Putin's meetings in Istanbul were fruitful and Russian-Turkish relations are developing well, he said.  Bilateral trade stands at $21 billion and investment is rising steadily, a source told Interfax. (Interfax)

 

Turkey says agrees with Azerbaijan on Shakh Deniz 25 June Turkey and Azerbaijan have resolved problems and reached an agreement on the Shakh Deniz project that will transport Caspian natural gas to European markets, Turkey's energy minister said on Monday. "It is out of the question that Turkey and Azerbaijan go to arbitration. I met (Azerbaijan's Industry and Energy Minister Natik) Aliyev last night and made an agreement on this issue," Hilmi Guler told Reuters on the sidelines of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation's summit. Turkey -- which is seeking to become an energy transit hub for the region -- had hoped to ship Azeri gas to Greece at the end of July but now expects this to be delayed to August.  Azerbaijan produced natural gas at the Shakh  Deniz field for a brief period in December but could not pump gas to Turkey due to technical problems, which have halved this year's production forecast. Turkey has pressed Baku to ensure a sustained flow of sufficient volumes of gas in the coming months and fulfil its contract pledges on delivery. The price of gas was another issue that remained to be resolved between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Turkey produces almost no natural gas or oil but is an important transit route from energy-rich Caspian and Central Asian countries to Europe. The $4 billion Shakh Deniz project is operated jointly by BP and Norway's Statoil. (Reuters)

 

Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization won't discuss conflicts - Lavrov

25 June The jubilee summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization will discuss only issues that are defined in the organization's charter, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the media in Istanbul. "An attempt to consider political issues, which obviously cannot be resolved in this format, would be unpromising," he said in answer to a question whether the summit may discuss the settlement of conflicts in the Black Sea zone. (Interfax)

 

NATO: Azerbaijan radar cannot be West's missile shield 26 June

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that a Russian proposal for the United States to use a radar in Azerbaijan would not shield the West from possible missile attacks by so-called "rogue states."  The radar, at Gabala, could not be an alternative to the planned defense system in Europe, De Hoop Scheffer told a news conference at Interfax headquarters in Moscow on Tuesday. (Interfax)

 

Oil giant Iran introduces gas rationing

27 June Gasoline rationing was introduced in Iran on Wednesday despite the country's status as the second highest OPEC crude oil producer. Iran has a huge crude reserve but minimal refining capacity and therefore imports about 40 percent of its refined gasoline, Alalam Satellite TV reported from Tehran. Gasoline is heavily subsidized in Iran and even after Tehran imposed a 25 percent price hike, the price was raised to 11 cents a liter -- roughly 44 cents a gallon, the report said. In a statement on state television, the Oil Ministry said private cars would be rationed to about 25 gallons of gas per month, while licensed taxis would be eligible for 200 gallons. There was no indication given as to how long the rationing would remain in effect.  (UPI)

 

 

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