Thursday, 01 November 2007

31 October 2007 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (11/1/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Uzbekistan President to visit Turkmenistan

17 October

The President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov will visit Turkmenistan on October 18. The President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov informed at the session of the cabinet of ministers of Turkmenistan, the agency reports referring to the press service of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. During the meeting of the leaders of two states the parties will exchange opinions on prospects of mutual relations, regional cooperation, economic integration and safety.

Uzbekistan President to visit Turkmenistan

17 October

The President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov will visit Turkmenistan on October 18. The President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov informed at the session of the cabinet of ministers of Turkmenistan, the agency reports referring to the press service of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. During the meeting of the leaders of two states the parties will exchange opinions on prospects of mutual relations, regional cooperation, economic integration and safety. The main attention will be given to the questions in energy sphere. Uzbekistan is the participant of two gas pipelines - Trans-Caspian and Turkmenistan-China. "Uzbekistan supports all these projects and makes all efforts for their realization. However, the position of Ashkhabad in the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline needs to be specified," the representative of the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the agency. The relations between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan develop in the spirit of the Contract of 1996 on friendship, cooperation and mutual aid and Friendship treaties, strengthening mutual trust and development of cooperation signed in 2004. More than 108 bilateral documents have been signed between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan states. "During the meeting we have discussed the questions of further development of political, trade and economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation between our countries. We have discussed the issues of cooperation in fuel and energy spheres. We consider that realization of the agreement signed on May 12, 2007 between Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan, as well as the agreements on gas pipeline Turkmenistan - China, will be successful," Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan said. (Kazakhstan Today)

 

KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER ANNOUNCES PAY RAISE FOR PROFESSIONAL SOLDIERS

18 October

Speaking at a defense industry plant in Astana, Kazakh Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov announced on October 18 that the monthly wages for professional soldiers will be doubled on January 1, 2008, to about 70,000 tenge ($580). He added that specialists within the armed forces will be awarded a further 30 percent supplemental pay increase, and promised to improve housing for soldiers, stating that he is committed to resolving "the servicemen's housing problems within three years." Funding for military education and training is also expected to be increased substantially, to roughly 4.8 billion tenge ($40 million) in 2008. (Itar-Tass)

 

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER HEADS DELEGATION TO WASHINGTON

18 October

A delegation of senior Armenian officials led by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian arrived on October 18

in Washington to attend the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to meet with U.S. officials. The delegation -- which includes the Armenian ministers of finance, economy, trade and economic development, and agriculture; the Armenian president's chief adviser for economic issues; and the chairman of the Central Bank, is also set to participate in a meeting of the bilateral Armenian-U.S. intergovernmental commission for economic development. Sarkisian met on October 18 with both U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Vice President Richard Cheney. The delegation is to travel to Los Angeles on October 19 to meet with leaders of the Armenian-American community and after a subsequent trip to Paris, will not return to Yerevan until after October 24. (Arminfo)

 

GUAM MEMBER STATES EMBASSIES IN AUSTRIA MARK ORGANIZATION’S 10TH ANNIVERSARY

19 October

Embassies of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldavia to Austria organized Thursday at the Pallavicini palace in Vienna an official reception on the 10th anniversary of GUAM – the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. Austrian officials, representatives of diplomatic corps and international organizations accredited in this country attended the event. The reception is a start of several events, which embassies of GUAM members-states in Austria will hold on this occasion. Meanwhile, members of the Azerbaijan’s delegation to OSCE addressed the Wednesday meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the 10th jubilee and gave detailed information about the Baku summit of the heads of GUAM member states. Members of some delegations, including Portugal on behalf of the European Union, USA, Turkey and Japan spoke about successful cooperation between their countries and GUAM. Azerbaijan is now holding presidency of GUAM. (Azertag)

 

DUMA REJECTS PROPOSAL TO DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN INGUSHETIA

19 October The Duma considered on October 18 in plenary session, but ultimately rejected, a proposal by former Colonel Viktor Alksnis (People's Union) that a state of emergency should be declared in Ingushetia. Alksnis argued that "a war is under way in Ingushetia, ethnic cleansing, and Russians are being killed." Only seven deputies, including National Union leader Sergei Baburin, supported that proposal, however; the overwhelming majority voted against it. On October 10, the website kavkaz-uzel.ru quoted Interior Ministry troops commander Colonel General Nikolai Rogozhkin as stating that the 2,500 additional Interior

Ministry servicemen deployed to Ingushetia in August have been withdrawn. Meanwhile, Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev has appointed four new Ingushetian deputy interior ministers in order to improve the work of that ministry. Three of the four are Slavs. Colonel Sergei Selivestrov was named first deputy interior minister and head of the criminal police, and Colonel Vadim Selivanov, Colonel Sergei Shumlin, and Magomed Gudiyev were appointed deputy ministers. (RFE/RL)

 

Kyrgyz leader calls snap election

22 October

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has dissolved parliament and called fresh elections, after voters approved plans to overhaul the country's constitution. In Sunday's referendum, about 75% of voters backed the constitutional changes, election officials said. President Bakiyev said the new system would give the people more power, but opposition parties say the changes will hand more power to Mr Bakiyev. The election is expected to take place later this year, probably in December. Reuters reported some election observers as saying there had been incidents of ballot-stuffing during Sunday's referendum, and the official turnout of 80% of the country's 2.7m voters was inflated. But the Central Election Commission denied any major irregularities. President Bakiyev swept to power in 2005, ousting long-term leader Askar Akayev and winning a landslide victory in presidential elections. But since then, the Central Asian country has been hampered by a political stand-off between the president and parliamentary deputies elected during the Akayev era. The new constitution includes a proportional representation system of voting, where candidates are selected from central party lists rather than locally elected. The president has formed his own party, Ak Zhol, and analysts say the constitutional changes will help him gain a foothold in the chamber. (BBC)

 

Gabala Radar Station does not endanger Iran – Azeri Diplomat 22 October The Gabala radar station Russia is renting in Azerbaijan is not targeted against third countries, Iran among them, Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said in an interview with the Azerbaijani television channel ATV on Monday. "The radar station covers a vast area. There are several states in the south, and they do not have to worry if they do not pose any danger," Azimov said. "I would not link the radar station directly to Iran, as it is [designed for the] tracking of possible targets and missiles coming from the south and taking measures if necessary," Azimov said. The future of the Gabala radar station will depend on consultations between Azerbaijan, the United States and Russia, he said. (Interfax)

 

Suicide attack on bus in Dagestan; three passengers injured 23 October A terrorist attack has been committed in Kazbek district of Dagestan on Tuesday, which killed the bomber and injured three other people. The explosion occurred at around 11:20 am, in a minibus going from Khasavyurt to Dylym, a central town in the Kazbek district, the Kazbek District Interior Department told Interfax. "According to our information, the explosive device which detonated was attached to the belt of a female suicide bomber. The explosion which occurred within a hundred meters of a police station killed the young woman, and three passengers were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds. Investigators are working at the scene," an officer on duty said. (Interfax)

 

AFGHANISTAN HOSTS 17th MEETING OF ECO COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

24 October

Herat, Afghanistan hosted the 17th annual meeting of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Council of Ministers, Azerbaijan Embassy in Pakistan said.  Azerbaijan was represented by the Foreign Ministry delegation led by Deputy Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev. Addressing the meeting, Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said his country is an important bridge between Central, Middle and South Asian states. He called on ECO countries to cooperate in the spheres of trade, transport, industry, culture and agriculture. He noted Afghanistan’s transport corridor is open for ECO member countries. Mahmud Mammadguliyev made a speech at the opening ceremony and thanked the Afghan side and ECO secretariat for high-level organization of the meeting. The chairmanship at the ECO Council of Ministers passed from Azerbaijan to Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rangin Dadfar Spanta thanked Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, and highly appreciated Azerbaijan’s presidency at the ECO Council of Ministers during the past year. The participants adopted the Herat Declaration. Mammadguliyev met one-on-one with deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan Mohammad Kabir Farahi to discuss prospects of cooperation between the two countries in various fields. On Sunday, the Azerbaijani delegation arrived in Kabul to meet Azerbaijani soldiers serving at the International Security Assistance Force. Mammadguiliyev familiarized himself with the conditions of the Azerbaijani soldiers. The Deputy Foreign Minister spoke about Azerbaijan`s economic achievements and growing international prestige. Mammadguliyev also visited Azerbaijani companies and met with businessmen. Azerbaijan`s permanent representative to ECO A. Hasanov, representative for Afghanistan at the Azerbaijani embassy in Pakistan I. Gafarov and official at the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry S. Ahmadov accompanied the delegation during the visit. (Azertag)

 

KAZAKHSTAN BLOCKS OPPOSITION WEBSITES

25 October

Kazakhstan blocked access to four opposition news websites on October 24 in what local media freedom activists condemned as "political censorship." Speaking at a press conference in Almaty, the head of the Adil Soz media rights group, Tamara Kaleeva, accused government officials of blocking access to the sites for nearly a week. She said that given the restrictions on traditional media outlets, electronic and Internet-based media offer an important alternative source of news for the Kazakh population. Kaleeva said that blocking the websites was illegal, and called for those responsible to be punished and the websites unblocked. Also speaking at the press conference, the operators of the websites linked the move to their sites' publication last week of the transcripts of wire-tapped telephone conversations reportedly involving senior government officials. The opposition websites include zonakz.net, inkar.info, kub.kz and geo.kz. In a statement to reporters, Kazakh Culture and Information Minister Yermukhamet Yertysbaev said on October 24 that he was not aware of the problem and that his ministry had "nothing to do with this incident," and promised to address the issue. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)

 

U.S. urges Kyrgyzstan to solve reporter's murder

25 October

The United States on Thursday called on Kyrgyzstan to defend media freedom and solve the murder of an independent Uzbek reporter who was killed on Wednesday in a Kyrgyz city. Alisher Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek with Kyrgyz citizenship, was shot twice in the chest and once in the head in the centre of Osh, a city on the border with Uzbekistan. "We urge an immediate and thorough investigation into this terrible act," the U.S. embassy in Kyrgyzstan said in a statement on its Web site. Saipov, 26, had worked for the U.S.-funded Voice of America and for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "Journalists and their independent reporting are the bedrock of a free and open society, and any attempt to intimidate them or silence their voices cannot be tolerated," the embassy said. Kyrgyzstan is a small, impoverished, mountainous country that occupies a strategically important position between China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The United States has an air base outside the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. (Reuters)

 

KYRGYZ JOURNALIST SLAIN BY UNKNOWN GUNMAN

25 October

Kyrgyz journalist Alisher Saipov was fatally shot on October 24 by an unknown assailant, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz and Uzbek Services reported. The body of the 25-year old Saipov was discovered in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. As the editor of the "Siyosat" (Politics) newspaper, he frequently wrote articles critical of the authorities in neighboring Uzbekistan, prompting speculation that his killing in the predominantly ethnic-Uzbek region around Osh may be linked to his coverage of Uzbekistan. President Bakiev has pledged to monitor personally the investigation into Saipov's killing. (RFE/RL)

 

GEORGIA ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF DETAINED ABKHAZ

26 October

Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution David Bakradze traveled on October 25 by UN aircraft to Sukhum(i), capital of the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia, for talks with de facto Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba that lasted two hours, rather than the planned 40 minutes, and after which the two ministers drank coffee together in a local cafe, the Georgian television station Rustavi-2 reported later the same day.

Speaking after his meeting with Shamba, Bakradze announced that Georgia will release on September 27 seven Abkhaz border guards taken prisoner by Georgian special forces following a shooting incident on September 20. Bakradze characterized that decision as a goodwill gesture by the Georgian side intended to pave the way for a resumption of dialogue. Shamba for his part told journalists that agreement was reached on resuming the weekly talks held in Chuburkhindji between Georgian and Abkhaz government representatives and representatives of the Russian peacekeeping forces and the UN Observer Mission (UNOMIG) to assess the situation in the conflict zone. In his most recent (October 3) update to the UN Security Council on the situation in Abkhazia, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern at the ongoing suspension of the weekly quadripartite talks and urged their resumption. (RFE/RL)

 

Turkmenistan marks 16th anniversary of independence

27 October

Turkmenistan on Saturday marks the 16TH anniversary of the country’s independence. The holiday traditionally started at the main stadium of the country - - Olympiisky. Here representatives of five regions presented their musical and theatrical programmes.  On Saturday morning, a wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the Monument of Independence, and then Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and guests will see a military parade of the country and a festive demonstration.  Numerous guests, including leaders of foreign companies - - economic partners of the country, delegations of neighbouring states and representatives of Turkmen diasporas are invited to the holiday. The holiday programme includes numerous concerts and a horse and sport march along Ashgabat streets. (Itar-Tass)

 

Opposition leaders detained in Kyrgyzstan

28 October

The Interior Ministry of Kyrgyzstan says police mistook three opposition leaders for "armed criminals" and briefly detained them. Opposition groups said the police officers involved seemed more like criminals. They told the Russian Interfax news agency the three leaders were traveling in separate cars from a conference in Narya to the capital, Bishkek, on a mountain road when they were stopped. The former parliamentary deputies were detained by masked men who fired warning shots. The Interior Ministry said police had set up two checkpoints on the road after getting a tip that criminals would be driving to Bishkek. One car that arrived shortly before the opposition leaders was driven by a known mobster who had a gun, police said. Police at the first checkpoint said the cars with the former deputies did not stop, so they had a blockade set up at the second checkpoint. Officials said the men were released as soon as they had been identified and the officers involved apologized to them. (UPI)

 

Iran helps Tajikistan produce military uniform

28 October

With the assistance of Iran's Defence Ministry, the largest uniform production plant in Tajikistan started its work on Saturday, getting the country self sufficient in producing military uniforms for its armed forces.

The plant started its work in the presence of Tajik Minister of Defense Sherali Khairulloyev and representatives from Etka Organization affiliated with Iran's Defense Ministry.  The Iranian experts have already trained Tajik personnel on the job. The plant also produce overcoats, shirts, bed sheets as well as uniforms. The agreement to commission such a plant in Tajikistan was signed a few months ago when General Najjar, Iran's Defense Minister, was visiting Dushanbe. (IRNA)

 

Suicide attack kills four in southern Afghanistan

29 October

A suicide attacker blew himself up Monday near a police convoy in southern Afghanistan, killing three civilians and a policeman and wounding six others, police said. The bomber, believed to be aged in his late teens, detonated his suicide vest in Lashkar Gah, the capital of troubled Helmand province, the Afghan interior ministry said. "Four people were martyred and six were wounded. One of the martyred and one of the wounded were policemen," an interior ministry press statement said, updating an earlier police toll of three dead. "The suicide attacker was targeting a police convoy," provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said. The area was cordoned off by police. Police and civilian vehicles rushed the dead and wounded to hospitals, witness Ali Khan told AFP. Another witness at the site, Abdul Aziz, said a NATO convoy had just passed followed by police vehicles when the blast took place. "There was blood everywhere and thick, black smoke," he told AFP. Helmand province, the biggest opium producing region of Afghanistan, has endured a wave of Taliban-led violence. The Taliban control at least one district in the province. Meanwhile, the US-led coalition said it had killed several militants and arrested five in an operation launched to disrupt Al-Qaeda and foreign fighters in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday. The forces searched a compound in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, where intelligence reports indicated "Al-Qaeda facilitators" were operating, a US military press statement said. "Several armed militants were killed during the engagements. Coalition forces performed a search of the buildings on the compound and subsequently detained five suspected militants," the statement said. It said those arrested will be questioned "as to their involvement with foreign fighters and weapons facilitators, as well as other extremist activities." The coalition said it had recovered several weapons in the compound. (AFP)

 

TAJIKISTAN CUTS TAX ON FOOD IMPORTS 29 October At a press conference in Dushanbe, Tajik Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Abdughaffor Rahmonov announced on October 26 a 10 percent reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) on basic food products imported into the country. The move, seen as an attempt to ease the impact of a rise in food prices that has swept the region in recent weeks, follows the creation of a new state commission empowered to study the "domestic consumer market" and tasked with recommending specific measures aimed at combating the price rise. Rahmonov also claimed that the price increases were exacerbated by "private entrepreneurs" who were "to blame for the price hike," contending that they "have formed an artificial" pricing structure. Meanwhile, the head of the Tax Committee, Hakim Soliev, recently suggested that grain imports should be exempted from VAT altogether. (Asia-Plus)

 

Britain closes embassy in Azerbaijan over security fears

29 October

Britain on Monday closed its embassy in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for security reasons, the Foreign Office in London said. "Due to security concerns, the embassy will be closed on October 29 and the situation will be kept under review," a spokesman told AFP. "We are unable to give any further details at this stage" on the nature of the security concerns, he added. (AFP)

 

 

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CLAIMS TURKEY WILL NOT ADMIT ABKHAZ LEADER

30 October

Nino Burjanadze announced on October 29 that during her recent visit to Istanbul, Turkish officials assured her that they will not renew an invitation to Sergei Bagapsh, president of the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia, to visit Turkey. That planned visit has been postponed at least twice, once in April 2007 due to Bagapsh's illness, and again last month. Bagapsh was quoted as attributing that most recent postponement to the deteriorating situation in Turkey in light of incursions by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants based in northern Iraq, according to "Nuzhnaya gazeta" on October 23 as summarized by the BBC. Meanwhile, an Abkhaz-Turkish joint venture to mine and export coal is in jeopardy following the seizure of a Turkish merchant vessel by the Georgian coast guard on October 21, Caucasus Press quoted Abkhaz parliamentarian Daur Arshba as saying on October 25. On January 31, the "Georgian Times" reported that

Turkish businessmen have invested heavily in Abkhazia, illegally exporting coal, timber, and marble. In addition, at least 40 percent of the republic's restaurants are reportedly Turkish-owned. The Abkhaz community in Turkey numbers some 500,000, mostly descendants of people who fled during the 19th-century Tsarist conquest of the western Caucasus. (RFE/RL)

 

Russia values partnership with Kazakhstan – Lavrov

30 October

Russia highly values the partner relations with Kazakhstan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“At present, it can be said without an exaggeration that they are model,” he said at the conference “15 Years of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Russia and Kazakhstan: Results and Prospects of Cooperation” in Astana on Tuesday. “As good friends and neighbours, Russia and Kazakhstan consider the interest of each other in the political, economic, military and other fields,” Lavrov said. He cited the energy sphere as example of the relations. “With an increase in the proportion of the energy component in their global policy, Russia and Kazakhstan are increasingly actively cooperating in development of their fuel and energy complexes. This also concerns increasing energy security in the Euro-Asian space and on a global scale, and energy supplies to world markets”. “Our countries are reliable partners in this sphere, and they consistently meet all their obligations,” Lavrov said. He also said problems of stable and future-looking use of the Caspian hydrocarbon resources had been in principle resolved. The two countries coordinate efforts to settle the status of the Caspian Sea. Lavrov said Russia and Kazakhstan closely cooperate in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the Euro-Asian Economic Community and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. (Itar-Tass)

 

US-led coalition soldier killed in southern Afghanist; AN Intel Chief killed in the east

31 October

A U.S.-led coalition soldier was killed in southern Afghanistan, while a roadside blast killed a regional intelligence chief and three of his bodyguards in the east on Tuesday, officials said. The coalition soldier was killed while conducting combat operations in Sperwan Ghar, in Kandahar province, a statement from the coalition said. The clash also left another coalition soldier and an Afghan policeman wounded, the statement said. Both were evacuated to a military medical facility for treatment. The nationalities of the killed and wounded coalition troops were not released. In the east, a roadside blast targeted the intelligence chief of Qarghayi district in Laghman province as he was traveling in his car, said Nezamuddin, a spokesman for Laghman's governor who goes by only one name. The vehicle was destroyed. Violence in Afghanistan this year is the deadliest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 5,300 people have died this year due to insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials. (AP)

 

ADB President to meet leaders of Central Asian states

31 October

The first official visit of the President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Haruhiko Kuroda to the Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will begin on November 5, the agency reports referring to ADB press service. In each country H. Kuroda will meet the leaders of the states and the officials to discuss the programs of ADB partnership, important role of regional cooperation in further development of the Central Asian states and decrease the level of poverty in the region. "The necessity of cooperation between Central Asian states is obvious. Cooperation becomes an essential factor for strengthening economy and increase of standard of living of people in the countries of the region with small population, having significant distance from the world markets," H. Kuroda considers. "Owing to the neighborhood with promptly developing markets of the Chinese National Republic, India and Russia, having huge demands for power resources, and due to extending transit corridor to the sea through Afghanistan, Central Asia obtains good potential of development due to its strategic location. (Kazakhstan Today)

  
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