Thursday, 02 July 2009

1 July 2009 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (7/2/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakh Leader Sacks his defence minister 18 June Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on June 17 fired the Central Asian nation's Defense Minister Danial Akhmetov, the presidential press service said. Nazarbaev's decree gave no reason for the sacking of Akhmetov, a long-term devoted loyalist of the veteran leader whose previous posts included that of prime minister.

Kazakh Leader Sacks his defence minister 18 June Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on June 17 fired the Central Asian nation's Defense Minister Danial Akhmetov, the presidential press service said. Nazarbaev's decree gave no reason for the sacking of Akhmetov, a long-term devoted loyalist of the veteran leader whose previous posts included that of prime minister. First Deputy Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev became acting defense minister. In April, Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry was rocked by a scandal when the nation's security service accused it of buying defective military hardware from Israel. A Kazakh deputy defense minister was sacked after the security agency's investigators established the government had incurred losses of $82 million as a result of the deal. (Reuters)

 

Ingushetian president severely injured in suicide bombing

22 June

The president of the Russian republic of Ingushetia was severely injured on Monday, when the convoy he was travelling in came under suicide bomb-attack. At least one of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov's bodyguards was killed in the attack and several others were injured, the Interfax news agency reported. The bombing took place in the city of Nazran. A spokesman from Yevkurov's office said the president had been in surgery and was no longer in life-threatening danger. He is believed to have been transported to Moscow for further care.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev condemned the attack as a cowardly act by "bandits" unhappy that Yevkurov "is bringing order to the region." He ordered the Interior Ministry and state secret services to investigate the attack.  The attack on the presidential convoy is believed to be the work of a suicide bomber who hid an "enormous bomb" in a car, a police spokesman said.  According to Russia's FSB security services, the bomb had contained some 20 kilos of TNT.  No one has yet claimed official responsibility for the attack, although tensions have been rising in the area as Islamist rebels have become more bold in fighting local powers. Their attacks have claimed the lives of a former vice premier and the deputy chairwoman of the supreme court since the start of June.  Medvedev has promised a campaign against such terrorist attacks. To that end, the government has planned military anti-terror manoeuvres with about 8,500 troops and 650 tanks in the region for the end of June.  Monday's attack came on the fifth anniversary of a rebel attack in Nazran in which some 100 people were killed. (Earthtimes)

 

Azerbaijani opposition party rallies in front of Iranian embassy

22 June

Azerbaijan's Muasir Musavat opposition party held unauthorized protest action in front of the Iranian embassy on June 22. "Nearly 50 party activists protested against repression and violence against compatriots in peaceful demonstrations staged after presidential elections in Iran. Three of them were arrested by police. The police office said the arrested party members will be released as soon as they give evidence," Muasir Musavat Chairman Hafiz Hajiyev said. The Saturday clash with the police in Tehran claimed lives of 19 people, CNN reported with the reference to sources in hospitals. Thousands of people unhappy with results of the June 12 presidential elections in Iran launched protest actions which led to clash with the police. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidential elections by 63.6 percent of votes. According to unconfirmed reports, the street clashes killed 150 people. The police used tear gas, clubs and water cannons to disperse demonstrators. Hajiyev said Iranian embassy did not accept resolution of the rally. "Protest actions in support of rights of Azerbaijanis in Iran will continue," he said.  (Trend News)

 

Kyrgyzstan, USA agreed on opening of centre of transit transportations

23 June

Kyrgyzstan and the USA have agreed on opening at the international airport Manas of the centre of transit transportations, the agency reports citing a source in the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan.  According to the source, today at 13.00, the Committee of Defense, Security, Law and Order and Judicial-Legal Reform of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan will consider the ratification of cooperation agreement between the governments of Kyrgyzstan and the USA signed yesterday in Bishkek. "The transit centre will exist on the basis of air base of the coalition forces at the Bishkek Manas airport," the source added. The air base was opened in Kyrgyzstan in December, 2001 under the mandate of the United Nations for realization of the USA antiterrorist operation and their allies in Afghanistan. In the spring, the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan denounced the contract. Six months have been given to close the air base. According to the Parliament, last foreign military man should leave the territory of Kyrgyzstan until August 18th. (Kazakhstan Today)

 

Georgia's radical opposition annuls picketing in front of president's resident

24 June

The radical opposition annulled picketing in front of Avlabar Residence of the President of Georgia. Democratic Movement - Unified Georgia said that the decision was made jointly with United Georgia Party, who were responsible for the picketing in the territory. The decision was made due to possible provocations by the authorities, who tried to oppose the local Armenian population of Avlabari against participants. The actions of the radical opposition started on April 9. (Trend News)

 

Kyrgyzstan says slain militants were Uzbek nationals 25 June A Kyrgyz parliament deputy has said that five armed individuals killed by Kyrgyz national security forces near Jalal-Abad on June 23 were citizens of neighboring Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Rashid Tagaev said the Uzbek citizens might have trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan. He said a large amount of explosives and ammunition was found in the house, indicating they were preparing a significant terrorist attack. Investigators are trying to determine how and when the Uzbek citizens managed to enter Kyrgyzstan. The five armed men refused to surrender to security forces on June 23 and opened fire from a house in the village of Tashbulak in Kyrgyzstan's southern Jalal-Abad region. All of them were killed. (RFE/RL) Kazakh Leader a No-Show at NATO forum in Astana 25 June Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev did not attend the third forum of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in Astana, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. His greetings speech were conveyed by Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin. The message was in English, and no translation into Kazakh or Russian was provided. It had been previously announced that Nazarbaev would take part in the forum. The EAPC comprises 50 NATO and partner countries, and its main goal is to facilitate consultation on political and security matters. The current event is NATO's first-ever gathering on that level held on the territory of the former Soviet Union. (RFE/RL)

 

Afghanistan Focus Of NATO's First Central Asia Talks 25 June  NATO has held its first meeting in Central Asia to discuss issues ranging from Afghanistan to Caspian Sea cooperation. The talks in the Kazakh capital take place days after Kyrgyzstan, one of the region's former Soviet republics, reversed its decision to shut down a U.S. military air base used to support operations in  Afghanistan. "Instability in Afghanistan affects Central Asia more than any other region -- from terrorism to drug-trafficking," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said at a lecture at the Kazakh Academy of State. "By the same token, no region has more to gain from stability in Afghanistan than Central Asia," he said, ahead of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting on June 26. Central Asia has gained significance for Washington as it boosts its Afghan force to fight the resurgent Taliban. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are, together with Russia, parts of a corridor along which the United States plans to supply its Afghan troops following attacks on convoys in Pakistan. Earlier this week, Kyrgyzstan said its security service officers fought and killed five Islamist militants from a group long linked to Afghanistan's Taliban. (Reuters)

 

U.S. envoy: no role for Iran in Nabucco 25 June There are no plans to include Iran in the planned Nabucco natural gas pipeline to Europe, said the U.S. special envoy for Eurasian energy issues. Richard Morningstar, the U.S. envoy, said in an interview with the Trend news agency in Azerbaijan that there is no chance for Iran to join the $10.7 billion project. "I can say we have no plans regarding  Iran's involvement in this project at the moment and in the future," he said. Iran has boasted of developments in its energy infrastructure, announcing recent tenders for a pipeline to the Gulf of Oman and advancements in its Persian Pipeline. Iranian, Syrian and Turkish officials also signed a trilateral package of deals that included the development of upstream activities, drilling and exploration. Iran's moves come amid supply concerns for Nabucco. Europe sees the Nabucco pipeline, traveling north from Turkey to European markets, as an answer to its push for energy security and diversification. Morningstar lauded the potential impact of the project, saying it would not only contribute to energy diversification and security, but also encourage international cooperation. "Nabucco opens up many possibilities," he said. "We support all projects that involve the delivery of oil and gas to world markets." (UPI)

 

Chechnya vows to eliminate militants

25 June

The President of the Russian republic of Chechnya has vowed to work with neighbouring Ingushetia to wipe out militants in their volatile region. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has made a surprise visit to Ingushetia, whose President, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, was seriously injured by a car bomb on Monday. Mr Kadyrov has overseen a sometimes brutal campaign against militant groups in Chechnya. With violence spiralling in Ingushetia, the Chechen leader has used his visit to declare that both republics will work closely together to eliminate all militants in their region in Russia's south. Mr Kadyrov was quoted earlier as saying Russian President Dmitry Medvedev approved of the joint operation and told him to combat the bandits, even harshly. Ingushetia's President is reported to be in a serious but stable condition after his motorcade was attacked by a suicide bomber in a car on Monday. (ABC)

 

Karzai Tells Taliban to Vote in Afghan elections 27 June Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the Taliban and their allies on June 27 to vote in August's elections rather than attempt to disrupt the nation's second presidential poll. The August 20 vote is seen as a crucial moment for Karzai's government and for Washington, which is sending thousands of extra troops this year as part of President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda and stabilize Afghanistan. "I appeal to them [the Taliban] again and again to avoid any conflicts, not only during polling days but forever," Karzai told a news conference at his heavily guarded palace. "Through elections we can bring peace and security, and through elections we can bring development," he said. The Taliban, whose strict Islamist government was ousted after a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, have repeatedly rejected the election as a Western-inspired sham. The Taliban have also rejected Karzai's calls for them to join the peace process, saying no talks can take place until all foreign troops have left the country. Washington has already almost doubled the number of its troops from the 32,000 in the country in late 2008 in order to secure the elections and to combat a growing Taliban insurgency. Karzai has ruled since the Taliban's ouster and won the nation's first direct vote for president in 2004. A clear favourite to win again, he welcomed meetings held by foreign officials and diplomats with some of the 40 candidates opposing him, particularly his main rivals, former senior ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. But he also called on the international community not to interfere and to play an impartial role. Most of the more than $230 million the Afghan election will cost is being provided by Washington and its allies. An unflattering report by leading think tank the International Crisis Group this week said poor security and failure to capitalize on gains since the 2004 poll meant widespread fraud was possible in the voting. The Taliban-led insurgency has reached its most violent level since 2001, U.S. military commanders have said. It has grown out of traditional Taliban strongholds in the south and east into the once relatively peaceful north and to the fringes of Kabul. (Reuters)

 

Kyrgyzstan kills suspected Islamist Militants 28 June Security forces in Kyrgyzstan have killed three men they believe were militants from an Islamist group, a state security official said. Earlier this week the Central Asian state said five militants had been killed in a gun battle in the southern town of Jalal-Abad in which one state security officer had been killed. It said the militants belonged to the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, home to a U.S military air base since 2001, has been battling off and on since 1999. A state security official who asked not to be named said its forces killed three more militants in a village in the Osh region, also in the south near the border with Uzbekistan, on the night of June 27. "According to preliminary data three militants have been killed. Most likely they were terrorists from the group destroyed in Jalal-Abad," the official told Reuters. Another senior government official confirmed the killed militants were believed to be members of the IMU. "They (the militants) were from the same structure ... They (the security service) used two armoured personnel carriers to avoid casualties on our side," said the official, who also requested anonymity. The IMU, founded in 1998 and believed to be allied with Afghanistan's Taliban, conducted several raids in Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000, holding entrenched positions for months. In 2006, Kyrgyz security forces reported killing several IMU members in a special operation. No attacks involving the IMU members have been reported in the last two years in Kyrgyzstan. But in May, Uzbekistan's security forces blamed the IMU for attacks in Khanabad, a small town close to the Kyrgyzstan border, in which one policeman died and another was injured. Western security analysts say the IMU was largely wiped out during U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan but some have pointed to a possible rise in its activity in recent months alongside a parallel resurgence in Taliban operations. (Reuters)

 

Chechen Rebels Claim Assassination Bid On Ingush Leader

28 June

A Chechen rebel group has claimed responsibility for the assassination bid against the Moscow-appointed president of Ingushetia, Yunus- Bek Yevkurov, who was seriously wounded in a bombing. "This operation was led by the rebel battalion 'Riyadus Salikhiin' under the order of the leadership of the Emirate of the Caucasus," said a statement posted on the Chechen pro-independence Web site Kavkazcenter.com.The group claimed it was led by Chechen guerrilla leader Doku Umarov, although Russian media say he was killed in a Russian military operation in May. The rebels deny their leader has died. Yevkurov - appointed by the Kremlin to bring stability to one of Russia's bloodiest regions - was badly wounded when his motorcade was hit by a car bomb last Monday.His spokesman, Kaloi Akhilgov, said Sunday that the Ingush leader's condition had slightly improved, although he was still under artificial respiration. "Even though his condition remains serious, the doctors have noted a positive dynamic and are talking about an improvement in the health of the president," he told Echo of Moscow radio. (AFP)

 

Kandahar Police Chief Killed In Clash Between Afghan Forces 29 June The provincial police chief and at least four other police officers in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar Province have been killed in a clash with private Afghan security guards. Local officials told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the clash broke out after the security guards entered the Kandahar city prosecutor's office and forcibly removed an unidentified prisoner. Kandahar Provincial Council head Ahmed Wali Karzai told RFE/RL that the "clash erupted when a group of Afghan security guards for foreign troops wanted to take out a prisoner, probably a driver." Karzai said provincial police chief General Matiullah Qahteh and eight other police officers were killed. It's not clear if there were casualties among the guards. Karzai -- the younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- said the security guards were unsuccessful in their attempt to remove the prisoner. He added that police are trying to arrest the security guards involved in the incident. A senior Kandahar security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that Qateh, along with the head of the city police department and four other police officers, were killed in the gun battle. Interior Ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashari told local television the prisoner had been due to appear on criminal charges on June 29, but gave no other details. (RFE/RL)

 

Exercise “Kavkaz-2009” begins in Russia’s south

29 June

The operational-strategic exercise “Kavkaz-2009” has begun in Russia’s south on Monday. As head of the Information and Public Relations Service of the North-Caucasian Military District (NCMD) Colonel Andrei Bobrun told ITAR-TASS, “the exercise in the NCMD is being held in the period from June 29 to July 6 in accordance with a plan of training of the Russian Armed Forces under the direction of chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces General of the Army Nikolai Makarov.” “Large units and military units of the NCMD, as well as interacting and dependent agencies - - the armies of the Air Force and Air Defense, the Caspian small fleet, the Novorossiisk naval base, the regional command of Interior Troops of the Russian Interior Ministry and the Airborne Troops are being involved in the exercise,” Bobrun specified. “The exercise will be held in the Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, the Astrakhan, Volgograd and Rostov Regions, the Republics of North Ossetia – Olania, Ingushetia and Dagestan, as well as the Karachayevo-Cherkess and Chechen Republics. (Itar-Tass)

 

OSCE Secretary General to visit Kazakhstan

29 June

The OSCE Secretary General, Mark Perren de Brishambo will visit Kazakhstan. The official representative of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Yerzhan Ashikbayev, said at a weekly briefing in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, the agency reports. "The OSCE Secretary General will hold a number of bilateral meetings and will make a speech at the seminar devoted to preparation for the forthcoming presidency of Kazakhstan in this organization in 2010," Y. Ashikbayev informed. According to Y. Ashikbayev, Perren de Brishambo will take part in the work of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana on July 1-2, 2009. (Kazakhstan Today)

 

Israeli president makes landmark Kazakhstan visit

30 June

President Shimon Peres was in Kazakhstan on Tuesday in the first visit by an Israeli head of state to the majority Muslim country, following a similar trip to overwhelmingly Shiite Azerbaijan.Peres held talks with the Central Asian state's strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev on trade, cultural and humanitarian issues, the Kazakh presidency said in a statement. "Kazakhstan sees Israel as an important partner in the Middle East region with which there is a diverse cooperation," it quoted Nazarbayev as saying. The two sides also vowed to expand ties in trade, which according to the Kazakh presidency in 2008 increased two-and-a-half times to a total volume of more than 2.4 billion dollars. Peres had on Monday wrapped up a visit to Azerbaijan -- also the first by an Israeli president -- which aroused intense curiosity due to the country's border with Iran, which refuses to recognise the Jewish state.

Israel maintains tight economic and military ties with Kazakhstan after Astana asked the Jewish state to help it modernise its military and produce weapons as it seeks to upgrade its armed forces. However Kazakh security forces in April arrested a deputy defence minister in connection with irregularities surrounding a 2006 deal for Israel to supply modern artillery designs to the Kazakh military.  (AFP)

 

Kazakh Official Rejects Nabucco Project 30 June A senior official says Kazakhstan will not take part in the Nabucco project, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Kazakh Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Aset Magauov said at the third session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Astana that due to insufficient natural-gas supplies, Kazakhstan wouldn't be able to participate in the Nabucco project. Nabucco is a planned pipeline that will transport Central Asian gas via Turkey to Europe. The project's goal is to give Europe access to Central Asian gas while bypassing Russia. It is backed by the European Union and the United States. According to Magauov, Kazakhstan's current gas priorities are the Caspian Sea pipeline and a project with Chinese partners. (RFE/RL)

 

RUSSIA SECURES Azeri Gas

30 June

Russian gas giant Gazprom and its counterpart in Azerbaijan reached an agreement for gas purchases that could possibly undermine Europe's Nabucco project. The State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic and energy monopoly Gazprom signed a deal to secure 1.7 billion cubic feet per year from Azerbaijan in 2010. Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said the early volumes would come from the massive Shah Deniz gas field. Shah Deniz in the Caspian Sea is one of the largest finds in recent decades, with roughly 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Azerbaijan has emerged as the center of a regional race to secure gas reserves. Europe had looked to Shah Deniz to supply its $10.7 billion Nabucco project, while the Gazprom move could fill the Moscow-backed South Stream pipeline to southern Europe. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev noted, however, that the deal was "absolutely" not based on political motivations, the Moscow Times reports. He acknowledged, however, that the SOCAR deal was an early sign of major plans for the Russian energy monopoly. "I think we can further continue this work, keeping in mind the big opportunities and big volumes, which will be growing," he said. (UPI)

 

Iran Report: U.K. Embassy Employee had role in unrest 1 July A semi-official Iranian news agency has said one of three local British Embassy staff still in detention had had a "remarkable role" in last month's postelection unrest in the Islamic republic. Iran's Foreign Ministry said on June 30 that five of the detained Iranian staff at the British Embassy in Tehran had been freed while four were still being held for questioning. The Fars report suggested that one more person had been freed. "Among the three detained British Embassy staff there was one who...had a remarkable role during the recent unrest in managing it behind the scenes," Fars said, without giving a source. It said another embassy employee had been a "main element behind the riots" but that she had been freed because she enjoyed diplomatic immunity. The same news agency first revealed the detentions of the British Embassy staff on June 28, saying they were accused of stirring unrest after Iran's disputed June 12 election, which moderate opponents of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad say was rigged in his favor. On June 30, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said London was pressing Iran's Foreign Ministry to help secure the release of the local employees of the British Embassy. (Reuters)

 

Obama Aide Says no more troops to Afghanistan 01 July President Barack Obama's top security adviser has told U.S. military commanders there are no plans to send more troops to Afghanistan for now and that the focus instead will be on economic development and reconstruction, "The Washington Post" has reported. National security adviser James Jones delivered that message last week in Afghanistan, where Marine Brigadier General Lawrence Nicholson hinted he could use more "thousands more" troops, the newspaper said. Jones' message seemed designed to cap expectations that more troops might be coming, although the Obama administration has not ruled out additional deployments in the future, the report said. "This will not be won by the military alone," Jones told the "Post" during his trip. "We tried that for six years." "The piece of the strategy that has to work in the next year is economic development. If that is not done right, there are not enough troops in the world to succeed." An extra 17,000 troops Obama deployed to fight a growing Taliban-led insurgency in southern and western Afghanistan were expected to be on the ground by mid-July. Another 4,000 troops being deployed to train Afghan security forces are due to arrive by August. The forces are part of a build-up that could expand the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to 68,000 troops by the end of this year, more than double the 32,000 at the end of 2008. "The Washington Post" said Jones made it clear during his visit to Afghanistan that it was a new era and Obama will not automatically give military commanders whatever force levels they request, a departure from the practice of the Bush administration in the Iraq war. (Reuters)
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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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