Polio outbreak in Tajikistan a concern 25 June A polio outbreak in Tajikistan raises concerns the disease could spread to other regions in the world, an editorial in a Canadian journal says. The editorial, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says this is the first persistent outbreak of polio in a country that was previously certified to be polio-free and it is imperative that health agencies try to limit further spread by ensuring high vaccination rates. Cases are appearing in Russia and Uzbekistan. The current outbreak accounts for 75 percent of the world's polio cases and far exceeds that of India and Nigeria, which has had polio outbreaks. "Too many regions and communities have ceased to worry about polio," Dr. Paul Hebert, editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says in a statement with Dr. Noni MacDonald, public health editor. "As a consequence, vaccine uptake rates are all too often well below effective prevention levels." For example, in Ontario, childhood immunization rates are only in the high 70 percent to low 80 percent range -- comparable to rates in Tajikistan -- because of concerns about vaccine safety, anti-government views and religious strictures against vaccinations, the editorial says. (UPI)
Most refugees have returned to Kyrgyzstan 26 June About 71,000 of the more than 100,000 refugees who fled to Uzbekistan have returned to their homes in Kyrgyzstan, interim Defense Minister Ismail Isakov said. "Nearly all the refugees who were in Uzbekistan's territory have returned to Kyrgyzstan," Isakov said at a meeting Saturday with the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordyuzha, RIA Novosti reported. The refugees had fled to escape Kyrgyzstan's worst ethnic violence in two decades, which the United Nations says has displaced 400,000 people. Isakov said the country is becoming more stable, while Bordyuzha called Kyrgyzstan the CSTO's strategic partner. "Everybody is interested that there is stability here, that mass unrest stops, but this needs help," Bordyuzha said. A police assessment mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived in Kyrgyzstan Friday to help stabilize the situation in the country ahead of the June 27 referendum on constitutional reform. Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks began fighting June 11 in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. The clashes lasted several days and spread to the neighboring Jalalabad region. Officials put the death toll at 275 but Kyrgyz leaders say it could be 10 times higher. More than 2,000 people were injured in the violence. (UPI)
More than 90 % of voters in Kyrgyzstan approved new Constitution
According to the preliminary results, more than 90 % of voters have approved the new Constitution. The chairman of the Central Election Committee, Akylbek Sariev, informed at the press conference, the agency reports citing the news agency AKIpress. According to A. Sariev, "99.96 % of referendum protocols has been processed, as of today." According to A. Sariyev, 90.57 % of all protocols - pro, 8.05 % - against, and 1.5 % of bulletins have been recognized void. A. Sariev considers that the preliminary results do not raise doubt and reflect a reality as people have voted positively to stabilize the situation in the Republic. (Kazakhstan Today)
Near-Caspian states to sign protocols concerning oil extraction safety
Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran intend to sign the protocol on safe oil extraction in the Caspian Sea, the agency reports citing the information portal Oil and Gas Eurasia. "We plan to sign two protocols in addition to the Teheran Convention this year, including one - concerning safe oil extraction in the Caspian Sea," Minister of Environmental Protection of Kazakhstan, Nurgali Ashimov, said on Monday in Astana. Earlier this day, during the governmental hour in the Parliament, N. Ashimov said, "This year, we plan to accept two more protocols and to sign them in Astana. It will be a full package of documents including all possible aspects of the environmental contamination in the Caspian Sea directed at protection of the environment of the Caspian Sea." Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan signed the frame convention in 2003. The document obliges the states to struggle with pollution of the Caspian Sea, to rationally use their resources, and to cooperate with each other and the corresponding organizations. (Kazakhstan Today)
Chechnya: Suicide bombing targets leader
A suicide bomber detonated explosives near a music hall where the leader of Russia's Chechnya region was attending a concert, leaving him unharmed but injuring five servicemen. "Those bandits cannot destroy the peace in the Chechen republic," Kremlin-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told reporters after leaving the concert hall in the provincial capital, Grozny. He did not say if he believed he had been a target.
It was the first Islamic insurgency bomb in the city in almost a year. The bomber was a young Grozny native, a local law enforcement official told Reuters. (The Independent)
Petraeus Calls For Unity In Afghanistan 3 July The new U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan called today for unity between the civilian and military efforts in the Afghan war. General David Petraeus told a crowd of about 1,700 Afghan, American, and international guests at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that cooperation between the military and civilian sides "is not optional." "This is a tough mission; there is nothing easy about it," he said. "But working together, we can achieve progress and we can achieve our mutual objectives." Petraeus spoke as he made his first public appearence since arriving in the Afghan capital on July 2. He landed a day after his appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and just hours after the U.S. House of Representatives approved $33 billion in funding for a troop surge he hopes will turn the tide of the war. An amendment demanding an exit timetable from Afghanistan failed, but got 162 votes -- the biggest antiwar vote in the House on Afghanistan to date. He is taking over from the dismissed U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, who publicly disparaged the level of cooperation between U.S. civilian and military leaders in Afghanistan in interviews printed in an American magazine. A formal change-of-command ceremony will be held on July 4. The Taliban showed on July 2 just how capable they are of operating outside their traditional strongholds by launching a daring commando-style raid on the office of an American company that provides logistical support for U.S. government aid in relatively peaceful Kunduz, in the north. A Briton, German, Filipino, and two Afghans were killed in the pre-dawn attack, provincial officials said, as well as the six insurgents who mounted the raid. Also on July 2, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that Petraeus now commands said two service members had died after separate insurgent attacks in the south and east. (RFE/RL) Kyrgyzstan swears in caretaker President 4 July Kyrgyzstan’s provisional leader Roza Otunbayeva has been sworn in as president, ushering in what the Central Asian nation’s government hopes will be a new era of stability and democratic freedoms. Otunbayeva said at her inauguration Saturday that her government would do everything in its power to ensure the country overcomes the consequences of the ethnic bloodshed that last month claimed hundreds of lives. Over the course of her tenure as caretaker president, which lasts through to the end of 2011, Otunbayeva will oversee the implementation of a new constitution that dilutes presidential powers in favor of a European-style parliamentary system. Her government came to power after former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed in a bloody popular uprising in April. (AP)
Osh protesters want international oversight of Kyrgyz forces 4 July Some 200 protesters in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh held a protest calling for the "internationalization" of the Kyrgyz army and law enforcement agencies, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The demonstration was held in front of the Osh city administration building on July 2. Protesters want international oversight of the army and police forces. They also called for an objective investigation into the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan and for an intensified search of the people still reported missing. Protesters met with Osh Deputy Mayor Alymjan Baygazakov, who promised to pass on the demands to the Osh mayor. Political anaysts say the ethnic Uzbek community in the Osh region lacks confidence in the Kyrgyz Army due to its largely monoethnic composition. Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva has also cited this problem among Kyrgyz security forces and said the army and police must include more ethnic minorities. About 15 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population is made up of ethnic Uzbeks. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has discussed the idea of sending an international police force to Osh to help restore confidence in the security forces. More than 50 people went missing during the ethnic violence in the Osh region. Others are also still missing in Jalal-Abad. At least 300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, fled their homes during the days after the fighting started on June 10. (RFE/RL)
US SECRETARY OF STATE GIVES NEWS CONFERENCE ON RESULTS OF HER AZERBAIJAN TRIP
Azerbaijan has achieved enough progress, said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on the results of her official visit. Clinton pointed out the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved for the progress in the South Caucasus region. She expressed consent with the results of her talks with the country`s officials. Hillary Clinton said she favors peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the principle of territorial integrity of states. According to her, the United States may not directly solve the problem but can provide assistance.
On the joint statement of the US, Russian and French Presidents on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Secretary of State stressed the problem must be solved very soon and there is progress on the matter. On the Section 907 of the United States Freedom Support Act, Clinton pointed although President Barack Obama is working on the waiver of the section he will also try to repeal it. The top US diplomat underlined Azerbaijan supported her country in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hillary Clinton noted the United States supports and is ready for cooperation with respect to the upcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. She said US-Azerbaijan cultural, educational and trade ties have developed deeply. Foreign Minister Mammadyarov highlighted US`s backing huge projects implemented by Azerbaijan. The Minister underlined all South Caucasus countries can participate in the regional projects after the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. (AzerTAc)
Clinton urges Armenia-Azerbaijan peace 4 July Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan is needed for both nations to create safe and flourishing futures, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday. Peace "is a prerequisite for building a secure and prosperous future in both nations," Clinton told reporters in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. The two nations are in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a 3,200-square-mile landlocked enclave of Azerbaijan that has been under control of Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire ended the six-year Nagorno-Karabakh War. Tensions between the countries rose in recent months and at least four Armenian and two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in fighting over the region in June. Clinton first met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for lunch, then flew to Armenia's capital, Yerevan, for a dinner meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. She told reporters June's clashes were "unacceptable" cease-fire violations and contrary to the stated commitments of both sides, Voice of America reported. She said Washington urged both sides to refrain from force and to work out basic principles leading to a settlement. "Everyone knows these are difficult steps to take, but we believe they are important ones and we have expressed our concern to both presidents today that the return to violence is unacceptable," Clinton said. Clinton also called on Armenian neighbor Turkey to normalize ties with Armenia. And she reaffirmed a U.S. call for Russia to end what she called the "continuing occupation" of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 2008 war with Georgia. Clinton is to spend several hours in Georgia Monday, ending a four-day trip to five countries that started in Ukraine and Poland. (UPI)
Kyrgyzstan will not rely on foreign aid - Otunbayeva 5 July Kyrgyzstan plans to use its own resources to recover from a wave of violence that hit the country in June, the country's new president said on Monday. "We will help ourselves, we will not rely on aid or handouts," Roza Otunbayeva told reporters after a session of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) in Astana. Otunbayeva was sworn in as president for a transitional period until December 31, 2011 earlier on Saturday, after a new constitution was approved by a national referendum on June 27. "We are sure that a small amount of aid from all countries will help us regain our footing, and the EurAsEC's crisis fund comes in handy," Otunbayeva said. Inter-ethnic clashes in the south of the Central Asian state claimed the lives of more than 280 people, according to government figures, and made thousand homeless. However, Kyrgyz officials acknowledge that the real death toll may be 10 times higher. Otunbayeva, who came to power amid large-scale opposition protests that overturned president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, said on Saturday that Kyrgyzstan was going through "one of the most dramatic periods in its history." She called on the international community to help avoid a "humanitarian catastrophe," but also pledged that all those made homeless by the unrest would receive new housing by the onset of winter. (RIA Novosti)
Russian-Kazakh-Belorusian Customs Union comes into effect 5 July Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says a customs union joining Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus has come into effect after the presidents of the three countries signed documents today. Medvedev made the announcement at a summit of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. Eurasec unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. The leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan said their countries were also considering joining the customs union. Eurasec leaders are scheduled to consider the formation of a Eurasec court to replace the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Customs Court and approve a budget for 2011. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that the next Eurasec summit will be held in Moscow in late December. Nazarbaev noted in his opening speech that the group is marking its 10th anniversary. Medvedev is also scheduled to meet with new Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbaeva to discuss the recent violence and referendum in Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL)
Clinton: Georgia can count on U.S.
The United States is committed to Georgia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" as it continues to grow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. Clinton, winding down her visit to several former communist countries, said she brought a specific message to Georgia from U.S. President Barack Obama.
"The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States does not recognize spheres of influence," she said during a joint news conference Monday with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Russia must abide by the August 2008 cease-fire reached after it invaded Georgia and signed by Saakashvili and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Clinton said. That means providing humanitarian aid, and "ending the occupation and withdrawing Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to their pre-conflict positions," she said. She also thanked Georgia for its "significant contributions" in Afghanistan, noting that Georgian soldiers are fighting alongside of U.S. troops in Helmand province. Clinton also reiterated U.S. support for Georgia's political and economic reform. "We are committed to supporting Georgians, Georgians who are working to build a future that is freer, more democratic, more prosperous and more secure," America's top diplomat said. The United States has been "decisive in protecting Georgian independence, helping our democracy to grow," Saakashvili said, "especially … in the recent critical period after the invasion of our country in 2008" by Russia. The Georgian leader said his talks with Clinton "confirms to all of us that the support we receive, the partnership we have built, is growing in substance and form." While much needs to be done to ensure Georgia's security, "we want to tell the world that Georgia is a model of political and economic reforms," he said. (UPI)
British forces to withdraw from deadly Afghan district 7 July British troops are to withdraw from one of southern Afghanistan's deadliest areas and hand responsibility over to U.S. forces. Britain's defense secretary, Liam Fox, announced the pullout of 1,000 soldiers from the district of Sangin in Helmand Province starting later this year. Sangin, a valley in northern Helmand, has accounted for 99 out of 312 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since military operations began there in 2001. Fox told Parliament that British forces in Helmand had been spread too thinly to mount effective counterinsurgency exercises, but presented the withdrawal as part of reorganization of NATO troops in the province. "ISAF intends to restructure its forces in Farah and Nimroz provinces so it can consolidate a U.S. marine brigade in northern Helmand, which will assume responsibility for security in Sangin, later this year," he said in a reference to NATO's International Security Assistance Force. "This will simplify current command arrangements and enable U.K. troops to be redeployed to reinforce progress in the key districts of central Helmand. The theater reserve battalion will then withdraw."Fox said the withdrawal was enabled by the recent arrival of more than 18,000 U.S. Marines and would result in a "coherent and equitable division" of allied forces in Helmand's main population areas. British forces account for about a third of foreign troops in Helmand, but are responsible for protecting a larger share of its population. Some 8,000 of Britain's 9,500 troops in Afghanistan are stationed there. Britain is the second-largest contributor to the NATO war effort in Afghanistan after the United States. (RFE/RL)
NATO air strike accidentally kills 5 Afghan troops 7 July NATO mistakenly killed five of its Afghan army allies in an air strike Wednesday while the Afghans were attacking insurgents in the country's east, officials said. Three American soldiers were also reported killed Wednesday in a roadside bomb in the south. An Afghan defense official condemned the latest "friendly fire" deaths, which came at a time when international troops are trying to improve coordination with Afghan security forces in hopes of handing over more security to them nearly nine years into the war. Three American soldiers were also reported killed Wednesday in a roadside bomb in the south. The Afghan soldiers were launching an ambush before dawn against insurgents reportedly on the move in Ghazni province when NATO aircraft began firing on them without warning, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. Five Afghan soldiers died and two more were wounded in the air strike in Ghazni's Andar district, he said. "This is not the first time such an incident has happened, but we wish that at least this would be the last one," Gen. Azimi said. NATO spokesman Josef Blotz confirmed the botched air strike. He said he regretted the Afghan National Army deaths, telling a news briefing that a joint investigation has been launched. "The reason for this is perhaps a coordination issue," Mr. Blotz said. "We were obviously not absolutely clear whether there were Afghan national security forces in the area." He extended the personal condolences of U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the newly arrived commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, to the families of the victims. The Afghan soldiers' deaths at the hands of their allies was another setback in the U.S.-led force's goal of training and coordinating with the Afghans, one of the cornerstones of its counterinsurgency strategy. (AP)
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan intend to join Customs Union
The President of Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, and the President of Kyrgyzstan for the transition period, Roza Otunbaeva, following the results of the session of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community, in an interview to journalists said that they intend to join the Customs Union, the agency reports. "As for Tajikistan joining the Customs Union structure, we are seriously working over this question," E. Rahmon said. R. Otunbaeva informed, "Kyrgyzstan, being a WTO member, has created a working group, which is now studying all the conditions for joining the Customs Union." "We are determined to join the Customs Union. We need to correlate the conditions, taking into account all the benefits," she said. (Kazakhstan Today)
BP committed to Azerbaijan 7 July British energy company BP is committed to exploring the vast natural resources available in Azerbaijan, state oil executives said. Embattled BP chief Tony Hayward arrived in Azerbaijan this week to discuss operations in the energy-rich country. Hayward during his visit met with the top executives at the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic. Rovnag Abdullayev, the head of the state-owned SOCAR, said Hayward expressed his commitment to work in his country, the Trend news agency reports. Hayward, he said, "noted that the company remains committed" to energy projects in the country "and will do everything for their further development." BP is active in the development of the giant Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil complex in the Caspian Sea and the Shah Deniz gas field. It also serves as the operator of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, one of the longest in the world. (UPI)
AZERBAIJAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES GEORGIAN FM
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today received Georgia`s foreign minister Grigol Vashadze. The President expressed confidence the Georgian FM`s visit would be fruitful and successful. President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan and Georgia were actively cooperating in all fields, adding he believes the bilateral cooperation would be continued. Grigol Vashadze stressed the importance of discussing with the Azerbaijani leader the ways of developing the bilateral relations, and cooperation, in particular within international organizations, on the issue of territorial integrity, which, he said, was of particular significance for both Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Azerbaijani leader emphasized the importance of continuous consultations for expanding the bilateral cooperation. (AzerTAc)