Wednesday, 08 June 2011

8 June 2011 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (6/8/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kyrgyz bars head of ethnic clashes probe

26 May

Kyrgyz bars head of ethnic clashes probe

26 May

A Finnish politician who led an international commission to investigate deadly ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan last summer was barred from the country Thursday because officials believe his report was biased.  The ex-Soviet nation's parliament overwhelmingly backed a resolution to ban Kimmo Kiljunen. The parliament said in a statement that the report written by Kiljunen's team is an incitement to racial hatred and endangers the national security of Kyrgyzstan. Kiljunen's report is "biased, one-sided, does not contribute to peace, stability and serve to prevent further conflict," the statement said. Out of the 96 deputies present in parliament, all but one voted in favor of the resolution declaring Kiljunen persona non grata. Around 470 people, mainly minority ethnic Uzbeks, were killed in June 2010 in southern Kyrgyzstan. Kiljunen's report includes sharp criticism of the security forces' handling of the unrest and also said some military officers handed out weapons to Kyrgyz mobs who attacked Uzbeks. Kiljunen criticized the ban. "I can only say that the truth seems to add to the agony," Kiljunen told The Associated Press in Helsinki. "We've produced an honest account of the events and analyzed them objectively. Some circles of power seem not willing to face the facts." Kiljunen stressed that Kyrgyzstan's government — unlike the parliament — agrees with the report's recommendations and conclusions though it has also criticized some of the report's interpretations. He added that the United Nations, European Union and U.S. have received the report positively. The international inquiry was set up at the request of the Kyrgyz government as a measure intended to demonstrate transparency and willingness to address some of the problems at the root of the violence. The past year has seen a notable rise in nationalism in Kyrgyzstan, however, and the KIC report is seen by many officials as a slur against ethnic Kyrgyz that fails to significantly address perceived ethnic Uzbek culpability in the violence. As well as criticizing inaction, the KIC also suggested that attacks by Kyrgyz mobs on Uzbek neighborhoods "if proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, would amount to crimes against humanity" — an assertion that has caused notable discomfort in the country. (AP)

 

U.S. offers reward for Chechen bin Laden

26 May

Washington said it was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the location of Doku Umarov, described as Chechnya's Osama bin Laden. The U.S. State Department said Thursday it wanted information on Umarov, the leader of the Caucasus Emirate movement. Umarov claimed responsibility for the 2010 bombing of a Moscow subway station that killed 40 people. Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus republics Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia have seen an upsurge of violence recently. Russia has been fighting the insurgency for many years following two bloody conflicts in Chechnya in the 1990s. The State Department accused Umarov's group of launching terrorist attacks in the region and issuing statements encouraging violence against its stated enemies, which includes the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and Israel. He was listed as a specially designated terrorist by the State Department in 2010. Leaders of the Chechen republic suggested Umarov was among those killed in an April raid. However, a man who said he was Umarov later said in a phone call to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that he was alive and well. "There was an operation in which several mujahedin died," the man said. "My death was announced, too. They won't receive any respite from me. I'm preparing my answer to them. They should expect news from me soon." (UPI)

 

Turkmenistan 'setting up space agency'

31 May

The isolated ex-Soviet state of Turkmenistan has set up its own space agency with a presidential decree, local media said on Tuesday. The agency aims "to ensure the implementation of scientific achievements in the national economy and to supervise future space exploration," said a decree signed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

The decree published in the state-run newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan, or Neutral Turkmenistan, did not specify who would head the new agency in the gas- and oil-rich Central Asian state. Turkmenistan, a largely desert state with a population of five million, has reportedly been in talks with potential partners to launch its first telecommunications satellite to boost its television and Internet network. Under the eccentric late president Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan sent a container into space in 2004 from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome. Inside was a national flag and the Ruhnama, a book written by the leader. (AFP)

 

Turkmenistan adopts new law on presidential election 1 June Turkmen media have announced the adoption of a new law on presidential elections. According to the new law, a presidential candidate must have the backing of a political party or collect 50,000 signatures to register and compete. Reports did not mention that there is only one registered political party in the country -- the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, formerly the Communist Party of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkmenistan -- which is led by current President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. The publication of the new law on June 1 could be an indicator that Turkmenistan will go ahead with scheduled presidential elections in 2012. The previous president Saparmurat Niyazov was elected only once in 1992 and ruled until his death in December 2006. The announcement of the new law comes on the eve of a visit by Audronius Azubalis, Lithuania's foreign minister and currently the OSCE chairman-in-office. (RFE/RL)

 

Sokhumi Says Recognized by Vanuatu

1 June

The small island state of Vanuatu in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean has recognized independence of Abkhazia, the latter’s foreign ministry said. The foreign ministry of breakaway region released a joint statement, dated with May 27, “on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Republic of Abkhazia and Republic of Vanuatu”. “The establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries is governed by the realities of the modern geopolitical world where mutually beneficial cooperation will be built through development of economic cultural and other relations between the peoples of Vanuatu and Abkhazia,” the statement reads. Vanuatu with total land area of 12,190 square km has the population of less than 250,000. Its economy is mainly based on small-scale agriculture; fishing; offshore financial services and tourism. Before the most recent announcement Abkhazia, along with Georgia’s second breakaway region of South Ossetia, was recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and by the smallest island nation of Nauru. The statement was first made about the recognition by Vanuatu by the breakaway region’s foreign minister Maxim Gvinjia in an interview with the Russia's English-language TV Russia Today on May 31, which was immediately picked up by the Russian news wires. The news was also reported by The New York Times on its website on May 31 and next day in its print version saying that “the government of Vanuatu, which is in an economic slump, said in a statement that recognition was intended to ‘foster the development of friendly relations’ and explore joint economic projects.” The Georgian Foreign Ministry has not yet reacted to the reported recognition of Abkhazia by Vanuatu. Davit Bakradze, the Georgian parliamentary speaker, said on June 1, that “whether the report is confirmed or not, it will not change anything.” He said that all the leading world nations were committed to Georgia’s territorial integrity. (Civil Georgia)

 

Azerbaijani FM meets representatives of world media

2 June

Baku, June 2 As a part of his visit to the United States, Azerbaijan`s Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov met with representatives of Tompson Reuters, CNN, Associated Press, Inner City Press and Summit Energy.  The minister provided information about main priorities of Azerbaijan`s foreign policy. Mammadyarov also touched on economic achievements of the country.  The chief diplomat said his country is "active" participant of regional projects and initiated various international projects. He also updated journalists on the negotiation process over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Mammadyarov said the United Nations Security Council`s four resolutions demanding withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from occupied territories still remain unfulfilled by Armenia. On the Azerbaijan-US relations, the minister said the countries enjoy “effective” cooperation. Mammadyarov said Azerbaijan was nominated for non-permanent membership of UN Security Council for 2012-2013, informing about advantages of Azerbaijan`s nomination. (AzerTAc)

 

Azerbaijan files note of protest to Egypt

1 June

It was identified that “Vodafone Egypt” mobile communication company of Egypt was cooperating with “Karabakh Telecom” company which is illegally functioning in Azerbaijan`s occupied territories in the roaming sphere.

According to the press service of Azerbaijan`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a note of protest was filed by the Azerbaijani embassy in Cairo to Egypt`s Foreign Ministry and meetings were held with officials of the Ministry. Noting that the cooperation between “Vodafone Egypt” and “Karabakh Telecom” contradicts the principles of international law and leading documents of the International Telecommunication Union, stopping it was asked. In response to the embassy`s appeal, the Egypt`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed on May 29 that cooperation between “Vodafone Egypt” and “Karabakh Telecom” was stopped. (AzerTAc)

 

China-Kazakhstan cooperation center to open in July

2 June

The China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center will become operational on July 1, providing a transnational market place for citizens from China, Kazakhstan and third countries to negotiate business and trade. Chinese citizens with the second generation identity cards can enter the cooperation center for trading after obtaining passes, said Liang Xinyuan, the executive deputy director with the Administration Committee of the Horgos Special Economic Development Zone. "Citizens of China, Kazakhstan and third countries can have a single stay within the center for 30 days," Liang added. The China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center is a transnational cooperation zone initiated by leaders of China and Kazakhstan, and a demonstration area of regional cooperation under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The center covers 3.43 square km in China and 1.85 sq km in Kazakhstan. A total of 880 million yuan had been spent in the construction of the cooperation center since the project began in 2007. The center is designed for business negotiations, commodity displays and sales, storage, transportation, financial services and holding international trade fairs. (Xinhua)

 

Azeri defense ministry says Armenia making war inevitable

4 June

Azerbaijan's defense ministry was quoted Saturday as saying Azeri troops would eventually be sent to seize back the Armenian-backed breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia's Interfax news agency said the ministry accused Armenia of repeatedly obstructing talks to resolve the dispute, which in the past two years has seen the worst skirmishes since a 1994 ceasefire. The comments came only weeks before the presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were scheduled to meet in the Volga river city of Kazan as part of efforts to settle a major source of instability in an oil and gas transit zone. "Eventually, Azerbaijani soldiers will meet the expectations of the people, the government, and the supreme commander-in- chief and will liberate the occupied land from the enemy," Azeri defense ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu told a news conference, according to Interfax. In a separate report, the agency cited an Armenian defense ministry press officer who accused the Azeris of "preparing ground for new provocations" by disseminating misinformation. The two southern Caucasus countries fought a six-year war over the territory which broke away from Muslim Azerbaijan with the help of Christian Armenia during the collapse of the Soviet Union. The mountainous territory, and considerable lands around it, were wrested entirely from Baku's control. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, who has ramped up his country's military power with recent arms deals, has said Azerbaijan is willing to go to war with Armenia to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh. (Reuters)

 

Detained Kazakh Oil Workers Go on Trial 6 June Hundreds of striking Kazakh oil workers have gathered in the western city of Aqtau to support 30 colleagues on trial for taking part in an "unsanctioned mass gathering," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Mukhtar Umbetov, head of the local trade union alliance, told RFE/RL that 37 of the hundreds of striking oil workers from the Qarazhanbasmunai Oil Company were arrested in Aqtau on June 5 when police forcibly dispersed demonstrators. Seven of the detainees were released later that day. The trial of the remaining 30 began on June 6. Two of the protesters slashed their stomachs during the June 5 standoff with police and have since been hospitalized. The Prosecutor-General's Office announced that the police action in Aqtau was legal. The march was called to express worker dissatisfaction with the results of their meeting with regional governor Qyrymbek Kosherbaev on June 3. They also demanded the rehiring of all workers fired for participating in the strike and the immediate release of jailed union activist Natalya Sokolova, who had provided them with legal assistance. Sokolova was found guilty on May 24 of "organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering" in front of police headquarters in Aqtau on May 21 and sentenced to eight days in jail. Her sentence was to have ended on June 1, but local authorities have not released her and say she has since been charged with "igniting social hatred."

Date of French President's visit to South Caucasus announced

17 September

French President Nicholas Sarkozy will pay a visit to the South Caucasus region on Oct.6-7, Reuters reported.

Azerbaijani Ambassador to Paris Elchin Amirbekov confirmed that Sarkozy will visit Azerbaijan on Oct.7.

He said this is the first official visit of the French president to Azerbaijan in the history of the diplomatic relations.

During his regional visit, Sarkozy will visit Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. He will discuss the cooperation prospects. On the eve of Sarkozy’s visit, opportunities to develop Azerbaijan- France trade and economic relations will be discussed in Paris in late September. The sixth meeting of the Azerbaijani-French intergovernmental commission on trade-economic cooperation will be held in Paris on Sept. 23, Azerbaijani Ambassador Elchin Amirbekov told Trend on Friday. The Azerbaijani delegation will be headed by Finance Minister Samir Sharifov and French delegation will be headed by Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pierre Lellouche, he said.

Based on the Azerbaijani State Statistics Committee, the bilateral trade amounted to $ 2.2 billion in January-June 2011. Azerbaijan announced the discovery of large gas reserves on the Absheron field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea last week. Participants in Absheron are SOCAR (40 percent), Total (40 percent), and Gaz De France Suez (20 percent). The contract on the Absheron Field was signed on Feb. 27, 2009, between SOCAR and Total. Later Total sold 20 percent of its equity participation to Gaz De France Suez. The field’s potential reserves hit 350 billion cubic meters of gas and 45 million ton of condensate. (Trend)

 

Suspected U.S. drone crashes near Afghan-Pakistan border 18 September Pakistani security officials say a suspected U.S. drone has crashed in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border. The officials say the unmanned drone crashed near the village of Jangara in the South Waziristan tribal area. Members of the Taliban militia say they have recovered the debris from the crash. It is not clear what caused the crash. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has not commented on the incident. American officials normally do not comment on the U.S. drone program in Pakistan, which is operated by the CIA and has been used to carry out aerial strikes against suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda sites in northwest Pakistan. (RFE/RL)

Global clothing brands boycott Uzbek cotton 18 September More than 60 of the world’s top clothing labels, including Burberry and Levi, are to boycott cotton from Uzbekistan over claims the government forces children to harvest the crop. Swedish high street retailer H&M, and sportswear companies Adidas and Puma were among the brands who pledged not to buy cotton from the former Soviet Central Asian country that they know has been collected by children. The groups have signed a pledge under the Responsible Sourcing Network, a project organised by the US-based advocacy group As You Sow which is organising the boycott. “We are a major cotton consumer and like many companies, we take a clear stand against child labour, regardless of country,” said Henrik Lampa, corporate social responsibility manager at H&M. US retail industry group American Apparel and Footwear Association, which represents more than 800 companies, had previously signed up for the pledge but Andrew Behar, Chief Executive of As You Sow, said the new individual pledges had extra significance. “It’s about integrity and transparency,” he said. “It’s different when you sign up individually and put your logo on it.” The Uzbek foreign ministry did not comment. The move is the second victory this month for human rights groups over the Uzbek regime, a government they revile. On September 9 organisers of the New York Fashion Week, under pressure from the media and rights groups, cancelled a show by the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. (telegraph.co.uk)

Energy-rich Turkmenistan boosts gas exports 19 September Turkmenistan's state newspaper says the energy-rich Central Asian nation has started up a new natural gas compressor station, boosting its annual export capacity by 2 billion cubic meters. The daily Neutral Turkmenistan reported Monday that the gas will be fed into the Central Asia-Center 3 pipeline, which is linked into supply routes to Russia and Iran. Russian demand for Turkmen gas is weak, meaning the gas will likely go to covering the unused annual capacity in an 8 billion cubic-meter pipeline to northern Iran. Around 5 billion cubic meters of gas sourced from an offshore Caspian Sea field operated by Malaysia's Petronas are already pumped annually into that route. Turkmenistan and Iran are currently joined by two gas pipelines, allowing for total deliveries of up to 20 billion cubic meters per year. (AP)

Azerbaijan holds military exercises in Nakhichevan

19 September VS Azerbaijan began regular large-scale military exercises in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The press service of the Ministry of defence of Azerbaijan. In the military exercises by personally commanded by the Minister of defence, Colonel-General Safar Abiyev, take part military, part of the Army Air Defense units and parts (AIR DEFENSE). According to the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan Republic, it is planned that the exercises will last until the end of this week. (Baku  Today)

 

Kazakhs to sell gas to Kyrgyz after Uzbekistan raises price 20 September

An agreement under which Kazakhstan will supply Kyrgyzstan with 300 million cubic meters of natural gas in exchange for water is contingent upon the cooperation of transit country Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. KyrgyzGaz Chairman Turgunbek Kulmurzaev told RFE/RL that the agreement -- under which Kyrgyzstan will supply water to southern Kazakhstan in exchange for gas -- was reached on September 16 in Bishkek between Kyrgyz officials and visiting Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov. The two sides agreed to further discuss the technical arrangements of the deal. Any agreement for natual gas to be transported to Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan would need the cooperation of Uzbek officials, who control a large part of the gas pipeline that could supply gas to Kyrgyzstan. Kulmurzaev explained that Bishkek started looking for alternative gas supplies after Uzbekistan raised the price for natural gas deliveries to $278 per 1,000 cubic meters. He said the exact price that Kyrgyzstan would pay for Kazakh gas has not been decided. (RFE/RL)

Ukraine, Azerbaijan sign LNG deal 21 September Azerbaijan and Ukraine signed an energy deal for liquefied natural gas deliveries that would start as early as 2014, a Ukrainian official said. Vladyslav Kaskiv, a Ukrainian official in charge of investments and project management, said his country would get around 70 billion cubic feet of LNG starting in 2014. This would increase to 176 bcf by 2015, he said, noting both sides would set up a joint venture as part of the deal. Kaskiv added that the Azeri energy deal would give Ukrainian efforts to build an LNG terminal in the Black Sea momentum. "The construction of the LNG terminal supports the Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Ministry's efforts to reinforce the country's energy security," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying. Kiev is pressing the Kremlin for a better natural gas deal. Former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is on trial for corruption stemming from a 2009 deal with Gazprom she helped broker. She and some of her Western supporters claim the charges are politically motivated. (UPI)

Kyrgyz official arrested as suspect in high-profile murder case 21 September A Kyrgyz Interior Ministry police general was arrested as a suspect in a high-profile murder case -- then released after his supporters picketed the mayor's office, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Rasulberdi Raiymberdiev, who is head of the Interethnic Concord Committee in Osh, was detained in the southern city on September 20 as a suspect in the 2009 killing of former presidential chief of staff Medet Sadyrkulov and taken to Bishkek for questioning. Osh mayor's office spokesman Guljan Ajymatova told RFE/RL on September 21 that at least 100 protesters, mainly from Raiymberdiev's native village of Toloikon and some on horseback, picketed the mayor's office to demand his release. The Prosecutor-General's Office decided to release Raiymberdiev on September 21, but warned him not to leave the country while the investigation into Sadyrkulov's murder continues. Sadyrkulov, who served as presidential administration head under ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev, and two of his associates were found dead in a burned-out car in March 2009, shortly after Sadyrkulov resigned to join the anti-Bakiev opposition. Officials said the deaths were the result of a traffic accident. But Sadyrkulov's relatives challenged that finding, saying the bodies were in positions indicating that the victims were dead when the car caught fire. The investigation into Sadyrkulov's death resumed in April 2010 after Bakiev fled the country in the wake of antigovernment demonstrations. On September 16, Deputy Interior Minister Melis Turganbaev told journalists that four Kyrgyz citizens were arrested in neighboring Tajikistan as suspects in the murders. He added that authorities intend to again seek Bakiev's extradition from Belarus, where he now lives in exile, for his alleged involvement in the killings. Belarus had previously rejected an extradition request from Kyrgyz officials. On September 14, Interior Minister Zarylbek Rysaliev said 17 people have been detained in Kyrgyzstan as suspects in the murders. Turganbaev told RFE/RL the following day that opposition United Kyrgyzstan party leader Adakhan Madumarov, former Prosecutor-General Elmurza Satybaldiev, and ex-Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiev will be interrogated in connection with Sadyrkulov's killing. (RFE/RL)

Jailed Kazakh journalist allowed to visit ailing mother 21 September Prominent Kazakh journalist Ramazan Esergepov has been allowed to leave prison to visit his ailing mother in an Almaty hospital, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Esergepov, the founder and chief editor of the Almaty-based newspaper "Alma-Ata Info," was sentenced in August 2009 to three years in prison for publishing state secrets in an article published in his newspaper in 2008. Esergepov and rights organizations protested the verdict, saying the case was politically motivated. "Alma-Ata Info" was closed down after his arrest. Esergepov, who is serving his term at a labor camp in the southern city of Taraz, was given one week to see his mother, who suffered a stroke earlier this month. Esergepov told RFE/RL on September 21 that he asked prison officials on September 5, after he learned of his mother's stroke, to allow him to leave prison and visit her. He said they agreed to his request on September 19. Esergepov said he has been able to communicate with his mother during their visits. "Although she is not able to talk, she heard me, she saw me, she wept, and she smiled," he said. "I had to tell her that I was fully released and exonerated in order to give her strength and make her feel happy." Esergepov's jail term is due to end in January. Esergepov is one of the recipients, announced in June, of a Hellman-Hammett Grant for 2011. The grant is administered by Human Rights Watch and awarded to writers and journalists who have been subject to political persecution and are in financial need. Esergepov is the third Kazakh to receive a Hellman-Hammett Grant. (RFE/RL)

Nagorno Karabakh may become next recognized state after South Sudan – Armenian leader 21 September Armenian President Serzh Sargsian believes in the possibility of independence for Nagorno Karabakh and warns against the use of force in resolving the problem of Karabakh. "This year South Sudan became independent thus enriching the international experience of matters related to the self-determination of nations. I am simply sure that we will have the same result in Karabakh," he said in an interview with Russia 24 channel. He said "calls for a military solution are dangerous for the entire region, not just Karabakh itself." Sargsian stressed that at the summit in Kazan Azerbaijan proved "its reluctance and inability to reach compromise" but assured that in its turn Yerevan will continue seeking compromise. (Interfax)

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