Pakistan wants road connectivity with Tajikistan
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said he would take up the Pakistan-Tajikistan road project with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Gilani was talking to Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah when he said that the completion of project would provide the shortest possible route to the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, reported Associated Press of Pakistan. The road project will connect Pakistan with Tajikistan by passing through the eight kilometre Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan. Gilani said it was his vision to develop good relations with the countries in the region. 'I visited a number of countries like Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and other countries of the Central Asian Republics to further my vision,' Gilani was quoted as saying.
He said said connectivity was intertwined with transit trade and Pakistan was keen to enhance trade with Afghanistan and beyond. Recalling the signing of Transit Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said trade among the countries of region had to be enhanced for which establishment of road and rail networks were essential. Shah said the construction of road on Pakistan's side would require Rs.2 billion, while Tajikistan had already completed the construction of road and bridge on its side of border. (IANS Indo Asian News Service)
Hollywood Stars Turn Out for President's Birthday — In Chechnya
Just when you thought celebrities couldn't sell out any more dubiously, along comes Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's 35th birthday party. A host of high-profile names, seemingly oblivious to the human rights abuses leveled against the strongman ruler's regime, streamed into the impoverished Russian republic of Chechnya on Oct. 5, according to The Atlantic Wire. Kadyrov, appointed to power by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2007, celebrated in typically understated style by throwing a huge party featuring light and fireworks shows and combining the bash with the 193rd anniversary of the founding of the capital, Grozny. Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, Belgian martial artist and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and British violinist Vanessa Mae were among those to attend. Swank, who was pictured speaking at the event, seemed to act like she had popped over to meet Nobel Peace Prize-winning Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. "I love to travel, I love to see the world, I love to see different cultures," Sky News reported she told guests. "So really, truly from me, this is a great honor to learn more about you and your country and what you're building. And happy birthday Mr. President," she added.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph reported that local media said Mae was charging a fee of half a million dollars to perform in the concert. Mr Kadyrov, who at one point took to the stage to show off some traditional dance moves, appeared unsure how it was all paid for. "Allah gives it to us," he reportedly said, before adding: "I don't know, it comes from somewhere." In a 2006 report, Human Rights Watch accused the Chechen leader of presiding over a regime that committed "widespread torture." (Time Magazine)
Three sentenced in Kazakhstan for Kyrgyz journalist’s murder 11 October Three men have been jailed for up to 17 years in Kazakhstan after being found guilty of the murder of a prominent Kyrgyz journalist, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Gennady Pavlyuk, 51, died after he was thrown from a high building in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in December 2009 with his arms and legs bound. Former security service officer Aldayar Ismankulov, a Kyrgyz citizen, was sentenced today to 17 years in jail, while his two codefendants, Kazakh nationals Almas Igilikov and Shalqar Orazalin were sentenced to 10 and 11 years in jail respectively. An ethnic Russian, Pavlyuk was known in Kyrgyzstan under the pseudonym Rustam Ibragimbek. He founded the "White Steamer" newspaper and website. He also wrote for the newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" (Evening Bishkek) and the Russian weekly "Argumenty i Fakty" (Arguments and Facts). Pavlyuk's relatives and colleagues in Kyrgyzstan have alleged that his murder was politically motivated as he was working with the opposition against then President Kurmabnek Bakiev and his regime. He had also received many personal threats in the period before he was killed. Before traveling to Almaty, Pavlyuk had met with Omurbek Tekebaev -- then a Kyrgyz opposition politician -- and discussed possible cooperation with Tekebaev's Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party. But the October 11 court verdict described the killing as an ordinary crime. (RFE/RL)
Ankvab Appoints New FM
Abkhaz leader, Alexander Ankvab, appointed Vyacheslav Chirikba as the breakaway region’s new foreign minister, replacing Maxim Gvinjia, Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported on October 11. Vyacheslav Chirikba has served as a foreign policy advisor to late Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh and was Abkhaz negotiator at the Geneva talks. Also on October 11 Ankvab re-appointed Merab Kishmaria on the post of defense minister; he has held this position since 2007. Rauf Tsimtsba, minister in charge of taxes, has also retained his post. A day after inauguration, new Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab appointed on September 27 Leonid Lakerbaia as prime minister of the breakaway region, replacing Sergey Shamba who was a runner up in the last month’s snap presidential election. The move followed by resignations from other ministers in the breakaway region’s cabinet; but they continue to perform duties before new PM nominates candidates for the ministerial posts. (Civil Georgia)
Uzbekistan holds cotton fair despite ongoing boycott 12 October Uzbekistan has opened its seventh International Cotton and Textile Fair in Tashkent with some 330 companies from 38 countries sending representatives, even as others boycott the event, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. The event's web site said that the "primary goal of such an endeavor is to further expand long-term cooperation with international organizations and foreign companies." It said delegates at the fair would be able to examine "more than 800 varieties of Uzbek cotton fibers." But many international companies are staying away from the fair. More than 60 companies worldwide have announced a boycott of Uzbek cotton, which rights groups say is often picked by children in violation of child-labor laws. There are also many reports of secondary and university students along with some professionals being "volunteered" to harvest cotton instead of attending school or working. The campaign against purchasing Uzbek cotton has seen increased support among Western companies in recent years with well-known brands such as Burberry, Levi's, H&M, and others publicly vowing to avoid knowingly buy it. Other companies, however, have not been deterred from placing orders for Uzbekistan's "white gold." Russian-based companies reportedly buy some 40 percent of Uzbekistan's cotton with companies from China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates placing orders for the bulk of the remaining 60 percent. Uzbekistan's sales of cotton from the 2010 cotton fair amounted to some $500 million. The cotton fair ends on October 13. (RFE/RL)
Kyrgyz Judge: trial of Uzbek Leader will continue 12 October A judge in southern Kyrgyzstan has rejected a request by the fugitive leader of the local Uzbek community to stop his trial on the grounds that it is "persecution," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Supreme Court spokesman Baktybek Rysaliev told RFE/RL today that the leader of the Uzbek community in Jalal-Abad, Kadyrjan Batyrov, submitted the request through his lawyer. Batyrov, a businessman and former Kyrgyz parliament deputy, and five co-defendants are being tried in absentia for "inciting interethnic hatred, and organizing clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz" in Kyrgyzstan's southern regions of Jalal-Abad and Osh in June 2010 in which hundreds of people were killed. The whereabouts of the six are not known. The lawyers of two of Batyrov's co-defendants have asked that their case be sent back to investigators for additional investigations. Rysaliev said Judge Toktosun Jorobekov rejected all three requests on October 11. He said seven victims and five witnesses testified the same day. In September 2010, Batyrov posted a video on YouTube in which he said he is not guilty of the charges against him. (RFE/RL)
Courts in Tajikistan free two journalists 14 October A BBC reporter in the northern Tajik province of Sughd has been sentenced to three years imprisonment -- but set free under an amnesty law, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. On October 14, Urunboy Usmonov was found guilty of failing to inform the authorities about his contacts with the banned Islamic organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir. The journalist denies the charges and is expected to appeal the verdict. Usmonov said he was tortured during his month-long pretrial detention this summer. The 59-year-old journalist and his employer maintain that any contact Usmonov had with Hizb ut-Tahrir was entirely for journalistic purposes. Four other men were tried along with Usmonov in the same court in the northern Tajik town of Khujand. The men were found guilty of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership and were given prison sentences ranging between 20 and 22 years. Earlier, in a separate court in Khujand, another Tajik reporter, Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov, was barred from journalistic work for three years and ordered to pay a 35,800-somoni (approximately $7,100) fine for causing moral damages with his articles that criticized local authorities. In an interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Johann Bihr of Reporters Without Borders welcomed the journalists' release, saying the authorities were "using the judiciary to try and silence" them. "They never committed any offense. They never committed any crime, and they should not have been condemned," Bihr said. "Quite the opposite, they should have been compensated for the harm they received, Ismoilov for being jailed almost one year and Usmonov for being jailed one month an being tortured. So this is really unacceptable." (RFE/RL)
Uzbekistan bans 'naming streets after people'
Ex-Soviet Uzbekistan has banned naming towns, villages, streets and parks after historically "insignificant" people under a new law signed by President Islam Karimov, state-run media said Friday. The state-run newspaper Khalk Suzi published the text of the law, banning the naming of streets, airports, terminals, and other places after political leaders. However, crucially, it said an exception exists for "persons who left a deep mark in Uzbekistan's history", without giving further details. Officials explained that the aim of the law was to halt the widespread habit of some local officials to name places and streets after their own relations. "In recent years there has been a strange fashion across the country for rich or middle-level officials to try to preserve names of their ancestors in history by naming streets or schools after their fathers, even though they were insignificant persons in terms of national history," an Uzbek official, who declined to give his name, told AFP. "So it is a very good and timely adopted law," he said.
The Uzbek parliament adopted the law "On Naming of Geographic Objects" in August. Karimov signed the law on Thursday. In the last two decades after Uzbekistan became an independent nation, authorities have changed most of the Soviet-era names from the period of what official media calls "a colonial Russian occupation." (AFP)
Khalifa, Kazakh president hold talks
The President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan met, on Thursday, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan at the beginning of his private visit to the country. The two presidents reviewed ways of expanding bonds of cooperation and friendship for the mutual interests of the two friendly peoples. They also exchanged views on a wide range of topics. Shaikh Khalifa stressed that efforts on the environmental and civilisational domain in the UAE were aimed at achieving overall development. The Kazakh head of state lauded the achievements the UAE has made in all walks of life in a way that conserves and protects the environment, thanks to the sound policies of the ruler. The meeting was attended by members of the delegation accompanying Shaikh Khalifa comprising Shaikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region; Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; Shaikh Sultan bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, Advisor to the UAE President and other senior officials. Upon arriving at Shymkent, the UAE leader was welcomed by his Kazakh counterpart, the Ambassador of the UAE to Kazakhstan Ibrahim Hassan Saif; Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UAE Askar Mussinov, and a number of top Kazakh officials. (Khaleej Times)
Russia to deport 46 Kyrgyz citizens 14 October Russian authorities say they will soon deport 46 Kyrgyz nationals, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. Kyrgyz Embassy officials in Moscow told RFE/RL that they held talks with Moscow officials this week on the expedited deportation of the Kyrgyz, who are being kept in an immigration police detention center in the Russian capital. The embassy officials said the 46 Kyrgyz will be deported for violating Russian immigration regulations and minor administrative misdeeds. The deportation process has reportedly been delayed because many of them are not providing information about themselves to the Russian immigration police. There are hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz labor migrants working permanently in Russia both legally and illegally. The majority of them are in Moscow. (RFE/RL)
Nabucco 'in the running' for Azeri gas
The Nabucco pipeline consortium is "definitely in the running" for the available natural gas from Azerbaijan, a spokesman for the consortium said Friday. Azerbaijan is weighing proposals for resources from its Shah Deniz 2 gas field from pipeline consortiums involved in the so-called Southern Corridor of transit networks. Of those, the Nabucco pipeline would be the most ambitious as it would stretch from the eastern border of Turkey to the northern border of Austria in order to deliver non-Russia gas supplies to European consumers. Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the Vienna-based pipeline consortium, told United Press International, in response to e-mail questions, that he was optimistic about Nabucco's prospects. "We submitted all required comprehensive information about Nabucco on time to the Shah Deniz 2 consortium and we are expecting feedback as soon as possible," he said. "Nabucco is definitely in the running but we are not commenting further on rumors or speculations." Reports from various Azeri news agencies note there is some momentum behind Nabucco in terms of financial support. Some members of the consortium, however, said they questioned some of the timelines for the project. State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan President Rovnaq Abdullayev had said Baku's assessment of the projects -- Nabucco, the Interconnector Turkey-Greece and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline -- would be finished by the end of the year. (UPI)
U.S. Secretary of State to pay official visit to Uzbekistan
The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Uzbekistan in the third decade of October, a source in the Uzbek government told Trend. He did not disclose the exact date of the visit. As the source said a preliminary agreement on Clinton's visit was reached during the Uzbek Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiyev's visit to the U.S. in late September. He recalled that during a meeting held within the Uzbek Foreign Minister's visit, Hillary Clinton and Elyor Ganiyev discussed bilateral relations and the situation in Central Asia. At the same time, Clinton stressed Uzbekistan's key role in securing supply routes to Afghanistan and in supporting efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.
As was previously reported, Clinton visited Uzbekistan in early December 2010, during which the Uzbek-American intergovernmental agreement on scientific and technical cooperation was signed. (Trend)
German President Wulff meets Karzai in Kabul 16 October German President Christian Wulff arrived today on a state visit to Afghanistan, where he was met with full military honors by his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. Wulff said Germany would remain a "reliable and durable friend and partner" of Afghanistan after international forces hand over security responsibilities to the Afghans. The president, after his meeting with Karzai, met representatives of Afghan civil society involved in human rights, especially the rights of women. The trip was not announced in advance for security reasons. Around 5,000 German troops are based in Afghanistan. They are due to begin withdrawing at the end of this year. (RFE/RL)
Gazprombank to audit Kyrgyzstan’s biggest nationalized bank – Kyrgyz authorities 17 October Gazprombank will evaluate Kyrgyzstan's biggest nationalized bank, Zalkar-Bank (formerly AsiaUniversalBank). "We are now expecting a delegation from Gazprombank to study Zalkar-Bank's condition, its audit," Kyrgyzstan's Acting Prime Minister, First Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov told journalists on Monday. He added that the Russian side's intentions to purchase a controlling packet of shares in Zalkar-Bank had been included in a memorandum signed in September 2011 during OJSC Gazprom (RTS: GAZP) CEO Alexei Miller's visit to Bishkek. According to preliminary information, the Kyrgyz government hopes to make around 1.5 billion soma (over $30 million) (45.116 soma/$1 on October 17, 2011) from the bank. AsiaUniversalBank was formed in 2002. After Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power in 2005, his son Maxim Bakiyev joined the bank's managing board along with shareholders connected to him. The bank acquired local Promstroibank in 2008, which has a network of savings outlets in Kyrgyzstan, and this made AsiaUniversalBank the biggest commercial bank in the country. After April 2010, AsiaUniversalBank was nationalized by the new authorities and renamed Zalkar-Bank. (Interfax)
Azerbaijani President to pay official visit to Kazakhstan
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will pay an official visit to Almaty upon Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's invitation on Oct. 19-20, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Altai Abibullayev said at a briefing in Astana on Monday. "The leaders are expected to have bilateral talks in the narrow and extended format and sign a Joint Declaration of the Presidents of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. A number of bilateral intergovernmental agreements, as well as a program of cooperation between the foreign ministries, are also expected to be signed," Abibullayev said. Aliyev's visit to Kazakhstan will take place on the eve of the First Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states (CCTS). The First Summit of the CCTS will be held in Almaty on Oct.20-21 with participation of the Heads of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. Secretary General of TURKSOY Duysen Kaseinov and Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking countries Ramil Hasanov were also invited to the event. "A business forum with participation of representatives of the business circles of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey is expected to be held in Almaty on the eve of the Summit, as well as a Business Council of Turkic-speaking countries is expected to be formed, with a view to enhance economic cooperation among the Turkic states," he said. The summit will discuss topical international and regional issues and its main priorities will be expansion of trade, economic and cultural cooperation among the Turkic-speaking states. The Almaty Declaration will be signed as the outcome of the event. (Trend)
President Aliyev: Sooner solution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is found better for everyone, including Armenia
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the biggest threat to the region, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with Al-Jazeera. He said despite the achievement of the ceasefire agreement in 1994, no peace has been achieved yet, there is no peace. "That is the most dangerous conflict from point of view of predictability. You cannot predict what will happen," Aliyev said. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations. "Nagorno-Karabakh is a historic part of Azerbaijan. From legal point of view all the international community considers Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan." Aliyev said. "The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding withdrawal of Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh - Security Council is the top organization of the world - and other international organizations also." President Aliyev highlighted Azerbaijan is still hopeful that peaceful solution can be found.
"But this solution must be based on international law. Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored, Armenians should leave all the occupied territories, Azerbaijanis should have a right to return to all the territories of their original settlement, including Nagorno-Karabakh," he stated. Aliyev said the Nagorno-Karabakh can be granted the status of autonomy. "There are good examples of autonomies in the world and in Europe," Aliyev said. Aliyev said as far as the situation on the line of contact is concerned, it is very fragile, peace is very fragile. "Actually, we do not have peace," he noted. (Trend)
Azerbaijan could choose alternative to Nabucco pipeline 18 October Azerbaijan could choose to use an alternative to the Nabucco pipeline for exporting its gas to Europe, to serve as an example for the rest of the countries of the region, John Roberts, an energy security specialist with Platts, said. "If in the next few months we see a real, proper agreement on the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, it will really strengthen the argument for using Nabucco. But in my personal opinion, Azerbaijan might have to decide on the pipeline to Europe before we receive any sort of solid agreement with Turkmenistan on a pipeline through the Caspian Sea," Roberts told Interfax. Roberts did not rule out the likelihood of Azerbaijan choosing an alternative project to Nabucco, considering its scope and expense. "It is more likely that Azerbaijan will choose one of the alternative options," he said. The State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR), as leader of the group negotiating the export of gas from the Shah Deniz field, has received final proposals from three main pipeline projects on delivering Azerbaijani gas to Europe - the Italy-Turkey-Greece Interconnector (ITGI), the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Nabucco. Azerbaijani gas will be delivered to Europe in the framework of the Stage-2 development of the Shah Deniz field. The cost of Stage-2 is estimated at $20 billion. Annual extraction volume will be 16 bcm of gas. Initial Stage-2 output was planned for 2012, but in light of unresolved gas-transit issues, the timeframe has been pushed back to 2017. The Shah Deniz project members are BP (operator, 25.5%), Statoil (25.5%), SOCAR (10%), Lukoil (RTS: LKOH) (10%), NICO (10%), Total (10%) and TPAO (9%). The development contract was signed on June 4, 1996. (Interfax)
Estonian Foreign Minister to Visit Georgia
Foreign Minister of Estonia, Urmas Paet, will start a two-day visit to Georgia on Tuesday and hold talks with President Saakashvili, Georgian counterpart Grigol Vashadze and other senior officials. Estonian Foreign Ministry said on Monday, that Paet would discuss EU-Georgia cooperation, including in frames of Eastern Partnership initiative. Ahead of the visit the Estonian Foreign Ministry reiterated his country's supports to Georgia’s EU integration and said that focusing on reforms would be an essential factor on Georgia's path towards the European integration. “We encourage Georgia to continue carrying out reforms and strengthening its civil society,” the Estonian Foreign Minister said. (Civil Georgia)
Militant Islamist group threatens Tajikistan
With NATO forces gradually withdrawing from neighbouring Afghanistan, Central Asian leaders are increasingly concerned that militant groups linked to the Taleban will move north through Tajikistan to attack and destabilise the region. The group calling itself Jamaat Ansarullah released the threat against government forces and non-believers in a 15-minute video of a bearded man wearing Afghan-style clothes and speaking in Tajik earlier this month but local media only reported it on Friday. “Those people who pray and fast but are advocates of democracy are non-believers,” the man is quoted as saying by local media. Jamaat Ansarullah, which means Society of the Companions of Allah, claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a police station in the north of the country in September last year that killed at least two people. Tajik security forces have refuted the existence of Jamaat Ansarullah and its potential to carry out its threat and some analysts have said it is most likely a splinter group of more well-known extremist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This is the second Islamist threat against Tajikistan this year. In April a different group released a statement with a similar message. The government has been fighting a growing insurgency for the past year but analysts have said has not managed to stem fighting. In a report in May, the Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group said that global jihadists were moving into Tajikistan. “Limited infiltration of armed guerrillas from Afghanistan has been taking place for several years,” it wrote. “A small number of fighters from the North Caucasus have also been active in Tajikistan in recent years.” (Daily Telegraph)
Kyrgyz Protesters Want release of Police held for man’s death 19 October Kyrgyzstan -- Some 200 protesters blocked the Osh-Bishkek highway in southern Kyrgyzstan on October 18 to demand the release of four policemen detained in connection with the death of a Russian citizen, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. The protesters want the four men, who are currently in a detention center in the northern town of Sokuluk, transferred to house arrest. A preliminary hearing in the case on October 5 rejected that demand. The protest was the third so far this month by relatives and supporters of the four policemen. On October 3, at least 400 protesters blocked the highway to demand their release from custody. On October 6, some 100 protesters gathered near the highway and demanded that the men be interrogated and tried either in their native town of Bazar-Korgon or in the regional capital, Jalal-Abad. The trial is scheduled to start on October 19 in the northern town of Sokuluk. The four police officers have been charged with torture, abuse of office, and extortion in connection with the August death of Usmanjan Kholmirzaev, an ethnic Uzbek and Russian citizen. Kholmirzaev died in a Jalal-Abad hospital on August 9, two days after being questioned by Bazar-Korgon district police about the deadly clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June last year. The autopsy report said Kholmirzaev died of serious injuries, namely fractured ribs and damage to his internal organs. Bazar-Korgon police chief Ernist Moldokeev was fired in August in the wake of Kholmirzaev's death. (RFE/RL)