Wednesday, 02 November 2011

2 November 2011 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (11/2/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Ashgabat brushes off Russian gas concerns 19 October Cooperation with Europe on energy matters will continue despite Russian reservations, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Turkmenistan said. European officials in September announced plans to focus on legal agreements needed for Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline system.

Ashgabat brushes off Russian gas concerns 19 October Cooperation with Europe on energy matters will continue despite Russian reservations, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Turkmenistan said. European officials in September announced plans to focus on legal agreements needed for Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline system. Russia has cited concern over Ashgabat's energy ties with Europe, including plans to host a section of the Trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline. Moscow says those plans weren't approved by the five littoral countries to the Caspian Sea. Europe noted the September measure was the first time it proposed a treaty to support major infrastructure. Europe is eager to break Russia's grip on the regional energy sector. Turkmenistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement published by the pro-Turkmen government Web site turkmenistan.ru, said Ashgabat would continue cooperation with Europe regardless of Russian objections. "Cooperation with our European partners is developing in a businesslike and constructive way and it will continue," the statement read. A recent survey from British oil field auditing company Gaffney Cline finds Turkmenistan has more than 700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas at its South Yolotan field, enough to satisfy European demand for more than 50 years. Ashgabat blamed Russian gas company Gazprom for a blast at one of its natural gas pipelines in 2009. (UPI)

 

Onishchenko ready to personally inspect Georgian winemakers 20 October The Federal Consumer Rights and Human Health Service is waiting for documents from Georgian companies wishing to resume wine deliveries to the Russian market, service head, Russian Chief Public Health Official Gennady Onishchenko told Interfax on Thursday. The service met with a delegation of Georgian winemakers on Wednesday. "They need to present documents describing their products first. We will examine the documents and visit the factories to check their production cycle. After that, product samples will be presented for certification," Onishchenko said. "If the tests are successful, the products will be added to the register. The deliveries will start after that, and all the products will be checked," he said. "I may visit [Georgia] personally to take a look [at the wine factories]," he said. "I do not rule out insurmountable circumstances may appear if we decide to make a visit," Onishchenko said. (Interfax)

 

Special service chief hopes elections will not spark new riots in Kyrgyzstan 21 October Kyrgyz National Security Committee Chairman Keneshbek Dushebayev has described the situation in the country in the run-up to the October 30 presidential elections as quiet. "The population is certainly awaiting the results of voting with a certain degree of concern because there are plenty of people willing to become the republic's president. Different groups are standing behind each candidate, and their interests will evidently clash," he said. "On the whole, I assess the ongoing canvassing campaign in the republic as calm," he said. What counts most for special services is to make sure that "the candidates act in compliance with law," Dushebayev said. "Some of them [presidential candidates] have already said in advance that they will not agree with election results and will bring people into the streets. I count on the wisdom of our people to not allow politicians to push people to war," he said. (Interfax) Call for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan to join Turkic economic body 21 October Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has called on neighboring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to join a new regional economic body linking Turkic-speaking countries, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. The Business Council of Turkic Speaking States was established on October 20, at the start of the first two-day summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (CCTS) in Almaty. Nazarbaev, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva, and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag discussed how to promote cooperation between the CCTS's four member-states. All four officials signed the document on creating the business council, the twin objectives of which are to seek new directions for deeper cooperation and to eliminate existing impediments and obstacles in mutual trade and economic ties. Speaking on October 21, Nazarbaev said that "we are all interested in being a full-fledged international organization and we really hope that our Uzbek and Turkmen brothers will join us some day." (RFE/RL)

 

Clinton continues Asian travels 21 October U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's travels in Asia include visits to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the State Department said Friday. Clinton will go to the two countries Saturday and Sunday, following her unannounced visits to Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the department said in a release. In Tajikistan, Clinton will meet with President Emomali Rahmon and Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi to discuss bilateral and regional issues. She also will conduct a town hall-type meeting in Dushanbe. In Uzbekistan, Clinton will have a meeting with President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev, the department said. She also will go to Tashkent and tour a new General Motors Co. powertrain plant where she will announce the Central Asia Technology Entrepreneurship Program and Techno-Prize Competition. During her stop in Pakistan Thursday, Clinton urged the country's leaders to go after Taliban militants in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan border, The Wall Street Journal said. She urged Pakistan to attack the Haqqani network, a group with ties to the Taliban that U.S. officials blame for a number of deadly attacks against American forces in Afghanistan. In Kabul, Clinton assured Afghanistan that the United States wouldn't stop its efforts to create a "strong foundation for an Afghanistan free from interference, violent conflict and one that has a chance to chart its own future." (UPI)

 

Tatarstan to hold international turcology conference 21 October Experts from the region and beyond are gathering in Kazan to discuss how to preserve Turkic languages in a rapidly globalizing world, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports. The three-day international Turkology conference is scheduled to open on October 22 in the capital of Russia's Tatarstan republic. The conference is devoted to the 85th birthday of prominent Tatar Turkologist Dilara Tumasheva. Experts from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, as well as from Moscow, the Republics of Chuvashia and Bashkortostan, and Perm Oblast, will participate. The conference will also focus on ways to teach Turkic languages using modern technology. Fakhima Khisamova, a linguist at Kazan Federal University, told a press conference on October 21 that preserving languages is becoming one of the most important tasks of contemporary linguistics. "To learn or know a language is, of course, important, but currently, we are focusing on the issue of language preservation," Khisamova said. Khisamova said the conference will also focus on the history of the Turkic languages, structural changes in the Turkic languages, and their grammatical peculiarities. (RFE/RL)

 

Officials: Clinton presses Human Rights In meeting with Uzbekistan Ruler Karimov 23 October U.S. officials say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged greater respect for human rights during a meeting with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, whose regime has been accused of serious rights abuses. Clinton, who met with Karimov on October 22 in Tashkent, is the highest-ranking American official to visit Uzbekistan since the U.S. in September lifted seven-year-old restrictions on U.S. assistance, including military assistance, to Uzbekistan. The restrictions had been imposed over rights abuses. News agencies quote a U.S. official as saying that in the meeting with Clinton, Karimov pledged to make progress on liberalization and democratic reforms, saying he wants such progress to be seen as a "legacy" of his rule. Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan for more than 20 years. Officials said Clinton also thanked Karimov for Uzbekistan's assistance in supporting U.S. troops involved in the conflict in Afghanistan. Clinton arrived in Uzbekistan following a visit to Tajikistan, where she said she disagreed with curbs on religious freedom, saying that such restrictions could help promote Islamic extremism by pushing legitimate religious expression underground. (RFE/RL)

 

Largest checkpoint reopens on Kyrgyz-Uzbek border 26 October The largest international checkpoint on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, Dustlik-Avto, located near the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, reopened on Wednesday, the republic's Border Troops spokesperson told Interfax. The checkpoint had been closed since April 2010, when the previous regime was toppled in Kyrgyzstan. The Dostuk-avtodorozhny checkpoint remained open on the Kyrgyz side only for residents of border regions. An agreement to re-open the largest checkpoint on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border was reached after a meeting between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek border chiefs, the spokesperson added. (Interfax) Due to record harvest Kazakhstan can export 15 mln tons of wheat, Ministry 26 October "Thanks to the record-breaking wheat harvest this year Kazakhstan can export 15 mln tons of grain," Agriculture Vice Minister Marat Tolibayev told an international conference today.  "Kazakhstan has harvested 29.1 mln tons of grain so far, including 24.3 mln tons of wheat. We have gathered this year the record crop," Toliobayev said. According to the Vice Minister positive results in the agrarian sector were achieved partly through the wide use of the potential of the Kazakh agrarian science. It is focused mainly on the creation of high-yielding variety of crops and application of  modern water-saving technologies. (Kazinform)

KazakH President visited Egypt University of Islamic Culture in Almaty

26 October Spiritual, religious and ideological guidelines as well as the development of traditional Islam all topped a meeting at the «Nur Mubarak» Egypt University of Islamic Culture in Almaty involving Nursultan Nazarbayev and representatives of the Muslim clergy. According to the International Islamic News Agency (IINA), the agreement on the establishment of this educational institution was signed back in 1993. Later on, the school began teaching Islamic Studies, which was the first ever speciality of this kind in the country. This year, the state has allocated 100 grants for training students in Islamic Studies. "The most important issue nowadays is the preparation of highly qualified personnel who are able to respond to challenges. Of course, the graduates of our university will be able to adequately respond to this. They are professionals and patriots who love their homeland and their president", Ali Rauf, Teacher, Egypt University of Islamic Culture said. According to Islam Serikbai a first-year student who studies with great interest and pleasure, the level of teaching is very high here. They have built a very good university building this year. Once I have graduated from this university, being a patriot, I want to make my contribution to the development of religion and Islam in my country. Serikbai knows that each year, the university sends successful students to have practice in the Cairo Arabic Language Centre. The Supreme Mufti of Kazakhstan, Absattar Hajji Derbisali, said "we are very thankful to Nursultan Nazarbayev for his constant assistance and his fatherly care. He never divides people into Muslims or non-Muslims, all citizens of Kazakhstan consider Kazakhstan their homeland. Taking care of them is the duty of our President, who has great credibility in the world. We are very grateful to him and we will be following his instructions and we will try to do it with honour". In the middle of October, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a law on religious activity in Kazakhstan. The preamble of the document acknowledges the historic role of Islam and the teachings of the Hanafi studies and orthodoxy in the development of the culture and spiritual life of the people of Kazakhstan. At the same time, it emphasizes respect for other religions. (Kazinform)

 

Lukashenko suggests deciding on Uzbekistan’s CSTO membership 26 October Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states should decide on the question of Uzbekistan's further membership in this organization. "I have forwarded my considerations to the Russian president. We need to decide on Uzbekistan, because the triple game led by Uzbekistan does not allow it to stay in the CSTO," Lukashenko said at a meeting of the Council of the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly in Minsk on Wednesday. (Interfax)

 

Islamabad, Ashgabat close to gas deal 27 October Turkmenistan and Pakistan are close to reaching a natural gas sale purchase price for a pipeline linking four Asian countries, a government official said. Turkmenistan Deputy Energy Minister Yarmuhammet Orazgulyev led a delegation to Islamabad to discuss pricing for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline. Ashgabat offered a price that was 74 percent of oil parity. Islamabad offered a range of 60-68 percent of oil parity, a government official told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. That price, the official added, is lower than the 78 percent of oil parity offered by Iran for its bilateral natural gas pipeline planned from the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf. Ashgabat aims to deliver about 1.1 trillion cubic feet of gas each year through the pipeline when it goes online in 2014. Dawn reports the Iranian pipeline would deliver about 750 million cfd by the end of 2014. India was included in the Iranian gas pipeline option at one point and commentary in Pakistani newspaper The Nation said the Iranian pipeline is all but dead because of an electricity deal between New Delhi and Islamabad. Iran had said it was considering expanding its options for liquefied natural gas deliveries, which don't rely on pipelines. Officials told Dawn that Ashgabat and Islamabad agreed to sign a purchase agreement for TAPI in November. (UPI)

 

Tbilisi agreed to new proposals on Russia’s WTO accession – Georgia mass media 27 October On Thursday, Georgia accepted the new proposals received through Swiss mediators, regarding the resolution of border control issues, which opens up a path to Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), Georgian mass media said, citing the Reuters news agency. The proposals include an electronic exchange of data on trade and international border control between Russia and the two regions that Georgia considers to be part of its territory - Abkhazia and South Ossetia, head of the Georgian delegation at the Geneva talks Sergi Kapanadze said. Earlier it was reported that Georgia had put forward new proposals at its WTO talks with Russia. "Progress in the negotiating process depends on whether Russia will take a constructive position, while the Georgian side hopes that its new proposals set the basis for that", Kapanadze said. Georgia and Russia resumed their WTO talks in March 2011 through Swiss mediation. (Interfax)

 

Russian, Swiss Presidents Discuss WTO 30 October Swiss President and Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, whose country mediates Russia-Georgia WTO talks, met with Russia's President Dmitri Medvedev on October 30. "Today we will discuss our bilateral relations. But of course there is no reason to hide, that we would like to discuss situation about Russian Federation's accession to the World Trade Organization," Medvedev said at the start of the meeting at his residence outside Moscow. "I would like to thank the Swiss Confederation for mediation efforts, which it offers in order to ease Russia's WTO accession," he added. Micheline Calmy-Rey expressed hope that the meeting would be "fruitful and the results will allow Russia to join the WTO by the end of this year, in December." "We also very much want that to happen." Medvedev responded. Calmy-Rey's visit to Russia comes three days after Georgia announced that it had accepted the compromise proposal tabled by the Swiss mediators. According to the Georgian officials the proposal envisages deploying international monitors from a private company at the both ends of so called "trade corridors" - reference to the breakaway regions, but not inside these regions. Trade corridors will be defined by their geographic coordinates not by names in an attempt to keep a status-neutral approach. A contractor company will be hired by a neutral third party, according to the Georgian side. Russia said it needed several days to review the proposal and to give its response. (Civil Georgia)

 

Georgian, Swiss Presidents Discuss WTO 31 October President Saakashvili met with Swiss President and Foreign Minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, in Batumi on Monday to discuss Russia’s WTO entry terms. “She [Calmy-Rey] has informed Mikheil Saakashvili about the Russian position towards the Swiss compromise proposal. The document prepared by the mediator reflects the Georgian side’s demands involving monitoring of cargo movement across the border by international observers and electronic exchange of information. A decision of the official Moscow is not yet known,” the Georgian President’s press office said in a brief statement without providing any details. Calmy-Rey arrived in Georgia after holding talks with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Sunday. Earlier on October 31, Russian presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said that Moscow wanted “only minor changes to the wording” of the Swiss proposal, which has been accepted by Tbilisi last week, Reuters reported. It was not clear on what changes Russia was insisting. Among the Georgian officials who attended the meeting between Saakashvili and Calmy-Rey were Secretary of Georgian National Security Council Giga Bokeria; Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and his deputy Sergi Kapanadze, who is one of the Georgian negotiator in the Swiss-mediated WTO talks with Russia, as well as Saakashvili’s advisor Raphael Glucksmann and Georgia’s ambassador to WTO and other Geneva-based international organizations Zurab Tchiaberashvili. (Civil Georgia)

 

Nabucco eager for Azeri gas 31 October Getting natural gas from the Shah Deniz 2 gas field in Azerbaijan would be a good "first step" for the planned Nabucco project, a project official said. 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 and carry the largest volume of natural gas at an estimated 1 trillion cubic feet per year. Shah Deniz couldn't support Nabucco by itself, however. Christian Dolezal, a spokesman for the Nabucco pipeline consortium, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty he recognized the difficulties with his project. "Shah Deniz has a certain volume, that's true. But we also see there are additional volumes, first of all, available in Azerbaijan," he said. "And, in turn, this would be enough for a first step for Nabucco." Turkey and Azerbaijan last week signed an agreement to get natural gas supplies to Europe, easing European concerns about its gas relationship with energy-rich Russia. Russia cut gas through conventional routes to Europe through Ukraine in 2009 over contract disputes, forcing Europe to consider other transit options. RFE/RL notes Moscow is considering legal action against any Caspian activity, noting lingering border disputes between littoral states. (UPI)

 

Protests follow Kyrgyz elections 31 October Protesters in southern Kyrgyzstan took to the streets Monday after it emerged the former prime minister was the winner of a weekend election. Kyrgyzstan held presidential elections Sunday, the first vote since an April 2010 coup led former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee to Belarus. Following the coup, at least 470 people were killed in ethnic conflicts near Osh and Jalal Abad. Protesters turned out Monday in the streets of Osh and Jalal Abad calling for the election results to be invalidated, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. Around 1,000 supporters of presidential candidate and Ata-Jurt party leader Kamchybek Tashiyev blocked a highway linking Osh to the capital Biskhek to oppose the election results. They claim the vote was rigged in favor of former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev. The country's election commission said Atambayev secured 63 percent of the vote compared with 14.7 percent for opposition leader Adahan Madumarov, a former member of Parliament who draws support from the south of the country, and 14.2 percent for Tashiyev. Rights groups monitoring the situation in Kyrgyzstan note the country has a long way to go to repair ethnic wounds. Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva is ineligible for a second term. Her term expires Dec. 31. More than 60 percent of the eligible voters turned out to vote. (UPI)

 

Tajik President, Aga Khan Initiate Construction of Bridge to Afghanistan 1 November Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and the Aga Khan have laid the foundation stone of what will be the fifth bridge connecting Tajikistan to Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. It is the first bridge in the Kulob region of Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province and will connect the Tajik district of Shuroobod with Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province*. The bridge will be 162 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. The ceremony marking the beginning of construction took place on October 31. The bridge is being financed jointly by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the German government-owned bank Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (KfW), which has contributed $3 million to the cost of building. The construction of the bridge is expected to take a few years to complete. A Shuroobod resident named Rajabmad told RFE/RL that the bridge will help to restore contacts severed during the Soviet era between people living on opposite banks of the Panj River that marks the border between the two countries. Local residents say some 800 Tajik families from Shuroobod fled Tajikistan when the Bolsheviks arrived in the 1920s, and most of them still live on the Afghan side of the river. It is difficult for them to visit relatives in Tajikistan, a problem officials say the bridge will alleviate. But Shuroobod resident Madhusain Razzoqov told RFE/RL he is worried that the new bridge will be used by drug smugglers who are active in the area. The AKDN has sponsored the construction of two of the other bridges that currently span Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Prince Karim, the fourth Aga Khan, heads the largest branch of Ismaili-Shi'ite followers. His AKDN is one of the most active charitable organizations in Central and South Asia. (RFE/RL)

 

Tribal truce in eastern Afghanistan falls apart 1 November The three-year truce that the Afghan government forced on a violent land dispute in eastern Afghanistan and we described last week as "shaky" from the outset lasted just one day. While the exact casualty figures are difficult to determine,  members of a Pashtun clan are said to have been killed and others injured while scores more were detained when they clashed with government troops on October 28. The fighting came one day after young tribal fighters had vacated their respective trenches early on October 27 in the Ghani Khel region of eastern Nangarhar province. Locals had rejoiced at the development because they saw it halting a violent tribal land dispute over a government-owned plain that had claimed the lives of 100 members of the Alisher Khel and Sepah branches of the Pashtun Shinwari tribe. The impetus for the truce was a threat of military action by Nangarhar Province Governor Gul Agha Sherzai on October 25. He was apparently annoyed with holding endless jirgas, or tribal councils, with the two sides. Independent Afghan news agency Pajhwok reported that the Sepah tribesmen returned to Ghani Khel on October 28 where the disputed plain lies south of Nangarhar's capital, Jalalabad. Aminullah Amarkhel accused them of attacking a military base where Sherzai was holding council with the military and police officials. The agency reported that two policemen were injured in the attack but government retaliation killed seven attackers. Government forces also reportedly captured 65 attackers. Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on October 29, Malik Usman Shinwari, a Sepah leader, claimed that government forces had killed 60 of their fighters and injured 80 others. (RFE/RL)

 

Istanbul Conference Pledges Support for Afghanistan 2 November All of Afghanistan's neighbors and Western powers were represented at a one-day conference in Turkey, with delegates committing to cooperate and work together to help develop the volatile country. Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasul said the so-called "Istanbul Process" was driven by his country's needs and represented an important step for the region. Rasul described it as "a process that will allow the countries in the heart of the Asian region to implement important confidence-building measures toward a more effective, broader, and deeper regional cooperation that promotes security, stability, and economic development in our region." Countries represented were from Afghanistan's immediate neighborhood, from the greater region, and from the West, including China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the United States.  Delegates from as NATO, the EU, and the UN also were in attendance. The Istanbul conference comes one day after Turkish President Abdullah Gul hosted both Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, during which the leaders attempted to ease tensions following last month's assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Kabul has accused Islamabad of being behind the Taliban suicide bombing that killed Rabbani, a charge Islamabad denies. The November 1 meeting produced a commitment by Karzai and Zardari to open a joint investigation into the assassination, establishing the air of cooperation that carried over to the conference. While Karzai said the door was closed for now on talks with the Taliban, his foreign minister expressed optimism that negotiation would be possible."We know that there are people among the Taliban and others that are willing to have peace under the conditions that we have proposed to you," Rasul said. "I am confident and optimistic [that we can] achieve a peace process." (RFE/RL) 
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