22 June 2011 News Digest
Kyrgyzstan violence: Osh unrest remembered one year on
Kyrgyzstan has marked one year since sectarian violence ravaged the south of the country, leaving hundreds dead.
President Roza Otunbayeva, whose government has been criticised for not tackling ongoing tension, said she took moral responsibility for the unrest. But she told the BBC that Kyrgyzstan had achieved a lot in the past year - including holding a free election. Some 470 people died in four days of clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the south of the country. Hundreds of people were injured and thousands of homes destroyed in four days of violence, mainly around the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. The unrest followed weeks of turmoil after the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a mass uprising in April 2010. To mark the anniversary, Ms Otunbayeva unveiled a marble statue in Osh depicting two women weeping and embracing - one from the Uzbek community, the other an ethnic Kyrgyz. "We took the moral responsibility for the clashes, for all the tragic events of 2010. We're not going to run away from that," she told the BBC's Central Asian service. She said the country's major achievment had been holding a free and fair election for the first time in 20 years of independence from the Soviet Union. "Two days of debates in parliament have shown that we are not at war between clans - we have discussed under one roof all together those tragic, very bloody events," she said. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both warned this week that Kyrgyzstan has not tackled the divisions between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. The groups said failure to deliver justice for the killings could spark more violence. Most of those killed were ethnic Uzbeks, but Amnesty says the authorities have targeted ethnic Uzbeks in their investigations. Elaman Myrzabek-uulu, an ethnic Kyrgyz from Osh, told Reuters news agency relations between the groups "ought to be better". The 17-year-old volunteers in an unarmed vigilante team helping the police to keep order in Osh, but said he was concerned there were no Uzbeks among them. "Uzbeks are not open for contact. They do not trust us, although I aided Uzbeks during the June events," he said. (BBC)
Azerbaijan seeks defense industry training
Azerbaijan is establishing a department at the Azerbaijan Technical University to train staff for industries overseen by the Ministry of Defense. Military specialist Azeri army Col.-Lt. Uzeir Jafarov said establishing a separate department for training cadres in the defense industry is an important step. "The Ministry of Defense Industry is a new structure and surely this structure will always need for capable specialists," Jafarov told the Trend news agency. "This ministry has already formed a definite opinion about itself. It represents Azerbaijan at international exhibitions and events. "We should think about the future of professional staff because today's professionals have been educated in Soviet times. Today, both the central office of the ministry and military enterprises in this field need modern technology specialists. If this potential of professionals is absent, in future we may face great difficulties."
Azeri military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said that Baku wants to become more self-reliant in terms of weaponry as Azeri military planners are greatly concerned that Russian and Western suppliers of military equipment could halt shipments if the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia reignited. (UPI)
Roadside bomb kills 15 in southern afghanistan
Afghan authorities say a roadside bomb has hit a bus in southern Afghanistan, killing 15 people, including eight children, as a report from the United Nations said May was the deadliest month for civilians in the country since the UN mission began compiling statistics. The Interior Ministry says the attack took place today in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it had documented 368 "conflict-related" civilian deaths in May this year and 593 civilian injuries. "More civilians were killed in May than in any other month since 2007 when UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties," said Georgette Gagnon, the UNAMA Director for Human Rights. "We are very concerned that civilian suffering will increase even more over the summer fighting season which historically brings the highest numbers of civilian casualties. Parties to the conflict must increase their efforts to protect civilians now," she said in a statement. (RFE/RL)
China, Kazakhstan eye doubling of trade
China and Kazakhstan on Monday signed a strategic partnership deal and vowed to double trade as President Hu Jintao visited the energy-rich Central Asian state to tighten already close ties. Hu held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the first leg of a tour of three ex-Soviet states which China hopes will result in a slew of new energy deals and increase its influence in the region. "We are entering a new level of partnership and this is a solid basis. It completely meets the interests of our countries," Nazarbayev said after the strategic partnership agreement was signed. "Development of such relaions is not a union and is not targeted against a third country," the text of the joint statement released later on Monday said, adding that the Sino-Kazakh partnership serves as a foregn policy priority for both countries. Nazarbayev said that last year trade volume exceeded $20 billion and in the first quarter of this year turnover already exceeded $5 billion. Hu said that by 2015 the two sides now planned to "increase trade turnover to $40 billion". Kazakhstan's vast energy and metal reserves are hugely attractive for neighbouring energy-hungry China and Nazarbayev also said that a previous accord to deliver Kazakh nuclear fuel to China would be implemented this year. China over the last years has also been pumping billions of dollars of investment into the Kazakh economy. Mining giant Kazakhmys signed a memorandum of understanding Monday with the China Development Bank for a $1.5 billion credit to develop the Aktogay copper mine in the east of Kazakhstan. "This funding will allow us to develop Aktogay and yet retain full ownership of the asset," said Oleg Novachuk, chief executive of Kazakhmys. In a packed week-long programme, Hu will attend a regional summit here in the Kazakh capital Astana, visit Russia for talks with its leaders and a top economic forum and end with a stop in Ukraine. On Wednesday the Chinese president is due attend the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Group (SCO) -- a regional security group seen as a rival of NATO -- at a meeting that will also include the Russian and Iranian presidents, Dmitry Medvedev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hu is hoping his visit to Russia will see the signature of a massive contract for state-controlled giant Gazprom to deliver gas from western Siberia to China for the next 30 years. The two sides last year already signed an initial agreement for the deal, which would mark a breakthrough for Gazprom's goal of reducing its dependence on European customers for its supplies.
Officials have expressed hope the deal could be signed at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum this week, where Hu is to be the guest of honour. However the Interfax news agency quoted a source as saying last week that talks had reached a "critical stage" due to a last-minute dispute over pricing. In Ukraine, which is energy-poor compared with Kazakhstan and Russia, Hu will be looking to further bolster China's influence in the strategic nation which it has quietly but significantly cultivated in recent years. (AFP)
Azerbaijani FM Visits Georgia
Georgia and Azerbaijan “have no problems” in bilateral relations, Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian foreign minister, said after meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in Tbilisi on June 13. “Georgia and Azerbaijan, which are strategic partners, try to push already close ties to a new stage,” he said at a joint news conference with the Azerbaijani counterpart. The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, who pays a two-day visit to Georgia on June 13-14, said that there “are less and less controversial issues in our bilateral agenda” and that relations were “more cooperative one in all spheres.” Elmar Mammadyarov also met with Georgian Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze and plans a meeting with President Saakashvili. Georgia and Azerbaijan have yet to agree on border demarcation. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Jalagania, said in an interview with Tbilisi-based Russian-language Novosti Gruzya news agency in April that the two countries had agreed 66% of joint border. He said that it was “difficult process” and no immediate breakthrough was expected. He, however, also said that there was a political will from the both side to resolve the issue. (Civil Georgia)
Kazakhstan's parliament has decided to abstain from joining the NATO-led international coalition in Afghanistan, a member of the lower house said on Wednesday. Nurtai Sabilyanov said the parliament would not consider a bill on ratifying the agreement with NATO at its joint session. "Given the opinion of the senate and the public, the Majilis [lower house] will return the agreement to the government and it will have no legal effect because of the non-ratification by parliament," Sabilyanov said. Majilis ratified the agreement with NATO on May 18 but the upper house turned the bill down on June 9 pending a decision from a joint parliamentary session. "We must not send [our] military to Afghanistan, it is clear to all," he said. On May 22, the Taliban circulated a statement warning Kazakhstan that if it sends troops to support the NATO contingent in Afghanistan, it would bear serious consequences as it contradicts the interests of all countries in the region. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry then said that it was only going to send four officers into the International Security Assistance Force. The international coalition in Afghanistan includes 47 nations, with 19 of them not NATO members and six of them belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. (RIA Novosti)
Dagestan imam is latest moderate Muslim murder victim
Concern is growing for prominent moderate Muslims in Russia's Dagestan region after an imam was shot dead days after the killing of an academic. Unidentified gunmen shot Ashurlav Kurbanov near his mosque in the northern village of Mikheyevka, investigators said. Maksud Sadikov, rector of an Islamic college in the regional capital Makhachkala, was killed last week. Attacks on moderate clerics have been blamed on Islamist separatists.
Two imams were also shot dead in April and between 13 and 50 Islamic religious leaders are said by observers to have been killed violently in the North Caucasus in recent years. Sadikov had been rector of the Institute of Theology and International Relations since 2003. He had sought to promote "good education" as a non-violent weapon in the fight against religious extremism. One of the Sufi Muslim's projects was a translation of the Koran into Russian. Regional analyst Alexei Malashenko told The Moscow News there was a civil war under way within Islam in the North Caucasus. "Islamic radicals' targets are the most powerful, the most influential, most educated people among traditional Islam," he said. Dagestan has been gripped by an Islamist insurgency since 1999, when militants backed by fighters from neighbouring Chechnya launched an offensive against Russian control. (BBC)
Tajikistan upset by 'US invasion' video game
A video game depicting a fictional US and Chinese invasion of Tajikistan to prevent an Islamist takeover has upset the Central Asian nation after apparently touching a raw nerve. A member of parliament called the game creators on Friday "foes" with a "sick fantasy," as he urged parliament to ban sale of the videogame "Operation Flashpoint: Red River." "This computer game is a result of sick fantasy by Tajikistan's foes, who dream that our country will remain in the abyss of constant conflicts," said Davlatali Davlatzoda, a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party.
"It is painful and horrible to watch how our villages and cities are being destroyed as a result of anti-extremist actions by the Chinese and the Americans," he said. "Our country will have presidential elections in 2013 and I am deeply convinced that certain forces cannot calmly watch how they will take place," he said. According to the plot of the game released in Europe in April, the US forces spill over from the neighbouring Afghanistan to prevent Islamic militants from taking power in Tajikistan in 2013. China's People's Liberation Army enters Tajikistan to battle American dominance, according to the fictional videogame plot. (AFP)
Tajik religious figure slams bill banning kids from mosque
A prominent Tajik religious leader and former deputy prime minister has criticized a parental-responsibilities law as being "openly against the will of God," RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. The legislation, which was submitted to parliament by President Emomali Rahmon and approved by the lower house of parliament on June 15, bans children under the age of 18 from attending prayers in mosques. It must still be approved by the upper house and signed by the president before going into effect. Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda told RFE/RL that under the legislation, parents whose underage children are caught attending prayers would be held legally responsible for allowing them to do so.
Turajonzoda also criticized an amendment to Tajikistan's criminal code approved by parliament on June 15 that makes the opening of illegal religious schools punishable by between five and 12 years in jail. Previously, running such illegal schools incurred only an administrative punishment or a fine. During parliamentary debate on June 15, Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov reminded deputies that the draft ban on kids in mosques proposed by Rahmon was published several months ago for public discussion. Only two parliament deputies -- both from the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan of which Turajonzoda is a former deputy chairman -- criticized the draft law and opposed it.The authorities are increasingly concerned about young people coming under the influence of religious extremists. More than 1,200 young Tajiks were constrained to abandon their studies at Islamic universitites and madrasahs abroad after Rahmon "advised" their parents last summer that such students should return to Tajikistan to continue their education. (RFE/RL)
KazMunayGaz dismisses protestors at its production unit
Exploration and Development KazMunayGaz announced about development of situation in connection with the protest action in its production unit OzenMunayGaz in Zhanozen Region. Part of OzenMunayGaz workers are striking. Meanwhile, the number of protestors is reducing. Loss in production has amounted to roughly 85,000 tons since the very beginning of protest actions. Major reason is that service and repair of wells and field technique became complicated due to absence of part of the special technique. Impact on the company’s annual production directly depends on term of rehabilitation of stable production activities here. The company thinks that the protesters' demands are unfounded. It was confirmed by the court decision on May 24, 2011. The protest was illegal. The company began dismissing protestors in accordance with the Labor Code for violation of labor discipline.
Exploration and Development KazMunayGaz stresses its readiness to review the dispute within the procedures provided by the legislation, including through participation of arbitration commission. However, it can be possible only after full cessation of illegal protests and rehabilitation work. Representatives of OzenMunayGaz Trades Union were informed of that in a meeting with the company’s senior management in Astana on June 13. (Trend)
Tajikistan charges BBC reporter with extremism
Tajikistan on Saturday charged a BBC reporter with membership of a banned Islamist group, after his arrest sparked global concern that he was being persecuted merely for opposing the regime. Urunbay Usmonov, a correspondent for the BBC's Central Asia service, was arrested on suspicion of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is outlawed in the secular Muslim states of ex-Soviet Central Asia. A criminal investigation has been opened against him "for participation in an extremist group," the Tajik state committee for national security told AFP in a statement.
"The initial investigation, based on witness testimony and evidence, confirms Usmonov's membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir," it said. It added that Usmonov allegedly had long maintained contact with Hizb ut-Tahrir figures and distributed its materials with the aim of bringing about a "violent seizure of power and change in the constitutional makeup of Tajikistan." The BBC, which gives Usmonov's age as 59, has said it "has no reason to believe these allegations" and also noted that Usmonov's family has said he appeared to have been beaten up by the Tajik security services. The British embassy has urged Dushanbe to clarify the situation while the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said his arrest "raises concerns about undue limitations on free expression." Global media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said there is "little doubt" that Usmonov was arrested for his journalistic activities, noting that he has been unafraid to report on sensitive subjects like Tajikistan's controversial Rogun Dam project. "Using the fight against extremism in order to crack down on dissidents is standard practice in Tajikistan," it said in a statement. "So far, it is the police who have behaved illegally in this case." Freedom House meanwhile called for Usmonov's immediate release, saying the Tajik authorities "have a history of using the fight against extremism as an excuse to crack down on voices of dissent." Usmonov has worked for the last decade for the BBC's Uzbek-language operation. Turkic-speaking Uzbeks form the largest minority in Tajikistan, whose national language is derived from Persian. Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in the 1950s in the Middle East and advocates the establishment of an Islamic "caliphate" across Muslim Central Asia, although its members insist they believe this should be achieved by peaceful means. It appeared in Central Asia around a decade ago and its attempts to recruit new members and its distribution of anti-government literature has worried the authorities, particularly in Tajikistan, the poorest state of the former Soviet Union. In the past decade, Tajikistan has convicted some 500 men and women for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir. This year alone, 40 have been jailed. (AFP)
U.S. conducting ‘outreach’ talks with Taliban, Gates says
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that the State Department, in tandem with other countries, has been conducting preliminary "outreach" talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Gates told CNN television that "these contacts are very preliminary at this point." He stressed it was crucial to determine "who really represents the Taliban" before jumping into talks with parties claiming to represent Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Earlier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the United States was in contact with the Taliban over a possible end to the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)
A militant involved in numerous terrorist crimes was killed on Sunday in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) said. Shamil Payzullayev, nicknamed "Abdusalam", was killed in Reduktorniy village near to Dagestani capital of Makhachkala in one of an apartments blocked by police, when he was trying to put up armed resistance. "[Payzullayev] assisted in a transportation of potential suicide bombers, who were intended to conduct a terrorist attack on 2011 new year's night in Moscow," the NAK statement said. "'Abdusalam' was also involved in a number of terrorist crimes, extortion, killings of civilians [imams, businessmen] and the military." He was also a leader of the so-"izberbashskaya" subversive and terrorist group, NAK said. More that a decade after the end of a federal war against separatists in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, Russian security forces continue to fight militants in other regions in the area, who stage frequent attacks on security forces, police and civilians. (RIA Novosti)
Police prevents unsanctioned rally of Azerbaijani opposition
Attempts of the so-called Public Chamber, which unites several opposition parties, to hold a rally at the square near the square in front of the Narimanov cinema on Sunday failed. At 17:30, a group of opposition leaders wanted to hold an unsanctioned rally, Trend correspondent reported from the scene. Police prevented the unsanctioned rally.
If the rally, scheduled for June 19, is held on the territory, allowed by executive power of Baku city, the police will provide security of participants. The executive power of Baku city proposes to hold a protest in the Bibi Heybat settlement, in a residential area on the 20th site. The coordinating council of the so-called Public Chamber decided to hold an unsanctioned rally June 19 on the square in front of the Narimanov cinema. (Trend)
Per Capita GDP in Kazakhstan to reach 15,000
Per capita GDP in Kazakhstan will reach $15,000 by 2016, the President Nursultan Nazarbayev said. "By 2016 Kazakhstan should enter the group of countries with high personal income levels. The per capita GDP should grow to $15,000," Nazarbayev said at the Saint-Petersburg Economic Forum on Saturday. The transcript of the president's speech was circulated by his press office. He said that in 2010 Kazakhstan had adopted a Strategic Development Plan until 2020, which defined the key areas to be modernized during the decade. According to Nazarbayev, until 2015 the country plans to implement around 500 projects with a total cost of about $80 billion and create 200,000 new permanent jobs. "We will make every effort to make Kazakhstan a regional trade, logistics and business hub as well as a Central Asian center of knowledge. This will enhance economic cooperation between countries and improve living standards in our country and the whole region," he said. (Interfax)
Georgia Recognizes 'Circassian Genocide'
Georgia became the first country to recognize 19th century massacre and deportations of Circassians by the Tsarist Russia in the northwest Caucasus as “genocide”. The Georgian Parliament passed on May 20 with 90 votes to 0 a resolution saying that "pre-planned" mass killings of the Circassians by the Tsarist Russia in second half of 19th century, accompanied by "deliberate famine and epidemics", should be recognized as "genocide" and those deported during those events from their homeland, should be recognized as "refugees." “This [decision] is not directed against the Russian people,” Giorgi Gabashvili, a senior ruling party lawmaker, said during the discussion of the draft at the parliamentary session on May 20. “The Russian people should not be permanently living under the burden imposed on them by their leaders in the 19th century, 20th century and 21st century,” he added. Another senior ruling party lawmaker Givi Targamadze said that the Parliament should also consider “situation surrounding other peoples” of the North Caucasus. “This process will lead us to a powerful and a significant Caucasian unity,” MP Givi Targamadze, who chairs parliamentary committee for defense and security, said. The only lawmaker who spoke against the resolution during the parliamentary debates on May 20 was MP Jondi Bagaturia, who said that although “it is impossible not to show solidarity towards the Circassian people,” emotions should be put aside. “Will not it look unfair in respect of Armenians?” MP Bagaturia said, referring to multiple requests from Georgia’s Armenian community to recognize the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Empire as genocide. Such appeals, made by the Armenian community almost every year in April, remain unheeded by the Georgian lawmakers. A lawmaker from the ruling party, Nugzar Tsiklauri, who chairs parliamentary committee for diaspora and Caucasian issues, responded that linking these two issues was inappropriate. He said that Armenia and Turkey, “Georgia’s two friendly nations”, would address differences in the process of “a positive dialogue”. He said that Georgia’s meddling in this process would mean “playing unclear and unjustified role.”Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), which is a leading party in the parliamentary minority group, did not voice its position during the debates. MP Giorgi Akhvlediani of CDM told Civil.ge after the vote that his party abstained from voting because the decision was taken too hastily and the decision might be inappropriate from the political point of view. The ruling party lawmakers first announced about the intention to consider possibly of recognizing mass killings of Circassians as genocide in April, 2010. The announcement was made a month after Tbilisi hosted a conference, Hidden Nations, Enduring Crimes: The Circassians & the Peoples of the North Caucasus Between Past and Future. The conference was organized by Washington-based Jamestown Foundation and Tbilisi-based Ilia State University’s International School for Caucasus Studies with the participants including, among others, representatives of Circassian diaspora. At the end of the conference, on March 21, 2010 participants made an appeal to the Georgian Parliament requesting to recognize deportations and massacre of Circassians more than a century ago as genocide. (Civil Georgia)
Kazakh woman dies after self-immolation
A Kazakh woman who set herself on fire in front of the ruling Nur-Otan party's headquarters in Astana on June 20 has died, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Interior Minister Qalmukhamet Qasymov told journalists on June 21 that the woman was hospitalized with burns over 95 percent of her body and died later in an Astana clinic. Qasymov said the woman was protesting her son's 10-year imprisonment for a drugs-related crime. The woman disagreed with the verdict and had appealed to other courts and the presidential Nur-Otan party asking for help to mitigate her son's punishment. The woman’s name has not been made public. Nur-Otan officials were not immediately available for comment. (RFE/RL)
Caspian legal status may be completed next year
If some countries show flexibility, work on the preparation of the convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be completed next year, Iranian Presidential Adviser Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh was quoted by the ISNA as saying. Akhundzadeh met with journalists and spoke about the agenda of the forthcoming round of negotiations on the convention. He said the meeting will be held in Moscow in a month and will focus on the work on the coordination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea. He added that significant progress was stressed at the last meeting. He thinks that the Moscow meeting will accelerate the development of decisions. As to finalizing the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Akhundzadeh expressed confidence that if some countries show a little flexibility, it will be possible next year. The consultations are under way on this issue. In November 2003, the Caspian countries signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.
In July 1998 Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on the delineation of the northern part of the Caspian Sea in order to exercise sovereign rights for subsoil use.
On Nov. 29, 2001, and Feb. 27, 2003, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on the delineation of the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delineation of adjacent sections of the Caspian Sea on May 14, 2003. (Trend)
Georgian Opposition leader criticizing Georgia’s involvement in operation in Afghanistan
The Georgian opposition Labor Party has urged the parents of military servicemen not to let their sons go to Afghanistan as "mercenary invaders." "Many NATO countries do not send their servicemen to Afghanistan. Moreover, the alliance members are withdrawing their troops from this country, but despot Saakashvili [Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili] is making up for the shortage by our sons," Labor Party leader Kakhaber Dzagania said at a news conference on Tuesday. Meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Rome recently, President Saakashvili promised to double the number of Georgian troops in Afghanistan, he said."We are calling on the NATO leadership to decline the sending of more servicemen to Afghanistan from Georgia and decline Georgia's services in this operation at all, so as not to increase the list of Georgians killed in that country. Nine Georgians have already died there, and it's time to stop this," Dzagania said. (Interfax)
Turkish minister: Armenian-Turkish border to be opened after Azerbaijani-Armenian relations normalize
The border between Turkey and Armenia could be opened after Armenia and Azerbaijan shook hands, Turkish State Minister and chief negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis said. Bagis said on Tuesday that Turkey and Armenia had the chance to work together in order to prevent people, nations and countries from suffering more in the future, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported. Bagis said that Turkey wanted "zero problem" with its neighbors, adding that Turkey also wanted its neighbors to have "zero problem" with their own neighbors, too, he said. Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandian signed the Ankara-Yerevan protocols in Zurich Oct. 10. But the protocols were not ratified in the parliaments. Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey were broken due to Armenian claims of an alleged genocide and its occupation of Azerbaijani lands. Their border closed in 1993. 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 seven surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. (Trend)
Obama to announce Afghanistan troop reduction by 30,000 by 2012 end
President Barack Obama will hold an evening address Wednesday to lay out his plans for reducing the number of US troops in Afghanistan, the White House said, dpa reported. Media reports citing unnamed officials on Tuesday said Obama would reduce the troops by 10,000 by the end of the year, and by 30,000 by the end of next year, effectively ending the surge of troops he instituted earlier in his presidency. Some 100,000 troops are currently in Afghanistan. White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed those reports as "speculation," but declined to provide details of the president's plans or how the decision was reached. "This is the president's decision to announce," he said. In December 2009, Obama announced the buildup of US forces to combat rising violence in Afghanistan by adding some 30,000 troops. Carney said Wednesday's announcement would be consistent with the existing plan to begin the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan government and begin the possible withdrawal of US forces in July. (DPA)