18 April 2012 News Digest
KARZAI TAKES ACTION IN KABUL BANK SCANDAL
Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor and tribunal to investigate the near-collapse of Kabul Bank. Karzai also ordered that hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding loans be repaid in two months. Investigators said most of the loans were made to political insiders, including Karzai's brother Mahmoud, and weren't expected to be repaid. Karzai's actions came about a month before Afghanistan's foreign backers are to meet in Chicago. An Afghan central bank official said Thursday authorities also were tightening the terms under which the bank's two largest shareholders, who have ties to government officials and high-powered business officials, are being held. Sherkhan Farnood, the bank's founder, and Khalilullah Frozi, its former chief executive officer, were arrested last summer, jailed for a few months then released purportedly to help investigators search for missing money. The two now must to spend their nights in prison per the original terms of their release. Western officials in Kabul told the Times they were adopting a wait-and-see stance to Karzai's decisions. The U.S. Embassy said in a statement it "noted with interest" Karzai's decisions on appointing a special prosecutor, impaneling a tribunal and calling for the repayment of loans. "We look forward to seeing the results of these decisions, especially the return of assets stolen from Kabul Bank and prosecution of those responsible for the crisis," the statement said. (UPI)
GEORGIA CEASES OPEN SKIES TREATY VIS-À-VIS RUSSIA
Georgia said it had ceased its obligations vis-à-vis Russia under the Open Skies Treaty. The move was in a response to Russia's decision two years ago to impose restrictions on flight path for aerial observation over its territory, in particular over the areas adjacent to Georgia's occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian Foreign Ministry states. "Russia refused to allow the observation flights over its territory to fly within 10 kilometers of the occupied regions of Georgia, asserting that those regions constituted states, which were non-parties to the Treaty," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said. "The Russian Federation has deliberately and improperly restricted the right of all other States Parties under the Open Skies Treaty, denying them full territorial access to the Russian territory as required by the Treaty." "It is obvious that the Russian Federation cannot unilaterally alter the geographical coverage of the multilateral Treaty by purporting to recognize a new entity on the territory of a State Party. Nor can Russia compel other States Parties to accept this illegal recognition [of Abkhazia and South Ossetia]," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said. The Foreign Ministry stressed that Tbilisi would continue fulfilling its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty with respect of all other participating states. In November, 2011 following some NATO-member states Georgia too announced about stopping sharing military information under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) with Russia; Moscow suspended its participation in CFE in 2007. (Civil)
EX-KGB CHIEF LEONID TIBILOV WINS SOUTH OSSETIA POLL
A former head of the KGB in South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, has won the Georgian breakaway region's presidential election. He polled more than 54% of the vote in a run-off against former human rights commissioner David Sanakoyev. Mr Tibilov has made it clear he would like to unify the region with North Ossetia, which is in Russia. But almost all the international community except Russia considers South Ossetia as still part of Georgia. BBC correspondent, Damien McGuinness, says the new appointment was seen as a way of boosting Moscow's control while Georgia considered the step as proof that South Ossetia was nothing more than a Russian-backed puppet state. After declaring victory, Mr Tibilov told supporters that "now, we have to build a new and successful legitimate state". He was congratulated by Mr Sanakoyev, who polled 42.65%. The outcome of the vote was in marked contrast to protests that took place in November 2011, after the result was overturned. Alla Dzhioyeva, a long-time rival of outgoing president Eduard Kokoity, appeared to have won that election after two rounds of voting. Mr Tibilov was backed by a prominent supporter of Ms Dzhioyeva and had been expected to pick up votes from her supporters. The head of the South Ossetian KGB from 1992-98, Leonid Tibilov later became first deputy prime minister and then co-chairman of the Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping commission. (BBC)
UZBEKISTAN PAYS TEACHERS WITH CHICKENS
Uzbek doctors and teachers got a shock this month when part of their salaries came in the form of...Serbian chickens. More than 20,000 chicks have already been distributed to public sector workers in the Central Asian country's Vobkent district, in the Bukhara region, and an additional 40,000 will be handed out in the coming months. Public sector workers get 10 chicks each under the initiative, launched after cabinet ministers in February urged regional governments to boost domestic production of poultry, eggs, meat, and vegetables. According to local officials, the Serbian chickens are far superior to their Uzbek counterparts and are expected to start laying eggs within two months. Officials insist the campaign is being conducted on a voluntary basis. Some of the recipients, however, told RFE/RL they had received the chicks against their will. This has been especially problematic for those living in apartment blocks. "We were given a mandatory 10 chicks each," says Odil, a 32-year-old teacher, who spoke to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "Each chick costs 5,500 soms ($3). It's a little more expensive than local chicks. There is no way to refuse the offer; it was compulsory." Critics say the cash-strapped Uzbek government is simply trying to cut costs. But officials insist the campaign has been a success and are considering expanding it to other districts. Such a success, in fact, that they are now mulling a cattle-for-cash program. This time, the cows would come from Ukraine. (RFE/RL)
GEORGIA, KAZAKHSTAN AGREE TO COOPERATE IN TRANSPORT AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTORS
Georgia and Kazakhstan have agreed to cooperate in the transport and telecommunications sectors, according to Minister of Economy and Sustanaible Development of Georgia Vera Kobalia and Minister of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan Askar Zhumagaliyev. Zhumagaliyev noted that during the 5th session of the Commission a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation in trade, transport, fuel and energy complex, the legal framework, environmental protection, agriculture and tourism was addressed. "Now we specifically have agreed to cooperate in the transport sector, which is of interest for the supply of goods from Asia to Europe through Georgia. Kazakhstan is interested in the transit possibilities of Georgia", he said, noting that cooperation in the field of telecommunications also looks promising, and, there are certain developments and contacts on this segment. Kobalia said the Georgian side attaches great importance to the Georgian-Kazakh economic cooperation. "With Kazakhstan we have a very close relationship, especially in the economic sphere. During the meeting, we were able to discuss and resolve a number of important issues," she said. In the first place, the sides discussed the issues of transit of goods from Asia to Europe. "It will involve our railroad and ports, which will help us solve the problems of employment, as well as to become a guarantor of safe transportation," she noted. Kobalia also noted that during the meeting the sides agreed to intensify air flights between Tbilisi and Astana, especially in summer time, which will contribute to the development of economic contacts as well as tourism. (Trend)
GEORGIA TEST FLIES FIRST DOMESTICALLY DESIGNED DRONE
Georgia conducted a test flight of its first domestically produced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on Tuesday, the Georgian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili observed the “successful” test flight, which took place at a military base near the capital of Tbilisi “amid complex terrain and climate conditions,” the statement said. Saakashvili said on Monday the drone was “designed to the highest technological specifications.” It is capable of flying for eight hours at an altitude of 100 to 3,000 meters and can develop speeds of between 60 and 160 km/h. The drone is equipped with a dual camera gimbal, photo and infrared camera and can be used for reconnaissance, surveillance, coast guard and border patrol missions, as well as for civilian purposes. On the eve of the test flight, Valery Yakhnovets, the defense minister of the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia, threatened to destroy any Georgian aircraft, including UAVs, detected in South Ossetia’s airspace. Georgia has operated Israeli-made drones purchased from the Elbit Systems defense electronics company under a 2007 contract. However, following the August 2008 war with Russia over South Ossetia, Georgia moved to develop its own drones, canceling its contract with Israel. In late February, WikiLeaks released an email exchange between employees of Stratfor, the US-based global intelligence company, revealing that Israel has provided the Russian military with secret codes for Georgian drones, in exchange for information on missile systems that Russia sold to Iran. (RIA Novosti)
RED CROSS MAKES FIRST VISIT TO TURKMENISTAN JAIL
Turkmenistan has allowed a Red Cross delegation to visit one of its prisons for the first time since the nation's independence, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said. The Red Cross delegates, including a doctor, made a round of one of the penitentiaries of Turkmenistan's interior ministry last week, ICRC stated on its website. The delegation also visited the construction site of a future prison. It did not identify the penitentiaries or provide other details. "These visits are a stage in Turkmenistan's many-sided cooperation with the ICRC," the Red Cross said, delegates had also met Turkmen interior and foreign ministry officials "to discuss terms of new steps in this direction". The United Nations Committee against Torture has expressed concern about allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment and of enforced disappearances in custody in Turkmenistan. New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its recent annual report that Turkmenistan remains one of the world's most repressive countries. Official data on the number of prisoners in the nation of 5.5 million are not available. Each year thousands of prison inmates are amnestied on big national holidays. "Turkmenistan continued to expand relations with foreign governments and international organizations, but with no meaningful outcomes for human rights," HRW said. After winning 97 percent of the vote in a February presidential election in which he had no real rivals, President Berdymukhamedov said he would allow the launch of two new political parties in his one-party state. Analysts say the new parties are unlikely to pose any challenge to his absolute rule. (Reuters)
AN REFILE-RWE TO START TURKMEN DRILLING IN 2013
A unit of Germany's RWE AG will start drilling on the Turkmen part of the Caspian Sea shelf in the first quarter of 2013, a Turkmen government official said on Wednesday. In 2009 RWE signed a deal to develop the so-called "Block 23" on Turkmenistan's Caspian shelf. RWE is one of a few foreign companies working on the Turkmen Caspian shelf. Analysts say fields there are more risky and less lucrative than onshore deposits eyed by Western energy majors. Turkmenistan says it will only hire foreign firms as contractors.
"RWE Dea AG has announced a number of international tenders - on providing services for hydrocarbon gas detection as well as for cable cabotage services - which are needed for drilling and exploration works near the twon of Ekerem," the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. "The start of the work is scheduled for the first quarter of 2013." Turkmenistan holds a joint fourth place in the world with Saudi Arabia according to its natural gas reserves, BP data show. The contract with the German company is important for the ex-Soviet state of 5.5 million which wants to diversify gas sales beyond Russia, China and Iran, because RWE is a shareholder of Nabucco, the planned gas pipeline which is set to bypass Russia and serve the European market. (Reuters)
AZERBAIJAN TOUTS NATURAL GAS POTENTIAL
Azerbaijan is preparing for the development of the second phase of the Shah Deniz gas field and is setting sights on a pipeline for Europe, an official said. State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic President Rovnag Abdullayev said natural gas production in Azerbaijan increased from 176 billion cubic feet in 2004 to 918 billion cubic feet last year. "Currently, preparations for realization of the second phase of the development of Shah Deniz gas condensate field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea is under completion within the plans to increase gas production in the country," he was quoted by the Trend news service as saying. Abdullayev said increasing gas production was "of great importance" to Azerbaijan considering expectations of growing natural gas demand from European countries. Europe is looking to Azeri gas as a means to break the Russian stranglehold on the regional energy sector. A series of transit networks included in the so-called Southern Corridor would eventually transit natural gas supplies from the Caspian region to European consumers. Abdullayev said Baku was in the process of choosing among the network of pipelines included in the Southern Corridor. Work is under way, he added, on the Trans-Anatolia gas pipeline planned with Turkish Pipeline Corp. "This pipeline will allow meeting gas demand of brotherly country and Europe," he said. (UPI)
IRAN COURTS TAJIKISTAN AS ENERGY PARTNER
The Iranian government is eager to work with Tajikistan on hydroelectric power and natural gas, the Iranian ambassador to Dushanbe said. Iranian Ambassador to Tajikistan Aliasgar Sherdust told the Trend news service that both sides viewed energy ties as mutually beneficial. Tajikistan, he said, runs an energy surplus in the summer while Iran tends to have more energy available in winter months. In terms of hydroelectric power, he said Tehran would work in the country to help with the development of two power stations that could produce as much as 220 megawatts of power. "Tehran is well aware of the potential of Tajikistan, in particular in the field of hydropower, and a special program to attract future investment in this area was prepared in this sector," he said. In March, the envoy said, delegates from the Iranian and Afghan governments visited Tajikistan to discuss natural gas exports. "According to the agreement reached by the heads of Tajikistan, Iran and Afghanistan in Dushanbe, a pipeline from Iran to Tajikistan through Afghanistan and further to Kyrgyzstan and China will be built," he said. (UPI)
NATO TIED TO AFGHANISTAN BEYOND 2014
The goals and timetable for the international mission in Afghanistan remain fundamentally unchanged, the NATO secretary-general said in Kabul. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to discuss NATO's commitment to Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline for the departure of international forces. Rasmussen said a transition in which Afghan forces would be in charge of security operations would be completed by the end of 2014. "That goal remains unchanged. Our timetable remains unchanged," he said in a statement. "And our commitment to our partnership with the Afghan people beyond 2014 remains strong." Last week, NATO forces handed over security responsibility over Lashkar Gah, the largest city in Helmand province, ending a transition process that began in July. Rasmussen said Afghan forces were in charge of 40 percent of all conventional operations in the country. At next month's NATO summit in Chicago, he said, allies would discuss how NATO would provide training assistance and support once transition is completed. "Let me be clear: NATO is here as Afghanistan's partner for the long term," he said. "That is our message to the people of Afghanistan, to the enemies of Afghanistan and to Afghanistan's neighbors." (UPI)
KEEPING KYRGYZ WOMEN HOME
A female member of Kyrgyzstan's parliament recently suggested that women under the age of 22 should be banned from leaving the country for work.
“By drafting this bill we are trying to protect them from mental and physical abuse and to guard their honor and dignity," Yrgal Kadyralieva said.
"Parents have to send their daughters to work abroad. In Kazakhstan, Russia, or any other country, young uneducated Kyrgyz women experience difficulties, working in low-paid jobs, their rights being infringed. It is better to provide them now with proper protection from the woes and put a full stop in this problem before it is too late."
While hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz have long sought work abroad in Russia or Kazakhstan, recently the proportion of young women leaving to look for work has risen dramatically.
Women migrants are especially vulnerable to dangers including inhumane work conditions, blackmail and extortion, as well as physical and sexual abuse.
Local media have reported on many cases of women migrants being forced into prostitution, often by other migrants. According to the Kyrgyz parliament, at least 230 babies born to illegal Kyrgyz migrants are living in Moscow orphanages. Aigul Tash, a Kyrgyz NGO in Moscow, says the majority of the mothers were victims of abuse or rape by their own countrymen. Public opinion on the proposed bill varies, with most Kyrgyz believing it's necessary and suggesting a referendum. Others think the law violates women's rights and women desperate for work will find a way around it anyway. (RFE/RL)
AZERBAIJAN ARRESTS SUSPECTS IN ARMS SMUGGLING
A group of Iranians and Azeris has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling arms and military supplies from Iran into Azerbaijan, the Azeri National Security Ministry said on Thursday. "It was a group of seven people, citizens of Iran and Azerbaijan," Arif Babayev, the ministry spokesman, told Reuters. Relations between Iran and neighbouring mountainous Azerbaijan have soured in recent months as Tehran accused it of assisting Israeli intelligence in the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists. The National Security Ministry said the group also smuggled in a large quantity of narcotics from Iran into Azerbaijan. In a separate incident, Baku arrested 22 Azeri citizens suspected of spying for Iran and plotting to attack Western embassies and companies in March. Two months earlier, two men were arrested in Azerbaijan on suspicion of plotting attacks on foreigners, including the Israeli ambassador and a rabbi. Authorities said the two suspects had been helped by an Iranian linked to Iran's intelligence services, who supplied them with guns and explosives to smuggle from Iran. Baku traditionally has had cordial ties with Tehran, but has grown increasingly wary of the increasing influence of Iran's influence in the secular, but predominantly Muslim, former Soviet state. (Reuters)
UZBEKISTAN RELEASES A POLITICAL PRISONER, BUT RIGHTS ABUSES CONTINUE
The release of Alisher Karamatov, Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Steve Swerdlow says, shouldn't obscure a crackdown against activists and journalists in Uzbekistan that began earlier this year. A statement published by the rights group today documents several recent arbitrary acts. In January, an Uzbek court added a 5-year extension to the sentence of Muhammad Bekjanov, former editor of the political opposition newspaper "Erk," only days before the expiration of his original 13-year prison sentence. Bekjanov, who has been in jail since 1999, and Yusuf Ruzimuradov, another Uzbek reporter behind bars, have been in prison longer than any other journalist worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In a case in February, Uzbekistan's government-controlled bar association affirmed a lower commission’s ruling to disbar Ruhiddin Komilov, a leading human rights lawyer. In March, authorities at Tashkent International airport deported the BBC’s Natalia Antelava and Viktoriya Ivleva of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta upon their arrival in the country. HRW counts 10 human rights defenders in Uzbekistan who are currently "in prison for no reason other than their legitimate human rights work." These include Solijon Abdurakhmanov, a journalist from the remote Karakalpakstan region who free-lanced for RFE/RL's Uzbek service, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 on fabricated charges of narcotics possession and distribution. (RFE/RL)
TURKMEN HEAD SAYS GDP UP 10.4 PCT, CHIDES ENERGY OFFICIAL
Turkmenistan's gas-fuelled economy grew 10.4 percent year-on-year in January-March, President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was quoted as saying, but he also reprimanded a senior official for not doing enough to develop the key energy sector. First quarter growth was lower than the 14.4 percent year on year rise in GDP in first quarter 2011. Turkmenistan, which has the world's fourth largest natural gas reserves, had GDP growth of 14.7 percent in 2011, up from 9.2 percent in 2010. Official data show that Turkmenistan's natural gas reserves equal those of Saudi Arabia and are the world's fourth biggest. The country has output capacity of 75 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year, but industry analysts estimate actual production at 40-42 bcm or slightly higher, mainly due to a fall in exports to its traditional market, Russia. Berdymukhamedov chastised Deputy Prime Minister Baymurad Hojamuhamedov, who is responsible for the energy sector, "strongly reprimanding him ... for the slow tempo of developing oil and gas deposits", state media reported. Auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates ranked Turkmenistan's South Iolotan gas field as the world's second largest after South Pars in Iran, saying in October 2011 that it could contain between 13.1 trillion and 21.2 trillion cubic metres. Buoyed by the estimate, Berdymukhamedov issued a decree ordering his people to call the South Iolotan field and infrastructure "Galkynys" - the Turkmen word for "Renaissance". (Reuters)
DEPUTY PM: TURKEY DOES NOT OPEN BORDER WITH ARMENIA DUE TO AZERBAIJANI TERRITORY OCCUPATION
Turkey does not open its border with Armenia because of the occupation of Azerbaijani territory, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in his speech at the Conference "Foreign policy and public diplomacy of Turkey" at the Uludag University, the Beyazqazete agency reported on Saturday. Thanks to its "zero problems" policy with its neighbors, Ankara plans to improve relations with the region's countries, Arinc said. "As a result of Ankara's policy, relations with Russia and Georgia have been normalized," Arinc said. Turkish and Armenian Foreign Ministers Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandyan signed Protocols of normalization of bilateral relations in Zurich on Oct.10, 2009. The Protocols need to be ratified by the parliaments of the two countries in order to enter into force. Turkish government earlier stated that relations between Ankara and Yerevan will be restored after Armenia withdraws its forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent 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 the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions. (Trend)
ATTACKS ON KABUL DEFEATED; MEANING UNCLEAR
The commander of Western forces in Afghanistan said officials were analyzing the significance of Sunday's blunted Taliban raid on Kabul. Guerrillas overran a major hotel in the city and attacked diplomatic compounds, including the U.S. Embassy, but were by and large driven off by the end of the day. The Taliban announced the attacks were part of a major spring offensive; however, U.S. Gen. John Allen said in a written statement the circumstances were still being scrutinized. "No one is underestimating the seriousness of today's attacks, and we'll work hard to determine the circumstances that led to today's events," said Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force. Afghan security officials said in a written statement that the attacks were "ineffective" and said about 13 militants had been killed and 15 captured, including two alleged suicide bombers who were nabbed before they could reach their targets. Allen credited the skills of Afghan security forces in quelling the attacks, and said the attacks were a sign the Taliban was losing its ability to prevent Afghanistan from stabilizing. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker went so far as to question whether the attacks were even the work of the Taliban or rather the Haddaqi terror network. "The Taliban are very good at issuing statements, less good at fighting," he told CNN. (UPI)
AFGHAN ATTACKS SHOW NATO FAILURE - KARZAI
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday a coordinated attack on the country’s capital Kabul and three provinces on Sunday were a failure on the part of NATO and domestic intelligence forces. “The fact that terrorists were able to infiltrate Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO, and should be seriously investigated,” the Afghan leader said in a statement. He, however, praised the country’s security officers for preventing further escalation of violence and saving the lives of dozens of civilians, saying they “proved to the people their ability to defend their land on their own.” According to the presidential press service, four civilians and 11 security officers were killed on Sunday and overnight in a series of attacks on Kabul’s heavily guarded government district and the eastern Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces. 32 civilians and 46 officers were injured. The attacks came as Western forces prepare to leave the country under a plan to hand over full responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the violence, which they described as a “coordinated attack” to demonstrate that its members can strike whenever and wherever they chose. A spokesman for the militants said the attack targeted the embassies of Germany and the U.K., as well as the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). (RIA Novosti)
UZBEKISTAN RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO TAJIKISTAN
Uzbekistan resumed pumping natural gas to Tajikistan after signing a contract to end a 15-day stoppage that soured relations between the Central Asian neighbours and threatened disruption to the fragile Tajik economy. Gas flows to Tajikistan had resumed in accordance with a contract signed on April 11. A representative of Tajik state company TajikTransGaz said the contract guaranteed the supply of 155 million cubic metres of Uzbek gas between now and the end of the year at an initial price of $264 per thousand cubic metre. The severance of Uzbek gas supplies from April 1 had posed a threat to the economy in Tajikistan, the poorest of 15 former Soviet republics, by forcing a state-run cement plant to halt output and an aluminium smelter to reconsider expansion plans. Uzbekistan had said it needed the extra gas volumes for supply to China. A three-month contract with Tajikistan that expired on March 31 was not renewed in time to prevent the stoppage. Some analysts in Tajikistan saw political overtones in the decision to cut gas needed by the largest cement firm involved in a project to build a huge hydroelectric power station that Uzbekistan says would disrupt water supplies downstream. Besides Tajik Cement, the biggest loser from any cut in gas supplies from Uzbekistan would be a state-run aluminium smelter that contributes more than half of the country's entire export revenues. Tajikistan Aluminium Company, or TALCO, had said a prolonged cessation of gas supplies would require it to abandon plans to increase output by around 20 percent this year. (Reuters)
EXPERT: KAZAKHSTAN CITIZENS TRAINED BY TALIBANS MAY COME BACK HOME
Kazakhstan residents gaining fighting experience in Taliban movement in Afghanistan may come back to their homeland and attempt to create terrorist groups under certain circumstances. This, of course, poses a threat for the country and Central Asia in general, political expert Dossym Satpayev thinks. “Military experts are saying that withdrawal of the military forces from Afghanistan by 2014 poses a serious threat because it creates conditions for Taliban to try and restore its status quo and regain control over Afghanistan,” the expert said. “The biggest threat for us is that the citizens of Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, trained in Afghanistan, may come back to their home regions. If that happens, they will try to create terrorist groups. These people are not dilettantes who make bombs following instructions from the Internet. They know what military actions are,” Satpayev adds. The expert notes that young people of Kazakhstan are participating in organization of terrorist attacks abroad more frequently these days. Satpayev stresses that the recent series of terrorist attacks in Kazakhstan testifies that the “social environment in Kazakhstan is favorable for recruiting of our citizens and exporting them abroad for military operations … We should not forget that our young people often were to study in the countries with strong radical positions, like Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Some of them came back after certain training,” Satpayev says. “And we are currently seeing another wave, when Kazakhstan citizens are displaying the activity. These are dangerous trends.” (Tengri News)
AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST WINS UNESCO PRIZE
A U.N. organization has selected an Azerbaijani journalist as the winner of an annual prize honoring those who advocate for freedom of the press. Eynulla Fatullayev, 35, is the winner of the 2012 U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the United Nations said in a release. Fatullayev is former editor-in-chief of the Russian Language weekly Realny Azerbaijan, as well as the Azeri-language daily Gundalik Azarbaycan. He is well known for his criticisms of the Azerbaijani government's violations of human rights and press freedom. He endured years of assault and death threats, finally suspending the publication of both newspapers when his father was kidnapped. He was imprisoned in 2007 for four years for criticizing government policies and was released by presidential pardon last year. During his incarceration, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists lobbied for his release. In 2011, Amnesty International classified him as a "priority case." The award is named for Guillermo Cano, a newspaper publisher murdered for decrying the powerful drug bosses in his native Colombia in 1987. The prize was created in 1997 to honor reporters and publishers who put their lives on the line to promote freedom of expression around the world. (UPI)
KAZAKHSTAN INSISTS ON POSITION REGARDING KYRGYZSTAN'S GAS DEBT
KazTransGas intends to maintain its position with regard to Kyrgyzgaz regarding the repayment of its gas debt on time, KTG official Daulet Arykbaev told Trend on Monday. "According to the agreement signed with the Kyrgyz side, which term expires on April 30 this year, Kazakhstan had to supply 240 million cubic meters of gas in Kyrgyzstan since the autumn of last year. As previously reported, the Kazakh KTG warned that it will stop gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan from May 1 due to Kyrgyzgaz’s debt amounting to $ 7.5 million. "Today, Kyrgyzstan's debt to the JSC KazTransGas is $7.5 million, to the airline UzTransGas - $800.000. A warning from Kazakhstan came that if we not pay debts, then they can stop gas supply from May 1," CEO Turgunbek Kulmurzaev said at a meeting of Kyrgyzgaz shareholders on April 16, 2012. Kulmurzaev added that Kyrgyzgaz sold 249.3 million cubic meters of gas at $ 4 billion 89.9 million soum (100 soum = $2.1355) in 2011. The amount of dues payments totaled 4 billion 39.3 million soum or 98.9 percent. Kulmurzaev said the people pay the bills for gas timely. The main debtors are budgetary organizations. Government is taking steps to repay the debts of Kyrgyzzhilkommunsoyuz state enterprise. The allocation of 100 million soum from the budget is expected this week, he said.
FEED WORK BEGINS AT SHAH DENIZ 2
Starting Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) work at the Shah Deniz 2 gas field in the Azeri waters of the Caspian Sea means a decision on pipeline routes is forthcoming, a consortium said. The consortium managing the Shah Deniz 2 gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan said it started work on front end engineering and design. The consortium, led by BP, said the entry into FEED means more wells will be drilled and commercial agreements will be finalized for the giant offshore natural gas field. "With over 30 trillion cubic feet of gas resources, Shah Deniz is truly a giant field," Rashid Javanshir, president of the Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey region of BP, said in a statement. Shah Deniz 2 will provide gas from the Caspian Sea to consumer markets in Turkey and Europe through the so-called Southern Corridor of natural gas transit networks. Agreements are in place to build the Trans Anatolia Pipeline through Turkey. An initial smaller phase of the planned 2,100-mile Nabucco pipeline, dubbed Nabucco West, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and the South East Europe Pipeline are in the running for natural gas from Shah Deniz 2. The BP-led consortium will make a route decision next year. First gas from Shah Deniz 2 is expected at the end of 2017. (UPI)