Three Georgian Special Forces personnel and eleven militants were killed in northeastern Georgia close to the Dagestan section of the Georgian-Russian border, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported on August 29. The fierce clash between Georgian troops and a well-armed paramilitary group of around twenty people seemingly confirmed Tbilisi’s concerns about possible spillover of instability from the North Caucasus to Georgia and Russian attempts to destabilize the situation in the country prior to the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On August 29, Kazakhstan hosted an international conference entitled “From the ban on nuclear testing to a world free of nuclear weapons.” This high-level gathering attended by representatives of more than 70 countries from five continents was organized to commemorate the International Day against Nuclear Tests, which became a UN holiday in 2010 following Kazakhstan’s proposal. Twenty years ago, President Nazarbayev adopted one of his first decrees as the leader of an independent Kazakhstan, closing down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test facility, established by the Soviet Union in 1949, that served as a launching site for hundreds of missiles. According to official statistics, the Semipalatinsk facility was used for over 500 nuclear explosions. The adverse effects of such nuclear tests, including high levels of radiation, have directly impacted the health of around 1.5 million Kazakh citizens, especially those living in close vicinity.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake visited Uzbekistan on August 16 as a part of a tour to several Central Asian countries to present the “New Silk Road” strategy. The presentation was originally planned to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan. However, the top-ranking U.S. official suddenly changed his plans and moved the location for the round table on economic integration in Central Asia with business leaders to Tashkent. During the meeting the parties discussed a range of bilateral issues, including regional stability and security, democracy and human rights, counter-narcotics, education and cultural exchanges, and economic development and trade. The reasons for this sudden change of plans and the increased attention to Uzbekistan caused extensive speculation in local media about the reasons behind it and possible future developments in the bilateral relations between these two states.
International mediators of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday that Azerbaijan's decision to pardon an Azerbaijani soldier who killed an Armenian officer had damaged the peace process in the region.
South Korea has taken a very interesting step lately with its embrace of Emomali Rahmon’s regime in Tajikistan. Earlier this month, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi was in Seoul to attend the 6th Republic of Korea-Central Asia Cooperation Forum. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Korea-Tajikistan official diplomatic relations. Over the past decade, South Korea’s diplomatic and business clout in Central Asia has surged and presented a formidable challenge to the pre-eminence of the traditional players in the region such as Russia, the U.S. and China.
In late July, Kazakhstan’s capital hosted the sixth subcommittee meeting on trade and economic relations of the Kazakhstan-China Cooperation Committee. The Committee was established in May 2004 in order to deepen the bilateral relationship and reinforce the ever growing strategic partnership between Astana and Beijing. On this occasion, the deputy minister of external trade of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Yaopin, who headed the Chinese delegation, requested the Kazakh Government to simplify entry procedures for Chinese nationals who wish to work on Kazakhstan’s territory.
Competition is increasing among pipeline projects aspiring to bring Caspian gas to the European market. According to BP Azerbaijan, the main partners in the development of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field, including BP, aim to participate in each pipeline project transporting gas to Europe: “That includes the South Caucasus Pipeline, TANAP and TAP/ Nabucco West,” according to a BP representative.
Negotiations on the extended presence of the Russian military bases in Tajikistan are ongoing since September, 2011 and both sides term the negotiation process “long and complicated.” Russian senior military officials regularly make media statements blaming Tajikistan for delaying the negotiations and demanding unacceptable conditions for the new treaty. In return, Tajik senior governmental officials either refrain from public statements or highlight the strategic partnership between Russia and Tajikistan and the constructive dialogue between two countries.
On July 21, a Major General of the State Committee on National Security of Tajikistan (SCNST), Abdullo Nazarov was killed near Khorog, which is the major city of Gorno Badakhshan Autonomus Oblast (GBAO) in Tajikistan (known as the Pamir region). According to an official statement of the SCNST and the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs, the General was killed by a local criminal group. The asymmetric response of the Government was a large scale special operation in Khorog by the security and military forces involving armed vehicles and helicopters.
On May 30, a Kazakhstani border patrol operating in the country’s east made a gruesome discovery: 15 people who had been recruited to guard the Kazakh-Chinese border in a remote mountain outpost were found dead. Their charred bodies were scattered around the ruins of what used to be the wooden barracks of the Kazakh border protection service. Speaking at an extraordinary session of Kazakhstan’s National Security Council the following day, President Nursultan Nazarbayev called this incident a terrorist attack and promised to mobilize all available personnel of the Ministry of internal affairs, the National Security Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate its circumstances. According to the already existing practice introduced in the wake of the December 2011 unrest in the western town of Zhanaozen, Nazarbayev ordered the establishment of a special investigative commission endowed with extensive authority.