News Digest

28 October 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/28/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)


14 October

14 October 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/15/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Foes say Saakashvili distorted war report
1 October
Georgia's opposition rounded on President Mikheil Saakashvili after a damning report on last year's war with Russia, and one former ally accused him of distorting its findings to deceive the Georgian people. The Georgian government and the country's main television broadcasters said the independent report, commissioned by the European Union and released on September 30, pinned the blame for the five-day war on Russia. Opposition leader and former Saakashvili ally Nino Burjanadze said the government was concealing the report's key finding -- that Georgia began full-scale hostilities with an unjustifiable assault on the pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia. The report said the assault was the culmination of a long period of increasing tensions, provocations and incidents, and added that Russia's military response went beyond reasonable limits and violated international law.
But it said the five-day conflict began with Saakashvili's order to unleash heavy artillery on South Ossetia on August 7, which was followed by a devastating Russian counter-strike.  "Again, the Georgian authorities have tried through their controlled media to hide the truth from their people," Burjanadze told a news briefing in the capital, Tbilisi. "The hiding and mutilation of the facts in the report is also a crime." Saakashvili himself has so far been silent on the report. He survived months of opposition protests earlier this year against his record on democracy and last year's war.  Analysts forecast renewed pressure after the report's publication, but say another leadership challenge from a weak opposition appears unlikely. Another defector from Saakashvili's camp, former UN ambassador Irakly Alasania, said in an interview with Reuters that the 41-year-old president had damaged Georgia's international standing with his "irresponsible" actions. "It was his decision that really triggered full escalation," he said, speaking in English. "But there were the whole set of preconditions and provocations that we can also blame the Russian Federation for." The opposition has been careful to balance criticism of Saakashvili's conduct with contempt for Russia's military action, for fear of being labeled traitors by the authorities. The Georgian government insists the war was the result of Russian aggression after years of intensifying Russian political and military support for separatists in South Ossetia and Georgia's other rebel region, Abkhazia. (Reuters)

China buying Kazakh energy assets
2 October
China is continuing its purchases of Kazakh energy assets. Xinhua news agency reported Thursday that the China Investment Corp., the country's sovereign wealth fund, Wednesday announced it had paid $939 million for a stake in Kazakhstan's JSC KazMunaiGas Exploration Production oil and gas company. The CIC is China's sovereign wealth fund, with a capitalization estimated at $300 billion. According to a statement on the CIC Web site, the corporation purchased about 11 percent of KMG EP's Global Depository Receipts through its Fullbloom Investment Corp. subsidiary, which is wholly owned by CIC. KMG EP's stock is listed on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange and its GDRs are traded on the London Stock Exchange. Following the CIC announcement of its purchase KMG's GDRs rose 9.95 percent to $22.10 in London trading. In April China National Petroleum Corp. agreed with Kazakhstan's state oil firm KazMunaiGas to jointly buy oil producer MangistauMunaiGas for $3.3 billion. (UPI)

30 September 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/01/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)



30 September 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (10/01/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)
U.S. sees Turkmenistan as energy leader
22 September
The U.S. government expressed its desire to see Turkmenistan emerge as a leader in terms of energy security and energy supply, officials say. Robert Blake, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the South and  bureau, briefed reporters on a bilateral meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. "On the energy front, the secretary said that we want to see Turkmenistan really be a leader in terms of energy security and energy supply," said Blake.  He added that Turkmenistan had an "important role to play" in the development of the $10.3 billion Nabucco pipeline for Europe. A January gas row between Kiev and Moscow exposed gaps in the regional energy transport sector. Europe aims to diversify its gas transport options through Nabucco. Nabucco is designed to have the capacity to move 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year to European customers from Caspian and Middle Eastern suppliers. The pipeline would run from the Caspian region through Turkey to Austria along a route through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Despite political backing for the project, it lacks firm commitments from potential gas suppliers. Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the Nabucco international consortium, however, said supply options were diverse. "We see Azerbaijan, Iraq and Turkmenistan as the first suppliers," he told an Azeri press service. "Other options will also be considered in the future." (UPI)

Saakashvili meets Clinton
22 September
In remarks before the meeting with President Saakashvili in New York on September 21, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reiterated Washington’s support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and democratic reforms. “We are working to try to ensure that Russia abides by the 2008 ceasefire, and hopefully to eventually reintegrate your country as it should be,” Clinton said. “We also know that working toward democracy and the changes that you’re attempting to achieve are challenging, but we want to support and encourage the steps that need to be taken. And the United States supports Georgia, and we want to make that very clear and unequivocal statement here today. President Saakashvili thanked the Secretary of State “for all the support you’ve given us.” “I also saw your article [on missile defense] this morning in the Financial Times of London, and it was very impressive because the message was very clear-cut, very unambiguous… and we are very grateful to you for that moral clarity, as well as strategic vision of what U.S. role in our region should be,” Saakashvili told the Secretary of State before the meeting. Clinton responded: “We think this approach is much more effective, and it will certainly cover Georgia and the Caucasus and it will send a clear message that the United States is committed to the defense of all of Europe in the years going forward. Thank you very much.”After the meeting Philip H. Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told journalists that during the talks, Clinton emphasized that the U.S. “does not and will not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” (Civil Georgia)

16 September 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (09/16/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

2 September 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (09/06/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

tajik ambassador says youth should not study Islam in Pakistan
20 August
Tajik Ambassador to Pakistan Zubaidullo Zubaidov says Pakistan should remove Tajikistan from a list of countries that illegally send young people to study in Pakistani schools, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Although Tajik officials say they have curbed the number of Tajiks going to Pakistan to study at madrassahs, or religious schools, they are still concerned that an estimated 300 Tajiks are studying there without permission. Zubaidov said that the curriculum and living conditions in such schools are not good and it is better for young Tajiks to study at religious schools in Tajikistan. Davlat Nazriev, chief of the Tajik Foreign Ministry's Information Department, told RFE/RL that most of the Tajik students studying illegally in Pakistan traveled there as tourists and were able to find the means to stay and study.  One young Tajik man told RFE/RL he was sent to a Pakistani madrasah during the Tajik civil war when he was a refugee in Afghanistan and spent five years in very difficult conditions. Tajik Education Ministry official Vahhobjon Abdulazizov told RFE/RL that this year Tajikistan will officially send just 10 students to Pakistan, and that they will study technical subjects. (RFE/RL)

19 August 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (08/19/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)
Iran, Russia conduct naval exercise
30 July
Iran and Russian launched their first-ever joint maritime operations in the Caspian Sea touted as part of an effort to enhance security in the region.The joint operation was launched from the northern Iranian port city of Bandar Anzali under the slogan of "clean and secure Caspian Sea depends on regional interaction," reports the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network. Ali Taher Abadi, the managing director of the Ports and Navigation Organization in Iran, said the operation included measures to stem environmental pollution in the Caspian Sea. Lawmakers with an environmental party in Azerbaijan complained recently that activity related to the energy sector in the Caspian Sea was creating financial difficulties as a result of environmental pollution. Saeed Izadian, who oversees the naval operation for Iran, said 30 advanced boats, 2 Iranian helicopters and around 500 military forces will take part in the exercise alongside their Russian counterparts. He said the strategic emphasis of the operation was meant to train forces on search and rescue operations, adding the exercise fell within the framework of international obligations. Claims to the Caspian Sea are contentious among the littoral states, which are at odds over a 1921 treaty that divided the region between Iran and the Soviet Union. Only Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan have settled their territorial claims in the Caspian Sea, leaving Iran and Turkmenistan with frustrating differences. (UPI)

Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan recognized results of presidential elections legitimate
30 July
The Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan has recognized the presidential elections legitimate and having been held in conformity with the Constitution of the country, the agency reports citing the press service of the Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan. Central Election Committee of Kyrgyzstan directed on July 27th the results of the presidential elections of Kyrgyzstan to the Constitutional Court. According to the Code on Elections, the court must confirm the results not later than seven days after the last election day. Today, the Constitutional Court recognized the presidential elections of the country legitimate. According to the legislation, the elected leader of the state will take the oath to the people of Kyrgyzstan in the presence of deputies of Parliament within 30 days. According to the President's Administration, inauguration is planned for August 2, 2009. The current head of the state, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has received 76.12 % of votes. 1 million 772 thousand 849 people voted for K. Bakiyev. (Kazakhstan Today)

Russia, Kyrgyzstan sign base deal at CSTO summit
1 August
The Russian and Kyrgyz presidents have tentatively agreed to establish a second Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiev signed the deal on the second day of an informal summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, a regional security grouping dominated by Moscow. The three-day summit opened on July 31 at the Kyrgyz lakeside resort of Cholpon-Ata. Under the joint memorandum, Kyrgyzstan allows Russia to establish a military base on its territory for a period of up to 49 years. The document states that Russian forces will be charged with "protecting Kyrgyz sovereignty" and repelling attacks by international terrorist groups. Moscow has said the planned base would operate under the umbrella of the CSTO. A definitive agreement detailing the status of the proposed base is due to be signed by November. This would be Russia's second base in the mountainous ex-Soviet republic. It already operates an air base in Kant, about 20 kilometers east of Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek. The memorandum said the size of the contingent could be up to a battalion but gave no specifics on the location of the new base. Media reports suggest it could be deployed to Batken Province, near the border with Uzbekistan on the edge of the Ferghana Valley, a region that spreads across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and has become a hotbed of Islamic militancy. One potential obstacle to that location might come from Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who is thought to be opposed to the idea of having a Russian base close to his borders. While Moscow may seek to turn an existing military facility near the southern city of Osh into its base, impoverished Kyrgyzstan reportedly wants the military base to be built from scratch using Russian money. (RFE/RL)

Iran must warm to U.S. before Nabucco
3 August
Iran is in a position to play a role in the Nabucco gas pipeline to Europe, though it needs to establish ties with the United States first, analysts say. Turkey hosted regional and international supporters in July for the signing of a milestone intergovernmental agreement on the $10.3 billion Nabucco project. Nabucco is seen as the foundation to European efforts to diversify an energy sector dependent on Russian natural gas. Despite political support for Nabucco, the project lacks financial backing and firm commitments from supplier nations. Janine Mitchell, a research fellow at Columbia University, told an audience at the Center for Strategic Studies under the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan that Iran must first meet with Washington on the issue, the Trend news agency reports. "To ensure Iran's involvement in Nabucco project, it is necessary to restore friendly relations between Iran and the United States," she said.Iran was not specifically included in the provisions of the Ankara agreement in order to win the explicit backing of Washington. The language of the Ankara agreement, however, was crafted in such a way that Iran may still play a role. (UPI)


15 July 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (07/15/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kidnappers Free 16 Afghan demining workers
Sixteen Afghans working for a United Nations-sponsored demining agency who were kidnapped at the weekend have been freed unharmed, an agency official has said. The Mine Detection and Dog Center (MDC) personnel were seized by gunmen on a highway in eastern Paktia province on July 4. The MDC is part of the overall UN mine-clearing agency in Afghanistan known as UNMACA. Sherin Agha Ahmad Shah, head of the MDC in Paktia, said tribal chiefs in the province made contact with the kidnappers and were able to secure the release of the men late on July 5. "The kidnappers were thieves and the tribal chiefs negotiated the release of the workers without any ransom or any deal," he told reporters, without giving further details. The Interior Ministry said in a statement police were also involved in securing their release. Kidnapping of Afghans and foreigners has become a lucrative business both for Taliban insurgents and criminal gangs in recent years. Some captives have been killed while others have been released after ransoms were apparently paid. Separately, no further information has emerged about two Afghan employees working for Dutch aid agency HealthNet TPO (HNI) who the Afghan Health Ministry said were abducted in neighboring Khost Province on July 4. HNI is a Netherlands-based aid agency specializing in rehabilitating health-care systems in war zones and disaster areas. No one has claimed responsibility for their abductions.

1 July 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (07/02/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakh Leader Sacks his defence minister
18 June
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on June 17 fired the Central Asian nation's Defense Minister Danial Akhmetov, the presidential press service said. Nazarbaev's decree gave no reason for the sacking of Akhmetov, a long-term devoted loyalist of the veteran leader whose previous posts included that of prime minister. First Deputy Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev became acting defense minister. In April, Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry was rocked by a scandal when the nation's security service accused it of buying defective military hardware from Israel. A Kazakh deputy defense minister was sacked after the security agency's investigators established the government had incurred losses of $82 million as a result of the deal. (Reuters)

17 June 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (06/19/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

New Wave of arrests reported in Kazakhstan
3 June
More officials and company heads have been arrested in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. Financial Police spokesman Murat Zhumanbai has said that police on June 2 detained KIIK company executives Serik Turzhanov and Aleksandr Nisanov, as well as Statistics Committee Chairman Birlik Mendybaev. Last week, the chief of the Environment Department in Astana, Abdinur Bataev, and Statistics Agency Deputy Chairman Nurman Bayanov were arrested. An investigation of ex-Environment Minister Nurlan Iskakov and his former deputies, Zeynulla Sarsembaev and Alzhan Braliev, were announced and the three have been brought to court for hearings. An international search warrant was also issued for Environment Ministry department director Tatyana Savitskaya and Mercury Plus company director Viktor Lais. All of those arrested face charges of corruption and financial crimes. Early last month, leaders of Kazakhstan's main uranium producer, Kazatomprom, were detained and accused of financial crimes. Prominent banker and politician Mukhtar Ablyazov left Kazakhstan with his associates earlier this year after the authorities took over his BTA bank and launched an investigation into his business activities. Relatives of some of those detained say the charges are baseless and opposition leaders and activists insist the wave of arrests is politically motivated. (RFE/RL)

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