News Digest

3 June 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (06/03/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Baku ratified deal with Total
22 May
The Azeri Parliament ratified on Friday an exploration and development contract for the offshore Absheron field in the Caspian Sea with French company Total. Total takes a 60 percent stake in a joint venture with the State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan Republic from a contract signed between both parties in February. Estimated gas reserves at Absheron are believed to be on par with the massive Shah Deniz field, which holds estimated potential recoverable resources of roughly 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Total reserves the option to sell its shares to Gaz de France Suez in the future while financing SOCAR's shares during the exploratory period at the Absheron field, the Trend news agency reports. Total and SOCAR will drill three wells at the site within the next three years.Azerbaijan boasts some of the largest gas fields in the world, with Baku expecting to produce as much as 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by 2011. (UPI)

20 May 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (05/20/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

only Tajik-Chinese border crossing reopens
7 May
The only border crossing between Tajikistan and China has reopened for the spring, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. Mirafzun Mirafzunov, chief of the custom's service in Tajikistan's mountainous Kohistan-Badakhshan Province, told RFE/RL that the Kulma border post was reopened on May 5 but that deep snow on roads in the Murghob and Shughnon districts will prevent Chinese traders from transporting goods into Tajikistan. On the eve of the Summer Olympic Games last year, China closed Kulma and all Tajik merchants had to go to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, and fly to China in order to conduct business.The Kulma border post was established in 2004 and is usually open from spring until the end of autumn. Provincial customs officials say that last year Tajik businesses imported $7.5 million worth of goods from China, including some 5,000 Chinese-made cars. (RFE/RL)

6 MAy 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (05/06/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

AZERBAIJAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TURKEY

22 April News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (04/22/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Tajik Parliament approves controversial restitution treaty
10
April
The Tajik parliament's lower house has approved the CIS Treaty on Restitution, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. Deputy Culture Minister Mirali Dostiev told the parliament that ratification of the treaty would help bring back home all the artwork and historic valuables lost and stolen during the 1992-97 civil war in Tajikistan. However, Abduvali Sharifov, the head of the Tajik National Museum, says that the ratification of the treaty is not enough. According to him, a list of the lost and stolen historic valuables should be created. Sharifov says that Tajikistan's attempts to have the ancient art masterpiece known as the Treasure of Amu-Dariya repatriated from the British Museum were fruitless in the past, in part because Tajik authorities failed to prove property rights to the British Museum. Another example, Sharifov says, is the fact that a huge number of historic documents, valuable artwork, and other ancient materials from Central Asia are still held in Russia's Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and there is no way to return them to the now independent states. (RFE/RL)

8 April 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (04/08/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

 

RUSSIA OPEN TO MODERATE TALIBAN CONTACTS

25 March 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (03/26/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Putin will visit Armenia IN May 2009

12 March

13 March 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (03/11/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Three British Troops Killed In South Afghanistan
26 February
An explosion killed three British soldiers in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province, a spokesman for NATO-led forces has said, where U.S. troops are due to be sent to try to turn the tide against Taliban insurgents. President Barack Obama last week ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops to southern Afghanistan and many of them will be sent to Helmand, the world's biggest opium-producing region, where British troops clashes daily with Taliban insurgents. The blast happened while the troops were on an escort operation in the Girishk district of Helmand Province on February 25, the British Defense Ministry said. A helicopter was called in to evacuate the soldiers, but a doctor pronounced the men dead on the helicopter before they could reach hospital. Military commanders predict violence will rise further from last year's record levels as the extra U.S. troops enter the south and attempt to clear insurgent strongholds. (Reuters)

25 February 2008 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (02/25/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

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Iran enters Tajik energy market as U.S. and Russia idle
12 February
Iran is filling an investment gap in Tajikistan left by the United States and Russia, agreeing to spend on hydropower and other quality-of-life projects. Iran has offered to help Tajikistan complete the construction of the 3,600 megawatt Rogun hydroelectric power station on the Vakhsh River, 70 miles east of the capital, Dushanbe. If built, it would be Central Asia's largest.  Begun in 1976, Rogun, if completed, would have been the world's highest dam, at 1,099 feet, but Moscow assigned it a lower priority. Until last month Dushanbe looked to Moscow as its best potential partner for achieving its hydroelectric dreams. In 2004 the Tajik government and Russia's Rusal aluminum company concluded an agreement to complete Rogun, whose electricity would be used to produce aluminum, but construction was stymied because of technical differences between Dushanbe and Rusal over the facility's specifications. In late August 2007 the Tajik government declared the agreement null and void but was unable to raise sufficient foreign interest to fund the estimated $3.4 billion needed to complete Rogun, which by this time was 40 percent finished. Tajikistan remained optimistic that outstanding differences with the Kremlin over Rogun could be resolved, particularly since Russia is already a significant player in the Tajik energy market. The 670-megawatt, four-unit Sangtuda 1 hydroelectric project, currently under construction in southeastern Tajikistan, is a joint Tajik-Russian project in which Russia has a stake of more than 75 percent. Tajik hopes that Moscow might still participate in finishing Rogun were dashed last month, however, during a state visit to vast natural gas holder Uzbekistan by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The Uzbeks fear Rogun would harm the supply of water to agricultural needs in downstream states.Medvedev told journalists during the visit that new Central Asian hydroelectric facilities should be built taking into account not only the neighboring countries' interests but also international legal definitions of transboundary rivers' flows, adding Moscow "would refrain" from projects lacking legal accords. Tajikistan, furious at Moscow's apparent siding with Uzbekistan, delivered a formal note of protest to the Russian government. Iran saw -- and seized -- the opportunity. During a Feb. 8 news conference in Dushanbe, Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Sherdust told reporters his country would assist in completing Rogun "both at the governmental level and via the private sector." Iran is also helping Tajikistan develop another hydroelectric project at Shurob. If completed, Rogun would even allow Tajikistan to export electricity, most notably to its power-starved southern neighbor, Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan. In turn, last week Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who stated that he backed Tajik initiatives on use of regional water resources. Iran is preparing to put its cash into a "quality of life" project that Tajiks, who have suffered electricity cuts this winter of up to 14 hours, will view with gratitude. (UPI)

11 February News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (02/11/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

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Azerbaijan, Armenia recognize progress at talks on Karabakh
29 January
Baku and Yerevan have recognized progress at the recent  talks  on  the  Nagorno-Karabakh  settlement  held by the presidents   and   foreign   ministers  of  Azerbaijan  and  Armenia  in Switzerland. "New as  well  as  older principles were discussed," Azeri Foreign Minister  Elmar Mamedyarov told journalists. There are certain unsettled issues in the basic principles  that  were  discussed at presidential level, he said. "Each of the presidents expressed his opinion in an atmosphere of mutual understanding. Naturally, this is a complex process but we should be moving forward. There is no alternative to it," Mamedyarov said. "Both  presidents  recognized  certain  dynamics  in  tackling  the Karabakh  conflict  meaning  that  the sides are beginning to understand each other  better  from  meeting  to  meeting and trying to resolve the existing problems," Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandian said. "I want to say that currently the settlement principles are being developed. After the key principles are agreed the sides will start work on basic documents," Nalbandian said. U.S. cochairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Matthew Bryza spoke of the productiveness of the presidential meeting. There is development, dynamics  has  increased,  and  this  is a positive element, he said. (Interfax)

28 January News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (01/28/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Estonia embraces Azeri energy resources

15 January

Estonia joined a chorus of voices embracing European plans to diversify its energy sector through ties with Azerbaijan, ministers said."Europe's energy demand grows from year to year," said Estonian Economic and Communications Minister Juhan Parts. "Azerbaijani gas may and must be represented on the (European) market." His comments came during the first visit to Baku by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who led a delegation of high-ranking officials to the Azeri capital this week. European customers are scrambling for alternative resources to relieve a market dependent on Russian energy. Ilves said the current gas crisis between Ukraine and Russia, which left Europe in the cold, prompted renewed efforts toward that goal, Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported. "The current crisis (surrounding supplies of Russian natural gas to Europe via Ukraine) shows that dependence on one kind of energy resources, including natural gas, may be dangerous for Europe," said the Estonian president. Speaking on the planned Nabucco gas pipeline from Caspian and Middle Eastern suppliers to Europe, Ilves said that while his country is a member of the European community, its domestic energy policy is not biased."Estonia, as a member of the EU, is guided by the energy security principle and does not argue against one or another route of energy supplies," he said. (UPI)

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