Eurasia News Week in Review

A round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around Central Eurasia over the last week:

Central Asia

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization held its annual summit in Bishkek on September 13. Heads of state of the six SCO members – Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan – attended, as did those of observer states Afghanistan, Iran, and Mongolia. Discussions centered around regional security threats posed by the departure of coalition forces from Afghanistan starting in 2014. “We are obliged to support our neighbor both morally and materially in this crucial moment of its history,” Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon told the gathering. Before the summit, Armenia said that it would like to become an observer in the group.

  • Prior to the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a four-nation visit through Central Asia, signing several large energy deals and dramatically strengthening its economic ties in the region. China may also get involved in establishing a civilian cargo hub at Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport to replace the air base that the United States is vacating in Manas in July of next year, officials in Bishkek said.

The Caucasus

  • A former official in Azerbaijan’s security services has said that the government of Azerbaijan is shipping weapons and ammunition to the Kurdistan People’s Party. In an interview with the Russian website Caucasian Knot, the official said that a driver working for the service was killed in prison after trying to expose evidence of the shipments, and the official fled to Russia and tried to gain asylum. A Russian court, however, decided to extradite the official back to Azerbaijan, a move analysts interpreted as a sign of Russia’s deepening ties with Russia.

  • Azerbaijan’s president approved the country’s formal maritime security strategy. According to the document, the main threats to Azerbaijan in the naval sphere include: “Increasing naval capabilities of the Caspian states, the imbalance is not in favor of Azerbaijan; potential interference in the internal affairs of Azerbaijan, by limiting access to natural resources and sea lanes; territorial claims against Azerbaijan at sea; the possibility of inter-state conflict, hostilities and their extensions.”

  • Georgia signed on to a White House statement blaming the government of Bashar al-Assad for the chemical weapons attack of August 21 and calling for “a strong international response.” It is the only country of the Caucasus or Central Asia to do so. But Georgia’s defense minister said the country has no plans for “participation in military operations.”

  • The United States’ newly appointed envoy to negotiations over the breakaway Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno Karabakh visited Azerbaijan and Armenia and met with the two countries’ presidents. The envoy, James Warlick, brought a letter from President Barack Obama urging renewed efforts toward peace. “Now is the time to make new efforts to establish peace in the region within the framework of compromise reached during negotiations,” the letter to Aliyev said.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • German and Turkish minesweepers took part in joint exercises with Georgia’s coast guard.

  • The U.S. considered, but ultimately rejected, a plan to renounce further NATO expansion in order to gain Russian support on Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • Turkey will complete its delivery of T-122 Sakarya multiple-launch rocket systems to Azerbaijan this year, the system’s manufacturer said.

  • The armed forces of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey are planning joint military exercises “in the short term,” Azerbaijani military sources said.

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for the White House’s nominee to be the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.

  • The rapid reaction forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization will exercise in Belarus from September 20-25, with large contingents from Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

  • Defense officials from Azerbaijan are traveling to Germany to learn from that country’s experience in military port construction.

  • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has criticized Ministry of Defense plans to sell two recently purchased French helicopters.

  • Russia will deliver $12 million worth of Uran-E anti-ship missiles to Turkmenistan this year.

  • China and Pakistan began joint air force exercises over the province of Xinjiang.

  • Georgia held its first military air show.

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