Eurasia News Week in Review

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

The Caucasus and Turkey:

  • Azerbaijan replaced its long-serving defense minister, Safar Abiyev, as well as two other top Defense Ministry officials. Abiyev, who had served since 1995, was replaced by Zakir Hasanov, the head of the “Internal Troops” of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Abiyev recently was the subject of controversy over the deaths of conscript soldiers in the armed forces, as well as the main figure in a dispute with the United States embassy about the recent presidential elections.

  • Skirmishes along the line of control between Armenian-controlled Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan proper intensified, with Azerbaijani forces killing one Armenian soldier and injuring three others. Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan responded by saying that “such actions will not go unanswered” and that Armenia would consult its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The incident came just after another shooting forced the cancelation of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring mission of the line of control.

  • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili criticized the Ministry of Defense for neglecting defensive fortifications his government had built up around the capital city of Tbilisi. Saakashvili, in a video posted on YouTube, visited the anti-tank trench he said his government started building in 2009, in order to prevent a possible Russian advance on Tbilisi. He said the current parliamentary government of the Georgia Dream party, which took power last year from the president United National Movement party, stopped work on the trenches, rendering Tbilisi vulnerable. In response, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement expressing “concern and surprise” over the video and that spreading “any kind of information on the location and type of national defensive facilities is dangerous for the security of the country.” Saakashvili will step down after presidential elections on October 27.

  • NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he hoped Turkey would take the alliance’s concerns into account when it decides whether to buy a Chinese air-defense system, as Turkey said it intends to do. NATO officials expressed concern over the proposed sale, as they say a Chinese system would not be interoperable with the air-defense systems that NATO already operates in Turkey. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by saying, “Nobody has the right to overshadow our understanding of independence.”

Central Asia:

  • In a speech in Moscow, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his country wanted to cooperate more closely with Russia on security matters in Central Asia. Singh called for joint efforts “in combating the shared challenges of extremism, terrorism and narco-trafficking. Coordination of our policies in this shared neighbourhood has served us both well and we should continue to pursue it more closely in the future.”

  • Kazakhstan security officials said they believed about 100 Islamist extremists from the country were fighting abroad. A video posted online purportedly showing dozens of Kazakhs, including women and children, in Syria fighting in the anti-government Islamist resistance, sparked much speculation about the extent of Kazakhstanis fighting abroad. Kazakhstan authorities are investigating the video and some family members in Kazakhstan have identified relatives in the video.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Residents of a disputed border area between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan skirmished over an oil well.

  • Security cooperation programs have been a key part of keeping the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus interested in maintaining supply lines to Afghanistan, U.S. military officials said.

  • On China’s request, Pakistan banned three alleged Uyghur extremist organizations.

  • The Turkish military said it intercepted a Russian spy plane.

  • Kyrgyzstan plans to set up about 60 “secret” observation posts on its borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhahi is planning a visit to Tajikistan.

  • Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai visited Tajikistan and signed a number of cooperation agreements.

  • Georgian police arrested two former security service members for allegedly plotting an attack in 2008 on Georgians from the breakaway territory of Abkhazia, who were traveling to vote in the parliamentary elections at the time.

  • The U.S. provided equipment to Tajikistan’s special OMON police units, including bulletproof vests, helmets, masks, and binoculars.

  • NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asked if the alliance plans to cooperate formally with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said that it would work with CSTO members on a bilateral basis.

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