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

  • For the first time in two years, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met to discuss the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. Both sides said little about the result of the talks, but they reportedly agreed to meet again “in the coming months.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talked to both presidents by phone before the meeting. Armenian forces remain in control of Karabakh, de jure a part of Azerbaijan, after winning a war in the early 1990s.

  • Azerbaijani authorities announced on Wednesday that they arrested an Iranian man on October 31 and accused him of planning an attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku. Police said the man was behaving strangely while wandering near the embassy, and that they found plans and photographs that indicated he was planning attacks against Israelis. Iranian officials denied the claims and said the man had been tortured into false confession while in Azerbaijani custody. Azerbaijani officials, in turn, denied that claim.

  • Russia is including Armenia in its joint air defense system along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, said the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Russia plans to station a helicopter squadron at the country’s Erebuni air base in Armenia. Putin is planning a trip to Yerevan in early December.

  • Speaking before parliament, Georgia’s Defense Secretary Irakli Alasania said the ministry’s top priority was making a more transparent procurement system. In terms of new procurements, Alasania said the focus would be on “defensive armaments, improvement of defense capabilities and giving the Georgian army a deterrent role.”

  • U.S. military sources said Turkish companies could face sanctions if Turkey goes ahead with plans to buy a Chinese air defense system because the Chinese manufacturer is under sanctions for doing business with Iran. But on a visit to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davotoglu said that there is “no discomfort on the US side” with regard to the sale.

Central Asia:

  • Tajikistan replaced its long-serving defense minister, Sherali Khairulloyev, with the country’s current chief of border guards, Sherali Mirzo. The personnel moves were part of a larger shakeup of top-level officials following the reelection of President Emomali Rahmon earlier this month.

  • While “large-scale invasions” of Central Asia are unlikely after the United States and NATO depart from Afghanistan, terror organizations will try to infiltrate the region, said secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization Nikolay Bordyuzha. “We don’t expect large-scale invasions into the CSTO member states. We don’t expect major combats at the border,” he said. “Nevertheless, the instability factors that exist now will stay, including activities of terrorist organizations, which aim for CSTO member states.” He added that the situation on the border with Afghanistan has recently become more dire, especially in Tajikistan: “We believe that the situation is getting worse. Within one year the number of armed conflicts has doubled. Attempts of armed bands to penetrate deep into Tajikistan’s territory are now more frequent.”

  • Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, repeated his call for Turkey to be made a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Erdogan asked Putin to accept Turkey into the organization. Putin answered that Turkey’s independent foreign policy “gives every basis to allow Turkey to take a more active role in regional international organizations. Russia is in favor of that.” Last year, Turkey became a “dialogue partner” of the organization, which also includes as members China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • The U.S. ambassador in Georgia was the subject of controversy over remarks in which he compared Georgians’ treatment of Abkhazians and Ossetians to Russians’ treatment of Georgians.

  • India is ramping up the number of defense attaches it has posted in embassies in regions it considers strategic, including Central Asia, with plans to add military envoys in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

  • Azerbaijan is looking seriously at buying Turkish T129 attack helicopters, according to the helicopter’s manufacturer.

  • Armenia is making “excellent progress” in its efforts to create a NATO-compatible peacekeeping brigade, the U.S. embassy in Yerevan said.

  • Kazakhstan has billed Russia for environmental damages as the result of a rocket crash this summer.

  • Fishermen off Turkey’s Black Sea coast caught a drone.

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