A roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around Central Eurasia over the last week:
Top Stories from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:
- Georgian officials held meetings with senior United States and NATO officials on the sidelines of the NATO foreign ministers meeting this week. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that Georgia “moved much closer to NATO” and congratulated Georgia for its progress in implementing democratic and defense reforms. Following her meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Georgia Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze stated that she hopes the 2014 NATO summit “will bring concrete result for Georgia” and that the “the 2013 presidential election was our last test in democracy, because it was genuinely European election, free and fair.” Blogger Joshua Kucera noted that, despite the positive rhetoric, “it would take a dramatic change in the current geopolitical circumstances” for Georgia to join NATO in the near future.
- Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also attended the NATO meetings and restated Russia’s disapproval of NATO’s planned expansion eastward. Lavrov also addressed Russia’s NATO-criticized “borderization” of the border between Georgia and the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, stating, “As far as ‘wires’ [placing of fences] are concerned, borders should certainly be protected,” but “Wires will not be needed as ‘hotheads’ cool down.”
- The U.S. suspended the use of supply routes through Pakistan to withdraw retrograde equipment from Afghanistan, following protests over U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. As discussed previously on this blog, the U.S. utilizes a second transport route through Central Asia and the South Caucasus to ship material in and out of Afghanistan, which was especially active when the Pakistan supply routes were previously closed in 2011 and 2012. A U.S. official said Wednesday, “hopefully I don’t anticipate that there will be any long-term impact to our retrograde movement because of the current [suspension].”
- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Eric Rubin visited Azerbaijan on Thursday. Rubin thanked Azerbaijan for its role in facilitating the transit of ISAF troops and cargo into Afghanistan and for its military peacekeeping and training role in Afghanistan. Rubin also remarked that the U.S. looks forward “to continuing to develop our security and defence relationships with Azerbaijan.” Prior to this trip, Freedom House President David Kramer cautioned that U.S. officials traveling to the country should not put-behind or accept Azerbaijan’s recent fraudulent elections and human rights violations.
Quick hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:
- Kazakhstan’s prosecutor general visited Washington DC this week, where he met with the director of the FBI and other federal law enforcement leaders.
- The U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan stated that Kyrgyzstan “can be justifiably proud of its achievements in the area of formal political reform,” but that a number of shortcomings still need to be addressed before the parliamentary elections in 2015.
- On Tuesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal gave remarks about the top U.S. foreign policy priorities in her area of responsibility at the Washington Foreign Press Center.
- On Sunday, gunmen shot and killed an Azerbaijani border guard and wounded two others along the Azeri-Iranian border, according to the border police.
- U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, visited Georgia on Friday and commended Georgia’s “remarkable progress” towards democracy.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Armenia on Monday, which included a trip to Russia’s military base in the country. During the trip Putin announced that Armenia would be able to purchase Russian arms at Russian domestic prices.
- The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met on Wednesday to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, agreeing to meet again in the coming weeks.
- The Parliamentary Speaker of the de-facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic traveled to Washington DC this week, where he participated in Artsakh’s (a region that overlaps with Nagorno-Karabakh) 22nd independence celebration along with a number of U.S. Congressmen.
- Both Azerbaijan and Georgia restated their commitment to NATO’s post 2014 mission in Afghanistan this week.