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:
- The fourth United States-Uzbekistan Annual Bilateral Consultations took place at the State Department this week, with Uzbekistan’s foreign minister and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns in attendance. According to a State Department release, issues discussed ranged from political development to regional security to human rights. Blogger and analyst Joshua Kucera pointed to a tweet by Voice of America Uzbek services reporter Navbahor Imamovathat, which indicated that the meetings likely addressed Russia’s expanding military influence in the region, with which Uzbekistan is very concerned. Kucera also noted that potential deals for military equipment, such as surveillance drones and MRAP vehicles, may have been tackled at the meetings. The opposition news-site uznews.net quoted Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Steve Swerdlow, who stated that the U.S. should focus more on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan as the United States’ need for secure territorial access to Afghanistan diminishes.
- The online journal The Interpreter translated an article from the Russian Izvestia newspaper, stating that Georgia is looking to sell its outdated Russian tanks and helicopters and potentially buy anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems. The article pointed to Israel as a possible arms supplier, and Georgia and Israel’s defense ministers met on Monday and agreed to further cooperate in defense capabilities and military industry. Georgian officials also traveled to Washington this week for meetings as part of the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, in which officials discussed the security situation in Georgia and Georgia’s defense reforms.
- The foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia met on the sidelines of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) conference in Yerevan on Thursday. This meeting raised hopes that the normalization process between the two countries, which stalled in 2010, might restart. The U.S. State Department welcomed the visit, and Secretary of State John Kerry called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ahead of the meeting. Armenia’s foreign minister, however, expressed his displeasure that Turkey preconditioned the normalization talks on resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, stating: “The Turkish side’s attempts to link it with other issues and set preconditions are futile and meaningless.”
Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:
- During the 10th anniversary celebration of the Armenian National Forces – Kansas National Guard partnership last Friday, U.S. ambassador to Armenia John Heffern stated that relations between the countries have shifted from donor/recipient into partner relations. Armenian and U.S. officials specifically praised different elements of the military cooperation between the countries.
- Azerbaijani Ambassador to the U.S., Elin Suleymanov, published an op-ed in the Washington Times, in which he defended the October 2013 presidential election results and praised the relationship between the United States and Azerbaijan, stating, “Azerbaijan and the United States are partners in addressing the world’s most difficult challenges.”
- Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland visited Georgia last week. Civil.ge rounded up some comments from her visit, in which she addressed the democratic and economic reforms in the country, Georgia’s NATO prospects in 2014, and Georgia’s relationship with Russia.
- Azerbaijan announced it would seek USD 300 billion in compensation from Armenia as part of a settlement to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
- Using data from the UN Register of Conventional Arms, the Azerbaijan Press Agency calculated that Azerbaijan is one of the top purchasers of Belarusian tanks, helicopters, and combat vehicles over the last ten years.
- Azerbaijan began testing the first prototype of its national armored reconnaissance and combat vehicle.
- Turkey’s defense minister visited Kazakhstan to help open the joint Kazakhstan-Turkey Aselsan Plant, which will produce “electro-optical products, including thermal cameras and field glasses” and “undertake a number of modernization drives for Kazakhstan’s T72 tanks, helicopters and armored vehicles.”
- The South African defense manufacturer Paramount will open up a factory in Kazakhstan to produce armored vehicles. Kazakhstan aims to domestically produce 80% of its military equipment by 2020.
- A U.S. Defense Department official told Joshua Kucera that traffic through the Northern Distribution Network would not increase because of the closure of the Pakistani supply routes.
- Russia’s ambassador to Tajikistan and the head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) expressed concern over instability flowing from Afghanistan into Central Asia following the drawdown of ISAF troops in 2014. Both touted the CSTO’s efforts to assure regional stability as 2014 approaches.
- The U.S. embassy in Kyrgyzstan released a statement marking the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day and urging the Kyrgyz government to redouble its commitment to human rights, especially in the area of the rule of law.
- The United States announced on Wednesday a USD 15 million commitment to the CASA-1000 project, which will transport excess electricity during the summer from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The CASA-1000 project is part of the United States’ aim to increase interconnectivity between Afghanistan/Pakistan and their Central Asian neighbors in order to bring “peace, stability and prosperity” to Afghanistan.