Below is 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:
- United States Deputy Assistance Secretary of Defense, Evelyn Farkas, and other U.S. defense officials from European Command, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and the Kansas National Guard traveled to Armenia on Wednesday. In meetings with Armenia’s defense and foreign ministers, Armenian and U.S. officials praised the defense cooperation between the countries, especially in developing Armenia’s peacekeeping capabilities and advancing Armenia defense reforms. Armenia officially became a member of the Global Peace Operations Initiative and as a result, received USD 1.5 million to strengthen its peacekeeping capabilities. As has been noted previously on this blog, the United States has taken special interest in Armenia’s peacekeeping brigade, which saw the largest increase in U.S. military training in the Caucasus in 2012 and which serves alongside NATO troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
- NBC News profiled a recently renovated tunnel on Afghanistan’s main North-South highway by the United States. Army Corps of Engineers, which serves as a key road in the Defense Department’s Northern Distribution Network (NDN). The NDN is the department’s alternative shipping route in and out of Afghanistan, passing through many of the Central Asian and South Caucus countries. NBC News noted that the U.S. prefers to use the cheaper shipping routes though Pakistan, though the Defense Department recently closed biggest of the Pakistan routes.
- Tensions along the Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan border flared up on Tuesday, just as government officials from both countries agreed to resume demarcation efforts next week. The incident, in which Tajik citizens burned a Kyrgyz teashop, occurred in the poorly demarcated Ferghana Valley, a territory shared by Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Clashes between Tajik and Kyrgyz residents also took place this spring, with Eurasianet’s David Trilling noting in April that each round of tension brings additional promises to quickly delineate the border. As a result of the recent increase in tension due to Tuesday’s arson attack, several roads along the Kyrgyz – Tajik border remain closed.
Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:
- As part of a USD 1 billion deal between Russia and Kyrgyzstan, Russia announced that it is prepared to begin the transfer of tanks, antiaircraft missiles, and other military equipment. According to Kyrgyzstan’s President, Almazbek Atambayev, the deal is meant to modernize the military by 2017.
- The U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan, George Krol, met with Uzbekistan’s Interior Minister, Lieutenant General Bahodyr Matlyubov, to discuss Uzbekistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism and drug trafficking. Ambassador George Krol stated, “The United States is always ready to cooperate with the republic, including on combating terrorism and drug trafficking.”
- Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev is set to participate in the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), which will be held at The Hague next year from March 24 – 25. According to the Kazakh Foreign Affairs Minister, Kazak participation at this summit is “one of the priority events in the beginning of next year.”
- On Friday, the government of Kazakhstan announced its decision to provide United Nations peacekeeping missions with troops next year. This will be the first time that Kazakhstan provides troops to U.N. peacekeeping forces since it gained its independence in 1991. Kazakh Defense Minister Adilbek Jaksybekov stated that it would be important for Kazakhstan to participate in these missions because “taking part in these missions … will contribute greatly to Kazakhstan’s authority worldwide.”
- For the first time in its history, Turkmenistan held multi-party elections on Sunday. The head of the OSCE monitoring mission to Turkmenistan stated that despite the parliamentary vote, the country still has “a long way to go” in meeting international standards of democracy and human rights.
- Representatives from the Ministries of Defense of France and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on Wednesday to further military cooperation between the two states.
- The United Nation’s Committee against Torture reiterated its concern that the use of torture by law enforcement officials in Uzbekistan is part of a program to coerce confessions from individuals charged with a variety of crimes. The UN committee released a list of recommendations to the Uzbekistan government in order for it to meet international standards of human rights.
- A Georgian delegation, led by First Deputy Minister Davit Zalkaliani, traveled to Geneva on Monday to meet with Russian officials and discuss Russia’s activity near the Georgian-Ossetian border and the prospects of an agreement that commits Georgia and Russia to the “non-use of force.”
- Azerbaijan’s parliamentary committee on security and defense reviewed a military agreement between the United States’ Department of Defense and Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry. The parliament prolonged the agreement on “purchasing equipment and mutual service” between the U.S. and Azerbaijan for 5 more years.
- Military officials from Azerbaijan and Turkey spoke about regional political developments, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and future military cooperation as part of the annual Azerbaijan-Turkey High-Level Military Dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan.
- Azerbaijan arrested the head of one of the country’s independent election watchdogs, which criticized the most recent October presidential elections. The U.S. embassy stated it was “very troubled” by the arrest.
- A number of U.S. officials congratulated Azerbaijan for the Shah Deniz 2 Final Investment Decision signing this week, which will increase the amount of gas from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan delivered to European markets. The U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Morningstar, stated “This agreement and the planned pipelines will be instrumental in guaranteeing the energy security of Turkey, southern Europe, the Balkans and the rest of Europe.”
This post is co-authored by Program Associate Daniel Resnick and Transparency and Accountability intern Eddie Bejarano.