Eurasia News Week in Review - September 20, 2013

Central Eurasia

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

Central Asia:

  • Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev visited NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he met with Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and discussed deepening cooperation. Rasmussen highlighted the possibility of increased cooperation on training Kyrgyzstan's counternarcotics forces, as well as doing more in the sphere of disaster response, logistics and defense reform. Atambayev proposed that NATO increase cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russia-led bloc that is expanding its security role in Central Asia.

  • The Collective Security Treaty Organization launched joint military drills in Belarus on September 19. The drills reportedly involve over 600 troops from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan, along with “about 60 units of combat hardware and up to 15 planes and helicopters,” the organization's spokesman said. Presidents of CSTO member states began to gather in Sochi, Russia, for the group's summit, which starts September 23. The organization is expected to discuss building joint combat forces and strengthening the security of the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.

The Caucasus:

  • Georgian police have arrested a man suspected of killing a Russian diplomat in the breakaway territory of Abkhazia. The man, Yusuf Lakayev, was arrested after a shootout with police in the Georgian city of Batumi. According to Georgia's Interior Ministry, Lakayev is suspected by Russian security agencies of having links with “extremism” or “terrorism.”

  • Georgia's defense minister visited Afghanistan, where his country's 1,500 troops form the coalition’s largest contingent from a non-NATO country. Irakli Alasania met with his counterpart from Afghanistan, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, and discussed future defense cooperation, including training Afghanistan's cadets at Georgian military academies. He also discussed Georgia's involvement in NATO after the completion of the International Security Assistance Force mission next year with ISAF's commander

  • Russian troops in South Ossetia started, then halted, construction of a fence between the de facto independent territory and Georgia proper. Georgia's government has complained that the location of the fence further encroaches on their territory and passes through Georgian villages. The European Union Monitoring Mission advised all parties “to show restraint and focus on local communities' concerns.” NATO's special representative for the Caucasus said the construction “violates the agreement [between the countries] and makes political progress more difficult.”

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Kyrgyzstan's intelligence service arrested three men suspected of planning terror attacks in the country. The men – two from Kyrgyzstan and one from Kazakhstan – reportedly trained for the attacks in Syria.

  • The commander of Iran's border forces, on a visit to Azerbaijan, warned that the presence of “external forces” could destabilize the Caspian Sea region.

  • Tajikistan's president submitted the agreement on extending the presence of a Russian military base in the country until 2042 to the parliament.

  • The government of Azerbaijan formally condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

  • Officers of drug control agencies from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan, began joint exercises in Kyrgyzstan.

  • Development of Turkey's domestically produced drone took another hit when the German manufacturer of its engine was bought by a Chinese company. The new Chinese owners have said they intend to discontinue the military branch of the company.

  • A top Pentagon official has said the United States wants to increase the amount of materiel that it ships out of Afghanistan through Pakistan.