Caspian Weekly Roundup
Russia Criticizes US-led Airstrikes in Syria
Following airstrikes last week by the US, Britain, and France on Syria in response to President Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, Russia quickly called for a UN Security Council meeting. At the meeting on April 14, President Putin criticized the airstrikes as an act of aggression and maintained that there was no irrefutable evidence that chemical weapons were actually employed. In the UNSC meeting, Russia and China voted to internationally condemn the airstrikes, but the other three permanent members, as well as several non-permanent countries, voted against the movement. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is now in Syria to investigate the supposed chemical weapons plants. However, Russia has hindered its access to the plants. Russia claims that the delay is for security reasons, but Western diplomats are accusing Russia of tampering with evidence.
Sargsyan Nominated for Armenian Prime Minister, Protests Erupt
On April 14, former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan was officially nominated as Armenia’s prime minister, which is the most politically important position in Armenia’s new parliamentary system of government. As a result, thousands of Armenians led by the opposition party Civil Contract took to the streets of Yerevan to demonstrate against Sargsyan, who if confirmed as prime minister will succeed to his third term in power. Sargsyan had previously stated that he had no desire to be prime minister, but also that he believed he had a responsibility to guide Armenia to a better future. There were at least 10,000 protesters on the streets and many were met by police using tear gas and stun grenades, leading to a number of injuries.
Ilham Aliyev Wins Azerbaijani Presidential Election
Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party Ilham Aliyev has garnered 86 percent of votes in the election, according to the votes counted in 5,201 polling stations, said Chairman of the Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) Mazahir Panahov in an event dedicated to results of the presidential election. “Chairman of the Popular Front Party of Whole Azerbaijan Gudrat Hasanguliyev has garnered 3.04 percent of votes, self-nominee Zahid Oruj – 3.11 percent, Chairman of Azerbaijan Democratic Party Sardar Jalaloglu – 3.02 percent, Chairman of Modern Musavat Party Hafiz Hajiyev – 1.51 percent, Chairman of Azerbaijan Social Democratic Party Araz Alizada – 1.39 percent, Chairman of National Revival Movement Party Faraj Guliyev – 1.18 percent, Razi Nurullayev, nominated by Frontists Initiative Group – 0.75 percent,” he said. The election was observed by 894 international (61 organizations, 59 countries) and 58,175 local observers.
NATO Secretary-General Calls for More Support to Turkey
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, will travel to Ankara on April 16 to discuss Turkey’s role in NATO in preparation for July’s NATO summit in Brussels. Speaking to a Turkish news agency, Stoltenberg made a plea for more support of Turkey from NATO allies. Stoltenberg commented on Turkey’s important strategic location, role in adapting NATO to a changing security environment, support of NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and provision of infrastructural support for missions against the Islamic State. He also noted that NATO allies support Turkey’s air and ballistic missile defenses and that NATO has its land command in Izmir.
OSCE Holds Discussion on Abkhazia and South Ossetia
On April 12, the OSCE Permanent Council met in Vienna to further discuss relations between Georgia and its breakaway regions. Georgia was represented by First Deputy Foreign Minister David Dondua, who criticized officials in the breakaway regions, but stated that Georgia remained committed to ensuring the safety of Georgian citizens on both sides of the border. His speech earned praise from other OSCE members, including the US, who applauded Georgia’s commitment to helping vulnerable people even in the breakaway territories. The US representative also criticized Russia for stubbornly refusing to work with the rest of the OSCE to find a solution agreeable to all parties.
Kyrgyz President Meets with Turkish Prime Minister
On April 10, Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbay Jeenbekov met with Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara. The main goal of the discussion was apparently to encourage Kyrgyzstan to take more action against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) in Kyrgyzstan. Turkey blames FETÖ for organizing the July 2016 coup attempt and has consistently asked the US to extradite the leader of the movement Fethullah Gülen so that he can be prosecuted in Turkey. Besides FETÖ, the two men also said they wanted to advance economic and business ties between their countries and eventually reach $1 billion in bilateral trade volume.
US and Afghan Forces Partner to Deal Strikes to IS in Northern Afghanistan
On April 5, a US airstrike killed Qari Hekmatullah, who was the Islamic State’s commander for northern Afghanistan and thus the major source of a significant threat to Central Asia. Last week, US special forces carried out operations with their Afghan counterparts in the Jowzjan province, which borders Turkmenistan. The operation reportedly eliminated 22 IS members and further harmed the leadership of IS in northern Afghanistan, which operates under the name IS Kohorasan (IS-K). A US General even stated that these recent strikes will lead to the demise of IS-K, which would greatly reduce the threat of terrorism in Central Asia.
Asian Development Bank Releases Economic Forecast for Tajikistan
According to the ADB, Tajikistan’s overall GDP growth in 2018 will be 6%, which is 1.1% lower than in 2017. The reason for this decline is due to fiscal tightening in response to a high public debt-to-GDP ratio, which currently is just over 50%. Despite this relatively high growth, the report also stipulates that Tajikistan is lacking enough productive jobs, which harms its economy and forces able workers to often leave the country, and is in need of reforms to the business and banking climate.
Sources: CBS News, Business Insider, Hetq Online, Federal News Radio, Trend News Agency, Hurriyet Daily News, Agenda.ge, Hurriyet Daily News, Voice of America, AzerNews