Uzbekistan’s New President Steps Towards Ambitious Reform With Security Chief Sacking

The president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has dismissed his much-feared head of the National Security Service (SNB), Rustam Inoyatov, marking the final step of a transition of power in Uzbekistan. Since taking office in 2016, Mirziyoev has removed high-ranking government officials and replaced them with allies.

At first glance, this looks like a standard power grab. The two most important sackings were Inoyatov and Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Asimov. Following the death of President Islam Karimov in August 2016, Mirziyoyev – who was then prime minister – made a closed-door deal with Inoyatov and Asimov to set up a new government: Mirziyoyev would become president, and Asimov and Inoyatov would be at his side as prime minister and head of the powerful SNB.…  Seguir leyendo »

Politics and Security Hold Each Other Hostage in Nagorno-Karabakh

Sniper fire can hit almost every open-air spot in Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, an Armenian village in the Tavush region on the border with Azerbaijan. Nargiza, who runs a well-stocked shop out of an abandoned railway coach in the village centre, laments the locals’ fate: “We never feel safe. We hear shooting at night, and fear it during the day. My neighbours have stopped cultivating their vineyards. They were being shot at while at work.”

Nargiza means “daffodil”. It’s a common name in Azerbaijan and other Muslim cultures, but not in her native Armenia, especially since the start of the three-decade-long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.…  Seguir leyendo »

Georgia is on the cusp of a very important decision about nuclear energy. We shouldn’t miss what’s at stake.

The Georgia Public Service Commission will probably rule this week on whether work should continue on two nuclear reactors under construction near Augusta, the only commercial nuclear project underway in the United States. The commission has been enthusiastic about nuclear power for years, but since it authorized Georgia Power in 2009 to break ground for two new reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle generating station, the financial calculus has changed. Mainly, the price of natural gas, an important competing fuel for electricity generation, has dropped sharply, and taken the wholesale price of electricity down with it.…  Seguir leyendo »

After 21 years of negotiations, the littoral countries of the Caspian Sea – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan – are apparently close to agreeing the sea’s legal status. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the text of a convention on delimitation was settled at a December meeting with his four counterparts. According to Lavrov, the Caspian presidents will meet in the first half of 2018 in Astana to finally sign.

Russia has been trying a change of tack. Rather than carrying out unwieldy five-sided negotiations, President Vladimir Putin now seems to be favouring bilateral and trilateral approaches. This may be yielding results beyond mere carving up of the sea: Russia has had more effective and flexible separated dialogue with neighbouring countries, based on common interests with each of them, but which are not necessarily shared by all five countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

For almost three months now, there has been an astonishing lull along the Karabakh frontline. Instead of grenade launchers, guided missiles, drones, and guns, the sound of relatively less harmful small arms has been heard. For the first time since the clash of April 2016, both sides have put their weapons aside to take a breather before the long-awaited meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.

There have been no negotiations at the presidential level for more than a year. All prior requests to resume meetings by international mediators yielded no results. Instead of conversing at the negotiation table, the leaders occasionally donned military uniforms, and set out with binoculars to examine each other’s military positions.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the last two weeks of September, Azerbaijani police launched a violent campaign of “arresting and torturing men presumed to be gay or bisexual, as well as transgender women,” according to Human Rights Watch and local advocacy organizations. On Oct. 2, by all accounts, police released all the detainees, officially acknowledging that 83 had been detained. Local advocacy organizations claim that beatings, electroshock, coercion, blackmail and other abuses were carried out based entirely on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Azerbaijan is “the worst place to be gay in Europe,” the 2015 and 2016 Rainbow Europe reports by ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association) concluded.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dans mon pays, le journalisme est un crime. Les chiffres le montrent : sur les 158 prisonniers politiques actuellement détenus en Azerbaïdjan, 10 sont des journalistes. La semaine dernière, la dernière agence de presse indépendante, Turan, a cessé son activité. Braver cet interdit se paie le prix fort. On m’a fait chanter à coups de vidéos filmées à mon insu par les services secrets dans l’intimité de mon foyer. J’ai été jetée en prison pour une longue liste d’accusations inventées de toutes pièces. Et je ne suis pas la seule.

Le régime azéri a de bonnes raisons de mener une telle répression.…  Seguir leyendo »


Anahit Shirinyan

As the world tries to decipher what Trump presidency means for the global world order and security in Europe, the same questions are asked in Armenia. The US continues not to have a clear-cut policy towards the South Caucasus, and Trump’s tenure is unlikely to change this. Instead, Washington’s relations with Yerevan, Tbilisi and Baku are likely to remain an undertone to the larger dynamics of US relations with Russia, Turkey and Iran, as well as developments in the Middle East. In this context, some potential pitfalls might affect the overall geopolitical environment in which Armenia operates with implications for Armenian foreign policy.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Southern Gas Corridor, a $45 billion dollar pipeline project delivering gas from Azerbaijan to Europe via Turkey, is supposed to start operations by 2020.

But Azerbaijan’s ability to uphold its financial commitments towards the project is under serious pressure from continued low oil prices. The drop in the price of oil was initially treated as temporary by Azerbaijani officials, but has already had a devastating impact on most sectors of the country’s economy, exacerbated by the state’s mismanagement of funds.

Baku has only secured $1.4 billion of the at least $4 billion needed for the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP), the first part of the route, and needs to secure an additional $2-3 billion for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which brings the gas to Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

El neodemócrata Evgenii Ambarzumov acuñó en 1992 la expresión “el círculo próximo” para designar a los nuevos Estados que acaban de independizarse con el desplome soviético: el reconocimiento de los mismos no debía oponerse a la defensa de los intereses de Rusia en el espacio de la antigua URSS. Surgió así una voluntad hegemónica en quienes habían lamentado su hundimiento, entre ellos un desconocido, Vladímir Putin. La primera ocasión llegó en 1992, con la guerra que separó de hecho al territorio rusófono, Transnistria, de Moldavia. Más grave aún fue en 1993 una nueva contienda de secesión, de Abjazia contra Georgia: Rusia intervino mediante una “guerra no declarada” (Shevernadze).…  Seguir leyendo »

The room housing refugees in the former Soviet sanatorium just outside Baku was getting a much-needed facelift: new black-and-silver floral wallpaper “to make it more attractive to the future in-laws of my daughter who are not displaced like us”, said Bayram, an Azeri veteran of the 1988-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Bayram remained steadfast in his support for Azerbaijan’s role in last spring’s violent clash with Armenia. “Of course I know what war is and what the consequences can be”, he explained. He pointed to his leg, maimed by artillery fire almost 25 years ago, and to the poor conditions of the refugee shelter where his family has lived for over twenty years.…  Seguir leyendo »

The last year has demonstrated the resilience of Armenian-Azerbaijani deadlock in resisting movement in the direction of either war or peace. On 2 April it will be one year since a major escalation, widely referred to as the four-day ‘war’, that claimed more than 200 lives. Yet while pundits warned plausibly of contagion, the violence quickly subsided as Moscow brokered a ceasefire.

A few weeks later at talks in Vienna brokered by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan gave their formal assent to long called for confidence building measures. …  Seguir leyendo »

As Yemen’s unremitting conflict continues to drive a nation-wide humanitarian crisis, there is an ever-increasing need to quell hostilities. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to rebuild the credibility of the UN-sponsored talks in order to find a durable ceasefire and work toward a political settlement within Yemen: Yemen: A Humanitarian Catastrophe; A Failing State.

On top of major challenges, including the spillover from the war in Syria, Islamic State terrorism and increasingly heavy-handed governance, Turkey’s conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also reignited last year. …  Seguir leyendo »

Similar to other Eurasian regional groupings, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an alliance of inconvenience at best. But for Armenia, which seeks a security umbrella – and for the South Caucasus region in general – the failure of the CSTO has broader repercussions. The organization’s failure to act as a coherent military bloc might become the failure to prevent the next war in the Caucasus.

The contradictions inherent in the CSTO were brought to light in December, when the member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan – failed to agree on a secretary general to replace the Russia incumbent, Nikolay Bordyuzha.…  Seguir leyendo »

The forward trenches in the hills just beyond the abandoned village of Talish, in Nagorno-Karabakh, are reminiscent of World War I: long, endless, slits in the ground, the dirt buttressed by wood, with periodic firing posts and dugouts. Stacked tires packed with dirt stand in for sandbags, but otherwise it looks like the Western Front 100 years ago. Behind the trenches, alongside the road, tanks are angled to counterattack.

On the first day of September, the sky cerulean, Capt. Gegham Grigoryan, 32, stood with me and pointed toward the northeast — toward Azerbaijan and the minefield and buffer zone less than a mile away.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tomorrow, the State of Georgia intends to execute William Sallie, who was convicted of killing a man in 1990. It would be Georgia’s ninth execution this year, a modern state record and nearly twice the previous high-water mark of five executions, set first in 1987 and again in 2015.

I served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Georgia for over 15 years. During that time I participated in dozens of death-penalty cases and affirmed many of them. That experience, though, exposed me to some of the significant flaws in the system — not just the injustice of the death penalty itself, but specific problems with the way capital cases are handled.…  Seguir leyendo »

The lung specialist I consulted for bronchitis recently in Abkhazia exuded competence, warmth and the poetic courtesy of Soviet-era intelligentsia. She apologised for the hospital as she flicked through a notebook from a year-old seminar on the latest treatment protocols in Russia. She said she had been lucky to attend the briefing: most doctors from Abkhazia or other conflict or breakaway regions in the former Soviet space do not learn about modern treatments. Most teachers have little access to new international best practices and methods. Police still work according to old manuals.

A policy called “isolation” by residents of such regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have sought to secede from Georgia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh region at the heart of the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia – severely restricts their links with the world and contributes to a sense of living under siege, sometimes for over two decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

In early August, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in a trilateral summit with his Azerbaijani and Iranian counterparts in Baku. Though the meeting was initiated by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, one of Moscow’s main goals was to strengthen relations with Iran, a key partner for Russia in Syria and the Caspian region and in energy. The relationship certainly needed a boost.

Syria is not enough

An obvious sign of trouble between the two is the decline of Russian−Iranian trade. In 2015 trade between the two was worth $1.24 billion – the lowest value in a decade. By mid-2016, long-discussed joint projects in the energy sector were still on the drawing board and the construction of the second and third power units of the Bushehr nuclear power plant had not yet begun.…  Seguir leyendo »

This weekend, the Formula 1 European Grand Prix will run through the beautiful streets of Old Baku, in the heart of the Azerbaijani capital. The thought of a collision during the race fills me with dread.

The likes of Pharrell Williams, Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias were slated to entertain race fans, helping to promote the ruling Aliyev family’s projection of my country as a happy, normal nation.

But Azerbaijan is a country that runs on corruption. Officials can be bought and sold, blind eyes can be turned and crimes can be overlooked if the price is right. The only thing you can’t buy is freedom of speech.…  Seguir leyendo »

En adoptant le 2 juin 2016 une résolution par laquelle elle reconnait le génocide arménien de 1915, l’Allemagne s’est rangée aux côtés de celles et ceux de ses homologues, dont la France, qui ont fait le choix de s’incliner devant la mémoire des Arméniens victimes du premier génocide du XXème siècle et de réhabiliter cette page sombre et occultée de l’Histoire de l’Humanité. Il s’agit, avant tout, d’un geste de paix, d’un geste de réconciliation et d’un geste d’espoir : la reconnaissance est la première des réparations, c’est celle qui détermine et conditionne l’existence, ô combien légitime, de toutes les autres.…  Seguir leyendo »