The Turkmenistan state media has been going full blast with the news of even more reserves found in the already-huge South Yolotan deposits in the southern part of the country. The findings put Turkmenistan in the category of the country with the world's second largest gas reserves; previously it was listed fourth or fifth.
In light of the discovery of "super-gigantic zones of gas deposits," as the State News Agency of Turkmenistan calls them, and for the purpose of linking South Yolotan-Osman, Minara and adjacent fields into a single system, President Berdymukhamedov decreed that the linked reserves should be called "Galkynysh."
"Galkynysh" -- the Turkmen word for "revival" -- is what many things are called in Turkmenistan -- starting with the government-controlled civic movement turned out to perform chores for the state and cheer the president's initiatives, and moving on to various companies and products.
Berdymukhamedov calls the period of his rule "the era of new revival" -- so it seems fitting that this mega-gas deposit should get the same name.
The Chinese government has given Turkmenistan two soft loans of more than $8 billion to extract gas from South Yolotan and ship it in a pipeline via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China. That major investment seems to be the key reason why the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation and Turkmen ministries have already built the pipeline and got it pumping already -- unlike Western-backed projects.
News Briefing Central Asia reports that despite -- or because of -- numerous restrictions on civil rights in Turkmenistan, public legal aid is becoming a growth industry.
About a year after Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov came to power in 1997, he began calling for legal advice centres to open. The numbers are still small for a nation of five million – about four centres in the capital Ashgabat and another six in urban areas around the country. Legal advice units also operate within state institutions and some other kinds of organisations, although not all are empowered to represent clients in court.
That high drama production known as Turkey-Azerbaijan relations has delivered a new plot twist, with the recent signing of a deal that allows for the transit of Azeri gas across Turkish soil and into Europe, making it the first tangible step towards creating a southern corridor for the delivery to Europe of non-Russian gas.
Ankara and Baku like to boast of their "brotherly relations" but their ties have frequently been strained over the last few years. As we learned from Wikileaks, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has less than brotherly feelings towards Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And when Turkey signed a 2009 deal with Armenia to restore relations, Azerbaijan quickly reacted by taking down Turkish flags in Baku and hinting that other actions could be in store if the deal goes through (which it didn't).
The tension between the two countries was only exacerbated by the tough negotiations that they were conducting over the terms of the transit of Azeri gas over Turkish soil. So it came as something of a surprise that Ankara and Baku, with little fanfare, inked a deal on October 25 that provides for Azeri gas to transit into Europe through Turkey. From RFE/RL's report on the deal:
The Caspian Sea has long meant many things to many people, but one Azeri scientist is now claiming that the brackish body of water could serve as an irrigation source for his country's farmers. In fact, says the scientist, the Caspian's salty water is the "most fitting in the world" for irrigation. From a recent article in the News.Az website:
The scientific and production unit “Azerbaijan hydrotechnics and melioration” has developed recommendations to fight land degradation though nontraditional irrigation with sea water based on 30 years of studies.
According to the unit’s lab chief Seyfulla Amirov, for its chemical composition, water from the Caspian Sea is the most fitting in the world for irrigation of dry lands, subjected to moderate and severe degradation.
'During the studies we held at an experimental area in Absheron, we used salty water taken from the Caspian Sea to irrigate watermelons and decorative plants. The results of this study exceeded all expectations. We got a very good crop and trees grow wonderfully well.
As a result of the studies we came to a conclusion that by irrigation with salty water taken from the Caspian Sea we can raise productivity of dry lands, subjected to moderate desertion in the Absheron peninsula. Thus, it will be possible to raise the area covered with green plantation in the Absheron peninsula. Thus, we will be able to create more favorable conditions for development of tourism in Baku and its suburbs', Amirov said.
It's not clear how Mr. Amirov's claims square with those made in another article on the News.Az website, which reports that some 30 percent of Azeri farmland is in danger of becoming unusable because of too much salt in the soil, the result of improper irrigation techniques. Article here.
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev on a 2009 state visit to India.
The chief of India's army is visiting Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the latest stops in what seems like a growing push by New Delhi to build military relations in Central Asia. IndianDefence.com reports:
Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh, “This proposed visit to Khazakhastan would be recorded as the first for the past 16 years by an Indian Army Chief after General Shankur Roy Chaudhury visited Kazakhstan. As for Uzebekistan, this would be the first time an Army General will be visiting,” he informed.
“The objective of these visits is to develop India’s relationship with the CAR countries,” they went further saying.
The visit will last three days in each country (Singh arrived in Uzbekistan yesterday), which seems substantial. Recall that, after getting pushed aside by Russia in its attempt to set up an air base in Tajikistan, India has regrouped and set up new military arrangements with Tajikiistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. But obviously Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the heavyweights in the region, and I'll be curious to see where this is all heading.
There aren't many issues on The Bug Pit's radar that have much political resonance in Washington (or elsewhere), but the Russia-Georgia war is by far the most significant. As someone who had already been following the region for a while before the 2008 war, it was dispiriting to see how, over the few days that that war lasted, how polarizing the issue became. Before the war, there wasn't a conservative or liberal way to see Georgia -- pretty much everyone in the small cohort of people who paid attention to the Caucasus, no matter what their political views, understood that Russia was aggressive, Georgia was reckless, and that could end badly there. But over the short duration of the war, people who had never previously paid attention to the region tried quickly to figure out what was going on, and the easiest way to do that is to make it a partisan issue. So conservatives said Russia started the war, liberals said Georgia started it, and then a couple of weeks after the shooting stopped, everyone more or less stopped thinking about it, and their opinions calcified at that. So when you write about the Georgia war, you expect a little more attention -- people in Washington's ears perk up, and they read to see whether you confirm their bias about what happened, or if you're a warmongering neocon/feckless stooge of the Kremlin.
As reported in this previous post, Greek Cyprus's efforts to explore for gas off the divided island's shores has led to a serious ramping up of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey retaliating by signing exploration deals of its own with the Turkish Cypriots and even hinting at the possibility of military action regarding the issue.
While the rhetoric has been lowered in recent weeks, new developments could bring the resource-related tension in the region back up to the surface. From an Associated Press report published yesterday:
A top official with United States firm Noble Energy said on Tuesday that a field it is conducting undersea exploratory drilling in off the coast of Cyprus may yield between 3 to 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Noble Senior Vice President Susan Cunningham says there is a 60 percent chance it will successfully reach the deposit.
Cunningham told an analyst conference at Noble’s Houston headquarters — broadcast live through the company’s Website — that firm results from the ‘Cyprus A prospect’ would impact other possible exploratory drilling in the area.
It is the first time Noble has given an estimate on the size of the deposit which lies inside the Mediterranean island’s exclusive economic zone about 115 miles (185 kilometers) off its south coast.
By comparison, Noble said an Israeli field discovered nearby in 2010 had an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet of gas — the world’s largest offshore gas discovery that year.
Portland, Oregon chef Greg Higgins is considered one of the stars of the Northwest Pacific's creative culinary scene. An avid sausage maker, Higgins is currently in Mongolia as part of a Mercy Corps program, where he is bringing his west coast sausage making and charcuterie skills to the steppes. The result? Camel sausage, it appears. From his report, in the Willamette Weekly:
Another brilliantly clear mountain day in Khovd. It's a welcome respite from the dense, throat-parching smoke and occasional dust storms that seem to be the norm in western Mongolia.
In the sausage kitchen at Ochir, a restaurant where I'm working, it was a big day. After two days of discussions, explanations, shopping and improvisations, we finally were going to taste some products.
There's a dearth of pork here. Odd since I'm a charcutier, which by definition means a maker of cooked pig. But, from my long lists of recipes and photos Ulziikhuu, the owner of Ochir, had chosen Boudin Blanc, Genoa Salami, Terrine de Campagne, Preskopf and Black Forest ham. No easy task to translate, let alone fabricate without pork or many of the traditional seasonings.
It's key that we work within the confines of available products—both seasonings and meats—as well as respecting their food traditions. No cutting edge gastronomy here. The available meats are typically camel, goat, sheep, horse, an occasional yak and sometimes beef. Everything must be fully cooked—despite our notions of hard riding Mongol hordes subsisting on partially dry or raw meat these folks like their meat cooked and lots of it!
You can follow Higgins's ongoing Mongolian adventures here.
Just in time for the 2012 parliamentary elections, Armenia's Constitutional Court has instructed lower courts to make defamation compensation proportional to the size of media companies’ wallets.
The November 15 ruling, the response to a case brought by Ombudsman Karen Andreasian and eight local newspapers, can make life easier for the Armenian news industry, which has faced a rise in libel suits and hefty fines that media observers link to 2010 amendments of media laws, which decriminalized slander, but also toughened the penalties for libel.
That has meant a serious problem for some print outlets with a penchant for government criticism. Armenian newspapers, mostly shoestring operations, have struggled to pay thousands of dollars in damages. One even asked its readers to help foot the bill, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.
But the Constitutional Court's ruling does not mean that Armenian media is now off the hook. Ombudsman Karen Andreasian welcomed the ruling, but also said that the legislation is too ambiguous on the matter of slander, leaving too much room for broad interpretations in the plaintiff’s favor.
Last week, the stars were pointing toward a snap parliamentary election in Kazakhstan. Today, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has set the date for January 15, dissolving parliament and bringing elections six months forward.
Nazarbayev cited as his top reason the need to replace Kazakhstan’s one-party parliament with a multiparty legislature. Nur Otan, the party he leads, held all elected seats in the now-dissolved rubberstamp parliament.
At a meeting with officials on November 15, Nazarbayev said legislative amendments ruling out a future one-party parliament need to be enacted, so parliament must be dissolved. He did not explain why it had taken him three years to reach this conclusion – those reforms were introduced in 2008.
The likeliest explanation is that Astana is thinking ahead as it mulls the thorny issue of the succession to Nazarbayev, who has been in power for three decades.
After Kazakhstan’s snap presidential election last April, in which 71-year-old Nazarbayev won 95.5 percent of the vote, the early parliamentary poll looks like another jigsaw piece to slot into place as Astana’s gray cardinals plot a succession strategy.