The Line Dividing Russia and Turkey Runs Through Gyumri, Armenia

Russian Troops In Armenia Set For Greater Role

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Moscow and Yerevan are planning to sign a new military agreement that would assign Russia and its troops a greater role in ensuring Armenia’s security, official sources in both countries said on Friday.

The Interfax news agency reported that the two governments will soon amend a 1995 treaty regulating the presence of a Russian military base in Armenia. It said the Russian government has already submitted a relevant “protocol” to President Dmitry Medvedev, who is scheduled to visit Yerevan in mid-August.

It said one of the amendments proposed by the protocol makes clear that the Russian base will not only protect Russia’s interests but also contribute to Armenia’s national security.

Under another change cited by Interfax, Moscow will explicitly commit itself to providing its main South Caucasus ally with “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.”

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, a senior official at the Armenian Defense Ministry essentially confirmed the information. The official noted, though, that the Russian troops headquartered in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri are already tasked with defending Armenia. The planned changes in the Russian-Armenian treaty would simply underline that mission in more explicit terms, he explained.

The treaty went into effect in 1997 and is valid for 25 years. Interfax said its amended version would prolong the Russian military presence in Armenia by another 24 years and provide for its further automatic extension in the future.

The Russian base, which numbers some 4,000 personnel, and the broader military alliance with Russia has been a key element of Armenia’s national security ever since the Soviet collapse. Armenian leaders have repeatedly stated that despite forging closer security links with the West in recent years, they will not seek NATO membership in the foreseeable future.

Just last week, Yerevan and Moscow announced plans to significantly boost cooperation between their defense industries within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of seven ex-Soviet states. Top Russian and Armenian security officials said after talks in Yerevan that they have reached agreements envisaging the establishment of defense joint ventures.

Sahakian Rules Out Karabakh Under Azeri Control

Sahakian Rules Out Karabakh Under Azeri Control

Karabakh President Bako Sahakian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian on Friday said the war with Azerbaijan is unlikely to resume soon and again ruled out any peaceful settlement that would place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control.

“The likelihood of large-scale hostilities is small,” Sahakian told the Russian Interfax news agency in an interview. “First of all, there is a very effective balance of forces existing between the conflicting parties.”

“Secondly, war is fraught with unpredictable consequences. The international community and, in particular, the mediating countries are hardly interested in instability in a strategically important region like the South Caucasus,” he said.

Tensions along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact have risen since a June 18-19 firefight in northeastern Karabakh that left four Armenian soldiers dead. The incident was followed by fresh Azerbaijani threats to resolve the conflict by force.

“Such [ceasefire] violations can not change the existing balance of forces or undermine the spirit of our people and its army,” said Sahakian. Karabakh Armenian forces are capable of not only repelling an Azerbaijani offensive but also “taking hostilities deep into the enemy’s territory,” he added.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group urged the conflicting parties to “reinforce the ceasefire and demonstrate a spirit of compromise.” They also confirmed that the parties failed to overcome their differences over the conflict’s resolution during recent negotiations.

Sahakian scoffed at Azerbaijani statements that Baku is only prepared to give Karabakh a high degree of autonomy. “We already had that autonomy during 70 years of Soviet rule and we all know how it ended,” he said. “A broad or any other autonomy within Azerbaijan is out of the question. The conflict with Azerbaijan can only be resolved through a formal international recognition of the independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”

The Karabakh leader also insisted that the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice upholding the legality of Kosovo’s secession from Serbia is also applicable to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.

Turkish-Azerbaijani association will work to eliminate Armenian lies – president

Turkish-Azerbaijani association will work to eliminate Armenian lies - president

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 31 /Trend, U.Sadikhova /

The Turkish-Azerbaijani associationcreated in Ankara will primarily work towards the elimination of false facts on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Khojaly tragedy being disseminated by theArmenians in the Western media, the president of the Association Sinan Ogantold Trend.

On Saturday with the participation of Turkish officials and representatives of the Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with the Diaspora the Turkish-Azerbaijani association was officially inaugurated in Ankara.

“The Association created today in Ankara will be lobbying to expand the dissemination of truthful information about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Khojaly tragedy and fraternal relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey, based on the “one nation – two states” principle”, Ogan, a member of the Expert Council of Trend and the head of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis TURKSAM said by telephone from Ankara.

In addition to working in 81 Turkish provinces, the newly created association will also operate in European countries and the U.S., where the Armenian lobby is the most actively circulating false facts in the media,” said Ogan.

“The false information about the Nagorno-Karabakh, Khojali tragedy and the Turkish-Azerbaijani relations most often appear in European and American press, so that the Armenians have created the impression that they are innocent. This is one of the main problems of Azerbaijan and Turkey”, he said. “The Armenian lobby could even penetrate the Turkish media, leaving its mark there.

The association of friendship between the two countries will focus on the meetings and international conferences in European countries, to bring the true state of affairs,” Ogan said.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.

Armenian military forces committed genocide acts in the town of Khojali, Azerbaijan, with the population of 7,000 people on Feb. 26 1992. There were 3,000 people in the town at the time of attack.

As a result more than 600 people were killed, including 63 children, 106 women and 70 old men. 1,000 peaceful people of different age became physicly disabled during Khojali genocide. 8 families were completely annihilated, 130 children lost one parents, while 25 lost both of them. 1,275 peaceful residents were taken hostages, while the fate of 150 of them is still unknown.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994.The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – Russia, France, and the United States – are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the occupied territories.

“The work on lobbying and functioning of the Diaspora is free, it must go beyond Turkey and take root in Europe and the USA” – he said, adding that the association will actively cooperate with the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Turkey and the Azerbaijani community, to which great attention is paid by the leadership of Azerbaijan.

“In the future we look forward to working closely with the Azerbaijani and Turkish governments for the elimination of any forgery and strengthening of Azerbaijani-Turkish brotherhood,” said Ogan.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at trend@trend.az

Oil Spill Dispersants Shifting Ecosystem Impacts in Gulf, Scientists Warn

Oil Spill Dispersants Shifting Ecosystem Impacts in Gulf, Scientists Warn

By ELANA SCHOR of Greenwire

But scientists warn the oil’s ecological impacts are shifting, not ebbing, thanks to massive volumes of dispersants that have kept the crude beneath the waves.

“This is a management decision, to use dispersants,” College of William and Mary marine science professor Robert Diaz said yesterday. “It doesn’t make the oil go away, it just puts it from one part of the ecosystem to another.”

That dispersed oil now hovers, diluted in the water column, posing a challenge for scientists to track and measure the subsea plumes. Mapping the long-term effects of the nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant used by BP PLC may well be equally difficult, given the array of unanswered questions that surround the products’ rapid breakdown of oil droplets and their chronic toxicity.

In other words, while dispersants may have helped spare the Gulf’s birds, the chemicals are likely shifting dangers to other species lower in the food chain. The National Research Council described dispersant use in 2005 as “a conscious decision” to direct hydrocarbons to one part of the marine ecosystem, “decreasing the risk to water surface and shoreline habitats while increasing the potential risk to organisms in the water column and on the seafloor.”

Diaz spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing aimed at guiding future research into dispersants, which remain a politically volatile topic even as their use in the Gulf tapers off thanks to the capped Macondo wellhead. A May meeting at the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center, planned by government scientists and oil industry representatives, yielded a consensus judgment that dispersant use “has generally been less environmentally harmful than allowing the oil to migrate on the surface into the sensitive wetlands.”

Another group of scientists, however, issued a public plea (pdf) last week that decried dispersants and warned that, mixed with oil, the products “pose grave health risks to marine life and human health.”

Coastal Response Research Center co-director Nancy Kinner sought to put the May statement in context. “Nobody’s saying dispersants are great,” she said after yesterday’s briefing, though they are an effective alternative when mechanical methods of collecting spilled oil prove impossible.

Kinner outlined a series of gaps in the current system of testing dispersants. U.S. EPA’s analysis of their toxicity focuses on acute effects of exposure in two representative species, but “we do very little chronic toxicity work,” she said. That work would evaluate whether dispersants could heighten the mortality of larvae and other sensitive species that may not die off immediately but studies show are absorbing tiny droplets of dispersed oil into their shells.

Dispersant studies have not examined the products’ long-term effects and their consequences when applied at high pressure, Kinner added, which BP did by spraying the chemicals subsea near the leaking wellhead. Diaz added another mystery to the list, noting that current studies focus on marine organisms that may not be feeling the brunt of this summer’s dispersant assault.

“All the risks we’ve evaluated have used surface, shallow-water species that are easily maintained” in a laboratory setting, Diaz said. “We haven’t been using oceanic species to assess risk, and this is a key issue.”

Measuring long-term effects

The Marine Environmental Research Institute’s director, Susan Shaw, the organizer of last week’s statement against dispersant use, agreed that the current extent of testing falls short. Oil mixed with the Corexit dispersant used by BP “is probably having a lethal effect on all these [small] animals — that’s the food for the small fish.”

“The idea that the oil has disappeared and this is all fine is completely not true,” Shaw added. “There are long-term impacts that we need to look at and measure.”

Shaw also pointed to language in the 2005 National Research Council report that discussed the higher potential toxicity of chemically dispersed crude droplets, thanks to an increased surface area that exposes more of the oil’s polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The Obama administration sought this week to temper premature celebration of the shrinking surface oil. “What we have yet to determine is the full impact that the oil will have on not just the shorelines, not just the wildlife, but beneath the surface,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told reporters. “And we have a very aggressive research effort under way to determine exactly that.”

How much funding that effort will receive remains an open question. Kinner said the National Research Council’s report outlined a $40 million plan for dispersant research, but a quarter of the money materialized over the past five years. Future research and development should bring “industry and government and NGOs to the table,” she said.

The first player on that list, however, raised concerns for Shaw, who described herself as “worried about the impact of having polluting industries funding the research. There’s no way that will not impact [things] — it’s not independent research.”

Copyright 2010 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

For more news on energy and the environment, visitwww.greenwire.com.

Beijing’s Asia power play


Beijing’s Asia power play

China’s economic and military might has grown in recent years along with its overseas trade and investment. China is becoming an oceanic power with growing clout in the Asia-Pacific region.

It demonstrated naval, air and amphibious strength this year by holding exercises in the South and East China seas, where it has unresolved territorial and maritime boundary disputes with several Southeast Asian countries and with Japan.

Both areas appear to have become core national interests, meaning that sovereignty and other claims to control by China will be vigorously defended.

Recently the Yellow Sea between Korea and China was added to the areas where Beijing is warning the United States and its allies not to intrude. “We resolutely oppose any foreign military vessel and planes conducting activities in the Yellow Sea and China’s coastal waters that undermine China’s security interests,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson declared in July.

But Beijing may have overplayed its hand, miscalculated the resolve of the Obama administration, and underestimated regional alarm at assertive Chinese actions. Nearly half of the 27 delegations taking part in a July 23 meeting in Hanoi of the ASEAN Regional Forum on security raised concerns about potential instability in the South China Sea. Japan was one of the countries voicing its concern.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that America had “a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.” She added that while the U.S. did not take sides on the competing territorial disputes (mainly involving China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines), Washington opposed the use or threat of force by any claimant.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi responded in a statement in English posted July 27 on the foreign ministry Web site. He said that Clinton’s “seemingly impartial remarks were in effect an attack on China and were designed to give the international community a wrong impression that the situation in the South China Sea is a cause for grave concern.” If navigation freedom and safety had been hindered, why had seaborne trade been growing so rapidly and why had China become the number one trading partner of many Southeast Asian countries, he asked rhetorically.

What may happen next? A key underlying problem is that China and the U.S. have sharply divergent views not about civilian shipping, but about the rights of foreign military ships and aircraft in waters and airspace around China.

China insists that any foreign naval vessels entering its territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles from the coast must first get permission. The U.S. says they have right to innocent passage under international law.

What has proven even more contentious in recent years are the divergent views of Beijing and Washington on military activities allowed in and over China’s Exclusive Economic Zone stretching out to as far as 200 nautical miles from the coast.

The U.S. says this zone is part of the high seas and international airspace where its military have rights of transit, maneuvering, exercise, flight operations, surveillance and intelligence collection, surveys, munitions testing and firing, communications and cable laying. China says such activities are prohibited without prior approval. However, Chinese naval ships or auxiliaries regularly conduct submarine operations, military surveys, and surveillance and intelligence gathering in the EEZs of Japan and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region without approval.

U.S. survey ships were harassed at least three times last year by Chinese vessels in China’s EEZ in the South China Sea.

The U.S. and South Korea recently started a series of sea exercises to deter North Korea. The first was held in waters to the east of Korea. But U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that some of the exercises later in the year would be held west of Korea in the Yellow Sea, despite China’s objections.

The U.S. has a long-standing Freedom of Navigation program. It is used to challenge what Washington regards as excessive coastal state claims over oceans and airspace anywhere in the world. The challenge can involve protests made through diplomatic channels, negotiations, and sending US warships and combat aircraft to assert rights of passage.

This is where the danger arises. China and the U.S. have no military crisis management system in place. China suspended military contacts in January after the U.S. said it would supply defensive arms to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a rebel province. Among activities frozen were the bilateral Military Maritime Consultative Agreement set up to promote common understandings in conducting naval and air operations in line with international law.

Meanwhile, America is seen as hypocritical and the legitimacy of its position is being challenged because it is the only major power not to have signed the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention. Many countries do not agree with the way the U.S. interprets the law of the sea. Several dozen have sought to regulate military activities in their EEZs. These zones encompass nearly 30 percent of the world’s oceans.

But it’s China that’s trying to extend its jurisdiction as far as possible out to sea. The aim is to create a security buffer, limit the operating areas of U.S. naval and air forces, erode ties between America and its regional allies and friends, and put China in a stronger position to enforce claims to control islands, seas and resources far beyond its internationally recognized borders.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.

Hamas Appeals To Arab Leaders In Lebanon, Using Dialogue of Rockets

Palestinian children play at a tunnel damaged in pre-dawn Israeli air strikes in Rafah town along the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip

Israeli warplanes hit Gaza after new rocket attack

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories : Israeli warplanes launched two pre-dawn raids on tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel.

The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza linked the flare-up of violence to Arab foreign ministers’ support for the principle of direct talks with Israel, saying Palestinians were “paying the price for (their) great error”.

A spokesman for the Israeli military confirmed the strikes targeted two tunnels used to smuggle arms into the Islamist Hamas-run enclave.

Palestinian medics said one person had been lightly injured in the overnight strike on the tunnels.

Late on Saturday, Gaza militants fired a second rocket on Israel in two days, with the makeshift projectile exploding near Sderot, causing damage at a university building but no casualties.

Israeli cabinet minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer told army radio that the army was “not going to sit there with its arms crossed in the face of these attacks”, but that its response would be measured.

“We do not want to set off an escalation because that is exactly what Hamas wants, which is why our response is hard but limited,” he said.

Hamas meanwhile condemned the “Israeli aggression” and reiterated its opposition to the relaunch of direct peace talks between the Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Israel.

Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo last week had lent their support to the principle of talks while leaving their timing up to Abbas, as international pressure mounted on the Palestinians to return to face-to-face talks.

“Our people in Gaza are paying the price for the great error and political mistake committed by the Arab Peace Initiative follow-up committee against the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

Hamas, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, has adamantly opposed peace talks since they began in the early 1990s.

Israel routinely launches air strikes after rocket attacks from Gaza. The strikes rarely kill anyone, but on Friday a raid killed a senior Hamas military commander.

That strike came after a rare military-grade rocket fired from Gaza slammed into the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon, damaging parked cars and shattering the windows of an apartment block but without wounding anyone.

Hamas vowed revenge for Friday’s raids that also wounded another eight people.

The Islamist movement has ruled Gaza since it drove out forces loyal to Abbas in June 2007, splitting the Palestinians into hostile rival camps. – AFP/ms

“Setting aside disputes and working for joint development.”

“Setting aside disputes and working for joint development.”

This quote is from the previous article on the US encroachment upon Chinese rights in the S. China Sea summarizes the Obama strategy which is used against both China and Russia to end-run around intransigent disputes which have blocked joint development ventures in the past.  Let’s ignore those big thorny issues while we make a few bucks.

Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it.  That is the key to unreasonable suggestions like accepting US domination, ignore the magic show while we pursue the thrill of scamming the locals out of their valuable natural resources.  This time, you (China or Russia) can help us rob the natives.