|Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız|
|Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız has said that if Russia does not respond to Turkey’s demands to reduce natural gas prices, Turkey plans to terminate the contract it has with its northeastern neighbor.|
|Speaking to reporters in Ankara on Thursday, Yıldız, in response to a question regarding natural gas prices, which have increased by 39 percent in the last two-and-a-half years, said: “We are going to take a close look at the contracts on the purchase of all raw essentials that are soon to expire. The agreement for the Russia-Turkey Western Pipeline is one of those contracts that need to be looked over again, and if we do not receive the discount we are expecting, it will be terminated.”
Yıldız previously spoke on the issue in March when he said: “We definitely understand the conditions the producer countries are in. However, it is normal for us to expect a reduction in natural gas prices,” noting that Turkey wanted to discuss the oil-indexed natural gas price to find other solutions to determine the cost. He also said the two countries should move towards coming up with a structure that gives priority to strategic cooperation and trade.
Turkey has been persistent in its demands since Gazprom, Russia’s biggest natural gas company, which meets 67 percent of Turkey’s requirements, reduced the price of the natural gas it was selling to the Italian Edison Company, which filed a lawsuit last November at the Court of Arbitration in Stockholm against Promgas, a company jointly owned by Gazprom and Italy’s Eni. The suit called for a reduction in the price of Russian gas in a long-term contract, and Gazprom agreed to cut its gas prices for Italy’s Edison in July.
Gazprom confirmed that the dispute had been resolved since it would not be a major loss for Gazprom as Edison does not buy more than 2 billion cubic meters from the Russian company.
The agreement between Turkey and Russia on the transfer of natural gas via the Russia-Turkey Western Pipeline will expire at the end of 2011, and Gazprom’s deal with Edison seems to have complicated its negotiations with larger gas consumers like Turkey.
[The man spends his time selling Western hallucinations to the Asian audiences, knowing that everything he promises is dependent upon American military pacification of Central and Southeast Asia. He sells “Silk Road Pipe Dreams,” like TAPI and Afghan/Pakistani trade agreements, including India, at a time when Pakistani and US forces are about to come to blows over American accusations and scapegoating of Pakistan. Lies are compounded by even greater lies—and he describes his delusional scenario as a great “Vision.”]
The Obama [ Images ] Administration on Wednesday stressed on the need to extend an Afghanistan- Pakistan transit trade agreement to India [ Images ], asserting this will transform the economic dynamics of the region.
“Opening transit trade to India would be transformative, because India is going to be such an important economic anchor for the region in the 21st century,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake [ Images ] said.
“The Indian and Pakistani commerce secretaries have been engaged in very important talks over the last several months to try to increase the volume of direct trade between their two countries that goes across the Wagah border,” Blake said in his remarks at a seminar on ‘Looking Ahead: US-India Strategic Relations and the Trans-Pacific Century’ at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University.
Referring to the ‘New Silk Road’ vision of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [ Images ], Blake said this is a shared commitment to promote private-sector investment, increase regional trade and transit and foster a network of linkages throughout the region to build up the Afghan private sector and create a stable and prosperous Afghanistan within a stable and prosperous region.
“The Afghan government put forward a vision for its economic future based on increased private sector investment and expanded regional trade and integration,” he said.
“This vision builds on many efforts already underway. For example, Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed to a transit trade agreement and to implement that and extend it to Central Asia,” Blake said.
“Ultimately, everyone hopes transit trade to India can be opened as well so that products from Afghanistan or from any of the Central Asian countries could transit through Pakistan and into India, Bangladesh and even beyond,” he said.
Blake said another very important priority is to try to expand regional energy infrastructure.
“Already, with the leadership of President Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan, the countries of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan and India have made quite important progress on the TAPI pipeline, which would bring natural gas from the fields of Turkmenistan to the energy markets of India, which, again, are growing very rapidly,” he said.
“It would also bring very important transit revenues for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he added. The International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn on December 5, 2011, will be a key opportunity for the government of Afghanistan, its neighbours and the broader international community to address how the international community can strengthen economic cooperation to comprehensively address the opportunities the New Silk Road presents, he noted.
“Just as India will be an anchor of the New Silk Road vision, an India more integrated with the markets of the Asia-Pacific and one more engaged in Asia-Pacific security issues will benefit the region and Asian multilateral fora,” Blake said.
This might entail India seeking an increased role in the East Asia Summit, elevating and further deepening its interaction with ASEAN, and developing further political relations with East Asia that match India’s vibrant trade and investment growth in the region, he added.
Image: Robert Blake | Photohgraph: Reuters
KABUL/PESHAWAR – Afghan President Hamid Karzai, long a staunch advocate of peace talks with Taliban, on Wednesday questioned whether the insurgent group was able to seek a political settlement and blamed Pakistan for fomenting instability, as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said Pakistan was a part of the Afghan solution and any effort to address this issue without it would not be productive.
Karzai took a swipe at Pakistan, saying it was clear the Taliban leadership was not independent enough to make its own decisions about how it conducted the war, and suggesting talks with Islamabad instead. “During our three-year efforts for peace, the Taliban has martyred our religious ulema (leaders), tribal elders, women, children, old and young,” Karzai was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office. “By killing (Burhanuddin) Rabbani, they showed they are not able to take decisions. Now, the question is (should we seek) peace with who, with which people?”
Hundreds of Rabbani’s supporters protested in Kabul on Tuesday against his killing, chanting “death to Pakistan, death to the Taliban” and demanding the government scrap plans to hold dialogue with the insurgents. Preliminary investigations into Rabbani’s killing, presented to Karzai by the country’s intelligence chiefs on Tuesday, said the attack was plotted outside Afghanistan and the Taliban’s powerful Quetta Shura may have been involved.
Karzai said Afghanistan’s efforts to improve ties with Pakistan had not been reciprocated. “Pakistan did nothing to destroy terrorist strongholds, allowing them to train in its territory,” he said. “And now, if the Taliban is being used… by the ISI, then Afghanistan has to talk with Pakistan and not the Taliban,” he added. Speaking at a dinner hosted by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Masud Kausar in his honour here, Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan supported the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.
However, such a process should not destabilise Pakistan, he said. Gilani said that Pakistan had its own interest in the region which it would protect at all costs.
By Patrick Seale
Barack Obama’s once promising foreign policy has been undermined by short-sighted support for Israel and muddled objectives in Afghanistan.
US President Barack Obama is piling up the foreign policy disasters. In at least three areas crucial for world peace and US interests – Arab-Israel tensions, Afghanistan-Pakistan and Yemen-Somalia – he’s pursuing a course that can only be described as foolhardy. Indeed, the anger and hate towards the United States that he’s generating could take a generation to dispel.
Obama’s abject surrender to Israel on the Palestine question has shocked much of the world and gravely damaged the United States’ standing among Arabs and Muslims. In what is seen by many as an effort to court the Jewish vote at next year’s presidential election, Obama has thrown into reverse the policy of outreach to the Muslim world that he expressed so eloquently in his 2009 Cairo speech. If he’s now driven to use the US veto at the UN Security Council to block theapplication of a Palestinian state for UN membership, he will have been defeated by the very forces of Islamophobia he once hoped to tame.
Obama’s policy in Afghanistan is equally perverse. On the one hand, he seems to want to draw the Taliban into negotiations. But on the other, some of his army chiefs and senior diplomats apparently want to destroy the Taliban first. This is hardly a policy likely to bring the insurgents to the table. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ryan Crocker, the new US ambassador to Kabul, actually said that the conflict should continue until more of the Taliban are killed. Who, one wonders, is in charge of US policy?
In a message on the occasion of the Eid at the end of Ramadan, Mullah Muhammad Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban, seemed to hint at his readiness for a comprehensive negotiation. ‘Every legitimate option can be considered,’ he said,’ in order to reach the goal of an independent Islamic regime in Afghanistan.’ He urged foreign powers to withdraw their troops ‘immediately’ in order to achieve a lasting solution to the problem. In a gesture to his local opponents, he stressed that the Taliban didn’t wish to monopolize power and that all ethnicities would participate in a ‘real Islamic regime acceptable to all the people of the country.’
Surely the United States and its allies should respond positively to this message? A conference in Bonn next December is due to review NATO’s war in Afghanistan – a war that seems closer to being lost than won. About 25,000 soldiers reportedly deserted the Afghan armed services in the first six months of this year because they had lost faith in the Hamid Karzai government’s ability to protect them and their families. Coalition troops are due to withdraw their troops by the end of 2014. Might there not be an argument for an immediate offer of negotiation together with a pledge of an earlier withdrawal? It is, after all, far from clear what strategic interests, if any, the West is defending in Afghanistan.
The subject is of considerable urgency since the US counter-insurgency strategy is in real trouble. In July, Ahmad Wali Karzai, Karzai’s powerful brother, was shot dead in Kandahar. In August, the Taliban attacked the British Council in Kabul. On September 10, a truck packed with explosives killed five people and wounded 77 US troops at a NATO military base south-west of Kabul – the highest injury toll of foreign forces in a single incident in the 10-year war. On September 13, insurgents staged a 20 hour-long assault on the US embassy and ISAF headquarters in the heart of Kabul – supposedly the best protected perimeter in the whole country. And on September 20, Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council, was assassinated.
Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, was charged by Karzai with the task of seeking peace with the Taliban. He seems to have made little or no progress. He was a mujahidin leader in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, then president of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996, before being ousted by the Taliban. He then became a leading figure of the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who fought the Islamists until the Taliban were driven from power by the US invasion of 2001. Although it’s not yet clear who is responsible for Rabbani’s murder, suspicion has fallen on the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network.
Pakistan has a vital strategic interest in Afghanistan. It wants to keep Indian influence out of a country that it considers its strategic depth. It suspects Karzai of being in league with India, and would appear to prefer a Taliban-governed Afghanistan to Karzai’s US-backed regime. In any event, Rabbani’s death robs Karzai of a key ally and strains his relations with Pakistan. It could be a step towards a civil war if no early attempt is made to engage the Taliban.
Now entering its 11th year – at the colossal cost to the US taxpayer of about $120 billion a year – the Afghan war has drained US resources, dangerously undermined the Pakistani state and threatened to destroy the US-Pakistani alliance. Addressing the US Senate in mid-September, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Pakistan’s army and the ISI, the powerful military intelligence service, of being in league with the Haqqani network. By using ‘violent extremism as an instrument of policy’, Mullen said, Pakistan was undermining the American military effort and jeopardizing the US-Pakistani strategic partnership.
Pakistan’s response was not long in coming. Speaking on the BBC programme The World Tonight on September 22, Gen. Asad Durani, a former head of the ISI, described US-Pakistan relations as in a state of ‘low-intensity conflict.’ Pakistan should back the United States’ opponents in Afghanistan, he said, if the US continued drone strikes against targets in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, in their hunt for the Taliban and their supporters, US special forces mount frequent night raids in Afghanistan, such as the one on September 2 that killed Sabar Lal , a wealthy Afghan, in his home in Jalalabad. According to press reports, the Americans broke in, handcuffed and blindfolded him and his guests, then took him out on the veranda and killed him. He had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, spent five years in Guantánamo, then built a new life for himself and his family. Clearly this wasn’t enough to allay US suspicions of his links with Islamic militants, with US officials claiming he was an al-Qaeda affiliate.
In Yemen and the Horn of Africa, the United States’ increasing resort to drones, with their inevitable toll of civilian deaths, has enraged the local populations and driven recruits into the arms of the militants. According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration has used CIA-operated drones to carry out lethal attacks against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The drone programme has killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians since 2001.
Surely, now is as good a time as any to ask whether US policy hasn’t created more terrorists than the CIA has managed to kill? Would it not be better if the United States were simply to declare victory in Afghanistan – and indeed in all the other places where its Special Forces operate – bring its troops home as soon as possible, and turn its attention to tending the wounds in its own broken society?
Patrick Seale is a British writer on the Middle East and author of ‘The Struggle for Syria’ and ‘Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East’. He has reported for Reuters and The Observer among other publications.
Photo Credit: White House
[Once again, the Asian Development Bank is supporting the American war plans for Afghanistan and beyond, into Central Asia (SEE: Asian Devel. Bank Funding Uzbek Project To Upgrade Ferghana Valley Highway). In the previous support, the ADB provided the cash to modernize the remaining Uzbek highway system, which leads into the Ferghana Valley, the next target in the Imperial war plans. The new money for the electrification of Uzbek railway section leading into Mazar i-Sharif, Afghanistan, is intended to supply military equipment and war materiel–NOT “humanitarian relief goods” or “exports of their main commodities” as is claimed in the report below. Apparently, the ADB, like the UN, is just another arm of the US government.]
ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending $100 million to upgrade a key railway in Uzbekistan which will stimulate local growth and boost regional trade.
ADB’s Board of Directors has approved the loan for the Railway Electrification Project which will finance the electrification of a 140-kilometer stretch of rail line between Marakand in Samarkand province and Karshi in Kashkadarya province, says a press release received here from Manila,Philippines here on Thursday.
The railway is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Corridor 6 that runs north to south, linking Europe, through Central Asia, to the Middle East andSouth Asia. In Uzbekistan, the route carries about 10 million tons of freight annually, including about 1.6 million tons of humanitarian relief goods for Afghanistan—more than half its imports.
The northern part of the railway is electrified, but the southern part, including the section from Marakand to Karshi, uses diesel locomotives which are slower and carry less freight. In addition, passenger and freight traffic has been growing steadily, putting existing facilities under strain and creating bottlenecks.
“This upgrade will improve regional connectivity along a vital transit route, cut transport costs, lessen greenhouse gas emissions and boost trade,” said Zheng Wu, a Transport Specialist at ADB’s Central and West Asia Department.
The project runs through remote, underdeveloped districts in the two provinces and better transport links will allow them to step up exports of their main commodities including cotton, horticulture products, marble, oil and gas.
The ongoing upgrade of the line, including a separate section being cofinanced by the Government of Japan, will also allow Afghanistan to take advantage of the ADB-funded Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif railway, which provides a critical link to Uzbekistan and beyond.
Along with physical improvements, which include an overhead power line, traction substations, modern signaling and telecommunication equipment, the project will provide training and other support to state-run rail operator, Uzbekistan Temir Yullari, to manage the new system. ADB is the lead development partner in Uzbekistan’s rail transport sector and the project builds on two earlier railway modernization and rehabilitation investments.
The Government of Uzbekistan and Uzbekistan Temir Yullari will provide counterpart funds equivalent to $76 million for a total investment cost of $176 million. The state rail operator will execute the project which is due for completion by March 2016.
Copyright PPI (Pakistan Press International), 2011
A view of the Lowari Tunnel in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa situated between Dir and Chitral district. PHOTO: FILE
ISLAMABAD: While the foreign office remains firm in its stance that Pakistan has been forced to retaliate against Afghan militant attacks, a senior official of the defence ministry has claimed that foreign forces in Afghanistan are behind recent cross border attacks in Pakistan.
According to the official, international forces raised a Coalition Special Operation Force (CSOF) to ‘directly and indirectly attack security forces and civilians in the bordering towns of Pakistan’.
He further told The Express Tribune that Islamabad had filed formal complaints with the US and Nato against armed attacks on its security forces in Dir and Chitral. “We are waiting for their reply,” he added while requesting anonymity.
American news website the Long War Journal in a report last week confirmed that the CSOF was fighting against the Taliban in Afganistan’s Nuristan province – an area mostly under the control of the Taliban and other allied fighting groups.
Furthermore, noted strategy expert Brig Shaukat Qadir told The Express Tribune that the CSOF, which, he said, was established by the US to sponsor violence in Pakistan, was used by foreign forces to attack Pakistani bordering towns.
Meanwhile, a senior official in the foreign affairs ministry has confirmed that several rockets were recently fired as ‘retaliatory action’ on militants by Pakistani security forces in the Afghan province of Kunar.
The official made it clear that the attacks were part of retaliatory action against the militants who in the last two months have been constantly attacking Pakistani security forces and defence installations in Dir and Chitral from Kunar.
While the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has repeatedly blamed US and Nato forces in Afghanistan for sponsoring militant attacks on civilian and security forces in Dir and Chitral, the foreign affairs ministry refrains from accusing foreign troops.
“We are aware that a third party is directly involved in anti-Pakistan violence in our tribal regions,” the source said while requesting anonymity.
Ruling out Afghanistan
“Islamabad is aware that the Afghan government is not responsible for the border violations,” the foreign office source said, adding that a militarily fragile country would not attack Pakistan on its own.
He also referred to the recent statement by the Afghan foreign ministry’s spokesman regarding the ongoing tug-of-war between Pakistan and the United States. He said Kabul was perturbed by the development. “The Afghan foreign ministry’s deputy spokesman Dr Faramarz Tamanna said that Afghanistan welcomes any regional and international pressure on Pakistan but believes that a deterioration of relationship between America and Pakistan can’t help regional peace”.
Pakistan’s foreign office believed that peace between Islamabad and Kabul was much more in the interest of Afghanistan. He said that after the recapture of the Waigal district in Nuristan by Afghani Taliban in March this year, foreign forces in Afghanistan sponsored attacks on the Pakistani bordering towns.
Published in The Express Tribune