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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

A CHOREOGRAPHY THAT EXPLORES THE IDEA OF RECONCILIATION.

Fishman Space in BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Place, near Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-636-4100, www.bam.org.

The main purpose of DanceMotion USA, a cultural diplomacy program run by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the State Department, is to send American artistic troupes abroad. Yet the program also benefits New Yorkers directly by having  American companies bring back a foreign one for a free, collaborative stay and performance here of several weeks – sometimes at dance camps out-of-town i.e. in Maine.  Eventually a new program is born and it is shown at the Brooklyn BAM which is now blessed o have also the  Fisher Building (Fishman Space) next door. These visits have proven to say the least – interesting. The New York Times prefers to say illuminating.

At the BAM Fishman Space on Thursday, David Dorfman Dance which is based at the BAM, back from a four-week tour of Turkey, Armenia and Tajikistan, teamed up with the Korhan Basaran Company from Istanbul, augmented by two Armenian dancers – Karen Khatchatryan and Davit Grigoryan. 

The program was not one with pieces from each of the performing triangle’s previous repertory.  Mr. Dorfman and Mr. Basaran went all the way,  joining forces for an hour-long  joint program titled – “Unsettled” with a  chosen theme of  “reconciliation.”   It was remarkable how well the two companies, both packed with powerful dancers did merge.

The work teemed with groups pushing and shoving, but it did not set one troupe against the other. The sharpest contrast — in the opening moments and in two later face-off duets — was between the choreographers: Mr. Basaran, tall, with a tendency to collapse inward, and Mr. Dorfman, squat, always hurling his energy out. Yet the aesthetic kinship between them was also apparent in eruptive rhythms and labile emotions.

The music, composed and played live by Sam Crawford, Liz de Lise, Jesse Manno and Timothy Quigley, beguilingly blended Western and Middle Eastern styles and instrumentation. It borrowed the folk song “Sari Gyalin” (or “Sari Gelin”), which in Turkish, Armenian and English versions laments the failure of love across ethnic divides.


A few scenes — for example, a forced march — could be read as specific allusions to the bloody history between Turks and Armenians, but much of the work’s tension was cannily translated into the power dynamics of the choreographic process. In its strongest segment, Evrim Akyay, a slinky Turkish dancer with a menacing presence, directed the motions of an ingenuous American, Kendra Portier, as if in rehearsal for this show. The more he yelled at her in Turkish and slapped her around, the brighter her smile. Though, the power of that scene was squandered as Ms. Portier turned to audience members and implored them to move closer together, vocalizing her needs in dancerly double entendres (“I need to be moved”).  Similarly, another scene swerved from infantile humor to a sharp evocation of the coercion in making people say they’re sorry, only to end with weeping on the ground. A shrewd point about forced reconciliations got belabored in a manner that was itself coercive.

Still, it is to the credit of all involved that “Unsettled,” after a celebratory group dance, had the honesty to remain unsettled. What resonated was a moment before the end, when Mr. Dorfman, having failed to force his friendship on Mr. Basaran, took a line from the folk song and allowed it to expand into a humble question for everyone: “Oh tell me please, what can I do?”

 

This reporting of mine follows a review in the New York Times and a feeling that many in the audience, including myself, had that though seeing a piece that historically dealt with the Armenian – Turkish relations that included an attempt at genocide, actually today the topic is the Israeli Palestinian conflict and it was obvious that to untrained ears Turkish, Armenian, or Arab music – seem all the same – and thus a presence in the air – reference was being made to the Middle East as if there were some generic to it.

The performances at the BAM went on Thursday – Friday – Saturday evenings, but then there was also a performance Saturday afternoon that I attended because it had also a follow up discussion with TV link to Istanbul and questions via the internet from London, Ankara, Germany and some other places.

On a question about the collaboration we heard an answer that said – in a month we become one but in some things where there were differences we become States.

Before the TV land internet links the conversation was according to the natural language of the speaker with a sometime translation into English – then from Ankara came the notion that something that was said in Armenian needed also Turkish translation. Fair enough.

On the I AM SORRY piece: “Children can easily apologize to each other – forget and forgive.”  As he got older, the comment went on, he felt he needed more – the words alone mean less.

Then he saw The Planet of the Apes – they have the capacity of forgive & forget – but we do not have that capacity anymore.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Poet Rumi, a Secular Islam meeting in Florida, an Iranian-American businessman Freydoon Khoie is campaigning for a new Muslim World.

Secular Islam
 
The only way to save Islam is to build Secularist Muslims Societies in Muslim Countries
 
A summit was held a few months ago in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA to promote a “secular version of Islam“. This Summit was an international forum spearheaded by Muslim secularists and was organized and sponsored by the Center for Inquiry in partnership with the International Intelligence Summit.

Many who attended issued a declaration at the end of the summit. While many of the clauses of that declaration are in tune with Islam and its teachings, there were others that clearly are based on faulty and presumed premises (e.g. submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights). The fact is that mainstream Muslims do not believe that any of it’s teachings violate human rights – rather Islam came and through its principles and teachings, it protected the weak, elevated the status of women, lay down rules for protection of minorities in Muslim lands and many other such principles.

The text of the declaration issued by the “Muslim Secularists” read as follows:

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to:

Reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights; eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence; reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims; and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid structures of orthodoxy like it is practiced in Iran.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.

——————————————————

 

FREYDOON KHOIE
I was born in April 1949, to a middle class family in Iran and raised in Tehran. I really believe that being an entrepreneur is in one’s genes as I realized my love for business, independence and hard work at a very early age of 14, when I dropped out of high school and started working in number of fields until I started my first serious business at age 23 by forming IPC Engineering company in 1972 and quickly built my engineering team to design, and build industrial projects in Iran’s golden age when the whole country was under construction. By 1975, I had 34 staff and $1,280,000 revenue which was a serious money in those days. To qualify for bigger projects, I formed joint venture partnerships with couple of American companies and visited the United States for the first time. Upon arriving in New York, I could not believe the vast difference between America and Iran. After few months and in my second visit, I decided to set up a branch office in Los Angeles to use it as the source of technology and knowhow and trading, but only two years later the national catastrophe in the body of so called Islamic revolution hit my beloved Iran and devastated everything that was good and lovely and replaced it with utter ugliness, terror and violence and destroyed our chances and hope of building a new, modern, industrialized and civilized Iran. The rest is history and our country has continued to decline ever since.

Now reluctant to return my country under the tyrannical regime, I formed Sood Industries in Los Angeles, and started my CNC machine tools business. The Registered Trade Mark was FreeMax Precision Machine Tools. By 1990, we had expanded into PC business, and we were selling IBM PCs to our customer base in California to CAD/CAM software sector which was a bundling strategy with our CNC machine tools to capture greater market share, and this led me into computer business which I took it one step further and decided to build my own PC brand and since East Asia was the place to go for cheap labor, I picked Singapore as our production base. By now, I had sold my IPC company in Tehran and had become an international entrepreneur.

In 1990, I established IMI Electronics in Singapore and started building IMI Computers into a global PC brand. Our principle activities involved the assembly, packaging, marketing and sales and distribution of microcomputer-based products as well as application specific products such as point-of-sale terminals and network systems. IMI’s broad product lines were distributed under “IMI” brand, through a wide network of appointed distributors and dealers to more than 38 countries around the world.

With $53 million confirmed orders for 1994 and projected sales of $80 million for 1995 and growing sales subsidiaries in Europe, Middle East, and our own East Asian markets, Australia and Iran, the company was attacked by a $2 billion conglomerate IMI PLC., ( a UK based Company) alleging Trade Mark infringement and after a protracted legal tussle and plenty of dirty tricks by them, we lost the and I learned a great lesson in trade mark protection. I restructured the company under UBIQ Computers and relocated our operations to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Brisbane, Australia and a year later in 1997 I sold the company and started planning my next move.

In 1997, having been away from Iran for 24 years, I decided to go back and explore business opportunities. The arrival experience was horrific. Finding my flourishing and rapidly progressing country of 1975 in a state of utter repression, poverty, depression, chaos and criminality was much painful but still I was hoping to find a way to help our people in any way possible. In my first month, I realized that the national car – Paykon – had no air conditioning and people in the heat of Tehran’s horrible summer were suffering. My quick research indicated that there was a niche market which I jumped on the opportunity and few months late I formed Neekon Automotive in Tehran, and invited Japanese Sanden Corporation to design an application specific A/C for Paykon and in matter of months I launched an aggressive marketing campaign and started selling our A/Cs, but just as I was warned by friends, the corrupt elements in the government owned Iran Khodro, the manufacturer of Paykon, attacked my company, demanding that I should give them our technology, and making all kinds of threats that if I refuse they will prevent us doing business. I could not believe my eyes that bunch of thugs and criminals were actually in charge of our greatest industries like Iran Khodro, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Commerce that so blatantly and openly acted like communists and crushed private sector initiatives. After couple of years of confrontations I realized that everything said about this regime was true and the only solution for saving Iran was and is a total abolition of the Islamic Republic Constitution and removal of the state from power and establishing a new, multi-party, secular and modern democratic political system. So I closed down my businesses and decided to relocate to Dubai in the year 2000 right after our son was born.

I found Dubai to be absolutely the best of both worlds. A wise and forward looking leadership, tolerant and open minded had turned Dubai into a model state for all Muslim countries as center of excellence. The first thing I did was to establish Maxam Publishing House to produce two monthly English business magazines: The Middle East Entrepreneur and Digital Executive, and decided to get settled in this beautiful, business friendly, corruption free, dynamic country and since then I have built number of companies that form the Khoie Group today. Having identified the construction boom in Dubai and UAE, I formed such companies as Khoie Power, Khoie Trading, Khoie Properties, Khoie Education, Khoie Industries, and Khoie Media with variety of ventures and projects in the service of community and by 2011 we reached our $1 billion market valuation and growing.

In the meantime, like all other nationalist Iranians, I have been watching with deep concern the disastrous mismanagement of our country and her continued social and economic decline and political isolation and I have lend my support to the progressive green movement and other pro-democracy forces seeking change and reform in Iran to put an end to the mullah’s tyrannical rule and establish a secular, liberal democratic political system in which individual liberties, free market and peace are guaranteed to all citizens.

 

He posted:

Our 21st Century Challenge for Iran
It is impossible to reform and stop oppression, corruption and terrorism in Iran because the regime structure is originally designed to survive on corruption and it is rotten from its rootsIran’s 1979 Revolutions was more or less something like Russia’s Communist Revolution of 1917 in which Lenin and his partners in crime promised the poor workers and peasants that they had nothing to lose but their chains and the whole world to gain.
Read more
Khamnei’s Islamic Republic of Horror
What was the Original Intention of the 1979 Revolution in Iran? What are the Function and Purpose of a Government?It is refreshing to re-visit Ayn Rand when she wrote over seventy years ago about the function and purpose of government: “If physical force is to be barred from social relationships,
Read more
Pro-Democracy Iranians are shocked to see that President Obama seems to be Harsher to Members of Congress than to Khamnei’s terrorist regime
The White House’s threat to veto a bi-partisan Iran sanctions bill, which was introduced today in the Senate is confusing everyoneA bipartisan group of Senators has introduced carefully considered legislation intended to increase sanctions to prevent Khamnei’s terrorist to build nuclear weapon and stop its gross and brutal Human Right violations,
Read more
Bible translation into Persian language completed after 18 years of work
This is without a doubt the best thing that has happened to the faithful people of Iran since the first translation of the Bible into Persian language in early ChristianityI have studied the Holy Bible, Quran, Avesta and other Holy books for over 38 years and as a Christian I am convinced that God has a clear and specific plan for the faithful people of Iran
Read more
Voltarian Muslims and Hyper-maniac Hezbollah
How the few hired radical Islamist mercenaries are destroying the good name of IslamThe millions of innocent Muslims who involuntarily left their homeland to escape extremist Mullahs’ tyranny and oppression and migrated to such liberal and advanced economies like France, Britain, Germany, Holland, and other western and northern European countries
Read more
How Egypt is showing the Path of ‘how to’ achieve a True Democracy in the region
Only a Benevolent force can transform primitive states into a genuinely Liberal Democratic oneIt is a sheer naiveté to imagine that old nations like Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and others like them, could become liberated states overnight by so called Islamist revolutions
Read more
Giving ‘Democracy’ a Bad Name
Turkmenistan Votes in First Ever Multi-Party Legislative Polls!!!Turkmenistan, located on the north east border of Iran, was part of the Persian Empire. The Turkmen people were originally pastoral nomads and some of them continued this way of life up into the 20th century, living in transportable dome-shaped felt tents.
Read more
Pluralism: a key challenge of the 21st century – Kofi Annan
“If diversity is seen as a source of strength, societies can become healthier, more stable and prosperous.”In a speech at the Global Centre for Pluralism, in May 2013 Kofi Annan discusses the challenges of governing plural societies, promoting inclusive democracy in Iran, Kenya, and the moment at which Syria’s deadly conflict could have been averted:
Read more

————————————==============————————

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad Balkh?, also known as Jal?l ad-D?n Muhammad R?m?, and more popularly in the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

 

—————————–——————————

 

Rumi – Quotes
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

? Rumi
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”

? Rumi


“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”

? Rumi


“The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

? Rumi
“What you seek is seeking you.”

? Rumi
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

? Rumi
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”

? Rumi
“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?”

? Rumi
“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

? Rumi
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

? Rumi
“When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.”

? Rumi
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

? Rumi
“Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.”

? Rumi
“Knock, And He’ll open the door
Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.”

? Rumi
“Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live. Destroy your
reputation. Be notorious.”

? Rumi
“My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.”

? Rumi
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”

? Rumi

Secular Islam
 
The only way to save Islam is to build Secularist Muslims Societies in Muslim Countries
 
A summit was held a few months ago in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA to promote a “secular version of Islam“. This Summit was an international forum spearheaded by Muslim secularists and was organized and sponsored by the Center for Inquiry in partnership with the International Intelligence Summit.

Many who attended issued a declaration at the end of the summit. While many of the clauses of that declaration are in tune with Islam and its teachings, there were others that clearly are based on faulty and presumed premises (e.g. submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights). The fact is that mainstream Muslims do not believe that any of it’s teachings violate human rights – rather Islam came and through its principles and teachings, it protected the weak, elevated the status of women, lay down rules for protection of minorities in Muslim lands and many other such principles.

The text of the declaration issued by the “Muslim Secularists” read as follows:

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to:

Reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights; eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence; reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims; and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid structures of orthodoxy like it is practiced in Iran.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.

The declaration obviously was critiqued by many Muslim organizations. Your thoughts and analysis on the declaration are welcome.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

After the briefing at the US Mission to the UN I crossed the street to the UN proper and found out that the UN had two extraordinary activities that day:

(1) The Launching of an International Year of Water Cooperation in the morning followed by a Press Conference at the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium.

(2) The Launching of the United Nations Children’s Tour in the Visitor’s Lobby – to which all accredited Journalists and media affiliates were invited.

The second event was easy to reject – this because of the fact that the invitation sounded exclusive and then because we always thought that the UN was established in order to do serious business and we never liked the idea that it is being turned by its leaders into a tourist trap.

Oh well! This left the first activity which looked suspicious as well. What is it WATER COOPERATION?

As I was looking for a particular journalist I found my way to the Water Cooperation Press Conference and watched three presentation by three people – The UN Ambasssador from Hungary, Mr. Csaba Korosi, a science specialist for UNESCO Ms. Ana Persic, and Mr. Paul D. Egerton the World Meteorological Organization (Headquartered in Geneva) Representative in New York.

I understood that the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2013 as International Year for Water Cooperation in 2010 following a request by Tadjikistan that is short of water and has disputes with its neighbor Uzbekistan. Instead of looking at the political dispute and at the shortage of water in that dry part of central Asia, the UN gave the lead to the issue to UNESCO which is running UN Water – a project that looks at the importance of water in general. So what we got was a scientific presentation of climate change, droughts and tsunamis. Instead of having an Ambassador from n Asian dryland we got the Ambassador from Hungary and presentations on the importance of water for poverty reduction. We heard of Climate Security and catastrophic weather, of migration and water vulnerability – BUT WHAT ABOUT COOPERATION BETWEEN THE UZBEKS and the TADJIKS? What about international water-sharing laws and agreements?

Yes, from our experience we know that WMD does terrific scientific work as they did when we needed them to prepare information on climate change for the IPCC – but they are not a political organization – not even UNESCO can push for COOPERATION between governments, so what was this event about.

I decided to bring up what I learned just last week from the Brahmah Chellaney presentation at the Asia Society, and which I posted as:

Asia is poorer in water then Africa, and China’s Tibetan Plateau dominates Asia water supply and could impact all other States. Professor Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi publicizes these problems in his books. Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2013

My question was about the Water-Hegemony of China because of the fact that most of the rivers originate on the Tibetan Plateau and China does not care to make water agreements with its neighbors. India is a victim of such disputes with China and the development of the whole region will stop because of lack of water and of agreements to share the water.

The answer came crystal clear – the studies will be prepared by scientists and not political people – that will be up to the governments. Let us say that if the UN is not ready to accept the task of getting countries together there is no sense in talking of cooperation – just another example that the UN cannot step up to the plate.

============================

And The Revealing Inner City Press Report: UN’s Water Year Is All Wet, Distinguishing Science & Politics, Tajik Sponsors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 – The year of 2013 is the year of many things, but according to the UN General Assembly it is the International Year of Water Cooperation, credited to a request by Tajikistan in 2010. Inner City Press covered that 2010 hoopla, here.

At the UN on Monday Inner City Press asked at the inevitable UN press conference about the Tajik – Uzbekistan water and dam dispute, and if the press conference panel’s singling out of Tajikistan for praise didn’t constitute taking sides in this dispute. Video here, from Minute 22:13.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Paul Egerton replied that WMO and UNESCO, whose Ana Persic was also on the panel, are both scientific organizations. “The starting point is to focus on scientific and environmental issues,” he said. “There may be discussions at the high political level, in the UN Security Council or other venues, of the political issues.”

But water cooperation is, of course, a “political” issue.

Witness the Nile Basin and an agreement signed by seven countries but not by Egypt or Sudan. Can UNESCO solve this? The Security Council seems unlikely to get involved on the Nile, much less the Uzbek – Tajik conflict.

Inner City Press began by thanking the panelists on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access. Also on the panel was Hungary’s Permanent Representative Csaba Korosi, who told Inner City Press that “we as member states cannot decide on behalf of other member states to sort out their bilateral problems.”

But that is precisely what the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter purports to do. Sudan, North Korea, Eritrea and others would like what Csaba Korosi said to be true. But it is not.

Csaba Korosi went on to say that the International Year of Water Cooperation is also “to raise awareness of solutions” and is about the “SDGs and the post 2015 development agenda.”

But isn’t everything?

Still, his answer at least acknowledged that these are political problems, and not only scientific. Now who will solve them? Watch this site.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

August 19, 2010, before the UN started its meetings, the Asia Society in New York opened the discussion on the Pakistan Flood response by diving right to the bottom truth – the latest mega-disasters have one common cause – human induced climate change. It was Financier George Soros who injected the topic and the media was allowed by Ambassador Holbrooke to follow up. See what you can do when you go outside the UN!

Ambassador Dr. Richard C. Holbrooke, former Chairman of the Board of the Asia Society, and now US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan,  chaired the 8:30 am event at his New York home – the Asia Society – on the day when for 3:00 pm the UN General Assembly scheduled a pledging event for funding Pakistan relief. At the UN, for the US, spoke Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, and I saw on TV  the complete  Asia Society American team sitting in the hall. The team included also Judith A. McHale, US Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Dr. George Erik Rupp, a theologian, President of the International Rescue Committee and former President of Rice University and Columbia University, and Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.

The opening speaker after Ambassador Holbrooke was Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the panel included also USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. Then there was a list of guests that made their comments, followed by questions from the floor and answers from Administrator Dr. Shah and Ambassador Qureshi.

100819_Holbrooke.jpg

enlarge image
L to R: USAID’s Dr. Rajiv Shah, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. (Else Ruiz/Asia Society)
Judith A. McHale, a former media head herself ( President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications – 1987 to 2006), and now with the US Government, said that information is critical. “We work with the government of Pakistan to provide the critical information on the ground. It is posted on www.State.gov

Among the guests were Financier George Soros, whose Open Society Institute and Soros Foundations work on the ground in Pakistan – he announced that he adds another $5 million to the funds that his foundation will work with in helping directly civil society in Pakistan,  Christopher MacCormac of the Asian Development Bank, which is leading the effort to assess the flood damage, said much of the economic infrastructure of the area has been destroyed. 2 million ha. of crops were lost and livestock have been devastated, which has taken a large toll on Pakistan farmers. ADB has said that after the immediate contribution of $3 million from the ASia-Pacific Disaster Fund, it would loan Pakistan $2 billion to help the country rebuild, and Pakistan’s rock star turned political activist Salman Ahmad, known as Pakistan’s Bono, or as Holbrooke pointed out, “Bono is the Irish Salman Ahmad,” pointed out a very important topic:

“This is a defining moment in Pakistan,” Ahmad said. “This flood has set back Pakistan in a huge way. Out of 175 million people, 100 million are under 25. Those young people are skeptical, and they feel abandoned by the world. The international community has to win hearts and minds of those 100 million youth in Pakistan.” “If there is a sluggish response the terrorists/extremists win.” He also said that last year he had a concert at the UN to show to the young people in Pakistan that there was hope – he said that he is sure the international community will react positively.

Ambassador Holbrooke said that in the catastrophe there is also an opportunity, that we should not miss –  the people in Pakistan should see that the world is ready to help. He found that these elements of hope in opportunity were missing in the day’s article in The New York Times.

For the US the strategic implications are clear. The US pulled out helicopters from the military effort in order to help in the rescue effort. Will the Taliban take advantage of this? A US transport ship with materials arrived to Karachi, and Japan will now also send helicopters to help in the rescue effort.

The meeting was summarized by The Asia Society and there is also the full tape at –

 asiasociety.org/policy-politics/e…

Further, Ms. Nafis Sadik from the UN, now a Trustee Emeritus of the Asia Society and Chair of the Pakistan Foundation at the Asia Society called for Ramadan giving to the Foundation. Other Pakistan-Americans spoke and told of their own efforts to raise funds for the Pakistan relief program as the State’s capacity to meet the challenge has been overstretched. Today Pakistan , one fifth of its territory submerged, 68 million of its people affected, and 1,600 people dead, crops, animal stock, and infrastructure devastated – Pakistan is calling – humanity is calling they said. We saw a video proving every point. The Pakistan-American Foundation was inspired by Hilary Clinton’s “Pakistani Peacebuilders.”

Oxfam America was joined by “Save the Chidren” NGO  representative Gorel Bogarde said the obvious – what children most need is food, clean drinking water and shelter. She is most concerned for the moment about the outbreak of water-bourne diseases, such as cholera.

We will not repeat here further figures of loss and the size of the calamity. We assume that these are known by our readers by now – we want rather to point out the blunt comments that resulted from the statement by Mr. Soros who linked what happens to our lack of readiness to do something about the human-made climate change. Pakistan is the biggest of the recent disasters he said and we must deal with the root causes he continued. CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE ROOT CAUSE FOR ALL THESE RECENT DISASTERS. Mr. Soros spoke of the coincidence of the Himalaya glaciers melting and the monsoons getting stronger at the same time.

He also said “there is a certain amount of fatigue in responding to these disasters… [but] we have to come to terms with the fact that they are in fact connected, that there is climate change.”

At the Q & A part of the program, I asked the last question that was intended to bring the attention back to what Mr. Soros said.
My question was something like – I am with Sustainable Development Media and I wonder what Pakistan thinks about Mr. Soros’ statement about climate change – the reason being that the present calamity will repeat itself, so how does one do reconstruction work that makes sense?

Ambassador Holbrooke said Thank You and addressed the question first to Mr. Rajiv Shah.

When asked if there was a connection between the floods and climate change, USAID’s Shah said “while it’s very hard to attribute any single event to what we’re doing to our global environment it is very clear that that trend is leading to a greater number of large hurricanes, a greater number of floods, hotter and dryer conditions in places that are dependent on weather and rainfall for agriculture, and it’s making it very difficult for the least resilient, the most lower income communities of the world to survive.”

We heard from Mr. Christopher MacCormac that after the Earth Quake of 2005 the rebuilding of houses was done according to higher standards – so what we need here in the response to the present calamity is also to build better – but he did not specify, neither did Mr. Holbrooke. This, with the understanding that the increased monsoon floods,  joined with the melting of the Himalaya Glaciers, is indeed not a one time shot – but the beginning of a trend – leaves us with very bad premonitions about the future of Pakistan and other low lying lands of the region. This  has  clearly left me thinking about what means building better? Are we going to take into account these new phenomena resulting from global use of fossil fuels when going from the immediate reaction to the suffering from the floods to the longer range rebuilding stage? This is clearly an area that will be written up much more in the foreseeable future.

Ambassador Qurashi was asked by Mr. Holbrooke to react to the climate change implications. Are there additional run-off from the Himalayas?

The answer included: The Glaciers melt and what we have in Pakistan are Monsoon water plus glacier melts combined. We have above normal moisture.

He also said that “There are local NGOs in Pakistan that help push back the extremists and you have shown the world that you are a helping Nation.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

from: K N Vajpai (Climate Himalaya Initiative) <knvajpai@gmail.com>

August 19, 2010

Climate Change Updates from Himalayan Mountains on Various Climate Change Issues.

For your information, the Climate Himalaya Initiative www.climatehimalaya.net has a dedicated news portal chimalaya.org/ , that updates the Climate Change related news on regular basis from Himalayan Mountains.

Those interested in Climate Change related issues and Mountains, can get regular updates by subscribing or becoming member.

The ongoing issues includes; Pakistan Floods, Leh Cloud Burst, Climate Change Modeling, Domestic Actions by countries, Actions by Asian countries, Cancun Climate Summit, Criticism of IPCC, etc…..!

There are options for subscription, membership, tweeting, facebook, among others….!

You can visit and explore at www.climatehimalaya.net

from – K N Vajpai
Convener and Theme Leader

Climate Himalaya Initiative
www.climatehimalaya.net
chimalaya.org
C/O Prakriti a mountain environment group
P.O. Silli, Agastyamuni, Rudraprayag
Uttarakhand, India PIN 246421
info@climatehimalaya.net
knvajpai@prakriti-india.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The ordeal in Pakistan reminded us of the –

Climate Himalaya Initiative.

An Initiative Towards Sustainable Development in Himalayan Mountains.
{This is linked to the reality of melting glaciers and increased severity of monsoon rains. Understanding the underlying causes of the present calamity is needed in order to go for long term help to the region. Talking of return to previous lives is not realistic.}

June 2, 2010

Himalayan countries must set aside their differences and  collaborate on science in order to avoid a common water crisis, says a report.

Environmental pressures, including those from climate change, could have unprecedented effects on the livelihoods of millions of people in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region, according to the study, published by the UK-based Humanitarian Futures Programme, the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, and China Dialogue. Yet scientific research is either non-existent or, where it exists, is not shared beyond a country’s borders, said the report, ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’. And scientists are failing to communicate what they do know to the public and policymakers, it added.

The Hindu-Kush Himalaya region provides water for one fifth of the world’s population including countries stretching from Pakistan to Myanmar. “This region is a black hole for data,” said Isabelle Hilton, editor of China Dialogue and a contributor to the report.

“Managing this water requires knowledge and cooperation,” she said at the launch of the report last week (19 May) in the United Kingdom. But the region “lacks the institutions and in some cases the political will to address issues cooperatively”. History, diverse languages and cultures, and military conflicts are behind the lack of a concerted effort to study the waters, she said, and now “a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach is needed” to catch up. But this is not high on the public agenda, she said.

Stephen Edwards, an earth scientist and research manager at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, called for more high-quality, peer-reviewed data. “We need to understand problems before we know how to manage them,” he said. But science itself is not enough, he added, “scientists have to interact with economists and policymakers — we need proper dialogue”.

Andreas Schild, director general of the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, agreed with the report’s conclusions.”Water is one of the most important resources,” he said. “Traditionally there has been no free exchange of information on water discharge and this is practically still the case today. “It is not just a concern between countries, but even within countries, as between the individual states of India.

“Researchers in all concerned countries are very interested in having cross-border collaboration and exchange of information,” he told  SciDev.Net. “But when it comes to cooperation on concrete issues at the level of government institutions, we face a completely different situation, where agreements with various other partners in the country are required.”If you want to close the knowledge gap here in the Himalayas then you have to strengthen the institutions [there].”

Otherwise, short-term foreign development funds mean there is no consistent long-term data and continuity in research by the institutions based in the region, said Schild. But he added that European organisations, with “Europe-centric” research methods, must share the blame.

“A lot of research conducted on this region by European universities and other institutions is often not shared. Sometimes we even get the impression that they are only looking for a partner in the South to use as Sherpas.”

Link to full ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’ report
[2MB]

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Press Conference at the UN

World Water Day

Monday, 22 March, 2010
12:30 p.m.
Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium

H.E. President of the UN General Assembly , H.E. Prime Minister of Tajikistan

H.E. Jan Eliasson
Chair of WaterAid Sweden, Former President of the UN General Assembly,
Former Foreign Minister of Sweden

With almost 884 million people lacking access to safe drinking water, and over 2.6 billion people, or almost 39 per cent of the world’s population, living without improved sanitation facilities, the issue of water is critical for tackling today’s challenges related to health, food security, and sustainable development.

To promote the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life 2005 – 2015”, the United Nations General Assembly is holding a special high-level interactive dialogue on water and its implications for the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, disasters, peace and security.

This high-level dialogue provides an important input to the preparatory process for the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals to be held on 20-22 September 2010, and feeds into the High-Level International Conference on water to be hosted by Tajikistan in June 2010.

General Assembly President Ali Treki, General Assembly President Ali Treki, Prime Minister Oqilov, and WaterAid Sweden Chair Jan Eliasson will brief the press on the significance of water-related issues and highlight the urgent need for action to fulfill international commitments on water by 2015.

————————-

The problem with the above press conference, which is part of the daily UN Spokesperson’s Briefing to the Press, is that the UN General Assembly President is Ali Treki, the Foreign Minister of Libya who was declared practically non-person by the Schengen countries, so he is unwelcome to Europe {a President of the UNGA – mind you – no less}, and Oqil Ghaybulloyevich Oqilov, Prime Minister of Tajikistan, just recently host to Ahmedi-Nejad of Iran,  and whose country is turning  into a pro-Iranian satellite. The fact that the UN water conference will be held in Tajikistan must have to do something with the push for legitimization by some of the world’s less palatable regimes.

That leaves the Honorable Jan Eliason, a friend from the days he served at the UN, and a friend of humanity, the only person worthwhile on that UN panel. We say this with full knowledge that water and climate change are indeed main problems for Libya and Tajikistan, but we just do not believe that the other two speakers on that dais have shown politically real interest in this topic.

We are curious what journalists will show up and how far can questioning be allowed by the UN,  and by the UN General Assembly,  Spokesmen.

————————-

Monday 04 January 2010
President Ahmadinejad lays wreath at Ismail Samani’s statue

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad laid wreath at the statue of Ismail Samani a former king here on Monday.
President Ahmadinejad arrived in Dushanbe Monday morning for a two-day stay in Tajikistan.

After welcome ceremony held by Tajikistan’s Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, Ahmadinejad started talks with his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmon.

During the talks, the two presidents signed three memoranda of understanding, two documents on cooperation and a statement on expansion of bilateral relations.

Later in the day, Ahmadinejad is planned to deliver speech to a group of resident Iranians at Ibn Sina Hospital, built by Iran’s private sector in the country. He is also due to inaugurate an Iranology center in the Tajikistan’s medical university.

——

Saturday 09 January 2010
President Ahmadinejad ends Central Asian tour


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Turkmenistan for Iran Wednesday afternoon at the end of his two-nation tour to the Central Asia region.

The Iranian president was officially seen off by his Turkmen counterpart Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

He was in Turkmenistan to attend the inaugural ceremony of the first phase of Iran-Turkmenistan’s second gas pipeline project.

The 182-km pipeline was inaugurated by the Iranian and Turkmen presidents earlier on Wednesday.

President Ahmadinejad was in the region on a three-day visit which had brought him earlier to Tajikistan.

He discussed major bilateral, regional and international developments with senior Tajik and Turkmen officials.

A number of agreements were also signed by Iranian officials and their Tajik and Turkmen counterparts for promotion of bilateral cooperation between Tehran and the two Central Asian capitals.

—–

Saturday 09 January 2010
President Ahmadinejad returns home

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concluded his two-nation tour to the Central Asian region and arrived in Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.

Upon his arrival, the Iranian president was welcomed by Supreme Leader’s Advisor for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati, 1st Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as well as a number of high ranking officials and ministers.

Speaking to reporters at the airport, President Ahmadinejad described his visits to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as very fruitful and promising.

He discussed major bilateral, regional and international developments with senior Tajik and Turkmen officials.

A number of agreements were also signed by Iranian officials and their Tajik and Turkmen counterparts for promotion of bilateral cooperation between Tehran and the two Central Asian capital cities.

—–

Saturday 09 January 2010
President:
World’s fate to be decided in Middle East.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Thursday that world’s destiny will be decided in the Middle East.

“Iran and Syria should in a joint mission establish new world order based on monotheism, justice and humanity,” President Ahmadinejad told Syrian parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash.

He said the world is on verge of big developments and the tyrannical systems are fading.

“Iran and Syria shoulder a crucial role in present juncture and their cooperation should further expand,” he added.

The 30-year resistance of Iran and Syria is almost close to the victory stage, said the President, adding, “Resistance of nations, including Iran and Syria, has thwarted all the conspiracies of the imperialistic system in the political, economic, military and ideological domains.”

The President went on to say that construction of the wall of separation in the occupied lands and of the steel war in Gaza all show the Zionist regime’s vulnerability. “The US government too will have to end up its interventions in the region and get its forces out of there.”

Al-Abrash said in return that expansion of relations and cooperation among Muslim states, including Iran and Syria, has nullified enemy conspiracies.
He said that Iran and Syria will as before move in the front of perseverance and campaign against global arrogance.


————————————

For more information and the full programme of the day, please see: www.un.org

Jonathan Rich, WaterAid, Tel.: +1 347 262 9115, Email:  jonathan at jcrcommunications.com

————————————-

Let the clean water flow

By CAROLINE BOIN, The Japan Times online, Saturday, March 20, 2010

LONDON — The 18th annual World Water Day (March 22) offers the same old problems and rejects the practical solutions. On Monday, 1 billion people will, as usual, spend the day without clean water and a third of humanity without adequate sanitation. As usual, some 3.5 million men, women and children will die from related diseases this year. Yet many nongovernment organizations and politicians still prefer ideology to ideas, spurning what the private sector delivers to the world’s poor.

Activists often claim to be defending the poor from profit-maximizing corporations. But this has more to do with dogma than reality. Given that less than 10 percent of world water management is private, it is hard to see how they can blame corporations for poor supply.

In fact, it is governments that mismanage water and misallocate it to political cronies and powerful lobbies such as farmers. The poor, in rural areas or slums, are left unconnected and unable to do much about it. Anti-privatization groups keep repeating that water should be provided by government but ignore that government has been the worst enemy of the poor.

On another tack, the World Development Movement and similar groups claim that the private sector has done little for the poor, having connected only three million people in developing countries over the past 15 years. But this figure excludes Latin America and Southeast Asia where private water management — and the number of people getting water — has boomed since the 1990s. In Argentina, for example, privately managed areas got lower water prices, more connections and a drop in infectious diseases and child deaths.

Activists have further misrepresented private supply by focusing on multinationals while ignoring the small-scale water vendors who get water to people whom governments have abandoned. In many African cities, they sell plastic water sachets to passersby, while in Paraguay 500 aguateros supply nearly half a million people using tankers and piped water.

A World Bank researcher found in 1998 that “in most cities in developing countries, more than half the population gets basic water service from suppliers other than the incumbent official utility.” Country surveys suggest that the situation has changed little since then.

The World Health Organization, like activists, disregards these “informal” water vendors, bottled water and tankers. It refuses to consider them as “improved water sources” as they are unregulated, unpredictable and allegedly incapable of serving a mass market.

But to the hundreds of millions of people who rely on them, there is nothing incapable about private water providers. For many, they are the difference between life and death.

Informal water vendors come in all types, but they all provide water for profit. Their clients are among the most poorly prepared to pay to protect their families from disease and to put their time to better use than searching for clean water.

The success of these private water services throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia disproves the claim that the poor are too poor to pay for water and that the private sector has no incentive to serve them. In fact, the poor often pay more for water than those in prosperous areas with “formal” supplies. A World Bank survey of South American cities found that, on average, trucked water costs four to 10 times more than the public network’s price. In Kibera, the Nairobi slum of about 1 million people, jerry-can water sells at four times the average price in Kenya.

Activists who accuse the private sector of putting profits before people should realize three things. First, water vendors would stop providing water and sanitation if they did not make a profit. Second, governments are largely to blame for the higher prices because they constrain or outlaw private supply. Finally, people buy from vendors willingly, often with a choice of suppliers.

Water is severely under-priced in China, at around a third of the world average. As a consequence 300 million rural people have no safe drinking water. Where vendors do operate, people are prepared to pay up to 10 times the connected cost.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is quality, so legalizing the work of water vendors should be a priority. They could then own sources, land and infrastructure, get credit and expand operations, serving more people at cheaper rates with cleaner water. It is these small-scale ventures — not empty government promises — that can quickly improve water supplies for the poor.

Caroline Boin is a project director at International Policy Network, London, which focuses on economic development.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Signaling his determination to use diplomacy to address the world’s toughest conflicts, President Obama went to the State Department on Thursday to install high-level emissaries to handle the Arab-Israeli issue and the Pakistan and Afghanistan region.
Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, will hold the title of Special Representative and will be responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Holbrooke, a longtime diplomat was the American ambassador to the United Nations, played a central role in drafting the 1995 Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. He was once viewed as a potential secretary of state.

According to Helene Cooper of The New York Times’ Coverage of the event – “Underscoring the potentially tangled lines of authority, Mrs. Clinton said that the National Security Council, led by Gen. James L. Jones, would play a coordinating role on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mrs Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, emphasized this unity, saying – we want to send a clear and unequivocal message: we are a team.”

Already, though, there is some jockeying over whether the State Department or the White House will dominate foreign policy — with the first skirmishes playing out in the titles given to the emissaries.

Both Mr. Mitchell, the Special Envoy to the Middle East, and Mr. Holbrooke, the Special Representative, will report to Mrs. Clinton, and through her, to Mr. Obama, according to a State Department spokesman. But as if to dramatize the murkiness of the arrangement, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who accompanied Mr. Obama to the State Department, seemed confused at one point about whether the new president or the new secretary of state would introduce the emissaries. (It was Mrs. Clinton.)

As a special envoy, the State Department spokesman said, Mr. Mitchell will have a more traditional role, working out of the State Department. As a special representative, administration officials said, Mr. Holbrooke will have the freedom to roam — and to represent Mr. Obama, the National Security Council and even the Pentagon.

——————-

In this posting we concentrate on the enormous task before Ambassador Holbrooke.

Mr. Holbrooke and General Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, wanted Mr. Holbrooke to be able to speak directly to the White House, an official said. General Jones once led NATO‘s Supreme Allied Command in Afghanistan, and plans to be deeply involved in Afghan policy.

Mr. Holbrooke, 67, who spoke of his roots as a junior diplomat, offered no details about future policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But he demonstrated his assertive personal style, saying he would coordinate “what is clearly a chaotic foreign assistance program” in Afghanistan.

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke, according to Wikipedia – is currently vice chairman of Perseus LLC, a leading private equity firm. Until resigning in July, 2008, he was a board member of American International Group. He is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and serves on the Advisory Board of the National Security Network. He is also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Citizens Committee for New York City, and the Economic Club of New York. He is the Founding Chairman of the American Academy in Berlin; President and CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, the business alliance against HIV/AIDS; and Chairman of the Asia Society. Other board memberships include the American Museum of Natural History, Malaria No More (a New York-based nonprofit that was launched at the 2006 White House Summit with the goal of ending all deaths caused by malaria), Partnership for a Secure America, and the National Endowment for Democracy. He is also an honorary trustee of the Dayton International Peace Museum, as well as professor-at-large at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, his alma mater. Additionally, Holbrooke is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.

He has also served as vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston, managing director of Lehman Brothers [23], managing editor of Foreign Policy, and director of the Peace Corps in Morocco.

He has written numerous articles and two books: To End A War, and the co-author of Counsel to the President, and one volume of The Pentagon Papers. He has received more than a dozen honorary degrees, including a LL.D. from Bates College in 1999. As of 2005, he writes a monthly column for The Washington Post.

On March 20, 2007 he appeared on The Colbert Report to mediate in what Stephen Colbert (or rather, his television alter-ego) saw as Willie Nelson infringing on his ice cream flavor time. Holbrooke was the ‘ambassador on call’ and after a short mediation process the two parties agreed to taste each other’s Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to make amends. He subsequently sang “On the Road Again” in a trio with Colbert and Nelson.

We bring here the above to show the tremendous versatility in Mr. Holbrooke’s interests, and we want to stress further, that early November, when we asked him what position he hopes he will get in the new White House, all what he said was that I am ready to serve – it seemed like he was ready to accept what is decided – provided this returns him to government service.

From all of the above list – the most relevant to us is his Chairmanship of the Board of the New York based Asia Society.

Further – let us already announce here that on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, Mr. Holbrooke will appear at an Asia Society luncheon meeting on “AMERICA’S FUTURE IN ASIA” – in conversation with:

Walter Russell Mead, Senior Fellow for US Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations;

Nobuyoshi Sakajiri, Senior diplomatic correspondent in China for Asahi Shinbun of Japan;

and Simon S.C. Tay, Chairman Singapore institute of International Affairs.

So, there is a large scope for Mr. Holbrooke’s interest in Asia – and the reality of his job that mentions Afghanistan and Pakistan is that the regional reach of his activities will involve much more then the above named two UN member States. When touching that area – the problems involve immediately also at least India, Iran, and Tadjikistan – but many more States in the region are mingled in because of the ethnic groups that live in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there are really no borders before such ethnic extensions into the neighboring countries.

Our website posted many articles on this region – some of them are as follows:

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

 www.sustainabilitank.info

We also posted the following very serious map under a guise of cartoon:

<Pakistan002.jpg>

Those living in that center area to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are the Pashtuns. We also wrote about the Baluchis who share Pakistan and Iran, the Kashmiris who got divided when Pakistan parted from India, the Punjabis and Sindh people who live in Pakistan but do not see eye to eye, the Tadjiks who live in Afghanistan at the Tadjikistan border, and Iranians who live at the Afghan-Iranian border. In effect we wrote that Pakistan was carved out on a religious basis from what could have been a democratic secular State of the Indian subcontinent. Except for the general religion there is nothing that binds the Pakistanis, and in effect Pakistan is no Nation – it is today mainly an agglomerate of four ethnicities that somehow are held together by the rule of the military and by mistaken foreign intervention of the United States. The only glue is the hatred of India and the memory of the dissection of Kashmir at birth, back in 1948 when the British maneuvered the “divide and rule” policy so that the decolonization process of giant India got stuck in the mud of warfare.

From the above, when Richard Holbrooke got his White House appointment that said Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, this is in effect Special Representative with marching orders to include all of South Asia with the added mandate to deal with problems that reach to an area that includes India, Iran, Central Asia and even China. This is quite a region!

<Hobrooke001.jpg>

Looking at what I put on that envelope, besides the circle that tells the story, there is also the article about how extreme Islam in Pakistan is enslaving the people by not letting the young get an education. This is what condemns the country to the dregs and it should not be supported by the US with the funds that mistakenly were thrown at the useless Pakistani army by US Presidents, and US Congress, that thought they will help in the cold war against the Soviets, and later against what? The Taliban that was supported by the US, overtly and covertly, when there was no Soviet enemy to fight anymore, turned naturally against the US as the US was seen now as the foreign intruder.
The whole concept of what are terrorists, will fall for redefinition in the lap of this Special Representative of the US. Will he be able to splinter the Taliban into good “Taliban” and bad Taliban like it was done with the Sunnis in Iraq?
In this context the “good” Taliban would be those that want just independent rule for their piece of land, while the bad Taliban is friend of Al Qaeda, and interested in hitting the infidel wherever they can reach him. But let me not go too far and become ridiculous in making assumptions. Let Ambassador Holbrooke propose his moves to the White House when he manages to frame some sort of policy for the fractious region – and we pray that he does not insist on the present borders between the States. In effect, easing into more logical partitions might make the formulation of progress possible.

As we mentioned that Richard Holbrooke is still the Chairman of the New York based Asia Society, we were thus flabbergasted when we got the information that Wednesday, January 21, 2009, the day after the Obama, Washington Inaugural, the Asia Society was staging a conversation on “Understanding the Mumbai Attacks: Implications for the Future of Indo-Pakistan Relations.” As the attacks were by Muslims from Pakistan, who did this because of the situation in the India occupied Kashmir, these acts of terrorism are also part of what became his mandate. Actually, the New York Times mistakenly thought that India is part of the portfolio that Ambassador Holbrooke was going to get from President Obama. That was not to be, and he has only the part of the interaction with Pakistan. Will finally India allow a plebiscite in Kashmir and accept the people’s will? This will be also a goal of Mr. Holbrooke’s efforts – one of his attempts to defocus the Pakistani Intelligence Services covert activities in India.

The moderator was Dan Harris, anchor at ABC News whose journalistic career included coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The three members of the panel were –
A former Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Mr. Munir Akram,
An Indian-American Professor of Political Science at Brown University, Professor Ashutosh Varshney, who also co-edited “Midnight’s Diaspora” – a book of “Critical Encounters with Salman Rushdie” – and wrote extensively about the Ethnic Hindu-Muslim conflict in India.
And a former President of the Asia Society, Nicholas Platt, a former US Ambassador who served in China, Pakistan, the Philippines.
The event was opened by Dr. Vishaka N. Desai, the President of Asia Society since 2004, when she took over from Nicholas Platt. Dr. Desai said she hopes for a return to “Smart Diplomacy.”
—-
Prof. Varshney said that there was no long-term vision, so we got short-term response, and he identified two schools of thought about Pakistan:
(a) a right-wing model identified with right-wings in Washington and Delhi that the disintegration of Pakistan is a necessary step to India-Pakistan peace – and he disagrees.
(b) the US-Canada border model where $1.3 billion in food trade crosses the border daily.
——–
Ambassador Akram said that State-sponsored terrorism was a tool of choice used by India, and also Pakistan. In Pakistan this was sponsored by the CIA. In 1991-94 India was in trouble in Kashmir and offered discussions to find a solution – but nothing came out of this.
——–
Amb. Platt’s experience in Pakistan was the uneasy relationship inside the country and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area filled with militants working against Afghanistan. He said that disintegration is neither in the cards – nor in anyone’s interest. When people are under stress communications are difficult – but he thinks there are lots of solutions.
Amb. added that when you have a government you can not allow the public to push you to suicide.
Amb. Platt: the target of the Taliban is Pakistan itself.
Amb.r Akram: Taliban and Kashmir are different things. You never attacked Taliban before they gave shield to Bin Laden after 9/11.
More Pakistanis were killed on the border then Americans in Iraq. The US did not allow us to divide the Taliban. The terrible thing is to send us into a fight against our own people.
Prof. Varshney: India cannot go to war because it can evolve into a nuclear war.
For Kashmir – Autonomy – Yes. Independence – NO.
——
Question from the floor: What are the issues to start with when looking for peace?
Amb. Platt – there are different ideas for this, but neither government is domestically strong.
CONCLUSION – there was no glimmer of an idea in this discussion for a solution – so we have to continue to work on this.
And let me add that this was a very sad event, eventually I expressed this opinion also before Dr. Desai and Prof. Varshney.
——
At the meeting was present the full cadre of Pakistani journalists from the UN, and they swarmed around former Ambassador Akram. This show of support left me blurry.
Actually, I still have The statement by Ambassador Munir Akram during the informal consultations of the UN General Assembly on “THE UN GLOBAL COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGY” of June 14, 2006.
He took then a position supported also by other OIC countries (Organization of Islamic Countries) that one has to define terrorism in the proposed text so it addresses “underlying causes such as foreign occupation and the suppression of self-determination; the issue of state terrorism, the problem of insults and defamation of religion and cultures; the need for vigorous international effort to promote social-economic development and employment-creation to end extremism and terrorism.” He wanted further discussion on words: “instigation” of terrorism; “sanctuaries” for terrorists; “victims of terrorism”; – some other words he found to be loosely used – “soft targets”; “internationally shared values.” All of the above so that he can allow terrorism to flourish if it is committed by Palestinians or Kashmiris.
In short – this man was important enough at the UN to carry the blame that the UN can still not define what is a terrorist, and still has no effective decision, though there are on the books already 14 empty UN Resolutions on Terrorism.
In my notes, I found one more interesting tidbit from Amb. Akram’s Press Conference that day. This when journalist Matthew Russell Lee asked him about evictions of the Baluchis in Karachi, and further suppression of the Baluchis. The Ambassador answered that “there are no slums in Karachi, but we want to create some sort of property rights.” He also said that “there is a Baluchistan in Pakistan, an area the size of Spain, and it is kind of law and order situation. They want increased royalties – but not a secession. Our enemies want to open there a way to Central Asia.”
Having presented the above, we point our distaste at the backing of the Kashmiri terrorists, and the fact that these terrorists are based in Pakistan, but that does not mean that we see as positive the way the Indians handle the situation. in effect, a Financial Times editorial of today, February 23, 2009, points that Indian officials regard Kashmir as inalienable, and that almost half of the Indian army is used to keep down 4 million Kashmiris.
On November 4, 2008, The Asia Society hosted Professor Saeed Shafqat from the Forman Christian University, Lahore, Pakistan, on “Pakistan Outlook 2009 – Continuing Crisis or Restoring Stability?” and the results were just as inconclusive.
As Pakistan is indeed falling apart, and being a nuclear State could have global impact, so what will Amb. Holbrooke have to work with? As per another Foreign Policy article in today’s Financial Times, it seems that the new US policy will be to demand from countries that get US funding – specifically – Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to “progress in the battle against terrorism, sectarianism. and corruption. In short the US will demand more bang for its aid bucks on terror frontline.”
——
Returning to the Conversation of January 22, 2009 at the Asia Society, I asked from one of the Pakistani Journalists, and then from Dr. Vishaka Desai and Professor Ashutosh Varshney – why those two models that were presented that regard a break-up of Pakistan, rather then a much more positive outcome – a way out from that original sin of the break-up of the old greater India – the creation of the larger United Indian Subcontinent where Pakistani States four or five of them, join the 32 States of India, in a union where each single State in that Federation is entitled to its self rule in true autonomy. The Federation continues to be secular, but home rule in the member States allows for locally agreed laws. Perhaps indeed this was not possible in 1948 – but with the miserable experience since, why could they not see that this is a most reasonable solution. After all, India is a striving economy, destined some day to become a leading economy, and Pakistan goes from bad to worse all the time.
The Pakistani, gave me an earful of past transgressions, Dr. Desai said that the Pakistani military would never allow this, and Professor Varshney also did not seem enthusiastic with the suggestion. I hope that Ambassador Holbrooke will consider this sort of ideas in order to stir up the dust and dry blood that he will encounter. Then money talks, and if money is dried up from those generals and intelligence officers that do not produce anyway, the resistance to this sort of approach might become less outspoken.

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AND FROM THE ASIA SOCIETY NEWS:

How to Improve Indo-Pakistani Relations?
Following a second panel discussion on the Mumbai terror attack and the relationship between India and Pakistan, Asia Society is actively seeking the pub lic’s input on this important issue.
Read about the panel and watch a video excerpt
Share your thoughts – What should be done, by India, Pakistan, or the US, to improve India-Pakistan relations?
DC Inaugural Gala celebrates Asian America’s role in the 2008 election and US government. Watch the slideshow.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

THEN ESCAP URGES the SPECA CENTRAL ASIA TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH REST OF CONTINENT FOR GREATER SECURITY. The above has clearly political implications by bundling non-Arab Islamic States.

Greater cooperation between Central Asia and the rest of Asia is essential to achieve sustainable development for the whole continent, given the current climate of global financial instability and food and energy insecurity, a senior United Nations official, ESCAP’s Executive Director   stressed today of all places – right in Moscow.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) stands ready to facilitate technical and regional cooperation and provide a neutral forum for engaging in policy dialogue, Executive-Secretary of ESCAP Noeleen Heyzer told a gathering of senior Central Asian policymakers in Moscow.

“We are gathering here against the backdrop of a gloomy economic environment with pressing challenges in food and energy security, as well as the need for greater financial stability,” Under-Secretary-General Heyzer warned participants at the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) meeting.

“By adopting the South-South cooperation modality, SPECA can provide home-grown solutions and policy options to achieve inclusive and sustainable development,” she told officials from the seven SPECA member states – Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

SPECA aims to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, mainly in the areas of energy and water, transport, trade, technology, gender and the economy, in Central Asia, as well as its integration into the world economy with support from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Russia and China resist EU play for Central Asia.

By Andrew Rettman EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS , May 8, 2007.

Russia and China are trying to counter EU efforts to secure fresh energy supplies in Central Asia, the EU’s top regional envoy, Pierre Morel, has warned, with analysts worried Turkey could also start competing with European interests if its EU accession hopes fade.

“There’s a level of competition – you’ve got Russia, China and the US. There’s Turkey as well, and India is developing a strategy,” Mr Morel told MEPs at a European Parliament debate in Brussels on Tuesday (8 May), as Europe gears up to launch its first ever Central Asia policy at the June EU summit.

Focusing on Russia and China, the diplomat explained that despite traditional “rivalry” between Moscow and Beijing, the pair are increasingly using the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – a dormant anti-terrorist club formed in 2001 – to discuss the energy map in Central Asia.

He described the duo’s strategy on Central Asia as a “head of state approach” that differs from the EU’s €750 million Central Asia aid package for 2007 to 2013, which is based on wider social, trade and environmental projects designed to nurture long-term stability.

“I don’t think there’s an equivalent from Russia or China in terms of water or environmental management,” Mr Morel said, adding that EU “institutional strengthening” – it wants to remodel Central Asian judiciaries and parliaments – is the only way to bring in major, international energy investors.

“Just having a head of state approach will not help,” he explained. “The Russians have not struck the right level yet. These countries fear the return of Russia or at least of energy being used as a leverage against them.”

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan broke away from the Soviet Union in the 1990s and are believed to hold up to 5 percent of the world’s energy resources.

But almost all their oil and gas exports to Europe are currently shipped via Russian-owned pipelines, with Brussels feeling increasingly uncomfortable about its energy dependency on the Kremlin.

Russia’s post-colonial game
In terms of Russia’s “head of state approach,” Moscow’s tactics seem to consist of a mix of intimidation and encouragement for the authoritarian regimes that run the three energy-rich Central Asian states.

“Turkmenistan is very important in terms of gas deliveries to Russia. Russia is going to use Turkmenistan to meet its [natural gas export] commitments,” Mr Morel explained, six months after the sudden death of Turkmen president, Saparmurat Niyazov, which handed control of the country back to the Soviet-era administrative elite.

Estonian socialist MEP Katrin Saks also told Mr Morel on Tuesday that “It was clear during our talks that Kazakhstan was being put under great pressure from Russia on the energy issue,” after visiting Astana as part of a European Parliament delegation last week.

In the case of Uzbekistan, Russia and China’s willingness to tolerate gross human rights violations have seen Uzbek government-backed Russian and Chinese investors drive out US and German companies at a “spectacular” rate, Ms Saks said.

The Turkey question
Meanwhile, EU candidate Turkey sees itself as a natural partner for EU energy interests in Central Asia, due to its geographic position and historic links with the ethnically-Turkic population scattered in neighbouring states. But some analysts wonder how Ankara will react if its bid to join the EU fails.

“Turkish policy towards Central Asia…has a tendency to ebb and flow as Turkey is rejected or not by the west, and the result is that now we see Turkey embracing Central Asia once again with a renewed emphasis on pan-Turkism,” Raffaello Pantucci of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies told EUobserver.

“If it plays its cards right, it could become a critical nub for Central Asian energy supplies…[which] seems to be one of Turkey’s major alternatives in the face of European rejection,” he added.

“We have special ties and vested interests in the Eurasia region, but we have never viewed our relations with the region as an alternative to our EU course,” a Turkish diplomat said. “I don’t think Mr Sarkozy’s presidency will change our position on that,” the contact added, on the new French president’s anti-Turkey accession policy.

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[Comment] The EU and Central Asia: from great gaming to gradual playing.

By Raffaello Pantucci, EUOBSERVER / COMMENT (an oppinion piece) May 9, 2007.

The European Commission is not prone to dramatic or sudden shifts, which is the product of a long tradition of rational contemplation that Europeans are so proud of, but more literally, it is due to the simple reality of juggling a decision-making process that has 27 members involved in it. One product of this are ruminative foreign policies, like the new EU policy on Central Asia, that may seem paralysingly slow to outsiders, but in reality have a distinct forward momentum.

It is instrumental to examine early drafts that have been circulating of the EU’s new strategy on Central Asia through this prism and therefore view them with some tentative optimism. We have not seen any grand offerings of immense wealth or exaggerated security benefits; we instead view a branch being offered that attempts to marry the hard economic realities of European energy needs with a desire to help nurture European democratic norms in another part of the globe.

It is not surprising that we have seen this renewed interest in Central Asia under a German Presidency. Germany remains the only European member state with a full complement of embassies in all five Central Asian states, and chancellor Merkel and foreign minister Steimeier have both repeatedly spoken of their desire to reach out and stabilize European relations with their Eurasian partners.

Furthermore, chancellor Merkel has also presented herself as a European leader who is willing to take a more robust stance in regards to Russia. This has not resulted, as some feared, in an apocalyptic schism with Russia, but rather it has produced the beginnings of a balancing in relations between Russia and the EU. While there are undeniable tensions coming to the surface once again – it is worth noting that so far no-one has suggested that Russia turn off the gas taps.

In this regard it is particularly interesting to note that Russia as a topic in early drafts fails to merit much mention at all. A very early draft referred constantly to a strong Russian presence in the region, while in later ones Russia is only noticeable where it would appear to be missing. There is an emphasis on the importance of gas deliveries from the region, the “construction of new oil and gas pipelines to Europe,” and the word “diversification” is used regularly in an energy context. No mention of the EU’s current key energy supplier and former big brother to Central Asia.

Instead, the EU strategy seems to be a seven-pronged approach with a heavy emphasis on the softer side of relations: youth and education; human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratization; economic development, trade and investment; energy and transport links; environment and regional water security; combating terrorism, transnational crime, and drugs; and finally a typically nebulous European desire to “promote dialogue within civil society and respect for freedom of religion.”

At every level, the emphasis is made to work towards “common aspects as well as specific nation contexts,” showing an EU awareness that each nation in the group has varying needs, and there are clear incentives – the doubling of “financial means to assist Central Asia” and the offer to “support…the WTO accession process and eventual membership” of all five members of the Central Asian cluster (currently only the Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the WTO, while Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan remain observers and Turkmenistan is completely outside).

On the other hand, however, there is an unavoidable emphasis on “democracy” and “human rights,” something that sparked the anthropological rebuke to “take into consideration [our] countries’ national traditions, history, and…mentality” from Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov at a joint press conference on March 28th in Astana.

This is a not entirely surprising comment given the EU’s ongoing retention of an arms and travel embargo on Uzbekistan. Initially a reaction to the May 2005 incident at Andijan (where an unknown number of protestors were killed by government forces) the sanctions and the subsequent Uzbek decision to ask the United States to abandon bases on its territory have left EU-Uzbek and US-Uzbek relations on hold. The main result of this has been for Uzbekistan to wander into the warm embrace of its Russian and Chinese neighbours, who offer a less emphatically “democratic” and more pragmatic relationship.

What is particularly interesting about the new EU strategy, however, is its awareness of the new “great game” that it is trying to play a part of in the region. “Human rights” may play a prominent role, but they are matched by a bevy of realpolitik economic and energy related carrots. While they are not quite the no-strings-attached offers put on the table by the Chinese, they do instead offer “sustainable development” and “capacity building” in contrast to the Chinese tendency to prefer to rely on their own firms to construct local capacity.

There is further no mention of the United States or NATO, both subjects with historical baggage: it seems the EU is eager to re-write its history from scratch in Central Asia. China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization only merit a strategically brief mention in the fight against drugs and transboundary crime in the region.

Internally within the EU, there are many reasons for optimism within this renewed strategy. Germany has made a point of aligning its policies as presidency of the EU with the next two presidencies (Portugal and Slovenia), providing some unusual continuity in European policy. Currently, the EU is broadly shut out of Central Asia, and shares no contiguous borders with the region: the positive side to this is that the EU is able to steer the rudder towards an internal consensus on the region without having too many onerous member state caveats attached to potential policy. And the member state with the most to worry about, Germany, is the one currently at the rudder anyway.

At a time when European credibility in the world is slipping, a successful policy towards Central Asia would provide the EU’s Common Security and Foreign Policy with a much needed shot in the arm. Hopefully a nurturing incrementalist policy, that will not devolve into an all-too-common Euro-stagnation.

Raffaello Pantucci is a research associate at the London-based think-tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies

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France wants to save major part of EU constitution, Sarkozy aide says.

By Lucia Kubosova, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS, May 8, 2007.

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy will seek to maintain as much of the rejected EU constitution as possible in the upcoming talks on a new treaty for the bloc, a top aide to the president-elect has told EUobserver.

Alain Lamassoure, a prominent centre-right MEP and tipped to be the new Europe minister in the Sarkozy government, said Paris will agree to stick “as much as possible to the original text.”

His comments indicate that Mr Sarkozy is in favour of a re-packaged text containing essentially the same elements.

Referring to removing the EU symbols proposed in the original text as part of a general approach to take away the constitutional feel to the new treaty, Mr Lamassoure said “we will play the European hymn or fly the flag whether it is mentioned in the new treaty or not.”

He added that the same applies to the exact title of the future EU’s foreign affairs minister. “As long as his status and powers are preserved we’re fine with [a title change].”

He expects the new “ordinary treaty” – adopted by national parliaments where possible – will have a maximum of 130 instead of the 448 articles originally proposed.

The institutional changes should remain untouched while the Charter of Fundamental Rights, currently appearing as a whole within the text and raising several legal question for member states – being referred to by a single article.

“That way, the charter can be interpreted as legally binding in some countries, such as France and Germany, and non-binding in others, such as the UK.”

Referring to the third part of the constitution which lists EU policies, Mr Lamassoure, who is part of Mr Sarkozy’s inner political circle, says “we must distinguish between provisions that are already present in previous treaties and can be dropped as we do not need to replicate them and the new provisions which need to remain.”

He indicated France is not prepared to compromise on the list of new areas to be decided by qualified majority rather than unanimity, while admitting that this could become one of the most contentious issues, particularly for the UK.

“This is non-negotiable as it is one of the provisions with the most important added value of the new treaty which seeks to help the enlarged EU to work more efficiently.”

The MEP’s statements are the first clear public indication of what Paris will be calling for at the EU table when leaders meet to discuss a new institutional settlement next month – a clear French position on the issue has been lacking since French voters rejected the constitution in a referendum almost two years ago.

Defining Europe’s borders
Touching on another highly controversial issue, Mr Lamassoure said Paris is going to push for a definition of the bloc’s borders in the coming months and a “reorientation” of talks with Turkey.

“EU leaders have been lying to Turks for the past few years and the new French leadership believes we must stop doing so,” he said, referring to the bloc’s membership negotiations with Ankara kicked off last October.

He argues that citizens in most EU member states are against Turkey joining the union and that it was a main factor in the French rejection of the EU constitution.

“The sooner we will have the courage to say this openly to Turkey the better,” said Mr Lamassoure, pointing out that Paris will seek a “re-orientation” of the whole accession talks in which “at the very least, we clearly open other options for the final outcome -other than membership.”

“If everything goes well and we agree on the revised EU treaty by the end of this year we envisage that we could also at the same time present to citizens a common political declaration on the ultimate borders of Europe,” Mr Lamassoure said.

He said that Paris recognizes the bloc’s commitments to the Balkan countries but that “the [EU] borders must be that of the continent.”

His comments come on the back of a presidential campaign by Mr Sarkozy in which he repeatedly said he was opposed to Turkish membership.

Mr Lamassoure said that while Mr Sarkozy will be careful not to hijack next month’s summit on drawing up an EU treaty with the Turkey question, “we definitely don’t want to postpone this issue for too long.”

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Call for veto powers for MPs in new EU treaty.

By Honor Mahony, May 9, 2007.
Prague, Warsaw and the Hague are lobbying to get more power for national parliaments written into a new-look constitution for the European bloc.

According to a report in the German daily Handelsblatt, the three countries want MPs to have the right to refuse legislation coming from Brussels.

At the moment the constitution – rejected by Dutch and French voters two years ago – gives parliaments the right to complain about proposed EU legislation, but the European Commission is not obliged to withdraw it despite any complaints.

Under the trio’s veto scheme, if a third of national parliaments objected to a proposed EU law then it would automatically fail.

This idea also came up during the year and a half long convention to draw up the EU constitution in 2001-2002, but was rejected after opponents argued it would upset the balance of power between the EU institutions – it was particularly opposed by representatives from the European Parliament.

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, who was in Berlin along with his colleagues from the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, told Handelsblatt that the “right of veto for national parliaments would mean the introduction of a virtual third chamber.”

According to the MEP, the the Polish, Czech and Dutch plan also faces some opposition from within the German chancellor’s office.

Treaty talks gather pace
The idea is part of overall negotiations on the EU treaty, which are gathering pace as a June deadline approaches for agreeing the skeleton of a new-look constitution and a timetable for its implementation.

While 18 countries have mainly ratified the original constitution, several of the remaining nine are making demands for change so that they can better sell it to a sceptical domestic public.

Among the most controversial areas are proposals for a new voting system in the treaty – Poland has asked for changes to be made – and the extension of qualified majority to several new areas, which is problematic for Britain.

The Dutch government meanwhile has been making it clear it cannot go back to The Hague without having secured substantial changes to show it has taken on board the rejection of the constitution by Dutch voters in June 2005.

According to sources, a new treaty is also set to have some additional features – including a mention of fighting climate change and an energy solidarity clause, the last as a sop to Warsaw.

It is also expected that enlargement criteria will be written into the new treaty.

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[Comment] Turkey may be France’s price for the new EU treaty

May 11, 2007, Opinion Piece by Peter Sain ley Berry EUOBSERVER / COMMENT.

Two weeks ago I suggested in these pages that from a European perspective the French Presidential contender Ségolène Royal might be a better choice than Nicolas Sarkozy.

I argued that it would be necessary to put any revised constitutional treaty to a second referendum in France (the alternative would be to enlarge the EU’s democratic deficit to dangerous proportions). As the opposition to the first treaty had come, at least in part, from a perception that it would undermine the French system of social welfare, a left-wing president could more easily reassure voters, I argued, and so carry such a referendum early in her first term.

It was perhaps a forlorn piece of analysis, for within a point or two the outcome of the second round, which elected Nicolas Sarkozy, was clear from the results of the first. All the evidence showed that supporters of the centrist, François Bayrou, would divide equally between both camps. And this they did. It would have needed three-quarters of them to have backed Ségolène Royal for her to have scraped a win and all of them for her to have won convincingly. This was never going to happen.

The policies of M. Sarkozy are widely held to be what France needs. I wouldn’t dissent from that view. His ideas on economic reform also chime with the greater part of the Commission’s free market Lisbon agenda, now beginning to show results in terms of rising levels of GDP growth. Though before the free market contingent get too carried away we must remember that the new French President-elect is still at heart an economic nationalist, like his predecessor.

Whether he will be able to implement the reforms he wishes to see is of course another matter. Sarkozy has been likened to Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990, who carried through far reaching economic reforms and broke what was perceived as the trade union stranglehold on enterprise. But Thatcher, at least in her early days, embodied a good deal of popular will, importantly from across the working population. Whether Sarkozy has that same support is doubtful.

An interesting analysis by Eric Dupin writing in Le Figaro shows that apart from business owners and the Poujadist rump of the self-employed, those in paid employment voted more often for Royal than for her rival. Sarkozy’s real support came from the older generation, the over 50s, people in the main who were either retired or otherwise inactive economically. Royal had far more support among the young and the employed.

Sarkozy may pose the question, ‘who governs France?’ But the unions may answer ‘we do’ and, moreover, have the forces on the ground to prove it. The President’s irresistible force may meet an immovable object – the resulting stalemate doing neither France nor the rest of Europe much good.

The resistance is likely to be heightened if Sarkozy tries to ratify a new constitutional treaty, in effect the old treaty with a new name, through Parliament alone. We assume that he will be able to command a majority in the Assembly, at least on this issue, though even that cannot be taken for granted.

The idea of a truly mini-treaty, limited to updating voting weights in the European Council and giving that body a semi-permanent Chair, seems to have disappeared. Except in capitals such as London and Warsaw, it always seemed an impractical suggestion.

The European Commission is also viewing Sarkozy with apprehension over his attitude to Turkey. During the election he made it plain that while he accepts the Balkan states should eventually be admitted to the Union, this does not extend to Asia Minor. The talk is all about other types of relationships that might be invented for Turkey (and presumably other non-Balkan aspirants such as the Ukraine).

He is, of course, not alone in voicing such doubts; other leaders, indeed the German Chancellor herself, have never been convinced of Turkey’s future place in Europe, however far in the future that place may lie.

This has led to a ruffling of feathers in the Berlaymont hencoop, with no one quite sure whether to ignore the French President-elect or to remind him of Europe’s obligations. As he is only President-elect – and on holiday to boot – he is something of a will o’ the wisp. He cannot easily be criticised. Nevertheless, guarded statements about the necessity of respecting European commitments are cropping up with regularity. Even Margot Wallström had a pop at him on her blog this week.

It is not impossible that Turkey might commit some act of folly – such as a military coup – that would disbar the country, at least for a while – and let Europe of the hook. Recent rumblings from the Turkish military about the need to safeguard Kemal Attaturk’s secular legacy were serious enough and led Olli Rehn, the Enlargement Commissioner, to issue a veiled reminder about the need to respect state institutions.

Not impossible perhaps, but unlikely. Which will leave us in a tricky position come June when Mrs Merkel hopes and expects to have the roadmap to the EU’s constitutional reform agreed.

I have to say the prospects for this were looking uncertain before Sarkozy’s election; after it they look even bleaker. Sarkozy appears likely to insist that the new treaty does not compromise on the issues to be settled by majority voting that were written into the old treaty. This may prove contentious, especially, in London, where Gordon Brown is expected to have taken over from Tony Blair by mid-July.

But it is Sarkozy’s position on Turkey and his insistence that a new treaty say something about the EU’s boundaries that is likely to prove more difficult – at least in the short time that remains. I happen to agree with this position and have argued the point several times in this column. But to attempt an agreement on this in the few weeks that remain before the June European Council may well prove impossible.

Nevertheless, some statement along these lines may be Sarkozy’s price for delivering a French ratification. He may even have the majority of the French electorate behind him also. He is something of a Napoleonic figure, after all; not averse to using a whiff of grapeshot to get his way. I foresee trouble ahead.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

An   Institute That Could Help Solve Central Asian Disputes – Specially On Water Use But Also For Energy.

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, April 5, 2007, ENS- {Published in cooperation with News Briefing Central Asia, an independent network of journalists based in Bishkek. NBCentralAsia is a project of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR.}

 A proposal by Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev to establish a regional research institute for water and energy could help end the persistent political wrangling over cross-border water use in Central Asia.

During a meeting between European Union delegates and foreign ministers from all five central Asian states in Astana on March 28, held to consult on the new EU strategy for the region, the Kyrgyz foreign minister put forward a proposal to set up a Water and Energy Academy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the EU’s support.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev proposes to establish a Central Asian water and energy research institute in Bishkek. (Photo courtesy Government of Kyrgyzstan)

The new institute would train experts from all the Central Asian countries on hydroelectric power, while undertaking research that will benefit the region, Karabaev said.
Central Asia’s largest rivers have their sources in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These two countries use the water flow mainly to generate electricity, whereas Uzbekistan and Kazakstan further downstream rely on the water for crop irrigation.

Although numerous mechanisms and plans have been produced to manage water use, the upstream and downstream countries have failed to agree on terms that would be acceptable to all. Political and water analysts in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan say developing a regional-level academic centre for water management could help Central Asia reach a common view of how the resource should be distributed.

Erkin Orolbaev, a Kyrgyz expert on water issues, said the institute may well achieve this goal if it is internationally recognized and recruits capable lecturers and researchers from the region and the rest of the world.

Anatoliy Kholmatov, technical director at the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, points out that a similar initiative was launched in 2003 at an international forum on fresh water. The plan then was to have an International Water Center based in Dushanbe to look at water, related social issues, and electricity generation. The center is currently under construction.

But Kholmatov says the Kyrgyz initiative is a good one, as a great deal of research is needed to develop the economic mechanisms for shared water use.

According to a senior official in the Tajik Ministry of Energy and Industry, the academy should be a place where experienced energy officials can get advanced training and network rather than a college for training new people from scratch.

“If this is an academy for advanced training, something serious may come of it… Personal connections, which often count for a lot, will be able to have a major impact on decision-making,” he said.

Almost all the experts interviewed agree that simply strengthening research capacity will not solve water disputes – there must also be the political will to do so.

Bazarbay Mambetov, a Kyrgyz energy expert said, “The problem can be solved through constructive talks among the regional states, provided their leaders are willing and ready to do this.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU launches new Central Asia policy in Kazakhstan, writes Andrew Rettman for EUobserver, March 28, 2007, from Brussels.

The EU has said “the time is right” for new engagement in Central Asia after a high-level meeting in Kazakhstan saw joint agreement to hold more such talks in future, with the German EU presidency hoping the dialogue will lead to political reform but with human rights groups on alert over Europe’s real agenda in the energy-rich region.

“The talks showed that the time is right for a new, closer cooperation,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Astana on Wednesday (28 March). “The EU aims to diversify its energy policy. This is why it is necessary to increase our contacts with Central Asia,” he explained, AFP reports, on a region believed to hold 5 percent of the world’s energy resources.

“It’s in our interest that the Central Asian countries take a path to be peaceful, democratic and prospering states,” Mr Steinmeier added, with external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner saying Kazakhstan should chair Europe’s pro-democracy club, the OSCE, in 2009 if it upholds promises on human rights. “Now we want to see these reforms,” she said.

The EU aims to spend €750 million on the five states in question between 2007 and 2013, with the talks raising Mr Steinmeier’s hopes of one day building a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to Europe, getting the EU involved in counter-terrorism and border monitoring, getting people talking about democratic reform and setting up new education and student exchange schemes.

Mr Steinmeier privately raised the issue of a Deutsche Welle correspondent, Natalia Bushuyeva, who has reportedly fled Uzbekistan after facing criminal charges of tax evasion. But the reaction of the region’s two most repressive states – Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – did not bode well for any future change in political climate.

Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov said publicly the EU should not “interfere in domestic affairs…we don’t have to justify ourselves.” Turkmenistan’s deputy foreign minister Yolbors Kepbanov, due to attend the press conference, simply vanished. “I hope he did not get stuck in the lift,” Mr Steinmeier quipped, Reuters reports.

Wednesday’s meeting will now be digested by EU diplomats in Brussels, who will decide in May whether or not to renew sanctions against Uzbekistan. Brussels and Berlin will also use the talks to shape a final draft of a new EU strategy paper on Central Asia for the June EU summit. If all goes well, up to 200 EU officials could ship out to new embassies in the region in 2008.

No laughing matter: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are no laughing matter, however. Both states practice torture and extra-judicial executions of political prisoners. In one example in 2005 documented by Amnesty International, Uzbek activist Ahkrorkhudzha Tolipkhozhaev was shot in the back of the head three weeks before Uzbek diplomats told the UN he was alive and well.

In May 2005 Uzbek president Islam Karimov’s soldiers machine-gunned around 500 unruly civilians in the eastern town of Andijan, which led to the small-scale EU sanctions being imposed. The government has never admitted the massacre or allowed an international enquiry, simply restating its official position at an EU experts’ meeting on the case last December.

When a delegation of MEPs briefly visited the town of Andijan on 22 March, two plain clothes policemen visibly followed British conservative deputy Martin Callanan as he walked through the marketplace, making local people too scared to speak. “There’s a sinister atmosphere,” he told EUobserver. “It would run Turkmenistan a close second in terms of repression.”

Uzbekistan – which has almost half the region’s whole 60 million-strong population and its biggest army – is seen by Germany as a cornerstone of future EU engagement. Berlin has in the past bent over backwards to fly Uzbek officials to Europe for medical treatment and got the EU to scale back its sanctions against Tashkent last November on the back of vague commitments to human rights dialogues.

Germany’s willingness to drive EU policy on the face value of Uzbekistan’s statements has rung alarm bells among the world’s NGO community. A January draft of the classified EU strategy paper – seen by EUobserver – states “In some cases, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, concerns about human rights have proved a set-back and prevented relations from developing.”

The draft paper also says on Kyrgyzstan in 2006 that “the issue of the Uzbek refugees following events in Andijan was handled appropriately” even though the refugees in question were forcibly repatriated, arrested by Uzbek authorities as “terrorists” and face an uncertain future today.

NGO’s contend that EU integrity is at stake: The integrity of EU statements on human rights in Central Asia is also put in doubt by the funding model for the €750 million aid pile, which will be spent on projects officially sanctioned by the local regimes, meaning that the cash will enrich “approved” NGOs instead of helping the underground pamphleteers or campaigners who put their neck on the line for reforms.

“Russia is a big player in Central Asia,” Amnesty analyst Maisy Weicherding – who has travelled extensively in the region – said. “We don’t want the EU to say, ‘look at Russia, if we want to have a big impact in Central Asia we need to be more like Russia and so human rights should not be a big priority for us’.”

The NGO wants the EU to focus aid on Kyrgyzstan, where authorities show more tolerance for real NGOs such as Justice to circulate samizdat-type free press publications and where a new US university in Bishkek is helping disseminate “revolutionary” ideas – like the notion it is wrong for police to extort money and beat innocent people – across the border to Uzbekistan.

It remains to be seen how Germany together with the more human rights-oriented EU states such as the UK, Sweden or the Czech Republic will shape the EU’s future activities in Central Asia. But away from the grand rhetoric of the high-level Astana event on Wednesday, the attitudes of some EU politicians are not encouraging.

The MEPs’ visit last week – which was treated to the sight of Uzbek president Karimov doing a folk jig with a child held aloft in his arms during a Spring festival – was marked by some of the three German MEPs preferring to meet with local businessmen rather than dissidents invited by the German embassy in Tashkent.

Come to splendid Samarkand: German socialist MEP Vural Oger spent a large part of the visit seeking new contacts to help his company, Oger Tours, bring more Turkish tourists to cultural sites like Samarkand or Bukhara. Mr Vural declined to comment on the issue.

German conservative MEP Daniel Caspary, who says he met with “other” activists – such as the local head of the Konrad Adenauer foundation – instead, was on-message with Berlin. “If we only talk about human rights nobody will listen to us,” he said. “We have to also talk about economics and other issues. We have to talk about all the topics, the same as we do with the Chinese.”

The MEPs’ brief tour of the country also shed extra light on the primary motivation of the German EU ambassador to Tashkent, Martin Hekker, who is among the most influential EU diplomats stationed in the region today. “When we met the German ambassador, he made it very clear that they are keen on lifting the [EU] sanctions and normalising relations,” the UK’s Mr Callanan said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU moving to operational phase of Central Asia policy – says Andrew Rettman from Brussels, February 27, 2007, on EUobserver.

The EU is quietly moving from the theoretical to the operational phase of its Central Asia strategy, with spending set to soar in the next seven years. But major NGOs are worried Europe’s new “special relationship” with Central Asia will do little to improve living conditions in one of the most downtrodden parts of the world.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will in Kazakhstan on 27 March meet the foreign ministers of the five Central Asia states for final consultations before presenting a draft Action Plan to EU experts in Brussels in April. The plan – consisting of a 15 page theory section and a 70 page analytical annex – is to get formal endorsement by EU leaders on 20 June.


The evolving document – a January version of which was seen by EUobserver – proposes to boost European Commission spending by 61 percent to €719 million between 2007 to 2013 on projects including: basic poverty eradication; new gas and oil pipelines; training security officials; introducing accounting standards; building roads and staving off water shortages.

To put things into perspective, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) budget for the 16 states adjacent to the EU bloc went up 32 percent to €12 billion for 2007 to 2013. But with Central Asia’s total population standing at 59 million, Central Asia spending will be €12 per head compared to neighbourhood spending of €3.5 per head. International banks and individual EU states are also facing pressure to top up the Central Asia kitty.

The EU will back up the cash injection by sending some 200 new diplomats from Europe to create four embassies in the region by 2008. “High level visits are indispensible to demonstrate the interest of EU member states,” the Central Asia blueprint states, adding that “local visibility” will be enhanced by “EU buildings” acting as “landmarks.”

The document paints a disturbing picture of a region of vital interest for EU energy security – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in gas, oil and uranium – but which has languished in a “strategic void” in EU policy-making for 50 years. Reports that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan practice systematic torture are well-known, but new problems are also coming to light.

Disturbing picture : At the political level, the EU is worried “how to ensure a peaceful transfer of power” in Kazakhstan in the coming years, as its 67-year old president becomes more frail. Uzbekistan has swung toward Russia due to “extreme irritation” at EU sanctions and faces a potentially turbulent presidential selection process in December. Turkmenistan has a shaky new government in a limbo left by the sudden death of totalitarian leader Niyazov last year. Kyrgyzstan is also considered unstable.

The 59 million people who live on the steppe face staggering social problems: the rich live on $230 a month, the poor on $2 a day. Clean drinking water is a luxury for 90 percent of rural people, with gastro-enterological disease a major cause of high infant mortality and with HIV said to be “rife.” In Tajikistan – the poorest – one third of GDP comes from heroin smuggling.

On top of this, bad water management is pushing Central Asia to the brink of another environmental disaster after the collapse of the Aral Sea in the mid-1990s. “Shallowing and salinization of Balkash [a lake half the size of Belgium] may have repercussions comparable to the Aral Sea tragedy,” the EU document states, noting that pesticidal pollution has already helped reduce the fish catch in Central Asia by 60 percent since 1990.

Focusing on human rights, it may be wrong to portray the EU’s new “special relationship” as a simple energy grab: individual EU diplomats see themselves as principled people trying to bring stability and prosperity to countries considered closed even by old Soviet standards. Any friendly gesture – such as a superficial discussion on the 2005 killing of 180 civilians in Andijan, Uzbekistan – is seen as important progress.

Human rights as strategic interests:   The document avoids the usual platitudes on “EU values” and addresses the strategic importance of political reform for EU interests. “Mounting popular discontent, if handled in an authoritarian manner, might pave the way for a period of turbulence and destabilisation at a time of political secession, which is due to occur in the coming years in most of the Central Asian states,” threatening EU energy and counter-terrorism projects, it states.

But despite this, analysts are worried by the EU approach. For one thing, EU funding is to be modeled on the old TACIS programme, which is based on co-management of funds with local authorities. The TACIS instrument was discredited as slow-moving, bureaucratic and all-but-useless with respect to democracy-building by the EU’s own auditors last year. It is being scrapped in the EU’s “neighbourhood” foreign policy wing.

NGOs are also concerned that in the test-case of Uzbekistan, EU sanctions are being sold too cheaply: the German EU presidency is using the prospect of further dialogue on the Andijan massacre to persuade the UK and Sweden the EU should relax its Uzbek visa ban list in May and scrap its arms trade embargo a further six months down the line. The first Andijan meeting last December is a key argument for Berlin to develop high-level talks.

But some of the 14 EU police and legal experts who attended the December talks told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that “at most it provided an opportunity for the Uzbek government to recount its version of the events, leading up to the massacre.” Since the December meeting, HRW translator, Umida Niazova, and another activist, Gulbahor Turaeva, have been put in jail as part of a process described as “decimation of civil society” by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

Cynicism or pragmatism?
HRW is pushing for EU “principled engagement” that sees relaxation of sanctions and “staggered funding” tied to “measurable improvements” such as Red Cross access to jails. “It will help to counter cynicism that EU interests in the region are solely about energy and counterterrorism. It will make clear that the EU has an interest in people’s lives,” the NGO said in an unpublished paper last week.

Meanwhile, the genteel culture of EU diplomacy is hard to swallow for some action-oriented activists on the ground. EU diplomats talk about Central Asia in antique French and Latin terms such as “demarches” or “primus inter pares.” Some even have grudging respect for harsh nation-builders such as the late Turkmen leader Niyazov, and find themselves mildly fascinated by Satrapic tea-drinking rituals when meeting men such as Uzbek leader Karimov.

“Our recent meeting with [one EU diplomat on Central Asia] was not very encouraging, to say the least,” a senior HRW analyst said.

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Further notes:   – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in gas, oil and uranium.

This is just one reason for EU interest, in addition – Kazakhstan, like Turkey,   claim as being in part in the Geography of the European continent.

Regarding Energy – the example of Kazakhstan:

Energy Supply
Kazakhstan has abundant energy reserves. Estimated at about 1.2 Gt for oil, 900 Gm3 for gas and 31 Gt for coal. The hydroelectric potential is estimated at 30 TWh…

Consumption
The total energy consumption fell between 1992 and 1999 (-47%). It has been recovering since and reached 51 Mtoe in 2004. The consumption per capita is about 3.4 toe, of which 3400 kWh…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU to beef up diplomatic corps in Central Asia, informs Andrew Rettman from Brussels, the EUobserver, February 6, 2007.

EU states are keen to open four new EU embassies in Central Asia by 2008 to help compete with Russian, Chinese and US influence in the energy-rich region, as upcoming Turkmen elections put Brussels’ new Central Asia policy to the test.

The embassy idea was put to member states in a 15-page document on 2 February by EU officials and the German EU presidency, with the German ambassador to Uzbekistan, Matthias Meyer, the same week calling for the fresh crop of diplomats to be in place by next year.

The European Commission already runs a 60-man delegation in Kazakhstan’s old capital in Almaty and three smaller offices with less than 10 officials each in the new Kazakh capital of Astana, as well as in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The move would see full-scale missions in Astana, Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent in Uzbekistan, with no plans for Turkmenistan as yet and with Brussels warning the timetable could change as it is not proving easy to attract high-calibre staff to the far-flung posts.

The new strategy paper also sets out wider goals that could see multilateral meetings at EU-level to talk about a new gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea and encourage political reform, including education projects to stymie radical Islam.

It suggests extending the mandates of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank to help build basic infrastructure and provide alternatives to the heroin trade on the Afghan border.

EU states – including human rights advocates UK, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland – have broadly welcomed the draft as a “good balance” between energy and humanitarian interests, with national experts set to tweak the wording before it goes to EU leaders at the June summit.

“The actual content of the document is not so important. It’s designed to send a political signal to our partners, to the five states in question and to Russia, China and the US,” one EU diplomat said. “We are saying – look we want to be in there, we want to work there.”

Post “Tulip Revolution” Kyrgyzstan is currently the most progressive country in the region, with Kazakhstan also showing interest in reform. But Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are egregiously repressive while Tajikistan is seen as a “heroin-based economy.”

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also claim to have massive gas reserves, but some experts say EU plans to compete for new pipelines with Russia and China are doomed to fail, as existing elites are more keen to get rich from the status quo than to get better EU gas prices with strings attached.

“In terms of the opacity of these regimes and the depth of Russian influence, if the EU thinks it can use Central Asia to improve its energy security it is being highly naive,” International Crisis Group director Bob Templar told EUobserver.


The Turkmenistan opening:

Meanwhile, the sudden death by heart failure of 66-year old Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov last December has seen some MEPs, as well as exiled Turkmen dissidents in Sweden and Vienna, call for the EU to use the “new opening” to step up pressure for reform.

EU capitals and the European Commission have so far decided to give free rein to an old guard of army men and civil servants fronted by ex-health minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to take power in pseudo-elections this coming Sunday.

“We have to find a way to get into dialogue with these countries in a way that they actually listen,” another EU diplomat said, amid worry that EU envoys could be frozen out by the new regime and that the exiled dissidents might create a “new kleptocracy” if they got in.

NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging Brussels to push for gas money to be used for rebuilding schools and hospitals in the post-election phase before unfreezing relations – most schooling stops at age 15 and clinics are often staffed by untrained soldiers.

“There is a danger that the new government will be given too much credit before any across-the-board reforms,” HRW analyst Ian Gorvin said. “Some EU diplomats out there have already started congratulating Berdymukhammedov simply for not being Niyazov.”

Brussels puts squeeze on MEPs:

A 25 January letter from external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to pro-reform MEP, Dutch conservative Albert Jan Maat, urging the European Parliament to approve a new trade deal with Astana, casts light on the EU’s new Central Asia thinking.

“I strongly believe that engagement over time is likely to have a more positive impact than isolation…beginning with allowing the interim agreement to come into force as soon as possible,” she said, in a move seen as exerting undue pressure on MEPs by Mr Maat.

“This is saying there will be no EU reform effort until we allow the trade agreement,” the parliament’s Central Asia delegation vice-chair said. “If a member of parliament in the Netherlands received such a letter, you would soon have a big problem.”

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