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Russia expects US to abandon Europe AMD plans after Iran deal

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1Russia Quickly Maneuvers to Capitalize on Iran Nuclear Deal. “The deal reopens the door for lucrative contracts to expand Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program, which Russia has been looking forward to for years. And it may neutralize a major reason the United States has offered for developing a missile defense system in Europe, a project that President Vladimir V. Putin and other Kremlin officials have said was a threat to Russian security. “We all probably remember how in April 2009, giving a speech in Prague, the U.S. president, Barack Obama, said that if Iran’s nuclear program is successfully regulated, then the aim of the European segment of the missile defense will be dropped,” Mr. Lavrov said straight into the cameras of state-controlled Russian television. “This is why today we drew the attention of our American colleagues to this fact. We will expect a reaction” writes David M. Herszenhorn for the New York Times.

2Enemy of My Enemy: Keeping Iran Cornered through Saudi-Israeli Strategy. “What mitigating allies’ concerns truly means in this case is America may ultimately betray its promises and principles on stage today for other promises made to friends tomorrow. It just depends on how important the friends are. And Israel and Saudi Arabia are banking on always being very good friends. This is the true Great Game of the Middle East that no one likes to talk about. It is a game of strategic doubletalk” writes Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.

3Good Time to Have Foot in Iran as Nuclear Deal Boosts Stocks. “The deal is “bad for oil and related markets, and rather good for those interested in investing in quite possibly the most interesting market in the world,” said Emad Mostaque, a London-based strategist at emerging-market consultancy Ecstrat. Lower oil prices “will put real pressure on energy equities” as “the near-term impact of floating Iranian barrels and medium-term impact of increased Iranian production is absorbed by the market,” he said” [Washington Post]

4Turkmenistan takes concrete steps to resolve water issues at the national level and contributes to regional and international cooperation in this sphere, “Neutral Turkmenistan” newspaper reported. The constant growth of water consumption requires coordinated efforts and complex programs, as well as implementation of projects able to bring long-term effect, said the article. The large-scale project for creating artificial water reservoir – Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) lake – in Karakum desert is one of these projects. Currently, intensive work is underway as part of the second phase of this project. The collector’s branches are expanded and deepened, hydraulic structures, bridges, roads are constructed.

5Minister of Energy Natig Aliyev: 50% of works on Southern Gas corridor completed in Azerbaijan. “Though it is 2015, we are ahead of the schedule. Our work is to expand the Southern Gas Corridor. We must complete all projects by 2019. However, we have already done 50% of works. It encourages us”, the Minister said. Aliyev also noted that the works on TANAP are also carried out within the schedule: “We also control this project. We often hold meetings in Istanbul and Ankara. Our partners inform us about the works. There is no delay in that project either”.

6In January-June, 2015 Kazakhstan GDP increased by 1.7%, reported the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of the National Economics of the Republic of Kazakhstan, according to APK Inform. The bullish trend is based on the production growth in major industries, In particular, actual volume index totaled 100.6%, in agriculture – 103%, trade – 102.1%, transports – 106.7%.

7KHORASAN: Where DAESH, Caspian Energy, and Great Power Politics Meet. “Khorasan is a region that encompasses much of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. To DAESH, Khorasan represents the first battleground of its end-of-days scenario. To regional powers, Khorasan represents the future of energy” writes Evan Thomsen for Modern Diplomacy.

8 ‘Rising’ Iran asserts right to play constructive Middle East role. “Now that the nuclear marathon is over, encouraging hopes for a better relationship with its old American enemy, Iran is projecting itself as an island of stability in a sea of trouble and demanding to be treated as an equal. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, continues to excoriate “global arrogance”, as he always has, but has hinted clearly at cooperation with the US once sanctions end, and dignity – a recurrent word – has been restored” writes Ian Black for the guardian.

9Greek Agreement and Iranian Deal Leave Russia Disappointed and Irrelevant. “Moscow was, in fact, more interested in the talks breaking down, so that the EU would plunge into a deep mess marked by a “Grexit” and Iran would remain isolated by the sanctions regime. However, the two landmark compromises signify a big step forward in enhancing the governability of world order, which leaves Russia—as a revisionist power that favors a crisis of the West-imposed global order—quite irrelevant” writes Pavel K. Baev for the Jamestown.

10An Archaeology Festival dedicated to the International Archaeology Day will be held in Azerbaijan’s medieval city of Agsu on July 24-25. The city’s archaeological and tourist complex will host the event. It is being organized by the Agsu archaeological expedition of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and the “Miras” Public Union, dedicated to assisting the study of cultural heritage. The festival will include joint archaeological investigations within the complex, various competitions, and meetings with famous archaeologists.The aim of the event is to promote national heritage and ancient architecture, as well as to help develop Azerbaijan’s tourism industry.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Safer roads, a global development challenge for all

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Every 24 seconds someone is killed in traffic, making safety on the world’s roads a global development challenge for all societies, especially for the most vulnerable, a senior UN official has said, ahead of the first ever High-level General Assembly Meeting on Improving Road Safety. 

Nneka Henry, who heads the United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) Secretariat, noted that 500 children die in crashes every day, and that of the older population, women are 17 times more likely to be killed during a car crash than men, even when wearing seatbelts. 

Challenge for all 

Despite these statistics, road safety is not just a challenge for women or for young people. It is “for each and every one of us who walk, ride, cycle or drive on our roads,” Ms. Henry told Diedra Sealey, a young diplomat in the President of the General Assembly’s HOPE Fellowship programme. 

The interview took place ahead of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Improving Road Safety, which gets underway at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday and Friday, organized by the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, and the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Coinciding with the meeting, is the UN Road Safety Fund pledging conference. The Fund was established in 2018 with a vision to “to build a world where roads are safe for every road user, everywhere.” It specially finances projects in low- and middle- income countries, where some 93 per cent of road deaths and injuries take place. 

“I am here in New York to remind all 193 Member States of their commitment to the Fund’s mandate and success,” Ms. Henry said.  

Those successes include the announcement that as of 1 July, all vehicles imported in East Africa need to be below the Euro 4/IV emission standard and no more than eight years old. 

The Fund has been working with the Economic Community of West African States’ 15 members, to harmonize vehicle standard resolutions.  

Major benefits 

“This will have major air quality and road safety benefits,” Ms. Henry said about the latest announcement.  

Some of the other achievements by the Fund include legislation in Azerbaijan to help emergency post-crash response, help to increase enforcement of the speed limits and other road traffic rules in Brazil and Jordan, as well as improving data collection in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, and training urban planners on making safer school zones in Paraguay.  

Vision for the future 

As part of the High-level meeting this week, UN Member States will adopt a political declaration, to lay out a “vision for the future of mobility as one that promotes health and well-being, protects the environment, and benefits all people,” according to a press release. 

The interconnected targets are part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that show how road safety is also integrated into the SDGs, from allowing safer access to education, to allowing people access to groceries and reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. 

Halving traffic deaths and injuries by 2030 is a target under the third SDG, on good health and well-being. 

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Rise of disinformation a symptom of ‘global diseases’ undermining public trust

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Societies everywhere are beset by “global diseases” including systemic inequality which have helped fuel a rise in disinformation, or the deliberate spreading of falsehoods, said the UN human rights chief on Tuesday, addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Michelle Bachelet said the restoration of public trust was essential, as disinformation should really be seen as a symptom of diseases such as systemic inequality, which has seen “deep-seated discrimination” flourish, along with fragile institutions, a loss of trust in effective governance, and “limited rule of law”.

She said those countries impacted by inequality were now threatened with instability and frayed co-existence within society.

Flourishing amid discontent

“Disinformation spreads when people feel that their voices are not heard. It arises in contexts where political disenchantment, economic disparity or social unrest flourish”, she said.

“It flourishes when civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and scientists cannot work, assemble and speak freely. When civic space is limited or closed. When the human rights to freedom of expression and access to information are threatened.”

It can be fuelled by governments and public officials, potentially leading to hate crimes and violence.

But she warned governments against trying to “officially ordain what is false, and what is true, and then attach legal consequences to those determinations. Our human right to access and impart information, is not limited to only what is deemed by the State as ‘accurate’”.

She called for a focus on “assessing how communications are being revolutionized by technology and on unpacking who is responsible for what.

“We need to look at how best to contain the harms caused by disinformation, while addressing the underlying causes that give disinformation life and allow it to gain traction.”

She said the sheer speed and volume of information circulating online, meant that it could be easily manipulated, with campaigns using automatic tools, rapidly creating a “false impressions of broad popular support for or against certain ideas, or be used to counter and marginalise dissident voices and ideas.”

Organized disinformation campaigns are also being used to silence rights defenders, journalists, and minority voices, “and as a result of repeated attacks, women, minority communities and others can be deterred from participating in the public sphere.”

Fighting back

The international response has to be consistent with universal rights obligations, she warned.

“When we debate the best ways to respond, we need to understand that censorship is not only an ineffective medicine – it can actually harm the patient.” Freedom of expression and the right to access information are essential, she underscored.

“I therefore call on States to uphold their international obligation to promote and protect these rights, whatever the social ill they seek to mitigate. Maintaining a vibrant and pluralistic civic space will be crucial in this endeavour.”

She called for policies which support independent journalism, pluralism in media, and digital literacy, which can help citizens “navigate” the online world and boost critical thinking.

“States must also ensure wide and free access to information so that it reaches all communities and constituencies…Trust can never be achieved without genuine government transparency.”

Social media regulation ‘insufficient’

The human rights chief said that social media businesses have transformed the way information circulates, “and they have a clear role to play.”

“To start with, we must understand better how they affect our national and global debates. While platforms have taken welcome steps to enhance their own transparency, and redress channels, progress remains insufficient.

She called for independent auditing of social media companies’ services and operations, and more clarity on the way advertising and personal data is being handled.

“And we need access for researchers and others to the data within companies, that can help us better understand and address disinformation.”

Two steps

Ms. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council that there are two “critical needs” in the battle against rising disinformation.

First, we need to deepen our understanding and knowledge: we need more research on how the digital sphere has transformed media and information flows; on how best to build public trust within this environment; and on how different actors can contribute to countering disinformation operations.”

Secondly, she said all discussions had to be framed within human rights norms. “Shortcuts do not work here: censorship and broad content take-downs are an ineffective and dangerous response.”

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Abu Akleh shooting: fatal shot came from Israeli forces

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Veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh spent a quarter century covering life under Israeli military rule. Photo: Al Jazeera

Israeli forces were behind the fatal shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank – not indiscriminate Palestinian firing – the UN human rights office, OHCHR, alleged on Friday.

Ms. Akleh – an experienced television journalist familiar with reporting in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – was killed on 11 May, as she attempted to report on an arrest operation by Israeli Security Forces and clashes in Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank.

‘Deeply disturbing’

“More than six weeks after the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and injury of her colleague Ali Sammoudi in Jenin on 11 May 2022, it is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

Following OHCHR’s own probe into the incident, Ms. Shamdasani added that “this monitoring from our Office is consistent with many findings out there that the shots that killed her came from Israeli Security Forces”.

Rejecting that conclusion, a statement issued by the Israeli mission in Geneva insisted that it was not yet possible to conclude who was responsible, in view of the Palestinian Authority’s “refusal to conduct a joint investigation and hand over the bullet”.

Final moments

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Ms. Shamdasani described Ms. Akleh’s final moments, with her colleague, Ali Sammoudi.

“At around half past six in the morning, as four of the journalists turned into the street leading to the camp, wearing bulletproof helmets and flak jackets with ‘PRESS’ markings, several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them from the direction of the Israeli Security Forces. One single bullet injured Ali Sammoudi in the shoulder, and another single bullet hit Abu Akleh in the head and killed her instantly.”

Highlighting how the OHCHR probe had followed the methodology used in many other country situations, Ms. Shamdasani explained that there was no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by.

Ms. Akleh and her colleagues “had proceeded slowly in order to make their presence visible to the Israeli forces deployed down the street”, Ms. Shamdasani said. “Our findings indicate that no warnings were issued and no shooting was taking place at that time and at that location.”

Every angle

She added: “We’ve inspected photo, video, audio material, we’ve visited the scene, we’ve consulted with experts, and we’ve looked at official communications; we’ve interviewed people who were also on the scene when Abu Akleh was killed…Based on this very vigorous monitoring, we find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians.”

After Ms. Abu Akleh was shot, “several further single bullets were fired as an unarmed man attempted to approach her body and another uninjured journalist sheltering behind a tree,” the OHCHR official continued. “Shots continued to be fired as this individual eventually managed to carry away Abu Akleh’s body.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged the Israeli authorities to open a criminal investigation into the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh and into all other killings and serious injuries by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Since the beginning of the year, OHCHR said that it had verified that Israeli Security Forces had killed 58 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 13 children.

“International human rights law requires prompt, thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation into all use of force resulting in death or serious injury,” said Ms. Shamdasani. “Perpetrators must be held to account.”

Israel has rejected the findings of the OHCHR probe, adding that the Palestinian Authority has not handed over the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh.

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