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Azerbaijan wants to ‘revise’ ties with EU

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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

1Azerbaijan on Friday fiercely rejected European criticism of its human rights record and threatened to “revise” relations over a European Parliament’s resolution calling for sanctions against Azeri authorities.“(Azerbaijan’s) relations with the European Union should be revised due to its anti-Azeri and anti-Islamic tendencies,” the oil-rich Caucasus nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement.The European Parliament passed on Thursday a non-binding resolution strongly condemning the “unprecedented repression against civil society in Azerbaijan.”It called on the EU’s executive body to “consider targeted sanctions and visa bans on all politicians, officials and judges involved in the political persecutions.”MEP also urged the EU to “conduct a thorough investigation into the corruption allegations against President (Ilham) Aliyev and members of his family.”Baku said Friday it has decided to postpone the visit of a European Commission delegation which was due to arrive in Baku for talks on planned EU-Azerbaijan “strategic partnership” agreement.

2Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday kicked off the first of a series of events commemorating the 550th anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate, the roots of present-day Kazakhstan.Speaking at the Palace of Independence, Nazarbayev paid tribute to the ancestors who laid the country’s foundations through the khanate (political entity ruled by a khan) of Kazakh.The Kazakh Khanate was founded in 1465 in Tazar, southern Kazakhstan, by a joining of the tribes of Janybek Khan and Kerey Khan and endured until it was absorbed by the Russian Empire in the mid-19th century.The president stressed the need to know the past in order to “respect and interpret the present.”Nazarbayev said that Kazakh means “free,” “a freedom that characterizes the Kazakhs,” a people made up of more than 130 ethnic groups, among which he highlighted “Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Uzbeks.”

3The European Commission estimates that Iran could become a major natural gas supplier to the European Union by the next decade, a new report says. According to an EU official, cited by the Wall Street Journal, the bloc could import up to 35 billion cubic meters of gas a year from Iran by 2030 that would help reduce dependence on Russian shipments.The conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran has set off a race among the Europeans to search for new business opportunities in the energy-rich country which owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves.According to the Journal, EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete met representatives of major European energy companies last week to encourage them “to actively pursue ties in Iran”.

4Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country was moving towards peace with Russia. According to Poroshenko, he had been working “day and night” in the last 15 months since Ukraine clashed with Russia. While he does not want to dream about peace yet, he said there was “a change in tactics.”“We know where the Russians and their proxies are still hiding their weapons, their tanks and their artillery – for now the order has been given to cease fire, but for how long?” the Ukrainian president told The Independent. “This is not the end of the war, but instead a change in tactics.” Russian news agency Tass reported that the Ukrainian defense ministry and the general headquarters had started the process of demobilization in September upon Poroshenko’s order.

5The energy-rich Azerbaijan is expected to slightly increase oil production by late 2015.The country’s oil production will hit 0.88 million barrels a day in the third and fourth quarters of the year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook.The country’s oil production stood at 0.86 million barrels a day in the first quarter and 0.87 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year, according to the EIA’s forecasts.

6The European Parliament has carried out another political campaign against Azerbaijan. During the meeting on Sept.10, the rules of etiquette were violated, and slanderous statements were made against Azerbaijan, Speaker of the Azerbaijani Milli Majlis (Parliament) Ogtay Asadov said at the parliament’s extraordinary session on Sept.14.The European Parliament’s resolution is fully biased and fictitious, the speaker said, adding organization’s previous meetings were attended by 50-60 deputies, but this time more than 600 deputies were involved in the meeting on Sept.10. Asadov said over the past two years the European Parliament has adopted a number of biased documents against Azerbaijan. “We were silent for a long time. However, it is impossible to be silent. This time, Europe has broken all the rules of conduct,” noted the speaker. Morover, Asadov said that the parliament will appeal to the Cabinet of Ministers to reconsider Azerbaijan’s cooperation with Euronest.

7Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed off on daughter Dariga’s appointment as deputy-prime minister Friday, in a move that could be linked to the ex-Soviet republic’s looming succession issue. Nazarbayeva, 52, was an MP and vice-speaker of the Kazakh parliament before the Friday decree. Her appointment to the position comes months after Nazarbayev secured a new five-year term in April presidential elections many believe were his last.

8With China slowing down, Russia is trying to sell its oil to India. “With the China story fizzling out, Russia is now planning to build up its presence in China’s neighbor India. With huge internal energy consumption and a bustling economy, India is set to grow faster than China in 2015 and 2016 according to the recent projections from the IMF.After China, India is the next best logical alternative for Russia to strengthen its Asian ties and move away from western sanctions” Gaurav Agnihotri –Oilprice.com

9Azerbaijan’s state energy company SOCAR is interested in establishing a full-scale cooperation with Turkmenistan – a reliable and promising partner, which has huge energy resources and economic potential. This was stated at a meeting held between Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and President of Azerbaijan’s state energy company SOCAR Rovnag Abdullayev in Turkmenistan’s national tourism zone Avaza on September 11.The sides discussed cooperation issues between the two countries in the fuel-energy, transport and communication sectors.

10The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said it will not monitor Azerbaijan’s November parliamentary election because restrictions imposed by authorities have rendered credible poll monitoring impossible. Azeris are due to vote for the new parliament on Nov. 1. Previous elections in the ex-Soviet state, led by President Ilham Aliyev for the last 12 years, have been criticized by international observers. “The restriction on the number of observers taking part would make it impossible for the mission to carry out effective and credible election observation,” Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said in a press release on the OSCE website.

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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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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