Officials coming from the latest round of talks of the Caspian littoral states (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Russia, and Kazakhstan) have reported major progress in delineating regions of authority in the Caspian Sea. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpour reported that he was confident that the dispute and outline could be resolved by the time of the next summit. The current summit is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan and the location for the next will be in Astana, though it is unclear when this will be. The Five Littoral States have been debating for as many as 20 years as to whether the body of water should be classified as a sea or a lake in order to circumvent international regulations on maritime commerce. The definition changes the way each of the littoral states will interact with one another.
This marks one of the few areas of cooperation between the five countries, and it is unclear how large of a stake Russia’s interest in this could be, considering that some speculate they could be applying pressure on Iran through this meeting to ensure cooperation or closer working relationships on the Iranian nuclear deal. Based on the preliminary announcement from the meetings, it looks like the Caspian will be designated as a sea, and territories will be hammered out accordingly to determine which oil and gas reserves reside in which territories.
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- Tajik opposition politician Umurali Quvatov was shot in the streets of Istanbul yesterday. The business tycoon is a longstanding opponent of Emmomali Rahmon, current President of Tajikistan. Quvatov left Tajikistan in 2012 after being accused of corruption before he settled in Turkey. Quvatov was the founder of Group 24, an opposition movement that had some roots abroad and throughout Tajikistan – and whose operations Rahmon’s government were trying to disrupt by disabling social media over the Internet throughout the past months. Other associates of Quvatov and Group 24 were arrested in Dushanbe, according to the article.
- Russia is urging Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to label IS a terrorist group and give their respective governments the power to prosecute citizens even on suspicion of being a member. Deputy Defense Minister of Russia Anatoly Anatov was adamant that the changes be made to both countries’ set of laws due to the security agreements outlined in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which allows for a tightly knit system of security measures against terrorist groups and provides for collective defense.
- A Kazakh border official has received a sentencing of 11 years for corruption – as part of a larger high profile effort by the government to tamp down on corruption and create an image of transparency in order to attract foreign investment. The official himself rejected these claims as “fabricated,” and he will be stripped of all rank, titles, and property.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry has been busy briefing various Arab Gulf states on the Iran deal to rally support ahead of the March 26 deadline set by Congress. Kerry flew down to Riyadh yesterday to make a show of engaging in Saudi concerns over the Iranian nuclear program. Kerry arrived in Riyadh after engaging in productive bilateral talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Switzerland. Saudi Arabia and its allies believe that even with restrictions on nuclear enrichment in place for the Iran regime, it will be hard to stop or verify a nuclear program.
- NATO Deputy Chief Alexander Vershbow said that Russia is having a harder time concealing soldier deaths in Ukraine, where it is believed some 12,000 troops are stationed. He also contended that large numbers of troops were dying or being wounded and treated in eastern Ukrainian medical stations and hospitals. He cited one instance of a Russian tank gunner who was treated for injuries outside of Donetsk, where it was confirmed he was a Russian army regular.