Stop NATO News: December 7, 2011

7 December 2011 — Stop NATO

  • NATO To Open Centers In Kuwait, Other Gulf States
  • Israel Brandishes Drones Amid Reports Of Impending Attack On Iran
  • Hereditary Regimes: Jordan, Morocco In Line For GCC Membership
  • Tricontinental ‘Pan-Arab Pipeline’ To Proceed Despite Syria Crisis
  • U.S. Should Apologize To Pakistan, NATO Pay Reparations: Kucinich
  • Pakistani Catholics Organize Protest Against Deadly NATO Attack
  • France Plans Long-Term Strategic Pact With Afghanistan
  • Eritrea: Two Remaining Independent African Nations Down, Three To Go (Ivory Coast and Libya; Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Sudan)
  • Russian Officials Blast Clinton Comments On Election
  • U.S.’s McCain Tells Russia Arab Spring Coming To ‘Neighborhood Near You’
  • Azerbaijan: Hub Of West’s Caspian-Black-Baltic Sea Energy Pipelines
  • State Department Pursues Strategic Cooperation With Azerbaijan
  • Russia Sends New Shipment Of Humanitarian Aid To Kosovo Serbs
  • U.S. Military Alliance: Australia Faces Hobson’s Choice

NATO To Open Centers In Kuwait, Other Gulf States

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/kuwait/kuwait-nato-mull-plans-to-set-up-centre-in-kuwait-city-1.945068

Gulf News
December 6, 2011

Kuwait, Nato mull plans to set up centre in Kuwait City
By Habib Toumi

Brussels: Kuwait and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) are discussing plans to open a centre in Kuwait City, a Nato official has said.

The centre, the first of its kind in the Gulf, will help bolster relations and cooperation between the Gulf country and the international organization under the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).

The initiative was launched at the Alliance’s Summit in the Turkish city in June 2004 to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries practical bilateral security cooperation with Nato.

Kuwait joined the ICI in December 2004, followed by Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.

The official, who wished not be named, told Gulf News that no date was set for the opening of the centre in Kuwait City, explaining that international agreements usually took time to materialise.

However, he said that the other ICI member states could also have their own centres.

‘Should other GCC countries make the request to open a centre, it will be considered on its own merits,’ he said.

North Atlantic Council

In 2006, Kuwait was the first ICI country to host the North Atlantic Council (NAC) for a conference on cooperation with Gulf Countries. The NAC later took part in conferences in Bahrain in 2008 and the UAE in 2009.

Non-GCC Arab countries that have developed partnerships with Nato are Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan under the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative launched in 1994.

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Israel Brandishes Drones Amid Reports Of Impending Attack On Iran

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2011-12/07/c_122386556.htm

Xinhua News Agency
December 7, 2011

Feature: Amid reports of impending strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israeli Air Force brandishes spy drones
by Gur Salomon

-[Major Gil, deputy commander of the 200th Squadron] declined to comment on the unconfirmed reports that Israel also deploys missile-launching drones and kamikaze craft that explode upon impact. But independent experts said Israel has used such hardware on numerous occasions, including for striking targets far beyond its borders.
Israel, a powerhouse of UAV technology, has already sold drones to some 30 militaries worldwide, many of whom dot the skies over Afghanistan, Iraq and other U.S.-led operational theaters.
-Three weeks ago, a huge explosion that destroyed a major missile-testing site near Tehran was attributed to a weapon possibly fired from a drone loitering overhead. Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials said the incident, in which the chief of Iran’s missile program was killed, was a major setback for the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

PALMACHIM AIR BASE, Israel: In an unusual move, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Monday invited media for a briefing on its secret drone program, allowing a rare glimpse of one squadron that deploys some of the most sophisticated surveillance technology available.

The tour of the seaside air base, south of Tel Aviv, comes against the backdrop of local media reports in recent weeks that Israel is poised to strike Iran’s nuclear sites.

Major Gil, deputy commander of the 200th Squadron, flatly declined to discuss Iran specifically.

‘All I can say is that we can get anywhere we want and need to, ’ he told reporters who assembled at the squadron’s headquarters.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, officially entered service with the IAF in 1971, making Israel’s military the world’s first operator of pilotless aircraft for gathering real-time battlefield intelligence.

Since then, the IAF’s drones, all of them locally produced, have evolved into a refined fleet of long-range surveillance platforms that are ever-present in the skies over Israel’s borders.

Though outfitted with sophisticated hardware ranging from smart bombs to satellites, the Israeli military presently relies on no technology more heavily than the drones of the 200th Squadron.

Gil said that drones have been shouldering the bulk of the IAF’s reconnaissance missions over the past decade, logging more flight hours annually than all of its manned aircraft combined.

The 200th Squadron’s pilots, whose full names cannot be divulged due to censorship regulations, would only provide scarce details of the craft they guide from innocuous, windowless, metal sheds. The operators fly the Heron 1, a drone with a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet that can stay airborne for up to 45 hours. Another squadron based here operates the Hermes 450, a medium- altitude aircraft.

Last February, the IAF inaugurated its flagship drone, the Heron TP II. Developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, the all- weather TP II can reach 45,000 feet high, carry a maximum payload of 1 ton, and remain aloft for 36 hours.

The number of IAF drone squadrons, the range of the aircraft and most other technical specifics are closely guarded secrets.

If Israel were to attack Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities, the drones at Palmachim, some of whom are said to be equipped with stealth technology, would be sent well ahead of bomber pilots, transmitting back images of the designated target areas, and would subsequently assess the damage caused by the strike.

While such plans are still confined to the drawing board, remotely controlled drone aircraft are heavily used by the Israeli army in daily operations.

Gil said that his drones’ main mission is to provide support to ground troops by relaying bird’s-eye views of a combat zone to field commanders.

Mission specialists said there is no ground encounter without a UAV flying overhead. Gil also briefly described how drones often ‘paint’ targets for strikes by manned aircraft.

In the 2006 Lebanon war, for instance, UAVs flying from Palmachim scoured the ravines and villages in southern Lebanon, constituting a critical element in the IAF’s efforts to destroy Hezbollah’s rocket launchers and to evacuate injured troops.

Outfitted with cameras that can transmit high-resolution images in total darkness, drones have also proved indispensable in the Israeli military’s operations against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in recent years. They are regularly tasked with overflying the coastal territory to hunt for rocket and mortar launchers and lead helicopter gunships to the locations of hidden arms caches, and they are also reportedly involved in the periodic targeted killings of militants.

Like all the drone operators here, many of whom began their military service in the IAF’s prestigious flight academy, Gil wears flight overalls with sewed-on squadron patches.

He declined to comment on the unconfirmed reports that Israel also deploys missile-launching drones and kamikaze craft that explode upon impact. But independent experts said Israel has used such hardware on numerous occasions, including for striking targets far beyond its borders.

Israel, a powerhouse of UAV technology, has already sold drones to some 30 militaries worldwide, many of whom dot the skies over Afghanistan, Iraq and other U.S.-led operational theaters.

On Sunday, Iran claimed to have shot down an advanced American RQ-170 spy drone in an eastern province…

Three weeks ago, a huge explosion that destroyed a major missile-testing site near Tehran was attributed to a weapon possibly fired from a drone loitering overhead. Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials said the incident, in which the chief of Iran’s missile program was killed, was a major setback for the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iran’s state-run media dismissed the reports of suspected sabotage, declaring the explosion an accident.

While drone pilots are spared the dangers of a real battlefield, their workload remains among the heaviest in the IAF. Gil said the fact is unlikely to change in the near future.

‘I can’t tell you how many drones we operate, but I can say that we don’t have enough of them,’ he said.

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Hereditary Regimes: Jordan, Morocco In Line For GCC Membership

http://en.trend.az/regions/met/arabicr/1966119.html

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
December 6, 2011

Jordan confident of ’gradual’ admission to GCC bloc

-The GCC leaders made the offer to Jordan and Morocco in May to join the bloc, apparently in response to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that threatened the hereditary regimes in the Arab world.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Tuesday denied reports in the Arab media that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states had gone back on an offer to admit his country to the oil-rich Arab political bloc, dpa reported.

He told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the upper house of parliament that he envisaged a ‘gradual’ Jordanian admission to the Gulf Cooperation Council, founded in 1981.

The GCC leaders made the offer to Jordan and Morocco in May to join the bloc, apparently in response to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that threatened the hereditary regimes in the Arab world.

Jordan held two round of talks with GCC foreign ministers in September and October amid reports that the alliance had proposed an aid package of 10 billion dollars to Jordan in the coming five years.

‘The recent remarks by some GCC foreign ministers have been misunderstood and twisted by the media,’ Judeh said in a testimony before the parliamentary panel.

‘The ministers intended to say that Jordan’s admission should be gradual with a view to coming up with the optimal version that enables Jordan to comply with the requirements of joining the bloc that was founded 30 years ago and has well-established institutions,’ he added.

Judeh expected eight panels set up in October to follow-up the admission roadmap to start their work after the GCC summit in Riyadh later this month.

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Tricontinental ‘Pan-Arab Pipeline’ To Proceed Despite Syria Crisis

http://en.trend.az/capital/energy/1965916.html

Trend News Agency
December 6, 2011

Minister: Instability in Syria does not hamper Pan-Arab gas pipeline project
A. Tagiyeva

-Egyptian gas is supplied via the Pan-Arab gas pipeline to the north, Israel and south to the Gulf of Aqaba, and from there via Jordan to Syria.
Several Arab countries agreed to construct the gas pipeline in 2000. The final stage covers the laying of the Arab gas pipeline to the territory of Turkey. Afterwards, the gas from the Arab countries will be delivered to Europe…The possibility of transporting Azerbaijani gas from Turkey to Syria and Jordan was also considered.

Azerbaijan, Baku: The political instability in Syria and the crisis in Syrian-Turkish relations will not hamper the implementation of the project of the Pan-Arab gas pipeline to the territory of Turkey, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz was quoted as saying by the Zaman newspaper.

‘The Pan-Arab gas pipeline promotes the development of all countries participating in this project, so this project was not included in the sanctions against Syria,’ minister said.

Y?ld?z said that perhaps Turkey will start supplying gas via the Pan-Arab gas pipeline to Lebanon and Syria.

Egyptian gas is supplied via the Pan-Arab gas pipeline to the north, Israel and south to the Gulf of Aqaba, and from there via Jordan to Syria.

Several Arab countries agreed to construct the gas pipeline in 2000. The final stage covers the laying of the Arab gas pipeline to the territory of Turkey. Afterwards, the gas from the Arab countries will be delivered to Europe.

The possibility of transporting Azerbaijani gas from Turkey to Syria and Jordan was also considered.

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U.S. Should Apologize To Pakistan, NATO Pay Reparations: Kucinich

http://tribune.com.pk/story/303012/us-should-appologise-to-pakistan-nato-pay-reparations-to-soldiers-congressman-kucinich/

Express Tribune
December 7, 2011

US should apologise to Pakistan, NATO pay reparations to soldiers: Congressman Kucinich
By Huma Imtiaz

WASHINGTON: A United States Congressman from Ohio has called on his government to apologise to Pakistan, and for NATO to pay compensation to the families of 24 soldiers killed in a NATO air strike on a Pakistani border check post on November 26.

Speaking at an event organised by the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democrat, said relations with Pakistan was a critical issue. ‘We need to apologise to the people of Pakistan, NATO must pay reparations to the families of the soldiers.’

His remarks come a day after US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for Pakistan’s funding to be reviewed.

Addressing the event, Congressman Kucinich said, ‘I’m aware of complexities around US-Pakistan relations, but you are our brothers and sisters, and we need to help facilitate those who want to take care of people here’.

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Pakistani Catholics Organize Protest Against Deadly NATO Attack

http://www.uscatholic.org/news/2011/12/catholics-organize-protest-against-nato-strikes-killed-pakistanis

Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
December 5, 2011

Catholics organize protest against NATO strikes that killed Pakistanis

-’The war on terror has killed over 30,000 civilians and there are many miles to go in a conflict that is not ours.’

KARACHI, Pakistan: The Catholic Church’s justice and peace commission organized a protest condemning a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The Asian church news agency UCA News said that, holding pro-army banners and national flags, more than 50 protesters from several Catholic institutions gathered outside the press club in Karachi Dec. 2. They shouted slogans, prayed and lit candles for the ‘faithful martyrs.’

The protesters – including two priests and 10 friars – expressed outrage at what they called an attack on their country’s sovereignty and demanded justice for the affected families.

NATO helicopters attacked two Pakistan border posts Nov. 26, killing 24 soldiers.

The attack prompted Pakistan to pull out of early December talks in Germany to discuss neighboring Afghanistan’s future. The Pakistani government also blocked NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and demandd the U.S. leave a remote airbase used for drone flights.

A statement from the justice and peace commission said: ‘It is time to take our airbases back from foreign armies. The government should press for a transparent investigation into the NATO raid.’

‘We support our army; we shall sacrifice everything for our homeland and no longer stay silent,’ said Father Thomas Gulfam, general-secretary of the Heralds of Peace, an interfaith group.

Capuchin Father Abid Habib, president of the Major Superiors Leadership Conference of Pakistan, said the cost in civilian lives because of the war against the Taliban was unacceptable.

‘The war on terror has killed over 30,000 civilians and there are many miles to go in a conflict that is not ours,’ he said.

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France Plans Long-Term Strategic Pact With Afghanistan

http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2011/12/06/france-ready-strategic-pact-afghanistan

Pajhwok Afghan News
December 6, 2011

France ready for strategic pact with Afghanistan
By Abdul Qadir Siddiqui

KABUL: The French foreign minister has evinced his country’s willingness to sign a long-term strategic agreement with Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s office said on Tuesday.

Alain Juppe expressed France’s readiness for the pact at a meeting with Karzai in Bonn, where they participated in a day-long conference on Afghanistan’s future.

According to a statement from the president’s office, Afghanistan and France are working on the long-term strategic pact, to be signed soon. The two leaders also discussed French support in different sectors.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a trip to Afghanistan on July 12, had proposed the strategic pact…

One of the closest allies of the United States, France has 3,700 combat troops in Afghanistan under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

The French troops are mainly based in Kabul and Kapisa provinces. Since 2002, 75 French soldiers have been killed. The French government says it will withdraw 400 troops this year and the rest before 2014.

The French foreign minister also invited Karzai to visit his country at the end of January 2012 for talks on the agreement, the statement concluded.

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Eritrea: Two Remaining Independent African Nations Down, Three To Go (Ivory Coast and Libya; Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Sudan)

http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c32/290805.html

Itar-Tass
December 6, 2011

Russia abstains from voting on UNSC sanctions against Eritrea

UNITED NATIONS: Russia abstained during voting at the UN Security Council on a sanctions resolution against Eritrea because it believes that its text ‘contains a number of insufficiently grounded provisions,’ including those relating to the involvement of this African state in the ‘so-called planned terror act in Addis Ababa during a summit of the African Union there’ in January 2011, RF Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said at the UN Security Council.

Shortly before his speech the UN, the Security Council by an overwhelming majority passed Resolution 2023, which imposed additional sanctions against Eritrea, accusing it of ‘further support of armed opposition groups, including Al-Shabaab the actions of which undermine peace and hinder reconciliation in Somalia and the region.’ The draft resolution put forward by Gabon and Nigeria was approved by 13 out of 15 member countries of the UN Security Council. Russia and China abstained.

‘The Russian Federation categorically rejects terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,’ Churkin said, in particular. ‘But in this case the UN Security Council was not provided convincing evidence of Eritrea’s involvement in this.’

‘We do not know the results of the investigation of this incident, if it was conducted at all,’ the Russian ambassador said.

In Moscow’s view, ‘imposing sanctions is an extreme measure.’

‘Before resorting to the imposition of sanctions, it is necessary to maximally use political and diplomatic methods of work,’ said Churkin. In this connection the RF permanent representative to the United Nations called on Eritrea and its neighbours ‘to start an open and transparent discussion of all key issues for improving the situation in this part of the African continent.’

According to a UN press release, the Security Council on Monday placed additional sanctions on Eritrea for continuing to provide support to armed groups seeking to destabilize Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa, building on the arms and travel embargoes it imposed exactly two years ago. The resolution followed an earlier meeting on Monday at which the Council heard a briefing from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

In December 2009, the Council adopted a resolution which imposed sanctions on Eritrea for supporting insurgents trying to topple the government in nearby Somalia. The measures included an arms embargo on Eritrea, travel bans on the country’s top political and military officials, and the freezing of assets of some of its senior political and military officials.

In addition, the Council called on Eritrea to engage constructively with Djibouti to resolve their border dispute.

According to the UNSC, by further terms of the text, the Council expressed its intention to apply targeted sanctions against individuals and entities that meet the listing criteria set out in paragraph 15 of resolution 1907 (2009) and paragraph 1 of resolution 2002 (2011)…

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Russian Officials Blast Clinton Comments On Election

http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c32/291010.html

Itar-Tass
December 6, 2011

Clinton’s comment on Russian election impermissible – FM

-‘If the U.S. side takes any actions, say, render direct support to those described as ‘democrats’ by Clinton, our reaction will be harsh and consistent,’ Kosachyov warned.

MOSCOW: The comment of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Russian parliamentary election is impermissible, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

‘The comment of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Russian parliamentary election and similar comments of representatives of the White House and the U.S. Department of State are impermissible,’ the ministry said.

‘We have to state with regret that Washington sticks to the long gone stereotypes and labels without trying to find out what is really going on in our electoral field,’ the ministry said.

‘Russian citizens made their choice and took active part in the ballot. Only they have the right to determine the country’s future regardless of anyone’s biased opinions and politicized recipes,’ it said.

‘We must note that the U.S. electoral system is far from being perfect. It cannot be an etalon of openness and justice, which is proven with the traditionally low turnout in the elections of all levels. U.S. executive authorities should analyze that and think about ways to change the situation,’ the ministry said.

The ministry expressed the hope that the U.S. side would abstain from ‘unfriendly attacks, which disagree with the general positive vector in the development of the bilateral relations.’

The Clinton comment was also harshly criticized by State Duma deputies and United Russia functionaries.

First Deputy Secretary of the United Russia General Council Presidium Andrei Isayev rebuffed the Clinton comment as totally inappropriate.

‘I think that Clinton’s statement is inappropriate; this is a way of political pressure on Russia and an act of interference in our internal affairs. The statement is totally unfounded,’ he said.

The statement disagrees with the reset policy, which, by the way, was proclaimed by Mrs. Clinton, Isayev said. ‘The U.S. bureaucrat should be more careful in her opinions of the Russian domestic policy and recall her own mistakes made in the U.S. election,’ he remarked.

U.S. Department of State officers ‘made the opposite comment only one day ago,’ Isayev said. He explained the shift in the U.S. rhetoric with the Monday disturbances in Moscow. ‘The loud minority’ is trying to crash the majority and to push its will, and the statement by Mrs. Clinton encourages this ‘loud minority’ to escalate the illegal actions, Isayev said.

More than 600 foreign observers monitored the State Duma election, he said. ‘Their final report says nothing about unfair vote,’ he added.

Chairman of the fifth State Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov said earlier that the statement by Mrs. Clinton ‘would not help improve the atmosphere of our relations.’

He also expressed hope that the U.S. authorities ‘would not draw any practical conclusions from the strange statement by Clinton.’

‘We will take notice of this statement, which is far from being the brightest page in the recent history of Russia-U.S. relations and the joint work on the reset; on the contrary, it is one of the darkest pages,’ Kosachyov said. ‘However, negative consequences may be avoided if this statement remains a mere comment.’

‘If the U.S. side takes any actions, say, render direct support to those described as ‘democrats’ by Clinton, our reaction will be harsh and consistent,’ Kosachyov warned. ‘Our post-election situation is our situation, and only us, citizens of Russia, may set the voting parameters and evaluate our ballot.’

Clinton strongly criticized the Russian election at the Vilnius meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Tuesday.

‘Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted,’ she said. ‘Russian voters deserve a full investigation of all credible reports of electoral fraud and manipulation, and we hope in particular that the Russian authorities will take action.’

Clinton made similar statements at the international conference on Afghanistan on Monday.

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U.S.’s McCain Tells Russia Arab Spring Coming To ‘Neighborhood Near You’

http://rustavi2.com/news/news_text.php?id_news=44001&pg=1&im=main&ct=0&wth=

Rustavi 2
December 6, 2011

McCain comments on Russian elections

American Senator John McCain has commented on the parliamentary elections conducted in Russia on December 4th. The Republican Senator warned Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about the Arab Spring in his address published on Twitter.

`Dear Vlad, The Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you,` McCain said in his Twitter micro blog.

The senator added a link from his Twitter comment to a Wall Street Journal article which states that ‘widespread evidence of voter fraud’ will sour Russia’s relations with Western capitals ‘in the coming days.’

Known for his sharp anti-Russian views, McCain has repeatedly called on the U.S. administration to treat Russia with caution.

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Azerbaijan: Hub Of West’s Caspian-Black-Baltic Sea Energy Pipelines

http://en.trend.az/capital/energy/1966106.html

Trend News Agency
December 6, 2011

Azerbaijan interested in supplying oil to Baltic markets – minister
V. Verveckaite

-’We are now considering the serious possibility of [creating] a pipeline system [for gas supplies] via Turkey to the Balkans and farther to Central Europe…

Lithuania, Vilnius: Azerbaijan is very interested in the supply of oil and oil products to Baltic Sea markets, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said Tuesday in Vilnius, an ELTA correspondent reports especially for Trend.

‘Today, Azerbaijani oil is transported to Ukraine via the Odessa-Brody pipeline. Also there are different options for subsequent deliveries via Belarus and Poland to the Baltic Sea,’ said the Minister.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister is participating in the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Vilnius.

According to him, in this context the nation has huge opportunities.

‘We in Azerbaijan support these projects because our supply of oil and oil products to the Baltic market is very interesting,’ Mammadyarov said.

He also noted the project to deliver liquefied gas within the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI).

According to the minister, AGRI will create new opportunities for delivery of Azerbaijani gas to various markets of the countries between the Black and Baltic Seas.

‘We are now considering the serious possibility of [creating] a pipeline system [for gas supplies] via Turkey to the Balkans and farther to Central Europe. All of these projects not only have a right to exist, as well as cost-effective’ ??Mammadyarov said.

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State Department Pursues Strategic Cooperation With Azerbaijan

http://en.trend.az/news/politics/1966056.html

Trend News Agency
December 6, 2011

Azerbaijani FM and U.S Assistant Secretary of State discuss prospects of strategic cooperation
S. Agayeva

Azerbaijan, Baku: Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and U.S Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon discussed the prospects of developing strategic cooperation between Azerbaijan and the U.S. in Vilnius today, spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Elman Abdullayev told Trend today.

The meeting was held within the OSCE ministerial council meeting in Vilnius.

The sides exchanged views on bilateral and regional cooperation.

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Russia Sends New Shipment Of Humanitarian Aid To Kosovo Serbs

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20111207/169439478.html

Russian Information Agency Novosti
December 7, 2011

Russia sends humanitarian aid to Kosovo Serbs

MOSCOW: Russia is sending on Wednesday a second shipment of humanitarian aid to Kosovo Serbs, totaling 284 tons, the emergencies ministry said.

A 40-truck convoy will deliver blankets, power generators, furniture and food supplies, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The convoy will leave the city of Noginsk near Moscow at 5.45 a.m. Moscow time and is expected to arrive in the city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo in two days.

In November, an emergencies ministry’s Il-76 cargo plane delivered the first shipment of humanitarian aid, weighing 36 tons, to the city of Nis in southern Serbia.

A Russian-Serbian center for emergency situations in the Balkans opened in Nis in October.

Kosovo, a landlocked region with a population of mainly ethnic Albanians, declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008. Ethnic Serbs account for up to 10 percent of Kosovo’s two-million population.

Both Serbia and Russia have refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

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U.S. Military Alliance: Australia Faces Hobson’s Choice

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-12/07/content_14223624.htm

China Daily
December 7, 2011

Australia faces Hobson’s choice
By Han Feng*

-The Washington-Canberra alliance is very old, and the US has provided equipment, intelligence, logistics and technology to Australia’s armed forces for long. But according to the latest deal, the US will station ‘battle-ready’ troops in Australia for the first time, which will inevitably compromise Canberra’s regional ‘independence’.

Last week, China’s Defense Ministry described the move of the United States and Australia to upgrade their military ties as ‘Cold War’ thinking, which many newspapers in the US and Australia chose to highlight. Part of the Washington-Canberra deal is to station American troops in Australia.

On Nov 16, US President Barack Obama visited Australia during the short interval between APEC and East Asia summits (EAS). Of all Obama’s achievements, the most significant is the agreement for US stationing troops in Australia, whose number will grow from 250 from the beginning of next year to 2,500 in 2015. Besides, US fighter planes and warships will also visit and use Australian military bases frequently.

Australia is one of the closest US allies, and the move to station American troops in Australia reflects Washington’s intentions.

First, the US can strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening the US-Australian alliance. With the weakening of regional relations and the continuing global financial crisis, many countries, including Australia (according to its Defense White Paper), began doubting the US’ influence in the region. Also, the US was not part of many regional cooperation mechanisms in East Asia. So the stationing of American troops in Australia can be seen as an attempt to increase both countries’ influence in the region.

Second, the US wants to rebuild its leadership in the region by strengthening US-Australian ties. To ‘return’ to East Asia, the US has floated the Tran-Pacific Partnership and tried to turn the EAS into a US-led regional security cooperation platform. But both require the active participation of Australia, which is one of the founding members of APEC and a propeller of regional security mechanisms.

The move will help restructure the distribution of US’ regional force, too. After the end of the Cold War, the US found its traditional alliances ‘eroding’ because of a change in regional situations, and its repeated emphasis on the importance of alliances went almost unheeded. So the US is now trying to build new alliance by using some long-term disputes between a rising China and other countries in the region.

A military alliance with the US means far more than security guarantee for Australia. It is a very important channel for it to join the mainstream Western community. But, at the same time, Australia must recognize the importance of its partnership with China, formed on the basis of trade and investment in the process of globalization. Though Australia faces the dilemma of choosing between the US and China, it thinks that its ties with the US are the most important.

The Washington-Canberra alliance is very old, and the US has provided equipment, intelligence, logistics and technology to Australia’s armed forces for long. But according to the latest deal, the US will station ‘battle-ready’ troops in Australia for the first time, which will inevitably compromise Canberra’s regional ‘independence’.

After the end of the Cold War, Australia sought to play an active role in the region as a middle power. In fact, it achieved good results by propelling APEC, establishing good relations with Asian countries and joining the Asia-Pacific community.

But by allowing the US to station troops on its soil, Australia will hurt regional interests. For instance, it will compromise its role as a ‘bridge’ between East and West. Australia’s importance in the region in recent times is that it is seen as a coordinator between China and the US.

Agreeing to station American troops on its soil, a strategically important move, Australia will undermine its neutrality and create difficulties for itself in potential regional conflicts. Potentially, many conflicts could break out in Asia Pacific, and in case one does and American troops intervene, Australia would find itself in an embarrassing situation.

More importantly, the US-Australian military alliance will deal a blow to Sino-Australian relations. China’s importance for Australia is multifold.

Politically, China is an essential channel through which Australia can integrate fully into East Asia, which is now the world’s fastest growing region.

Australia once tried to establish closer relations with Asia through ASEAN, but its unstable relations with Indonesia, opposition from Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and its weak relations with new ASEAN members yielded little result. Australia knows that China plays an increasingly important role in its integration into the Asia.

On the economic front, China is indispensable to Australia’s success in coping with the financial crisis. Besides, Australia needs China’s support to be part of almost all East Asian cooperation mechanisms.

Another considerable question is Australia’s stance on Taiwan. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd’s administration was divided on how to treat separatists in China. Rudd reportedly said Australia should strengthen and expand its navy and the US should station troops in the region to deal with a rising China, which soured relations between China and Australia. Since Rudd was forced to resign, the current Australian administration should be more careful because China is already Australia’s largest trading partner.

In other words, by agreeing to station American troops on its soil and trying to strike a new balance between Washington and Beijing, Australia is drifting farther away from China.

This is a challenge for China. Furthermore, if American troops are stationed in Australia, they will pose a greater strategic challenge for China and East Asia. So US-Australian bilateral ties will have a multilateral effect on the region. That’s why, instead of asking China to join the US-Australian military drill, Australia should simulate multilateral military cooperation to counterbalance the negative influences of some countries in the region.

*The author is deputy director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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Posted 8th December 2011 by InI in category NATO

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