Caucasus Press Review (April 25 - May 1)
The newspaper Dagestani Pravda reports that the first ferries have begun arriving at the Makhachkala Sea Trade Port via the ‘Green Corridor’, organized to provide comfortable conditions for the production turnover between Russia and Iran through the territory of Dagestan. As the Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Russia, Sergey Levin, noted during a recent visit to the Republic, the ‘Green Corridor’ is a special set of the governmental decisions, which allows to inspect and issue agricultural goods between the two countries through a simplified procedure.
On May 16th Astrakhan hosts a forum on interregional cooperation between Russia and Iran, in which the issues of boosting freight traffic via the North-South corridor will be discussed. Dagestan plans to come up with concrete proposals on the forum, prepared by the inter-ministerial committee for implementation of the ‘Green Corridor’ program.
At the meeting it was noted that Iran holds one of the leading positions in the foreign turnover of Dagestan. Vegetables, fruits and nuts and construction materials were imported from Iran to Dagestan. The Republic expects that the annual trade turnover between Russia and Iran, which now amounts to 700-800 million dollars, can significantly grow in the short term, and a substantial proportion of this growth will come from Dagestan.
Recently, a second tour of the journalists to the frontline zone was organized by Azerbaijan after the four-day war with Armenia. There were representatives of Al-Jazeera, Reuters, Associated Press, France Presse, the Anadolu Agency, TRT World, the BBC, as well as local journalists in the group. The purpose of the event was to inform the world public of the atrocities committed by the Armenian armed forces against the civilian population living near the contact line of troops, according to the Azerbaijani newspaper Xalq Gazeti referring to the head of the press service of the Foreign Ministry, Hikmet Hajiyev. According to him, such visits will be organized regularly.
Hajiyev drew attention to the fact that, despite the agreement reached on April 5th, in which the general staff of the armed forces of the two countries agreed to a ceasefire, Armenia has subjected the civilian population living along the contact line to intense shelling. "Azerbaijan's expectation of the international community is that it will take steps to put an end to the aggressive actions of Armenia. Armenia should be forced to make peace. Azerbaijan announces that it is ready for a comprehensive and effective negotiating process. We see a solution to this problem, first of all, in the implementation of the well-known UN Security Council resolutions, according to which the Armenian armed forces must be withdrawn fully and unconditionally from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,’’ the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The newspaper Baku Worker informs that on April 28th the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Huseyn Bagirov, visited the front-line villages, where he inspected the objects destroyed by the artillery strikes in a number of areas. It was reported that, as a result of shelling by the Armenian units on the night of April 27th to 28th, one house was burned, two houses were severely damaged in the Agjabedi district, one person was killed, 8 injured, 12 houses, a secondary school and a shop were destroyed, 59 houses were damaged in the Aghdam region, another 2 rural schools were destroyed, 58 houses were destroyed in 10 villages of the Terter region. The minister told the reporters that the crimes committed by the Armenian forces against the civilian population will be documented and sent to international organizations. He also said that wastewater treatment plants are being built on the rivers flowing from the territory of Armenia. "We know that the Armenians poured poisons into the rivers, they cause environmental damage in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, cut down and sell the timber," the Minister said.
Although the official election campaign in Georgia has not started yet, the political life in the country is already boiling, the newspaper Free Georgia writes. The Georgian authorities promise to hold democratic and free parliamentary elections on October 8th, and the former ruling party United National Movement is preparing to defend itself against possible vote rigging. Non-governmental organizations will inspect the process, so that neither the opposition nor the authorities will violate the rules of the elections. One of the most influential NGOs in the country, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, has once again reminded the parties about the requirements of the election campaign. It is forbidden to use administrative resources, to pressure voters through bribery or threats, or to receive illegal donations in the course of the campaign.
The government and the opposition have decided to amend the Constitution on the eve of the parliamentary elections. The legislative body has received two versions of the constitutional amendments and four bills to amend the Electoral Code. The amendments relate to the abolition of the first-past-the-post system of elections. The only difference is that the opposition wants it for the upcoming elections, and the government wants it for the next ones. Neither party has enough votes in the parliament, so they have to negotiate. Under the current model, the legislative body of Georgia is formed from the representatives of 77 political parties and 73 directly elected majoritarian MPs. In addition, the authorities want to give the prime minister the right to remain in office until the announcement of the election results. Premier Giorgi Kvirikashvili will be the number one on the electoral list of the Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia party, which is the main force in the coalition.
In April a grand project ‘Check in Georgia’ was launched, which includes a series of large-scale cultural events, including festivals and concerts involving international stars, which will be held in Tbilisi and regions of the country. The events, for which 26 million GEL will be allocated, will be continued until the end of the year and according to the government’s plan will help to increase the flow of tourists into the country. An important aspect of this project is the fact that the prices for all the activities will be available to the general public.
Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze believes that the election campaign will be calm. Georgian Dream does not need to be represented by an absolute majority in the new parliament, otherwise they would not have dismissed the electoral bloc. They will get their share of votes in anyway, and will try to form a majority after the elections. However, according to the expert, the situation may worsen after the elections. The opposition will try to accuse the government of electoral fraud to bring people onto the streets. He did not rule out a revolutionary scenario of events.
A trilateral meeting with the participation of the public representatives of Abkhazia, Russia and Turkey took place in Sukhumi, the publication Sputnik-Abkhazia writes. The First Deputy Prime Minister of Abkhazia, Shamil Adzynba, speaking at the meeting, stressed that there is a strategic political-military alliance between Russia and Abkhazia, but on the other hand, the strengthening of the ties with compatriots in Turkey is a matter of national security for Abkhazia. "I am convinced that the relationship between the Russian Federation and Turkey will be normalized, and I wish our meeting and I hope that the next meetings as well will become small bricks in building this common ground,’’ he said.
The participants of the meeting agreed that the crisis in relations between Russia and Turkey plays into the hands of the representatives of third forces, and it is necessary to make an every effort to strengthen the relations between the two countries. It is necessary to coordinate the efforts to counter the third forces and to return to the good relations that existed between Russia and Turkey over the last 25 years, the participants of the round table noted. The meeting highlighted the positive mediation role of Abkhazia, which could be a bridge or platform for discussion of the ways to improve the Russian-Turkish relations. Suggestions were made to hold a festival of Caucasian culture, exhibitions and trilateral scientific conferences both in Turkey and Russia.
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The Ingushetia newspaper writes about the preparations for the 9th action of the charity fund Tesam – a food hand-out organization for low-income families. The assistance is provided for large, low-income families, for families in which orphans and children who have lost one parent are brought up. According to the executive director of the organization, Ahmed Kostoev, the products are given on a quarterly basis at a rate for each family member. As part of this action it is planned to help almost 200 families, these are 863 persons. A food basket costs 1406 rubles, according to today’s prices. It includes 8 kinds of products - flour, sugar, various cereals, pasta, sunflower oil. If all this is bought in the shops, it will take more than one million rubles for the preparation of the action. Fortunately, as Kostoev notes, they have enough sponsors. More than 650 thousand rubles have been allocated to the organization. These are both private and collective donations from different organizations. Some people bring food personally. Not everyone wants their names to be revealed.