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Democracy has no chance in a poor society – says Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway

nurlan

(L) Nurlan Mussin Chargé d’affaires a.i. Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Norway with (R) Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

Honorable Charge de Affair of Kazakhstan to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Editor in Chief and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues…

TOT: Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has remained one of the star economies of the CIS, and of Central Asian region. So, what has been the basic formula behind this success? Please elaborate…

Charge de Affair: First of all, I would like to thank Oslo Times and you personally for your interest towards our country.
Kazakhstan has been hidden from the eyes of those in Europe for quite a while.

It’s been only 20 years since we joined the international community as an independent nation and we still have a lot to do to educate the world about us.

Therefore, our Embassy appreciates very much this opportunity to tell to the readers of The Oslo Times about our young nation.

In 1991, when Soviet Union virtually ceased to exist, the situation in this former empire was very tense. Political elites in many parts of the former Soviet Union pursued policies based on emotions and lacked vision and wisdom much needed by their long suffering people.

People throughout Soviet Union wanted freedom, dignity and prosperity. What they had at that time was hunger, poverty, lack of security and unknown future.

As it happened many times in the history of humankind, irresponsible politicians turned to populism and the search for scapegoats. “Blame the “other” slogan used by them had led to bloody conflicts in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia and Tajikistan. In many other places the situation was equally tense.

It was an environment of mutual distrust and anger that could lead to major military conflicts the types of which the world had witnessed in Yugoslavia.

This was not a scenario people and political leadership of Kazakhstan wanted. So, our President decided that something had to be done and invited the leaders of all the republics to come to Kazakhstan to discuss how to move further after the de-facto end of the Soviet Union.

In 1991 on a cold December day in Almaty these leaders gathered to adopt the document called “Almaty Declaration” which paved the way to peaceful and civilized break-up of the biggest empire on the face of the Earth and ushered in the new era of independence for these nations.

This document and this decision by our President laid the foundation of peaceful and stable development of the Kazakh nation. After centuries of colonialism the dream of our forefathers had been fulfilled – Kazakhstan became independent.

And it happened without a single shot or any loss of life. This, however, does not mean that we appreciate our independence any less because of that fact.

As soon as Kazakhstan became independent, we faced enormous challenges in all areas of a nation’s life – security, foreign relations, unsettled borders, poverty, crumbling industries, shortage of food, no money in the system. Western experts at that time had also mentioned multiethnic nature of our society as the biggest threat to the country’s future existence.

Bold reforms and steadfast policies were required to deal with all these challenges. Moreover, the country needed visionary leadership and sincere unity of people.

Thank God, we had both of these prerequisites.
Throughout the 1990’s we had been simultaneously implementing market reforms and privatization of the economy, securing our borders, establishing diplomatic service, creating armed forces, building national financial system, launching national currency, replacing Soviet laws with the new democratic, free market legislation.

Our people proved many outsiders who doubted the future of multiethnic Kazakhstan that they were wrong. We turned the diversity of our population into our strength providing a vivid example to the world that tolerance and multiculturalism work if they are based on sincere mutual respect, sincere love and sincere appreciation of each other’s culture.

In 10 years – by 2001 – Kazakhstan was a functional state with all the attributes of a sovereign nation with the growing economy and a rapidly developing middle class and civil society. The country has enjoyed an average 10% GDP growth in the following years.

Kazakhstan is the most successful economy in the post-Soviet space. In 2003 we were the first among them to receive the “free market economy” status and the first to repay all our debt to international financial institutions – ahead of the schedule.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress toward developing a socially-oriented market economy. GDP per capita has grown almost ten times – from USD 1,200 to around USD 11,300.

Kazakhstan is blessed with natural resources. But, as you very well know, this can also be a curse. Having mineral resources is not enough for success. There are plenty of examples of the opposite in the world.

If a nation wants to ensure sustainable development and continued economic growth, if it wants to continue raising standards of living, it needs to work hard by developing its society and economy in all their aspects.

Kazakhstan continues with the reforms that are currently aimed at diversification of the economy and raising living standards – from healthcare to education.

So coming back to your question – What has been the basic formula behind Kazakhstan’s success? – I would say that it was the combination of three things – people’s unity, their hard work and responsible and visionary policies of the country’s leadership.

A few examples of that.

According to the most recent World Bank report, Kazakhstan is placed among the top 20 countries which are most attractive for foreign investment (FDI). In the post-Soviet space we are number one in attracting FDI.

In the last 15 years our country has attracted more than USD 150 billion of foreign direct investments. This is the highest FDI per capita rate in our part of the world.

Foreign investments are now received not only by the country’s traditional extractive industries. More and more of our foreign partners are looking to contribute to other sectors of the economy.

And we have examples of successful investors such as General Electric (production of railroad locomotives), Tele2 and Telia Sonera (mobile communications), Arcelor Mittal (steel production), Euro Chem (fertilizers) and many others.

Kazakhstan continues to do a lot in terms of creating most comfortable environment for business – both local and foreign. According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business report, Kazakhstan has moved 15 positions up in the rankings in just one year showing strong progress in protecting investors, paying taxes.

We have now entered the world’s best 50 economies for doing business. In 2011 the World Bank named Kazakhstan the world’s #1 business regulation reformer.

kazakh map

TOT: Having played a host and an active member of OSCE which has outshined the diplomatic achievements, and success of Kazakhstan at large and which is also a level of prestige to the country. What would you have to say on this and how this had become possible for a newly independent country which is still progressing, and needs to enhance its ties in other parts of the globe?

Charge de Affair: Kazakhstan has been one of the most active member-states of the OSCE since the creation of the Organization.
Many experts believe that OSCE had failed to turn itself into an effective organization able to solve many problems that exist in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

They point out to the fact that the OSCE had failed to convene its Summits since 1999 when Norway chaired the Organization. Indeed, there are significant differences in views, positions and approaches between its members.

And these differences can be attributed to the fact that OSCE members could not even gather their leaders during these 11 years. The OSCE members have also not been able to adopt its Charter – a founding document any international organization is supposed to have in order to function properly!

Kazakhstan, however, continues to believe that OSCE has a significant potential to contribute and promote security and cooperation. After all, the OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

That is why we decided to exercise our right as an OSCE member and assume the Presidency of the Organization.

In 2010 all members of OSCE unanimously decided to elect Kazakhstan as their next chair, making it the first Asian nation with predominantly Muslim population to chair this Euro-Atlantic organization.

It is worth mentioning that Kazakhstan was also the first post-Soviet state to receive unanimous backing of all members of the OSCE.

Kazakh chairmanship aimed at helping the Organization to deal with its major shortcomings –dominance of the ideological rhetoric and distrust that exists between some of its members.

Within a short period of time we had tried to build bridges and raise confidence level between various members. Kazakhstan had tried to generate much needed political will to make the lives of people populating the OSCE area more secure and just.

We did manage to convene the Summit of the Organization – first in 11 years. It was an important and unique opportunity for the members to try to solve many existing problems.

At this Summit all leaders unanimously adopted Astana Declaration “Towards a Security Community” expressing their will to start addressing some of the pressing issues.

It is of course a very time-consuming effort to tackle numerous problems that have been piling up for decades in the OSCE area. These problems range from environmental and social challenges to “frozen” conflicts and transnational crime.

That’s why we have also put on tracks initiatives and plans that have been passed on to the Presidencies that followed us in 2011 and 2012. After all, this Organization unites 56 nations and it requires support of all of them to move forward any issue – small or big.

OSCE Presidency was an important milestone and a useful experience for Kazakhstan and its diplomatic service. We hope it also served OSCE in terms of making it more aware of the security, economic and environmental challenges that exist in our part of the world, such as Aral Sea catastrophe and lack of transit infrastructure that would effectively connect Europe with Asia.

And I would agree with you – the Presidency also helped us to enhance ties with other member-states. A good example: first ever official visit by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister to Norway happened in 2010 in his capacity as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.

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TOT: With Kazakhstan being a part of OSCE and in other various kinds of engagements with the European Union, how you will define the strategic role and the part which Kazakhstan has played till now to enhance its ties and strategic partnerships with Norway?

Charge de Affair: Indeed, Kazakhstan has been actively cooperating with individual countries in Europe, with the European Union, as well as within various regional groupings.

We are an active NATO partner and work together with its members in many areas such as maintaining our capabilities to participate in the UN-led peacekeeping missions and holding joint military exercises. Kazakhstan also provides support to NATO mission in Afghanistan.

We also have a solid dialog with the Council of Europe and last October this dialog was furthered as a result of the CE Secretary General Torbjørn Jagland’s visit to Astana. Following the visit Kazakhstan joined the European Commission for Democracy through Law (so-called Venice Commission).

Before that we joined the Bologna Process which opened for Kazakhstan the way to European educational standards. We have also expressed our interest in joining other mechanisms under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

When it comes to our cooperation with the European Union – there is really an extensive and deep partnership in virtually all areas.

Suffice to say that Kazakhstan and EU have concluded as early as in 1995 a very important document – Agreement on partnership and cooperation. Kazakhstan and EU hold annual meetings on various levels.

To reflect the growing and strengthening ties between us we are now discussing conclusion of the new Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation which will cover foreign affairs, security, justice, political development, trade, investments, energy, environment, and transport.

We are ready to expand and deepen our partnership with Europe in all these areas and hope that our European partners will act reciprocally.
European Union is the number one trade partner for Kazakhstan and the volume of trade keeps growing very fast: in 2010 – USD 38 bln., in 2011 – USD 50 bln.

Norway not being a member of the European Union is, nevertheless, a very special partner for Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan considers Norway as the best model in managing natural resources – whether it is environmental standards or social and macroeconomic aspects.

Our main priority is to learn from the Norwegian experience, like we did, for example, with our National Fund which is based on the Norwegian model – Pension Fund “Global”.

The two countries are indeed very similar in many ways. The similarities between us are not limited to energy or financial sector. There are many similar features in the character of our people, geography and demographics.

We also have similar outlooks on the pressing global issues – from energy security to environment. One of them is also our shared vision of the world free from nuclear weapons.

In all these areas we closely cooperate trying to make a positive difference for our two nations and the rest of the world. We have no doubt that our Norwegian friends and partners are committed to the partnership the same way we are.
We can witness this from growing cooperation and strengthening of bilateral mechanisms between our two nations, especially in the last 2-3 years.

Our Embassy in Oslo since its establishment in 2004 remained Kazakhstan’s only diplomatic mission in Scandinavia, while Norway’s only diplomatic representation in the vast Central Asia is its Embassy in Astana. This is also a practical testament to how our two nations see and regard each other.

We can see that investment cooperation is developing; we see that volumes of our traditional exports (Norwegian fish and Kazakh grain) are growing. We are registering record numbers of Norwegians travelling to Kazakhstan during last two years. We have more and more frequent bilateral contacts and visits on various levels – from Royal family members and Cabinet ministers to sportsmen, artists and just tourists.

We are quite satisfied with the dynamics and direction of our bilateral partnership and we are determined to maintain this good pace.

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TOT: Since both the countries are producers and suppliers of hydrocarbons so how you look the relations of Norway and Kazakhstan can be strengthen in terms of energy cooperation in the long run?

Charge de Affair: As I said before, Norway is a model for Kazakhstan in the way it had developed its energy industries, protects the environment and keeps expanding and strengthening its capacity in this area. We want to learn and Norway is ready to share this good knowledge.

To that end Kazakhstan and Norway established in 2007 the Bilateral Working Group on Energy Cooperation. We have successfully held four annual meetings since then, last of which happen recently – on October 2nd of this year. The dialogue within this bilateral mechanism covers issues spanning from technical education to environment and local content in addition to traditional cooperation in the oil/gas sector.

We are very interested in having more Norwegian companies in the oil/gas sector of Kazakhstan. We are confident they will bring along higher environmental, labor and technological standards, as well as useful Norwegian experience of increasing local content in the industry.

Norwegian service and engineering companies, such as Statoil, Aker Solutions, Kvaerner, Aibel, Kaefer and others know that opportunities in Kazakhstan are abundant.

In 2010, our two national companies «KazMunaiGaz» and «Statoil» decided to establish strategic partnership to work together on the shelf of the Caspian Sea.

Currently, the two sides are in the final stages of negotiations and hopefully their partnership will serve as a locomotive for other Kazakh and Norwegian companies to establish joint businesses in this or other sectors.

Kazakhstan is now bidding for the right to host professional exhibition EXPO-2017 in Astana which will be held under the topic “Energy of the Future”. Kazakhstan with this EXPO wants to contribute to the global discussion of our planet’s energy future.

This forum will also provide a wonderful opportunity for Norway to highlight and advance its role in this discussion, as well as showcase its prominent energy industry.

We are glad to see that both Kazakhstan and Norway work tirelessly to strengthen and expand our bilateral energy cooperation.

kazakh meeting

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Kazakhstan seeks cooperation with Norway to gain expertise and economic cooperation in near future?

Charge de Affair: Traditionally, energy sector, specifically – oil and gas, has been the primary area for our cooperation. But there are several areas where I believe we could have mutually beneficial cooperation as well.

Kazakhstan is a large agricultural producer playing significant role in providing global food security. We are in the Top 5 exporters of wheat and the world’s #1 exporter of wheat flour for 6 years in a row now –since 2006. Our farmers supply with grain all of Central Asia, Caucasus, countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Our wheat exports to Norway have risen from 3,000 tons in 2009 to 43,000 in 2011.

There is an enormous potential in production of milk, meat and poultry in Kazakhstan. These industries are now in the development stage which creates unique opportunities for Norwegian food producing companies to establish themselves in Kazakhstan and benefit from comfortable business environment while having direct access and close proximity to the enormous markets of China, Russia, Central and South Asia – with total population approaching 3 billion people.

This is just one example but we would welcome Norwegian businesses in all other industries – mining, electricity, telecommunications, machine-building, metallurgy, etc.

astana meeting

TOT: As per the foreign policy goals set by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov  for establishing a UN Secretariat in the country while making Astana a regional hub for diplomacy. So how far you see the progress in this direction has been made by Kazakhstan?

Charge de Affair: First, it is important to stress that there is no such foreign policy goal set by us as to establish a UN Secretariat in Astana.
Indeed, our President and later former Foreign Minister Mr. Kazykhanov have put forward an idea to establish in Almaty a regional center for UN regional activities.

There are already 16 sub-regional offices of various UN agencies which have been working successfully in Almaty for quite a while. These offices deal with the host of issues of regional and global significance. In our view we have come to a point when all these activities would benefit from coordinated approach and leadership.

Our region represents a significant part of the world by its sheer territory and size of its population. A number of nations in our part of the world require long-term assistance from the international community.

One of them is Afghanistan. Stability and progress in this country is a priority for the region and for the world. Having an effective regional office of the United Nations in the center of the region – Kazakhstan – will serve that goal.

The idea is there for discussion by the UN and its members. We look forward to participate in this discussion.

TOT: Being a Oil & Gas producer and exporter, is this justified to sell oil and gas artificially at lower price to Russia when Kazakhstan can provide the same at existing market prices? Will this not be the loss to the exchequer of Kazakhstan’s Federal Reserve’s and un-rewarding exploitation of its natural resources?

Charge de Affair: Let me first start by explaining the break-down of the oil production in Kazakhstan. Around 75% of all oil extracted in Kazakhstan is produced by foreign companies: British Gas, Chevron, ENI, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, CNPC and others. The rest is produced by our national oil and gas company “KazMunaiGaz” and smaller local companies. All these companies, including KazMunaiGaz are responsible to their shareholders for generating as much profit as possible.

Our Government is too very much interested in having as much income from the oil/gas sector as possible, whether it comes in the form of taxes, royalties, direct profit, etc.

So, to answer your question directly: it is not justified for these companies to sell their products artificially at lower prices to Russia or anyone else. That is why these companies do not do it. Otherwise there is no reason for them to engage in this business.

As far as I know, most of the oil produced in Kazakhstan is sold to EU countries, and now increasingly to China. I have not heard of significant sales of oil to Russia, which, as you know, is one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world.

TOT: The relations of your country with Russia has always remained volatile and on a mode of fluctuations where former oppose the unlimited use of Baikonur Cosmodrome whereas later objects the cooperation with the US over ‘War on Terror’ whose influence is also growing in the region?

Charge de Affair: To answer your question I would have to start with correcting its introductory clause.
Our relations with Russia have always been stable and are characterized by high level of trust and dynamic cooperation in all areas. Russia is our biggest neighbor, major trading and economic partner, and a close friend and ally. We have recently formed Customs Union to make it easier for local and foreign businesses to operate in our countries.

When we face a complex issue that requires more attention and effort to be resolved, we deal with it as good neighbors and friends do – in an amicable and mutually beneficial way. Baikonur Cosmodrome is no exception.

Our governments and respective agencies work closely together to make it effective and environmentally safe, so this unique space complex could continue to be beneficial for our two countries and for the whole world.

Never have we received any objections from our Russian friends regarding our cooperation with the United States, including on the joint efforts against international terrorism. Moreover, Russia and the US are themselves close partners and cooperate successfully on these issues.

To my knowledge, Russia provides various types of assistance to US and NATO forces including providing its territory and airspace for the completion of the mission in Afghanistan. Our countries do many things together in a multilateral framework, as well.

Kazakhstan, Russia and the USA are not the only nations cooperating in combating international terrorism. We are joined by virtually all of the international community and we believe this is the right approach when dealing with such global threat as international terrorism.

One good example is GINCT. In 2006 Russia and United States jointly created Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GINCT) and asked Kazakhstan to join it. During these past 6 years 82 more nations have joined GINCT to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.

We do not see relations between Russia, United States, China or European Union as competition, when it comes to their cooperation with Kazakhstan or other nations in the region.

As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, we welcome cooperation with all of them and the rest of the world. For our landlocked nation this is the only way to proceed – by interacting and cooperating with everyone around us. This is the basis of our foreign policy concept.

cooperation map

TOT: Being an active member of Shanghai CO-Operation how would you define the role and success of this organization have achieved in the establishing peace and security in the member countries as well as in the region which is still being one of the most volatile and unexplored regions of the world?

Charge de Affair: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was initially formed by newly independent states bordering China as a mechanism to resolve border issues that used to exist between USSR and People’s Republic of China. Success of that mechanism and its positive experience led to the decision by the involved parties to establish in 2001 the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Since then the SCO has become a functional multilateral institution recognized by the world community for its active assistance in maintaining peace and security, dealing with modern threats and challenges, as well as stimulating economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the SCO area.

The SCO is now a good example to the rest of the world of how nations of different economic, political, industrial and geographic “size” can still cooperate in a friendly, good-neighborly and equal partnership.

Currently, the agenda of the SCO includes security, economic and humanitarian “baskets”. Kazakhstan believes in parallel and balanced development of these three baskets.

There are also particular areas where we believe SCO can play an important role, such as energy and transit infrastructure. Dynamic cooperation between the SCO members in all these areas will have a positive effect on a broader region.

TOT: “The boundary disputes of almost all the nations of CIS has almost been resolved with their neighbours, however; the Caspian sea boundary is still governed by the international law and remained unsettled which now with growing international thirst for Caspian oil and its exploitation has becoming a frequently arising issue in day to day regional politics”. How will you elaborate the point of dispute where it lies and has now become a bone of serious contention among the Caspian nations which Kazakhstan too shares its waters?

Charge de Affair: Determination of the legal status of the Caspian Sea is of very high importance for Kazakhstan. We believe that this unique water body should serve the best interests of the Caspian states and that it should be treated by them in a responsible manner.

Kazakhstan stands for demilitarization of the Caspian and for freedom of transit by all means of transport as well as for the access to other seas and the World Ocean, as stipulated in several universal international agreements.

All five Caspian states (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia) are currently discussing the draft Convention on legal status of the Caspian Sea. There is a Special Working Group that is working on the text of the Convention.
There have been three Summits of the Presidents.

At the last Summit in 2010 the Presidents signed the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
At Kazakhstan’s initiative, the five leaders have also agreed to start working on a mechanism to put in place a 5-year moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea. Currently, the parties are working out a text of the relative Agreement.

Kazakhstan was quite satisfied with the outcome of the Summit since our partners have also agreed there to adopt an approach that had been advocated by Kazakhstan from the very beginning of multilateral consultations on the legal status of the Caspian.

This approach is to follow provisions of the UN Convention on Sea Law by establishing for each state its territorial sea, fishing zone and designating the remaining as common waters.

As you can see, Kazakhstan and its Caspian partners have made some progress in this regard given the very different positions they had at the beginning.

Therefore, we are quite optimistic about the prospects of settling this issue. All five Caspian nations appreciate the fact that this process has been developing in a calm and constructive atmosphere, as it should be between partners and neighbors.

caspian sea

TOT: With its withdrawal by Uzbekistan from the member states of Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping forces second time, will this means that CIS operations and its existence is now becoming less important in the diplomatic and regional cooperation as well in the bilateral / regional relations of the member states, of which Kazakhstan too is a member?

Charge de Affair: I would have to start by explaining what Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS) is. I think it is important for Oslo Times readers to know how it works and it will make it easier for me to try to answer your question.

CIS is an organization where most of the former Soviet republics are members. Membership in CIS is voluntary, as is members’ participation in different areas of cooperation within the Commonwealth.

CIS members selectively participate in various areas of multilateral cooperation depending on the interests and wishes of each member-state. Therefore, decisions of CIS bodies apply only to those members that decide to participate in a particular issue. For example, there are 66 areas of cooperation, stemming from trade and social issues to transport and law enforcement. Not all members participate in each area.

CIS has proven to be the most optimal form of multilateral cooperation since its members differ from each other quite considerably.

There are, however, forms of cooperation where all members participate. These are so-called “charter bodies”, such as Council of Heads of State, Council of Heads of Government, Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Foreign Ministers’ Council, etc. There is also a permanent institution, called CIS Executive Committee that deals with day-to-day work.

In my answer to your first question I mentioned the historic meeting convened in our former capital Almaty in December of 1991 when the leaders of the republics of former USSR agreed to civilized and peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At that meeting the Almaty Declaration was adopted which effectively laid down the basis for establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The vitality of CIS can be explained by certain important principles upon which it is based. First and foremost, it is voluntary membership, respect of sovereignty and the right to choose the form, depth and degree of participation for each member-state.

CIS is now more than 20 years old and it continues to prove its important historic mission in many political and economic processes both regionally and globally. By the way, in 2008 Afghan officials approached CIS with the request to join the organization.

Today Afghanistan has an observer status at the CIS IPA.
Uzbekistan has been and remains to be a founding member of the CIS which, by the way, does not have peacekeeping forces in it. Hence, there have been no CIS operations in this regard.

Now, there is another international entity called Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO).
CSTO is not CIS but a completely different organization with different membership.

Kazakhstan views CSTO as a consultative body with a security and defense cooperation orientation and which is open to cooperation with other international organizations on security issues.

As in CIS, there are no peacekeeping forces within the CSTO, as well.
Currently, CSTO has several elements of cooperation. One of them is the development of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force. The force was established back in 2009 to repulse external military aggression, conduct anti-terrorist operations, fight transnational crime and drug trafficking, and neutralize the effects of natural disasters.

CSTO has never participated in a combat mission.
When it comes to Uzbekistan’s cooperation with CSTO, it is important to know the history of CSTO.
The membership in the CSTO is voluntary and at different periods it varied between 6 and 9 nations.

Between 1992 and 2003 cooperation on security issues was conducted with in an agreement on collective security which was signed by 9 nations. Uzbekistan was among those nations that signed this document. In 1999 Uzbekistan withdrew from it because it joined another organization, called GUUAM.
In 2003 the CSTO was established as an organization. In 2005 Uzbekistan withdrew from GUUAM and joined CSTO in 2006.

In June of 2012 Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the CSTO. The Charter of the organization allows for that and clearly says that “Any state may become a member…” and “Any Member State may withdraw from the Organization…”
Uzbekistan is a sovereign nation that is free to choose forms and scope of its cooperation with other partners both bilaterally and multilaterally.

To my knowledge, Uzbekistan continues its cooperation with countries in the region, including on combating threats of terrorism and transnational crime. There are good mechanism for that within both CIS and SCO, which Uzbekistan is a member of.

TOT: How will you define the role being played by Kazakhstan in the cooperation with US and in Afghanistan over ‘War on Terror’? And how you see the bilateral relations of your country with Afghanistan at present and in years to come when International forces would leave Afghanistan?

Charge de Affair: This is a very good question which has three elements in it: global cooperation against international terrorism, our cooperation with the United States in this regard, as well as Kazakhstan’s bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan.

These issues are somewhat interconnected and sometimes overlap but they are nevertheless are very distinct.

I explained in my answer to one of your previous questions Kazakhstan’s anti-terrorism efforts both bilaterally and within different multilateral frameworks with other countries, including the United States.

But in fact, our relations with US are far wider in scope than one issue. We have a 20-year long history of dynamically developing cooperation with the United States in virtually all areas – trade, investments, global security, political dialogue, etc.
Similarly, our cooperation with Afghanistan is not limited to anti-terrorism efforts. Kazakh-Afghan cooperation includes many different areas and I would like to briefly go through some of them.

First of all, Kazakhstan supports and is very much interested in stable and sustainable development of Afghanistan. Economic and social development is the number one requirement for Afghanistan to deal with threats like terrorism, drug trafficking and religious radicalism.
These are threats that the region and the bigger international community suffer from.

Kazakhstan believes that the international community under the coordination of the UN, therefore, should contribute and assist Afghanistan working hand in hand with the Afghan Government.

Kazakhstan supports efforts of the Government of Afghanistan to unite the Afghan society and build a stable democratic nation. We believe the government has all essential institutions in place: legislature, executive, courts, military and law enforcement forces, etc.

However, external assistance is still needed. Kazakhstan participates in various international mechanisms which try to coordinate the efforts of the international community to lay the basis for sustainable economic development of Afghanistan.

We also support Afghanistan’s involvement in the regional processes which are aimed at better cooperation, integration and confidence-building.

On the bilateral level we continue to provide technical and humanitarian assistance supplying Afghanistan annually with thousands of tons of foodstuff, fuel and equipment. Kazakhstan has financed the construction of the Kundus-Talukan asphalt road, a hospital in Bamian province, and a school in Samangan province, along with other smaller projects.

This year Kazakh Government decided to finance an infrastructure project on the Aibak River in the Samangan province, as well as to support law enforcement in the country.

As you probably know, our President pays special attention to education which he believes is the necessary prerequisite for a prosperous and democratic society. Only a prosperous and educated society can build a sustainable democracy.

In 2010, at the instructions of the President, our government has launched an education program for Afghan students and allocated for that purpose USD 50 million. Up to 1 thousand Afghans will be provided with higher education in Kazakhstan.

They will receive medical, engineering, agricultural education, as well as training in law enforcement and border guard schools. First 152 Afghan students have begun their studies in 2010. Last year another 182 students have arrived to study in Kazakh universities. This program will last until 2020.

Kazakhstan also seeks to boost the activities of the Kazak-Afghan intergovernmental commission which should help expand and deepen ties between our countries and coordinate existing areas of cooperation such as the educational program I mentioned before.

We firmly believe that prosperous and stable Afghanistan will become a positive force in the region and Kazakhstan is determined to assist our brothers and neighbors in every way we can.

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TOT: Kazakhstan being an important member of Organization of Islamic Countries has remained vigilant and cooperative in terms for providing assistance to many Muslim countries and where community holds a strong ground but till now there is nothing which any media has heard from the leaderships of Kazakhstan for Rohingya Muslims who are being massacred in Myanmar?

Charge de Affair: As you mentioned in your question, Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since July 2011 we are chairing this organization. One of the stated goals of our Chairmanship is to increase the effectiveness of this Organization and move it from discussions to work.

I need to mention here that the first thing we did when we assumed Chairmanship last year was to change the name of the organization from “Organization of Islamic Conference” to “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”. By doing this we wanted to change the mentality around OIC and create a working and pragmatic environment.

It is perhaps unrealistic to see the effects immediately but we hope that our efforts during the Chairmanship will not be in vain. Our chairmanship in the OIC will end in November of this year in Djibouti, at the 39th OIC ministerial.
Now, regarding the issue of Rohingya minority, the lack of media coverage of this issue and Kazakhstan’s position on it.

I think you are directing your question to wrong people. Kazakhstan cannot be held responsible for international media’s editorial policies. Media or those who own them decide how and what issues and news to cover.

Kazakhstan’s representatives have called for appropriate international attention to the situation with the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

As recently as in August our foreign minister said to his colleagues in the OIC: “… the Organization has to assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the Member States…” and that “…Kazakhstan expresses grave concern over numerous reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim minorities in Arakan province and other parts of Myanmar…”

At this meeting chaired by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister the OIC adopted a document where this issue was addressed directly. Specifically, a fact-finding committee was established which already in September was dispatched in Myanmar for a 10-day investigation.

There, an OIC Humanitarian Affairs Office was established. Two weeks later in New York the OIC members met again and established a Joint contact group which will work directly with all relevant parties, including the Myanmar Government, international and regional organizations and bodies.

Kazakhstan believes and supports the involvement of the whole international community in this issue. This is not just a Muslim problem.
We are all human beings and it is very painful to see when human suffering in one case is treated by the media differently than similar suffering in another case.

chinakazak

TOT: Being a Turkic nation and an important member of SCO, what are the steps the Kazak government has taken so far in raising the issue of Uyghur in China with whom your country shares its borders and has good ties on a regional level?

Charge de Affair: We do not see that there is an issue in China that requires and would benefit from Kazakhstan’s involvement.
As far as the issue of territorial integrity is concerned, Kazakhstan believes that this sacred principle of international law should be upheld everywhere not just in China.

At the same time Kazakhstan supports and encourages the development of the vibrant cultural life and preservation of traditions and languages of many different ethnic groups in China, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs. We believe that China only benefits from providing its multiethnic society with opportunities and conditions to thrive and celebrate its diversity.

TOT: “Kazakhstan being an example of efficient leadership and economic progress that too got independent along with other 14 republics from USSR”. So, according to you what are reasons behind the turmoil and collapse in the system of the other neighboring republics like Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan where these nations in this present world are being regarded as some of the major violators of human rights and citizens’ freedom and liberty within their own borders?

Charge de Affair: First of all, thank you very much for your kind evaluation of Kazakhstan’s progress during its independence.
As you correctly pointed out, there were 15 republics in the USSR.

During the years of independence each country pursued its own path of development. So, I think it is wrong to lump them all together and brush them in negative colors. I would certainly disagree with your general assessment of the situation in the countries you mentioned as experiencing “turmoil and collapse”.

All of them are very distinct in terms of culture, history, level of economic or political development. It had been so even during Soviet period. Some republics were more industrially and scientifically oriented, others specialized on agriculture, etc.

Some had democratic traditions even before they were incorporated in the Soviet Union, namely Baltic States, while most others had remained colonies of the Russian Empire and then parts of the Soviet Union for centuries – without any exposure to democracy.

Despite many problems these countries might have (and most of these problems require generations to overcome!), their overall development throughout the last years has been stable and peaceful.

Kazakhstan certainly hopes that peace and stability will remain there, as they provide essential conditions for further growth and development, including democratic development and advancement of human rights.

TOT: How can you define the role and the progress of Kazakhstan in the areas of promoting human rights and freedom of speech on regional and global level?

Charge de Affair: As I have mentioned before, Kazakhstan believes in the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. One of the most important principles of international law is sovereignty. There are also obligations which each nation takes upon itself and is obliged to adhere to.

So in this dilemma of how to promote human rights and not end up violating other cultures and sovereignty, Kazakhstan follows this golden rule – “lead by example”.

Parents have success raising their kids not when they yell at them or criticize them constantly but when they show good example, when they are engaged in certain activities together with their kids.

The same way more advanced societies can help promote human rights in less established societies by cooperating not by isolating. Certainly, promotion of human right stands no chance if a society’s economic development is constrained by limiting its trade potential or preventing private investments from going in it.

Democracy has no chance in a poor society. Only a strong middle class can ensure human rights –economic, political and social –all of them, including freedom of speech.

Kazakhstan is a developing nation, so we are still in the learning mode rather than teaching. In areas where we are successful, for example, interethnic harmony and religious tolerance, we try to share this positive experience with the world.

But we will never impose it on others, recognizing that our experience is unique and it can be applied not everywhere.

A good example of our external activities in this regard might be the Congress of World’s Religions which was initiated by our President and takes place triennially in Astana. This is the only place and mechanism for leaders of the world’s religions to gather in their efforts to promote peace and mutual respect globally.

Sincere mutual respect is what the world needs these days. This is the number one prerequisite for ensuring human rights domestically and globally.

TOT: What kind of role Kazakhstan have played so far on national, regional and international for the promotion of democracy?

Charge de Affair: We do not consider that true democracy can exist or be promoted without ensuring human rights. We believe that human rights can be protected only through dialogue and genuine cooperation.

As I said in my answer to your previous question, the best promotion of democracy is leading by example. As Kazakhstan progresses in the development of its own civil society and rule of law, it will be in a better position to further promote democracy in the region and elsewhere simply by projecting its positive experience and success.

TOT: How would you define the role and existence of Media and the kind of press freedom it enjoys in your country?

Charge de Affair: We in Kazakhstan believe that media is an important part of our life, an important element of the civil society and should serve in its entirety the interests of the whole society.

It should be recognized that quite often media advances interests of certain groups or individuals within the society, usually because of the financial support or ownership.

Sometimes this benefits the whole society but many times it happens at the expense of the majority of people. It is therefore important for any society to ensure plurality of opinion – to let opposing view or alternative position to be heard.

It is very dangerous when public discussion is hijacked by one group, which is simply more active, has a louder voice, better financed and uses more innovative approach.

The only way to ensure plurality and sense of objectiveness without infringing on press freedom is to have public media, which is tasked with reporting facts, and will not engage in opinionated agenda-driven journalism.

While overwhelming majority of media In Kazakhstan is privately owned and their number is growing every year, there are still public TV and newspapers outlets supported from the national budget. Currently people have access to all kinds of information and have an access to a variety of opinion, even quite unscrupulous ones.

We believe that only in severe cases, such as when media actions led to loss of human life, the government has to step in and act.

Media in Kazakhstan, as any other institution or a group of organizations, is still young and in the development stage. It is a long process, sometimes very painful.

But at the end of the day, it would be up to the society and the media itself to develop a set of principles and values to adhere to. Not everything can be regulated by laws and regulations. Honesty, responsibility and good conscience cannot be legislated.

But people nowadays are increasingly expecting exactly these things from their journalists.

Thank you respected Charge de Affair. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office: Yurii ONISCHENKO

TOT: How does Ukraine see the strengthening of its ties with Norway and what are the areas where a better cooperation can be established between the two nations?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Over the 20 years of diplomatic relations with Norway, our countries signed 25 international treaties, including interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements and memorandums. Regular exchange of visits of foreign ministers, defense ministers, parliamentarians prove the partner character of the political dialogue. This autumn we expect the first official visit of the Ukrainian Prime Minister to Norway, which will mark another important milestone in bilateral relations. The two countries have close cooperation within international and regional organizations. Ukraine highly appreciates Norwegian support in financing a number of important initiatives, including the Chornobyl Shelter Fund projects in Ukraine.
Despite the many examples of successful cooperation, the potential of our bilateral ties has not been fully revealed so far. The most promising areas for further development of trade and investment is shipbuilding, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, information technology, fish trade and processing.

We hope that another push for vivid trade cooperation will be given by a visit of Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske to Ukraine, as well as by the opening of the representative office of the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (nucc.no) in Ukraine later this year.
Research and development is another important area for further development of cooperation. A number of Norwegian research and academic institutions, like SIVA, NGU, NIVA, SINTEF, University of Nordland, University of Ås, University of Telemark have established strong ties with their Ukrainian counterparts. The strong academic traditions in Ukraine are major prerequisites for other joint initiatives in basic and applied research.
Also cultural ties possess a deep potential for vigorous development. For example, Maihaugen Museum in Lillehammer enjoys fruitful cooperation with the Open Air Museum in Lviv under the support of the Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage. I believe, that we should utilize the historical ties between our peoples dating back to the Medieval times, when Norwegian konungs sought kinship with rulers of Kyiv Rus’, and promote stronger ties between the Ukrainian and Norwegian nations.

TOT: After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has always remained in serious political turmoil, inside or outside its border. Could you shed some light on this situation?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: After the collapse of the Soviet Union the new country with its unique geographical position, rich natural resources, industrial and scientific strength as well as highly qualified human capital started to search for its own niche in the global world. At the same time, during the first years after the proclamation of independence, Ukraine had to shape a new system of state administration, national legislation, establish or re-establish economic ties with the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.

It is obvious that such transformations cannot be accomplished overnight, and are often accompanied by political turmoil. Since 1991 Ukraine has done significant progress in democracy building and development of a market economy. Unlike in most of the former Soviet Union countries, all conflict situations in Ukraine have been resolved in a peaceful and democratic way.

The country is now implementing deep structural reforms, which have been long overdue. We have headed for the European integration as a transformational process addressing a number of the key issues, such as strengthening of national security, economic development, consolidation of democracy, and respect for human rights.

TOT: The Euro Cup tournament recently hosted and organized by the Ukraine has been criticized as the most scandal hit event in Europe. What would your take be on these allegations made by various factions and countries in Europe?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Let me disagree with your statement. According to UEFA, EURO 2012 turned out to become a unique event with the best legacy that UEFA could have ever produced. The decision to bring the final round of EURO 2012 to the East was a historic one both for Ukraine and for Poland. Yes, it was a challenge in terms of economy and infrastructure. But we succeeded. Before the tournament there were a lot of speculations about the failure of the future Championship, rumours and unfounded allegations prevailed in media.

During the first days of the tournament all the allegations vanished. And I am really proud of the high level organization of this fantastic tournament by Ukraine and Poland. The Polish and Ukrainian peoples have shown their enthusiasm, tolerance, hospitality traditions and have set a high bar for the future tournaments that will be difficult to match.

The Ukrainian government delivered on all of its commitments to demonstrate that we can host major international events as a part of the common European family.

TOT: Prior to the Euro Cup the EU and its members particularly Germany, the UK had tried to boycott the tournament in support of ex- Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a jail sentence in Kharkiv region, where she was on a hunger strike from the 20th of April to the 9th of May 2012. Please explain a bit about their stand and their contentions? Was this stand an act of discrimination against Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Attempts to politicize the European Football Championship EURO 2012 were destructive, and its boycott would undermine the image of the Championship itself. Moreover, sport events have since the ancient times played an important role in the process of establishing interstate understanding and unity. After winning the right to host the European football championship in 2012, Ukrainian and Polish peoples have taken great efforts and have done tremendous work to secure a top level organization of the tournament.

Boycott of EURO 2012 would practically harm the feelings of millions of ordinary Ukrainian citizens as well as European fans who vote for different parties or are not interested in politics at all. Reformation of the Ukrainian judicial system, strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law – all these issues belong objectively to the field other than a football festival, which is in its essence beyond politics and cannot be used to address political and judicial issues.

TOT: Yulia Tymoshenko, who led the Orange Revolution in Ukraine against the Kuchma government, is behind bars which the European Union and other international organizations have criticised by saying that “the conviction is seen as “justice being applied selectively under political motivation”.  What do you have to say on this?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office and not for her political activity. She was sentenced by the court in the result of the criminal investigation. This was the court’s decision which is to be respected — both domestically and internationally. The only way to challenge it is to appeal to a higher court of law.
I would like to point out, that Ukraine is now paying an enormous price for the Russian natural gas, the price we are obliged to pay according to Tymoshenko’s notorious gas deal with Russia in 2009. It is ridiculous, but it is cheaper for Ukraine now to import the Russian gas from Germany than from Russia itself.
Another issue to mention here is, of course, the system of justice in Ukraine, which definitely requires further reformation. Our government and parliament are now carrying out reforms of the judicial system in general and, in particular, in the part of criminal investigation.

In April 2012 the new Code of Criminal Procedure was approved by the Parliament of Ukraine. The main purpose of the reform is to create equal opportunities for each of the parties in criminal process and to secure a real implementation of the adversarial principle.

TOT: Ukraine is looking forward to its acceptance in the European Union as a full fledged member. So what are the steps the Government of Ukraine has taken so far in that direction so as to meet the required EU standards?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The EU-Ukraine relations officially started from the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1994. Many Ukrainian experts regret that Ukraine did not sign an association agreement in the 1990s like other Eastern European states, referring to this as a “missed time and opportunity”, because the PCA only deals with cooperation and not integration.

However much progress has been made since 2007, when Ukraine and the EU decided to elaborate a new type of agreement based on political association and economic integration. Political association means harmonization of our policies, including foreign policy and deeper cooperation in different spheres. It’s also about values, so the future Association agreement will be based on the same values as the Lisbon treaty.

While economic integration is about our integration into the Single market with the extension of all the four EU’s freedoms to Ukraine. This process is very difficult primarily because the free movement of people is a highly debated issue in the EU member states.
The association agreement is a unique framework for further reforms in Ukraine and is a real toolbox that will bring Ukraine closer to the EU. Last year we successfully completed negotiations with the EU on the Association agreement. This year the text was initialled, concluding the five years of negotiations. Now the 600 page document has to be translated into 23 languages, signed, ratified and finally implemented.
The process of visa liberalisation, which is another extremely important issue for Ukrainians, is also progressing very well. The European Commission has recently published a positive report of Ukraine’s implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and Ukraine hopes to launch the second phase of this Action Plan soon.
Finally, I want to say that relations with the EU are very important for Ukraine. Support of European integration is the issue that unites almost all Ukrainians. The country’s European perspective enjoys over 70% support in all parts of the country, so it is a crucial priority of Ukraine’s foreing policy. The interesting point is that the high level of support is not about the financial benefits that European integration would bring.

Enlargement of the EU to the East of Europe is about reunification of the space of common history and common mentality. For Ukraine, integration with the EU is a civilisational choice.

TOT: How do you see the progress from the European Union while considering the candidature of Ukraine as its member country and how long will Ukraine take to arrive at a decision on the same?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The Comprehensive association agreement will bring benefits to both of the parties – Ukraine and EU. I already mentioned the overwhelming popular support of the EU membership in Ukraine. At the same time, we understand that further progress will depend of the results of the reforms in our country.
Now we feel the real interest from both sides. For example, the representatives of European business circles are more and more actively calling for abolition of visas for Ukrainians to the EU. We are also working hard to deliver on our part. I am sure, this two-way drift will give positive and prompt results.
We are very optimistic. And Europe is steadily growing ready to embrace Ukraine. According to the last survey of the GfK, almost half of the European guests, who visited Ukraine during EURO 2012, stated that Ukraine deserved to enter the EU in the near future. The survey results revealed that EU citizens generally support Ukraine’s European aspirations and believe that Ukraine deserves the visa-free regime as a component of European integration.

According to the same survey, 52.4% of European fans would like to cancel the visa regime between their countries and Ukraine already today, while only 4.8% did not support the visa-free initiative. 42.56% of the respondents wanted Ukraine to become a member of the 27 nation block in a short term, while 30.92% believed that Ukraine could join the EU in the medium term under the condition that the political and economic situation in the country improves. Notably, only 2.77% of the surveyed EU citizens said they did not want to see Ukraine as a part of the Union.

TOT: Russia has been a major gas supplier to Europe and Ukraine has played a transit point to its gas supplies. But time to time the dispute has remained alive between Ukraine and Russia where at some point Ukraine has always warned Russia of stopping its gas supplies to Europe. This has resulted in Russia considering another transit route through Turkey via the European Union?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The South Stream is economically disadvantageous both for Ukraine and for Russia. Ukrainian gas transit system is the most secure and prospective for the Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

Its modernization would cost for us and the international partners almost 50 times less, than construction of the South Stream, while the Ukrainian GTS is able to deliver 100% of the Europe’s demand in Russian gas.
Referring to the second part of your question, Ukraine has never used its gas transit system as a political or geopolitical instrument and has never stopped or warned of stopping deliveries of the Russian gas to the EU.

We are a loyal partner that maintains its international agreements and obligations. Above all, we want to maintain good relations with Russia as well as strengthen cooperation with the EU.

TOT: In the context of the previous question is the next one: How will you describe this situation and the rift which has caused Europe a crucial shortage in its gas supplies?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Secure gas transit to Europe has always been a priority for Ukraine, sometimes even at the expense of our own benefits. The gas negotiations of 2009 were carried out in the extreme international pressure, and in that crisis situation Ukraine stood firm to deliver on its obligations before Russia and the European countries.

Moreover, I already commented on the economic consequences of the gas contracts signed by the former Prime Minister without the due governmental appraisal. Now the Ukrainian economy has to cope with the dramatic prices on the natural gas, on top of the consequences of the global financial crisis.

TOT: Recently the Venice Commission advised Ukraine not to reconsider its mixed election system for its upcoming elections in October this year. Has Ukraine done something in accepting this new draft proposed by the Venice Commission? If so, then what are the steps which have been taken in this direction?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: As you justly noted, Ukraine is now approaching parliamentary elections. The President and the Government of Ukraine have publicly stated their commitment to secure free and fair elections in accordance with our election law of 2011, drafted according to the European standards.

The law was endorsed by both coalition and most opposition parties, and reaching a consensus decision was namely one of the main recommendations of the Venice Commission. We believe that the mixed system will better serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, providing for increased accountability of the MPs. According to many Ukrainian experts, closer ties with respective constituency results in a higher awareness of local needs and challenges.
Now the Ukrainian government strives to make the election process as transparent as possible. According to recent regulations, the voting process will be broadcast via web cameras online at the corresponding web-site. Video surveillance system will be recording the whole process after voting and up until the signing of protocols by election committees.
Ukraine has also sent early invitations to the international observers to monitor the election process. In this context we are working closely with many countries and with the international organizations, in particular, OSCE, the Council of Europe, NATO and others. We hope that Norway will send own observers as well.

TOT: In April, Ukraine was hit by a series of blasts in its industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, which claimed many lives of hundreds of innocent people. How will you comment on this act of terrorism and who in your view is to be blamed or held accountable?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The tragedy in Dnipropetrovsk on April 27th of this year left 29 people injured. The criminal case was opened according to part 2 of the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the act of terrorism). Until the final examination is carried out, it is not possible to state if the explosions were an act of terrorism, whether it was  a homemade bomb or a military explosive.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has called on the to the Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, and Interior Minister to take comprehensive measures and carry out an investigation of the explosions in order to establish those involved in the bombings in Dnipropetrovsk city.
Unfortunately, terrorism is a global challenge which requires a better cooperation between security services of different countries to prevent sufferings of innocent people.

TOT: How you will describe the situation of human rights in Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: We recognize that further political transformations in Ukraine and the reforms are required to strengthen the system of the protection of human rights. Respect of human rights is one of the priorities of the President and the Government. We appreciate the attention and desire of the international community to promote the legal and democratic institutions in our country.

In this context, all the recommendations of the international community or non-governmental organizations are studied and analyzed in order to implement them in Ukraine.
There is still much to improve in Ukraine’s judicial system and procedures, but it needs to be done consistently. Such work has already started and we welcome the initiatives aimed at bringing the legislation in this area in line with the international standards.

TOT: Does the press and the electronic/Internet media enjoy freedom in your country or does it still face the state control over the press and media activities just like it used to be at the time the Soviet Union existed?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: I don’t even want to compare the present freedom of media in Ukraine with the Soviet time. There are both public and private mass media now in Ukraine. The share of non-public television and radio broadcasting stands at over 96%.

With the development of information technologies and the advance of the Internet, many independent Internet media have emerged. Of course, there are challenges we face but the state makes every effort to secure freedom of media in Ukraine.
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 of the Reporters without borders, Ukraine is rated at the 116 level which is a 15-point better position compared to last year. Basic principles, standards and provisions of the existing Ukrainian laws today correspond to the international legal standards and the international conventions of human rights.
At the same time the existence of modern legislation is not enough to guarantee the rights of the society to free and unbiased information. We have to continue our work to ensure that the laws are practiced in full, and the real protection of the rights of journalists and mass media is secured.

The President of Ukraine has repeatedly issued strong demands to the law enforcement agencies for a greater protection of the rights of journalists and freedom of media. The Head of State is convinced that it is one of the main duties of the authorities to create all the necessary conditions for free and independent journalistic activities in Ukraine.

TOT: How will you rate the progress which your country has made after achieving its independence?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Despite the challenges we are still facing, Ukraine has achieved a lot indeed. Back in 1991 we inherited a ruined economic system, acute social tensions and political vacuum, not to mention the bitter burdens of the Soviet legacy. Now Ukraine may boast of a growing middle class, emerging but manifold civil society, strong business community and large-scale investment projects.
In 1994 Ukraine joined the Non-Proliferation treaty refusing its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world. It was the first precedent in history for a nation to voluntarily give up its strategic weapon. We managed to reach a high level of dialogue and cooperation with international organizations as well as deep comprehensive relations with many foreign states developing the strategic partnership with the key players on international arena.
Since the declaration of its independence in August 1991, Ukraine determined membership in the United Nations as one of its foreign policy priorities. In 1997 Hennadiy Udovenko, then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine was elected President of the 52nd UN General Assembly session.

Ukraine’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2000-2001 became an acknowledgment of our state’s authority and role on the international arena as well as of its consistent and unbiased foreign policy. Ukraine was elected also to the UN Economic and Social Council for five times. Representatives of Ukraine served as chairmen of a number of main committees of the UN General Assembly sessions.
Ukraine became a productive member of the Council of Europe and the last year we held a successful presidency in the Committee of Ministers of this important European institution. In 2013 Ukraine will chair the OSCE. After all, we have successfully co-hosted the EURO 2012 tournaments this year, showing our utmost hospitality to the world. This August we celebrate yet another anniversary of  freedom. All in all, we have achieved much over the 21 years of independence, but have to look ahead and work hard for further achievements.

TOT: What kind of role has Ukraine played so far in promoting democracy and freedom of the human individual in the fullest sense of the term, in the region as well as on the global stage of the present day?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Ukraine enjoys a unique geopolitical position at the crossing of the main transport corridors between the East and the West, the North and the South. Ukraine is the key to strengthening democracy, freedom and security in the Balto-Black Sea-Caspian region. Our country plays the key role in this geopolitical space, which largely defines the structure of European security.
Committed to promoting democracy and freedom in the region Ukraine co-founded the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM, now uniting Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. With the headquarters in Kyiv, this international organization primarily works to promote democratic values in the region, ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights, support sustainable development and strengthen international and regional security and stability.
Ukraine’s future Chairmanship in OSCE in 2013 will focus on promotion of democracy in the OSCE area, settlement of protracted conflicts, including the Transnistrian conflict, as well as in the improvement of the Organization’s effectiveness in response to new challenges and threats.
We believe that efficient functioning of the organizations such as the OSCE, EU and NATO does not only promise security for their member states, but also development and prosperity, compliance with the fundamental human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Ukraine develops close and active cooperation with these organizations in the context.
Speaking globally, I would like to mention that Ukraine was one of the ardent supporters of the establishment of the Human Rights Council. In 2006 Ukraine was elected one of the first members of the Council and in 2008 it was re-elected to this leading UN body for the period up until 2011 with a strong international support.
Ukraine’s membership in the HRC is a contribution to strengthening of the international stability and security, spreading of the democratic standards worldwide, increased international cooperation on important international projects on human rights, as well as active involvement in elaboration of balanced approaches to the solving of crisis situations. It has also opened for promotion of Ukrainian initiatives in the field. Recently in June 2010, the HRC adopted the resolution “On the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights” initiated by Ukraine and co-supported by about 30 countries.
Now Ukraine is a party to the majority of the international human rights instruments, including the seven core UN human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto, first of all: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Rights of Person with Disabilities.

…Thank you Reverend Ambassador. We are sure that The Oslo Times worldwide readership will benefit immensely from the interview.
________________________________
©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Communism has remained destructive for the Society – says ex Romanian President Emil Constantinescu

At the last day of Oslo Freedom Forum our Chief Editor of The Oslo Times had an exclusive meeting with former President of Romania Dr. Emil Constantinescu who was here as one of visiting delegate and an invited speaker to this forum.

In his meeting with The Oslo Times Chief Editor Hatef Mokhtar, he unveils his vision and would throw some light in brief by explaining about him being supporter and promoter of democratic reforms in Romania.

 

Here is the brief about him and his stand against Communism:

Today, after two decades Romania has changed a lot in political and economic terms. The state which was purely communist is now growing and one of the shining role models in post communist era which has brought prosperity, equality at par and humanitarian crisis in the country at its minimum. The greatest role to bring transform Romania from a communist state to a free and democratic state was played by Mr. Constantinescu, a liberal academic with impeccable anti-communist credentials was an important reformer between the years 1996 and 2000 when he served as President to his country Romania.

With the violent collapse of the Nicolae Ceausescu regime at the end of 1989, Constantinescu became an important figure in the creation of a democratic Romania.

Along with many other Romanian academics and intellectuals, he became involved in the movement for democracy; in particular through his support for human rights, the defense of individual freedoms and the creation of a Romanian civil society.

After entering the leadership of the RDC, Emil Constantinescu was put forward again for the presidential election in 1996, and this time was successfully voted into power. He became the third President of Romania and the first non-communist President after Ceausescu and seven years of elected communist rule. Once in power, Constantinescu went about quickly reforming the Romanian system and moving it towards a market-based economy. He slashed government spending, privatized government-run businesses, liberalized prices and attempted to tackle the problem of corruption.

Furthermore, Constantinescu attempted to improve Romania’s global image and its relations with other countries. This involved bilateral agreements and the improvement of relations with many countries. Constantinescu also understood the importance of joining the EU and NATO, and worked hard to improve relations between Romania and these institutions, pushing hard for membership in both of them. In 1999, Romania became a key ally for NATO in the Kosovo conflict, allowing NATO to use its airspace and paving the way for stronger ties and future membership. Constantinescu also opened up talks with the EU over accession.

In 2000, as his Presidency was coming to an end, Constantinescu opted not to run for a second term, fearing that Romanians believed that he was only attempting to join NATO and the EU for political gain and not due to national interest.

When asked of what his opinion was on the war torn country Afghanistan, Mr. Constantinescu was quick to respond [that] “the Soviet invasion and forced implementation of communism destroyed much”.

As a well known anti-communist, Mr. Constantinescu did not hold back on the negative aspects of communism and its devastating legacy on not only Afghanistan but on many other countries. It brought death, weakness, loss of values and starvation of the resources of the service sectors.

This view might come from the legacy the former dictator Nikolai Ceausescu left when he served from 1965 to 1989 ruling the country with an iron fist with the Marxist-Leninist regime.

Even in 1992, Mr. Constantinescu, 53 years old had a clear vision of a democratic Romania.

During his campaign he said that he wanted to speed market changes and rid the Government of Communists.

His strong opinion and dislike for communism can be noted in his statement in April when Gabriela Tepelea, an anticommunist dissident who spent six years in gulags and later played a key role in Romanian political life when communism collapsed, Mr. Emil Constantinescu sent his condolences saying:

“Romania has lost another moral and intellectual compass that marked the rebirth of the traditional political elite after the collapse of communism.’’

At last he mentioned [that] “he is confident about Romania’s future and its economic prospects”.

According to him ‘Communism has remained destructive to the society by and large’.

 

©The Oslo Times

Who was Osama bin Laden, the controversial figure of our century

With the fall of Hitler, the world took a CY of relief believing that now no one would rise against the humanity, but God has created this world for both the devil & the humans. The evil spirit too lives here & is present in every corner of the world. When one evil dies the other with new philosophy took his place in a more dramatic & distinguished manner. After the holocaust of world war II no one had thought at that time that the new definition of terrorism will take birth in the troubled lands of the world earlier the Jews were running away from the threat of Christian fundamentalists & now in the whole new nuclear era they will be facing the new form of orthodoxies from the Arab world with their multifaceted leader named Osama Bin Laden who though started his life as an innocent being but inspired from the self negative mind he gave birth to the neo think tanks which are lethal & loyal whose dimensions are based on the falsification of the facts which not only spread like a wild fire through the minds & hearts of  illiterates & poverty driven hinterlands but also changed the dimensions of the war doctrines. The journey of this versatile personality from missionary scholar to a most dreaded terrorist mind of the world was full of strategic difficulties just like the one faced in the political corners of the world.

His drive from preaching to terrorizing the world is as simple as the man himself but with the hidden cruelty in mind. It is said in every religion of the world that if your mind & hearts are cruel & you portray yourself as a great leader for masses then the fate of your hidden truth will be revealed some day & the spirit will find no shelter of peace in the world.

The rumor of Osama being a CIA agent who worked to collapsed Soviet regime circulating the human circles is as false as the rumor itself. But the coincidence is that the creation and popularity rose at the same time when two though never worked together have helped and nourished the Afghan militias and war lords to fight against the Soviet invasion. But after the Soviets ouster from Pashtun heartland, the game now changed into the one of the biggest great war gambles of the 21st Century which if tasted success may had changed the map of the world. The start of this century was welcomed by the bang of the biggest terrorist attacks which have shaped the political economics for the generations to come. The great game of hide & seek started between western powers and the terrorists organizations which as the face has Osama bin Laden on their side as the leader saw many twists & turns just the great caves of Tora Bora where rumors are believed like a valid source of information for planning an escape. But with the intelligence advance their security research the money pondered on the ever hungry pockets of terror fund which have given boost to their activities across the globe. The effect of their terror driven is such that even people from well qualified background started to join & the armed forces were begging for their vacancies to be filled in many countries due to the fear of relocation to the war zone where the souls of all energies will fight for their survivals making the aim of which donkey wins the battle and call the ruler of the world.

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death spread like wildfire as the United States Special operations forces tracked him down in a compound in Abbottabad Pakistan and killed him on May 2, 2011 by gunshot to his head and chest. Many was shocked to read the news that the world’s most wanted man who topped the terrorists lists around the world was killed by US forces. I personally didn’t believe it at first but after reading several newspaper it was clear to me that Osama had been defeated.

How is it possible that this man who was in hiding for over ten years was living in Pakistan just 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy? What happened after so many years that the hiding went wrong? It all started with the identification of the courier and CIA using surveillance photos and intelligence reports to determine the identities of the inhabitants in the compound. There was no internet or landline telephone service to the house and its residents buried and burned their trash unlike the other neighbors who would set their garbage out for collection. In the mean time, the CIA had already established a safe house in Abbottabad where a team observed the compound over several months using informants and other techniques to gather information.

After the death of Osama, the residents of Abbottabad are left confused and suspicious about the killing taking place before dawn. The President of USA, Barack Obama decided to not release the photos of the slain Al-Qaida leader claiming that “it would pose a security risk and it is inconsistent with American values.”

The American government had their right on their side to hunt Osama Bin Laden and capture him dead or alive after being attacked by Al-Qaida who killed thousands of innocent people. So I’m asking; “What is the American values when it comes to killing a person? Is it to wrap him in a sheet and toss him into the deep sea? Many Islamic scholars questioned Obama’s decision to bury Osama at the sea saying that maritime burial isn’t allowed in Islamic practice. To this Obama responded; “Frankly, we took more care on this than, obviously, bin Laden took when he killed 3,000 people. He didn’t have much regard for how they were treated and desecrated. But that, again, is something that makes us different. And I think we handled it appropriately.” I see sea burial as disrespectful as long as the deceased himself don’t wish for it, and to throw someone overboard like that is against every human right values and believes. He should have been buried in his homeland or given back to his family or followers as Osama can’t do much after his death. What Al-Qaida will do is another story.

So who was this man that would pose a huge security risk even after his death and that United States had to bury him in the sea?

The beginning


Osama was born in 1957 as the 17th son among 50 brothers and sisters. His father was from Yemen and mother of Syrian origin. His father Mohammed Awad bin Laden started his life as a very poor laborer (porter in Jeddah port) and ended up as owner of the biggest construction company in the kingdom. During the reign of King Saud, bin Laden the father became very close to the royal family when he took the risk of building King Saud’s palaces much cheaper than the cheapest bid. He impressed King Saud with his performance but he also built good relations with other members of the royal family, especially Faisal. Indeed, he was appointed for a period as the minister of public works.

The father was fairly devoted Moslem, very humble and generous. He was so proud of the bag he used when he was a porter that he kept it as a trophy in the main reception room in his palace.

The father had very dominating personality and had a tough discipline and observed all the children with strict religious and social code. He dealt with his children as big men and demanded them to show confidence at young age.

Early life, education and marriage

Osama had his primary, secondary and university education in Jeddah and got a degree in economics and business administration in 1981 from King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah. At University, Osama’s main interest was religion where he interpreted the Qur’an and did charitable work.
In 1974, 17 year old Osama married Najwa Ghanem but she divorced him in 2001 before the attacks. The second wife Khadijah Sharif also divorced him in the 1990’s. The third and fourth wives Khairiah Sabar and Siham Sabar’s fate is unknown, the fifth unknown wife with whom his marriage was immediately annulled, and last the 57 year old Osama married a younger wife, the 27 year old wife Amal al-Sadah who was in the compound with him at the time of his death.

In addition to the general Islamic commitment he started forming an Islamic responsibility at early age. His father used to host hundreds of pilgrims during Hajj season from all over the world. Some of those were senior Islamic scholars or leaders of Muslim movements. This habit went on even after his father’s death through his elder brothers. He used to make good contacts and relations through those gatherings.

At secondary school and university he adopted the main trend of many educated Muslims at that time, Muslim Brotherhood. Interestingly, the 1980 raid in the Grand Mosque in Mecca was not appealing to him, neither the theology nor that group. He had two distinguished teachers in Islamic studies, which was a compulsory subject in the university. First was Abdullah Azzam who became later as one of the big names in Afghanistan and the second was Mohammed Quttub, a famous Islamic writer and philosopher.

Born with a silver spoon but chose a simple life

Bin Laden was brought up with good manners. He was extremely humble and very generous person who insisted to join his comrades in every act. He would cook and serve for them frequently and chose to live a simple life in a small flat in Jeddah or in a shed in Afghanistan and insisted on his family to eat and dress simple as well.

He was known to be strictly truthful and never lie. Despite being a shy person, Osama had a dominating and charismatic personality. He spoke very little and seemed to be serious most of the time. He would appear with a soft smile but almost ever laugh out loud. Osama had courage in him that even if a car bomb exploded near by him, he would not show a flicker as he was exposed to more than 40-45 incidents of heavy bombardment.

Osama was an educated man and spent a great deal of time reading. What most people don’t know is that he also used to write poetry.

Afghanistan


His first travel to Afghanistan was the first 2 weeks of the Soviet invasion. He travelled to Pakistan and was taken by his hosts Jamaat Islami from Karachi to Peshawar to see the refugees and meet some leaders. He went back to the kingdom and started lobbying with his brothers, relatives and friends at the school to support the mujahedeen and succeeded in collecting huge amount of money and material as donations to jihad. He made another trip to take this material with few Pakistanis and Afghanis who were working in bin Laden Company for more than 10 years. Again, he did not stay more than a month. The trip was to Pakistan and the border only and was not to Afghanistan. He went on collecting money and going in short trips once or twice a year until 1982.

In 1982, he decided to travel inside to Afghanistan and brought with him plenty of the construction machinery and put them at the disposal of the mujahedeen and started to join battles as well.

In 1984 he had one further step in strengthening his presence in Afghanistan by establishing the guesthouse in Peshawar (Baitul’ansar). That house was supposed to be the first station of Arab mujahedeen when they come to Afghanistan before going to the front or start training. At that period Osama did not have his own command or training camps and used to send the newcomers to one of the Afghan factions.

The guesthouse establishment was coinciding with the formation of Jihad Service Bureau by Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar. The Bureau was very active in terms of media, publications and charity work. The Bureau publications were important in attracting more Saudis and Arabs to Afghanistan.

In 1986, Osama decided to have his own camps inside Afghanistan and within two years he built more than six camps. Some were mobilized more than once. He decided to have his own front and to run his own battles with his own command. Among the Arab fighters he had, there were senior Arab ex-military men from Syria and Egypt with good military experience. During the period 1984-1989 he was staying more in Afghanistan than Saudi Arabia and would spend a total of eight months a year or more in Afghanistan.

Al-Qa’edah

In 1988 he noticed that he was backward in his documentation and was not able to give answers to some families asking about their loved ones gone missing in Afghanistan. He decided to make the matter much more organized and arranged for proper documentation. He made a tracking record of the visitors, be they mujahedeen or charity or simple visitors. Their movement between the guesthouse and the camps had to be recorded as well as their first arrival and final departure. The whole complex was then termed Al-Qa’edah which is an Arabic word meaning “The Base.”

Return to the Kingdom

Late 1989 after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, he went to the kingdom in an ordinary trip. There he was banned from travel and was trapped in the kingdom. The Soviet withdrawal might have been a factor but the main reason for the travel ban was his intentions to start a new “front” of jihad in South Yemen. In addition, he embarrassed the regime by lectures and speeches warning of impending invasion by Saddam. At that time the regime was at very good terms with Saddam. He was instructed officially to keep low profile and not to give public talks. Despite the travel ban he was not hostile to regime at this stage. Indeed he presented a written advice in the form of a detailed, personal, private and confidential letter to the king few weeks before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The Iraqi invasion

He reacted swiftly to Iraqi invasion and saw it fulfilling his prophecy. He immediately forwarded another letter to the king suggesting in detail how to protect the country from potentially advancing Iraqi forces. In addition to many military tactics suggested, he volunteered to bring all the Arab mujahedeen to defend the kingdom. That letter was presented in the first few days of the incident, and the regime response was of consideration! While he was expecting some call to mobilize his men and equipment he heard the news which transferred his life completely. The Americans are coming. He always describes that moment as shocking moment. He felt depressed and thought that maneuvers had to change. Instead of writing to the king or approaching other members of the royal family, he started lobbying through religious scholars and Muslim activists. He succeeded in extracting a fatwah from one of the senior scholars that training and readiness is a religious duty. He immediately circulated that fatwah and convinced people to have their training in Afghanistan. It was estimated that 4000 went to Afghanistan in response to the fatwah. The regime was not happy with his activities so they limited his movement to Jeddah only. To intimidate him, the regime raided his farm in the suburb of Jeddah by the National Guard. He was not there during the raid and was very angry when told. He wrote a letter of protest to Prince Abdullah. Abdullah apologized and claimed he is not aware and promised to punish who ever were responsible.

Leaving the Kingdom

In the end, Osama was fed up with the house arrest situation and had a hard time staying in a country with American forces around. One of his brothers was very close to King Fahad and also close to Prince Ahmed, deputy minister of interior. He convinced his brother that he needed to leave the country to sort out some business matters in Pakistan and come back. There was a difficult obstacle, the stubborn Prince Nayef, minister of interior. His brother waited until Nayef went in a trip outside the kingdom and extracted lifting the ban from Prince Ahmed. When he arrived in Pakistan around April 1991 he sent a letter to his brother telling him that he is not coming back and apologized for letting him down with the royal family.

Back in Afghanistan

After his arrival to Pakistan he went straight to Afghanistan because he knew the Pakistani intelligence would hand him back to the Saudis. There, he attended the collapse of the communist regime and the consequent dispute between the Afghan parties. He spent great effort to arbitrate between them but with no success and ordered his followers to avoid any involvement in the conflict and told them it was a sin to side with any faction. During his stay the Saudis tried more than once to kidnap or kill him in collaboration with the Pakistani intelligence but his friends in the Saudi and Pakistani establishments would always leak the plan and make him ready for it. After his failure in sorting the Afghani dispute, he decided to leave Afghanistan. The only alternative country he had was Sudan. He left Afghanistan disguised in private jet only few months after his arrival. That was late 1991.

Sudan

His choice of Sudan had nothing to do with jihad or “terrorism.” He was attracted to Sudan because of what was at that time an Islamic banner raised by the new regime in Sudan. He wanted to have good refuge as well as help the government in its construction projects. There was no intention from his side or from the Sudanese regime to have any military activity in Sudan. Indeed the Sudanese government refused even sending some of his followers to the front in the south. He was treated in Sudan as a special guest who wanted to help Sudan when everybody was turning away. In Sudan he mobilized a lot of construction equipment and enrolled himself in busy construction projects. He spent good effort in convincing Saudi businessmen to invest in Sudan and had reasonable success. Many of his brothers and Jeddah merchants had and still have investment in real estate, farming and agricultural industry. In Sudan he had again escaped an assassination attempt which turned out later to be the plan of Saudi intelligence.

On his arrival to Sudan and early 1994, he had become classified as enemy of the Saudi regime and his assets were frozen between 1992 and 1994. He continued his verbal assault on King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and in response on March 5th, 1994 they withdrew his citizenship. After a long time of silence, Osama said that he didn’t need the Saudi citizenship to identify himself. He then formed together with activists and scholars from the kingdom a group called “Advice and Reform Committee” (ARC). The ARC was, according to its communiqués and published agenda, a purely political group. The ARC published around 17 communiqués which might have contained harsh criticism of the Saudi regime and plenty of religious rhetoric but never contained reference for violence or incitement of violence.

Sudan was exposed to huge international pressure for hosting bin Laden and his followers, and bin Laden felt that he is becoming an embarrassment to the Sudanese. Early in 1996 he started making contacts with his old friends in Afghanistan to prepare for his reception. He fled Sudan in a very well planned trip with many of his followers to go straight to Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan.

Somalia and Yemen

During his stay in Sudan anti-American incidents happened in Somalia and South Yemen. Neither of the two incidents was performed by his group in the proper sense of chain of command. Both were performed by people who had training in Afghanistan and had enough anti-American drive. He might have given some sanctioning to the operations.

Third visit to Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan was very unstable between many factions but since Osama had good relationship with all of them, they all protected him. The area he stayed in was under the control of Yunis Khalis, an influential warlord who later joined Taliban.

June 1996, after his arrival in Afghanistan was the Khobar bombing. Nobody claimed responsibility, but sources from inside the Saudi ministry of interior confirmed involvement of Arab Afghans, with possible link to bin Laden. The Saudi government wanted to frame Shi’a, at the beginning but Americans were very suspicious of the Saudi story. Bin Laden himself never claimed responsibility but gave many hints that he might have been involved. The Saudi government has acknowledged recently that bin Laden’s men were behind the bombing.

After few months of his arrival he issued his first anti-American message, a Declaration of War. That declaration was limited to expelling American forces outside the Arabian Peninsula. Interest in him by the Saudis never stopped and they tried very hard to convince Yunis Khalis to hand him over, and he flatly refused despite the luxurious offers. The Saudis never gave up on trying to get Laden. Early 1997 they bought some mercenaries in the Pakistani Afghani border. The operation was arranged with the Pakistani intelligence. The information leaked to bin Laden and he decided to move immediately to Qandahar, the stronghold of Taliban. The operation was then cancelled.

When bin Laden left Jalalabad, he ordered many of his followers to join Taliban in their war against Dostum and to protect Kabul but Taliban troops were betrayed by a trap in the north and Kabul front was exposed to Shah Masood and many of the Taliban fighters were killed.

Another kidnap attempt

In late 1997 a big operation was planned by the Americans. The primary plan was for American Special Forces to attack bin Laden’s residence in Qandahar and kidnap him in a commando style operation. The plan was mocked in Pakistani desert and proved dangerous. While the Americans were reconsidering the decision, the news leaked to bin Laden, again through the Pakistani military, and he made it public. The Americans had no choice but to cancel.

Making links with the Ulema

Bin Laden noticed that the driving force in Taliban were Ulema (religious scholars). He made very good links with them for the subject of American forces in the Arabian Peninsula. He was able to extract a fatwah signed by some 40 scholars in Afghanistan sanctioning the use of all means to expel the American forces from the Peninsula. The issue of that fatwah was an asset to him inside Taliban domain.

His second presence in Afghanistan attracted many mujahedeen to move there again and among those were Ayman El-Zawahery of Egyptian Jihad and Rift’ee Taha of Jama’a Islamia. Bin Laden decided to go pan-Islamic instead of Saudi or Arabic and attracted Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Indians, and Muslims from the Soviet Republics. He thought at that stage that he could make an international alliance against America and in February 1998 he declared the formation of the International Front. The declaration contained two elements, formation of the front and a fatwah sanctioning killing Americans and Jews. Apart from two Arabic newspapers, the declaration had minimal coverage by the press.

Attack in Khost camp

The camp was an almost deserted camp where only few Arabs stayed, with a neighbouring camp of Kashmiris. Bin Laden himself was hundreds of miles away, and the rest of Arab Afghans were in the northern front celebrating their recent victories. Since the American attack bin Laden was put in heavy protection and advised to stay hiding. His followers made another credit when they protected Kabul front again and pushed Masood forces back.

September 11 attacks

“Allah knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed – when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way (and) to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.”

Osama bin Laden, 2004

19 Al-Qaida members hijacked four commercial passenger airplanes crashing two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the third was crashed into Pentagon in Arlington and the fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in Pennsylvania after some of the passengers attempt to take over control. Nearly 3000 people died in this attack including the hijackers.

Faith and ideology

Osama believed that implementing the Sharia law would form a better Muslim world and that pan-Arabism, socialism, communism and western democracy had to be opposed. He was very much impressed by the ideology of Sayyid Qutb (Egyptian scholar), Hassan al-Banna and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (who founded the religious movement wahabism). Osama said that United States committed injustice against Muslim countries and spoke about the need to eliminate the State of Israel and the necessity of the US forces withdrawing from the Middle East. His strategy against the enemy was to lure them into a long war in the Muslim countries where jihadist fighters would never surrender leading to the economic collapse of the enemy nation. The Soviet Union collapsed after years of fighting in Afghanistan and many authors have stated that the United States was on the edge of suffering the same fate

Relation with Al-Saud

Bin Laden never had any official or personal relations with the Saudi regime or the royal family. All his contacts would happen through his brothers. The brothers would approach two members of the royal family who were fairly sympathetic to Osama. They were Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, deputy minister of interior and Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy minister of defense. He might have met them in few occasions but those meetings would have been purely social or accidental in one of his brother’s houses. Specifically he had no relation with Turki al-Faisal head of Saudi intelligence. He used to be very suspicious of his role in Afghanistan and once had open confrontation with him in 1991 and accused him of being the reason of the fight between Afghan factions. He was wary of the Saudi government very early in the eighties, but he thought it was wiser to keep silent and benefit from their de facto support to jihad in that period.

Relations with America

Some people have suggested and claimed that Osama was working for the CIA and other American departments, but this has been rejected by the American officials. Since the late 70’s Osama had a strong anti-America feeling and committed himself and his family to avoid buying American goods unless it was necessary. Bin Laden would bring money from individuals donating straight to him. The weapons he had were either captured from the Soviets or bought from other factions.

Relations with Pakistan

Osama had much respect by many Pakistanis including people in the army, intelligence and the religious establishment such as many fundamental Islamic groups. They were so close that they would always leak any plan against him by the Pakistani-Saudi-American alliance. Osama had also a close friendship with the former director of ISI (Pakistani Intelligence), Hamid Gul.

Relations with Taliban

Taliban are not simply another Afghan faction supported by Pakistan, they are sincere to their beliefs and a religiously committed group unspoiled by political tactics. They would never bargain with what they see as matters of principle and Bin Laden for them is a saint. He is a symbol of sacrifice for the sake of jihad as they see him as very rich Arab from the Holy Land who gave up his wealth and luxury to fight for the sake of his brother Muslims in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden became an intimate part of Taliban structure when he taught them how to deal with state affairs in a proper manner, for example, they were about to be fooled by some oil and gas companies and sell the pipeline project for cheap and Osama advised them to learn from the Iraq-Turkey and Iraq-Syria agreements. They wanted to privatize some factories and were about to sell them to Pakistani businessmen for cheap prices but he taught them how to conduct proper bidding procedure and guarantee good prices.

Relation with Iran

Iran knows that bin Laden is a committed Sunni and he regards Iran as Shi’a state. The trust between the two is minimal but both have avoided criticizing each other publicly.

Finance

Osama thought it was necessary to guarantee the Islamic nature of the finance activity. For example, he would never invest in non-Islamic country; never use banks unless it was absolutely necessary, didn’t believe in stock market because he thought the investor cannot escape interest since the money has to be in a bank and produce some interest. He also believed that the Jews control banks and stock market.

He had 3 setbacks which would have made him bankrupt. The first was the freezing of his assets by the Saudi government. Nobody knows the exact amount but it was probably in the range of 200-300 million dollars. The second setback was the loss he had in Sudan. The Sudanese government was too weak financially to pay him for the construction projects and he ended up hardly with 10% of the payment. He lost in Sudan not less than 150 million dollars.

Osama’s brothers agreed to keep many assets of the father and distribute the profits only. Most of the brothers and sisters are observing Muslims and very careful to not to “spoil” their income with money which is not theirs as they believe it is their duty to let the owner of any riyal to have it. The only way they guarantee that is by letting bin Laden’s share reach him. Some of the brothers and sisters believed it was their religious duty to support this distinguished brother from their own money. While many are very careful not to irritate the royal family, many more do not care and insist on letting the money reach Osama. Another big source of income to bin Laden was the donations. During the early jihad time when it was blessed by the Saudi regime, he made excellent relations with many wealthy Saudis and Arabs who would donate huge amounts of money to him.

Pakistan’s alleged role of hiding Laden

Critics have accused Pakistan’s military and security establishment of protecting bin Laden. This case worsens the U.S. ties with Pakistan and future support. Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari has strongly denied that his country’s security forces may have sheltered Osama bin Laden and Pakistan’s United States envoy, ambassador Husain Haqqani, promised a “full inquiry” into how Pakistani intelligence services failed to find bin Laden in a fortified compound, just a few hours’ drive from Islamabad, stating that “obviously bin Laden did have a support system.”

Timeline

1957 Born Osama bin Mohammad bin Awad bin Laden in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

1970 Father dies in a helicopter accident.

1974 Marries distant relative, Najwa Ghanem.

1976 Studies economics and management at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah.

1979 Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

1984 Bin Laden is involved in Peshawar supporting Arab volunteers to fight Soviets. Moves between Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan.

1988 Al-Qaida – “the Base” – established in Afghanistan as centre for radical Muslims opposing the US, Israel and its allies.

1989 Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan. Bin Laden returns to Saudi Arabia to work for the family company and uses his network to raise funds for veterans of the Afghan war.

1991 Bin Laden is expelled from Saudi Arabia due to his anti government activities.

1992 Claims responsibility for attacking US soldiers in Yemen.

1993 Claims responsibilities for fire fight in Somalia that killed 18 US military personnel.

1994 Expelled from Sudan. Saudi Arabia revokes his citizenship and his family disowns him.

1995 Saudi Arabia claims Bin Laden links to Riyadh car bombing: six killed including five Americans, 60 injured.

1996 Bin Laden leaves Sudan for Afghanistan. Issues fatwa against all US military personnel, faxed to supporters across the world. Taliban gives him sanctuary in Afghanistan.

1998 A truck bomb explosions at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania kills 224 people including 12 Americans. Bin Laden is added to FBI’s “10 most wanted fugitives” list.

2000 Al-Qaida claims responsibility for strike on US destroyer Cole at Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen soldiers killed.

2001 11 September Hijacked planes destroy the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre and target the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000. President George Bush says Bin Laden is wanted “dead or alive.”

December, US-backed anti-Taliban forces capture Bin Laden’s base in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan, but find no trace of the fugitive terrorist.

2002 September Al-Jazeera broadcasts a poor-quality tape, claimed to be the voice of Bin Laden, praising the 9/11 hijackers for changing “the course of history.”

November Al-Qaida claims responsibility for three suicide car bombs at the Mombasa Paradise resort hotel, killing 15 and wounding 80.

2003 An audio tape believed to be the voice of bin Laden calls for attack on the US if Iraq is invaded.

2004 October, A 18-minute video is sent to al-Jazeera in which Bin Laden accepts responsibility for the first time for the 9/11 attacks, and condemns Bush days before US presidential election. Says his inspiration for 9/11 was seeing Israeli aircraft bomb tower blocks in Lebanon in 1982.

2007 September, Rumour that Bin Laden is dead is confounded by first new video in three years, warning the US it is vulnerable.

2008 May Bin Laden urge Muslims to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

2009 After being elected, President Obama authorizes killing or capture of bin Laden as “top priority” of war on Al Qaeda.

2010 January, Audio tape message from Bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the failed Christmas day attempted bombing of US-bound plane. US president Barack Obama claims al-Qaida weakened by US actions.

March, Bin Laden claims in a taped message that al-Qaida will kill any American prisoners if the US executes alleged September 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

2011 January, Bin Laden says in a taped message that French hostages held in Niger will not be freed unless France pulls troops out of all Muslim lands.

1 May, Barack Obama announces that Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan.
Sources used for facts;

www.cnn.com

www.boston.com

www.infoplease.com

Wikipedia

www.pbs.org – frontline

NATO – Deterrent of Unification

Overview:

After World War II the shadow of another possible war now looming over the sky which if comes into picture the enemy at the gates will bang it will full lightening; the name of that shadow was Cold War era which started immediately after the much daunted D-Day. The fear of Soviet invasion was irresistible as after the war more than half of the Europe was under communist control & influence. So the Western European countries of UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands & Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Brussels on 17th March 1948 which is considered as the precursor of NATO.  But in order to counter balance the power of Soviet Union participation of US was necessary, so the talks to form new alliance started immediately after it. These talks resulted into the formation of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on 4th April 1949 with the signing of North Atlantic Treaty in Washington D.C which increased the horizon of a complete military alliance including the members of Treaty of Brussels & new members the US, Canada, Italy, Iceland, Portugal, Norway & Denmark with its headquarters based in Belgium with its Parliament General Assembly which meets at an Annual Session.  But the first few years of its formation were full of crisis as the influence of US was a major concern in the organisation which resulted into French withdrawal from NATO & development of French nuclear deterrent. With the start of Korean War NATO galvanised its military structure under the command of US Marines. However after the formation of Warsaw Pact by the Eastern Bloc, NATO started developing its standardization program for its arsenal systems.   The reason for its non involvement in Falkland War was that since its formation & as its name suggest that NATO always want to limit itself above the Tropic of Cancer so, since the southern hemisphere is not under its operational limit NATO kept itself out of that.

Post Cold War: After the collapse of USSR & the German reunification in 1990 NATO has increased its member states & limits which has now crossed the borders after the Prague summit of 2002 held for the first time in the Eastern Bloc country which enlarged its horizon by including Albania, Croatia, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Mauritania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania has been brought under the NATO umbrella while Ukraine & Georgia were told that they will be included as a prominent members. The inclusion of these states irked Russia who has now threatened NATO of withdrawing from CTE which was signed between RUSSIA & NATO as a peace agreement due to the posting of US anti missile defence system which as per Russia’s concern will trigger a new arms race in the region. The first NATO intervention was in 1995 bombings of Bosnia & Herzegovina and in 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. With the inclusion of Turkey, Spain & Greece NATO now controls almost all the bordering points with Russia.

Post 9/11 Terror Attacks:  caused NATO to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter for the first time in its history. The Article says that an attack on any member shall be considered to be an attack on all with invocation of its Article 5 NATO invaded Afghanistan in 2001 & consequently invading Iraq in 2002 under its military force command of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Groups under NATO:

EURO – Atlantic Partnership,

Individual Partnership Action Plans,

Contact Countries

2008-2009 Recession: NATO which has 70% of total world’s defence budget announced huge budget cuts due to the economic meltdown in the majority stake holding countries of US & Western Europe Which accounts 43% by the US alone & the 15% by UK, France & Germany.

Future Enlargement plans of NATO are for Asia to confront China’s rise & the nuclear crisis of North Korea, Iran, Burma, Pakistan & Syria.

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