Basic Political Developments

Statement on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict issued at G8 summit

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Statement on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict issued at G8 summit
Yesterday the Presidents of U.S., Russia and France, Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint statement on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict during the Deauville-hosted G8 summit.

The statement read: “We, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group's Co-Chair countries France, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America, are convinced the time has arrived for all the sides to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to take a decisive step towards a peaceful settlement.

We reiterate that only a negotiated settlement can lead to peace, stability, and reconciliation, opening opportunities for regional development and cooperation. The use of force created the current situation of confrontation and instability. Its use again would only bring more suffering and devastation, and would be condemned by the international community. We strongly urge the leaders of the sides to prepare their populations for peace, not war.

As a result of efforts by the parties and the Co-Chair countries at all levels, significant progress has been made. The latest version of the Basic Principles, as discussed in Sochi on March 5, lays a just and balanced foundation for the drafting of a comprehensive peace settlement. This document, based on the Helsinki Final Act and elements outlined in our joint declarations in L'Aquila in July 2009 and Muskoka in June 2010, provides a way for all sides to move beyond the unacceptable status quo.

We therefore call upon the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to demonstrate their political will by finalizing the Basic Principles during their upcoming summit in June. Further delay would only call into question the commitment of the sides to reach an agreement. Once an agreement has been reached, we stand ready to witness the formal acceptance of these Principles, to assist in the drafting of the peace agreement, and then to support its implementation with our international partners.”


Reference. The Nagorno-Karabakh (armed) conflict broke out back in 1991, when, subsequent to the demand for self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh people, Azerbaijani authorities attempted to resolve the issue through ethnic cleansings, carried out by Soviet security forces (KGB special units) under the pretext of the implementation of the passport regime and by launching of large-scale military operations, which left thousands dead and caused considerable material damage. A cease-fire agreement was established in 1994. Negotiations on the settlement of the conflict are being conducted under the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen (Russia, USA, France) and on the basis of their Madrid proposals, presented in November, 2007.

Azerbaijan has not yet implemented the 4 resolutions of the UN Security Council adopted in 1993, by continuing to provoke arms race in the region and openly violating the basic principles of the international law non-use of force or threat of force.

TODAY, 10:35

U.S., Russia Reaffirm Cooperation on Energy-Efficiency and Smart Grid

  • May 27, 2011

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to cooperate with Russia on energy-efficiency efforts and smart grids, is supporting efforts to share experience and best practices among U.S. and Russian municipalities and utilities. This month, representatives from both countries signed a memorandum of understanding in San Diego and Belgorod, Russia, building on an earlier exchange involving utilities and regulators in Texas and federal and utility officials in Kaluga, Russia.  

USAID's deputy assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia, Jonathan Hale, explained: "This new U.S.-Russia cooperation will enable utilities to reduce harmful emissions, including greenhouse gases, by enhancing their ability to help consumers use energy more efficiently; integrate and deliver renewable energy; and more efficiently transmit and deliver electricity to consumers. It is a win-win effort for the U.S., Russia, and the global environment and climate. At the G8 Summit in Deauville, France, presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev highlighted the mutual interest of their countries in energy efficiency and sustainable energy development and the progress that has been made since their announcement of this initiative at the Summit on June 24, 2010. Under the Energy Working Group of the Presidential Bi-national Commission, USAID in cooperation with DOE and the U.S. Energy Association, (USEA) have developed and begun implementation of a smart grid partnership program.

A visit by Russian industry, technical and government officials to Texas and Washington, D.C., in December 2010 provided an opportunity to see first-hand the activities of CenterPoint Energy and Austin Energy utilities in this field and their interactions with consumers, vendors, and regulators. A seminar in Washington provided an overview of U.S. policy, programs and technologies that are being supported by the DOE and the private sector. A work-plan for a two-year effort was developed that included utility partnership exchanges, business roundtables, and a joint assessment of regulatory and other barriers to the introduction of smart grid technologies and systems. A return visit by CenterPoint Energy and Austin officials to Russia in the spring of this year exposed these U.S. utilities and technology companies to the challenges that Russian utilities face in modernizing their systems and moving to smart-grid applications.

These discussions produced ideas for possible pilot projects that are currently under review. Will Polen, USEA Program Manager, stated that this exchange of "industry experience and knowledge" broadens the perspectives of the participants and can help spur new ideas and innovations in tackling these 21st century problems.

Austin Energy explains its interest in participating in the partnership to help advance its mission to deliver clean, affordable, reliable energy and excellent customer service. According to Jeff Vice, director of local government relations, "as the electric system adapts we are trying to figure out what the business model is going to be. Power is not going to be pushed centrally and one way through the grid. It's a much more fluid environment, homes are going to be built much more efficiently, and consumers are better educated. We use a variety of mechanisms to get to the goal. It's not just about adopting one of the pieces of smart grid, it's about creating new policies – for example, every new home will have to be net zero by 2030 or introducing rebate programs for our customers," Vice said.

By partnering with local universities or participating in the bilateral exchange with Russia, Austin Energy is designing what they call the "energy system of the future." According to Vice, "one thing we liked discussing was the pilot projects Russia was doing – start small, test and learn." These ideas through the exchange help boost innovation. USAID is working with DOE in fostering additional partnerships, including a municipal partnership between the cities of San Diego and Belgorod. A delegation from Belgorod visited San Diego and Silicon Valley technologies in April and a return visit is planned for June 2011 within the framework of a memorandum of understanding  concluded prior to the summit. From these initial exchanges, it is clear that U.S. companies are very interested in exploring opportunities in Russia as this large system further modernizes its transmission and distribution infrastructure.

USAID and DOE will be working to further these business and commercial ties over the coming year. Two specific activities are envisioned in addition to the utility and municipal partnerships. A business roundtable is planned for the fall in Russia and a joint study on regulatory issues and barriers in smart grid deployment is in the works.

Russia says Canada's Arctic criticisms show lack of understanding of "reality"

By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press – 2 hours ago

OTTAWA — A senior Russian diplomat says the Harper government's pointed public criticisms of his country's motives in the Arctic are not grounded in reality.

Russia's ambassador-at-large for Arctic issues, Anton Vasiliev, fired back Thursday at the frequent complaints that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet ministers have levelled at Russia for what they see as provocative behaviour in the Arctic.

That has included former foreign minister Lawrence Cannon blasting a planned Russian parachute jump that was to take place in April 2010 as a "stunt" and an exercise in "propaganda."

"It could come from lack of knowledge of reality," Vasiliev told The Canadian Press during a major conference on Canada-Norway-Russia Arctic co-operation at Ottawa's Carleton University.

"I think that time and reality proves that this is all wrong."

In an earlier speech to about 100 academics, diplomats and bureaucrats, Vasiliev extolled the exemplary relationship between Russia and Norway, which recently settled a 40-year Arctic border dispute.

He called it an "encouraging precedent" for Russia and Canada. The two countries disagree over the undersea boundaries of the Arctic Ocean, which is thought to hold massive deposits of oil and gas.

"Russia and Canada are natural partners in the Arctic. We have a good and dynamic relationship. But its potential is enormous," Vasiliev told the conference.

In a later interview, Vasiliev addressed the public criticism of his country by the Harper government. This includes Cannon's April 2010 outburst and others, as well as complaints by Defence Minister Peter MacKay about Russian bombers flights near Canadian Arctic airspace and Harper's own rebuke of those flights.

"Why do we still hear that? Because of inertia," Vasiliev said. "We are human people. It's very hard for us to change our mentality, to adapt ourselves to the changing world, but we have to do that because the world has changed."

He described his work as Russia's envoy to the eight-country Arctic Council, which includes Canada, as "a counter-argument to these skeptics."

Russia also angered Canada when a submarine bearing its scientists planted a flag on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007.

Norway's deputy foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said the incident was overblown and suggested Canada shouldn't take offence.

"It wasn't really Russia; it was a Russian scientist," Barth Eide said in an interview.

"There has been no follow-up claim and the moon isn't American because there's an American flag up there."

Barth Eide said his country's historic Barents Sea border agreement, four decades in the making, should be taken by Canada as reason to tone down its rhetoric towards Russia.

He said Russian co-operation in the Arctic can help defuse tension that it has had with the West in recent years on other strategic issues.

"It is an area where we see the benign side of Russia and where we see the collaborative Russia. It can become a buffer," said Barth Eide.

Vasiliev suggested Canada's politicians might be trying to score points at home by attacking his country's motives in the Arctic.

"My vision is it's mostly domestic. I can't judge your politicians by what they say, about this thing. Our politicians say the Arctic is becoming more and more a territory of dialogue, a territory of co-operation. This is a drastic change compared with the Cold War years."

Countries have a right to deploy military resources in the Arctic, but that doesn't mean there's a nefarious military build-up, he said.

"If before there was zero and now (there) is one gun, is that a build-up? I don't think so. Every Arctic state has a right to defend their sovereignty.

"We don't think we have any military problems in the Arctic or other problems that might require military solutions. We don't see any need for the presence of any military political blocs in the Arctic."

He said Russia agrees with Canada's Arctic strategy, which is a pillar of its foreign policy. Along with economic and regional development, the strategy includes a greater military presence as well as the eventual construction and deployment of an ice-breaker.

"We really need some more hardware in the Arctic, for example, for some new types of activities that come from more accessible Arctic resources."

Chris Day, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said Canada makes no apologies for investing in the Arctic or defending its sovereignty.

"Our government has made unprecedented investments to that end, and we will continue to do so during the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan."

Vasiliev lauded this month's historic agreement by Arctic Council members to co-ordinate search-and-rescue activities. He said it was an example of how Russia wants to work within legal frameworks to solve disputes.

"There are remaining problems of course. All the problems will be solved the same way no blood, no conflict, professional quiet work on the basis of international law. Full stop. And we shall do it."

In his speech, Vasiliev made only a vague passing reference to the tension between Canada and Russia.

He said the renewed co-operation between Norway and Russia was a benefit for greater Arctic security.

"I'm not pointing the fingers," Vasiliev told delegates.

"I hope all these and other achievements should persuade even the few, hardest skeptics, who can't detach themselves from the Cold War cliches, and who still look for nothing else but the military build-up and the inevitable wars."

Copyright © 2011 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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