Sitting in his office, surrounded by marketing materials, Dastan Omuraliev voices lots of confidence in his new startup: “Kyrgyzstan has some of the best fruits and vegetables in the world,” he says. Once processed and packaged into colorful three-liter boxes of organic apple juice, “they can compete anywhere.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited Armenia on December 12 in what Ankara has portrayed as an attempt to jump-start a stalled rapprochement process. But many in Yerevan perceived the trip as designed to counter Armenia’s efforts to win worldwide recognition of the 1915 Ottoman-era mass slaughter of Armenians as genocide.
In mid-November, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Rashad Ramazanov, an Islamist blogger, to nine years in prison on charges of drug possession. Two weeks earlier, Taleh Bagir-zade, a young and charismatic Shi’a cleric, received a two-year prison term after being convicted on similar charges.
Armenia is the most gas-hungry country in the South Caucasus, and already is in a committed energy relationship with Russia. But many Armenians, tired of being taken for granted by the Kremlin, want their government to start flirting with another natural-gas suitor: Iran.
When banker Darkhan Botabayev tried to book a flight on Kazakhstan’s national airline last September, what started as a routine transaction turned into an assault that shocked the nation: Botabayev lost his temper and punched the young female ticket clerk in the face.
Compared with the gargantuan scale of the US National Security Agency’s surveillance machine, the 21,000 cell phones that the government of Georgia can supposedly monitor each day is miniscule. But anger over state snooping is still creating a PR challenge for officials in Tbilisi.
A senior Turkish minister’s call to turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque is stoking a dispute between Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government and the country’s Orthodox Christian community.
It’s not often that Calvin Coolidge’s name is invoked these days in Washington. But the long-dead 30th president is figuring in a controversy involving several Armenian-American organizations, the Smithsonian Institution and the White House.