External News in Brief

Defence ministers and security officials of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) gathered in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, to discuss regional security issues. Reports from the June 26 talks said the ministers focused on strengthening military cooperation as international combat forces leave Afghanistan by the end of next year. Kyrgyz Defence Minister Taalaybek Omuraliev said the ministers discussed ways to counter “contemporary concerns and threats,” which Chief of Russian Border Guard Service Vladimir Kulishov said included terrorism, separatism, and extremism. He also mentioned the battle against illegal drug trafficking and transborder criminal groups. The officials also reviewed a 2014-2015 cooperation plan. The group brings together representatives of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. On the eve of the meeting, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held face-to-face talks with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev. According to ITAR-TASS, Shoigu reassured the Kyrgyz leader of Russian support for Kyrgyzstanэs defence forces. Russia has close military ties with Kyrgyzstan, leasing a base in the Central Asian country. The U.S. also leased a base in Kyrgyzstan to ship troops and supplies to Afghanistan, but, on June 20, Kyrgyzstan lawmakers voted to give the U.S. until July 2014 to leave the Manas airbase. Some 1,000 U.S. servicemen are housed on the base outside of Bishkek.

The next round of talks between Tehran and five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1 group) on Iran’s nuclear programme might be again held in Kazakhstan, the Iranian envoy to Kazakhstan said. “We consider that there is no need for all important international actions to take place in European cities, such as Geneva, Vienna and Paris, when countries in the region, including Kazakhstan, have all the potential for holding similar actions,” Xinhua quoted Iranian Ambassador Gorban Seyfi as saying. He said the two previous rounds of talks had been successfully held in Almaty. “At the end of the second round, Mr. Saeed Jalili, chairman of the national security council and Iran’s chief negotiator, declared that Iran is not against holding the third round of talks in Kazakhstan. We will wait for the decision of the main negotiators of P5+1 group,” Seyfi said. On April 6, Iran and the P5+1 group held talks in Almaty, which ended with an agreement between the parties to return to negotiations on a future date, as yet to be agreed.

On June 26, representatives of the Eurasian Economic Commission took part in the International Conference on Technical Regulation in the Customs Union. The forum lasted from June 26 to 27 in Minsk. The Federal Technical Regulation and Metrology Agency of Russia, the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Kazakhstan, as well as business associations of the three countries were also among the participants of the conference. The conference considered the possibilities of reviewing problem aspects and optimum solutions.

Russia and Kazakhstan increased their gold reserves for an eighth consecutive month in May, a sign that some central banks remain interested in the metal despite its slumping price. Russia added about 198,000 troy ounces of gold in May, taking the country’s holdings to 32.027 million ounces, up 4 percent in 2013, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) data. Kazakhstan added about 127,000 ounces, to 4.163 million ounces, the IMF said. The country’s reserves are up 12 percent this year. Gold futures slumped in April and May, falling 12 percent as investors bet that a recovering U.S. economy would spur the Federal Reserve to curb its bond-buying programme. The Fed’s easy-money programmes have been a key support for gold prices in recent years. Central banks accounted for 11.3 percent of global gold demand during the first quarter of the year, according to the most recent data from the World Gold Council mining trade group. Central banks in emerging-market countries have increased their holdings over the past few years as sovereign-debt crises dented their interest in reserve currencies such as the U.S. dollar and the euro. The buying helped shore up gold prices by absorbing supply. Belarus and Kyrgyzstan both added about 1,000 ounces of gold in May, the IMF said, while the Czech Republic cut about 10,000 ounces.