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Weekly news wrap

Dominating the news this week, are the more than 800 people infected with typhoid in what appears to be one of the largest such incidences to strike Tajikistan in years. "The numbers keep rising, and we are expecting it to go over 1,000," Paul Handley, the officer-in-charge of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the capital, Dushanbe, told IRIN on Thursday, noting, however, that assistance, both international and local, had been put in place. Some experts said that the reason for the typhoid outbreak in the capital city was pollution in the Varzob river, one of Dushanbe's main water sources, caused by recent rains. Also in Tajikistan, earlier this week cases of diphtheria had been reported in the Kulob area of the southern Khatlon Province, the Tajik Asia-Plus agency said on Tuesday. A four-year-old child had died of the disease in Farkhor District and three members of a family had been taken to hospital with suspected diphtheria in Dangara District, the report said. According to some official sources, no cases of diphtheria had been reported in Kulob since 2000. Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov has urged the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to increase investment in his impoverished nation. Rahmonov, who was meeting the visiting head of the EBRD's Business Group for Russia and Central Asia, Hubert Pandza, said on Wednesday that the bank could play a role in attracting foreign investment in the country. This week in Central Asia was also marked with a series of top level visits to the region. On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visiting Tajikistan after a stop in Kyrgyzstan, signed cooperation deals aimed at boosting bilateral relations. "Tajikistan and Turkey are two countries that share a long history. And this is why we pay special attention to cooperation with Tajikistan, though for certain reasons we began our cooperation a little late," he reportedly said. Erdogan is the first Turkish prime minister to visit Tajikistan. His tour is seen as a move by Ankara to reassert its presence in the region. Also on Thursday, James Callaghan, a representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Central Asia section, told a news conference in Dushanbe that the Afghan government "currently was not ready to provide adequate measures for ensuring national security as well as combating drugs". Callaghan arrived in Tajikistan to familiarise himself with the drug situation on the Tajik-Afghan border and to implement with the Tajik government joint projects on combating drug trafficking from Afghanistan into the neighbouring countries. He reportedly said that the volume of drug production in Afghanistan this year had remained at the same level as last year's. Again on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Kyrgystan, opened Russia's first new military base on foreign soil since the 1991 Soviet collapse. He hailed the new air base as a move serving to strengthening security in Central Asia, but the move has been widely seen as Moscow's response to the US military presence in the region. "By creating an air shield here in Kyrgyzstan, we intend to strengthen security in the region, whose stability has become a tangible factor affecting the development of the international situation," Putin said at the opening ceremony. The new air base is only 45 km from a US base at the Kyrgyz Manas airport. Meanwhile in Kazakhstan, a situation causing environmental concerns has developed in the Caspian Sea shelf near the Sunkar platform and Aktoty artificial island, where oil drilling work was under way. According to the western Atyrau provincial environmental protection department, as many as 250 birds, mainly larks, have died, apparently from poisoning. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Tuesday that it was necessary to tighten international control over the production, testing and non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. "Kazakhstan is concerned about the continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The desire of certain countries and terrorist organisations to possess nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is creating a serious threat to global security," he said. And the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] centre in the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty, organised a two-day seminar starting on Wednesday on the standards of facilities for pre-trial detention and short-term custody. The training seminar marked the launch of a "Legal Status of the Suspects and Defendants" manual developed by the Kazakh interior ministry, which aims to provide accessible and practical information about national and international norms and standards on the issue. The Kazakh and Uzbek border services have agreed not to use firearms on the bilateral border unless there was a threat to the border guards' lives. The director of the Kazakh border service and deputy chairman of the National Security Committee, Bolat Zakiyev, and the head of the committee for protection of the Uzbek state border, Makmudzhon Utaganov, signed a protocol to that effect earlier this month. "These agreements were fixed in the protocol, and we decided to send the relevant instructions to our subdivisions for the implementation of the document," Zakiyev said on Thursday. The agreement came after an incident on the volatile border, which led to tough statements by diplomatic missions of both countries. Also in Uzbekistan, it was announced that the third India-Central Asia Regional Conference would be held in the capital, Tashkent, from 6 to 8 November, at which think-tanks and strategists from both sides were expected to deliberate on recent enhanced bilateral initiatives and means to further boost cooperation between the two regions. Representatives from 20 countries and some international organisations are set to participate in the three-day event.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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