Thursday, November 29, 2007

Turbulent times in 'nowhere land'

by Simon Tisdall from The Guardian (UK)

Azerbaijan's importance to Washington and the EU as a producer and conduit of Caspian oil and gas, as a Nato-friendly ally bordering Iran, and as a foil to Vladimir Putin's Russia overshadows human rights and democracy concerns. And Aliyev's secular government, presiding over a majority Muslim nation, also skilfully plays on US "war on terror" fears. It made much this month of alleged plots by Wahhabi extremists to attack the American and British embassies and possibly blow up the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline ... This is the region that author Thomas de Waal has dubbed "Nowhere Land", caught between the Black and Caspian seas, Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam, authoritarianism and democracy - and alternately neglected and exploited by the great powers. "The US and Europe have plenty of agendas in these countries ... but show no evidence of having an overall strategy or a vision for the region's future," De Waal wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

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