Noted with Interest

A senior official from Germany’s ministry of defense was in Tbilisi on Tuesday, meeting counterparts and doing the things that senior defense officials do, including a reception put on by the German embassy. According to one person present at the reception, during his brief remarks he said the Georgia was likely to be a NATO member this year, at which point (by the same account) the ambassador’s jaw dropped for a moment. Then professional training set in, and her poker face returned.

If this account is accurate, and his remarks are on message, it would be a significant change in the German position. It may be walked back — the German ambassador to NATO was quoted in yesterday’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung saying that no member expected Georgian membership soon — but the April summit in Strasbourg and Kehl could have some surprises.



A missile fired from a hand-held launcher damaged a mosque in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar on Tuesday just before worshippers were due to gather for a pre-dawn Ramadan meal, officials said.

The mosque is in the Jasenica area, a Croat-majority suburb of the town which is split evenly between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. It was built last year on the ruins of an Islamic building destroyed in the fighting in 1993-1994 between the two groups.

The missile was fired from a “Zolja” hand-held grenade launcher at around 4:30 a.m. (0230 GMT), local police said. Nobody was hurt.

Georgia on Her Mind

SueAndNotU, a Washington DC blogger who’s been in Georgia for the last year, has more on possible escalations in and around Abkhazia.

A fascinating spectacle is unfolding in the wild, uncontrollable west of the country where parliamentarians and well-coiffed ministers are squaring off with warriors and wise men from another time. It’s as perfect an illustration as you could ask for of the whole untamed spirit of this place in the modern world; at times wearing modernity like an ill-fitting suit.

More here.

Hardliner new Turkish chief of staff

The Daily Star – Politics – Ankara picks hard-line general to replace armed forces’ outgoing chief of staff

Turkey on Monday appointed a general who is expected to adopt a tougher line toward EU negotiations to replace the head the country’s powerful military, who was widely considered a moderate. The change in leadership, which was widely anticipated, comes as Turkey is insisting that Washington do more to crack down on Turkish Kurdish rebels operating out of bases in northern Iraq…

Buyukanit raised eyebrows this year by praising a soldier subsequently jailed for a bombing believed to be aimed at stirring up unrest in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bombing triggered riots in the region and a parliamentary inquiry.

Analysts say Buyukanit’s no-nonsense views have been shaped by the time he spent in the southeast during the 1990s, heyday of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is now seen as weakened but far from defeated.

“Buyukanit is more pro-American, more security-minded than Ozkok. He is not against the Europeanization of Turkey but he is more influenced by nationalist tendencies,” said Hussein Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

“He will be much tougher in the fight against the PKK.”

Qualified yes to Romania and Bulgaria

As expected

Not that “qualified” I don’t think. Once you’ve gone this far, turning them down isn’t politically viable. They might get a bunch of embarassing transitional arrangements instead.

My semi-informed uniformed view is that waiting until 2008 would have ultimately been better for them, though a longer wait would have been counterproductive.

The European Commission gave a qualified yes Tuesday to Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union on Jan. 1, but it delayed a final decision until October to try to pressure the Balkan countries to make greater inroads in fighting corruption and in judicial reforms.

The EU’s executive body said it did not want to dissuade reform-minded governments in both countries by delaying an entry date. But Olli Rehn, the EU expansion commissioner, warned that the two nations still needed to address shortcomings in their judicial systems and that their entry into the world’s largest trading bloc was not yet assured.

“Unless the countries take immediate corrective action, they will not be ready” in January, Rehn told a packed chamber of European deputies in Strasbourg. “If serious concerns remain, we will not hesitate to use the safeguards we have at our disposal,” he added, alluding to the EU’s power to delay the countries’ entry until 2008 or to withhold EU aid, even after they join.