Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 17/04/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

· The Tunnel Project That Could Reshape the European Map

· Daily Star: Syria talks in Moscow end with no progress * Thousand Russians joined ISIS to fight in Iraq,Syria * How Powerful Is Russia’s Military? *Kukan: Moscow parade attendance contrary to EU integration


· CSIS: Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015 * Fierce clashes in Iraq as ISIS seizes villages near Ramadi

· The Water-Energy Nexus—An Earth Science Perspective * The EU is quietly shaping its energy union

· Gallup: Only One in 10 People Possess the Talent to Manage

Massenbach* The Tunnel Project That Could Reshape the European Map

*The long-planned Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link between Denmark and Germany moved one step closer to reality this month.*

This isn’t just good news for Denmark but for the Swedes, Norwegians and Finns who use the country as a bridge to Western Europe.*

Denmark’s population may live mostly on smallish islands, but the country seems determined not to let geography get in its way.

It was in 1995 that Denmark first anchored itself to the rest of Scandinavia when it linked up to Sweden via the Øresund Bridge. Now the country is about to embark on yet another massive, geographically transformative engineering project: a tunnel beneath the Baltic Sea that will connect Denmark to Germany between the islands of Lolland and Fehmarn.

If completed, the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link would be the longest immersed tunnel in the world, its 11-mile submerged section breaking down the sea barrier that separates most of Scandinavia (bar Jutland) from the rest of Europe. Long in the planning, the bill finally giving the project the green light passed its first reading in the Danish Parliament this month. Construction could begin as soon as this year and be completed by 2024.

The project matters because it could reshape the European map. Denmark and Southern Sweden will come closer to Europe’s heartland as the tunnel slashes the detours or dawdling currently necessary to travel through the Danish archipelago. Currently, traffic slows from a gallop to a canter when passing through these parts. To reach Hamburg from Copenhagen/Malmö by train, for example, you have to take a 100-mile detour west via Jutland. By road, you need to take a 45-minute ferry and factor in loading and wait time on the quayside. To reach Berlin by road takes an absolute minimum of 6 hours, not great for a distance of 250 miles.

With this tunnel, the crossing under the Fehmarn Belt would take just 7 minutes, theoretically slashing the rail travel time from Copenhagen to Hamburg from just under 5 hours to little more than 2 hours. This isn’t just good news for Denmark but for the Swedes, Norwegians and Finns who use the country as a bridge to Western Europe.

The tunnel’s construction plan is also pretty striking, even in the post-Channel Tunnel era. As the above video shows, it will not be excavated below ground, but prefabricated and immersed in a trench dredged from the seabed, then covered over. The Baltic is relatively shallow in the Fehmarn Belt, making this method cheaper than either a deep tunnel or a bridge. The tunnel will actually be constructed on land on the Danish Coast, in 710 foot long sections that will themselves be subdivided into two rail tunnels, two three-lane highways and a service tunnel running between them. These sections will be sealed and floated out to the trench, where ballast tanks placed on top of them will be filled with water, forcing them down into the cavity. The trenches will then be filled with gravel and topped with stone.

All this is projected to cost $10 billion, one reason why not everyone is completely sold on the idea. Danish reservations haven’t been strong enough to hold the project back, but in Germany resistance is a little stronger. Beyond its contribution to the tunnel, the country will have to overhaul railways lines running along what is now a quiet little branch line. It also stands to lose some jobs in ferry transport and possibly tourism—visitors may well be tempted to forego a stop at German beach towns in favor of going straight on to quieter, often prettier Denmark.

There are also some questions about the chosen route. Denmark has been considering a tunnel or bridge along this route since the 1970s, and that in itself could arguably be a limitation. The Fehmarn project was first conceived of in a divided Europe, where Denmark’s only viable option for connecting to the rest of the mainland meant looking towards West Germany. This attitude persisted after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Eastern Bloc economies were still contracting and underpowered. But in today’s world, Denmark could certainly have considered a link due south towards the former East Germany instead. While the distance to cover over sea would be longer, this option would give a faster connection to Berlin and now prospering Poland and on to the rest of Central and Eastern Europe. It would also work better for Germany by channeling traffic through a relatively poor region that needs the cash more than Hamburg, already Germany’s richest city.

There does exist an alternative scheme for crossing the Western Baltic—a bridge or tunnel that would link the Danish island of Falster with the city of Rostock. But so far, this plan has lost out to the Fehmarn option, whose future success will ultimately determine its perceived viability. It seems unlikely that Denmark would plan two major connections across the same stretch of water—but then Scandinavian engineering seems to have developed a taste for managing the improbable.


*Nick Butler, Reuters: The EU is quietly shaping its energy union*

An intriguing process has begun in the EU, almost unnoticed outside the small world of Brussels and the shrinking circle of those who believe in an ever-closer European Union. The EU is asserting its role in the energy market. The policy was nodded through at the March meeting of the European Council on the basis of a paper published at the end of February by the new European commissioner for the energy union — Maros Sefcovic, one of the vice-presidents of the EU and also one of the most effective players in a Commission that is already showing itself to be stronger and more determined than its last three predecessors.

The February document was a good piece of work. It is careful and meticulous in the best European tradition. There are no grand statements of ambition. No country is forced to give up the power to set its own energy mix. The French will not be told to start fracking for shale gas or the extensive volumes of tight oil that exist in the Paris basin. Germany will not be required to change its policy of phasing out nuclear power. There is no proposal to unify taxation on energy production or consumption. The idea floated by Commission president Donald Tusk to establish a common buyer for imported natural gas in order to strengthen the trading power of the EU was not endorsed.

What changes is simply but crucially that a new level of policy making is established above the nation states.

The paper focuses on energy security — the issue of the moment given political and public concerns especially in eastern Europe about the reliability of gas supplies from Russia. The paper proposes the development of new infrastructure that would link all the member states to a common flow of supply — particularly for gas but potentially also for electricity. The paper talks of completing the internal market in energy, which means removing the national barriers which at present create a patchwork quilt of supply systems and prices.

You can say that this is just a matter of words and that nothing will happen as a result. That is presumably why Lord Hill, the commissioner appointed by the eurosceptic government in London, was not one of the 18 commissioners involved in writing the document and did not intervene to challenge the proposal when it came before the full Commission for approval.

In truth, the likelihood is that in the classic European way one thing will lead to another. As with the proposal to created a common agricultural policy — originally suggested as a means of relieving the post-war food shortage — and the proposal in the 1970s and 80s to link the currencies of member states in order to limit instability and speculation, each proposal, especially when found to be inadequate, inexorably leads to the next step in the process of integration. I don’t see how energy security can be created unless there is a genuine single market that supplies all parts of the Union without interference from national-level regulations or tariffs.

As things stand, many of the proposals for energy network linkages — for instance between Spain and France, or through Italy into central and northern Europe — won’t be built because it is not in the interests of particular national suppliers whose business depends on limiting open competition. But once there is a European-level policy, the momentum to open the market and to sweep away the blockages of national borders will be very strong. If there is another energy security scare Mr Tusk’s proposals for a single purchaser mechanism will be back on the table.

In the case of energy, the direction of change is reinforced by the policy already adopted on the environment and climate change, with specific targets for emissions reduction and broader, somewhat looser, targets for the development of renewables and for improving energy efficiency. Those policies already create a momentum, backed by law in some cases, for national convergence behind a common European approach.

You may think all that is good and fine and that national differentiation is a relic of the days when energy in almost every European country was centrally owned and managed. In the days when Europe was at war with itself, those systems were protected nation assets. Now we are in many ways, and by legal agreement, a single economic space why not unify the system?

The contrary view is that the proposals put the state in control on all the key decisions. Of course, energy security is a matter of national security and in the end governments carry a responsibility to ensure that the lights stay on. Given market failures around the impact of carbon emissions, only the state can ensure that externalities are priced in. But state control of the market can be costly, destructive to innovation and narrowly inward looking. The Common Agricultural Policy is a prime example of centralised control going too far however well-intentioned the initial objectives. As with the CAP, the new European energy union virtually ignores technical and scientific progress and has very little to say about trade links with other parts of the world, even though those links could in many cases give Europe lower cost supplies. At a first reading you would get the idea that Mr Sefcovic and his colleagues would be very happy if Europe were completely self-sufficient in energy.

These are concerns about the future and about the Commission’s philosophical approach. But they are real and they make all the more concerning the absence of any serious contribution to the debate from the UK. Britain is, after all, one of the biggest producers of oil and gas in the community, and the home of the largest grouping of top-tier scientific and technical universities, many of which are doing work on energy. Britain should have had more to say, and should have helped shape the ideas that underpin the drafting. The reality though is that, seen from Brussels, the UK is semi-detached and in the eyes of some preparing to leave. The UK will no doubt have its debate on membership but if, as seems likely, the resulting decision is to stay in, we will find that Europe has moved on and that new policies are in place.





Monday, April 13, 2015

Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm, Augsburger Straße 41, 10789 Berlin


First Session: Eurasian energy industry and geopolitical risks: the possibilities to predict the future?

Eurasia makes headlines in the world; moreover it is in the center of various conflicts inside and around the periphery of the continent. One can easily foresee the possibilities for geo-political and geo-economical turns. Some of these turns are obvious results of technological breakouts and changes in raw materials markets. Others depend on different obstacles, combinations of self-perception factors and premature political decisions. Nevertheless, the situation of uncertainty is possible to take more than one year.

Keynote Speech: Gas Energy in an Era of Changing Markets


Chairman of the Board, OJSC Gazprom

Gazprom warned European partners and customers that in the next few years the Russian company will change the pattern of relations with them. Taking into account the changes taking place in the European market rules, Gazprom is reviewing the previous approach, according to which gas producer was willing to take responsibility for the delivery of products to the final consumer. At the same time stepping up cooperation with Asian countries, especially China, allows to build more flexible system where raw materials depending on situation can be sold either on Asian or European markets.

Second Session: Energy business under the conditions of political and economic uncertainties

The rampant changes in the global politics, destabilization of financial markets directly influence energy business, which has to consider new and, mostly, uncertain circumstances. Companies are bearing special responsibility to guarantee a high level reliability in production and provide commercial viability, profits for shareholders and future prospects.

Third Session: Eurasian energy security system on the verge of the global destabilization: securing the supply of energy resources?

In the XXI century radical changes are taking place in world politics and global energy markets. Habitual patterns of consumer-supplier relationships require adjustments to adapt for the new conditions. Even the interpretation of the concept of energy security often varies. Interdependency, which has always been a stabilizing factor, today becomes a source of conflict. Diversification became the key concept, but consumers are talking about the diversification of sources, and manufacturers about diversification of the markets.

This is especially noticeable in Eurasia, where new circumstances appeared. On the one hand, the fast-growing Asian market and associated large-scale infrastructure projects. On the other hand – the European market reforms which make both suppliers and manufacturers change the previous approaches. All this happens in conditions of the technological changes, affecting global and regional environment.



By John Kemp

LONDON, April 15 (Reuters) – Iran contains some of the largest and most attractive petroleum resources in the world, so any easing of sanctions could have a major impact on oil and gas markets in the second half of the decade.

Iran’s possible re-emergence as a major exporter would force a re-ordering of the world oil market both because of the country’s location on the cost-curve and the quality of its oil.

Iran’s proved oil reserves of 160 billion barrels, almost 10 percent of the world total, rank it fourth after Venezuela (300 billion barrels), Saudi Arabia (265 billion barrels) and Canada (175 billion barrels), according to BP.

The country also has the world’s largest proved gas reserves of almost 34 trillion cubic metres (18 percent of the global total), putting it ahead of Russia (17 percent) and Qatar (13 percent).

Iran’s petroleum resources are contained in large, conventional reservoirs with excellent geological properties that make them highly productive at a relatively low cost.

Oil has been produced in Iran in commercial quantities since 1908, making it one of the world’s oldest producers.

Production peaked at more than 6 million barrels per day (bpd) in 1974 and although revolution, war and sanctions have been disruptive, it was still producing 4.2 million bpd as recently as 2008.

Sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union in response to concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme have cut production by around 1 million bpd to 3.4 million since 2012.

Iran consumes almost 2 million barrels a day of crude and refined products – which leaves between 1 million and 1.5 million bpd for export, down from 2.5 million before sanctions were imposed.

If sanctions were eased or lifted as a result of a deal between Iran and world powers, production and exports could rise by between 600,000 and 1 million bpd within a 12-month timeframe.

In the medium term, output could rise by 2 million or even 3 million bpd, depending on prices and the country’s ability to attract investment, source equipment and partner with international majors and service companies.

The first phase of Iran’s return to global oil markets is most likely to occur in 2016 and 2017, with larger increases in production and exports unlikely to occur before 2018 or 2020.

The prospect of higher exports may already be weighing on global oil markets, among other factors, with the back end of the futures curve slipping in recent months (


Iran’s oil and gas accumulations are the result of organic material deposited on the floor of an ancient ocean, Tethys, around 250 million years ago.

Tethys disappeared with the collision of the Indian, African and Arabian tectonic plates into the Eurasian continent – though remnants are left as the Black, Caspian and Aral seas.

Thick layers of ancient limestone and sandstone deposited on the floor of Tethys were trapped and warped in the collision and became the world’s biggest oil and gas accumulations around the Middle East Gulf.

On the Arabian side of the Gulf, the ancient marine sediments became the giant oil and gas fields of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as well as adjacent areas of Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

On the Iranian side, where the Arabian plate collided with the central Iranian plateau it created an extensive folded zone and threw up the Zagros Mountains.

These folded structures have been excellent traps for the accumulation of oil and gas and account for Iran’s major oil and gas fields.

The Zagros Basin stretches in a belt from Turkey and Syria through Iraqi Kurdistan and into Iran (“Sedimentary Basins and Petroleum Geology of the Middle East”, 1997).

The basin covers more than 550,000 square kilometres but is relatively narrow – more than 2,500 km long and generally just 500-700 km wide (

Most of Iran’s oil and gas fields are found in a narrow belt running along its maritime boundary in the Gulf and the foothills of the Zagros Mountains (


In Iran, the sediments comprising the Zagros Basin are up to 12,000 metres thick. Oil and gas have been trapped in and produced from various layers, but by far the most important is the Asmari limestone.

The Asmari formation has been to Iran what the Bakken formation is to North Dakota and Eagle Ford is to Texas.

The Asmari formation is not intrinsically very porous or permeable, which would make it a poor choice for oil and gas production.

But the formation has been heavily fractured because of the folded nature of the Zagros Basin, making it an excellent producer.

A single oil well in some reservoirs can produce up to 80,000 bpd on a sustained basis, and one well can drain a large area through the natural fracture system.

According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the international consortium in Iran produced almost 430,000 bpd from just 113 wells in 1961, an average of more than 10,000 bpd per well, the highest in the world (“The Petroleum Industry of Iran”, 1963).

Many of the old fields have been heavily depleted, but even today oil wells in Iran, as with Saudi Arabia, have much higher initial production rates than U.S. shale plays, and output declines more slowly.


The first concession to explore for oil was granted to Paul Julius Reuter, founder of the eponymous news agency, in 1872. It was followed by various other concessions, none of which succeeded in finding commercial quantities of oil.

The first successful concession was granted to William Knox D’Arcy in 1901. After several dry holes, D’Arcy’s company finally struck a gusher near an old temple at a location known as Masjed-e Soleyman in 1908.

Masjed-e Soleyman went on to become one of the country’s most productive fields. Other giant and super-giant fields were discovered across Khuzestan and neighbouring provinces mostly between the 1920s and the 1950s.

Iran’s oil and gas resources are prodigious and exceptionally attractive from an economic point of view, but the country’s production history has been shaped by politics rather than geology.

The composite production profile produced here from the U.S. Bureau of Mines, OPEC and BP shows the impact nationalization (1951), revolution (1979), war with Iraq (1980-88) and sanctions (2012) have had on output (

Iran has significant domestic expertise in geology and petroleum engineering but badly needs access to modern equipment and technology, as well as substantial investment and better management of the oil and gas industry.

With some of the older fields having been in production for 50 years or more, they are heavily depleted, and require expensive and complex technology to coax more oil from them. For the same reason, there is uncertainty about the published figures on “proven” reserves.

However, the country more than doubled production from 2 million bpd in 1986 to 4.2 million in 2008, before collapsing oil prices, the global recession and sanctions pulled down output again.

Iran’s output is typically sour (sulphur content ranges from 1 to 3 percent by weight) but most fields produce medium-density oil (API ranges from 32 to 40 degrees), which is very attractive to refiners.

In terms of the quality of its oil and the geology of its reservoirs, Iran’s oil competes directly with Iraq (both are located in the Zagros Basin) and more indirectly with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

If sanctions are lifted and the country secures access to foreign capital and the most modern technology and expertise, there is no reason to believe that it could not boost output back to 4.5 million bpd within two to three years and 5 million or more by the end of the decade.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Gallup: Only One in 10 People Possess the Talent to Manage*

One of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager, Gallup has found. Yet our analytics suggest they usually get it wrong: Companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.

And great managers are scarce because the talent required to be one is rare. Gallup’s research shows that about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage. Though many people have some of the necessary traits, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve the kind of excellence that significantly improves a company’s performance. When these 10% are put in manager roles, they naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers and sustain a culture of high productivity.

Defining Talent

Gallup’s latest report, State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, provides an in-depth look at what characterizes great managers and examines the crucial links between talent, engagement and vital business outcomes such as profitability and productivity. Gallup research shows that when people use their talents they can learn a role faster and adapt to variance in the role more quickly. These individuals not only produce more, but they also produce at a higher quality. Gallup also has found powerful links between top talent and crucial business outcomes, including higher productivity, sales, and profitability, lower turnover and fewer unscheduled absences.

Gallup defines talent as the natural capacity for excellence. People can learn skills, develop knowledge and gain experience, but they can’t acquire talent — it’s innate. When individuals have the right talent for their role, they’re energized by their work, rarely thinking of it as "work" at all. For others whose talent is not the best fit, the same work can feel draining. Talent is the stabilizer: It paves the way for consistently excellent performance.

Gallup has studied the behavior of high performers in every imaginable role, from elite military personnel and teachers to bank tellers and truck drivers. With every role studied, Gallup has found one unwavering truth: Successful people have similar talents. And managers are certainly no exception.

Gallup describes manager talent using five "talent dimensions":

· Motivator

· Assertiveness

· Accountability

· Relationships

· Decision-Making

Gallup determined that the five dimensions of manager talent are the greatest predictors of performance across different industries and types of manager roles (such as general manager, field manager and team manager). An individual who exhibits the five dimensions to a high degree has what Gallup calls "high" manager talent. An individual who has many of the talents necessary to be a successful manager but needs support has "functioning" talent. An individual who lacks talent across the five dimensions has "limited" talent and is much less likely to be a successful manager regardless of the support he or she receives.

Manager Talent and Performance

An organization’s level of talent directly affects its bottom line. Gallup’s research reveals strong correlations between talent and business outcomes such as profitability, sales and productivity. When Gallup examined manager talent, we discovered even more evidence linking this vital element to organizational performance:

· Managers with high talent are twice as likely to be engaged. In a study of 2,551 managers, Gallup found that 54% of managers with high talent are engaged at work — twice the percentage of managers with limited talent. This finding has significant implications for organizations that find themselves struggling to break out of mediocrity. Gallup has studied engagement since the 1990s and repeatedly discovered that companies with high levels of engagement outperform others on business outcomes. If organizations can find and hire more managers with high talent, they can likely raise their overall levels of engagement and performance.

· Managers with high talent are better brand ambassadors. Typically, organizations hold managers responsible for helping employees understand the brand promise and know how to deliver it. But if managers don’t know what sets their company apart, there is little chance their employees do. Organizations that hire managers based on talent are more likely to have a strong and effective army of brand ambassadors who understand and live the brand, and who can more successfully engage customers.

· Managers with high talent are more likely to focus on strengths. Managers with high talent think differently about their jobs and organizations, and they think differently about how to develop their employees. When Gallup asked managers to choose the option that best represented their management approach, 61% of managers with high talent say they take a strengths-based approach, while fewer percentages of managers with functioning or limited talent say the same. Managers with limited talent are more likely than those with high and functioning talent to say they focus equally on employees‘ strengths and weaknesses.

When employees know and use their strengths, they are more engaged, have higher performance and are less likely to leave their company. In a Gallup study of 1,003 randomly selected U.S. employees, nearly two-thirds (61%) of employees who felt they had a supervisor who focused on their strengths or positive characteristics were engaged — twice the average (30%) of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide. A manager’s approach to strengths has a profound impact on engagement, and that engagement has a profound impact on just about everything that matters to an organization’s long-term viability.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* The Water-Energy Nexus—An Earth Science Perspective*


Water availability and use are closely connected with energy development and use. Water cannot be delivered to homes, businesses, and industries without energy, and most forms of energy development require large amounts of water. The United States faces two significant and sometimes competing challenges: to provide sustainable supplies of freshwater for humans and ecosystems and to ensure adequate sources of energy for future generations. This report reviews the complex ways in which water and energy are interconnected and describes the earth science data collection and research that can help the Nation address these important challenges.

The earth sciences have been a cornerstone in developing our current understanding of the water-energy nexus. A full understanding of the nexus, however, is limited by uncertainty in our knowledge of fundamental issues, such as the quantity of freshwater that is available, the amount of water that is used in energy development, the effects that emerging energy development technologies have on water quality and quantity, and the amount of energy required to treat and deliver freshwater. Enhanced data collection and research can improve our understanding of these important issues and thereby lay the groundwork for informed resource management.

Relevant earth science issues analyzed and discussed herein include freshwater availability; water use; ecosystems health; assessment of saline water resources; assessment of fossil-fuel, uranium, and geothermal resources; subsurface injection of wastewater and carbon dioxide and related induced seismicity; climate change and its effect on water availability and energy production; byproducts and waste streams of energy development; emerging energy-development technologies; and energy for water treatment and delivery.


Executive Summary


Water in Energy Production and Use

Energy for Water Development, Distribution, and Use

Science for Addressing the Water-Energy Nexus


References Cited

Photograph Credits



Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015*

Middle Eastern politics are continuing to churn, blending promise and menace, dynamism and stagnation.

In this new edited volume by the CSIS Middle East Program, chapters analyze the region’s political, strategic, and economic realities in 2015, looking at both old and new challenges, how political actors are evolving, and how policymakers can think strategically about the region.

Chapter 1: Seeking Harbors in the Storm [9]

Jon B. Alterman

Chapter 2: The Future of Arab State Power [10]

Roger Owen

Chapter 3: The Great Powers in the New Middle East [11]

John McLaughlin

Chapter 4: The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam [12]

Paul Salem

Chapter 5: Assessing the Islamic State Threat [13]

Stephen D. Biddle

Chapter 6: Iran Inside and Out [14]

Farideh Farhi

Chapter 7: Maghreb Rising: Competition and Realignment [15]

Haim Malka

Chapter 8: Egypt in the Region [16]

Carolyn Barnett

An additional forthcoming chapter by Ghaith al-Omari will analyze the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process.


Middle East

*Daily Star: Syria talks in Moscow end with no progress*

MOSCOW: Talks between representatives of the Syrian government and some mainstream members of the opposition ended in Moscow with no sign of progress toward ending a 4-year-old conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people.

The second such meeting this year in Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was marred by friction among the opposition delegates and was boycotted by the Syrian National Coalition, a Western-backed group based in Istanbul.

Russian mediator Vitaly Naumkin, Qadri Jamil, a former Syrian government official now with the opposition, and head of the Syrian government delegation in Moscow, Bashar al-Jaafari, praised an accord they said both sides had endorsed.

They said it called for a political deal based on an agreement reached in Geneva in 2012, an end to outside meddling and a halt to support of terrorism in Syria.

“We had no illusions that these talks could provide solutions to all the problems. But we managed to agree on some points,” Jamil said. “We should see the glass as half-full, not half-empty.”

But Samir Aita, of the Syria Democratic Forum group, said not all opposition delegates supported the document and called for trust-building measures and humanitarian issues to be addressed, including release of political prisoners in Syria.

“Despite all the casualties in Syria, it seems Bashar Assad still does not understand what a political solution is. I think the Syrian regime missed a chance to move toward a political solution,” Aita said. “This document doesn’t help build hope, on the contrary, it destroys it.”

Although the delegations agreed on the need to fight terrorism and end foreign meddling, they disagreed on what exactly that meant.

Another point of contention was a drive by Kurds for self-rule and their refusal to disarm. Damascus says only the Syrian army should be allowed to bear arms.

The opposition said that should be the case in the future, after a political transition.

Participants also said they discussed returning to talks in Geneva, which collapsed last year, but no decisions were taken.

The first round of talks in Moscow in January also ended inconclusively and Naumkin said a pause was now likely. The Syrian National Coalition has said it would only take part in the talks if they lead to Assad’s departure.

Most of the factions fighting in Syria, including the most powerful single insurgent force, ISIS, have had nothing to do with any political discussions between the Syrian government and its political opponents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 11, 2015, on page 9.




*How Powerful Is Russia’s Military?*


After years of neglect after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow is undertaking a major overhaul of its armed forces that could have regional consequences. By Jonathan Master




moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Dear readers,

since the beginning of 2015 the Serbian government achieved a moderate economic progress and positive results in the control of the fiscal deficit, that in the midterm should lead to the country’s economic recovery. According to the preelection promises made by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia needs inevitably an increase of pensions and public sector salaries. But in terms of the fiscal deficit and lack of proof for sustainable economic recovery, the Serbian government initiated recently various economic measures.

Since today the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has received no official proposal from the Serbian government to discuss a possible salary and pension increase. According to IMF officials, the signs of recovery are better than expected, but the IMF still needs to carry out a serious analysis to see the nature of that data and whether the results are sustainable, before approving further measures. Knowing that, the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has proposed to the countries of the Western Balkan region to step up economic integration efforts, because it is in the best interest of all neighboring countries. Furthermore, the officials of the chambers of commerce of Western Balkan countries signed last week in Skopje an agreement on cooperation in the construction sector. The agreement aims to facilitate cooperation between building companies working together in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Union, North Africa and the Middle East, and creates an opportunity to bid for large-scale construction projects. With an intention to support the county’s economic recovery, Fiat car manufacturer located in Serbia, initiated a reciprocal trade arrangement, allowing Serbia to export Fiat cars to Russia. Due to the arrangement, Serbia is expecting to export in 2015 at least 5,000 in Serbia-made Fiat cars.

But probably the most difficult act in strenghtening the economic recovery lies for Serbia still ahead. Since the small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) are considered the be the backbone of every economy, Serbia should push forward the reform process to create fertile economic enviroment. The innovative sector of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is permanently hindered by access to equity capital particularly in their early stage of development – which is a challenge to be addressed in all countries of the Western Balkan region. The main objective in creating a sustainable growth is strengthening the links between equity financing institutions, SMEs and the public sector. Therefore Serbia should concentrate on integrating equity financing institutions in their ecosystem to reduce the perceived gap, increase competitiveness and create opportunities for fast growth of innovative SME’s.

Last but not least, the economic recovery depends to a great extent on country’s political stability towards the European integration. According to the recent press releases of the Serbian government, Serbia is fully dedicated to the European integration process and the EU membership is considered as the country’s most important foreign policy priority. Especially in this regard becomes the decision of the Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, to send Serbian soldiers to take part in the military parade in Moscow an strong political gesture towards Brussels and European partners. Considering the traditional Serbian-Russian friendship and striving of the Serbian government to establish good relations with both Brussels and Moscow, it will demand a high degree of diplomatic skill to convince the EU partners in their commitment to the membership in the European Union.

Kukan: Moscow parade attendance contrary to EU integration–moscow-parade-attendance-contrary-to-eu-integration.htm



*Thousand Russians joined ISIS to fight in Iraq,Syria*

MOSCOW — A senior Russian intelligence official on Friday warned of the potential influence of the Islamic State group inside Russia, primarily among the Muslims in the North Caucasus provinces.

Russian federal forces have fought two separatist wars in Chechnya, which has become more stable under the watch of Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Islamist insurgency, now largely dormant in Chechnya, has since spread to other North Caucasus provinces where bombings and killings of law enforcement officers have become almost a mundane occurrence.

General Sergei Smirnov, deputy chief of the KGB’s main successor agency, the Federal Security Service, was quoted by Russian wires as saying that the group is "beginning to infiltrate" terrorist organizations focused on operating in the North Caucasus. Several warlords of the banned Imarat of Caucasus have pledged allegiance to the ISIS, "a very dangerous trend," according to Smirnov.

An estimated 1,700 Russian nationals have joined the Islamic State group to fight in Syria and Iraq, Smirnov said, adding that the actual figure is likely to be even higher.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the North Caucasus said last month that at least five militants who came back after fighting in Syria were killed in security sweeps last year.

In a speech to senior officials of the Federal Security Service, Putin said last month that one of its top priorities should be tracking Russian citizens who have left to fight alongside ISIS.


Fierce clashes in Iraq as ISIS seizes villages near Ramadi*

BAGHDAD: Fierce clashes are underway in Iraq’s western Anbar province where residents say ISIS militants captured three villages near the provincial capital of Ramadi.

The residents say the ISIS launched an offensive at dawn Wednesday east of the city, seizing the villages Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, which had been under government control.

They say fighting is now taking place on the eastern edges of Ramadi about two kilometers (mile) away from local government building.

In Soufiya, the militants bombed a police station and took over a power plant. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their own safety, said airstrikes are trying to back up Iraqi troops.

ISIS was dealt a major blow this month, when Iraqi troops pushed it out of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

Wiki: Ramadi (arabisch ‏الرمادي‎ ar-Ramādī) ist eine Stadt im Irak, am Euphrat, ungefähr 110 Kilometer westlich von Bagdad, nordwestlich des Habbaniyya-Sees (Haur al-Habbāniyya), mit 274.539 Einwohnern (letzte Änderung 28. Februar 2012)[1]. Ramadi ist die Hauptstadt der Provinz al-Anbar.



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*




04-13-15 How Powerful Is Russia’s Military_ – Defense One.pdf

Massenbach Newsletter Serbia 16.pdf