Kazakhstan, the Mediator: According to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Kazakhstan will be the site of talks between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government, with Turkey and Russia apparently facilitating the meeting arrangements. Kazakhstan hosted members of the Syrian opposition for talks in 2015 and has hosted various other international mediation efforts, including 2013 talks between Iran and the P5+1. The planned Syria talks fit into Kazakhstan’s preferred self-image as a neutral, yet important, international player and Astana’s close relations with both Moscow and Ankara will be a boon.
Deep in Donkeyness: Buzurgmehr Yorov, a Tajik lawyer who was given a 23-year sentence earlier this year, may be given additional time for reading an 11th century poem in court back in October. Yorov was on trial for fraud at the time, though most outside observers believe the charges were politically motivated and linked to his work defending in court several of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) members who were on trial earlier this year (and were also convicted.) Yorov, according to an eyewitness who spoke to RFE/RL, read a poem by Omar Khayyam during the closed-door trial:
With these ignorant few who foolishly
Consider themselves the intelligent ones of the world
Should be donkeys, because they are so deep in donkeyness
That they call “blasphemous” whomever is not a donkey
The reading, it seems, has led to new charges: contempt of court and insulting a government official. Another closed trial began this week which could add up to four years to Yorov’s sentence.
What’s Next for Rustam? Rustam Azimov, described as Uzbekistan’s “powerful” finance minister and floated as a possible presidential successor to Islam Karimov, lost his spot heading the ministry this week. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has shuffled the cabinet and Azimov was replaced at the finance ministry, though he retains his deputy prime minister post. EurasiaNet has a great breakdown of this development and parses some of the rumors as to what’s next for Azimov.
Central Asia at 25: Do yourself a favor and spend an hour listening to Joanna Lillis, Bruce Pannier, and Johan Engvall discuss Central Asia after 25 years of independence and their thoughts on what the future holds. The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs arranged the talk earlier this week and it’s available on YouTube.