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caspian weekly roundup

Caspian Weekly Roundup

Author:Caspian Policy Center

Oct 23, 2018

Energy

Oil Rises on Looming Iran Sanctions, but U.S.-China Trade War Caps Gains Oil prices rose on Monday as markets were expected to tighten once U.S. sanctions against Iran’s crude exports are implemented next month, Reuters reports. Front-month Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were at $79.96 a barrel at 0414 GMT, 18 cents above their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $69.32 a barrel, 20 cents above their last settlement. The U.S. sanctions on the oil sector in Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), are set to start on Nov. 4. The United States under President Donald Trump is trying to reduce Iranian oil export to zero to force the country to renegotiate an agreement on its nuclear program. Azerbaijan and Turkey Launch Star Refinery Project STAR refinery is an important regional energy security cooperation project, Deputy Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Hikmat Hajiyev said in an interview with TRT World. “The foundation of this project was laid back in 2011 by presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey Ilham Aliyev and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It once again shows the confidence of Azerbaijan in Turkish economy and also demonstrates strategic partnership of the two countries,” noted Hajiyev ahead of the opening ceremony of the refinery. He pointed out that this project provides a bright future for both of these countries and is also strategically important for further development of energy cooperation between the two countries. “It is an important regional energy security cooperation project,” said Hajiyev, adding that it creates more than 30,000 jobs in Turkey and will serve to the benefits of the two countries. He noted that this project has a capacity of processing annually ten million tons of oil and it will tremendously contribute to the energy security of Turkey. Russia Offers Exxon New Projects as U.S. Sanctions Loom Russia has begun discussions with Exxon Mobil Corp. on possible new oil and gas projects, potentially creating a dilemma as the U.S. government mulls more sanctions against the country. The talks could lead to increased cooperation between the U.S. energy giant and state-run Rosneft PJSC, Russian government officials said, asking not to be named discussing confidential information. Several options have been prepared for Exxon, including in natural gas, refining and chemicals, none of which are currently subject to American sanctions, two officials said. Exxon abandoned most of its joint ventures with Rosneft earlier this year amid a previous round of sanctions. That was a blow for both companies: their agreements signed five years ago to drill millions of acres in the Arctic and Black Sea should have been the crowning achievement of Rex Tillerson’s 11-year tenure at the helm of Exxon. It would also have cemented the dominance of Rosneft boss Igor Sechin over Russia’s oil industry. PM: 90% of Vehicles in Georgia to be Replaced by Electric Cars The Georgian Prime Minister says that in the next 10 years, 90% of vehicles in the country will be replaced by electric cars, GeorgiaToday reports. The PM made the statement at the presentation of the Green Policy – Eco-Friendly Transport on October 22. Bakhtadze claims Georgia will be the first country to replace the vehicle fleet with electric cars in such a short period of time. “This is a very ambitious plan, but this plan will bring a great benefit to Georgia,” the PM said. He added that the green economy is a milestone of the reforms and that a plant for the production of electric vehicles is planned to be launched in Georgia. Azerbaijan Expects “Energy Boost” Due to New Renewable Sources Azerbaijan enjoys a vast potential of renewable energy sources and strives to make use of it. In 2018, electricity produced from renewable sources will exceed 10 percent of the total energy generated in Azerbaijan, Deputy Chairman of The State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources of the Republic of Azerbaijan Jamil Malikov told Trend. It is forecasted that this figure will reach 12 percent by 2020, and by 2030 it should reach 20 percent, he said. "This requires investment, appropriate regulatory framework and an optimal tariff policy. In 2017, the volume of electricity produced from renewable sources amounted to 9.8 percent of the total energy production. In alternative energy, the energy losses are very small, since production facilities are located in close proximity to the end user," Malikov noted. Malikov stressed that, in the production of energy from renewable sources, high-voltage lines are not used and when high-voltage lines are used, it is necessary to transform the voltage from high to low. Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia Ready to Increase Co-Op in Oil & Gas Sector Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met Minister of Trade and Investment of Saudi Arabia Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi, the Turkmen Altyn Asyr TV channel reported. During the meeting, it was noted that Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia, being recognized world energy powers, are ready to increase cooperation in the oil and gas sector. In recent years, Turkmenistan has been actively working on the creation of a multi-optional system for bringing its energy resources to world markets by consistently implementing important energy projects, the Turkmenistan State News Agency reported. Construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) transnational gas pipeline is one of such examples, the report said.

Security

Russia, Uzbekistan to Sign Pension Agreement for Migrants A pension agreement between Russia and Uzbekistan may be signed in the future. As part of the state visit, a memorandum on cooperation in the social and labor sphere was signed between the Russian Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations of Uzbekistan. The memorandum on cooperation in the social and labor sphere, which was signed by Russian Minister of Labor and Social Protection Maxim Topilin and Uzbek Minister of Employment and Labor Relations Sherzod Kudbiyev, implies cooperation in several areas. These areas include analysis and monitoring of the labor market, promoting employment and organized recruitment of foreign labor, protection of labor rights and more. Joint advisory bodies will be created, reciprocal visits of employees in the field of employment will be organized for exchange of experience. Maxim Topilin stressed, the citizens of Uzbekistan, who legally worked in the Russian Federation and made the appropriate deductions, could qualify for certain payments. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan Sign 2019-2020 Cooperation Agreement Turkmenistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashid Meredov traveled to Baku on Thursday to meet with Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov. The two ministers discussed their history of cooperation, the significance of the new Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Minister Meredov also expressed gratitude to Azerbaijan for co-sponsoring its initiatives in the UN and other international bodies. Miniser Mammadyarov then thanked Turkemnistan for supporting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the end of the meeting, the two ministers signed a cooperation program for 2019-2020. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan May Launch Joint Satellite Russia has invited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to cooperate in a joint launch of a satellite. Roscosmos representatives presented a project of trilateral cooperation at the Uzbek-Russian Interregional Forum in Tashkent on Friday. This project would potentially help Uzbekistan establish a system of space communications and assist Kazakhstan in replacing theirs. Protests Grow in Ingushetia Protests in Russia’s Ingushetia region have entered their third week, as locals demonstrate against a new border land deal. The unpopular deal signs part of Ingushetia’s territory over Chechnya and has enraged the area’s inhabitants. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, whom they accuse of surrendering territory to Chechnya and falsifying a local legislative assembly vote approving the decision. Bolton Travels to Russia and Caucasus National Security Advisor John Bolton traveled to Russia on Sunday, beginning a trip that will also take him to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Bolton met with top Russia officials on Monday and will meet with Vladimir Putin before leaving on the next part of his trip. U.S.-Russia relations have faced numerous challenges in recent years, but this trip will likely focus on President Trump’s recent announcement that he is withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. President Trump has accused Russia of violating the terms, which ban the possession, production, or test-flying of ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles). Russia has denied the accusations. Russia Is Ready To Discuss Extension of the New START Treaty with the US Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that Russia is prepared to have a dialogue with the United States to extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the new START Treaty). Sergey Lavrov added that Russia has “expressed more than once” its readiness to extend the effect of the Treaty, which expires in 2021. He also mentioned that Russian government has formulated its approach for the INF Treaty as well. "We bear responsibility for global stability. We expect that the United States won’t give up its share of responsibility either," Lavrov added. While waiting for the U.S. response on the issue, Russian top diplomat promises that Russia is working on providing the answers to questions that the U.S. addressed to it. On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Washington intended to withdraw from the INF Treaty because Russia was reportedly violating the terms of the agreement. However, a high-placed U.S. official said on Sunday that the U.S. was considering the option of continuing the New START Treaty. The New START Treaty came to force on February 5, 2011. The document requires that seven years after its entry into effect each side should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers. Neither of the involved parties shall have more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and shall have a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. Putin Visits Tashkent Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Turkmenistan last week to hold talks with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The two also attended the Russian-Uzbek Forum on Interregional Cooperation and discussed Rosatom’s construction of Uzbekistan’s first nuclear power plant. Russian, Turkish and Iranian Diplomats Will Meet in Moscow on October 23rd Diplomats from the three Syrian ceasefire guarantor nations – Iran, Russia and Turkey will meet in Moscow on October 23rd, Russian Foreign Ministry reported. Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, informed the reporters that the Turkish side would be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and that the Iranian side would be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Ansari. No further details on what the meeting will cover have been released yet.

Economy

Number of Trans-Caspian Int’l Transport Route Participants Grows Logistics companies of Kazakhstan and Romania have joined the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), Javid Gurbanov, chairman of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC, told reporters in Baku Oct. 22. He was speaking on the sidelines of a regular meeting of the TITR International Association. He said that Russian companies are also showing interest in the route. He noted that for the efficient operation of transport corridors, a great number of participants of these corridors, transparency and uniform tariffs are necessary. Gurbanov added that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, which is important for the work of the TITR, has already been commissioned. “Today [at the meeting] we discussed new tariffs and considered issues of price adjustment to market conditions,” Gurbanov said. “In the future, this will be useful for us.” World Bank to Help Improve Emergency Medical Services in Uzbekistan Thanks to the Emergency Medical Services Project, better trained and managed medical personnel in hospitals across Uzbekistan will be appropriately equipped to help millions of people impacted by accidents and medical emergencies, the World Bank said in its press release. The project was approved in April 2018 by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors and will be financed by a $100 million credit. The project launch workshop took place on Oct. 22 at a seminar in the Samarkand regional branch of the Republican Scientific Center for Emergency Medical Aid involving representatives of the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan and the World Bank. Tashkent Stock Exchange’s Trade Volume Drops Oct. 15-19 trade-week on Uzbekistan’s Toshkent Republican Stock Exchange ended by 153 purchase and sale transactions with shares of 24 joint-stock companies, the press service of the exchange said. As a result, 10.4 million shares worth 2.3 billion soums (over $280,000) were sold against 11.9 billion soums last week. Securities of commercial banks and construction enterprises were the most actively traded (the share in the weekly turnover was 69.8 percent and 12.1 percent respectively). The average volume of transactions amounted to 15.3 million soums, and the average daily transaction size was 0.47 billion soums. The average selling price per share was 225.9 soums, while the average daily number of securities sold was 2.0 million. Turkmenistan Welcomes Investment Activity of Japan Turkmenistan, which has embarked on the industrialization and diversification of the economy, welcomes the investment activity of Japanese partners, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said at a government meeting, the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper wrote.A meeting of the Turkmen-Japanese Committee for Economic Cooperation and a joint business forum will be held in Tokyo, the message says. This issue was discussed at the government meeting. Noting the importance of expanding partnership with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), with whose participation major investment projects in the oil and gas and chemical industries and other industries were implemented in the country, the head of state addressed a series of specific instructions to the leadership of the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan (Turkmenvnesheconombank). Cargo Transshipment from Aktau Port to Azerbaijan Increases Cargo transshipment from the Aktau port (Kazakhstan) to Azerbaijan increased by 32 percent in the first eight months of 2018, compared to the same period last year, the Ministry for Investments and Development of Kazakhstan told Trend. "For the eight months of 2018, about 1.3 million tons of cargo were transshipped through the ports of Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan, including 202,000 tons from the Aktau port or 32 percent compared to the same period in 2017 (624,000 tons); 1.141 million tons from the Kuryk port, which is 66 percent more than in the same period last year (756,000 tons)," the ministry said. The ministry noted that in 2017, 740,500 tons of cargo (266,800 tons of oil, 19,700 tons of dry cargo, 454,000 tons of ferry cargo) were transshipped from the Aktau port to the Baku port, which ensured an increase of 76,900 tons compared to 2016 (663,600 tons). New Business City in Tashkent Begins Searching for Investors Olmazor Business City in the Olmazor district of Tashkent has begun searching for investors, the directorate of the business city told Trend on Oct. 22. The representative of the directorate said that a special competition has been announced, according to which both local and foreign entrepreneurs may get acquainted with the project of the business city to make an investment decision. According to the information, the construction of the business city is planned to be completed by 2021. The directorate rep reminded that work on the creation of the Olmazor Business City in began in accordance with the Aug. 2, 2018 decree of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev “On measures to create modern business centers in the country.” A concept plan has already been developed, and the design work of Olmazor Business City is underway. Azerbaijan Ready to Grant $100M Loan to Pakistan Azerbaijan is ready to allocate Pakistan a loan of $100 million to address the country's energy issues, Pakistani media reported. The offer was made by Ambassador of Azerbaijan Ali Alizade during a meeting with Pakistan's Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain in Islamabad. Ali Alizade also showed Azerbaijan’s keen interest to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan in the fields of media and information. Welcoming the Azerbaijani ambassador’s offer and interest to resolve Pakistan’s energy issues, Hussain said that Pakistan would also like to enhance cooperation with Azerbaijan in tourism, media and information sectors. (Sources: AzerNews, Bloomberg, Caspian News, Daily Sabah, Kazinform, Tass, Trend.Az, and Washington Times.)

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