Headlines from the Caspian: January 30, 2024
Author: Caspian Policy Center
Jan 29, 2024
Energy and Economy
China’s BYD Launches Production at Uzbekistan Plant
The world’s top seller of electric vehicles, BYD, a multinational Chinese electric car manufacturing company, started production at its plant in Uzbekistan on January 25. The first vehicle produced at the facility was the Song Plus DM-i, a compact electric SUV. BYD signed a memorandum of understanding with Uzavtosanoat JSC (UzAuto), the largest car manufacturing company in Central Asia, in February 2022. The successful startup of this production facility is expected to deepen cooperation between China's private sector and Uzbekistan's private sector.
Source: CNEV Post
BP Commits to its Largest Global Investment in Azerbaijan
BP has advanced a plan to invest another $370 million in the first phase of long-term exploration aimed at identifying additional resources and extending the life of Azerbaijan’s Azeri-Chiraq Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) field. The five-year program will be implemented by Caspian Geo LLC, which has started the acquisition of a new 4D high-definition ocean-bottom node seismic program over the ACG field in the Caspian Sea. According to the operator, BP, this represents the company’s largest seismic acquisition commitment globally in terms of area size, cost, and duration.
Source: Offshore Magazine
Türkiye and Iran Sign Economic Cooperation Deals and Discuss Opening of New Border Crossings
Following President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Ankara, Türkiye and Iran signed ten cooperation agreements to increase bilateral economic and trade relations. The agreements were signed after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with his Iranian counterpart for the 8th Türkiye-Iran High-Level Cooperation Council on January 24. Their discussions and the signed agreements centered around increasing collaboration in the energy, transportation, culture, media, and trade sectors. President Erdoğan also said that the two countries are due for further discussions to explore the potential to open new border gates.
European and International Financial Institutions to Invest $10 Billion in the Middle Corridor
On January 29, the Investors Forum for the European Union – Central Asia Transport Connectivity kicked off in Brussels. During the forum, the European Commission’s Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis announced that European and international financial institutions have pledged to invest $10 billion to develop sustainable transport connectivity in Central Asia. The European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and the Development Bank of Kazakhstan to invest 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in developing transport connectivity between Europe and Central Asia. Similarly, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) intends to sign a MoU with Kazakhstan to invest $1.6 billion in ongoing connectivity projects. The pledged investment is expected to be allocated towards the development of the Middle Corridor, also known as the Trans-Caspian International Route (TITR).
Kazakhstani Government to Create Caspian Sea Research Institute
On January 26, the government of Kazakhstan announced that it has approved a resolution developed by the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation to establish a Caspian Sea Research Institute. In collaboration with regional neighbors, this new entity will be created to address and find solutions to dire environmental conditions, including rapidly declining water levels and mass marine life mortalities.
Source: Astana Times
Security and Politics
Garibashvili Resigns as PM of Georgia
At a press conference on January 29, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili resigned. He did not give an immediate reason for his resignation and stated he would become the chair of the Georgian Dream party. Shortly before the announcement, a pro-government news station in Georgia predicted that the former speaker of the parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze, would replace him. It is unclear what precipitated Garibashvili’s resignation, but the announcement came among rumors of a broader cabinet reshuffle and a month after the return of the party’s founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, to formal politics.
Armenia and Georgia Sign “Strategic Partnership”
On January 26, during the visit to Tbilisi of an Armenian delegation headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Georgia and Armenia signed a “strategic partnership” memorandum. The leaders did not report the specific components of the memorandum, but speaking at a press conference afterward, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated, "Historically, we are very strong allies; not only neighbors, but friends. We have a good partnership in all areas. De facto, we were strategic friends and partners. Today, this has been [made official].”
Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Meet in Bishkek
On January 28, Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Murat Nurtleu began an official two-day visit to Kyrgyzstan. On January 29, Nurtleu held talks with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Jeenbek Kulubaev, in Bishkek. During the meeting, the two ministers discussed deepening economic, political, and cultural ties between the two countries and the prospects for regular engagement between leaders. Specifically, the discussion focused on the upcoming visit of Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov to Kazakhstan. A 2024-2026 “Cooperation Program” was signed at the culmination of the talks.
Pashinyan Proposes Non-Aggression Pact with Azerbaijan
While speaking at a January 28 Army Day celebration in Yerevan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed that he had suggested forming a non-aggression pact with Azerbaijan upon the completion of a peace treaty with their neighbor. According to Pashinyan, Armenia had proposed “border demilitarization and a mutual control mechanism for weapons, as well as the signing of a nonaggression agreement.” Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have fought two wars and numerous small-scale border conflicts in recent years and are now engaged in talks aimed at long-term peace and normalization between the two countries.
Sources: Astana Times, Caspian News, CNEV Post, European Commission, France 24, JAM News, OC Media, Offshore Magazine, Reuters, RFE/RL