Headlines from the Caspian: October 31, 2023
Author: Caspian Policy Center
Oct 31, 2023
Energy and Economy
Israel Awards SOCAR and BP Natural Gas Exploration Contract
On October 30, Israel’s Energy Ministry announced it awarded 12 licenses to six companies to explore for natural gas on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Azerbaijan’s national oil company, SOCAR, along with BP and Israel’s NewMed, have been awarded licenses to explore north of the Leviathan for the next three years, with the option to extend the contracts to seven years. The ministry said each license holder has the option to first study the area, and then it may decide if it wants to continue development.
Georgia Hosts Fourth Silk Road Forum
October 26 – 27, Georgia hosted the Silk Road Forum in Tbilisi, Georgia. The forum focused on increasing East-West connectivity across the “Middle Corridor” trade route. The forum hosted over 2,000 guests from over 60 countries, including Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Over the course of the forum, Prime Minister Pashinyan delivered remarks confirming Armenia’s desire for greater regional connectivity and normalization of relations between Armenia and its neighbors. Prime Minister Pashinyan also sat for an informal meeting with Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ali Asadov.
Chevron Hit by Price Rise at its Tengiz Project in Kazakhstan
Chevron’s stock fell by more than 6% following an announcement that the company's $45 million Tengiz expansion project in Kazakhstan will rise in price by an estimated 4% due to operational delays. Chevron will have to pay an additional $1 billion for its share of the capital spending, meaning the operation’s free cash flow will drop by 20% by 2025.
Source: Upstream Online
EU’s Global Gateway Provides Funds for Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia
The European Union announced on October 25 a series of foreign investments as part of its Global Gateway program. A number of these investments will go towards countries of the Caspian region. Tajikistan will receive €30 million for vocational training and education. Georgia will receive €16 million to improve the country’s East-West highway, while Armenia was awarded a €10 million investment in education. The Global Gateway is often interpreted by analysts as a competitor to China’s Belt and Road initiative that held its third international forum in Beijing on October 17.
Azerbaijan Looks to Cooperate with Iran on Land Corridor
On October 25, an Azerbaijani official announced that Azerbaijan is not interested in securing a land corridor through Armenia to the Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan. Instead, Azerbaijan will cooperate with Iran on the construction of a land corridor to Nakhchivan and Türkiye. "After the two sides failed to agree on its opening, the project has lost its attractiveness for us — we can do this with Iran instead," said Hikmet Hajiyev, a top foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijani President Aliyev.
Turkmenistan and Türkiye to Expand Cooperation in Energy Sector
On October 26, the Turkmen-Turkish Business Forum was held in Ankara. The highlight among various cooperation projects was the energy partnership between Turkmenistan and Türkiye. During the Forum, Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov announced the joint construction project of a new power plant. With a total capacity of 1574 MW, the new power plant will mainly export electricity to Türkiye.
Kazakhstan Halts Investment Cooperation with ArcelorMittal after Mine Fire Kills 45 People
On October 28, at least 45 people died during a mine fire at the Kostenko mine. At the time of the incident, 252 people were inside the mine, most of whom were immediately evacuated. Following this incident, the government reached a preliminary agreement with the shareholders of ArcelorMittal Temirtau, and Kazakhstan is set to transfer the individuals’ and corporate shares of ownership to the government.
Source: Astana Times
Security and Politics
Türkiye Pushes Turkmenistan to Join the Organization of Turkic States
On October 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov in Ankara, where 13 agreements were signed in the spheres of trade, education, and media. The two parties discussed the delivery of Turkmen gas and electricity to Türkiye via the Caspian Sea. In addition to their talks on trade, Erdoğan added, "I would like to emphasize that we want to see Turkmenistan, which has become an observer member of the Organization of Turkic States, as a full member in our family assembly."
Source: Daily Sabah
EAEU held Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Bishkek
On October 26, the Prime Ministers of the five Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member states, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia, convened in the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council. The Prime Ministers expressed their confidence in the development potential of the EAEU as a reliable regional alliance. The GDP of the EAEU reached $2.7 trillion, while the trade between member states amounted to $85 billion. The Prime Ministers outlined the areas for further economic integration with a special focus on the development of a common market for medicines.
Source: Astana Times
Foreign Representatives Bill Passes First Reading in Kyrgyzstan
On October 25, the Kyrgyz parliament passed a first reading of a bill that would impose restrictions on NGOs receiving funding from abroad. Parliament Speaker Nurlan Shakiyev openly expressed support for the bill. In its first reading, 52 deputies offered support for the bill and seven opposed. The bill will require a total of three readings in order to be passed into law.
Pashinyan Announces Agreement on “Main Principles” of Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Deal
On October 30, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed to the “main principles” of a peace treaty between the two countries. He went on to state that if both parties remain committed to those principles, then peace and normalization will “become realistic.” These “main principles” include mutual recognition of territorial integrity, the delineation of a border based on the administrative borders prior to the collapse of the USSR, and the opening of “regional connections,” a reference to trade and infrastructure.
Azerbaijan Discusses Military Cooperation with China
On October 29, Azerbaijan's Minister of Defense, Colonel General Zakir Hasanov, attended the opening ceremony of the 10th Beijing Xiangshan Forum in Beijing. During the reception, he met with Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China, Colonel General Zhang Youxia, and the two parties discussed the potential for security and military cooperation between China and Azerbaijan.
Sources: Armenpress, Astana Times, Azertag, Daily Sabah, Reuters, RFE/RL, Mena FN, Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, Upstream Online