Headlines from the Caspian: September 18, 2023
Author: Caspian Policy Center
Sep 18, 2023
Energy and Economy
Uzbekistan Proposes to Create a Free Trade Zone in Central Asia
On September 14, at the 5th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of Central Asian states, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed to create a full-fledged free trade zone in Central Asia without exceptions or restrictions. “I propose to adopt a comprehensive regional program providing for the formation of sustainable trade and logical chains, the opening and expansion of the center for cross-border trade and cooperation, [and] the harmonization of legislation and the elimination of barriers to mutual trade.”
Source: Mena FN
Kazakhstan Invites Global Corporations to Its Oil and Gas Field
KazMunayGaz, Kazakhstan’s national oil and gas company, is searching for global partners to work on exploration of large oil and gas blocks in the Mangistau region of Kazakhstan. KazMunayGaz revealed that it prioritizes companies from the Forbes 2000 list and accepts applications until mid-November to develop the Bolashak block that extends over 5800 square kilometers. The selected partner is expected to fulfill several requirements, including required funding for the venture and a minimum deposit of $1 million to KazMunayGaz. In recent years, Kazakhstan saw a decrease in international interest in its exploration projects. KazMunayGaz might turn to Russia if the exploration projects do not receive other international investments.
Kazakhstan Attends China-Europe Railway Express Cooperation Forum
On September 15, Kazakh First Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar attended the China-Europe Railway Express Cooperation Forum in Lianyungang city. Roman Sklyar delivered President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s address during the opening ceremony, and Skylar also visited the Kazakh-Chinese logistics terminal in the port of Lianyungang.
Source: Astana Times
Azerbaijan Seeks to Expand Cargo Movement on East-West Routes
Speaking at the meeting of Central Asian states held last week in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev outlined ambitions to grow Azerbaijan’s capacity to transport goods from Central Asia to European and Turkish markets. President Aliyev referenced ongoing improvements to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the Baku Trade Port, predicting that the capacity of both will increase by millions of tons. In recent years, sped up by developments since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Central Asian countries have increasingly looked towards Azerbaijan as a transport hub to the Mediterranean and Europe.
Source: Caspian News
The United States Hosts Uzbekistan-U.S. Business Forum
In New York, the United States invited Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Jamshid Khojayev; Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade Laziz Kudratov; Chairman of the Board of the American - Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce Carolyn Lamm; and President and Chairwoman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Reta Jo Lewis to attend the Uzbekistan-United States Business Forum before the United Nations General Assembly. Following the forum, 12 documents were signed in energy, mechanical engineering, ICT, agriculture, financial-technical and scientific-technical cooperation, and production of medical and pharmaceutical products.
Turkmenistan Proposes an Energy Dialog of Central Asian Countries
During the 5th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedov emphasized that Turkmenistan is ready to supply its natural gas and electricity to the countries of Central Asia: “In this regard, it seems appropriate to create a new form of five-sided interaction – the Energy Dialogue of Central Asian countries,” Berdimuhamedov stated.
Source: Caspian Barrel
Security and Politics
For the First Time Biden will Meet with C5+1 in New York
On September 19, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. President Joseph Biden will meet with the five heads of state from the C5+1 group. This includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This is the first time that a U.S. President will meet with this group, marking a significant shift in U.S. foreign policy.
Source: Caspian Policy Center
Tajikistan Summons Kyrgyz Ambassador Due to Border Statements
On September 16, Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Kyrgyz Ambassador following statements by the chair of Kyrgyzstan's State Committee of National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev. The previous day, Tashiev had responded to journalists by stating that Kyrgyzstan had uncovered documents proving Tajikistan had taken over Kyrgyz territory and stated, "If the neighboring country does not withdraw its territorial demands, we will also push such demands forward. We have enough capacities and opportunities to do so." Much of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border remains disputed; in spring of 2021, fighting between Kyrgyz and Tajik border forces resulted in over 50 killed and 150 injured.
Humanitarian Aid is Delivered into Karabakh
On September 18, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that it shipped flour and medical supplies to the Armenian-populated region within Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region from the Agdam-Khankandi and Lachin-Khankandi roads of Azerbaijan. Flour was shipped in via the road from Armenia and medical and hygiene supplies came in from Azerbaijan, the ICRC said.
Source: abc News
Erdoğan and Garibashvili Talk Security in New York
On the sidelines of the UNGA, President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili met on September 17 in New York. They discussed regional security and strategic partnership, as well as how the two countries can deepen their cooperation. Garibashvili and Erdoğan discussed the security outlook for the Black Sea region, and how peaceful negotiations are the best route for progress.
Azerbaijan’s Opposition Parties Granted Registration Status
The primary opposition groups in Azerbaijan, including the Popular Front, Musavat, and Republican Alternative, have all been granted registration status under a new requirement established by Baku. In January, President Ilham Aliev signed a new law into effect, requiring that parties must submit lists of at least 5,000 members that include personal details in order to gain registration. Those un-registered political parties would have their activities curtailed by the state.
Yerevan Elections Show Slipping Support for Governing Party
On Sunday 17, Armenians in Yerevan voted in elections for the Council of Elders, the body empowered to choose the mayor of the capital city. The governing Civil Contract party will manage to hold onto the mayoral office, but only due to a last-minute partnership with a smaller party. Civil Contract garnered only 33% of the vote, a steep decline from the 2018 Yerevan elections. The governing party has grown increasingly unpopular in Armenia, in part due to the ongoing crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sources: abc News, Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Caspian Barrel, Caspian Policy Center, EurasiaNet, Mena FN, RFE/RL, Upstream