Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Mar 12, 2020
Energy and Economy
Uzbekistan Abolishes State Cotton Quotas
Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree that terminates the Soviet-era quotas on the cultivation and sale of cotton. Cotton is a major source of revenue for the country, but mandatory production quotas result in human rights and labor abuses. The abolition of the quotas will allow farmers to plant cash crops and will ease the strain of the hard-laboring task of picking the cotton.
Construction of ICTEC Kicks Off
March 10, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have begun the construction of Central Asia International Center for Trade and Economic Cooperation (ICTEC). The center, intended to promote interregional trade cooperation, will be situated on the shared border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The ICTEC will foster wholesale and retail trade as well as transport and logistics. The construction of the ICTEC is projected to strengthen the economic stability of Central Asian nations.
Kazakhstan to Reevaluate Government Spending After Sharp Decline in Oil Prices
Saudi Arabia announced its biggest cut in oil price in two decades after OPEC and its allies failed to agree on limits to oil production, resulting in the Kazakhstani tenge losing 4.5 percent of its value to trade. Kazakhstani President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev assured that government spending would be cut to maintain the stability of the country’s financial and currency markets.
U.S. Department of State Discusses Opportunities with Investment in Azerbaijan
Nathan Reich, an Energy Diplomacy Officer to the Bureau of Energy Resources of the U.S. Department of State stated that Azerbaijan could increase incoming capital and expertise levels by creating more incentive for U.S. investment. Specifically, he emphasized the opportunity for investment in the oil and gas sector, citing growth in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Southern Gas Corridor. Reich added that the U.S. is interested in seeing increased involvement of Turkmenistan in this sector. He also stressed that Azerbaijan should pursue U.S. investment in wind and solar power in the Azerbaijani energy sector.
Turkmengaz Signs Deal with Moroccan and Emirati Companies
Turkmengaz agreed to sell one million tons of sulfur to OCP S.A (Morocco) and Sun International FZE (United Arab Emirates). Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov said multiple documents were signed during his visit to Morocco March 4-5 with the goal of increasing bilateral relations.
Azerbaijan Amends Process for Exporting Non-Oil Products
Changes were introduced to simplify the process of exporting non-oil products. The amendments include the cancellation of requiring customs authority notes from the country of destination to be attached to the application of payment of the export production. The amendments are expected to accelerate export flows from the country.
Fears of COVID-19 Spread Lead to Stockpiling in Tajikistan
Although there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Tajikistan, panic in the country has resulted in the closure of mosques and frantic buying in Tajikistan’s grocery stores. Officials are urging the public to remain calm but staple items remain sold out or in short supply. Shoppers have also reported that the price of these sparse goods have skyrocketed, and riot police have been stationed at stores to prevent individuals from purchasing more than two sacks of flour at a time.
Politics and Security
Uzbekistan to Become an Observer State in the EAEU
Uzbekistan announced that it will become an observer state in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) before it decides whether to join or not. The EAEU is designed to facilitate free trade in the region. The current members include Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia as well as Moldova as an observer state.
Georgian Dream Party and Opposition Agree on Electoral System
The ruling Georgian Dream party and the united opposition came to an agreement on holding the next parliamentary elections in October of this year. They agreed that 120 seats will be elected via proportional vote and the remaining 30 via the majoritarian system. The parties also agreed upon a one-percent threshold and that no party which garners less than 40 percent of the vote should be able to form its own majority in the next parliament.
Peace Talks with Syria in Nur-Sultan to be Postponed
Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi announced that the peace talks that were scheduled to take place in Nur-Sultan this month are likely to be canceled due to fears of COVID-19. The talks were meant to discuss plans for the future of Syria. As of yet, a rescheduled date has not been set.
First President of Kazakhstan and President of Russia Meet in Moscow
On March 10, the First President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, met with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to discuss questions of bilateral relations between two countries and regional economic cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. The parties also discussed the potential for deepening cooperation in the field of science and education, as well as addressed current trends in the global economy and the hydrocarbon market.
President of Turkmenistan to Visits Azerbaijan
The President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov paid an official visit to Baku to meet with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, on March 11. The parties are expected to discuss key aspects of Turkmen-Azerbaijani relations as well as relevant issues of regional economic cooperation. Special attention will be given to the questions of intensification and diversification of bilateral trade and economic ties.
First Session of Azerbaijani Parliament’s Sixth Convocation Convenes
Following parliamentary elections, this convocation officially announced the new members of the Parliament. The new members were then congratulated and commenced their new duties. President Ilham Aliyev attended this convocation, adding to the significance of this event.
Former Kyrgyz President’s Trial Date Announced
Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev trial has been set to March 23 after seven days of preliminary hearings. He and his 13 co-defendants will be tried over deadly clashes with security forces at Atambayev’s compound last summer. Atambayev’s lawyer said that the trial will not be made public.
Russia’s Change to Constitution Could Mean Another Term for Putin
Russia’s State Duma has approved a change to the Constitution that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for another term in 2024. Previously, Putin was constitutionally obligated to step down as President of the Russian Federation.
EU May Direct More Funding to Eastern Partnership Countries
In a leaked draft of an EU document, RFE/RE reports that the EU may give more financial assistance for alternative energy to its Eastern Partnership countries, which include Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, in an effort to reduce their energy dependence on Russia. The Eastern Partnership allows these countries to further EU integration without offering these countries EU membership.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, AKI Press, Armen Press, Azernews, Eurasianet, Haqqin.az, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency, Zona.kz.)