Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
May 12, 2020
Energy and Economy
Turkic Council Discusses Regional Collaboration in a Virtual Conference Meeting
The Azerbaijani Embassy in the United States hosted a virtual conference meeting with representatives of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States. The participants of the conference discussed the proper methods for preventing the spread of coronavirus in their countries, evacuation plans and scheduling repatriation flights, and improving cooperation to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the council’s member states.
Russia Hopes to Boost Traffic Through the North-South Transport Corridor
The Russian government is hoping to boost cargo traffic through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Officials project that an increase in traffic will provide new job opportunities for local residents and improve the efficiency of transiting cargo from Northern Europe to South Asia through the Southern Caucasus. Officials estimate that up to 3.5 million tons of cargo could be handled through the INSTC by 2025.
Azerbaijan Lifted Some Food Import Restrictions
Azerbaijan lifted restrictions on food imports from the Russian regions of Tatarstan, Chechnya, and Chuvashia, Bulgaria, Iran, Germany, Israel, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. The restrictions were imposed to prevent the infiltration of avian influenza, Newcastle disease, and other diseases that could be transmitted through the import of food.
SOCAR Began Drilling a New Well
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) began drilling a new well at the Umid gas field. The well is projected to increase gas production at the field from 123 million cubic feet to 177 million cubic feet per day.
Georgia Aims to Allow for Domestic and International Tourism by July 1
The Georgian government instituted a proposal to reinvigorate the tourism industry by the beginning of July. The proposal includes three stages, encompassing safely opening up border stations and airports that are compliant with public health recommendations, establishing safe tourism zones, and opening up for international tourism.
International Organizations Launch Program to Support Georgia’s Rural Regions
The European Union and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are providing a $2.8 million grant to support Georgia’s rural regions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants will be utilized to improve job security for rural populations, address climate change, and boost the economies of rural regions.
Mount Mtatsminda in Tbilisi Will Be Reforested
The Cartu Foundation is providing $5 million to launch a program that will oversee the restoration of 700 hectares of forest landscape on Mount Mtatsminda in Tbilisi. The project will also focus on adding recreational activities on the mountain to bring in additional revenue for the city.
The United States Provides Additional Funding to Kazakhstan
The United States is allocating an additional $500,000 to support Kazakhstan’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be used to support groups most vulnerable to the virus and combatting the spread of misinformation. The United States has provided Kazakhstan with over $3.79 million since the pandemic began.
IMF Allocates Additional Assistance to Kyrgyzstan
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved to allocate an additional $121.1 million to assist Kyrgyzstan in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country. The IMF has provided Kyrgyzstan with a total of $242 million so far to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Politics and Security
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Work Together After Dam Collapse, US Sends Aid
On May 10, the Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov visited the recently flooded areas in the Maktaaral district and the Zhanazholsky district. They are focusing on organizing evacuations, social support for the populations, and restoring the area. USAID has allocated $100,000 to purchase and distribute essential supplies to families affected by the disaster.
Kyrgyz Border Guard Service Claims to Prevent Renewed Ethnic Clashes
Kyrgyz border authorities say they have prevented a renewed outbreak of clashes near an Uzbek exclave inside Kyrgyz territory. Zamir Miizayev, the chief of the Border Guard Directorate in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region, said that on May 5 that tensions near the border have been rising due to a dispute around irrigation water usage.
Clashes Flare on Kyrgyz-Tajik Border
On May 8, clashes among residents of villages along the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan led to an exchange of gunfire between the countries’ armed forces. The Kyrgyz border service said fighting broke out among local residents in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region over the use of farming land.
Georgia Summons Ambassador to Ukraine Back to Tbilisi after Saakashvili Appointment
After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree appointing Mikheil Saakashvili as the head of the committee of the Ukrainian National Reforms Council, Georgia recalled its Ambassador to Ukraine, Teimuraz Sherashenidze, to Tbilisi. Zelensky said that his recall was the “wrong move.”
Tokayev Announces End of Emergency
Starting on May 11, Kazakhstan will begin to open shops and businesses. More than 1.1 million citizens have returned to work, but the government continues to encourage social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces as there is a threat of a second wave of the virus. Tokayev said that the government would “need to build a new economic structure as soon as possible” and considered the idea for a progressive income tax for “social justice”
OSCE Media Representative Commends Move to Decriminalize Libel in Kazakhstan
The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, has welcomed a May 6 decision by the lower house of Kazakhstan’s parliament to decriminalize defamation, calling it an “important step forward.”
Azerbaijan Adopts Law Regarding Chemical Weapons
On May 8, Azerbaijan adopted a law on prohibition of the development, production, distribution, and use chemical weapons, as well as on their destruction. The law does allow using chemicals for industrial, agricultural, medical, and other nonviolent purposes.
Azerbaijani State Security Service Launches Investigation into the Ministry of Culture
The State Security Service has launched an operation into the work of the Ministry of Culture on May 8. The investigation is linked to the cases of abuse of power and a number of illegal acts that undermine the state’s interests.
Uzbekistan and Bangladesh Discussed Improving Multifaced Cooperation
Uzbek and Bangladeshi officials met on an online video conference call to discuss improving cooperation between the two countries. The Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, Sardor Umurzakov, and the Bangladeshi Minister of Textiles, Minister of Commerce, and other officials discussed the possibility of increasing trade of agricultural and chemical goods. Officials also agreed to collaborate on strengthening the tourism sectors of both countries.
Ashgabat Joined the World Tourism City Foundation
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, became a member of the World Tourism City Foundation. The foundation was established in 2012 in Beijing and aims to support the tourism industries in its member cities.
Victory Day But No Parade
Kazakhstan celebrated Victory Day online instead of through a parade this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have canceled nationwide public celebrations. However, Turkmenistan held its very first Victory Day Parade.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, Eurasianet, RFE/RL, Tengrinews, Times of Central Asia, Trend News Agency, and UZ Daily.)