Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Jan 20, 2021
Energy and Economy
Georgia Joins U.S. Clean Network Program After Signing Memorandum on 5G Connection
Georgia and the United States signed a memorandum on strengthening the 5G connection and security in the South Caucasus country. Georgia’s signing of the memorandum resulted in its accession to the U.S. Clean Network Program, designed to safeguard national assets, including personal user information.
Georgia’s Enguri Hydropower Plant Closes for Three Months
Georgia is slated to close its Enguri Hydropower Plant, the largest electricity producer in the country, on January 20. Georgia is expected to lose more than 400 million kWh of electricity during the shutdown period. In addition, the plant is responsible for generating electricity for its semi-autonomous region of Abkhazia. In lieu of energy generation from Georgia, Abkhazia will import its electricity from Russia.
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan Launch a New Railway Section to Improve Transportation Corridor
During a January 14 videoconference between Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, the two sides announced the launch of a new section of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway. The new project is aimed at securing Afghanistan access to Central Asian markets and boosting its economy.
Kazakhstan to Build a New Plant on the Production of Advanced Irrigation Systems
During a January 12 video conference among the Kazakhstani Ministry of Agriculture, Valley Irrigation, a U.S.-based leader in irrigation systems, and Kusto Group, a Kazakhstan-based holding company in diversified investments, the parties signed an agreement on the construction of a new plant that will produce at least 1,000 pivot irrigation machines annually in Kazakhstan. The new irrigation infrastructure will save 50-70 percent of water in fields where it is deployed and will considerably increase agricultural productivity.
Uzbekistan to Secure 100,000 Doses of Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine
According to the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, the country will receive 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as part of the COVAX platform. The ministry is preparing the vaccination plans and has started training medical specialists.
Security and Politics
ODIHR Affirms Kyrgyz Election Framework, Identifies Problems with Referendum
A joint ODIHR/OSCE Parliamentary Assembly preliminary report stated that while candidates were mostly able to campaign freely, the campaign was “dominated by one candidate who benefited from disproportionate financial means and misuse of administrative resources, resulting in an uneven playing field.” Tamas Meszerics, who led the ODIHR observer mission to Kyrgyzstan, said the legislation voted on in the referendum did not include any public consultation.
Mamin Re-elected as Prime Minister, Nazarbayeva Returns to Parliament
The newly elected Kazakhstani parliament voted to keep Prime Minister Askar Mamin in his post. He served as Prime Minister since February 2019 but stepped down in accordance with Kazakhstani law to allow the new parliament to take power. Dariga Nazarbayeva was elected to the Majilis after being dismissed from her post as speaker of the senate and seat in parliament in May last year.
Turkish Foreign Minister Announces Conditions for Turkey to Establish Relations with Armenia
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu released a statement indicating that, if a permanent ceasefire is observed, Turkey can take steps to normalize relations with Yerevan. Cavusoglu noted that there are many opportunities for progress through transport and energy projects. He noted that Armenia needs to be encouraged to observe the ceasefire and participate in these efforts.
Turkmenistan Registers Russian Vaccine Sputnik V
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said that Turkmenistan registered Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 despite the country claiming to have no cases of the coronavirus. Turkmenistan is the only Central Asian country to not register any coronavirus cases with the WHO. Sputnik V has also been officially approved for use in Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Bolivia, Palestine, Paraguay, and Venezuela.
Uzbek and Pakistani Representatives Discuss Situation in Afghanistan
On January 15, 2021, the Special Representative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan, Ismatulla Irgashev, met with the Pakistani Ambassador, Sayyid Ali Asad Gilani. They discussed efforts to expand cooperation in relation to connectivity with Afghanistan and to aid in the peace process there. They also emphasized the importance of Afghan regional integration.
Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Russia Hold Phone Conversation
Armenia’s Foreign Minister held a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on January 18. The focus of the call was on regional security issues, and Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian noted the priority of returning all prisoners of war.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Caspian News, Report News Agency, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency, and UZ Daily.)