Media Highlights of the Week- February 2, 2021
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Feb 2, 2021
Energy and Economy
Turkmenistan to Launch A National Program for the Aral Sea
Turkmenistan has set up a commission that will establish the National Plan for the Aral Sea for 2021-2025. The document will address the growing concerns around the Aral Sea and develop measures to mitigate the associated socio-economic impacts.
Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan Ink Investment Agreements to Build Wind Power Plants in Navoi and Bukhara
During an official ceremony attended by high-level government officials from Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, the two sides signed two Power Purchase Agreements and Investment Agreements on the construction of two wind power plants in Bukhara and Navoi. The initiative will modernize Uzbekistan’s energy system and aid the country’s transition to renewable energy production.
EBRD and GCF to Support Green Financing in Tajikistan
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) have committed to allocating $4 million to Tajikistan’s Bank Eskhata to support green lending for households and medium-sized enterprises. The green financing will help promote climate-friendly solutions, including solar panels, drip irrigation, and climate adaptation technologies.
Kazakhstan Considers Building a New Rail Line to Uzbekistan
During the Expanded Government Meeting, Askar Mamin, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, announced that the country is planning to construct a high-speed rail line from Turkestan to Tashkent. The project is part of a series of investment initiatives aimed to promote ecotourism and boost economic growth.
Kazakhstan Allows Some to Receive Early Pension Funds
Kazakhstan unveiled new regulations that will allow its citizens to receive some of their pension funds early. Individuals with a set excess of funds in their pensions will be eligible to utilize the money for property and land purchases and home renovations only. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev hopes that the injection of liquidity into the economy will stimulate recovery efforts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgia and Japan Sign Agreement on Mutual Protection of Investments
Georgia and Japan signed an agreement that outlines the terms for investment liberalization and the promotion and protection for investment flows. In the third quarter of 2020, Japanese investment in Georgia amounted to $15.4 million, and there were 26 companies operating in Georgia with Japanese capital. The two delegations hope that the new agreement will further encourage bilateral investment flows.
Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan Inch Closer to Industrial Cooperation Agreement
Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan announced that they are finalizing the terms for an industrial cooperation agreement. The agreement would bolster cooperation among entrepreneurs from both countries in the metallurgical, chemical, oil, and gas industries.
Georgia Slated to Receive Pfizer COVID Vaccine by End of February
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia declared that Georgia would receive its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine by the end of February. His announcement came soon after a slew of business owners announced their intent to protest COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.
Security and Politics
United States Donates Equipment for Georgian Border Police
The United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Proliferation Prevention Program donated six troop carriers, two fuel trucks, and seven off-road vehicles to the Border Police Force of the Georgian Ministry of Interior. The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi released a statement that indicated that the donated equipment would improve access to remote areas throughout the year and even in poor weather conditions. The donated equipment is valued at 2.74 million Lari, or approximately $830,000.
Tajik President Signs New Law on Military Service
On January 29, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon signed a new law titled “On General Conscription and Military Service.” Under this new law, citizens of draft age may serve a shortened term of military service if they pay a fee to the State Treasury. As a result of this law, university graduates will now be required to serve in the army for one year.
Turkish-Russian Joint Monitoring Center Opened in Aghdam
On January 30, the Turkish-Russian Joint Monitoring Center was launched in Aghdam, Azerbaijan. The Joint Monitoring Center was established as a part of the trilateral peace agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. The objective of the center is to monitor both sides’ compliance with the ceasefire agreement. Azerbaijan views the establishment of this center as an important step in implementing the 3+3 cooperation format, which would include Russia, Turkey, Iran as external partners, and Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia as regional members.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization Makes Preparations for September Summit
Tajikistan served as the chair of a four-day meeting bringing together the Council of National Coordinators of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states on January 29. The coordinators attending the conference discussed the progress of preparations being made for the Council of Heads of State of the SCO meeting, which is scheduled for September 16-17 in Dushanbe. Tajikistan has chaired the organization, which consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan, since November 2020.
Kazakhstan Becomes Chair of CIS Interstate Space Council
As proposed by the CIS Executive Committee, Kazakhstani Minister of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry Bagdat Mussin was elected the Council Chairman for 2021. Members of the Council from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as the representatives of the CIS Executive Committee took part in the meeting. Representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan attended as observers.
Georgian Business Owners Gather for Protest Against Coronavirus Restrictions
Protesters representing restaurants, hotels, and winter resorts gathered outside the Administrative Building of the Government of Georgia to demand the easing of coronavirus restrictions. The protesters stated that their businesses will fail to recover unless they are able to reopen immediately. To increase public awareness, more than 200 restaurants ceased operations for a 24-hour period.
Former Lawmaker Arrested for Alleged Threats Against Prime Minister Pashinyan
Vahan Badsyan, a former lawmaker from the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh, has been arrested for allegedly threatening Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. On January 28, Badsyan made a statement to reporters where he indicated that there are ways of removing Prime Minister Pashinyan from office, even with arms. This statement was considered a death threat by the National Security Service, and Badsyan was detained the same day.
Atambayev Denied House Arrest
A Bishkek court refused the request to transfer the jailed former president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev from prison to house arrest. He was charged with murder, attempted murder, threatening or assaulting representatives of the authorities, hostage-taking, and the forcible seizure of power. He was sentenced to 11 years and two months but was released from custody in October following mass protests. Following the period of post-election unrest, he was again detained.
Sadyr Japarov Sworn in as President
Sadyr Japarov was sworn in on January 28 at the National Philharmonic Hall in Bishkek. Japarov called for unity among political groups, including his opponents, ethnic groups, and nongovernmental and religious organizations, to create a better future for Kyrgyzstan. He said that he would continue with a “multipronged” foreign policy with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan as major partners. Japarov received more than 79 percent of the vote in the January 10 election.
Afghan Delegation Arrives in Uzbekistan
An Afghan delegation led by the Head of the Administration of the President, Mohammad Shaker Kargar, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Haneef Atmar, arrived in Uzbekistan on January 30. The visit will include meetings and negotiations at the ministries of foreign affairs, investment and foreign trade, transport, energy, and higher and secondary special education in Tashkent.
Kazakhstan Introduces New Version of the Latin Alphabet
On January 28, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin held a meeting with the National Commission for the Translation of the Kazakh Alphabet into Latin Script. The alphabet will include 31 letters covering the 28 sounds of the Kazakh language. A multi-phased transition is planned for 2023 to 2031.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Azernews, Asia-Plus, Eurasianet, Fergana News, Kazinform, Kun.Uz., Report News Agency, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency, and UZ Daily.)