Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Mar 26, 2019
Trump Hopes Turkmenistan to be Able to Export Gas to West through Azerbaijan U.S. President Donald Trump recently expressed the wish that Turkmenistan will export gas to the West. Trump’s comment appeared in a congratulatory letter to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in celebration of Nowruz. Trump expressed hope that the latest determination on the legal status of the Caspian will facilitate gas exports to Europe and that “Neutral Turkmenistan” will take advantage of new possibilities in this regard. Trump also expressed desire on the part of American citizens and corporations to further strengthen economic ties with the Central Asian state. Fire Breaks Out at Kazakhstan's Kalamkas Oilfield A fire has broken out at the Kalamkas oilfield, an onshore deposit located in Mangistau province, western Kazakhstan. The country’s emergencies committee reported on the issue during a press conference on March 25. Cellphone footage from local residents corroborates the story, showing columns of fire rising 30 feet into the air. MangistauMunaiGas, the field operator, has elected not to comment on the matter until March 26, when it says it will release a statement including estimates of the fire’s impact upon oil output at the field. MangistauMunaiGas, jointly owned by Kazakh state oil company KazMunayGaz and the China National Petroleum Corporation, produced around 6.4 million tonnes of crude in 2018, around 7 percent of Kazakhstan’s total output. Kalamkas is the largest field operated by MangistauMunaiGas, accounting for around 60 percent of its output. New Gas-fired Power Plant to be Built in Uzbekistan The construction of a 240MW gas-fired thermal power plant in the Bukhara region was recently announced by Uzbek media. The plant will be built by Turkish firm Cengiz Enerji Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. Previously, an agreement was signed on March 20 between the Uzbek government and Cengiz Holding which laid out the groundwork for the Bukhara plant. The power station will be operated as a public-private partnership. International Consortium Invests $5.2 Billion in Oil, Gas Development in Uzbekistan U.S.-based Epsilon Development Company and Hong Kong’s Epsilon Asia Limited will invest $5.2 billion in Uzbekistan between 2019 and 2023 in order to develop five blocks of the Bukhara-Khiva and Fergana oil and gas regions. Sardor Iskhakov, a representative of Epsilon Development Company, explained that the firm already possesses the necessary licenses for prospecting, exploration, production, and transport of hydrocarbons for the five blocks. Preliminary estimates of reserves indicate that the blocks could hold 500 bcm of gas, 12 million tonnes of condensate and 8.6 million tonnes of oil. Turkmenistan Intends to Offer Japan to Invest in TAPI Project The implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project is seen as a promising field for the cooperation of Turkmenistan with financial structures and companies in Japan. This issue is planned to be discussed during the working visit planned for the near future by the Turkmen delegation to Tokyo. A report on the preparation of the visit was presented to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. EBRD Reveals Reason for Cancelling Loan Disbursing to Lukoil for Shah Deniz 2 Russia’s Lukoil company will finance the project to extend additional financing for its share in the second stage of the development of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field with internal cash flow, instead of borrowing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The process of disbursing loan by EBRD to LUKOIL Overseas Shah Deniz Ltd has been canceled, according to the information on the Bank’s website. SOCAR Plans Ambitious Increases in Gas Output Elshad Nassirov, vice president for marketing and investments of Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, recently gave an interview with S&P Global Platts, in which he spoke about SOCAR ambitious plans to raise gas output in the future. According to Nassirov, SOCAR will increase gas production to 47.6 bcm in 2025. SOCAR produced 30.5 bcm of gas in 2018, so gas output in 2025 would be one and a half times greater than in 2018, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6 percent. Nassirov also stated that these projections may increase as projects currently in the exploration phase, such as Shafag-Asiman, enter production. GE Renewable Energy to Modernize Hydropower Station in Tajikistan GE Renewable Energy has received a hydropower contract from Tajikistan national integrated power company Barki Tojik, to refurbish six Kaplan units at the state-owned Qairokkum hydropower station in Tajikistan. The Qairokkum hydropower station is 60-year old plant located on the river Syr Darya, which is the only power plant located in the entire northwestern province of Sughd and the sole source of electricity for about 500,000 people. SOCAR Talks on Possibility of Geological Exploration in Aral Sea Water Area Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR has commented on reports saying that BP and SOCAR are considering the possibility of geological exploration in two investment blocks in the Aral Sea water area. "The sides are holding consultations and are considering proposals. The cooperation is precisely in this vein at the moment. If the sides make a decision to conduct exploration in the future, we will provide information about that," the company said. Turkish Company to Build New Thermal Power Plant in Uzbekistan Turkish company Cengiz Enerji Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. will build a new combined-cycle thermal power plant with a capacity of 240 megawatts in Uzbekistan's Bukhara region. The project is based on the agreement signed on March 20 in Tashkent by the Minister of Energy of Uzbekistan Alisher Sultanov and Chairman of the Board of Cengiz Holding Mehmet Cengiz.
Kazakhstan Updates President of Kazakhstan Resigns Nursultan Nazarbayev, independent Kazakhstan’s first and only president, resigned his office on Tuesday. The former upper house chairman of Kazakhstan’s parliament Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev will serve as interim president before the next elections in 2020. Nazarbayev’s daughter, Darigha Nazarbayeva, was unanimously selected to replace Tokayev as upper house chairman. Former President Nazarbayev will retain the role of Elbasy or leader of the nation; leader of the Nur Otan political party; and lifetime chairman of Kazakhstan’s security council. Kazakhstan Renames Capital to Honor Previous President Kazakhstan has changed the name of its capital city from Astana to Nursultan. The change was made in honor of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down yesterday after almost 30 years in office. Parliament then passed a law making the renaming official. At his swearing in, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made the announcement “in honor of the first President.” Kazakh President Signs Decree on New Appointments The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree appointing Marat Tajin as secretary of state. Prior to the recent appointment, Marat Tajin held the post of the First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Also, Murat Nurtleuov has been designated as the Assistant to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Moreover, according to the corresponding decree signed by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Bakytjan Sagintayev has been appointed as the Head of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Stoltenberg Hopes Georgia can Soon be Welcomed into NATO NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hopes Georgia can soon be welcomed into NATO and praises the progress achieved by the country. Georgia will become a NATO member,” Stoltenberg stated during a joint press conference with Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze at the Georgian government’s administration building today and underlined that it is only up to Georgia and NATO to make decisions about cooperation and partnership. Azerbaijani Defense Minister to Visit U.S. The Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan Zakir Hasanov will visit the U.S. this week. Minister Hasanov will attend the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial Conference in New York and meet with the UN Under Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Both meetings will discuss regional security the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Azerbaijan’s potential participation in UN Peacekeeping operations. U.S. Intends to Nominate a New Ambassador to Turkmenistan President Donald J. Trump has announced his intent to nominate Matthew S. Klimow as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Turkmenistan. Klimow is a career member of the Senior Executive Service and currently serves as Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary for Management at the Department of State. Prior to that he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after retiring as a colonel from the U.S. Army. Floods Hit Northern Iran Flooding brought on by heavy rain severely damaged residences and infrastructure in Iran’s northern Golestan and Mazandaran provinces. Much of rural Golestan has lost power, and most residents and farmers were evacuated. The waters are beginning to recede, but political fallout is still heavy. The Iranian President’s first deputy Eshaq Jahangiri traveled to Golestan to reassure its residents of the central government’s support, then promptly fired the province’s local governor, who was vacationing abroad at the time of the flooding. The Iran Meteorological Organization (IRMO) warned that areas in western and southwestern parts of Iran may be vulnerable as well, as heavy rain and snowfall are due to hit Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh, Boyer-Ahmad, and Lorestan. Turkmenistan Issues Mass Pardon President of Turkmenistan Gerbanguly Berdymukhammedov pardoned 2,028 prisoners on March 21 in honor of Nowruz. President Berdymukhammedov often issues large pardons on the eve of state holidays. The last one came in December when he pardoned 796 prisoners in recognition of the International Day of Neutrality.
Kazakhstan Airlines Gains Over $1.3 Billion for Two Months The results of two months of 2019 show that the revenues of air transport enterprises in Kazakhstan rose by 21.2 percent and reached 49.7 billion tenges ($1.3 billion), according to Kazakh media. The share of air transport in the transportation industry as a whole was 10.8 percent; in 2018 the share of airlines was slightly lower: 10.2 percent. The main source of income for air transport enterprises is passenger transportation revenues. So, in January-February 2019, this income amounted to just almost $128 million (20.9 percent more than in 2018), or 97.4 percent of all airline revenues. Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia Discuss Development of Trade Relations Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev met King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in the city of Riyadh, the Government Office reported. During the meeting, the sides discussed topical issues of bilateral cooperation, including in the trade, economic, investment and humanitarian fields. The Prime Minister emphasized that Saudi Arabia is an important partner and occupies a special place in the foreign policy of Kyrgyzstan. World Bank Approves $200 Million Loan to Support Uzbekistan’s Rural Enterprises The World Bank has approved a loan worth $200 million to support micro, small and medium-sized businesses in one of Uzbekistan's densely populated rural areas, the bank said on Monday. According to a statement, the loan will come from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a member of the World Bank Group, and will help to start a new rural enterprise development project in the eastern Ferghana Valley. "The shift from planned to market economy in Uzbekistan will create opportunities for local small businesses in domestic and regional markets," said Hideki Mori, World Bank country manager for Uzbekistan, in the statement. Belarus, Georgia, and Azerbaijan to Mull Possibility of Freight Transport by Rail Belarus, Georgia and Azerbaijan will work on the possibility of organizing railway container traffic on Tbilisi - Baku - Minsk route, the press service of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Belarus said. The decision was made during the fifth meeting of the Belarusian-Georgian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. The meeting was held between March 19 and 22 in Georgia. Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Alexey Lyakhnovich took part on behalf of Belarus. U.S. and Austrian Companies to Invest in Plant Construction in Uzbekistan The U.S. company Epsilon Development, in partnership with the Austrian company Oberhofer Projektmanagement GmbH, will invest over $113 million in the construction of a new plant in the Angren free economic zone in Uzbekistan. The companies have already created a foreign enterprise "Steel Innovation Systems" to implement this project. Passenger Train Purchased for BTK Delivered to Turkey A passenger train consisting of ten railcars, which will run on the Baku-Ankara-Baku route along the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, has been delivered to Turkey. The railcars of the Swiss company Stadler were delivered to Turkey within six days. World Bank: Azerbaijan Needs More Technical Assistance, Less Financial Support Azerbaijan needs more technical assistance and less financial support, according to Mercy Tembon, the World Bank’s Regional Director for the South Caucasus. "In 1992, when Azerbaijan joined the WB group, it was not that developed and needed a lot of investments. But as time goes by, we can see that the need for financial support is not as big as it used to be back then," she said. IMF Expects 3.8 Percent Growth of Kyrgyz Economy in 2019 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that the Kyrgyz economy will grow by 3.8 percent in 2019. Kyrgyzstan saw an inflation "at 1.5 percent on average" in 2018, and "a moderate fiscal deficit of 1.3 percent of GDP for 2018. […] In 2019, the economy is expected to grow by 3.8 percent, average inflation to reach 2.2 percent, the fiscal deficit to increase to 3.4 percent of GDP and gross foreign exchange reserves to reach the still comfortable level of 3.7 months of imports of goods and services.” EBRD Extends New Trade Finance Facility to UzPromstroybank The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is stepping up its support to Uzbek exporters and importers by extending a new trade finance facility of up to $20 million to UzPromstroybank to stimulate international and regional trade. UzPromstroybank is the country’s third-largest bank with a network of 45 branches. (Sources: Arka News Agency, Azer News, Azertac, Compelo, Gazeta.uz, Reuters, RFE/RL, The Indian Express, The Strategist, Trend News Agency, and Xinhuanet.)