Media Highlights of the Week- February 15
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Feb 17, 2021
Energy and Economy
Baku Hosts 7th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Virtual Meeting
Representatives from countries, companies, and financial institutions involved in the Southern Gas Corridor gathered virtually on February 12 to discuss the completion of the network’s latest segment, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. At the meeting, the seventh annual gathering of the advisory council, the participants reflected on the project’s efficient competition and the importance of securing a reliable supply of gas for Southern Europe.
Kazakhstan’s KEGOC Grid Operator to Expand its System to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
Kazakhstan’s KEGOC electricity grid operating company is planning to expand its power control system to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. As noted by KEGOC’s Chair Bakytzhan Kazhiyev during a February 9 meeting, the parties also established a joint working group.
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Talk on Strengthening Cooperation in Transport Sector
During a meeting between the Minister of Transport of Uzbekistan, Ilkhom Makhkamov, and the Vice Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development, Berik Kamaliev, the two sides discussed deepening cooperation in the transport sector. Plans to construct a railway line between Maktaaral and Darbaza and to establish new flight routes from Kazakhstan to Samarkand and Urgench were also considered.
EU and WHO Launch $49 Million Program to Improve Vaccine Infrastructure in Eastern Partnership Countries
The European Union and the World Health Organization launched a $49 million program to improve vaccine infrastructure in the six Eastern Partnership Countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The allocated funds will be used to prepare vaccine distribution infrastructure in these countries.
Meeting Between Russian and Tajik Delegates Raises Questions of EAEU Membership
Russian and Tajik delegates met in Moscow for the 17th intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. Although the meetings officially focused on agricultural trade, they have raised questions about Tajikistan’s possible accession to the EAEU. Tajikistan faces serious economic trouble stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia could capitalize on Tajikistan’s position to compel the Central Asian republic to join its economic bloc.
Uzbekistan Unveils Incentives for Foreign Visitors from China and Middle East
Uzbekistan implemented new incentives to attract foreign tourists from China, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman by introducing a ten-day visa-free regime. Visitors need to prove that they have a return ticket or a ticket to a third country to be eligible to enter without a visa. Uzbekistan is also mulling the opening of its largest gold mine to foreign visitors to attract geo-tourists.
Georgia and South Korea Sign Air Traffic Agreement
Georgia and South Korea signed an air traffic agreement, which stipulated that Georgian and Korean airlines would be allowed to fly in and out of each other’s largest airports. The agreement establishes the framework for future agreements to bolster joint trade and travel efforts. The number of South Korean visitors to Georgia had increased each year prior to the pandemic.
Japanese Companies to Invest $150 Million in Kazakhstan’s Economy
Japanese companies “Japan DX” and “Land Management Co. Ltd” have committed to invest $150 million in digitalization efforts in Kazakhstan. The companies are also planning to establish the joint “Japan DX KZ” company to coordinate the implementation of infrastructure projects.
Security and Politics
Russian Peacekeepers Facilitate Cargo Deliveries to Kalbajar
Russian peacekeepers facilitated the delivery of 185 tons of cargo to the Kalbajar region. The delivery included generators, electrical equipment, and construction materials. The equipment is intended for use in helping restore energy infrastructure, water supply systems, social facilities, and residential buildings. The deliveries were compliant with the terms of the trilateral peace agreement signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia on November 10.
Armenian and Russian Foreign Ministers to Meet in Moscow
Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on February 17. The Ministers are scheduled to discuss bilateral, regional, and international issues. The meeting will also focus on the trilateral agreements between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia dated November 9, 2020, and January 11, 2021. Discussions on humanitarian assistance and infrastructure restoration are also expected.
OSCE Chairwoman Makes Official Visit to Georgia
OSCE Chairwoman Ann Linde visited Georgia on February 16. In her official visit, Linde reaffirmed the OSCE’s “strong support” for Georgia in conflict resolution. Linde met with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani and is scheduled to meet with the Georgian Prime Minister, President, Parliament Speaker, and State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality. Linde stated that the peaceful resolution of the Russian-Georgian conflicts is one of the priorities of her OSCE chairmanship.
Armenia to Receive Parliamentary Delegation from Iran
The head of the Armenia-Iran friendship group Mkhitar Kayrapetyan held a phone meeting with Seyyed Mehdi Farshadan, the head of the Iran-Armenia friendship group. In the call, the representatives discussed further development and expansion of bilateral relations. Farshadan informed Kayrapetyan that the Islamic Republic of Iran plans to send a delegation to Armenia in the near future.
Kyrgyz Anti-Corruption Protests Continue
Hundreds of people rallied against corruption on February 14 in Bishkek. Participants held signs demanding the rule of law and protested against a recent ruling by a Bishkek court to reduce the punishment of former customs official Raimbek Matraimov, who was placed on the U.S. Magnitsky sanctions list for his involvement in illegally funneling funds abroad.
Son of Turkmen President Takes on New Roles
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov appointed his son Serdar Berdimuhamedov to the post of deputy prime minister. He will also occupy a seat on the State Security Council and chair the Supreme Control Chamber, a body that oversees government spending. He will also relinquish his post as Minister of Industry.
Latinized Uzbek Alphabet to Become Mandatory
The Uzbek government approved a "Road Map" for ensuring a step-by-step transition to the Uzbek alphabet based on the Latin script. Identification documents and work documents and be in Latin. In addition, the activities of print and electronic media, Internet sites, publishing houses, and printing companies will be converted into the Uzbek language based on the Latin alphabet.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Eurasianet, KazInform, Oxu.az, RFE/RL, Times of Central Asia, and UZ Daily.)