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China and Russia vowed to boost military cooperation

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Tuesday, May 26:

1At the 11th round of China-Russia strategic security consultation, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev reached consensus on a wide range of issues, including maintaining the momentum of high-level interactions. They agreed that China will fully support Russia’s efforts to hold the BRICS and SCO summits in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan, in July. And both sides will prepare for the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of China’ s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti- Facists War. China and Russia vowed to boost military cooperation, calling for the security idea featuring collective and comprehensive principles as well as cooperation and sustainability. [CHINA DAILY]

2Azerbaijani-Russian business meeting in Baku on May 26.“Azerbaijan and Russia signed more than 170 contracts, of which 45 – in the economic sphere, the work on new agreements is underway” Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Economy and Industry Niyazi Safarov said. Russia has invested more than $ 1.8 billion in Azerbaijan’s economy, Azerbaijan has invested over $1 billion of investments in the Russian economy. The business meeting was organized by the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO), supported by the Ministry of Economy and Industry of Azerbaijan. Some 40 Azerbaijani businessmen attended the meeting.

3Southern Gas Corridor project: no gas from Azerbaijan means no project, said Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.”This would be the biggest project discussed by the European Commission,” he said. The ‘Southern Gas Corridor’ envisages the delivery of gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas and condensate field to Europe.The gas to be produced as part of the second stage of the field’s development will be exported to Turkey and European markets through the expansion of the South Caucasus Pipeline and the construction of Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

4Turkmenistan’s parliament, the Majlis, reviewed and approved a draft decree on ratification of the agreement of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan on Caspian Sea’s delimitation between the two countries, Turkmen government said May 26. The parties, in line with international and national environmental norms, requirements and standards, exercise sovereign rights within their sections of the bottom for the purpose of exploration, development and use of the resources of the bottom and subsoil of the Caspian Sea. They also exercise sovereign rights for the laying of cables and pipelines under the Caspian Sea, the creation of artificial islands, berms, dams, piers, platforms and other engineering structures, as well as for carrying out other legitimate economic activities on the bottom.

5Delivery of Russian S-300 missiles to Iran should take place soon, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said after meeting his Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow. “It will be done at the soonest opportunity possible.” The Russian foreign ministry did not confirm his statement. Tehran previously expected delivery of the sophisticated surface-to-air missiles by the end of the year. Russia insists that progress in the nuclear talks cleared the way for the sale.

6Iran and Indonesia have agreed to build 48 small-scale hydroelectric power plants. The two countries seeking to improve ties harmed by sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program. The power plants will be constructed in Indonesia by Iranian companies in the next five years, Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said after a conference with Indonesian economy minister Sofyan Djalil, Press TV reported Monday.

7“The United States unleashed the Islamic State on the region to create a new Middle East by fueling “uncertainty in the resistance front and the nations’ awakening, [destroying] culture and civilization and resources of the regional countries’ progress and [weakening] the Muslims in all fields with the help and alliance of the regional hirelings, the Sunni group, notorious for its brutality, is the product of the thoughts and acts of the US state-sponsored terrorism,” said Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri, the deputy chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, as quoted by the Fars news agency. [SPUTNIKNEWS]

8Syrian talks have kicked off in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. Negotiations will last until May 27. “Kazakhstan supports the UN-led effort of all the involved parties inside and outside of Syria to end the violence and bloodshed, overcome the humanitarian disaster and determine the political future of this country through dialogue and reconciliation,” Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry declared. The Foreign Ministry sent out invitations to all the Syrian opposition groups without exception and civil society groups, too. The participants of the meeting are discussing delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria and development of an action plan to settle the conflict. [TENGRI NEWS]

9Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation plans to negotiate the sale of Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ-100) passenger planes with Egypt Air officials, RIA Novosti reported. Two SSJ-100 planes have arrived in Egypt, according to a source in the Russian delegation to Cairo.

10The forgotten land of colours: a trip through Iran’s Persian Gulf. Colourful mountains in shades of pink, red, purple and yellow overlook shorelines where turtles and flamingos roam or sunbathe.This is Hormuz island in the Persian Gulf, the mostly forgotten land of colours in the Strait of Hormuz, 5km from the mainland, and southeast of Bandar Abbas, major port and capital of the province of Hormuzgan. The island was visited among others by Marco Polo. Ibn Battuta who came twice between 1330 and 1340, wrote that the island’s city was “fine” and “large…with magnificent bazaars.” [The Guardian]

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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Helping Armenia Thrive

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Despite being a landlocked country with few natural resources, Armenia has come a long way since independence in 1991, with all major socio-economic indicators drastically improved.

The Asian Development Bank now is supporting Armenia in its effort to expand its private sector, diversify its economy, cut red tape, and gain access to new markets, says Shane Rosenthal, Country Director for Armenia at the Asian Development Bank.

What is Armenia’s current state of the economy?

Since independence in 1991, Armenia has come a long way. Gross domestic product per capita has increased ten-fold in the country, in large part because of smart decisions about investment and because of good connections with its main trading partner, Russia.

We now have a country where the electricity is reliable, where most of the population has access to clean water, where business is beginning to thrive, not least because it is possible to register a business in a short amount of time. It’s possible to go to a bank and get a loan.

This economy needs to diversify into new products, into new markets. That may mean Europe, it may mean other Eurasian economic union members, and increasingly, it may mean looking eastward, toward Asia.

What role does ADB play in Armenia’s development?

ADB has focused on what it does best vis-a-vis other development partners in Armenia. And that, for us, means infrastructure.

Infrastructure in terms of connectivity, helping upgrade the national highway system so that cargo and people can reach neighboring countries more quickly, more reliably.

It means making the cities more livable with improved water supply.

How can the private sector support Armenia’s development?

Going forward it’s important to understand that Armenia’s growth can no longer depend on the public sector to play the leading role. The private sector needs to be the one that takes this country forward. And that means diversification. It means ease of doing business, and it means access to new markets.

ADB is going to focus increasingly on a balanced portfolio, between the public and private sectors. It’s clear that Armenia’s future will depend on the role that the private sector plays. And there, Armenia has many advantages: a strong financial system, a strong diaspora, with very good connections around the world, and a very strong educational base.

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Three steps to end discrimination of migrant workers and improve their health

Afsar Syed Mohammad

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Authors: Afsar Syed Mohammad and Margherita Licata

When migrant workers leave their home, many encounter abuse and violence on their journey and discrimination once they arrive. This can be because of their status as migrants but also because of their ethnicity, sex, religion, and HIV status.

They often struggle to find decent work, which means they can end up in poor living and working conditions, which in turn affects their health. Female migrants are more likely to be vulnerable to exploitation and violence, which exposes them to the risk of HIV and other health issues.

Research has shown that migrant workers – particularly those who are in an irregular situation – often fail to access health services because of poverty, language and cultural barriers, lack of health insurance, as well as fear of job loss and deportation. It means that by the time they see a doctor, their illness has become all too serious.

Against this background, a newly launched ILO publication looks at the interplay between migration policies and those relating to broader health goals in countries of origin, transit and destination. Its key recommendation is that HIV and health policies should be integrated into the entire labour migration process.

So what can be done to ensure that migrant workers have better access to decent work, health and HIV services? The report recommends a three-pronged approach.

1) End discriminatory practices

Migrants face obstacles in accessing decent work, health as well as social protection. Whenever migrants are denied their rights, they tend to live and work in the shadows.  They become vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization.

Discriminatory practices such as mandatory HIV testing of migrants for employment have proved to be ineffective. On the contrary, it is a violation of their rights. It disrupts access to health care and increases migrants’ vulnerability to HIV infection.

2) Set up an integrated response

It is essential to develop a response that does not just pile up ad-hoc policies one after another. Instead there needs to be an integrated and coordinated response that leads to decent work and health outcomes for migrants, including more effective HIV responses.

Right to entry does not mean the right to work for women in many countries. In such cases, women are left with no option but irregular migration which further exposes them to various forms of abuse, exploitation and risks such as HIV.

Gender-responsive migration policies would help address existing inequalities between men and women migrants, while at the same time improve their health.

3) Focus on migrant workers’ rights

There are no quick-fix solutions but discrimination and inequalities relating to HIV and health can be reduced if we focus on migrants’ rights and if we take a global approach. The report especially insists on the following priorities:

  • There is a need to target different groups of migrant workers for HIV prevention, care and treatment, depending on the specific risks that they face. For example, risks are different depending on whether they are low skilled or high skilled workers.
  • Effective responses to HIV for migrant workers should be integrated into fair recruitment initiatives, encouraging fair business practices to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and equal access to health services.
  • Health programmes and HIV prevention for migrants must be disassociated from immigration enforcement.
  • Inclusion, participation and freedom of association among migrant workers are essential pillars for effective actions on migration, health and HIV.
  • Migration and health policies and practices, in particular those relating to HIV and AIDS, should address inequalities between women and men. A gender analysis is needed from the start for all policies and practices relevant to migration and health.

*Margherita Licata, Technical Specialist Gender, Equality and Diversity and ILOAIDS Branch

Source: ILO

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Mexico officially joins IEA: First member in Latin America

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Mexico officially became the International Energy Agency’s 30th member country on 17 February 2018, and its first member in Latin America. The membership came after the signed IEA treaty (the IEP Agreement) was deposited with the government of Belgium, which serves as the depository state, following ratification by the Mexican Senate.

Mexico’s accession is a cornerstone of the IEA’s on-going modernization strategy, including “opening the doors” of the IEA to engage more deeply with emerging economies and the key energy players of Latin America, Asia and Africa, towards a secure, sustainable and affordable energy future.

The IEA Family of 30 Member countries and seven Association countries now accounts for more than 70% of global energy consumption, up from less than 40% in 2015.

“With this final step, Mexico enters the most important energy forum in the world,” said Joaquín Coldwell, Mexico’s Secretary of Energy. “We will take our part in setting the world’s energy policies, receive experienced advisory in best international practices, and participate in emergency response exercises.”

“It is a historic day because we welcome our first Latin American member country, with more than 120 million inhabitants, an important oil producer, and a weighty voice in global energy,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The ambitious and successful energy reforms of recent years have put Mexico firmly on the global energy policy map.”

At the last IEA Ministerial Meeting, held in Paris in November 2017, ministers representing the IEA’s member countries unanimously endorsed the rapid steps Mexico was taking to become the next member of the IEA, providing a major boost for global energy governance.

They recognized that Mexico had taken all necessary steps in record time to meet international membership requirements since its initial expression of interest in November 2015. In December, the Mexican Senate ratified the IEP Agreement paving the way for the deposit of the accession instrument and for membership to take effect.

Mexico is the world’s 15th-largest economy and 12th-largest oil producer, and has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources. The IEA family will benefit greatly from Mexico’s contribution on discussion about the world’s energy challenges. The IEA is delighted to continue supporting implementation of Mexico’s energy reform with technical expertise, and further intensifying the fruitful bilateral dialogue of energy policy best practice exchange.

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