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Azerbaijan celebrates 28 May – Republic Day

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Thursday, May 28:

1Azerbaijan celebrates 28 May – Republic Day. Azerbaijan is marking one of the most striking and significant days in its history – the creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which was the first secular republic in the Muslim East.

2Ilham Aliyev: “The rich gas resources of Azerbaijan will provide us and our partners at least for 100 years”. President expressed his hope that no artificial obstacles to TAP – the Trans Adriatic project will arise: “As if such obstacles appear, in this case, there will not be the winning party, of course. I should also note that the rich gas resources of Azerbaijan will provide us and our partners at least for 100 years. Of course, concrete measures are taken for our market entry. If there is problem with TAP project, then we will export our gas to the Turkish market mainly. Anyway, I should note that we have no concern about the markets. Just all TAP participants should act responsibly and not to create artificial problems. In the future, of course, our strategic goal is the full implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor, together with the development of “Shah Deniz” gas field.”

3Building the New Silk Road. China has multiple reasons for pursuing the New Silk Road. Xi has promoted a vision of a more assertive China, while the “new normal” of slowing growth puts pressure on the country’s leadership to open new markets for its consumer goods and excess industrial capacity. Promoting economic development in the troubled western province of Xinjiang, where separatist violence has been on the upswing, is another major concern, as is securing long-term energy supplies. China’s strategy is conceived as a two-pronged effort. The first focuses on overland infrastructure development through Central Asia—the “Silk Road Economic Belt”—while the second foresees the expansion of maritime shipping routes through the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf—the “Maritime Silk Road.” In 2013, Xi told an audience in Kazakhstan that he wants to create a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings, both westward—through the mountainous former Soviet republics—and southward, toward Pakistan, India, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Writes James McBride for the Council on Foreign Relations.

4Russian gas industry looks east to strengthen position. “Russia has been talking to China for 10 years about exporting gas, but for various reasons they couldn’t find alignment,” says John Lough, of the Chatham House. “It has not been prepared to go the last mile, but the pressure to sidle up to China has now increased.” Feeling ever more isolated in Europe and suffering from wider economic sanctions, Russia signed two significant gas deals with China last year. The first, worth $400bn at the time, provides for 38bcm a year from 2018. Construction of the pipeline to transport the gas from East Siberia began in September. A provisional deal for a further 30bcm was signed a month later, with gas potentially being delivered from West Siberia through the Altai region in southern Russia. Writes Richard Anderson for the BBC

5Venezuela and Russia gave new impetus on Wednesday to their strategic cooperation as Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez concluded a visit to Moscow. Relations between the two countries have matured over the past 11 years in all areas, Rodriguez said after meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Venezuela and Russia are cooperating in the construction of a “new geopolitical order,” she said, highlighting the role of the BRICS group: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Military and technical cooperation and agriculture are among the focal areas for Russian participation, according to Rodriguez. Ties with Latin America are a priority for Moscow, Lavrov said, expressing appreciation for Venezuela’s support of a proposed mechanism to establish constant dialogue between Russia and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.[Latin American Herald Tribune]

6Kazakhstan is interested in Croatia’s military industry, Croatian Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic said on Wednesday in Astana where he arrived for a visit to Kazakhstan. Kotromanovic, held talks with his Kazakh counterpart Imangali Tasmagambetov on bilateral defence cooperation notably in the defence industry. The talks also revolved around security cooperation and cooperation within NATO, the Croatian Defence Ministry stated in a press release. Croatia and Kazakhstan are keen to advance the relations and intensify cooperation in all sectors, including the defence industry, training and education and economic cooperation, Kotromanovic was quoted as saying. He praised Kazakhstan for its impressive development and attraction of foreign investments. He and the Kazakh defence minister signed a memorandum of cooperation in the defence sector. [dalje.com]

7Stress Tests for Kazakhstan.How can Kazakhstan maintain friendly ties with Russia and yet continue to build its own national identity? The International Crisis Group thinks that Astana should take a more ‘recognizable’ role in trying to resolve the Ukraine crisis, pursue a balanced foreign policy and perform several other steps. [International Crisis Group]

8Indonesia interested in boosting energy co-op with Azerbaijan. “Azerbaijan is an important trading partner of Indonesia, especially in the energy sector,” Economic Minister of Indonesia Sofyan Djalil said during Azerbaijan’s National Republic Day celebration at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.“We will soon send our energy and mineral resources minister to Azerbaijan to explore more opportunities and boost cooperation,” said the minister.

9“Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said during public remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We learned during the Cold War that when it comes to nuclear weapons, caution, predictability and transparency are vital.”Moscow’s signaling that it would place nuclear-capable missile systems in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave bordering Poland, and the Crimean Peninsula, “would fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe”, Stoltenberg said. He also warned of increased “provocative” flights by Russian nuclear-capable bombers from “Japan to Gibraltar” and “Crete to California,” saying Russia has stepped up its air activity by roughly 50 percent. [TURKISH WEEKLY]

10Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Turkey Elmar Mammadyarov, Rashid Meredov and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 42nd Foreign Ministerial Council of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. At the meeting the importance of trilateral meeting of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Turkey was stressed in terms of development of regional cooperation. [apa.az]

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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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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Guterres: Korean nuclear crisis, Middle East quagmire eroding global security

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Conflicts are becoming more and more interrelated and more and more related to a set of a new global terrorism threat  to all of us,” Mr. Guterres said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony on Friday of the Munich Security Conference.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is facing the threat of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which he called “a development made in total contradiction to the will of the international community and in clear violation of several resolutions of the Security Council.”

He said that it was essential to maintain “meaningful pressure over North Korea” to create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula within a regional framework.

“The two key stakeholders in relation to this crisis, the United States and [DPRK]” must be able to “come together and have a meaningful discussion on these issues,” he said, adding that it is “important not to miss the opportunity of a peaceful resolution through diplomatic engagement as a military solution would be a disaster with catastrophic consequences that we cannot even be able to imagine.”

The situation in the broader Middle East, which the UN chief said had become a “Gordian knot,” was also eroding global security, with that are crises that are “crossing each other and interconnected.”

Pointing to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, among others, Mr. Guterres said the entire Middle East has “became a mess,” with varied and intersecting fault lines.

He warned of the absence of a common vision in the region and said that even if interests are contradictory, the threats these conflicts represent would justify some efforts to come together.

Turning to cyber-security, Mr. Guterres called for a serious discussion about the international legal framework in which cyberwars take place.

“I can guarantee that the United Nations would be ready to be a platform in which different actors could come together and discuss the way forward, to find the adequate approaches to make sure that we are able to deal with the problem of cybersecurity,” he said, noting that artificial intelligence provides “enormous potential for economic development, social development and for the well-being for all of us.”

The Secretary-General said that Governments and others have been unable to manage human mobility. He warned that this had created mistrust and doubts about globalism and multilateralism.

“This is a reason why,” he said, “we need to be able to unite, we need to be able to affirm that global problems can only be addressed with global solutions and that multilateralism is today more necessary than ever.”

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Supporting tourism development in Africa through better measurement

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In an effort to better measure tourism growth and development in Africa, UNWTO signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation for the Strengthening of the National Tourism Statistical System of Nigeria and the Development of a Tourism Satellite Account.

UNWTO is committed to developing tourism measurement for furthering knowledge of the sector, monitoring progress, evaluating impact, promoting results-focused management, and highlighting strategic issues for policy objectives.

On the occasion of the meeting between UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the agreement to host the Sixty-First meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa and the Seminar on ‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development’ in Nigerian capital, Abuja, from 4 to 6 June 2018, was signed.

The meetings will be open to the participation of UNWTO Member States and Affiliate Members, as well as invited delegations and representatives of the tourism and related sectors. Officials of immigration departments, national statistics bureaus, central banks and other relevant stakeholders will be invited to join.

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