Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos
1In 2017, Astana, the capital city of my home country of Kazakhstan, will host the next Universal World Exposition, joining a long heritage that includes Shanghai’s extraordinary effort in 2010. EXPO-2017 is a national project that provides a great opportunity for the Republic of Kazakhstan to investigate new sources of energy and current developments in green technologies. We have set ambitious goals to ensure that this exhibition is held at the highest level, meeting the expectations and hopes of other countries. The president of Kazakhstan has set up some challenging objectives; we need to turn EXPO-2017 into the central point for the third industrial revolution, which includes the development of an alternative economy and the creation of new high-tech materials, sources of renewable power and a skilled workforce. The promotion of EXPO-2017 is gaining significant feedback from across the world” Rapil Zhoshybayev, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan. [Global times]
2Mayor of Almaty replaced with fresh face: analysis. Kazakhstani political analysts Andrey Chebotarev and Dosym Satpayev talked to Tengrinews about the meaning of the new appointments. The first believes that both appointments are a sign of trust that the President put into the two men. The second thinks Yessimov was downgraded, and Baibek’s appointment was a way to encourage the younger generation of civil servants. Director of the Center of Topical Research Alternative Andrey Chebotarev contended that rotation of high-level officials was a normal occurrence. Yessimov had served as Akim (Mayor) of Almaty for quite a long time – since 2008. The expert believes that appointing Yessimov as head of the National Company Astana EXPO – 2017 was a sign of confidence that the President had in him.
3The Pluto of International Organizations: The Evolution of the SCO. “The SCO seems to be structured in a manner that undermines its own development, as IO evolution is understood by the scholarly community. The member states simultaneously support and undermine the organization via individualized micro-agendas because of their worries about the tricks each might play upon the other. Interestingly, what the literature does not do is question the legitimacy of the SCO. This is one of the main contentions here: membership of the SCO in the IO community should be questioned instead of simply de facto bestowed. Until now, its membership has always been a given” Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.
4Off the Coast of Iran, a High-Stakes Version of Spy Versus Spy. “In the skies and waters of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the two continue to constantly watch each other. American naval ships openly roam the waters along Iran’s 1,100-mile-long southern coastline, their radar trained on the Iranian shore and on Iranian ships leaving their harbors. Iranian fighter jets patrol the skies, keeping an eye on American combat planes that take off from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf every time an Iranian jet comes close to their ship. “It’s a little bit of a game we play,” said Capt. Benjamin Hewlett, the commander of the air wing aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which is in the Persian Gulf keeping an eye on Iran right now. “When they launch, we launch. We consider this our sovereign territory, so we make sure they’re not unescorted in and around the aircraft carrier” Helene Cooper for New York Times.
5Enagás making investment in important gas pipeline connecting Azerbaijan with Europe. We are investing in an important gas pipeline connecting Azerbaijan with Europe, CEO of Enagás, Marcelino Oreja said while speaking about Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project in an interview with “European CEO” newspaper. He said that this gas pipeline would supply gas to the European Union.
6The “Azerbaijan: Land of Tolerance” exhibition will open its doors to all art lovers in Paris on August 18.World famous for his intrepid style of photographing the world’s most exotic places, Reza is putting on display a series of photographs on the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities cohabitating in Azerbaijan. All are driven by a deep commitment for sharing, mutual respect, and dialogue with each other. The exhibition, to be held between August 18 and September 10, highlights the millennial ties that all of these religious communities have forged with each other.
7The Russia-OPEC-America Nexus: Reimagining the Great Oil Game. “The most intriguing geopolitical connection with oil prices collapsing is the Western sanction regime on Russia. As inflation hit the Russian economy and protracted recession weighed on Russian morale, OPEC ramped up production. Similarly, Russia has (as of May 2015) produced more oil since the end of the Soviet era. Interestingly, this economic stand-off brought the two biggest oil-producing countries (Saudi Arabia and Russia) to the bargaining table as Russia considers closer ties to OPEC. This tantalizing prospect of a Russian-OPEC alliance has almost always been an illusion since OPEC’s formation and would drastically increase OPEC’s global power in determining oil prices. OPEC has never really trusted Russia and an alliance may only form out of dire necessity. But that is something the United States would staunchly oppose” Brian Hughes for Modern Diplomacy.
8An Azerbaijani delegation will attend the international forum of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to be held in Tbilisi on August 23-25. The event will bring together government and state officials, economists, experts from 57 countries. The forum will focus on the activity of AIIB, investment in infrastructure projects in partner countries of AIIB, as well as economic cooperation. AIIB is newly created bank that is expected to be established by the end of this year for the purpose of providing loans for infrastructure projects in developing countries in Asia.
9An Iranian official says Iran and Azerbaijan have been talking on transiting gas to Europe. Azerbaijani and Iranian officials have in recent weeks discussed in Tehran ways to export Iran’s gas to Europe via Azerbaijan, the Fars news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying Aug. 18. Recently, on Aug. 4, an Azerbaijani delegation headed by Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev traveled to Iran and met with Iranian top officials, including Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.“Azerbaijani delegation offered their Iranian counterparts to cooperate in the gas export to Europe via Azerbaijan, as Iran’s involvement will leave no concern in terms of providing Europe with gas,” the source said.According to the report, the two parties stressed that the Iranian gas export to Europe through Azerbaijan is easier than its direct export to the West. The head of Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, Rovnag Abdullayev said in April that Iran is interested in purchasing a stake in the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP).
10North Korea’s Balancing Act in the Persian Gulf. “In March 2015, Saudi Arabia signed a deal with South Korea to build two small and medium-sized nuclear reactors. This move grabbed the attention of the White House, as it symbolized Saudi dissatisfaction with U.S. attempts to forge a nuclear deal with Iran. The synchronized timing of North Korea’s missile shipments to Yemen and the North Korean regime’s defiant rejection of Iran-style nuclear talks with the U.S. is therefore intriguing. Pyongyang’s extension of assistance to Yemen could be its way of retaliating against Saudi nuclear cooperation with South Korea, which will probably increase should the US Congress ratify the Iran deal” Samuel Ramani for The Huffington Post.
Advancing the SDGs through impact investment
Representatives of more than 20 Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) have come together to learn and deliberate about novel approaches in investment promotion.
The three-day training organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with its partners, the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), includes lecture and workshop sessions, as well as practical site visits and bilateral meetings.
The training reflects the fundamental premise that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without enormous additional volumes of “quality” foreign and domestic investments – a finding which clearly emerged during the Vienna Investment Conference – Quality FDI, Growth and Development, organized by UNIDO in September 2016.
Participants in the training agreed that the focus of international investment promotion is shifting away from the mere financial side of international investments towards a wider combined economic, social and environmental impact – known as “impact investments”. They also recognized that many challenges remain to properly identifying and gauging impact investments, and confirmed the need to adjust services and instruments to augment the various dimensions of impact investments. UNIDO received important feedback on IPAs’ interest in participating in follow-up training on specific impact investing themes to be developed as part of a larger UNIDO Impact Investing strategy.
The training also provided participants with an opportunity for intensive networking and for deepening contacts with institutional stakeholders in Turkey, including the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency (ISPAT).
ADB, B.Grimm Power Expand Support for Renewable Energy in ASEAN
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a loan equivalent of up with $235 million to B.Grimm Power Public Company Limited (B.Grimm Power), one of the largest power producers in Thailand, to develop and enhance renewable energy capacity in member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“The development of renewable energy in Southeast Asia is critical to meet its energy needs and B.Grimm Power is at the forefront of the region’s fast growing alternative energy sector,” said Michael Barrow, Director General of ADB’s Private Sector Operation’s Department. “ADB is proud to once again partner with B.Grimm Power as it continues its expansion strategy in ASEAN member countries.”
ADB’s financing will support B.Grimm Power’s implementation of the ASEAN Distributed Power Project, which will expand renewable and distributed power generation into new markets in ASEAN including Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Viet Nam. The project will involve the execution and operation of distributed and utility-scale solar, wind, biomass, waste-to-energy, gas-fired power, energy storage, as well as associated infrastructure in ASEAN countries.
B.Grimm Power’s total distributed power generation capacity is expected to increase by over 50% to 2,500 megawatts (MW) by 2022, while the renewable energy share in its portfolio will rise from 10% to 30%.
ADB took a B1,968 million ($57.7 million) equity stake in B.Grimm Power as part of the company’s initial public offering in July 2017. ADB also administers a $20 million loan provided by the Canadian Climate Fund for the Private Sector in Asia under the Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility.
B.Grimm Power is a subsidiary of the 140-year old conglomerate B.Grimm Group, operating in the energy industry since 1993 in Thailand. B.Grimm Power currently has a total capacity of 1,779 MW, operating 13 gas-fired plants, with 4 more under development or construction. In recent years, B.Grimm has diversified into renewable energy and is operating 15 solar power plants and 2 hydro power plants.
Over 10,000 Refugees Resettled in UK Under Flagship Scheme
The United Kingdom is more than halfway towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), according to new figures revealed yesterday (22/10).
The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled under the VPRS – one of the largest global resettlement programmes – since it began.
The VPRS is just one of the ways in which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK – a 19 per cent increase from 2016 – with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Some 539 people arrived under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.
Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, meeting families who have fled the war in Syria and speaking to officials from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who are working closely with the Home Office to resettle families to the UK.
“As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety,” Rudd said. “Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.”
“This week I went to Lebanon to see for myself the human impact of the Syrian conflict and talk to refugees about the challenges they face. I met a family who is due to be resettled in the UK and heard first-hand how important the resettlement scheme is and how it helps individuals, who have fled danger and conflict, to rebuild their lives. We are welcoming and supporting some of the most vulnerable refugees and I am grateful to all of the local authorities, charities and other organizations that have made it possible,” the Home Secretary added.
The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The UK works closely with UNHCR; IOM, the UN Migration Agency; and partners on the VPRS to provide life-saving solutions for the refugees most in need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.
“The UK has embarked on an impressive upscaling of the VPRS in a short period, setting in place structures to welcome highly vulnerable refugees and allowing them to gradually stand on their own feet again,” said UNHCR’s UK Representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa.
“Collaboration between the central Government, local and devolved authorities and service providers has been commendable. I’ve been up and down the country meeting refugee families and local communities, and the strong support for this programme and refugee integration generally is something the UK should be proud of.”
IOM facilitates pre-departure health assessments, cultural orientation and travel for refugees going to the UK. IOM also supports national and local governments to develop integration programmes as part of a holistic migration management strategy.
“The UK has achieved a significant milestone for the VPRS by resettling over half of the 20,000 committed to be resettled by 2020,” said IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi. “The generosity and welcome shown by the UK government and the British people to those resettled is commendable.”
“Today, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide have been resettled and the need continues to be dire. Resettlement cannot be viewed as a one-off effort. Countries must step up to resettle more refugees and to view this as part of a holistic process to help vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives.”
The UK’s resettlement schemes are just some of the ways the Government is supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
“I cannot wait to move to the UK,” says 11-year-old Shahed. Most of her life has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria. Last week her family arrived at the IOM offices in Beirut, Lebanon for the final preparations to resettle to the UK.
A big smile stretches across her face. She understands that this is an opportunity for a new beginning for her family, and Shahed’s plans are already in full swing.
“I want to study and one day be able to teach Maths, Geography or Philosophy. I also want to help other people.”
Shahed and her family will resettle to the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that has provided an opportunity for over 10,000 refugees to rebuild their lives since 2015.
Since 2012, across Syria and the region, the UK has provided at least 26 million food rations, 9.8 million relief packages, 10.3 million medical consultations and 8.3 million vaccines.
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