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
1Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said that Iran will not give up its quota in OPEC and its share in world market.Speaking on Iranian State TV Aug. 26, Zanganeh said Iran will raise exports even if the oil prices fall.“The Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means ignore its quota in OPEC and the world oil market. We have no problem with slashing of oil prices on the global market because we can double our oil exports,” said Zangeneh, adding, “We should bypass the tyrannical conditions imposed on our country because maintaining Iran quota in OPEC and world market is among our vital parameters.” He said. Noting that the OPEC members should reconsider current oil production, Zanganeh said to this end, OPEC members have been asked to hold an extraordinary session that will be held if all the 13 members agree to it on consensus. Certain OPEC members do not wish increase in the prices and want to harm other members through low prices as a result of oversupply, he concluded.
2The next meeting of the Working Group on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is scheduled for early September in Moscow, Iran’s special envoy for Caspian affairs, Ibrahim Rahimpur told Trend. Rahimpur said the meeting would discuss the issues on the legal status of the Caspian Sea still uncoordinated by the littoral states.There are two possible solutions to the issue on the legal status of the Caspian Sea: delimitation using a midline modified method or division into five equal parts of 20 percent share.Baku supports defining the Caspian Sea’s legal status based on the sovereign rights of the littoral states, a mutually beneficial partnership, and peaceful negotiations.Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delimitation of their respective Caspian maritime borders on May 14, 2003. Azerbaijan, together with Kazakhstan and Russia, agreed on the delimitation of the sea in early 2000. Turkmenistan and Iran, however, have not reached a consensus yet.
3China and Russia: Cyber Cousins but not Cyber Brothers. “There seems to be a strong divergence in perception behind China’s desire to command cyberspace offensively. On the one hand, there is the assumption that this is a natural manifestation of its growing desire to achieve global superpower status. On the other hand, there is the counter-argument that emphasizes China’s own perception to be unable to operate effectively against the United States in a conventional military confrontation. Indeed, many Chinese writings suggest cyber warfare is considered an obvious asymmetric instrument for balancing overwhelming US power” Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.
4Putin To Visit China Next Week, Sign 20 Bilateral Deals. Putin will attend celebrations dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the victory of Chinese people over Japan and the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII. The Russian and Chinese leaders also plan to hold negotiations on energy and other issues, and sign more than 20 bilateral documents, many implementing agreements reached during Xi’s visit to Russia in May 2015 and in meetings in Ufa in July 2015.Russia’s Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said cooperation between the two countries has “already become a powerful stabilizing factor of security” in the world.
5Pakistan and Kazakhstan on Wednesday agreed to bolster bilateral ties through enhanced cooperation in trade, economy, energy, science and technology and education for the mutual benefit of two brotherly countries.“As we move forward, we would be taking concrete steps to expand mutual cooperation in diverse fields, including regional connectivity, energy, security, education, culture, and people-to-people exchanges,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing a joint press conference with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The prime minister said the two sides also agreed to strengthen economic cooperation by optimally utilising the existing institutional mechanisms, adding, the bilateral trade between the two countries was not commensurate with the actual potential and needed to be revitalized.
6Kazakhstan Steering through Troubled Waters. “Perhaps, with the exception of multinational oil companies, potential investors are turned off by the many disadvantages there are to investing in Kazakhstan. In addition to being quasi-democratic and geographically landlocked, Kazakhstan’s private sector lacks experience, still has to develop a larger educated workforce, and suffers from global doubt as to its financial ability to follow through on the aforementioned promises. It also doesn’t help that Kazakhstan acts like an autocracy at times in that its government is known for its lack of transparency and has high levels of corruption. It maintains tight controls over the press, lacks diversity, and has an unimpressive civil rights record. Dealing with these political complications would be an inevitable headache for investors” Jeanette “JJ” Harper for Modern Diplomacy.
7The Western flow of Caspian natural gas. Azerbaijan has been a reliable energy partner with the West for more than 20 years now, after the country opened up to international investment and partnership following the restoration of its independence from the Soviet Union. Since 2006, it has pumped nearly a million barrels of crude oil each day through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Europe, the U.S. and Israel, and much-needed natural gas through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline.Unlike those pipelines, which were designed and driven by international companies, Azerbaijan itself is now a major player in the Southern Gas Corridor. The corridor will start in Azerbaijan, initially tapping into its giant, Manhattan-size Shah Deniz gas field. Azerbaijan’s state energy company, SOCAR, is also a major stakeholder in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and will operate the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline; and its input will also be essential if the Trans-Caspian Pipeline is built. Nasimi Aghayev Azerbaijan’s consul general to the Western United States, based in Los Angeles [Washington Times]
8Azerbaijan to regulate activity of social networks. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and High Technologies will certify the activity of instant messengers (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype and others) and social networks, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov told reports August 27. He said that the negotiations with these companies have already started.“Most of them have reacted positively to this action of the regulatory body of the country, moreover, a number of them render services over the Internet. As a regulatory body, we believe that the companies engaged in mass collection of information in Azerbaijan must work in accordance with the country’s law about the personal data, that is, get a certificate. This certificate is issued by our ministry.”
9Why an Iranian New Deal was Necessary. “Several conceptual and theoretical explanations have been used to highlight key indicators that counteract the effectiveness of sanctions within the Middle East and how the spread of certain ideologies and social practices have impacted the success of international mediations. This microcosm analysis of the various social variables, mostly stemming from historical and political events, supports the need to judge more harshly the long-term efficacy of sanctions. It provides an analysis concerning weapons proliferation within Iran and will question the overall potential success of sanctions against such targeted states” Dianne A. Valdez for Modern Diplomacy.
10Russia Overtakes Botswana as World’s Top Diamond Producer. Canada emerged third in production value, Angola fourth and South Africa fifth. Russia saw its output leap 20% to $3.73 billion, while the value of precious stones rose 19% to $97.47 per carat. Its volume jumped 1% to 38.303 million carats. Botswana saw its diamond value drop 5% to $147.84 per carat as the growth in value of the country’s diamond output remained at $3.65 billion despite a 6% leap in volume to 23.187 million carats.
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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