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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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ADB Operations Reach $32.2 Billion in 2017- ADB Annual Report

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Annual Report 2017, released today, provides a clear, comprehensive, and detailed record of ADB’s operations, activities, and financial results over the past year.

Annual operations of ADB reached a record $32.2 billion in 2017, as the bank continues to meet Asia and the Pacific’s growing development needs, according to the Annual Report. This was a 26% increase from the year before.

ADB’s total operations of $32.2 billion last year consisted of $20.1 billion in loans, grants, and investments from its own resources (up 51% from 2016) including nonsovereign operations of $2.3 billion (a 31% increase from 2016); $11.9 billion in cofinancing from bilateral and multilateral agencies and other financing partners; and $201 million in technical assistance (a 11% increase from 2016).

These figures are based on ADB’s new performance measure of “commitments,” or the amount of loans, grants, and investments signed in a given year. ADB introduced this measure in 2017 to promote project readiness at approval stage, expedite post-approval steps, and get closer to project disbursement, by placing more emphasis on when the projects are signed, rather than when they are approved by ADB’s Board of Directors.

“We began a new chapter in meeting development needs across Asia and the Pacific in 2017,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. “With the merger of the bank’s concessional Asian Development Fund lending operations with the ordinary capital resources balance sheet from the start of 2017, ADB has a solid capital base to support our operations going forward.”

Mr. Nakao added, “We continue to combine finance with innovative solutions to respond better to the region’s diverse and specific challenges and needs, such as rapid urbanization, climate change, and growing demand for water and energy.”

ADB’s financing of climate mitigation and adaptation reached a record $4.5 billion in 2017, a 21% increase from the previous year. The bank is now in a good position to achieve its $6 billion annual climate financing target by 2020. ADB also mobilized an additional $606 million from external financing, bringing total climate financing to $5.2 billion last year.

The Annual Report emphasizes the importance of partnerships for ADB in scaling up project financing, and for sharing development knowledge and expertise. With the support of donors, ADB established five new trust funds in 2017 that will unlock capital for climate investments through innovative financial products, increase private sector participation in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, help cities prepare high-priority urban infrastructure investments, increase mobilization of domestic resources, and integrate high-level technology into infrastructure project designs.

On the downside, ADB’s disbursements decreased to $11.1 billion in 2017 from $12.3 billion in 2016, according to the Annual Report. Cofinancing also fell short of ADB’s targets.

“We will come up with concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new ADB procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage the bank’s resources,” said Mr. Nakao.

The Annual Report 2017 presents a more comprehensive picture of ADB operations than the previous annual reports in terms of numbers and institutional data. It provides expanded sections on financial highlights, sector and thematic work, and knowledge. ADB’s specific assistance to countries and regional programs, lists of trust funds and corporate reports, and organizational structure are also added.

The figures in the report update the provisional operations numbers released by ADB in January.

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New Funding for Mindanao Trust Fund to Strengthen Peace and Development in Southern Philippines

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Efforts to bring peace and progress in Mindanao were reaffirmed today following the signing of a new agreement that will build more socioeconomic infrastructure and improve literacy in conflict affected areas.

The new Program Partnership Agreement signed by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) – the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and humanitarian organization Community and Family Services International (CFSI) entrusts the two parties to implement the USD 3.2 million grant with financing from the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development (MTF).

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) also provided complementary funding amounting to 1 million euro to support similar activities.

“This new partnership agreement strengthens Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. It will help improve the quality of life of people in conflict-affected areas through community participation and the pursuit of sustainable livelihood within a peaceful, deliberative society,” said Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. “For four years, we have been reaching out to our fellow Filipinos in the south, touching lives and taking ‘peace by piece’ steps towards a developed Bangsamoro.”

Established in 2006 with support from development partners including the Australia, Canada, European Union, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States, and administered by the World Bank, the MTF consolidates international development assistance for the socioeconomic recovery of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao and seeks to build confidence in the normalization process with the MILF.

From 2006 to 2017, development partners have provided PHP 1.4 billion (USD 28.9 million) to the program. Within this period, results delivered by the MTF-Reconstruction and Development Project include 573 projects that improved infrastructure, strengthen livelihoods and functional literacy in 315 conflict-affected communities across 75 municipalities. Nearly 650,000 people now benefit from clean water, better roads, and more post-harvest facilities and access to farming and fishing equipment.

“The support of the Philippine government and development partners towards projects that strengthen the Bangsamoro’s capacities to improve their socioeconomic conditions reinforce people’s trust on the Bangsamoro peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” said MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The project also supported activities to improve livelihoods, infrastructure, and basic literacy in the Six Acknowledged MILF Camps: Camps Abubakar, Omar, Rajamuda, Badre, Bushra, and Bilal. The decision of Secretary Dureza of OPAPP, the MILF, and development partners to further intensify these efforts through the MTF highlight the partners’ commitment to peace and development in Mindanao.

“Greater economic opportunity and access to basic services foster hope in conflict-affected areas, which can build understanding and collaboration among community members. The World Bank is committed to supporting efforts that enhance the prospects for peace in Mindanao,” said Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

“Australia is a longstanding supporter of peace and development in Mindanao, and is proud to be a partner for change in the second phase of the Mindanao Trust Fund,” said Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely. “As the first phase has already shown, the socio-economic infrastructure and literacy projects it will provide can have a remarkable impact for communities in Muslim Mindanao.”

“One of the biggest challenges for development policies is to tackle the most vulnerable communities affected by multiple conflicts and threats; to not leave them behind. This complex aim needs joint resources from national and international stakeholders following a sound local leadership. MTF has acted as a valuable driver of such efforts,” said Juan Pita, General Coordinator of AECID.

The MTF has a steering committee that oversees the implementation and evaluation of the program. It is chaired by OPAPP, BDA, and the World Bank, which also serves as the trust fund secretariat.

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Bangladesh: World Bank Increases Support for Clean, Renewable Energy

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The World Bank today approved $55 million to expand use of clean renewable energy in rural areas of Bangladesh where grid electricity cannot reach easily.

The additional financing to the Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development (RERED II) Project will install 1,000 solar irrigation pumps, 30 solar mini-grids, and about 4 million improved cookstoves in rural areas. The project, including the additional financing, will enable about 10 million people living in villages, shoals, and islands to access electricity and use energy efficient cookstoves. These interventions will help the country reduce carbon emissions.

We are proud to be helping Bangladesh increase access to clean electricity through solar power. Today, the country has one of the world’s largest domestic solar power programs, covering 14 percent of the population,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “Building on its success in using solar energy to provide electricity in rural areas, this financing will also scale up other clean renewable energy options.”

The project has already built 10 solar mini-grids in remote areas, including islands and shoals to provide grid quality electricity. This additional financing will help construct another 30 solar mini-grids. These will provide about 28,000 connections to households and businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises.

The financing will also help increase use of solar irrigation pumps, a low-cost technology that is well suited to the country’s flat terrain and abundant sunshine. This switch from diesel pumps will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and save foreign exchange by reducing the government’s subsidy on diesel imports.

“In Bangladesh, indoor air pollution causes 107,000 deaths per year, mostly women and children. Traditional cookstoves used in rural areas is a major contributor to this,” said Amit Jain, World Bank Team Leader for the project. “This project will scale up use of improved stoves. Their energy-efficient design will emit 90 percent less carbon monoxide and use half as much firewood as a traditional stove. A major thrust of the project will be to increase use of affordable-fuel efficient cookstoves by the poor and extreme poor.”

Since 2002, the World Bank has been helping the government expand renewable energy programs. In the energy sector, the World Bank has ongoing support of over $1.6 billion in Bangladesh covering generation, transmission, distribution, and renewable energy.

In addition, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board has on February 27, 2018 approved an additional $20 million to support the energy efficient cookstoves project, which is their first approved cookstoves project.

The credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association, which provides grants or zero-interest loans, has a 38-year term, including a 6-year grace period, and a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed nearly $28 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been among the largest recipients of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.

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