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EU uses energy for political purposes in relations with Russia

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Wednesday, May 27:

1Azerbaijan’s prestige on the international arena is growing. Statements on the occasion of Republic Day. Vladimir Putin: “Azerbaijan is confidently moving forward on the path of socio-economic, scientific, technological and cultural development. I note with satisfaction the high level of Russian-Azerbaijani relations, which are based on strong traditions of friendship, good neighborliness and mutual respect. I am confident that through joint efforts we will ensure further expansion of constructive political dialogue, development of productive cooperation in all areas. This is in the vital interests of the people of our countries, and serves the strengthening of international stability and security”. Barack Obama: “Since Azerbaijan`s independence, the United States has strongly supported the security and democratic and economic development of Azerbaijan. We do so because we value our bilateral relationship and appreciate our partnership in many areas, including in promoting the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stability in Afghanistan, and European energy diversification.”

2“The world needs to realize that Russia plays an essential role in the global political process”, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told Rossiya-24 television. “A country becomes a great power not because of its gas and oil riches… but because of its participation in global affairs in order to resolve problems that occur here and there in the world, to help promote peace around the world. Here, Russia’s role is indispensable, and the world needs to understand it. Russia has enough resources to cope with the repercussions of the Western economic sanctions.” he added.

3Tensions rise as Russia and Nato launch rival war games. About 250 aircraft and 12,000 servicemen will take part in Russian combat readiness drills over the Urals mountains and Siberia in what the country’s defence ministry has described as a “massive surprise inspection”. The snap exercises launched yesterday in Russia’s central military district began on the same day Nato launched its own long-planned exercises in the Arctic. About 100 aircraft and 4,000 servicemen will take part in “Arctic Challenge”, a Norwegian-led aviation exercise described as the “largest of its kind”. Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister with responsibility for defence, further raised tensions over the weekend when he joked on national television that “tanks don’t need visas”. The comment came in response to a question about US and EU sanctions and visa bans imposed on several prominent Russian politicians and businessmen. [Independent]

4Turkmenistan extends export of electricity. In order to increase the volume of electricity exported to Afghanistan, construction of an overhead transmission line with a voltage of 500 kilovolts is underway in Turkmenistan, which is currently in the final stage, said the message of the government of Turkmenistan May 27.“However, with the implementation of this ambitious project, the export of Turkmen electricity to Tajikistan and Pakistan via Afghanistan will become technically possible,” said the message.

5Kazakhstan’s energy sector is experiencing the growth in investments, according to a message from the analytical service, Ranking.kz. The analytical service said that since the start of realization of a program called “Tariff in Exchange for Investments” in 2009, the investments in the energy sector grew by over 2.5 times (264 percent). Among the sources for the investments to the fixed capital of Kazakhstan’s energy sector companies, two types of sources are distinguishable (they provided 87 percent of investments). These are the own funds of the market participants and the funds from the budget.

6“In Azerbaijan we don’t see an obstacle for bringing gas from Turkmenistan under the Caspian Sea”, Vitaly Baylarbayov, deputy Vice President of SOCAR told EurActiv online magazine in an exclusive interview. He was commenting on Russia’s possible obstruction of such a project, due to the unfinished delimitation of the Caspian Sea. “We recognize that the borders of the sectors between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have not been delimited,” he said. “But laying down a pipe doesn’t in any way interfere with the legal status. It doesn’t matter on which seabed the pipe is running, fees and taxes are not due offshore.”

7EU uses energy for political purposes in relations with Russia. Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, said on Wednesday that in its relations with Moscow the EU was doing exactly the same thing which Russia was usually accused of, namely using energy for political purposes.”There is every indication that the EU is trying to put into practice those things it used to accuse Russia of, namely the use of energy for political purposes,” said in an exclusive interview with TASS. “There is no other possible explanation for attempts to reduce Russia’s share in the EU’s energy balance at any cost,” he said. [TASS]

8Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take serious action to deal with problems facing the Muslim world, particularly the ongoing war in Yemen.“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation should seriously address this important issue of the Muslim world and bring Yemeni groups to the [negotiating] table to end this disaster,” Zarif said in a meeting with OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani in Kuwait City, the capital of Kuwait, on Tuesday.

9Tentative agreements, which could initiate the signing of a great peace agreement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, may have been reached at the talks in Moscow between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Russia, Fikrat Sadikhov, the political scientist, professor of Azerbaijan’s Western Universiy, told Trend.az. “Russia understands Azerbaijan’s value as a key player in the region, an important partner, with which it is beneficial to cooperate,” he said.

10Kazakhstan Opening Itself to Africa. Kazakhstan is working to expand its cooperation with African nations across the board, Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov told a number of African journalists who participated in the recent Astana Economic Forum. “The African continent is not the same as it was earlier. Everything is changing now,” said Idrissov. “Our country intends to further widen its presence through sub-regional centres of the continent.” he added. Africa has significant natural resources and a huge market for different industrial and agricultural goods. According to some respected international research centres, in the 21st century the African continent will occupy a leading position by its economic development temps and can become the most important commercial partner and economic destination for Kazakhstani businesses. Experts believe if the current development temps are constant by 2025, some African countries will reach a status of a state with an average population income. [The Astana Times]

 

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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UNIDO and Kenya to increase cooperation for inclusive and sustainable industrial development

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LI Yong, the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), arrived for a two day official visit to Kenya where he will meet numerous high-level government and private sector representatives, including H. E. President Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the Africa Heads of State and Government who are also Champions for the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III).

During his official visit, LI Yong will also meet with the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom he will have the opportunity to discuss stronger collaboration, including through UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership (PCP), the Organization’s innovative model for accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

Further, the UNIDO Director General will meet key private sector representatives, including from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and will pay a visit to the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI). The two day visit will allow LI Yong to also meet with donors and development partners, including the UN Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) as well as, inter alia, the Head of Development Cooperation and Acting Ambassador of the EU delegation to Kenya and the Ambassador of Italy to Kenya.

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UN Security Council discusses Kashmir- China urges India and Pakistan to ease tensions

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

The Security Council considered the volatile situation surrounding Kashmir on Friday, addressing the issue in a meeting focused solely on the dispute, within the UN body dedicated to resolving matters of international peace and security, for the first time since 1965. 

Although the meeting took place behind closed doors in New York, the Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun, spoke to reporters outside the chamber following deliberations, urging both India and Pakistan to “refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate” what was an already “tense and very dangerous” situation. 

The Indian-administered part of the majority-Muslim region, known as Jammu and Kashmir had its special status within the constitution revoked by the Indian Government on 5 August, placing it under tighter central control. Pakistan has argued that the move violates international law. 

The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area, which both countries claim in its entirety, with the areas under separate administration, divided by a so-called Line of Control. The UN Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on any ceasefire violations.  

In a statement issued on 8 August, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been following the situation in Jammu and Kashmir “with concern”, making an appeal for “maximum restraint”.  

“The position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter…and applicable Security Council resolutions”, said the statement. “The Secretary-General also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan also known as the Simla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means”, in accordance with the UN Charter

Ambassador Zhang said Council members had “expressed their serious concern” concerning the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir…The Kashmir issue should be resolved properly through peaceful means, in accordance with the UN Charter, the relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.” 

Pakistan requested the Security Council meeting on 13 August, and it was subsequently called for by Permament Member, China.  

Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, Pakistan’s Ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi said the meeting had allowed “the voice of the people of the occupied Kashmir” to be heard “in the highest diplomatic forum of the world.” She argued that “the fact that this meeting took place, is testimony to the fact that this is an international dispute.” 

She said that “as far as my country is concerned, we stand ready for a peaceful settlement of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I think today’s meeting nullifies India’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India. Today the whole world is discussing the occupied state and the situation there.” 

Speaking a few minutes later, India’s Ambassador, Syed Akbaruddin, said that “our national position was, and remains, that matters related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, are entirely an internal matter of India…The recent decisions taken by the Government of India and our legislative bodies are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted, socio-economic development is enhanced for our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.” 

He said that the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir had announced measures which would return the region towards a state of “normalcy” 

“India remains committed to ensure that the situation there remains calm and peaceful. We are committed to all the agreements that we have signed on this issue.” 

But without naming names, he stated that “of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of jihad against and promoting violence in India, including by their leaders”, adding that India was committed to the principle “that all issues between India and Pakistan, as well as India and any other country, will be resolved bilaterally, peacefully, and in a manner that behooves normal inter-state relations between countries.” 

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ADB to Help Drive Modernization in First Loan for Sri Lanka’s Railway Sector

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $160 million loan to modernize the operations and improve the efficiency of Sri Lanka Railways, the country’s railway operator, by upgrading its infrastructure and technical capacity. This is ADB’s first loan in Sri Lanka’s railway sector.

“There is a need to improve public transportation in Sri Lanka to serve a growing population, expected to reach 25 million by 2050,” said ADB Transport Specialist Mr. Johan Georget. “An improved railway system will help promote the development of services and industries across Sri Lanka, as well as put the railway as a viable transportation mode of choice for the people. This is particularly the case in suburban Colombo, where the impacts of traffic congestion are strongly felt by all road commuters as vehicle numbers have doubled between 2008 and 2018, while rail commuters often face overcrowded trains.”

Sri Lanka Railways moves 136.7 million passengers and 2 million tons of goods annually. However, the market share of the railway sector has progressively declined over the years, while the country’s railway infrastructure is overdue for significant upgrades and modernization. The network’s signaling and telecommunication systems are outdated, and the paper tickets are manually printed for all ticket classes and station pairs. Sri Lanka Railways owns 250 diesel locomotives and multiple units, but only about three-quarters of them are operational and half of the fleet is more than 30 years old.

The Railway Efficiency Improvement Project will finance the modernization of the country’s railway system in several aspects to improve the operations, maintenance, safety, skills development, and technical capacity of Sri Lanka Railways. The project will provide a modern multichannel—paper, mobile, and smart card—ticketing system, and will also install a state-of-the-art telecommunications system, which will replace the original system installed in 1985, and allow for two-way communications with train drivers and reduce train delays. The project will also finance a new operations headquarters and train control center, provide infrastructure and equipment for the maintenance of track and rolling stock, and improve railway safety. The technical training center of Sri Lanka Railways will be upgraded and new courses will be developed to provide future graduates with knowledge of modern railway technologies.

The project will also strengthen the capacity and readiness for future railway projects. This will include a detailed study for the Kandy suburban railway network; a study on transit-oriented development and land value capture; the preparation of a railway asset inventory and a land management strategy; and the modernization of the information technology and maintenance capacity of Sri Lanka Railways.

The total cost of the project is $192 million, with the Government of Sri Lanka providing $32 million. The expected project completion date is the end of 2024.

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