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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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IEA holds high-level workshop on the future of electricity

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Participants in the IEA's electricity workshop will help focus the work of the next World Energy Outlook's fuel focus on electricity (Photograph: IEA)

The future of electricity will be the “fuel” focus of the next World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency’s flagship publication, to be released in mid-November.   

As part of an agency-wide effort on this WEO electricity focus, the IEA hosted a high-level workshop in Paris on Tuesday, bringing together decision makers and leading experts from around the world to provide strategic guidance on the analysis and share their experience. The workshop marked a high point in the IEA’s “Year of Electricity,” examining various aspects of the transformation of the electricity sector this year.

The workshop was attended by representatives from 75 organisations, covering a wide range from government, industry, utilities, manufacturers, downstream, consulting, industry associations, research and academia. It also included a broad regional coverage, with participants representing more than 40 countries, from the IEA family and beyond.

The future looks bright for electricity, which is set to grow at twice the rate of overall energy demand to 2040. In 2016, total power sector investment surpassed that of oil and gas for the first time, propelled by renewables, mostly solar and wind. Meanwhile 1.1 billion people still lack access to electricity globally, new demand is coming from electric mobility, digitalization, cooling and heating.

And the nature of electricity supply is undergoing a major transition, from a century-old foundation of dispatchable fossil fuels to ever cheaper variable renewables, with related market reforms underway. The power sector is responsible for close to 40% of energy-related greenhouse-gas emissions, 60% of coal use and 36% of natural gas use. Understanding changes in the power sector is therefore essential to analysing progress towards environmental goals and understanding global energy trends.

The objectives of the WEO’s focus on electricity will include:

– Assessing the long-term outlook for electricity demand, with insights on traditional and new sources of demand growth such as electric vehicles, digitalization, cooling and energy access in developing countries, and the emerging need for responsive demand.

– Providing in-depth analysis of the speed of the transition underway in electricity supply – highlighting global issues and regional perspectives – based on the latest market data, technology developments and government policies.

– Investigating the implications on electricity security, environmental protection and economic development, with insights on market designs.

– Exploring key uncertainties, resulting from the pace of deployment for new technologies, market and policy developments, and changing consumer preferences.

In addition, this year’s WEO will also have a focus on oil and gas producing economies.

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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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