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Will Iran transform global gas markets?

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Friday, June 5:

1Iran is a bona fide superpower in global energy markets. Or rather it would be if reserves in the ground were the measuring stick. Taking oil and gas together, only Russia can boast of greater riches.The potential to be a major gas exporter, then, is huge – were it not, that is, for the small matter of sanctions.This rather obvious point is not lost on President Hasan Rouhani, who has wasted little time in repairing relations with the West, with one eye firmly on future oil and gas revenues to help bolster his country’s ailing economy. His efforts are very likely to be rewarded in the coming months, as a nuclear deal with the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China that would end sanctions moves ever closer”, writes Richard Anderson for the BBC.

2The Obama administration is weighing a range of aggressive responses to Russia’s alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty, including deploying land-based missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy the Russian weapons. This “counterforce” option is among possibilities the administration is considering as it reviews its entire policy toward Russia in light of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea and other actions the U.S. deems confrontational in Europe and beyond. The options go so far as one implied — but not stated explicitly — that would improve the ability of U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory” writes Robert Burns for Associated Press.

3The First European Games in Baku is an important event, a great success of Azerbaijan, which will be inscribed into Azerbaijan’s history, said the Azerbaijani president’s aide for public and political affairs, Ali Hasanov, on June 5. Hasanov went on to add that some people even don’t want to recognize Azerbaijan as a European state.“Some Europeans, ill with Islamophobia, perceive the ascension of a Muslim state as a great tragedy, they are jealous of the dynamic development of the Muslim peoples. We have to show them an example. Muslim states, such as Azerbaijan, don’t lag behind your most exemplary states professing other religions,” said Hasanov.

4Vladimir Putin and Alexander Dugin’s vision of “Holy Russia”, which is shared with the Russian Orthodox Church, sees Russia’s mission as being to expand its influence and authority until it dominates the Eurasian landmass by means of a strong, centralized Russian state aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, championing “traditional” social values over against the cultural corruption of a libertine West. The partnership between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has been aimed not only at articulating this sacralized view of Russian national identity to the domestic audience, but also in advancing the mission of the Russian nation abroad, writes Paul Coyer for Forbes.

5Saudi Arabia and Israel appear to be ascribing to the ancient proverb that says “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The two countries have held five secret meetings since the beginning of 2014 to address their regional foe, Iran, it was revealed on Thursday at a Council of Foreign Relations event in Washington.”Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years,” said Dore Gold, who will soon become Israel’s next foreign ministry director general, according to Bloomberg. “But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead.” Anwar Majed Eshki, a retired Saudi general who was once the adviser to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, and Gold disclosed the secret diplomacy, which is aimed at discussing how to address Iran’s growing influence in the region”, writes Angelo Young for the International Business Times.

6Lukoil talks oil and gas exploration in Kazakhstan . Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov visited Astana to attend the 28th Plenary Session of the Foreign Investors’ Council under the President of Kazakhstan. As part of his visit, Mr. Alekperov met with Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Masimov, executives from Kazakshtan’s Ministry of Energy and KazMunayGas, the national oil company of Kazakhstan. The parties discussed LUKOIL’s operations in Kazakhstan. Following the meeting, LUKOIL and KazMunayGas signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand the cooperation between the companies in exploration at unlicensed areas in Kazakhstan.

7Kazakhstan Agribusiness Report. Although the 2014/15 grain harvest has disappointed, the government is encouraging exporters to take advantage of climbing prices for wheat. The lowest quality grains will compete with imported corn for the animal feed market. Improving the quality of domestically produced animal feed is high up the agenda in the government’s Master Plans for the beef and poultry industries. We expect the sustained investment in improving inputs and providing financial support to commercial farms that the plans commit to will see meat production picking up pace. Despite the falling value of the tenge due to the oil price slump, we expect strong economic growth to 2019 , which will enable the government to continue to support agricultural development in the country.[FAST MARKET RESEARCH]

8Azerbaijan has raised its oil and gas production targets for 2015, after a strong performance from BP-operated fields during the early months of this year, according to a senior executive at state oil and gas firm SOCAR. Speaking Thursday at the Caspian Oil and Gas conference in Baku, SOCAR Vice President for Oil and Gas Production Rahman Gubanov stated that the country now plans to produce 291 million barrels of oil and 1.07 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2015. These figures are a slight improvement over the previous targeted amounts of 288 million barrels and 1.02 trillion cubic feet and comparable with what Azerbaijan produced last year (300 million barrels and 1.05 trillion cubic feet). Gubanov said that SOCAR’s own contribution to Azerbaijan’s 2015 production is planned to amount to 59.3 million barrels of oil and 230 billion cubic feet of gas. [RIGZONE]

9“We cannot ignore the crisis in Ukraine. It is the most painful crisis for all of us. We believe that it is time to take active measures to overcome it… There is a clear format in the Minsk agreements as to how it is to be overcome. Therefore, we are calling on all the parties to strictly adhere to the Minsk format and we believe that this is the only path that can lead us to overcoming this deep crisis. It is abnormal in nature and we believe that history will not let it continue for a long time,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Yerlan Idrissov said. Kazakhstan and President Nazarbayev personally are take part in the settlement of the crisis, he said. “Kazakhstan is ready to assist in resolving the crisis in our region,” he added.

10Turkmenistan’s parliament, the Majlis, adopted a resolution ratifying the Protocol for Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land Based Sources and Activities. The document is a protocol to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Caspian Sea’s Marine Environment also known as the Tehran Convention signed in November 2003. The Tehran Convention is the first legally binding agreement ratified by all the coastal states. It sets the main directions in the management of human impact to the marine environment, protection and reproduction of the Caspian Sea’s biological resources, and the procedural issues in making joint decisions by the Caspian states.

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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Yemen talks: Truce agreed over key port city of Hudaydah

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Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (left) and Head of Ansarullah delegation Mohammed Amdusalem (right) shake hands on a ceasefire in and around the Yemeni port of Hudaydah photo: Government Offices of Sweden/Ninni Andersson

The announcement of a ceasefire between Yemen’s warring parties in and around the key port of Hudaydah, was hailed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday as a deal which would improve the lives of millions of people.

Speaking on the last day of UN-led talks in Sweden to decide the future of the war-torn country, where its people are in the grip of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Mr. Guterres told those present that they had “the future of Yemen” in their hands.

“You have reached an agreement on Hudaydah port and city, which will see a mutual re-deployment of forces from the port and the city, and the establishment of a Governorate-wide ceasefire,” he said, noting that the UN would play “a leading role” in the port.

“This will facilitate the humanitarian access and the flow of goods to the civilian population. It will improve the living conditions for millions of Yemenis,” he insisted.

Nearly four years after fighting escalated between the Government of Yemen and Houthi opposition movement, known officially as Ansar Allah, more than 24 million people – three-quarters of the population – need some form of assistance and protection.

Some 20 million are food insecure and 10 million of these people do not know how they will obtain their next meal.

While noting that “pending issues” have yet to be resolved, the UN chief said that representatives from the internationally-recognised Government of Yemen and the opposition had made “real progress” which had yielded “several important results”.

These included a “mutual understanding to ease the situation in Taizz”, Mr Guterres said, in reference to the country’s third largest city.

“We hope this will lead to the opening of humanitarian corridors and the facilitation of demining,” he added.

On the previously-agreed issue of a mass exchange of prisoners, the UN Secretary-General noted that both delegations had drawn up a timeline and provided further details on when it might happen.

This would allow “thousands – I repeat, thousands – of Yemenis to be reunited with their families,” Mr Guterres said, with UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, at his side.

Breakthrough over talks framework

Looking ahead to a new meeting between both parties in the new year, the UN chief insisted that another “very important step for the peace process” had been agreed, namely a willingness to discuss a framework for negotiations.

“You have agreed to meet again to continue to discuss this further at the end of January during the next round of negotiations,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that it was a “critical element” of a future political settlement to end the conflict.

“We have a better understanding of the positions of the parties,” he added, noting their “constructive engagement”, while also crediting the Governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait for their “concrete support” in making the meeting happen.

Welcoming the announcement on the Hudaydah ceasefire, the World Food Programme (WFP) underlined that the Red Sea port was “key” to importing some 70 per cent of Yemen’s humanitarian and 90 per cent of its commercial needs.

“Any progress towards peace is good progress, as long as it helps the Yemeni people who have suffered so much in this conflict,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley, noting that what Yemen needed most was lasting peace.

“Today’s announcement gives us hope that the World Food Programme’s work to feed 12 million severely hungry Yemenis may be made easier in the coming weeks and months.”

Owing to the conflict, in recent weeks imports have decreased by about half at Hudaydah’s docks, WFP spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said.

“In November, our target in Hodeidah Governorate was to reach 800 000 people in need of food assistance. This ceasefire will of course help us in our daily activities as the region is one of WFPs priorities.”

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Innovation: key to solving climate change and promoting prosperity

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In the recently launched landmark report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading scientists warned that we only have 12 years to prevent the global environmental catastrophe caused by irreversible climate change. This will require rapid and far-reaching climate action in all sectors, including energy, industry, buildings, transport, agriculture and cities.

While industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for nearly one third of total global emissions, it is also a leading provider of climate technology solutions and green jobs.

As the UN’s specialized agency promoting industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is committed to enabling a paradigm shift in industrialization in developing countries as a means to build low-emission climate-resilient societies.

Speaking at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24), UNIDO Director General LI Yong said, “Innovation is key to addressing climate change and promoting economic and social prosperity.”

UNIDO is currently implementing over 400 projects, which directly contribute to achieving the targets and goals set by both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To enhance knowledge sharing and demonstrate proven and effective solutions for replication and scaling up, UNIDO showcased some of these projects during COP24 side events.

For instance, the UNIDO-GEF Global Cleantech Innovation Programme, which supports small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs in developing innovative climate and clean energy solutions as profitable business models, prominently featured in multiple technology-related side events.

UNIDO also presented its clean cooking fuels initiative, which promotes the production of biofuels in developing countries, as well as the manufacturing of the stoves on an industrial scale.

A dedicated side event marked the fifth anniversary of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), the implementing arm of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism. Hosted by UNIDO and UN Environment, the CTCN promotes the accelerated transfer of environmentally sound technologies for mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries.

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New ADB Platform to Help Boost Financing for Climate Action

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a new platform aimed at helping its developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific mobilize funding to meet their goals under the Paris Agreement.

The NDC Advance platform will help countries mobilize finance to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) regarding greenhouse gas emissions that each country has voluntarily committed to under the Paris Agreement. NDCs also describe priority actions for countries to adapt to climate change.

The announcement was made at the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, which is aiming to finalize a rulebook for the Paris Agreement when it goes into effect on 1 January 2020.

The agreement aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C, while aiming for 1.5°C.

“Through their NDCs, our developing member countries have made ambitious commitments to respond to climate change,” said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Mr. Bambang Susantono. “We need to ensure that countries are able to mobilize the needed financing to deliver on their commitments. NDC Advance will help countries devise investment plans to tap financing from a variety of sources and to implement priority projects effectively.”

NDC Advance is funded through a $4.55 million grant from ADB and will have three aims: providing technical assistance that helps countries better engage with potential sources of climate finance and to make use of innovative finance mechanisms; identifying and prioritizing climate projects; and supporting countries in tracking how projects deliver against their NDC goals.

The new initiative will help propel the climate actions ADB has committed to under its Strategy 2030 program.

ADB earlier this year committed to ensuring that 75% of its operations will support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030, while providing cumulative climate financing of $80 billion from its own sources between 2019 and 2030.

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