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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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UNIDO and WAIPA launch e-learning module on impact investing

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) launched a 4-module e-learning course on “Impact Investing” on the Knowledge Hub of UNIDO’s Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation (TII). The course will allow to improve knowledge of the fast-rising impact investing segment and to understand how this new important trend will affect investment promotion and facilitation efforts by investment promotion agencies (IPAs). The course was prepared with the support of one of the pioneers and now largest impact investors in France, “Investisseurs et Partenaires” (I&P). I&P is headed by former Director of France’s International Development Agency, Jean-Michel Severino, who visited UNIDO in April 2018 to explore cooperation and synergies with UNIDO’s investment promotion work in Africa.

This course is the follow-up and complement to the successfully organized workshop for IPAs on impact investing, organized between WAIPA, UNIDO and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in February 2018. It is a response to the IPAs’ need to be equipped with novel methodologies for the promotion of foreign direct investments (FDI) with concrete impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a recent IPA survey report of UNIDO’s partner WAIPA revealed, 67 per cent of all IPAs consider the attraction of SDG investments to be of great importance, with job creation and technology transfer impact ranked highest.  The e-learning course will be complemented by physical classroom trainings.

The TII Knowledge Hub features further e-learning courses on “Quality Infrastructure and Trade” (9 modules in total) and “E-commerce” (8 modules in total). Participation is free of charge and a certificate will be issued.

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Guterres: Two States ‘side-by-side’ is the ‘peaceful and just solution’ for Israel-Palestine conflict

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A “peaceful and just solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict can “only be achieved” through two States “living side-by-side in peace and security”, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated on Friday

In his address to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1975, Mr. Guterres said on Friday that “based on relevant UN resolutions, long-held principles, previous agreements and international law”, Jerusalem should be the capital of both States.

“Unfortunately, over this past year, the situation has not moved in that direction”, he continued, pointing to protests that began along the border fence with Gaza last year that left hundreds dead and thousands wounded by Israeli security forces.

He also cited “security incidents and provocations by Hamas and other militants in Gaza”, including the launching of rockets and incendiary kites that dangerously escalated the situation.

“Thanks to UN and Egyptian mediation efforts, a major escalation was avoided”, he continued, appealing to Hamas authorities in Gaza to “prevent provocations”. The UN chief said that under International Humanitarian Law, “Israel, too, has a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint”, except as a last resort.

Mr. Guterres underscored that the UN firmly supports Palestinian reconciliation and “the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government to Gaza”, as “an integral part of a future Palestinian State”.

Spelling out that the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza must be “immediately addressed”, he detailed that some two million Palestinians “remain mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to adequate health, education, water and electricity”, leaving young people with “little prospect of a better future”.

“I urge Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which also hamper the efforts of the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, without naturally jeopardizing legitimate security concerns,” the Secretary-General stated.

Lauding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for its “critical work” in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and across the region, he called on the international community to “significantly” increase efforts to revitalize Gaza’s economy.

Turning to the “risk of further unrest in the West Bank”, the UN chief flagged that Israeli construction and settlement plans have expanded, including in East Jerusalem.

“Settlements are illegal under international law” he asserted. “They deepen the sense of mistrust and undermine the two-State solution”.

Mr. Guterres said he regretted Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, saying: “I hope an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement.”

“Palestinians have endured more than a half-century of occupation and denial of their legitimate right to self-determination” with both sides continuously suffering from “deadly cycles of violence”, said the Secretary-General.

He indicated that leaders bore the responsibility to “reverse this negative trajectory and pave the way toward peace, stability and reconciliation” and praised the Committee for keeping the focus on the ultimate objective of a “peaceful solution with two States coexisting in peace and security” as the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

“As I have said repeatedly, there is no Plan B”, concluded Mr. Guterres.

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Reducing Gender Gap Boosts Sri Lankan Economy

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The World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer concluded his three-day visit to Sri Lanka on Friday with a commitment to work with public and private sectors to create the space for women to access work and remain at work. Evidence suggests that Sri Lankan women are excelling in higher education and outlive men, but they are not part of the workforce. This comes at great cost to economic growth.

During the visit the Vice President met with the President of Sri Lanka, HE Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister, Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe, Minister of Finance, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, State Minister of Finance, Hon. Eran Wickremaratne, the Mayor of Colombo, HW Rosy Senanayake and the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Indrajith Coomaraswamy. He also interacted with community groups, project officials, private sector, development partners, civil society groups and completed a field visit to learn about a planned project to mitigate flood risk in Colombo. He also launched the latest edition of the Sri Lanka Development Update (SLDU), a report on the key developments over the past six months in Sri Lanka’s economy, placed in a longer term global context. On the last day, he participated in an exhibition and awards ceremony for female photographers at the Colombo Municipal Council.

“Getting more women into jobs is not only a development imperative, but there’s also a strong business case” said Schafer highlighting Sri Lanka’s achievements in human capital development and economic growth amidst challenges and risks. “Sri Lanka specifically could grow its economy by as much as 20 percent in the long-run by closing the gender gap in the workforce” emphasized Schafer quoting data from an IMF study.

Schafer concluded his visit with a meeting with His Excellency, the President of Sri Lanka. The VP reaffirmed the World Bank’s commitment to continue the over Six-decade long partnership with the country.

Earlier, Schafer visited a future project site along the Kelaniya river, the third largest river basin in Sri Lanka providing around 80 percent of drinking water to residents of Colombo. Schafer met with the project officials and communities to understand the current challenges due to changing weather patterns, flash floods and loss of life and livelihoods. Around 740,000 people are at risk of a 5 year flood with around $240 million flood related losses estimated. He observed the potential investments that could mitigate flood risk as well as improve the quality of drinking water and quality of life alongside the river.

During meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor, Schafer discussed the Government of Sri Lanka’s reform agenda. Schafer congratulated the Government’s achievements in reforms and moving up to the top 100 rank in the Doing Business index. Inland revenue act, the fuel pricing formula, national audit act and the active liability management act were among the noteworthy reform achievements. They also discussed the remaining challenges of stabilizing financial system, risk management and building fiscal resilience.

The State Minister of Finance and the Mayor of Colombo engaged in conversations around increasing women’s participation in the workforce on the sidelines of two events; the launch of the SLDU and an event to award women photographers, which was a part of a year-long partnership campaign to press for progress in reforms to increase women’s participation in the workforce. The World Bank will continue to work with both public and private sector partners through its operations in Sri Lanka to press for progress to create the space for women to get into work and remain at work.

Background: IBRD and IDA portfolio commitments currently total US$ 1728.5 million (as of January 2019) with 14 operations under implementation. Currently, nearly 60 percent of commitments comprised lending in the sustainable development cluster (urban, climate resilience, agriculture, environment and water) and another 36 percent in human development (education, health and social protection). Sri Lanka graduated from IDA at the end of IDA17 and currently receives transitional financing from IDA18 (FY18-20) amounting to US$407 million.

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