Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos
1Cementing their economic and strategic ties, India and Kazakhstan today signed signing five agreements, including a second agreement for supply of uranium. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a six-nation tour to Russia and five Central Asian nations, held restricted meeting with Kazakhstan President Nur Sultan Nazar Bayev in Astana, before witnessing the signing ceremony. Addressing a joint media conference with Kazakh President, the Prime Minister said, “Our defence and security cooperation is an important dimension of our strategic partnership. We both want to make it stronger, including in defence manufacturing.”
2Turkmen Army, Ankara’s New Weapon to Fight against Syrian Kurds. Turkey is concerned about the empowerment of Kurdish forces in Northern Syria and plans to recruit the Turkmen forces to form a Turkmen army in the Arab country, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported. The Turkish government ordered the two groups of Turkmen Council of Syria and Turkmen Armed Forces to start forming the army under the pretext of protection against the YPG danger. Tuesday media reports also said that Turkey has redeployed part of its army behind Syria’s borders to help the terrorist group take control of Aleppo.”Threats and military movements by Turkey near the Syrian borders is aimed at rendering help to the al-Nusra Front to conquer Aleppo,” the Arabic-language Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported.
3South Africa and Russia sign energy pacts as deals go down at BRICS. The agreements, signed on Wednesday at the summit of emerging Brics nations in Ufa, Russia, are part of South Africa’s attempts to lessen its reliance on coal and overcome power shortages that threaten economic growth. They call for joint projects to educate and encourage “public acceptance of nuclear power” in South Africa, and will include programmes for training specialists in South Africa’s nuclear industry, the South African Department of Energy said in a statement. South Africa is considering using reactors from Russia’s Rosatom and Westinghouse for its planned 9,600 MW nuclear fleet expansion, an energy advisor to the government said in June. The country plans to build six new nuclear power plants by 2030 at an estimated cost of between R400-billion and R1-trillion.
4Iran’s Unserious Critics. “There’s a good deal to be had. The opportunity must not be squandered. The deal is not yet in place but enormous obstacles have already been overcome since secret U.S.-Iranian talks began and a productive Washington-Tehran relationship was established for the first time since 1979” writes Roger Cohen for the New York Times.
5Azerbaijan, Belarus discuss military cooperation. First Deputy Minister of Defense, Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces Colonel General Nejmeddin Sadikov met on Wednesday a delegation led by Chairman of the Belarusian State Military Industrial Committee Sergei Gurulyov. The sides discussed military cooperation and other issues of mutual interest between Azerbaijan and Belarus.
6Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight. “Russia is not anti-American. Russia is simply first and foremost pro-Russia, just as it expects and assumes America to be first and foremost pro-America. And here is the tricky part: on this issue, in the eyes of most of the world when speaking privately, Russia is right. America is the only country that indefatigably explains its positions as being about something more than just purely American interests” writes Dr. Matthew Crosston for the Modern Diplomacy.
7President Vladimir Putin has said Russia and China can overcome their difficulties by working together. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping both arrived in the Russian city of Ufa on July 8 for summits of the BRICS group and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Welcoming the Chinese leader, Putin said, “Combining efforts, no doubt we will overcome all the problems before us.” The Russian president held bilateral meetings with other leaders ahead of the BRICS and SCO summits opening July 9.
8“The U.S. Embassy is not plotting a coup in Azerbaijan” The U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan has issued a statement to dismiss media rumors that it is plotting a coup in the country. According to the statement, Ambassador Cekuta has been meeting with representatives of a number of political parties, including the New Azerbaijan Party, the Popular Front Party, and Musavat, to listen to their views.”All meetings have been announced publicly as part of the Ambassador’s efforts to meet with and listen to Azerbaijanis from all aspects of society. The Ambassador also continues meeting extensively with top figures in Azerbaijan’s government. The U.S. Embassy is not plotting a coup in Azerbaijan. Nor is it instructing or financing any political party in the country. Suggestions to the contrary do an injustice to decades of significant U.S. cooperation and support for a stable, prosperous, and independent Azerbaijan,” said the statement.
9Azerbaijan’s Role to the U.S. and Russia. “The 2008 Georgia War, with its ongoing disputes, and the Ukraine crisis presently highlights the dangers when leaving Russia’s orbit to move towards the West. However, Russia’s relationship with the former Soviet Republic Armenia is of particular concern to Azerbaijan” writes Taylor Morse for the Modern Diplomacy.
10New Kazakhstani low-cost airline presented. Presentation of the newly launched Kazakhstani airline Qazaq Air in Astana showcased the first aircraft of the company. The new generation twin-engine turboprop aircraft Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 is one of the three Bombardier aircraft in the fleet of the airline.”It is a modern turboprop aircraft, which has excellent technical characteristics, operational flexibility and passenger comfort. Speed characteristics of this model are among the highest for this type of aircraft, fuel consumption is around 30 percent lower than that of a jet aircraft, which it replaces at short distances,” the press release distributed at the presentation said.
The COVID-19 Shock to Kazakhstan’s Economy Largest in Two Decades
For the first time since the late 1990s Kazakhstan’s economy is expected to contract by projected 3 percent in 2020 with a moderate recovery by 2.5 percent in 2021, according to the World Bank’s latest Kazakhstan Economic Update (Summer 2020) – Navigating the Crisis report.
Although Kazakhstan’s GDP showed mild growth at 2.3 percent in the first quarter, economic activities weakened in the following months as commodity prices dropped, trade declined, and COVID-19 preventive measures slowed economic activity. Consumer demand showed moderate growth at at 1.2 percent, reflecting growing concerns over COVID-19 and the restriction measures. Investment is expected to ease to 1.0 percent annually, supported mostly by the on-going foreign direct investments into the oil and gas industry and residential construction. Supply disruptions and currency depreciation pushed up inflation to above the upper bound of the National Bank target range.
“The authorities acted early to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accumulated fiscal buffers allow the government to introduce a relief package to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy,” said Sjamsu Rahardja, Senior Country Economist, World Bank in Kazakhstan. “Weak demand and oil prices, as well as the protacted pandemic expose significant risks to the economic outlook. Authorities may want to consider using the available resources to provide relief to the poor and vulnerable, protect productive assets, and introduce reforms to sustain economic recovery.”
A prolonged crisis is likely to increase poverty and can increase inequality in Kazakhstan. Preliminary estimates suggest that poverty rate may rise in 2020 from a projected 8.3 to 12.7 percent – equating to more than 800 thousand additional people living in poverty. The shock to the labor market in Kazakhstan due to both the pandemic and the mitigation measures, is expected to have severe implications for jobs, particularly in sectors that employ low-skilled workers.
The report also argues that COVID-19 has a negative impact on human capital development in Kazakhstan. Unequal access to quality education, especially during lockdown, can negatively impact human capital development for the poor. School closures could result in learning loss of more than one-third of a school year and the impact could mean a decline in the Program for International Student Assessement (PISA) points. As most students in the country currently perform around the threshold for functional literacy and assuming some will lose more than others, the estimates suggest that the percentage of students performing below functional literacy will increase by 3 percentage points (from 64 to 67 percent).
“The impact of COVID-19 on education and learning losses will have a decades-long impact on the economy by an estimated 2.9 percent, amounting to an overall economic loss of up to $1.9 billion every year”, says Jean-Francois Marteau, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “A focus on improving access to quality education, including distance learning, would be important to prevent a decline in the quality of human capital, especially among Kazakhstan’s low-income population.”
The report concludes that under the risk of a prolonged slump in the global oil market, Kazakhstan’s pathway for a resilient recovery may focus on strengthening the effectiveness of public administration and services, including the use of e-platforms to deliver key public services, better tax administration, and a mechanism to review and redeploy fiscal resources toward better state programs. A renewed emphasis on reforms in the logistics, digital telecommunications, and financial sectors could help the overall private sector explore new opportunities.
China-Eurasia Council condemns aggression of Azerbaijan
China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research strongly condemns Azerbaijani aggression which Baku started on July 12, 2020. Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense is a threat for the entire World as it is speaking about its aims to strike Metsamor Nuclear Plant, which is located in Armenia. Baku must understand that this is a crime against humanity, and it is equal to nuclear strike.The destruction of Metsamor Nuclear plant will be a disaster not only for Armenia, but also for Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan, it will harm World’s environment and stand a real problem for several generations of the World. It is worth mentioning, that this time Baku attacked the Northern borders of Armenia, which are sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia according to International law. Azerbaijan violated the principle of territorial integrity of a sovereign state, which is one of the important pillars of International law.
China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research condemns Azerbaijan for using force against civilian population of Armenia and calls for peaceful negotiations. Baku must show solidarity and join global ceasefire initiated by the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and must not try to escalate the situation on the border to deflect public attention from the situation concerning the outbreak of Covid-19 in Azerbaijan. We call official Baku to take care of Azerbaijani people in the hard times of Coronavirus and not send its soldiers to real death. Being multinational Council, for us It’s terrible to hear about lossfrom both sides and we express our sincere condolences. Hopefully peace will come to South Caucasus, which is an important crossroad in Eurasian mainland and it can stand a very important link for Belt and Road Initiative, if all problems solved in a peaceful way.
Condemnation Of Armenian Aggression By Friends Of Azerbaijan (FoA)
Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) strongly condemns the coward act of Armenians aggression in the Tovuz district of Azerbaijan that is a sheer violation of international borders and law. The act is an attempt of Armenia to drive global attention from the peaceful dialogue and negotiation process on Nagorno Karabakh.
In an online meeting of the delegates of the Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA), a joint declaration of condemnation has been issued by the honorable members of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA).
According to this declaration, Armenian aggression can jeopardize the whole South Caucasus region. The incident on July 12, 2020, is being considered as a direct attack on Azerbaijan and the repercussions of this incident can result in massive catastrophe in the entire region.
The delegates of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) stressed the global powers to come forward and take serious action on Armenian intervention by violating the international border of Azerbaijan. The act of Armenia is an open challenge to the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
Malik Ayub Sumbal founder of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) termed that Armenia is losing its legal and moral position on Nagorno Karabakh and there is mounting pressure on Armenia by the international community for the peaceful solution of Nagorno Karabakh according to the UN Resolutions. At this time to get rid of such kind of diplomatic moves, Armenia has launched another major front in Tovuz.
When the whole world is busy against the Covid19 Armenian Prime Minister has chosen a very dangerous path that can take the whole region into war and bloodshed.
Friends of Azerbijan (FoA) is firmly standing with shoulder by shoulder to the people of Azerbaijan and martyr’s families at this hour.
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