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22 years since occupation of Azerbaijan’s Aghdam district by Armenia

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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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

122 years have passed since the invasion of Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijan’s Aghdam district.Azerbaijan’s Aghdam district was occupied by the units of Armenian armed forces on July 23, 1993. 1154 sq m territory of Azerbaijan‘s Aghdam district went into the control of Armenia as a result of occupation. Azerbaijan controls only 22,6 percent of Aghdam with a population of 147,000. Armenians destroyed the historical monuments, cemeteries, hospitals, libraries, schools, offices and facilities in the occupied territory.

2Construction of East-West gas pipeline is going on rapidly, Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources said July 23.Commissioning of this pipeline will allow to ensure the efficiency of maneuvering with the directions of gas export and increase the reliability of the domestic gas supply.Moreover, this gas pipeline will allow to deliver 30 billion cubic meters of commercial gas from the richest fields in the country’s east to the projected international gas pipeline systems which run from Turkmenistan’s west.It was earlier reported that Turkmenistan plans to complete the construction of this main gas pipeline in late 2015.

3The recent decision by Washington to continue deploying elements of missile defense systems in Europe even after the historic nuclear deal with Iran was reached, confirmed Russia’s “worst fears,” Russian envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 television channel. “Europe is an empty shell when it comes to the draft of the European missile defense system, because it is an exclusively US initiative… Now there is a reasonable question: if Iran is no longer a threat, even if neither a partner nor an enemy, then what’s the use of [missile defense system] construction? The US stance on the issue is notable and confirms our worst fears

4Iran is prepared for “win-win” economic ties with other countries, says the chief of staff of President Hassan Rouhani.Mohammad Nahavandian made the remarks at a meeting with Yves Rossier, the state secretary at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Tehran on Wednesday.“At present, a lot of the Western countries have come to the conclusion that the artificial (and) unnecessary crisis of Iran’s nuclear program is a big obstacle for their benefit from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s high economic capacity,” Nahavandian said. He further noted the “cruel sanctions regime” against Tehran led to the “loss of financial transparency” in business transactions with Iran.

5EU wants Azerbaijan to enter Schengen area, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council President, said on July 22 during a joint press conference with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku.Tusk said he discussed with the Azerbaijani president the issue of facilitating the visa regime, noting that the negotiations in this regard will be completed by the end of this year.

6Lukoil discusses resuming Iran oil project.Negotiations are currently continuing in Moscow following talks in Tehran on Lukoil’s resumption of a project to develop the Azar field in Iran’s Anaran block, the Mehr news agency reported. “The new round of NIOC’s negotiations with Lukoil has begun in Moscow which is expected to pave the way for the return of the Russian firm to the Azar field development project,” Mehr said. An official at the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, Ali Mohammad Yar-Mohammadi, has said there were also plans to hold talks with several other Russian oil companies specializing in other fields.

7“Pyrrhic Sovereignty” – The Treasure of the Tengiz. “The Tengiz oil field is at the center of this economic dance, both in the 90s and today. Chevron’s entrance into the Western portion of Kazakhstan did not come without regional backlash. This, among other similar US corporate ventures, pushed Russia and Iran into a strategic partnership and created Russian-led legal debates around drilling rights and Caspian Sea boundaries for the better part of the decade” writes Evan Thomsen for Modern Diplomacy.

8Computers and Office Machinery in Russia Industrial Report. Slowing Russian economy results in declining shipments of computing equipment, driving down market value by 7% in 2013. Cheaper production such as tablets, nettops and all-in-one PCs among the best-selling products in Russia in 2013. Production of computers and office machinery in Russia grows 5% in 2013, stimulated by soaring exports to Belarus and Kazakhstan due to newly imposed duties on computing equipment imports to the Customs Union. [Euromonitor]

9Azeri state energy company SOCAR has resumed oil exports via Russia this month, SOCAR’s president said on Wednesday, after they were suspended for several weeks.”SOCAR resumed oil shipments through the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline this month, which were halted in the beginning of June,” Rovnag Abdullayev told reporters.It’s not immediately clear why oil flows were halted.Azerbaijan’s SOCAR shipped 678,046 tonnes of oil via Russia in the first half of 2015, up from 508,222 tonnes in the same period last year.

10Azerbaijan hosts the International Summer School entitled “Multiculturalism as lifestyle in Azerbaijan: Learn, Explore, Share“.The project was jointly organized by Baku International Multiculturalism Centre, “Knowledge” Foundation under the Azerbaijani President and Baku Slavic University.The summer school, which is to be attended by the local and foreign students who completed the interdisciplinary course “Azerbaijani multiculturalism” during the spring semester of the current year, as well as influential figures of science, will be held from July 21 to August 1.

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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Top global firms commit to tackling inequality by joining G7 Business for Inclusive Growth coalition

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A group of major international companies has pledged to tackle inequality and promote diversity in their workplaces and supply chains as part of a G7 initiative sponsored by French President Emmanuel Macron and overseen by the OECD.

The Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) coalition will be launched at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz, France, taking place from 24 to 26 August 2019. Spearheaded by Emmanuel Faber, Danone Chairman and CEO, the coalition brings together 34 leading multinationals with more than 3 million employees worldwide and global revenues topping $1 trillion. Members have agreed to sign a pledge to take concrete actions to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are more widely shared.

B4IG coalition members will tackle persistent inequalities of opportunity, reduce regional disparities and fight gender discrimination. Companies have identified an initial pool of more than 50 existing and planned projects, representing more than 1 billion euros in private funding, to be covered under the initiative. The projects range from training programmes to help employees adapt to the future of work to greater investment in childcare, to increasing women’s participation in the workforce; to financially supporting small businesses, to encouraging greater participation in supply chains; and to enhancing the integration of refugees through faster integration to the workforce. Coalition members will seek to accelerate, scale up and replicate already existing projects, while significantly expanding their social impact.

The platform, chaired by Danone, consists of a three-year, OECD-managed programme. It aims at increasing opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups through retraining and upskilling, as well as promoting diversity on the companies’ boards and executive committees and tackling inequalities throughout their supply chains. They will also step up business action to advance human rights, build more inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems.

The B4IG initiative will be presented to President Macron during a meeting with business and civil society leaders at the Elysées Palace on Friday 23 August.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “Growing inequality is one of the biggest social challenges in the world today, perpetuating poverty, undermining social cohesion and trust. Sustainable economic growth means inclusive economic growth. It means giving every individual the opportunity to fulfil her or his potential, the chance not only to contribute to a nation’s growth but to benefit from it, regardless of their background or origins.”

Mr Gurría added: “I welcome this initiative by France to involve some of the world’s most important companies to work hand-in-hand with governments and the OECD to tackle inequalities. The OECD, for its part, will contribute with its policy analysis, research and expertise.”

A Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Incubator of public-private projects will be created at the OECD. The facility will offer companies access to the latest policy research, to help them launch and develop projects, undertake impact assessments and eventually bring about meaningful change. The B4IG Incubator will be funded by both G7 governments and private donors. It will service innovative inclusive business projects that require strong collaboration between the private and the public sector. The Incubator will catalyse and disseminate knowledge around the business models with higher social impact.

An evaluation of the projects will be published after three years, alongside OECD guidance for promoting inclusive growth through joint public-private action and for measuring business performance.

OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa Gabriela Ramos, leader of the OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative, said: “The OECD has been documenting and raising the alarm bell regarding the increased inequalities of income and opportunities in OECD countries for decades. They do not only undermine social cohesion and trust, but they also hamper growth, by preventing our economies to take full advantage of the talent of its people and businesses. We are delighted to partner with leading companies that are committed to take action. Our experience, evidence and best practices are at the service of the Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative.”

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World Bank Launches Stakeholders Consultations to Support Peace in Afghanistan

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The World Bank today launched a stakeholder’s consultation to identify economic initiatives to support and sustain peace in Afghanistan once a potential political settlement is reached with the Taliban.

After completing several consultations with international and Afghan stakeholders, the World Bank is now seeking broader input from all stakeholders and made public several draft documents on its website to facilitate the process.  

At the 2018 Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, the World Bank was tasked to support planning for post-settlement economic development projects and programming following discussions.

According to Henry Kerali, the World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, the consultations will serve several purposes. “First, we want to show that a peace agreement can bring substantial economic benefits to all Afghans and is in the interest of all parties involved in the ongoing conflict. Second, we want to identify potential principles and themes to guide programming decisions following a settlement. Finally, we want to provide some concrete ideas about the kind of programs that could be scaled up or initiated to maintain peace and realize new economic opportunities in Afghanistan.”  

Kerali also noted that the consultations come at a critical time for Afghanistan. “The World Bank is merely providing technical analysis and is not involved in any negotiations; our priority is to plan for the future of Afghanistan. Peace prospects can improve if the right economic conditions are in place and create job opportunities for those who might otherwise take up arms.” Kerali also noted that public input would be vital to ensure effective planning.

The World Bank is inviting comment on three documents now published on its Afghanistan website:

  1. A two-page consultation note;
  2. A short consultation presentation; and
  3. A full technical report.

Consultations are expected to continue until a peace agreement is reached and new programming decisions are made. The public is invited to share comments and questions throughout the process via email or through comments on the relevant website.

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Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but not necessarily a risk to human health

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A woman fetches water in Pakistan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

Tiny plastic particles known as microplastics are “everywhere – including in our drinking-water”, but they are not necessarily a risk to human health, UN experts said on Thursday.

In its first summary of the latest research into the impact of the tiny plastic pollutants on humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they have been found in marine settings, waste and fresh water, food, the air and drinking-water, both bottled and from a tap.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

Its report notes that the particles most commonly found in drinking-water are plastic bottle fragments.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water.”

According to WHO’s findings, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres (a micrometre is a millionth of a metre) are unlikely to be absorbed in the human body, while the uptake of smaller particles is likely to be limited. 

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continues, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Asked by journalists about how levels of plastic pollutants differ between tap water and bottled water, WHO’s Jennifer de France from WHO’s Department of Public Health, replied that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

Nonetheless, Ms. France also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.

“In drinking water in general, often the two polymers that were most frequently detected were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene,” she said. “Now these polymers – the polyethylene terephthalate – is often used in producing bottled water bottles, and polypropylene, is often used in producing caps. However, there were other polymers detected as well, so more studies are needed to really make a firm conclusion about where the sources are coming from.”

While citing the handful of available studies into the absorption of microplastics and nanoplastics in rats and mice, which showed symptoms including inflammation of the liver, WHO’s report insists that people are unlikely to be exposed to such high levels of pollutants.

Drinking-water contamination: a million lives lost each year

A much more clearly understood potential threat than microplastics is exposure to drinking-water contaminated by human or animal waste, said Bruce Gordon, from WHO’s Department of Public Health, highlighting a problem that affects two billion people and claims one million lives a year.

One way that Governments can tackle this problem is by putting in place better waste-water filtration systems.

The move would reduce microplastic pollution by around 90 per cent, the WHO official explained, before noting that the report had touched on people’s wider concerns about how to live more sustainably and waste less.

“Consumers shouldn’t be too worried,” Mr. Gordon said. “There’s many dimensions to this story that are beyond health. What I mean by that is, if you are a concerned citizen worried about plastic pollution and you have access to a well-managed piped supply – a water supply – why not drink from that? Why not reduce pollution. Of course, there are times when you need a water bottle when you’re walking around, but please reuse it”, he emphasized.

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