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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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EU Politics

EU Parliament to host conference on abolishing the death penalty

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The opening ceremony of the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels on 27 February.

The World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised by ECPM (Together against the Death Penalty) from 26 February to 1 March, is the world’s leading abolitionist event, and brings together more than 1000 stakeholders from over 140 countries.

The official opening ceremony will take place in the European Parliament’s hemicycle on Wednesday 27 February at 10.00. It will gather MEPs, high-level guests including EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, and various governmental and civil society representatives to reflect on positive efforts in the abolition movement and address what future work must be done to convince retentionist nations to abolish the death penalty.

The ceremony will also feature a panel of Ministers of Justice from non-abolitionist countries, as well as video messages from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice and a driving force behind the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, and Pope Francis.

An exhibition (The Great Witness of Abolition) and sculpture installation (Chaise LXB) will be displayed in the Menuhin Hall in the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building from Monday 25 February to Friday 1 March.

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Energy News

Nepal Hosts First Regional Conference of Women in the Power Sector

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The first regional #WePOWER conference kicks off in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: World Bank)

More than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals represented their countries at the first regional conference of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER)–a forum to promote and diversify female practitioners’ opportunities in the power and energy sector. They included representatives from 60 participating institutions from local and international power utilities, energy sector organizations, and multilateral agencies.

Pravin Raj Aryal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation in Nepal, opened the two-day conference. “Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s regional development strategy. However, women’s opportunities to contribute to the energy sector are limited, with a visible lack of gender diversity in technical and senior management positions,” he said.

He added that initiatives such as WePOWER would help nurture partnerships among women professionals, leading to an increase in their engagement across the sector. The conference was organized by the World Bank, with support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian AID and Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

It drew senior and junior professionals and engineering students from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Besides panel discussions on the viability of jobs, skills, and opportunities in the sector, the conference also had a special interactive session for secondary school girl students to encourage them to find their footing in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

“WePOWER aims to support greater participation of women in energy projects and utilities, and promote normative change regarding women in STEM education,” said Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.  “This initiative also fits the broader work of the World Bank, aimed at removing constraints for more and better jobs as part of our Gender Strategy.”

Caren Grown, World Bank Senior Director of the Gender Group, added: “Women’s low participation in the sector is a constraint to gender equality and equality of opportunities. It is imperative for men and women to have access to good quality jobs, and events like WePOWER reinforce this need.”

Peter Budd, Australian Ambassador to Nepal, opened the second day of the WePOWER conference and said, “Forums such as WePOWER are and will continue to be an important mechanism for deliberation on low carbon gender integrated pathways that meet the growth needs of the countries in the region.”

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Human Rights

Discover the new Right to education handbook

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photo: UNESCO

Education is a fundamental human right of every woman, man and child. However, millions are still deprived of educational opportunities every day, many as a result of social, cultural and economic factors.

UNESCO and the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) recently released the Right to education handbook, a key tool for those seeking to understand and advance that right. It is also an important reference for people working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 by offering guidance on how to leverage legal commitment to the right to education. 

Why is this handbook important?

The aim of this handbook is to make sure that everyone enjoys their right to education. Its objective is not to present the right to education as an abstract, conceptual, or purely legal concept, but rather to be action-oriented. It provides practical guidance on how to implement and monitor the right to education along with recommendations to overcome persistent barriers. It seeks to do this by:

  • Increasing awareness and knowledge of the right to education. This includes the normative angle of the right to education, states’ legal obligations, the various sources of law, what states must do to implement it, how to monitor it, and how to increase accountability.
  • Providing a summary of current debates and issues regarding education and what human rights law says about them, including on forced migration, education in emergencies, the privatization of education, and the challenge of reaching the most marginalized.
  • Providing an overview of the UN landscape and its mechanisms, including a clear understanding of the role of UNESCO and more generally the United Nations, as well as all relevant actors in education, particularly civil society.  

Who should use this handbook?

The handbook was developed to assist all stakeholders who have a crucial role to play in the promotion and implementation of the right to education. This includes:

  • State officials, to ensure that education policies and practices are better aligned with human rights.
  • Civil servants, policy-makers, ministers, and the ministry of education staff, officials working in ministries and departments of justice, development, finance, and statistics, as well as National Human Rights Institutions.
  • Parliamentarians, their researchers and members of staff will find this handbook useful in evaluating and formulating education, human rights, and development legislation, and in implementing international human rights commitments to national law.
  • Judges, magistrates, clerks, and lawyers and other judicial officials can use the material to explain the legal obligations of the state and how to apply them.
  • Civil society including NGOs, development organizations, academics, researchers, teachers and journalists will benefit from this handbook as it includes guidance on how to incorporate the right to education in programmatic, research, and advocacy work.

Those who work for inter-governmental organizations, including at key UN agencies, will find this handbook useful in carrying out the mandate of their organizations. Private actors, multilateral and bilateral donors, and investors can use this handbook to ensure their involvement complies with human rights and that they understand and can apply their specific responsibilities.

How to use this handbook?

The handbook was designed to be accessible. Each chapter starts with the key questions addressed in the chapter and ends with a short summary consisting of key points and ‘ask yourself’ questions, designed to make the reader think deeper about issues raised in the chapter or to encourage people find out more about the situation in their own country.

For more than 70 years, UNESCO has been defending and advancing the right to education, which lies at the heart of its mandate. It recently ran a digital campaign on the #RightToEducation to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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