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
1Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev indicated Thursday he plans to inspect economic development on some of the Kuril Islands, about 1,300 km northeast of Hokkaido, including four claimed by Japan.The inspection may be designed to demonstrate Russia’s effective control of the four islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces following Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945. Earlier in the day, the Russian government approved a 10-year plan to develop the Kuril Islands. Medvedev said the government will spend 70 billion rubles the plan. Japan has urged Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev not to visit Japan-claimed islands off Hokkaido, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said today (July 24), calling the planned trip to the isles at the center of a long-standing bilateral dispute “unacceptable”. Mr Kishida said that the visit, if it pushes through, would “go against Japan’s position on the territories and hurt the feelings of the Japanese people”.
2The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are ready to meet later this year in another attempt to revive the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, international mediators said on Thursday as they ended their latest tour of the conflict zone. The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a joint statement in Baku after holding talks there with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. They met with President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan earlier this week.
3Turkmenistan is implementing several major projects aimed at increasing the production and export of natural gas, as well as the projects for deep processing of gas, the country’s Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources said July 23.The total cost of these projects is $20 billion.Moreover, these projects include the second stage of Galkynysh field’s development, construction of Turkmen sector of the fourth branch of Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline with the total capacity of 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas, a plant for polyethylene and polypropylene production in Balkan province, as well as a plant for producing synthetic gasoline from natural gas in Ahal province.
4Not déjà vu all over again. The nuclear agreement with Iran is very different from the one with North Korea. “Just as important as the technical differences between the two agreements are the differences between the two societies. North Korea is the most hermetically sealed country on earth. Ending its isolation by exposing its terrified, impoverished people to outside influences was the last thing the Kims wanted. Iran has a large population of well-educated young people who use the internet and social media. The election of President Hassan Rohani was brought about by businesses and citizens painfully aware of the economic damage done by sanctions. Opportunities to trade with the rest of the world could revitalise Iran’s economy.” [The Economist]
5During a two visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kazakhstan, the two countries have signed a number of new agreements in energy and defence.Kazakhstan and India expected signed agreements on supply of uranium and moved forward with their cooperation in rare-earth elements.The CamKazInd fund aims to combine Kazakhstan’s rare-earth elements and mineral wealth with India’s human capital and the experience of Cambridge scientists to develop various technologies.Quantum technologies using Kazakhstan’s minerals have a great potential in computers, keeping food fresh and decreasing mobile phone bills.
6Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov received Richard Hoagland, the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs on July 23. Cooperation in transportation and energy industry were discussed during the meeting.Hoagland, noting that he supports his country’s initiative for the development of the ‘Silk Road’, said Azerbaijan is playing an important role in this regard.He said the realization of these initiatives will serve to the stability, prosperity and development of cooperation in the Eurasia.Mammadyarov, for his part, said that Azerbaijan is carrying out a consistent work to enhance the capacity of the transport infrastructure as an important element of the strategy of development of the non-oil sector.In this context, Mammadyarov noted the importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the new Baku International Sea Trade Port.
7Southern Russia Mobilizes Against Islamic State. Moscow appears to be seriously concerned about the changes taking place within the ranks of the North Caucasian armed Islamists and the unexpected emergence of a branch of the Islamic State (IS) in the region. IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Velayat Kavkaz of the Islamic State on the basis of the former Caucasus Emirate. [Jamestown]
8Russia guarantees energy security for Europe through the development of new gas transit capacities, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. In December 2014, Moscow announced the cancellation of its South Stream pipeline project that was to transport Russian gas across the Black Sea to Europe. Russia cited the “non-constructive” stance of the European Union as the reason for scrapping the project. The European Commission claimed that the project would violate the EU Third Energy Package that prohibits simultaneous ownership of both the gas and the pipeline through which it flows.”Turkish Stream is taking South Stream’s place. It’s not proceeding as fast as we’d like, but it’s not stalled either. And then we thought of building a second Nord Stream line, which delivers Russian gas to Germany across the Baltic Sea. You probably heard that we have signed a memorandum between our companies to increase the gas volume via Nord Stream. So Europe’s energy security will be guaranteed,” Medvedev said in an interview with Slovenian radio and television company RTV Slovenija on the eve of his visit to Slovenia.
9Azerbaijan and Turkey will jointly invest in the renewable energy sector, Turkey’s Public Disclosure Platform said on July 22.The relevant Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed between the Turkish Turcas Enerji Holding and Azalternativenerji under Azerbaijan’s State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources.According to the document, the sides will jointly invest in the construction of solar, wind, and geothermal power plants in Turkey and Azerbaijan, along with implementing other projects.The contract is valid for a period of three years from the date of signing.According to preliminary studies, Azerbaijan plans to construct up to 100 facilities for producing alternative energy in five years.
10President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has received Martin Bouygues, chairman and CEO of French Bouygues company.During the meeting Bouygues informed the president about the company’s facilities, and made new proposals regarding the further partnership. These proposals were worked out taking into account the priorities of socio-economic development and ambitious reforms in Turkmenistan, also his interest in further strengthening its positions on the promising Turkmen market, where the company has been operating for more than 25 years. “The concept of further development of Ashgabat and other cities in the country offers great opportunities for fruitful cooperation with foreign partners, including the French companies,” the president said. The most important things are the timeliness and qualitative construction of facilities. Bouygues has been represented on the Turkmen market for a long time. The French concern has carried out several projects.
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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