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20th anniversary of the Neutrality of Turkmenistan

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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

1The year 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the recognition by the international community of the legal status of permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. For the first time in the history of the United Nations General Assembly, the adoption of the Special Resolution on 12 December 1995, entitled “On the Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan” became a recognition of the peaceful foreign policy of this country and an approval of the authoritative role of Turkmenistan as a state that can make a worthy contribution to the peaceful development of international relations and ensuring universal security and steady progress. Turkmen neutrality model assumes that contemporary international law is the law of peace, and that constantly, a neutral state must adhere to its status not only in wartime, but also in peacetime. As a new phenomenon in international legal practice, Turkmen neutrality has become the basis of a new concept of cooperation and achievement of world peace.

2Russia’s newly amended Maritime Doctrine took effect Sunday upon approval from President Vladimir Putin. The Doctrine underscored friendly relations with China in the Pacific Ocean as a key element of Russia’s naval policy.”Business cooperation in the naval sphere plays and important role in the development of trusting strategic bilateral relations,” the ministry stated.The two countries have conducted joint naval exercises, provided convoys for vessels and exchanged expertise, the statement said.According to the ministry, cooperation between the two countries contributes to peace and stability in the region and throughout the world. [Sputniknews]

3Oman, Iran close in on $60 billion gas plan. An Omani delegation is in Tehran for the finalization of the operational plan for transfer of the Iranian gas to the sultanate via a pipeline across the Persian Gulf, a top energy official says.“Currently, the Iranian adviser for studying (the subsea section of) the pipeline for 200 kilometers from Kuh-e Mubarak to Oman’s Sohar port has been chosen,” head the National Petrochemical Company (NPC) Alireza Kameli said Wednesday.The onshore section of the pipeline in Iran will be built for another 200 km from Rudan to Kuh-e Mubarak, he added.“According to the plan, engineering studies in both the offshore and onshore sections will be carried out simultaneously so that the implementation of the two lines does not hit a snag,” Kameli added.The $60 billion deal was concluded during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Muscat in 2013 to ship 10 million cubic meters per day of the Iranian gas to Oman for a period of 15 years.

4Greece, Azerbaijan resuming DESFA talks. Next week, the Greek government will resume talks with Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR on the sale of a controlling interest in Greece’s gas transmission system operator DESFA, the Kathimerini newspaper quoted Panos Skourletis, the productive reconstruction, environment and energy minister of Greece, as saying July 29. The main topic of discussion, as Skourletis said, will be the share in DESFA, which will be sold to SOCAR.In early May, Bloomberg reported that Greece’s government is considering the sale of 49 percent share in DESFA to SOCAR.SOCAR won a tender in December 2013 on the sale of the 66 percent share in DESFA for 400 million euros.Currently, the deal is being considered by European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, and the procedure will last until late 2015.

5Land-Locked Kazakhstan Plans to Build a Blue-Water Commercial Fleet. Kazakhstan plans to expand its shipping fleet on the Caspian Sea and to acquire, for the first time, a blue-water one (Np.kz, July 23). Its maritime strategy is aimed to allow this Caspian-littoral Central Asian republic both to take advantage of the cost-savings of ship transport and to make itself less dependent on foreign shippers, including Russian ones. [Jamestown]

6Iran and Turkmenistan are targeted to pump up their bilateral trade volume up to $60 billion in the upcoming 10 years, the Iranian Industry Minister said in his meeting with the Turkmen Foreign Minister on Tuesday.”According to the agreements made by the presidents of the two countries, mutual trade volume is to hit $60 bln in the following ten years,” Iranian Industry, Mine, and Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said in his meeting with Turkmen Foreign Affairs Minister Rashid Meredov.The Iranian minister referred to foregoing cultural and historical joints and underscored the necessity of expanding ties between the two countries’ private sector.Nematzadeh also announced Iran’s readiness to ease its technical, infrastructural, and industrial transactions with Turkmenistan.

7US foundation first ‘undesirable’ foreign group. Russian prosecutors Tuesday declared the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy the first “undesirable” foreign group under a controversial new law to ban overseas organisations deemed a threat.”Taking into account the overall aim of the endowment’s work, prosecutors came to the conclusion that it presents a threat to the constitutional order of Russia, its defence capabilities and state security,” the prosecutors said in a statement.They accused the American non-profit organisation of using local NGOs to undermine elections and organise political rallies in the country.”The National Endowment for Democracy participated in work to declare the results of election campaigns illegitimate, to organise political demonstrations aimed at influencing decisions taken by state institutions and to discredit service in the Russian armed forces,” the statement said.

8Iran cancels visa requirements for citizens of Azerbaijan. Iran canceled the visas for the citizens of seven countries, Oxu.Az reports citing the Iranian newspaper Kayhan. From now on tourists from Turkey, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bolivia, Egypt and Syria can travel to Iran without a visa.

9Kazakhstan is considering to establish oil consortium to ensure the implementation of the Eurasia international oil project in the Caspian basin, according to remarks made by Kazakhstan’s Deputy Energy Minister Uzakbai Karabalin at a July 27.”Kazakhstan is considering the establishment of the consortium on public-private partnership with the further implementation of works on the Eurasia project in 2016-2021 in order to ensure the implementation of tasks, in particular on such a large project,” he said. Karabalin also noted that Kazakhstan is developing a legal code on ubsoil and its adoption is scheduled for 2015-2016. The government plans to make amendments to the Tax Code in order to reduce the tax burden in conducting geological research, exploration of subsoils, as well as the implementation of the contract on the geological study of the Caspian Basin.

10Azerbaijan, France to expand military cooperation. Azerbaijani Defense Minister, Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov met with French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Pascal Monnier, the Azerbaijani defense ministry said. During the meeting, the sides discussed the military-political situation in the region and the successfully developing relations in the military sphere. They stressed the importance of expanding activity in this direction.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Rise of disinformation a symptom of ‘global diseases’ undermining public trust

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Societies everywhere are beset by “global diseases” including systemic inequality which have helped fuel a rise in disinformation, or the deliberate spreading of falsehoods, said the UN human rights chief on Tuesday, addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Michelle Bachelet said the restoration of public trust was essential, as disinformation should really be seen as a symptom of diseases such as systemic inequality, which has seen “deep-seated discrimination” flourish, along with fragile institutions, a loss of trust in effective governance, and “limited rule of law”.

She said those countries impacted by inequality were now threatened with instability and frayed co-existence within society.

Flourishing amid discontent

“Disinformation spreads when people feel that their voices are not heard. It arises in contexts where political disenchantment, economic disparity or social unrest flourish”, she said.

“It flourishes when civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and scientists cannot work, assemble and speak freely. When civic space is limited or closed. When the human rights to freedom of expression and access to information are threatened.”

It can be fuelled by governments and public officials, potentially leading to hate crimes and violence.

But she warned governments against trying to “officially ordain what is false, and what is true, and then attach legal consequences to those determinations. Our human right to access and impart information, is not limited to only what is deemed by the State as ‘accurate’”.

She called for a focus on “assessing how communications are being revolutionized by technology and on unpacking who is responsible for what.

“We need to look at how best to contain the harms caused by disinformation, while addressing the underlying causes that give disinformation life and allow it to gain traction.”

She said the sheer speed and volume of information circulating online, meant that it could be easily manipulated, with campaigns using automatic tools, rapidly creating a “false impressions of broad popular support for or against certain ideas, or be used to counter and marginalise dissident voices and ideas.”

Organized disinformation campaigns are also being used to silence rights defenders, journalists, and minority voices, “and as a result of repeated attacks, women, minority communities and others can be deterred from participating in the public sphere.”

Fighting back

The international response has to be consistent with universal rights obligations, she warned.

“When we debate the best ways to respond, we need to understand that censorship is not only an ineffective medicine – it can actually harm the patient.” Freedom of expression and the right to access information are essential, she underscored.

“I therefore call on States to uphold their international obligation to promote and protect these rights, whatever the social ill they seek to mitigate. Maintaining a vibrant and pluralistic civic space will be crucial in this endeavour.”

She called for policies which support independent journalism, pluralism in media, and digital literacy, which can help citizens “navigate” the online world and boost critical thinking.

“States must also ensure wide and free access to information so that it reaches all communities and constituencies…Trust can never be achieved without genuine government transparency.”

Social media regulation ‘insufficient’

The human rights chief said that social media businesses have transformed the way information circulates, “and they have a clear role to play.”

“To start with, we must understand better how they affect our national and global debates. While platforms have taken welcome steps to enhance their own transparency, and redress channels, progress remains insufficient.

She called for independent auditing of social media companies’ services and operations, and more clarity on the way advertising and personal data is being handled.

“And we need access for researchers and others to the data within companies, that can help us better understand and address disinformation.”

Two steps

Ms. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council that there are two “critical needs” in the battle against rising disinformation.

First, we need to deepen our understanding and knowledge: we need more research on how the digital sphere has transformed media and information flows; on how best to build public trust within this environment; and on how different actors can contribute to countering disinformation operations.”

Secondly, she said all discussions had to be framed within human rights norms. “Shortcuts do not work here: censorship and broad content take-downs are an ineffective and dangerous response.”

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Abu Akleh shooting: fatal shot came from Israeli forces

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Veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh spent a quarter century covering life under Israeli military rule. Photo: Al Jazeera

Israeli forces were behind the fatal shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank – not indiscriminate Palestinian firing – the UN human rights office, OHCHR, alleged on Friday.

Ms. Akleh – an experienced television journalist familiar with reporting in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – was killed on 11 May, as she attempted to report on an arrest operation by Israeli Security Forces and clashes in Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank.

‘Deeply disturbing’

“More than six weeks after the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and injury of her colleague Ali Sammoudi in Jenin on 11 May 2022, it is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

Following OHCHR’s own probe into the incident, Ms. Shamdasani added that “this monitoring from our Office is consistent with many findings out there that the shots that killed her came from Israeli Security Forces”.

Rejecting that conclusion, a statement issued by the Israeli mission in Geneva insisted that it was not yet possible to conclude who was responsible, in view of the Palestinian Authority’s “refusal to conduct a joint investigation and hand over the bullet”.

Final moments

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Ms. Shamdasani described Ms. Akleh’s final moments, with her colleague, Ali Sammoudi.

“At around half past six in the morning, as four of the journalists turned into the street leading to the camp, wearing bulletproof helmets and flak jackets with ‘PRESS’ markings, several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them from the direction of the Israeli Security Forces. One single bullet injured Ali Sammoudi in the shoulder, and another single bullet hit Abu Akleh in the head and killed her instantly.”

Highlighting how the OHCHR probe had followed the methodology used in many other country situations, Ms. Shamdasani explained that there was no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by.

Ms. Akleh and her colleagues “had proceeded slowly in order to make their presence visible to the Israeli forces deployed down the street”, Ms. Shamdasani said. “Our findings indicate that no warnings were issued and no shooting was taking place at that time and at that location.”

Every angle

She added: “We’ve inspected photo, video, audio material, we’ve visited the scene, we’ve consulted with experts, and we’ve looked at official communications; we’ve interviewed people who were also on the scene when Abu Akleh was killed…Based on this very vigorous monitoring, we find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians.”

After Ms. Abu Akleh was shot, “several further single bullets were fired as an unarmed man attempted to approach her body and another uninjured journalist sheltering behind a tree,” the OHCHR official continued. “Shots continued to be fired as this individual eventually managed to carry away Abu Akleh’s body.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged the Israeli authorities to open a criminal investigation into the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh and into all other killings and serious injuries by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Since the beginning of the year, OHCHR said that it had verified that Israeli Security Forces had killed 58 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 13 children.

“International human rights law requires prompt, thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation into all use of force resulting in death or serious injury,” said Ms. Shamdasani. “Perpetrators must be held to account.”

Israel has rejected the findings of the OHCHR probe, adding that the Palestinian Authority has not handed over the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh.

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EU-UNIDO projects highlight gender equality as key to climate action

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Ensuring that women and girls equally lead, participate in and benefit from environmental action are key priorities for the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Speaking at an event held in connection with the Stockholm+50 conference, three women who participate in EU-UNIDO projects around the world told their stories. 

Opening the event, Gerd Müller, UNIDO Director General, and Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, both underlined that a healthy planet is impossible if gender inequalities persist. Therefore, women’s voices as leaders of circular economy, climate technologies and environmental preservation must be recognized and amplified.

Three projects from the EU-UNIDO cooperation portfolio were highlighted during the event.

Amira Saber, Member of the Egyptian Parliament and Secretary General of the Foreign Relations Committee, participates in the Parliamentary action on climate and energy project, which helps catalyze greater engagement of women MPs in renewable energy, energy access and sustainable transport issues. She said that “voices of women are not well represented in the issue of climate change, neither as negotiators, nor as policymakers. Through my NGO, which was founded to close the gap between civil society organizations and policymakers, we’ve been helping with many trainings to build the capacity of women-led organizations, to train women, to give them data and to help implement their projects on the ground.”

She continued, “I want all the women figures in senior policymaking who are influential in their countries and in their surroundings to understand and to stand very solid on the importance of the critical issues, which we’re talking about: climate change.”

Lep Mary, a Cambodian business owner, is part of the CAPFISH project, which supports the Cambodian government’s efforts to achieve sustainable development, climate resilience and inclusivity of the country’s freshwater and marine fisheries resources. Mary noted that “with the support of the UNIDO-CAPFish project, we are able to address most of our challenges related to food safety compliance while enhancing capacity of our suppliers along the value chain on food safety practices. The support will also help to improve environment plans regarding waste management and the safety of workers.”

The Youth Rising project supports vocational education and training for young people in Liberia. Esther Gheh Isatta Javillie, who is part of the project, said that ”the local carpenter producers are all-male. We have this stereotype in Liberia that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is really for males”.

The event was organized by UNIDO and the EU in association with the Stockholm+50 conference, which commemorates the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment and celebrates 50 years of global environmental action. It was moderated by Cecilia Ugaz Estrada, Director of UNIDO’s Office for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.

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