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
1“The so-called P5+1 (or E3+3) coalition engaged in arduous, painstaking negotiations to resolve the problem of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Within a multilateral framework, the Obama administration used diplomacy to achieve an agreement that served U.S. interests. The goals were to end the nuclear weapons program in the short-term and block Iran’s path to a bomb in the longer-term. Despite its limitations, this agreement certainly achieves those objectives” writes David W. Kearn for Huffington Post.
2Russia calls for global coordination to counter cyber terrorist activity. Security services worldwide must coordinate their efforts in cyberspace to prevent the Internet from becoming a weapon for terrorists, Russian Federal Security Service chief Alexander Bortnikov said Wednesday.”Internet, in effect, is becoming a principal tool of the formation of ultra-radical ideology,” Interfax news agency quoted Bortnikov as saying at the international security conference.The meeting in the central Russian city of Yaroslavl gathered 92 security services delegations from 64 countries and four international and regional organizations, namely the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States.According to Bortnikov, terrorist groups maintain their websites in over 40 languages, using the most advanced information technologies to reach their potential audience.
3Azerbaijan Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Analysis and Outlook to 2025. Azerbaijan upstream oil and gas analysis and outlook report provides complete information on Azerbaijan exploration and production blocks, fields, companies and future prospects. Azerbaijan oil and gas reserves, replacement ratios, proven volumes along with detailed insights into the role of Azerbaijan in region and global upstream markets is provided in detail. Further, complete infrastructure details of Azerbaijan field wise production, field by field details, exploration blocks on offer, available blocks and existing block details in Azerbaijan are provided in the research work. [Research and Markets]
4How Does Kazakhstan Plan to Pay for the Olympics? “Wednesday, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov seemed fairly confident in Kuala Lumpur that his country’s $70 billion oil fund would be able to financially back up the 2022 Winter Olympics should they win the vote Friday to host over Beijing, long-considered–despite a lack of real snow–the front-runner. Other news that broke Wednesday paints a distinctly less confident picture. The Financial Times’s Moscow correspondent Jack Farchy reported that the Kazakh central bank would be buying a 10 percent stake in KazMunaiGaz, the state oil company, and the money would be paid into the country’s sovereign wealth fund” [The Diplomat]
5Russia vetoes tribunal for downed flight MH17. Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Wednesday that would have set up an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing a Malaysia Airlines passenger airliner last year in eastern Ukraine. Russia had proposed its own rival draft resolution, which pushed for a greater U.N. role in an investigation into what caused the downing of the aircraft and demanded justice, but it would not have set up a tribunal. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it was premature to set up an international tribunal. He said the draft resolution was submitted for a vote by Malaysia and its co-sponsors with the knowledge that it would be vetoed.
6Armenia exchanges “smiles” with Iran, but has no concrete agreements yet . Analysts wonder why Armenia rejects proposals for cooperation with Middle Eastern countries, especially that initiative in the region is clearly moving from Turkey, a state unfriendly to Armenia, to Iran, an Armenia-friendly state. Some even wonder if the whole matter is about “orders” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, which does not hide the fact that Iran is becoming a competitor for Moscow. [ArmeniaNow]
7The development of alternative energy is of significant importance for Azerbaijan and therefore, the government seeks to introduce modern technology and involve foreign investors in its renewables sector, says Rasul Suleymanov, the chairman of the Association of engineers and energy specialists of Azerbaijan.”Many countries develop this sector in this way. They only provide a territory, so to say, ‘an object of work,’ and guarantee to purchase this energy in the future. In order to encourage companies to work in our market, the government should adopt laws that will regulate this issue legally. Thus, private investors will not have any doubts and fears in financing of alternative energy in our country,” he told local media.
8The National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan will become one of the shareholders of the country’s KazMunaiGas national oil and gas company.The country’s Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Fund which owns 100-percent share of the company will sell 10 percent block of shares and one common stock of KazMunaiGas to the National Bank at the price determined by an independent appraiser.However, the price won’t be below 750 billion Kazakh tenge (187.45 tenge = $1).
9Kuwaiti Shias’ adventures with Iranian policy. “How could the political Shia movement and the Hezbollah and “Islamic revolution” streams so easily kidnap the views and emotions of the Shias in the Gulf Arab region?Why don’t we hear an opposing voice or come across a decisive stance against some of Iran’s foreign policy, especially those that pan Shias outside Iran pay for, so that everyone knows that such policies do not represent the views of all the Shias in the Arab world? Many Shias of Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are convinced that not all Iranian policies represent the Shia view, and that, since 1979, the policies of this “Islamic State” exposed the interests of Shias in their Arab countries and the whole world, to political risk, social isolation and possibly threats and reprisals” writes Khalil Ali Haydar for The Peninsula.
10Azerbaijan is ready to take advantage of lifted sanctions on Iran that will happen approximately in 50 days.According to Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Economy and Industry, on August 3-4 Minister Shahin Mustafayev will visit Iran.“The visit will be aimed to discuss the current situation and prospects for bilateral relations and cooperation,” the Ministry says.
Russia Says Pollution in Arctic Tundra is Not Above Limit
Recent studies of water and soil have shown that the oil pollution level at the Arctic Ambarnaya River, located near the thermal power plant in Norilsk where a massive fuel spill occurred in late May, have not exceed the maximum permissible values, said local authorities in russian Krasnoyarsk region.
“Over 600 water and soil samples were studied. According to the latest data, oil pollution at the mouth of the Ambarnaya River does not exceed threshold limit value. Nevertheless, the work has not been stopped,” Yuri Lapshin, the head of the Krasnoyarsk regional government, said during a session in the local parliament on Thursday, adding that now “the key phase in the aftermath of the accident ends.”
Earlier in June, scientists linked what happened in the Russian Arctic with global warming.
Much of Siberia had high temperatures this year that were beyond unseasonably warm. From January through May, the average temperature in north-central Siberia has been about 8 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) above average, according to the climate science non-profit Berkeley Earth.
Siberia is in the Guinness Book of World Records for its extreme temperatures. It’s a place where the thermometer has swung 106 degrees Celsius (190 degrees Fahrenheit), from a low of minus 68 degrees Celsius (minus 90 Fahrenheit) to now 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit).
The increasing temperatures in Siberia have been linked to prolonged wildfires that grow more severe every year, and the thawing of the permafrost is a huge problem because buildings and pipelines are built on them. Thawing permafrost also releases more heat-trapping gas and dries out the soil, which increases wildfires, said Vladimir Romanovsky, who studies permafrost at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The warming climate in Siberia will cause permafrost to melt, which may cause the destruction of cities in this region, writes the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, citing climatologist Johan Kuylenstierna.
According to climatologists, such hot weather in Siberia is a link in the overall chain and calls for tracking the overall trend. If permafrost begins to melt faster, it will hit the infrastructure hard. The soil will become unstable and it will affect cities and dams (Siberia), he said. Recall earlier, BNN Bloomberg reported that a fuel leak due to damage to a reservoir in Norilsk was caused by melting permafrost in the Arctic region.
It was also claimed that the infrastructure of the region is collapsing in this regard, and the accident is likely to damage permafrost in the region in the long term.
ADB Strengthens Partnership with WHO to Help Asia and the Pacific Combat COVID-19
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today strengthened its partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), recognizing that increased collaboration is helping to expand critical health care across Asia and the Pacific and contain the spread and impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During a conference call with WHO Regional Directors Dr. Takeshi Kasai and Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said the partnership based on a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018 had helped to address the region’s health security risks and strengthen health systems, which have been stretched since the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I very much appreciate the close collaboration with the WHO regarding COVID-19. I found that the regular exchange of views and the latest information on the evolution of the pandemic provided by WHO have been invaluable to ADB’s operations,” said Mr. Asakawa. “ADB has incorporated inputs and advice from the WHO to ensure our support is fully responsive to the needs of our developing members. As countries implement these projects and ADB continues to expand technical and financing assistance, we look forward to continued collaboration to help guide our response to, and the region’s recovery from, COVID-19.”
ADB announced on 13 April a comprehensive support package of $20 billion to help developing members address the impacts of COVID-19. ADB and the WHO are finalizing an administrative arrangement (AA) to govern financial, reporting, and implementation mechanisms related to their joint response to COVID-19, as well as projects to support recovery from the crisis. The first AA between ADB and the WHO will cover South Asia before expanding to Central Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia.
ADB is also working with the WHO and the Japanese Ministry of Finance to convene a virtual Joint Finance and Health Ministers Meeting on COVID-19 and Universal Health Coverage in Asia and the Pacific during the second stage of ADB’s Annual Meeting in September.
From Relief to Recovery: PNG’s Economy in the Time of COVID-19
Papua New Guinea’s economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis due to weaker demand and less favorable terms of trade, according to the latest World Bank economic update for the country.
From Relief to Recovery, the World Bank’s Economic Update for Papua New Guinea for July 2020 projects that the country will experience an economic contraction in 2020, with pandemic-related global and national movement restrictions weakening external and domestic demand and affecting commodity prices. These impacts are also expected to lead to wider financing gaps for the government and the central bank, and higher unemployment and poverty than previously anticipated in early 2020.
It is estimated that PNG’s real GDP will shrink by 1.3 percent in 2020, the current account surplus will narrow to about 15 percent of GDP, and the fiscal deficit will reach 6.4 percent of GDP.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the PNG government has mobilized domestic resources and is engaging development partners and the private sector for additional support for the people and the economy of PNG.
“The World Bank welcomes the swift actions by the PNG authorities to manage the COVID-19 shock by protecting the lives of the people of PNG and supporting livelihoods of vulnerable households and small businesses,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. “While the focus of the authorities is currently on crisis mitigation, it is important to also look beyond the current year to a more robust and resilient recovery over the medium term.”
The report emphasizes that a COVID-19-related revenue shortfall, increased emergency health spending and an economic support package have created an unanticipated fiscal gap of over US$400 million (1.8 percent of GDP) in 2020. The capital budget is expected to be hit harder than the recurrent budget and the government will have to trim non-essential spending.
In addition to the economic analysis, the report contains an additional section dedicated to physical infrastructure development in PNG.
The section recommends that the government’s pre-COVID-19 infrastructure investment plans should be amended amid the current crisis, which may result in the government having to resume its “Connect PNG” infrastructure development program once the pandemic is over while keeping the overall fiscal framework under control.
It also highlights the importance of more equitable access to quality infrastructure once the country moves to the recovery and resilience phase of COVID-19 response as well as the need to improve the balance between infrastructure investment and maintenance with greater emphasis needed on the latter.
The report concludes that PNG can significantly improve its infrastructure situation by strengthening policy design, investment planning, and coordination among agencies and with development partners. However, it will be vital for the government to set the stage for more sustainable and inclusive development by strengthening macroeconomic management and accelerating structural reforms while protecting the vulnerable.
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