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Oil giants in anticipation of sanctions lifting for Iran return

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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

1Foreign energy giants, which have been waiting for return to the Iranian market, now have a real chance to restore their activity in the Islamic Republic.BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s largest oil producer Eni are awaiting a lifting of the sanctions against Iran in order to assess the feasibility of participation in oil and gas projects in the country.”For us, Iran is a huge gas province so it would be good to be there – in conventional gas – at the right terms,” Shell’s financial chief Simon Henry said in London according to Press TV.Though Shell is interested in returning to Iran, Henry said that the company did not expect any quick, easy deals.”Anybody who thinks that we are going to suddenly swan in and end up with great contracts that make a difference within 12 months, I think is a little naive. It’s not going to be easy, it will take time,” the energy news provider Platts quoted Henry as saying. Despite Shell’s long-term activities in Iran’s upstream projects, including in South Pars, the firm pulled out of the world’s largest gas field’s Phase 13 development in 2008. Shell also operated Iran’s Soroush and Nowruz oilfields in the Persian Gulf at a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day. An outstanding debt to the tune of $2.3 billion remains unpaid by the company to Iran since 2012.

2Baku, Moscow focus on military cooperation. Azerbaijani and Russian high-ranking officials have discussed the military cooperation between the two countries.Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister and Zakir Hasanov, the Azerbaijani Defense Minister met on August 1 during latter’s visit to Moscow, Azerbaijani defense ministry reported.”I am very pleased that you have found time to take part in the opening ceremony of Army games. Hopefully, your team will show good results,” RIA Novosti quoted Shoigu as saying at a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart.During the meeting, the Azerbaijani and Russian defense minsters exchanged views on topical issues of regional security, as well as on the state and prospects of military cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan.

3Russia is Preparing the 4th Open Innovations Forum 2015. From October 28 to November 1, 2015, Moscow will host for the fourth time the annual Open Innovations Forum – the largest event in Russia that focuses on technology entrepreneurship and innovation-driven development. For the first time Open Innovations 2015 will comprise a five-day international professional congress and a popular exhibition for general public performed as Technology Show. The forum, centered around the main topic of Humanity in the Center of the Technological Revolution, will last for five days. Each day will be devoted to one of five specific spheres of the human life, dramatically changing under the impact of technologies – productivity, habitat, education, health and entertainment.

4Turkmenistan completing gas pipeline construction for Europe. The ‘East-West’ gas pipeline, under construction in Turkmenistan, will link major gas reserves, creating conditions for Turkmen fuel exports to world markets, said the ‘Neutral Turkmenistan’ newspaper Aug. 1. ‘East-West’ is over 800 kilometers long and has a capacity of 30 billion cubic meters a year, said the pipeline is being built by the divisions of the Turkmen state concerns, Turkmengaz and Turkmennebitgazgurlushyk. The pipeline starts at the ‘Shatlyk’ gas compressor station in the Mary province, and then, running westerly through the Mary and Ahal provinces, it will be connected to the ‘Belek’ gas compressor station in the Balkan province.

5Will gas become divisive point between Russia and Turkmenistan? “Gas sphere was one of the strategic areas of partnership between Turkmenistan and Russia until recently. Turkmenistan transports its gas to Russia via the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline that was constructed during the Soviet period and monopolized by Russia’s Gazprom company. Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources said in mid-July that Gazprom Export LLC (100-percent subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom company) doesn’t pay the remaining money for the actually delivered Turkmen natural gas, without explaining the reason. Later, the world media reported citing the sources close to Gazprom that the company has filed a lawsuit in Stockholm Court against Turkmenistan’s Turkmengaz company demanding to revise the prices in the gas supply contract” [Azernews]

6Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will create new opportunities for the country, Hikmet Hajiyev, the spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said on July 30.”Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is multi-vector, and in this respect the country is further expanding cooperation on bilateral and multilateral bases,” he noted. Hajiyev also noted that in this context, it is possible to highlight Azerbaijan’s observer status in the Arab League, African Union, Organization of American States, and other regional and international organizations, which creates even greater opportunities for the country to develop relations with multilateral organizations and their member states.

7Kazakhstan seeks to reclaim historical role as the crossroads of East and West. “as more and more of its manufacturers move inland, China is looking to develop trade from the west, following the tracks of the fabled Silk Road and once again making Xian the gateway to Europe. While shipping by sea takes about five weeks, the new Silk Road train can deliver goods from China to Europe in three weeks. It’s more expensive than sea freight, but the shorter transit time often makes it worthwhile for multi-national companies dependent on global trade. Railway officials in Kazakhstan told me the goal now is to optimize the inland route and reduce costs so the new Silk Road becomes even more viable for businesses” [Times of Oman]

8The Iran deal and South Asia. “India likes to regard itself as a rival of China for influence in Central Asia and has been making hectic plans to catch up with its northern neighbour. To match China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative for a network of infrastructure and energy projects to link China with Europe and the Middle East over land and by sea, Delhi has revived plans for a transit corridor to Europe and Russia through Iran. India has labelled it as the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC). It includes transport by rail, road and sea from Mumbai to Moscow via Bandar Abbas in Iran, with options for connectivity with Turkey and countries in Eastern Europe. Not surprisingly, given the availability of other more viable existing and planned transit routes between Asia and Europe, the INSTC has gained little traction so far” writes Asif Ezdi for thenews.com.pk

9Kazkommertsbank JSC (“KKB”), one of the largest banks in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, sold its 99.86 percent stake, representing 1,497,946 common shares, in “Subsidiary of BTA Bank “London-Almaty” Insurance Company” JSC July 21 2015, the press service of the bank said. The stake was earlier transferred to KKB in line with the Agreement on the simultaneous transfer of assets and liabilities between KKB and BTA.The value of the stake was based upon an independent appraisal prepared by international audit company. Earlier, Kazkommertsbank JSC received “Subsidiary of BTA Bank “London-Almaty” Insurance Company” JSC from BTA Bank JSC within the framework of the agreement on the simultaneous transfer of assets and liabilities.

10A delegation from Azerbaijan, to be led by the Minister of Economic Development, is slated to arrive in Tehran on Monday to consolidate bilateral relations and discuss implementation of previously accorded joint projects in the energy sector.”We are presently hashing out organizational affairs such as setting the date for the working group’s first meeting as well as specifying its agenda of activites,” the deputy head of Azerbaijan’s State Agency for Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources Jamil Melikov.The Azeri officals have voiced their willingness for Iran’s partnership in Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project to transfer sour gas from Iran’s South Pars field to EU markets.

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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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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