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Russia renews bid for Arctic regions

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

1Russia has renewed its efforts to get the United Nations to recognise 1.2 million sq km (463,000 sq miles) of the Arctic shelf that it lays claim to. It made a similar move for the resource-rich territory in 2001, but that was rejected by a UN commission because of insufficient evidence. Russia’s foreign ministry said the fresh bid is backed by scientific data.But all other countries bordering the Arctic – Norway, Denmark, Canada and the US – reject Moscow’s claim. All five nations have been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.The competition for Arctic resources has intensified in recent years as the shrinking polar ice opens new opportunities for exploration.

2Tehran and Baku have recently intensified bilateral relations with an expectation to further deepen the all-out cooperation between the two close neighbors. As part of the measures to broaden the longstanding ties in various fields, an Azerbaijani delegation that included several representatives from oil, telecommunication, banking, and energy companies, led by Azerbaijan’s Economic Development Minister Shahin Mustafayev, visited Tehran. Referring to the role that the North-South corridor can play in consolidating the bilateral ties between the two countries, Rouhani stressed that Azerbaijan can act as Iran’s gateway to the Caucasus region while Tehran can ease Baku’s access to the Gulf and Oman Sea.

3Over 200 fields to be developed in Turkmenistan. Besides the hydrocarbon resources of global importance, Turkmenistan has rich and diverse solid minerals and hydro-mineral reserves of commercial scale. There are more than 200 deposits of various solid minerals and hydro-mineral raw materials prepared for industrial development at the state balance of Turkmenistan. Among them are a variety of mineral salts, iodine-bromine industrial waters, celestine, sulfur, bentonite and kaolin clays, ozocerite, barite, gypsum, ornamental and facing stones, carbonate raw materials for the chemical industry, a variety of mineral raw materials for the production of building materials.

4Ukraine is Intensifying the Transnistria Conflict.”The deteriorating relationship between Moscow and Kiev may be having profound regional consequences, with the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (TMR) becoming a clear victim due to the abruptly worsening international environment. The Russian public has focused on the military aspects, although the problem is multidimensional and armed confrontation breaking out in Transnistria is unlikely” Igor Istomin [RIAC]

5Syrian Minister In Tehran For Talks On Ending Civil War. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Tehran on August 4 for talks with Iranian and Russian officials aimed at ending the four-year-old war in his country. Moallem will meet Mikhail Bogdanov, President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, before holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on August 5, Iranian media reported.”Fortunately, we see a change in the strategy of regional players in the Syrian crisis. If four years ago they believed war is the only solution, now they prefer to focus on diplomacy,” Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the Fars News Agency.

6Obama to make his case on Iran, drawing on lessons from the Cold War. “President Obama will ask Americans on Wednesday to give his tentative nuclear agreement with Iran a chance when he delivers a history lesson on the most prominent U.S. adversary of his lifetime — the Soviet Union.In an address heavy with homage to President Kennedy’s 1963 nuclear talks with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Obama will talk about the importance of engaging with a hostile and seemingly intransigent opponent in the hopes of achieving peace.The Cold War allusion has been a common theme in public conversations with White House officials all week, and always with a sharp point: “We clearly know who won,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday” Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli [Los Angeles Times]

7Kazakhstan Temir Zholy national railways company plans to transit 42,000 containers on the China-Europe-China route, and this figure is almost 40 times more than in 2011. The additional volume of container transportation from China to Europe and vise-versa in 2014 allowed for an increase of revenues from transit traffic by 13.7 percent compared to 2013, Kazakhstan’s Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Fund reported. China emerged as a major economic player in Central Asia, driving billions into promoting Chinese-Central Asian trade. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, these investments reached $50 billion last year.

8Azerbaijan will be hosting the first International Eurasian Conference on energy economics on August 31–September 3, 2016 in Baku. The event that will be organized by the International Association for Energy Economics is of crucial importance both for energy and tourism spheres. Nearly 200 state, private and academic circles will attend the event.

9Europe must wake up before Iran falls into the arms of Russia and China. “European leaders seem to have been caught somewhat off-guard as regards Iran’s opening up. The Greek saga alone could explain this. The problem is that other competitors have already stolen a march and this is not the US, as it could appear as first sight by looking at the newspaper headlines. Europe’s key competitors to make business with Iran are Russia and China.Although Iran’s historical relationship with Russia has not always been cordial, President Vladimir Putin has become more of a partner as both countries fight against Sunni insurgent groups, such as the Islamic State. Furthermore, Russia was one of the key players pressing for a positive outcome from the nuclear negotiations and there seems to be no doubt that Iran will be grateful” writes Alicia García-Herrero for Bruegel.

10Azerbaijan may join the international GMO-analysis networking. The Genetic Resources Institute (GEI) of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan informs that GEI senior researcher and member of the Expert Council on GMOs Ayaz Mammadov participated in the 2nd international seminar of the network, held in the Italian town of Varese. Mammadov voiced a hope for Azerbaijan’s accession to the network and European Commission’s courses and seminars in the country for research on GMOs.

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

Agreement on linking the emissions trading systems of the EU and Switzerland

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As ministers gather at the COP25 in Madrid to discuss the rules for international carbon markets, the EU and Switzerland finalised the process that allows for the link of their emissions trading systems to enter into force. As of 2020 allowances from both systems can be used for compliance to compensate for emissions occurring in either system. The Linking Agreement between the EU and Switzerland is the first of its kind, and demonstrates that emissions trading systems can pave the way to broader international carbon markets.

Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The Linking Agreement between the EU and Switzerland, which also covers the aviation sector, sends a strong signal that we can create broader and more comprehensive carbon markets with benefits to our climate and environment.”

There are significant benefits to linking carbon markets. By expanding the market and increasing the availability of emission reduction opportunities, the cost-effectiveness of the linked systems can be increased and their liquidity enhanced, thus resulting in better burden sharing, more efficient emissions reductions, and decreased overall compliance costs. The European Green Deal will strongly support these principles, underlining that with linked carbon markets we can bring carbon prices in different countries closer together, which in turn may reduce carbon leakage risks. Linking also strengthens cooperation between parties with binding targets and encourages others to take action, as well as to support global cooperation on climate change and the development of a global carbon market.

Background

The EU ETS Directive allows for linking, provided both systems are compatible, mandatory and have an absolute emission caps. These conditions for linking have been laid down in the Annexes to the Linking Agreement and will ensure that both parties meet these requirements.

Negotiations on the Linking Agreement between the EU and Switzerland started in 2011. The linking agreement was signed at the end of 2017 and will enter into force on 1 January 2020.

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Environment

Are Nature Based Solutions the key to Africa’s climate response?

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While the UN climate talks are celebrating their 25th year, carbon emissions around the world have continued to climb. For many, that is where natural solutions could play a key role in managing a dramatic climate transition.

Nature-based solutions or the process of working with and around natural ecosystems to deliver real-world benefits for climate resilience and sustainable development, took center stage on day 4 of COP25 in Madrid).

The African Development Bank has three main approaches to nature-based solutions; namely, restoring damaged ecosystems (land, forests and water bodies), conserving biodiversity, and integrated natural resources management.

Vanessa Ushie, Manager of the Policy Analysis Division at the Bank’s African Natural Resource Centre, briefed delegates at COP 25 about the Centre’s work during a panel discussion on Tuesday.

“Nature-based solutions are easy to use, and very effective in improving community livelihoods and resilience to climate change. The AfDB is scaling up the use of nature-based solutions to address climate impacts on critical ecosystems and biodiversity in Africa,” Ushie said.

UN biodiversity expert Valerie Kapos described a range of natural solutions being implemented across Africa, and around the world. These included protecting rivers, forests, and marine solutions, to benefit local economies.

“We need to be applying that argument to whichever solutions we are choosing,” said Kapos, Head of Climate Change and Biodiversity at the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

This is definitely true for the Seychelles, which has been appointed by the African Union to be the champion of the blue or ocean economy across the continent. While the continent is known for its deserts and jungles, a blue economic transition will be essential for the 48 coastal states that collectively make up the world’s longest coastline.

“We have protected 47% of our land, and are moving toward 50%. But our ocean territory is 3,000 times bigger than our land territory, and we are on track to protect 30% of that area,” said Ronald Jumeau, Permanent Representative of the Seychelles at the UN.

This was made possible by one of the world’s biggest debt-swap programs. The debt-for-nature deal was made possible through The Nature Conservancy, which bought the island nation’s $400 million sovereign debt at a discount. That money will be re-invested in nature conservation programmes.

“Through this program we have funded mangrove restoration and climate education programmes,” said Angelique Pouponneau, who runs a Seychelles-based trust fund focusing on climate adaptation and conservation.

Ushie from the African Development Bank pointed out that “one thing we are looking at is changing the way in which lending is being channeled to Africa, and how nature can be integrated in the measurement of national wealth and sovereign credit ratings for African countries.”

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EU Politics

Aviation Safety: EU Commission adopts new EU Air Safety List

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The European Commission today updated the EU Air Safety List, the list of airlines that do not meet international safety standards, and are therefore subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union. The EU Air Safety List seeks to ensure the highest level of air safety for Europeans and all other passengers travelling in the European Union.

There is positive news for Gabon as all airlines certified in Gabon have been released from the list following improvements to the aviation safety situation in that country. However, the Armenian Civil Aviation Committee has been put under heightened scrutiny because of signs of a decrease in safety oversight.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Today’s decision illustrates our continuous efforts to offer the highest level of safety. Not only to European travellers, but to travellers worldwide, because aviation safety knows no border or nationalities. I am pleased to announce that the European Commission was able today to clear all Gabonese air carriers from the EU Air Safety List. Gabon was on the List already since 2008, so it is very good that we can recognise the efforts the aviation safety authorities in Gabon have made.”

The EU Air Safety List not only helps to maintain high levels of safety in the EU, but also helps affected airlines and countries to improve their levels of safety, in order for them to eventually be taken off the list. In addition, the EU Air Safety List has become a major preventive tool, as it motivates countries with safety problems to act upon them before a ban under the EU Air Safety List would become necessary.

Following today’s update, a total of 115 airlines are banned from EU skies:

  • 109 airlines certified in 15 states, due to a lack of safety oversight by the aviation authorities from these states;
  • Six individual airlines, based on safety concerns with regard to these airlines themselves: Avior Airlines (Venezuela), Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran), Iraqi Airways (Iraq), Blue Wing Airlines (Suriname), Med-View Airlines (Nigeria) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe).

An additional three airlines are subject to operational restrictions and can only fly to the EU with specific aircraft types: Air Koryo (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Air Service Comores (the Comoros) and Iran Air (Iran).

Background information

Today’s update of the Air Safety List is based on the unanimous opinion of the aviation safety experts from the Member States who met from 20 to 21 November 2019 under the auspices of the EU Air Safety Committee (ASC). This Committee is chaired by the European Commission with the support of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The update equally got the support from the European Parliament’s Transport Committee. Assessment is made against international safety standards, and notably the standards promulgated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Commission is constantly looking at ways to improve aviation safety, notably through collaborative efforts with aviation authorities worldwide to raise global safety standards. With this in mind, the Commission, through EASA, will implement two cooperation projects in the course of 2020 to assist Angola and Mozambique to further improve their safety oversight systems.

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