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
1Many states — including Britain, France and North Korea — have used nuclear weapons to permit greater independence from their senior allies. Indeed, fear of that independence has frequently driven the United States’ surprisingly vigorous efforts to prevent even its allies from acquiring nuclear weapons, as several scholars have documented. To the extent that Iran’s senior allies — Russia and China — now constrain Iranian behavior, we might expect Iran to behave more independently upon acquiring nuclear weapons. But Russia and China are (at best) loose allies of Iran, so this effect is likely to be limited. Mark S. Bell for The Washington Post
2Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger has urged the United States to treat Russia as a “great power” and stop making efforts to break it.“Breaking Russia has become an objective [for US officials] the long-range purpose should be to integrate it,” the 92-year-old said during an interview with The National Interest published on Wednesday.“If we treat Russia seriously as a great power, we need at an early stage to determine whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities,” he told the policy magazine.In his interview, Kissinger accused the American and European governments for failing to recognize the historical context in which the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine started.”The relationship between Ukraine and Russia will always have a special character in the Russian mind,” he said.“It can never be limited to a relationship of two traditional sovereign states, not from the Russian point of view, maybe not even from Ukraine’s. So, what happens in Ukraine cannot be put into a simple formula of applying principles that worked in Western Europe,” the veteran diplomat added.
3The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $1 billion loan to help Kazakhstan continue government programs to strengthen the economy in the face of recent challenges.”This loan from ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility will give the country the fiscal leeway it needs to mitigate the unanticipated and significant negative impacts of the steep decline in world oil prices and the economic slowdown of the neighboring countries,” said Lotte Schou-Zibell, Principal Economist in the Central and West Asia Department.
4Iran will cooperate with Azerbaijan on gas transportation to Europe through the Southern Gas Corridor, Mahmoud Vaezi told Trend on August 20.The Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister, said that his country plans to export gas not only to Asian markets, but to Europe as well.“Transportation through Azerbaijan is one of the routes of bringing Iranian gas to Europe,” Vaezi noted. The Southern Gas Corridor is a priority energy project for the EU. It envisages the transit of gas from the Caspian Sea region to European countries through Georgia and Turkey.
5Azerbaijan: Back in the USSR? The conviction of two prominent dissidents conjures up the Soviet past. Political prisoners are nothing new in today’s Azerbaijan, run by Ilham Aliev, its authoritarian president. But the Yunuses’ case is especially egregious. They are veterans of the Soviet dissident movement and still the country’s most prominent civil-rights activists. In the early 1980s they worked for a samizdat newspaper, Express Chronicle. In the late 1980s Mrs Yunus was at the forefront of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms, which held out the promise of a free and dignified life. When Soviet tanks rolled into Baku in 1990 in a desperate attempt to stop the crumbling of the empire, she led a national independence movement. [The Economist]
6The Delegation of Azerbaijan to the OSCE rejects the allegations made by the US, EU, Canada and Norway with respect to the situation with human rights in Azerbaijan and find such statement as undermining bilateral relations with these countries, said the statement of the Delegation of Azerbaijan at the 1064th Special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on August 19. “Azerbaijan condemns the attempts to deliberately politicize and misinterpret ongoing legal cases against some individuals in our country,” said the statement. “Azerbaijan calls on US, EU, its member states, EU officials and institutions concerned, Canada and Norway to respect the decisions of justice system in Azerbaijan and to refrain from interfering into ongoing legal cases. We consider the references made in the statements to some anonymous international monitor’s observations in courts as seriously flawed and designed with a view to exert pressure on administration of justice.”Every person in Azerbaijan is equal before the law and bears equal responsibility for his or her deeds, according to the statement.
7U.N. human rights experts have criticized a court in Azerbaijan for what they say were “politically motivated” convictions of a prominent rights defender and her husband.A court in Baku on Aug. 13 sentenced Leyla Yunus to 8½ years in prison on charges of fraud, tax evasion and illegal business activities. Her husband Arif Yunus was given a 7-year sentence for fraud.Six experts linked to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva said in a statement Thursday that the convictions were a sign of “the continuing repression of independent civil society in Azerbaijan.”The Yunuses both pleaded not guilty during the trial. They have suffered serious health problems in custody since their arrest a year ago, and the experts urged Azerbaijan authorities to provide proper medical care. [The Associated Press]
8China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. completed the purchase of a 50 percent stake in a Kazakh oil producer from Lukoil PJSC for $1.09 billion, gaining full control of a venture with stakes in five oil and gas fields.The sale of Caspian Investments Resources Ltd. received the required permits from the state authorities of the Kazakhstan in late July, Lukoil said in a statement Thursday. The deal concluded after more than a year of talks and the price is less than the $1.2 billion agreed on in April 2014.
9Is A Slow Putsch Against Putin Under Way? A quarter century after the fall of the USSR, Kremlinologists sense a putsch in the air, despite Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming approval ratings. The tea leaves say that the Kremlin elite, dubbed by some as Politburo 2.0, is currently deciding whether Putin should go before he makes a bad situation worse. The founder of the respected daily Kommersant predicts that a dramatic change is about to take place and advises Russians who have the means to leave the country for a month or so and take their children with them. Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes.
10Is Turkmenistan Opening Up?Turkmenistan remains the only Central Asian country that requires citizens of all neighboring countries to obtain a visa before visiting–with tiny exceptions (visits lasting five days or less) for people living in select bordering communities in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Though many statements have been made in the past, both by Berdimuhamedov and other regional leaders, about the need to ease travel over borders, there is little overall progress on that front. [The Diplomat]
UNIDO supports Budapest Appeal to prevent and manage looming water crises
LI Yong, the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) acted as a panelist during the opening session of Budapest Water Summit 2019, which was convened under the motto ‘Preventing Water Crises’ and which aimed at promoting solutions to tackle the emerging water crises.
“Industries can be instrumental to prevent any kind of water crisis: in situations where water is scarce, the application of resource efficient and cleaner production allows industries to drastically reduce their own water consumption”, said LI Yong. “In situations where water is too polluted, green industries can offer solutions for the cost and energy effective treatment of municipal, agricultural and industrial waste water. Even in situations where abundant water results in floods, industries can engage as water stewards and drive the collaborative process of restoring water regulating eco-system services”.
The UNIDO Director General further emphasized the need for pro-active cooperation, dedicated and well-concerted efforts as well as considerable resources. At the same time, and given the importance of water for sustainable development, Li urged not to underestimate the importance of these efforts.
“The United Nations Industrial Development Organization will continue its efforts to support industries to become environmentally friendly”, said LI Yong. “In this way, industries will play an active role to prevent water crises, in terms of water becoming too little, too much or too polluted”.
During the closing session of the Summit, the Budapest Appeal was presented that formulates messages and guidelines for the international community to prevent and manage the looming water crises. In addition, the Appeal provides a comprehensive summary of findings and recommendations from the Summit and introduces the preliminary online consultation process.
The Summit gathered over 2,200 participants from 117 countries in Budapest, including Hungarian President János Áder and Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen as well as numerous ministers, secretaries of state, representatives of United Nations organizations and heads of multilateral financial institutions.
OECD and European Commission join forces to further support structural reforms in European countries
The OECD and the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) sealed a new agreement today in Paris that will see the OECD provide wide-ranging policy support to advance structural reforms in European countries.
OECD Chief of Staff, Gabriela Ramos, and Director General of the SRSS, Maarten Verwey, concluded an agreement on 34 reform projects, to be conducted over the next 12 to 18 months, in 18 EU countries under the umbrella of the Structural Reform Support Programme of the European Commission.
The OECD SRSS agreement comes at a time of a slowdown in global growth, rising inequalities and higher environmental degradation, which threaten people’s well-being. The OECD, with its extensive knowledge base and expertise, is supporting governments to tackle these issues head on and considers the cooperation with the SRSS to be an excellent opportunity to further leverage its expertise to deliver better policies for better lives.
The action will see the OECD working closely with the SRSS to provide policy advice and working directly with governments to advance structural reform in various policy areas, including education, labour markets, tax, governance, environment and transport infrastructure. These projects respond to the reform priorities identified by the respective EU Member States and will for example help governments develop sustainable development strategies, establish frameworks for circular economies, improve housing affordability in cities, or improve the provision of labour market services. The OECD will capitalize on the digital transformation and also deliver on skills strategies. In a nutshell, it will redouble efforts to support European countries, Members and Partners, in their goal to build strong, inclusive and sustainable economies.
The Structural Reform Support Service offers tailor-made support to all EU Member States for the preparation, design and implementation of growth-enhancing reforms. The support is provided on the request of EU Member States, requires no co-financing and mobilises experts from all over Europe and beyond, from both the public and the private sector.
The new OECD – SRSS agreement allows the SRSS to leverage OECD’s expertise on best policy practices and structural reforms in the EU Member States. Such co-operation will deliver value added impact, carried out with efficiency, for the benefit of all countries.
Guterres: We must do everything possible to avoid global ‘fracture’ caused by US-China tensions
Tensions around global trade and technology continue to rise and the international community needs to “do everything possible” to prevent the world being split into two competing spheres, led by the United States and China.
In remarks to the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the UN chief said that “during tense and testing times” he continued to “fear the possiblity of a Great Fracture – with the two largest economies splitting the globe in two – each with its own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, its own internet and artificial intelligence capacities and its own zero-sum geopolitical and military strategies.”
A trade war between the two economic giants is threatening to wipe out gains across the global economy, which could shrink global GDP next year “equivalent to the whole economy of Switzerland” said the new head of the IMF, Kristina Georgieva, just a few days ago.
Mr. Guterres told world financiers that “it is not too late to avoid” the division, but “we must do everything possible to avert this…and maintain a universal economy with universal respect for international law; a multipolar world with strong multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF.”
He noted three main areas where fiscal policy and investment in the future would be pivotal. First, make tax systems “smarter, greener, and more aligned behind the sustainable development and climate action agendas”, he urged.
Secondly align the whole financial system behind the 17 SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, incentivizing longterm public and private finance, and “revisiting financial regulations that may inadvertently encourage short-termism in financial markets.”
Third, “it is time to break the cycle of excessive debt build-up followed by painful debt crises”, meaning taking a systemic approach to lend and borrow more responsibly.
And we must keep a focus on countries particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, namely Small Island Developing States. I fully support proposals to convert debt to investment in resilience such as through the Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap initiative”, noted the UN chief. “We should move this from idea to reality.
Together, let us raise ambition for development finance, climate finance, and finance that is inclusive and enables markets to grow, businesses to thrive and people to live in dignity.”
‘Great opportunities’ ahead, for climate action
Speaking at a meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, Mr. Guterres said that the 44-member group launched just six months ago, was “a vital part of our response to the climate emergency”.
The Climate Action Summit last month in New York had shown “the world is waking up to the crisis”, with “great opportunities” ahead to reduce air pollution, save billions of dollars on disasters fueled by global warming, and unlock the true benefits of the green economy.
Despite a “glaring gap in ambition and finance” finance ministers can turn the tide: “You come to the table with a mix of tools, including tax policy, controlled spending and climate budgeting…And you can end counter-productive subsidies for fossil fuels and pave the way for what I would like to see as a major trend: shifting taxation from income, to carbon.”
Sweden and Colombia are already using carbon taxes; Uganda is implementing a Climate Change Budget Tagging System; and the island of Dominica has used fiscal policy to improve preparedness for climate shocks, following a devastating hurricane.
“Your Coalition is taking the ‘whole of government’ approach we need for systemic change. We need to have in place by COP26, country-level road maps and fiscal policies for economic, technological and energy transitions”.
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