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]
IEA hosts high-level meeting on Africa’s energy outlook
The International Energy Agency held a day-long workshop on Wednesday to discuss ways to promote greater energy development across the African continent.
More than a hundred senior representatives from governments, energy companies, financial institutions and academia attended the meeting, which was opened by H.E. Dona Jean-Claude Houssou, Minister of Energy of the Republic of Benin, and H.E. Chakib Benmoussa, Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to France.
Findings from the Workshop will provide input to a special report on Africa that will be published later this year in the World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s flagship publication. It will also inform the IEA’s first ministerial summit with the African Union Commission, which will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June.
“Promoting access to energy across Africa is one of the world’s major development challenges and one of the IEA’s key priorities,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, during his opening remarks. “While the challenges are important – particularly with regards to access to energy or clean cooking fuels – the continent’s energy resources are tremendous. With the right policies and investments, they could be harnessed to provide greater economic benefit for all populations across the continent.”
Developing Africa’s energy sector potential is an essential step to providing greater economic opportunities and prosperity across the continent, which is home to vast energy resources. Still, today more than 600 million people across the continent remain without access to electricity. The workshop addressed policies, technologies, business models and financing to accelerate the transition to a thriving and sustainable African energy sector, set against a favourable backdrop of declining energy technology costs, increasing digitalisation, and strengthened policy commitment, including through Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
The workshop marked an important milestone in the IEA’s strengthened engagement with Africa. In recent years, the IEA welcomed Morocco and South Africa to its family and recently forged a strategic partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC). The IEA is also stepping up its collaboration with African countries and regional organisations on capacity building for data and long-term planning, and technical policy dialogues on a range of topics.
The workshop was followed by deep-dive sessions on energy access, energy and gender, energy and growth, and power system reliability and sustainability.
EU is strengthening its political partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean
The European Union is strengthening its political partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean by focusing it on four priorities – prosperity, democracy, resilience and effective global governance – for common future.
The vision for a stronger and modernised bi-regional partnership focused on trade, investment and sectoral cooperation is set out in a new joint communication presented by the European Commission and the High Representative. This new partnership aims at working together in changing global and regional realities that require joint efforts to address common challenges and opportunities.
On this occasion, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini commented: “Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe have social, cultural and economic deep links, a long history of common work for peace and prosperity, and share the same attachment to cooperation and multilateralism. With this communication, we lay the ground for further strengthening our collaboration, for the sake of our peoples and of the whole world.”
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “Our commitment remains to continue engaging with countries in the region according to their different levels of development through tailor-made partnerships and innovative forms of cooperation such as transfer of knowledge or triangular cooperation. In this context, we will pay particular attention to countries least developed and in situations of conflict where the potential to raise finance is the lowest. Only when we join forces can we deliver on our ambitious Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development or the Paris Agreement”.
Building on the achievements of the last decades, the partnership should concentrate on four mutually reinforcing priorities, underpinned by concrete initiatives and targeted EU engagement with the region:
Partnering for Prosperity – by supporting sustainable growth and decent jobs; reducing socio-economic inequalities; transitioning towards a digital, green and circular economy; as well as further strengthening and deepening the already solid trade and investment relationship
Partnering for Democracy – by strengthening the international human rights regime including gender equality; empowering civil society; consolidating the rule of law; and ensuring credible elections and effective public institutions
Partnering for Resilience – by improving climate resilience, environment and biodiversity; fighting against inequalities through fair taxation and social protection; fighting organised crime; and deepening dialogue and cooperation on migration and mobility, in particular to prevent irregular migration, trafficking in human beings
Partnering for effective global governance – by strengthening the multilateral system, including for climate and environmental governance; deepening cooperation on peace and security; and implementing the 2030 Agenda.
The strategic partnership between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean is based on a commitment to fundamental freedoms, sustainable development and a strong rules-based international system. As a result, there is an unprecedented level of integration and our economies are closely interconnected.
The EU has signed association, free trade or political and cooperation agreements with 27 of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Close to six million people from both regions live and work across the Atlantic, and more than one third of Latin American and Caribbean students studying abroad do so in the EU. The EU is the third largest trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean and the first investor. Total trade in goods amounted to €225.4 billion in 2018, while foreign direct investment reached €784.6 billion in 2017.
The EU has promoted the cooperation in areas of strategic interest, efforts to tackle anti-microbial resistance, improving aviation safety, working together against climate change and promoting a safe and human-centric digitalised economy are some concrete examples that illustrate this partnership towards a common future.
The EU has been the largest provider of development cooperation to its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, with €3.6 billion in grants between 2014 and 2020 and over €1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance in the last 20 years, including assistance under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in case of natural disasters.
The EU and LAC countries often align in the United Nations, and have closely cooperated on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.
EU plans to invest €9.2 billion in key digital technologies
The Digital Europe Programme is a new €9.2 billion funding programme whose goal is to ensure that all Europeans have the skills and the infrastructure needed to meet a full range of digital challenges.
It is part of a strategy to further develop the digital single market, which could help to create four million jobs and boost the EU’s economy with €415 billion every year while increasing the EU’s international competitiveness.
“For too many years, Europe’s tech sector has lagged behind third countries such as the US and China. We need a coherent Union-wide approach and an ambitious investment to secure a solution to the chronic mismatch between the growing demand for the latest technology and the available supply in Europe,” said Austrian ALDE member Angelika Mlinar, one of the MEPs repsonsible for steering the plans through Parliament.
A part of the budget would be allocated to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations to use technology more often and better, while other parts will cover strategically important fields such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
“We can count on European excellence when it comes to research and innovation, but our businesses, especially SMEs, still found it difficult to access and take advantage of new solutions,” said Milnar. “This programme has been crucially designed to tackle the low take-up of existing testing technologies. We are on track to deliver one of the most promising and necessary funds for Europe’s future.”
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