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The fate of the world cannot be determined by one country

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 says the fate of the world countries and nations cannot be put in the hands of a country or a limited number of countries seeking to keep their dominance over others, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in an article titled “Lessons of History and New Milestones.The article was published on Sunday in Russia’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily as well as China’s Renmin Ribao newspaper on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in August 1945. In an apparent reference to the interventionist policies of the US and its NATO allies in other countries, the Russian foreign minister said that global developments, including the occupation of Iraq and the conflict in Libya and Ukraine prove the “tragic consequences” of striving to capture and retain global dominance at any cost. “We are resolute opponents of imposing one’s will on sovereign countries, including by military means, of unilateral sanctions pressure, and in general of employing the practice of ‘double standards’,” he wrote. Lavrov said that the “lessons of the Second World War” proved that global woes can only be resolved through collective efforts.

2Turkmenistan, Iran trade to hit USD60b in 10 years. An Iranian official said that the two nations are committed to grow relations in all sectors as its presidents stressed in Iran’s Exhibition, therefore the trade between them is set to hit USD60 billion over the next decade. The oil, gas, construction, energy, water and engineering products and services exhibition resulted in Turkmen traders, economic activists and investors becoming acquainted with the capabilities of Iranian companies. The expo, called ‘Iran Project’, focused on increasing Iran’s non-oil exports and paving the way for developing trade, mainly exchanging Turkmenistan’s gas with Iranian goods and services.

3Japan has lodged a protest over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to one of four disputed Pacific islands that have strained ties between the two countries since the end of World War II. The decades-old argument over the territory, claimed by both states, could set back Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to court resource-rich Russia and keep the door open to dialogue, despite the Ukraine crisis. While on the island, Mr Medvedev said Japan’s attitude would not stop more such visits.”Our position is simple: we want to be friends with Japan, Japan is our neighbour. We have a good attitude towards Japan, but this shouldn’t be linked in any way with the Kuril islands, which are part of the Russian Federation,” he said.”Therefore, we have made visits, we are visiting and we will make visits to the Kurils.” Mr Medvedev emphasised economic development plans for a region potentially rich in oil and gas and invited foreign investors. Russia ordered a quicker build-up of military facilities in the disputed islands in June, following comments by Mr Putin in April that he was ready to discuss the issue, while blaming Japan for a lack of dialogue.

4Despite the forecasts announced by investment group Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kazakhstani experts say that the probability of a default in Kazakhstan remains low, Tengrinews reports citing business newspaper Kursiv. Last week, the American bank placed Kazakhstan on the ninth place among ten countries with the highest likelihood of sovereign default. Experts in the country acknowledge certain risks exist but contend that a default is not on the horizon.

5Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in talks for the establishment of a joint bank whose branches would conduct financial operations in the two countries, Press TV reports. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi emphasized that further development of the two countries’ banking cooperation is necessary for expansion of trade relations between Tehran and Baku. “Currently, the trade volume between our countries is about USD 500 million…. I think that it’s not a very good indicator for the two neighboring countries and peoples so close to each other. Azerbaijan and Iran have set a goal to increase this figure by four times to USD 2 billion,” he said.

6The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is seeking to increase the number of financial intermediaries in Azerbaijan. This was noted in the BSTDB cooperation strategy with Azerbaijan in 2015-2018, published on its website. The bank hopes to find suitable partners for the development of leasing in Azerbaijan.”It is an area of great potential in Azerbaijan and the Bank intends to use the leasing product not only for financing capital expenditure of SMEs but also for other companies as an effective financing tool for the promotion of regional trade. Medium-term credit lines opened to leasing companies for trade related purposes will enable them to offer their customers finance for capital expenditures on imports from other countries in the region,” the document said.

7Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and his Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov have discussed relations between their two former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Tajikistan’s presidential press service quotes Berdymukhammedov as saying that Tajikistan and Turkmenistan “have common positions on the issues related to peace and stability in the world and in the region.”Rahmon said the two countries have a “common position towards the struggle against terrorism, [and] extremism [that] creates a base for developing economic ties.” The presidents’ concerns about terrorism follow reports in recent months that Taliban fighters have intruded into Turkmenistan and Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan.

8Kazakhstan’s national gas supply company KazTransGas has signed with China Development Bank Corporation and Bank of China an agreement on a syndicated loan worth US $2.5 billion for the period until 2028. The loan will be used to finance the construction of the Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent gas pipeline, the press service of KazTransGas said on August 19. The Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent pipeline will deliver natural gas from gas fields in western Kazakhstan to southern parts of the country.

9The Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC will increase the number of the vessels engaged in cargo transportations in the Black Sea to four.The company said the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ dry cargo ship, with an ability to carry a load of 3,000 metric tons, will reach the Black Sea through the internal waters of Russia.Aside from the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ ship, the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC has the ‘Garadagh’, ‘Natavan’ and ‘Uzeyir Hajibeyli’ vessels in the Black Sea.

10Kazakhstan’s currency recovered some of its recent losses against the dollar Monday with a 15 percent rise, even as the country’s stock market slumped. The tenge traded at 218.61 to the dollar in the morning session on the Kazakhstan stock exchange, down from 252.47. The tenge had slumped by over 25 percent against the dollar on Thursday when Kazakhstan’s government and central bank moved to a free float, abandoning a trading corridor.

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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China to Improve Inland Waterway Transport with World Bank Support

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a US$150 million loan today to improve the capacity and reliability of inland waterway transport along the Han River in China’s Hubei Province. The project will increase connectivity between the less developed central and western regions and the more prosperous eastern provinces, and yield local and global environmental benefits by promoting a green mode of transport and producing renewable energy.

As part of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, China is relocating industries in the less developed inland regions of the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River. This requires an efficient multimodal transport that can move freight over long distances in a sustainable manner.

“Inland waterway transport is a cost effective and environmentally friendly mode of transport that is underexploited in China. The new project will increase inland waterway transport along the Han River and promote a shift from roads to waterways, which reduces carbon emissions from transport,” said Zhai Xiaoke, World Bank’s Senior Transport Specialist and leader of the project.

The Hubei Inland Waterway Improvement Project will construct the Yakou Navigation-Hydropower Complex in the middle reaches of the Han River. It will upgrade about 53 kilometers of waterway between the Yakou and the Cuijiaying Complex to Class III navigation standards and help enable the completed investments at other cascades to realize their full navigation capacity and economic benefits. The hydropower station will supply renewable energy to Yicheng City, which is located 16 kilometers from Yakou.

The project will also provide gravity flow irrigation to over 5,300 hectares of existing farmland. Other anticipated benefits of the project include the significant reduction of lifting costs, the improvement of flood resilience, and the creation of a better landscape for recreational tourism.

The total investment of the project is US$515.13 million; the IBRD loan will finance US$150 million and the Hubei Provincial Government will invest US$365.13 million. About 5.61 million residents along the Han River are expected to benefit from the economic development and ecological improvement brought about by the greener transport mode.

Starting with the First Inland Waterways Project in 1995, the World Bank has supported seven inland waterway projects in China, with each successive phase introducing important additionality, ranging from technical innovation to integrated development and management of multi-purpose inland waterway transport, as well as improved institutional capacity and environmental aspects.

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EU investment in gas interconnection between Bulgaria and Serbia to enhance energy security in the region

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To boost the diversification of energy sources in the Western Balkan region, reduce dependency on one dominant supplier and increase energy security, a joint commitment to implement the gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Serbia has been signed today 17 May by the Energy Minister of Bulgaria, Ms. Temenuzhka Petkova, and the Energy Minister of Serbia, Mr. Aleksandar Antić, on the occasion of the Western Balkans summit of Leaders in Sofia, Bulgaria. This interconnection will for the first time link the gas systems of Bulgaria and Serbia.

This new political impetus to the project showcases the political will of all parties. Once completed, the interconnector will constitute a major contribution to the solidarity in the Energy Union. The interconnector will allow for the transfer of between 1 and 1.8 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually from Bulgaria to Serbia and 0.15 billion cubic metres from Serbia to Bulgaria. The project forms part of the EU’s Projects of Common Interest and is a priority in the context of the Central and South Eastern Europe Energy Connectivity High Level Group (CESEC).

The European Commission is contributing notably to the Serbian side of the Bulgaria-Serbia Interconnector with a Pre-Accession grant of EUR 49.6 million. The Commission is actively facilitating progress on this priority project in close contact with both the Bulgarian and the Serbian authorities.

The new gas pipeline will provide a new supply route from Bulgaria not only to Serbia, but also to other parts of the South-East European region. This will enable access to liquefied natural gas from Greece, Azeri gas from the Southern Gas Corridor, as well as gas from Black Sea offshore production, and ensure improved integration of these sources into the EU’s internal energy market.

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ASEAN youth promotes “green” entrepreneurship at ASEAN Youth Expo 2018

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ASEAN youth leaders and youth entrepreneurs showcased their efforts and creativity in promoting environment-friendly enterprises at ASEAN Youth Expo 2018 held on 3-4 May at the Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel, Jakarta.

The expo, themed “Proliferating Youth Entrepreneurship: Tacking Environmental Issue by Being Greenpreneurs”, was hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Indonesia. It was held in conjunction with the Ninth ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY IX) and the Eighth ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (8th SOMY+3)

The ASEAN Youth Expo is a recurring activity under the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 led by Indonesia. This year’s event aimed to strengthen collaboration among the youth in ASEAN and the Plus Three Countries in addressing environmental problems through entrepreneurship.

Each country sent four best youth representatives to join the youth-organised and youth-led event which comprised workshop, seminars, discussions, and an exhibit of the products of the youth entrepreneurs. A total of 450 youth leaders and youth entrepreneurs participated in the two-day event.

Nineteen display booths were installed featuring their “green” or environment-friendly products such as biodegradable plastic bags, fresh and processed fruits from organic and integrated farming, and other environmental friendly and recycled products.

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