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
1A Pan-European Task Force on Cooperation in Greater Europe, including former foreign and defence ministers from the U.K., Poland, Russia, Germany, Turkey and France has expressed its concern over a possible military escalation in the crisis between Russia and the West and has called for a new agreement between NATO and Russia to prevent accidental incidents or miscalculations leading to an escalation of tension and even confrontation. In its paper on Avoiding War in Europe: How to Reduce the Risk of a Military Encounter between Russia and NATO the Task Force describes some of the increased military activity in Europe in recent months and outlines a required new military agreement modelled on a recent US-China deal to avoid dangerous incidents in the East China Sea and elsewhere. [European Leadership Network]
2Kazakhstan, EU to sign new deal. The new EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will help Kazakhstan to implement the government programs aimed at strengthening the national economy. The implementation of the new Agreement has significant importance for the country, particularly in the current context of regional tension and global economic crisis.The new Agreement will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in force since 1999, and will give EU-Kazakhstan relations a new up-to-date and stronger foundation.Over the past decades, the EU has become Kazakhstan’s first trading partner and first foreign investor, representing over half of total Foreign Direct Investments(FDI) in Kazakhstan.
3Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Iyad bin Ameen Madani has applauded Azerbaijan`s role as an active member of the organization, AzerTag reports.“Azerbaijan is making a considerable contribution to the efforts to address economic, humanitarian and political challenges faced by the OIC,” Mr Ameen Madani told Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov as they met in Baku. The OIC Secretary General also congratulated Azerbaijan on “excellent” organization of the first European Games. He expressed confidence that the country will successfully host the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017.
4Turkmenistan will propose to consider the issue of holding the ‘International Forum on Security and Cooperation in Central Asia’ in Ashgabat in 2016 during the forthcoming 70th session of the UN General Assembly. The forum aims at establishing a regular multilateral dialogue on the problems of the region, working out the common approaches to the creation of a permanent mechanism of political consultations in Central Asia in the future.The international non-military, non-block organizations, primarily, the UN and OSCE, could also take part in the forum.
5Tehran and Moscow started talks on the supply of the Russian-made Sukhoi 30 fighter jets to Iran. The talks were held on Tuesday on the sidelines of the MAKS 2015 air show in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow during which Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Vice-President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari were present. The Sukhoi Su-30 is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
6Why the JCPOA Won’t Turn Iran Into the Next Saudi Arabia. “Yet it is far from certain that the JCPOA will have anything like the cataclysmic effect some have predicted. Moreover, it is questionable how far Iran will push its newly-freed oil economy once sanctions are lifted, with a host of infrastructural challenges, as well as some compelling historical experience, potentially foiling the country’s rise into major petro-state status” Gregory Brew for Modern Diplomacy
7Former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency has predicted Iran will become one of the leading powers in the world oil and gas market by 2040. During a visit from Iranian petroleum ministry’s Institute of International Energy Studies (IIES) in Tehran, Nobuo Tanaka said, “We believe that Iran is the most important player in the world oil and gas market because of its exemplary geopolitical situation which is worth any kind of energy investments. I hope the Strait of Hormuz is never blocked and the world is never deprived of Iran’s energy resources,” said Tanaka, who currently serves as executive director at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation., Iran’s SHANA news agency reported.
8The United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Commercial Service has started the formation of the American trade mission to Azerbaijan. The mission, that will take place on November 18-20, is a response to the rapid growth and potential of Azerbaijan.The mission is open to U.S. companies, investors, consultants specializing in the field of agriculture, banking and financial services, chemicals and petrochemicals, education, energy, food processing, healthcare, telecommunications and IT, infrastructure and construction, light industry, machinery, pharmaceuticals, transport and logistics, and tourism. The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and the U.S. increased by 7.7 percent in the annual quantities – up to $877.07 million – in January-July, according to the Azerbaijan State Customs Committee.
9Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and First Deputy Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev of Kazakhstan reached a six-point consensus to advance bilateral cooperation on Tuesday. Zhang and Sagintayev co-chaired the seventh session of the China-Kazakhstan Cooperation Commission in Beijing, at which they summarized the results and planned future cooperation in the areas of manufacturing capacity, energy and resources, trade and investment, inter-connectivity, technology and people-to-people contact. The two sides agreed to step up integration of the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt with Kazakhstan’s new economic policy of the Bright Road. They will establish a joint work group on building the Silk Road Economic Belt as soon as possible and start drafting a guideline on bilateral cooperation at the earliest possible date.
10International Conference InvestPro Azerbaijan 2015. This autumn the Bosco Conference Company for the third time holds an international b2b conference and exhibition devoted to international investments, finance, corporate solutions, wealth management and asset protection: 26th of October 2015 – InvestPro Azerbaijan Baku 2015 (JW Marriott Hotel Absheron Baku)
UN Security Council discusses Kashmir- China urges India and Pakistan to ease tensions
The Security Council considered the volatile situation surrounding Kashmir on Friday, addressing the issue in a meeting focused solely on the dispute, within the UN body dedicated to resolving matters of international peace and security, for the first time since 1965.
Although the meeting took place behind closed doors in New York, the Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun, spoke to reporters outside the chamber following deliberations, urging both India and Pakistan to “refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate” what was an already “tense and very dangerous” situation.
The Indian-administered part of the majority-Muslim region, known as Jammu and Kashmir had its special status within the constitution revoked by the Indian Government on 5 August, placing it under tighter central control. Pakistan has argued that the move violates international law.
The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area, which both countries claim in its entirety, with the areas under separate administration, divided by a so-called Line of Control. The UN Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on any ceasefire violations.
“The position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter…and applicable Security Council resolutions”, said the statement. “The Secretary-General also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan also known as the Simla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means”, in accordance with the UN Charter.
Ambassador Zhang said Council members had “expressed their serious concern” concerning the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir…The Kashmir issue should be resolved properly through peaceful means, in accordance with the UN Charter, the relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”
Pakistan requested the Security Council meeting on 13 August, and it was subsequently called for by Permament Member, China.
Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, Pakistan’s Ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi said the meeting had allowed “the voice of the people of the occupied Kashmir” to be heard “in the highest diplomatic forum of the world.” She argued that “the fact that this meeting took place, is testimony to the fact that this is an international dispute.”
She said that “as far as my country is concerned, we stand ready for a peaceful settlement of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I think today’s meeting nullifies India’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India. Today the whole world is discussing the occupied state and the situation there.”
Speaking a few minutes later, India’s Ambassador, Syed Akbaruddin, said that “our national position was, and remains, that matters related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, are entirely an internal matter of India…The recent decisions taken by the Government of India and our legislative bodies are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted, socio-economic development is enhanced for our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.”
He said that the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir had announced measures which would return the region towards a state of “normalcy”
“India remains committed to ensure that the situation there remains calm and peaceful. We are committed to all the agreements that we have signed on this issue.”
But without naming names, he stated that “of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of jihad against and promoting violence in India, including by their leaders”, adding that India was committed to the principle “that all issues between India and Pakistan, as well as India and any other country, will be resolved bilaterally, peacefully, and in a manner that behooves normal inter-state relations between countries.”
ADB to Help Drive Modernization in First Loan for Sri Lanka’s Railway Sector
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $160 million loan to modernize the operations and improve the efficiency of Sri Lanka Railways, the country’s railway operator, by upgrading its infrastructure and technical capacity. This is ADB’s first loan in Sri Lanka’s railway sector.
“There is a need to improve public transportation in Sri Lanka to serve a growing population, expected to reach 25 million by 2050,” said ADB Transport Specialist Mr. Johan Georget. “An improved railway system will help promote the development of services and industries across Sri Lanka, as well as put the railway as a viable transportation mode of choice for the people. This is particularly the case in suburban Colombo, where the impacts of traffic congestion are strongly felt by all road commuters as vehicle numbers have doubled between 2008 and 2018, while rail commuters often face overcrowded trains.”
Sri Lanka Railways moves 136.7 million passengers and 2 million tons of goods annually. However, the market share of the railway sector has progressively declined over the years, while the country’s railway infrastructure is overdue for significant upgrades and modernization. The network’s signaling and telecommunication systems are outdated, and the paper tickets are manually printed for all ticket classes and station pairs. Sri Lanka Railways owns 250 diesel locomotives and multiple units, but only about three-quarters of them are operational and half of the fleet is more than 30 years old.
The Railway Efficiency Improvement Project will finance the modernization of the country’s railway system in several aspects to improve the operations, maintenance, safety, skills development, and technical capacity of Sri Lanka Railways. The project will provide a modern multichannel—paper, mobile, and smart card—ticketing system, and will also install a state-of-the-art telecommunications system, which will replace the original system installed in 1985, and allow for two-way communications with train drivers and reduce train delays. The project will also finance a new operations headquarters and train control center, provide infrastructure and equipment for the maintenance of track and rolling stock, and improve railway safety. The technical training center of Sri Lanka Railways will be upgraded and new courses will be developed to provide future graduates with knowledge of modern railway technologies.
The project will also strengthen the capacity and readiness for future railway projects. This will include a detailed study for the Kandy suburban railway network; a study on transit-oriented development and land value capture; the preparation of a railway asset inventory and a land management strategy; and the modernization of the information technology and maintenance capacity of Sri Lanka Railways.
The total cost of the project is $192 million, with the Government of Sri Lanka providing $32 million. The expected project completion date is the end of 2024.
World Bank Issues Second Tranche of Blockchain Bond Via Bond-i
The World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD rated Aaa/AAA) has raised an additional AUD 50 million for its Kangaroo bond due August 2020 – the first bond created, allocated, transferred and managed through its life-cycle using distributed ledger (blockchain) technology.
The successful tap expands market participation with the Bond-i platform combining three joint lead managers, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), RBC Capital Markets (RBC) and TD Securities (TD), and brings together new market participants, including an offshore investor, and the exisiting investor community including ongoing support and input from TCorp (NSW Treasury Coporation).
In August 2018, CBA was mandated by the World Bank as arranger for the bond and following a two-week consultation period with the market, the two-year bond raised A$110 million. In May 2019, CBA and the World Bank, with TD acting as market maker, added additional capability to the platform by enabling Secondary Bond Trading recorded on Blockchain making this the first bond whose issuance and trading are recorded using distributed ledger technologies.
The subsequent issuance builds on the success of the platform and further enables capital markets to leverage distributed ledger technologies for faster, more efficient, and more secure transactions.
Bond-i is part of a broader strategic focus of the World Bank to harness the potential of disruptive technologies for development to benefit the World Bank’s clients. The World Bank’s blockchain innovation lab was established in 2017 as an innovation hub for poverty reduction projects across the world and includes developing opportunities to use blockchain and other disruptive technologies in areas such as land administration, supply chain management, health, education, cross-border payments, and carbon market trading.
“We are happy to see the continued, strong support and collaboration from investors and partners. The World Bank’s innovation and experience in the capital markets is key to working with our member countries to increase digitization to boost productivity in their economies and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Andrea Dore, World Bank Head of Funding.
“The tap is an important milestone in demonstrating the full lifecycle management of an issuer’s capital markets needs. It is also a significant step for the platform bringing on additional participants and demonstrating the broader potential of Bond-i as a capital markets platform,” said James Wall, Executive General Manager International at Commonwealth Bank.
Debt capital markets today comprise numerous interconnected intermediaries and agents undertaking intersecting roles for markets to function. Blockchain has the potential to streamline processes for raising capital and trading securities, improve operational efficiencies, as well as enhance regulatory oversight.
“CBA now has tangible evidence from our first bond offering using blockchain technology and subsequent bond management, secondary trading and tap issue via the same platform, that blockchain technology can deliver a new level of efficiency, transparency and risk management capability versus the existing market infrastructure. Next we intend to deliver additional functionality to deliver greater efficiencies in settlement, custody and regulatory compliance,” said Sophie Gilder, Head of Blockchain & AI, Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
CBA, RBC, and TD have been lead managers for a number of IBRD bond issuances in the Australian and New Zealand capital markets. This issuance built on the longstanding partnership between four organisations, bringing together World Bank’s 70-year track record of innovation in the capital markets, CBA’s globally recognised Blockchain Centre of Excellence, and TD and RBC’s significant global franchises in debt capital markets.
“An increase to the line is a natural evolution for the trade providing a great opportunity for both new and existing investors to get involved. As a market maker on the platform, TD is very excited to have partnered up with World Bank and CBA again and be part of the next step in the platform’s development,” said Yuriy Popovych, Director TD Securities.
“RBC is very pleased to be involved in the next stage of evolution of World Bank’s bond-i issue, the most advanced practical application of blockchain technology to the debt capital markets to-date,” says Jigme Shingsar, Managing Director, Debt Capital Markets at RBC. “Though the technology is still in its early stages, we believe blockchain networks have the potential to transform financial services, offering a leap forward in the transparency and efficiency of our market.”
The blockchain platform was designed and developed by the CBA Innovation Lab’s Blockchain Centre of Excellence.
· An independent review of the CBA blockchain platform’s architecture, security and resilience was conducted by Microsoft.
· The law firm of King & Wood Mallesons acted as deal counsel on the bond issue and advised on the legal architecture for its implementation.
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