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The EU will soon make a U-turn in its approach to Russia

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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

1The European Union will soon review its sanctions policy toward Russia and shift its focus to cooperation, president of the Greek-Eurasian Business Council and Greece’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis told Sputnik.”The EU will gradually start reviewing its position towards the sanctions… I believe it is not a thing that will last for a very long time,” Kouvelis said.He stressed that cooperation with Russia had been made more complicated because of the sanctions, but expressed certainty that it is always possible to find ways of working together, even under such conditions. According to Kouvelis, the sanctions regime “hampers the economy of not only the Russian Federation, but also the European Union” as it “does not serve the building of bridges between two very important potential partners, like the European Union and the Russian Federation”.

2Iran’s economy will grow whether sanctions are lifted or not and that Tehran will not forget those countries which maintained relations during the worst of times. Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi says less reliance on oil revenues and better tax revenues will drive Iran’s economic growth.“While sanctions relief is important to make the economy better, that is not the only instrument that the government has at its disposal,” Ravanvhi was quoted by Bloomberg as saying in an interview.Since late 2013, oil exports have declined by more than one million barrels per day, taking more than $100 billion from the revenue stream. Crude price slump by about 60% over the past year has dealt an added blow. President Hassan Rouhani says his government has reduced reliance on oil revenues from an average of 45% over the past two decades to about 31.5% next year.

3President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed a declaration on a new stage in the bilateral strategic partnership during a meeting Monday. Issues of bilateral cooperation in trade, economic, investment, credit, finance, culture and humanitarian spheres were discussed during the meeting.In May, Xi visited the Kazakh capital Astana to discuss the Silk Road Economic Belt, Chinese government’s economic development framework, announced in 2013, with the primary aim of integrating trade and investment in Eurasia.

4Azeri borders are safe as long as Baku has the support of Turkey, there can be no problems between the two states, Turkish Prime Minister said, according to Hurriyet Daily.“We are always together,” Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Sunday, August 30, Turkey’s Victory Day. “Azerbaijan’s holidays are our holidays, and vice versa.”The Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Support between Azerbaijan and Turkey for strategic partnership and security co-operation was signed in 2010 in Baku by Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Abdullah Gül. Azerbaijan and Turkey often describe their relations as “one nation with two states”.

5The issues of interaction and preparation of a new strategy of partnership between Turkmenistan and the World Bank (WB) have been discussed in the ministry of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan during the meeting with the World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia Saroj Kumar Jha, who arrived with a working visit to Ashgabat. A constructive dialogue on the global agenda and the rational use of water resources in the region was held during the meeting. Saroj Kumar Jha mentioned the importance of capacity building for regional cooperation and said that the World Bank Group (WB Group) is ready to provide full support to the initiatives of Turkmenistan in this direction.

6A Perfect Cyber Storm: Russia and China Teaming Together.“China and Russia, by far, have the most sophisticated cyber capabilities in the world. The offensive cyber capabilities of each individual country was a threat already to the United States but if they now work together in earnest the United States could be facing an unprecedented cyber danger. According to senior military officials, Russia’s Ministry of Defense is establishing its own cyber command that will be responsible for conducting offensive cyber activities such as propaganda operations and inserting malware into enemy command and control systems” Laura Garrido for Modern Diplomacy.

7The Kazatomprom National Atomic Company has approved a new development strategy for 2015-2025, which provides for the preservation of the leading positions of the company and Kazakhstan on the extraction of natural uranium. Implementation of the strategy will make it possible for Kazatomprom and Kazakhstan to preserve the achieved leading positions on production of natural uranium in the world.In order to do that, the company will develop existing mines and build the new ones, as well as introduce advanced technologies in order to improve the efficiency and reduce the prime cost of uranium extraction. One of the strategic directions of Kazatomprom is the business diversification in all subsequent stages of front-end nuclear fuel cycle.

8Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran and Azerbaijan have worked a lot toward attaining mutual interests. “We can have a lot of relations with Azerbaijan. We have established very friendly relations for common good,” he told the Trend news correspondent during a press conference in Tehran August 29. Effort has been made to have economic relations and joint cooperation around the Caspian Sea, he noted. Now the two governments are sure that they can cooperate, and it is hoped that the efforts can help regional security, including the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, he said.

9Turkmenistan is developing a draft investment program of the country for 2016. This was noted at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of the country chaired by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the government reported last week.According to the preliminary calculations, the volume of domestic investments in Turkmenistan’s economy will amount to 51.5 billion manats ($14.72 billion) for 2015. The government plans to allocate 56.2 billion manats ($16.06 billion) to the development of the sectors of the national economy at the expense of all sources of financing in 2016. Some 65.5 percent of these investments will be allocated to the construction of production facilities, and 34.5 percent in social and cultural facilities.

10Iran’s grand ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani visits Azerbaijan to meet with country’s Shia clerics and visit historic Azerbaijani cities. Nouri Hamedani arrived in Baku on August 31 for a 6-day visit at an invitation of the Caucasian Muslims Office. Nouri Hamedani is scheduled to meet Shia clerics at Teze Pir mosque in Baku and visit the historic cities of Ganja and Shamakhi. He will meet with local religious leaders in these cities.Previously, the grand ayatollah had traveled to Russia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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