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Nazarbayev: We must pave our way carefully

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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

1Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader since 1989 is no stranger to accusations of autocracy. Western media has long been refering to Nazarbayev as “Kazakhstan’s autocratic president”. On the eve of the Constitution Day, President Nazarbayev commented on the accusations of autocracy.”I know that we are often accused of autocracy. But how can one talk about autocracy, when every 4 or 5 years people vote to elect their President and Parliament at free alternative elections. We are told to move faster towards democracy practiced by western countries, from the USA to Europe. We understand it all well. Democracy is a path towards development of humanity. We are making our way there. But we also have to consider that our country is an Asian society. Our traditions differ from Western ones. Our cultural and religious views are different. That is why we must pave our way carefully,” Nazarbayev said during the Conference dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Constitution.

2America and Russia locked in race to control the Arctic Circle. “Barack Obama was set to become the first sitting American president to visit the Arctic Circle on Wednesday night, as the United States battles to assert itself in a global race to control the region’s natural resources. Melting permafrost caused by rising global temperatures has made the once impenetrable Arctic Circle increasingly accessible, sparking intense competition between Russia, the United States and China to assert control over an area that it is thought may hold as much as 40 per cent of the world’s oil and gas resources” Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph.

3Why Kazakhstan is building a uranium bank. The world suffers no shortage of uranium, the raw material for nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The amount of electricity generated globally by nuclear power peaked almost a decade ago. And no reactors have ever been shut down because of a lack of fuel. Yet Warren Buffett has put the first $50m behind a $150m project agreed on August 27th to build a uranium bank in Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest producer of the mineral. It sounds like something a Bond villain might dream up, rather than a philanthropic American billionaire. What is the logic? The Economist

4China plays hard to get with Russia. “Moscow turned to its powerful Asian neighbor last year after being hit with sanctions by the West. But the plan for a deeper economic relationship is not working out. China’s slowdown is making it harder for Beijing to deliver on promises it made to Moscow, and Chinese investors are spooked by Russia’s deep economic crisis. Vladimir Putin is now hoping to give the relationship a second chance. The Russian president is in China this week, accompanied by an entourage of senior officials and business leaders” CNN

5Azerbaijan is a suitable route for transferring Iran’s gas to EU, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said. He made the remarks during a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Oktay Asadov.Larijani underlined that cooperation between Tehran and Baku can be developed further in the fields of oil and gas.Iran holds 33.8 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves— or 18.2 percent of the world’s total proven reserves.The country has been pursuing multiple projects for years to pipe natural gas to Europe. The most serious project was Nabucco which was pursued by an international consortium led by Austria’s OMV. Iran had been originally designated in Nabucco as a key supplier for future exports to Europe.

6Iran has recently showed great interest in neighboring Turkmenistan, in terms of investment, proved by closing deals worth USD450 million, mainly to fund it with technical services. Iran has already been seizing opportunities, such as the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in Vienna conducted in July, all in all, supporting the oil industry’s goals.

7Iran is ready to talk extending the “peace pipeline” to Bangladesh which envisages exports of the Iranian gas to Pakistan and India, Tehran’s Ambassador to Dhaka says.Abbas Vaezi said the issue had been discussed between Iranian and Bangladesh governments as well as with India and Pakistan, adding “they must have a feasibility study” to proceed further.Bangladesh’s Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Nasrul Hamid has been invited to Tehran where he will discuss all energy-related issues including the gas pipeline, the ambassador added.The recent conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran has revived interest in the “peace pipeline” which ran into hurdles after India withdrew from the project and Pakistan failed to fulfill its obligations.

8NATO vs. Russia War Could Begin Today Or Tomorrow. “Pentagon’s deployment of F-22 fighter aircraft to the Baltic states would mean nothing if the quality of governance in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania is low. But the Pentagon explained that the deployment of F-22 fighter aircraft is ‘designed to send a message to Russia’.In Estonia and Latvia, Russian-speaking minorities account for about one-quarter of the population, and over 6 percent in Lithuania. Not long ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that all those people deserve his ‘protection’.Such comments by Putin triggered a wave of fear in the Baltic states, which is why the three countries have been seeking NATO’s security assurances. And NATO couldn’t think of anything better than to respond with war games” ValueWalk

9Azerbaijan’s oil fund SOFAZ is studying investment opportunities in new markets. SOFAZ, an entity that accumulates and manages Azerbaijan’s oil and gas revenues, implements its investment plan in accordance with the regulations outlined by its management. The Fund’s assets fell by 3.56 percent earlier in the year from $37.104 billion to an estimated at $35.783 billion as of July 1. As of June 30, 2015, SOFAZ’s total investment portfolio amounted to $35.726 billion, or 99.8 percent of total assets. Some 33 percent of its investment portfolio was invested for a period of up to one year, 30.5 percent from one to three years, 11 percent from three to five years, 9.7 per cent more than five years, and 15.8 percent funds were invested in real estate, stocks and gold.

10Work on the reconstruction of the water supply system began at the refinery in the town of Seydi (eastern Turkmenistan).Work for the high-volume production of high-quality petroleum products are carried out at the large industrial enterprise at the expense of deep processing of raw materials.Repair and reconstruction of production units are carried out for this purpose. Special attention is given to the important issues related to water supply of the plants, wastewater treatment and their purification.

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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