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
1Similarly to Ukraine, post-Soviet Kazakhstan is also asserting its national identity, but the absence of EU ambition toward Astana and its participation in the Eurasian Union preserves the country from a Donbass-type scenario, writes Michael Emerson for Euractiv
2Turkmenistan’s government is preparing to hold an international exhibition and science conference titled ‘The main areas of development in the power industry of Turkmenistan’ on September 12-13. This specialized forum is meant to showcase the achievement and prospects of development of the Turkmen power industry. Power industry is one of the leading industries in the national economy of Turkmenistan, aiming to fully meet the needs of industry, agriculture and social sector in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan’s electricity is currently being bought by Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.
3The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed surprise on Monday, September 7, over an American warning to Russia against escalating the conflict in Syria, saying that the Kremlin’s Syrian policy — in particular furnishing military aid to help the government confront extremist forces — had been consistent for years. “We have always supplied equipment to them for their struggle against terrorists,” Maria V. Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in an interview. “We are supporting them, we were supporting them and we will be supporting them” in that fight. The problem is that the West cannot show one example of how they would manage the Syria story right after,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What is the West planning to do right after? Do they have a magic wand that will transform Syria from civil war to economic prosperity?”
4Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh says Tehran will support any step to help the recovery of the oil market.”Iran supports and welcomes any steps to help the oil market recover and escape the current conditions,” Zangeneh has been quoted as saying by the media. He made the comment in reference to a proposal made by Venezuela to coordinate between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. Venezuela has for months been pushing for an emergency OPEC meeting and joint coordination with Russia to stem a tumble in oil prices, but with little success.
5A regional seminar entitled “Closure, long-term surveillance and maintenance of areas after the rehabilitation process” has kicked off in Baku. The seminar is part of “Support for environmental remediation programs” joint project between Azerbaijan`s Ministry of Emergency Situations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).The seminar brought together 70 representatives from Azerbaijan, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and IAEA.
6Why Azerbaijan’s real estate prices remain high? The property market in Azerbaijan is now going through changes, having slightly decreased in prices after recent economic shocks – the fall in oil prices, the devaluation of manat, etc. The consulting company Value and Sources released a number of reasons why an apartment in Baku is not any getting cheaper. The company said the fact that housing prices in manat remained unchanged in the last year and has declined by an average of 25 percent in dollar, is controversial.“This is an average index, so it turns out that if the price for half of all housing in Baku fell in manat over the last year, the other half, on the contrary, has risen,” the company noted. Azernews
7Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev believes that Kazakhstanis need to learn from Chinese diligence and discipline, Tengrinews reports. He also highlighted that it was worth looking up to China in their fight against corruption. “They adopted a code of conduct for civil servants, which includes eight points and as you know the first of our (five) institutional reforms is aimed at the improvement of the civil service,” he pointed out.
8EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan Malena Mard has written an article in connection with the start of the academic year. “The EU is proud to be a key partner with the Ministry of Education as well as other stakeholders in modernising and reforming the education system in Azerbaijan. In this we will support bringing the education system closer to EU standards and, more generally, to allow it to better supply the required skills for the effective functioning of the economy. We hope to contribute and co-operate with Azerbaijani partners sharing our experiences within the EU. Through this we hope to contribute to create a robust, sustainable and diversified economic growth”
9Turkmenistan has begun the engineering and survey work for a 1,800km-long pipeline that will supply gas to the energy-hungry South Asian nation. The pipeline will be constructed as a part of the ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project. Turkmengaz State Corporation said in a statement that specialists of the Institute of Oil and Gas began the engineering and survey work on the route last week, as Ashgabat planned to start the construction of the pipeline in December. Although the four Asian countries had taken a decision regarding the project long back, commencement of the project had been delayed mainly because of administrative issues and political instability in Afghanistan.
10Turkey and Azerbaijan are leading countries in the region, a board member of the Petkim petrochemical holding Kenan Yavuz said with reference to the head of SOCAR Turkey Enerji, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported. He said that the implementation of energy projects of Azerbaijan and Turkey is aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the region.With the construction of Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), the volume of total investment of Azerbaijan in the economy of Turkey will amount to $20 billion.TANAP project envisages transportation of gas of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field from the Georgian-Turkish border to the western borders of Turkey.
World Bank Plans to Invest over $5 Billion in Drylands in Africa
The World Bank plans to invest over $5 billion over the next five years to help restore degraded landscapes, improve agriculture productivity, and promote livelihoods across 11 African countries on a swathe of land stretching from Senegal to Djibouti.
World Bank Group President David Malpass announced the investment at the One Planet Summit, a high-level meeting co-hosted with France and the United Nations that is focused on addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.
“This investment, which comes at a crucial time, will help improve livelihoods as countries recover from COVID-19 while also dealing with the impact of both biodiversity loss and climate change on their people and economies,” said Malpass.
The more than $5 billion in financing will support agriculture, biodiversity, community development, food security, landscape restoration, job creation, resilient infrastructure, rural mobility, and access to renewable energy across 11 countries of the Sahel, Lake Chad and Horn of Africa. Many of these efforts are in line with the Great Green Wall initiative. This builds on World Bank landscape investments in these countries over the past eight years that reached more than 19 million people and placed 1.6 million hectares under sustainable land management.
“Restoring natural ecosystems in the drylands of Africa benefits both people and the planet,” said Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Working with many partners, PROGREEN, a World Bank global fund dedicated to boosting countries’ efforts to address landscape degradation, will also invest $14.5 million in five Sahelian countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania.
The World Bank Group is the biggest multilateral funder of climate investments in developing countries. In December 2020, the World Bank Group announced an ambitious new target for 35% of its financing to have climate co-benefits, on average, over the next five years.
Health experts arrive in Wuhan to investigate COVID-19 origins
Members of an international team studying the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19 arrived in Wuhan, China, on Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced during an expert meeting on the disease.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, was addressing the latest session of the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 established under the International Health Regulations (IHR), a treaty that guides global response to public health risks.
The new coronavirus that sparked the pandemic first emerged in Wuhan in December 2019. Tedros reported that most of the 15 members of the delayed mission are now in the city, although two people are still in Singapore awaiting COVID-19 test results.
“All members of the team had multiple negative PCR and antibody tests in their homes countries prior to traveling”, he said.
“The team members who have arrived in Wuhan will be in quarantine for the next two weeks, and will begin working remotely with counterparts in China. They will then continue their work on the ground for a further two weeks.”
Focus now on vaccine equity, travel prospects
Thursday marked the sixth meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee on COVID-19.
Members first convened a year ago, when there were less than 560 cases of the new disease. Today, more than 90 million cases have been reported globally, and the death toll has almost reached two million.
Tedros said although the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines represents “hope of light at the end of the tunnel”, focus is now on ensuring all countries can access them on an equitable basis.
He also highlighted two urgent issues for the committee’s attention: the recent emergence of multiple new variants of the virus, and the potential use of vaccination and testing certificates for international travel.
“One theme ties both issues together: solidarity”, said Tedros. “We cannot afford to prioritize or punish certain groups or countries. We are all in this together, and we must all come out of it together.”
Challenges in Africa
Meanwhile, the UN agency has warned of the need to avert a “runaway surge” of infections in Africa, as cases there top three million and new variants of the virus emerge on the continent.
COVID-19 cases have risen steadily since mid-September, with a steeper rise from late November, and could increase in the wake of the Christmas and New Year holidays due to travel and festive gatherings.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said although virus mutations are not surprising, preliminary analysis reveals that a new variant circulating widely in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, is more transmissible.
“Even if the new variant is not more virulent, a virus that can spread more easily will put further strain on hospitals and health workers who are in many cases already overstretched”, she said.
“This is a stark reminder that the virus is relentless, that it still presents a manifest threat, and that our war is far from won.”
WHO is supporting African countries with reinforcing genome sequencing efforts, key to finding and understanding new COVID-19 variants.
So far, 501Y.V2 has been identified in Botswana, the Gambia and Zambia, while Nigeria is further investigating another variant found in samples collected in August and November. The virus variant circulating in the United Kingdom has not been reported on the continent.
World Bank Group and CES Announce Global Tech Challenge Winners
World Bank Group and CES announced the winners of the Global Tech Challenge at CES®2021.
The result of a partnership between the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and the World Bank Group, the Global Tech Challenge was launched at CES 2020 to reward scalable and innovative technological solutions in three main areas: digital health in East Africa, resilience in India and gender equality around the world. Technology solutions that helped communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic were also prioritized.
Selected among over 1,000 applications, three winners were selected for gender equality, 10 for resilience and 17 for digital health. More details about the selected innovations can be accessed here for health, resilience and gender equality.
Global Tech Challenge winners will have the opportunity to access financial and/or technical assistance to pilot and scale their solutions on the ground with private sector companies, governments and within development projects financed by the World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries.
“From closing the digital divide to building resilience in the face of natural disasters or pandemics, innovation can solve some of the most pressing development challenges. The World Bank Group is pleased to support impactful programs focused on bringing equal access to connectivity to women in developing countries and to recognize cutting-edge solutions such as AI-enabled robots to rebuild homes in post-disaster areas. Now is the time to scale up solutions that have proven effective, so that no one is left behind in the new digital era,” said Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Infrastructure.
“Disruptive technologies are a fundamental driver of economic growth and job creation—and key to solving development challenges around the world. At IFC, we are proud to support the private sector in bringing these technologies to emerging markets, with innovations that range from portable ultrasound devices that can detect COVID-19 to medical tools that provide real-time cardiac diagnoses even in remote areas,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, Interim Managing Director and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer at IFC.
“We are thrilled to be continuing our work with the World Bank so the world’s best and brightest innovators at CES can collaborate with the World Bank Group to enter new markets, provide solutions and aid in development,” said Karen Chupka, EVP, CES, Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2021 will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world. CES 2021 will allow participants to hear from technology innovators, see cutting-edge technologies and the latest product launches, and engage with global brands and startups from around the world. For over 50 years, CES has been the global stage for innovation, and CES 2021 will provide an engaging platform for companies large and small to launch products, build brands and form partnerships.
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