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Saudi Arabia Plans to Build Canal to Bypass Strait of Hormuz

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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

1Saudi Arabia is planning to construct a water canal in Yemen named Salman to use it as a link between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian instead of the Strait of Hormuz.”Studies are underway on the construction of a waterway which starts from a part of Saudi Arabia’s water border in Khour al-Adid area between the UAE and Qatar and stretches 950km to the Arabian Sea,” Sa’ad Ibn Omar, the head of Arab Studies Center in Riyadh, revealed on Wednesday. Omar said that the Salman Canal is due to be built so that Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait can export their oil to other world states through this canal instead of the Strait of Hormuz which is controlled by Iran.”Saudi Arabia has also considered two other alternative paths for the canal which include Oman to replace Yemen if necessary,” Omar said.

2Reports say Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will meet with the French and German leaders in Paris in early October to discuss efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict. The meeting would be the first face-to-face talks by the four since they met in mid-February to forge a cease-fire agreement in Minsk. The Elysee Palace said in a statement that the four leaders had spoken via phone on September 9 for about 90 minutes and that they agreed that a general cease-fire in eastern Ukraine between government troops and Russian-backed separatist fighters has generally held since September 1.

3Greece and Iran have reportedly granted Russia permission to fly over their territory when supplying aid to Syria. The Interfax news agency quoted a Russian Embassy official in Tehran as saying on September 9 that Iran approved all of Moscow’s requests on flights delivering humanitarian aid to Syria. Separately, a Russian Embassy official in Athens told TASS that Greece granted Russia the right to use its airspace for humanitarian flights to Syria on August 31. Greece said this week that the United States had asked it to close its airspace to Russian aid flights to Syria because of concerns that Moscow might be building up military forces to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

4A conference titled “Religious tolerance: the culture of coexistence in Azerbaijan” has been organized in the French capital as part of the “Azerbaijan in the heart of Paris” project implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Azerbaijan’s First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Mehriban Aliyeva, as well as representatives from Azerbaijani and French religious organizations attended the conference.Addressing the event, Mehriban Aliyeva said Azerbaijan is located at the crossroads of civilizations and cultures, serving as a bridge between Asia and Europe, and this plays an important role in the development of cultural diversity.“Traditions of tolerance are alive in our country today. Azerbaijan is a member of both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe. We are proud of our cultural and historical heritage,” the first lady said.

5In January-August 2015, Kazakhstan produced 30.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which is 6 percent more than in the same period last year, Deputy Minister of Energy of Kazakhstan Uzakbai Karabalin said during a press conference at the office of the Central Communications. He said that the growth of gas production in Kazakhstan has been observed not for the first time. Last year, gas production in the country amounted to 43.2 billion cubic meters, which is 2.2 percent more than the same period of 2013. The main growth of gas production is provided by such large mining companies as Karachaganak Petroleum Operating, Tengizchevroil, CNPC-Aktobe.

6Turkmenistan has seen a 8.3 percent GDP growth in social and economic development from January to August of this year, according to a recent meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. Summarizing the results from various sectors of the national economy for the first eight months of the current year, production was cited to have grown by 7.2 percent, reported Review.uz website. The high economic potential and stable GDP growth will allow the government to provide a wide range of additional social benefits to citizens of Turkmenistan.

7NATO and the United States have expressed concern over reports of growing Russian military activity in Syria. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that, if confirmed, Russia’s involvement would “not contribute to solving the conflict.”U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to reiterate his concerns. Spokesman John Kirby said Kerry made clear to Lavrov that if the reports were true “it could lead to greater violence and are not helpful at all” to efforts by the international community to end the conflict.The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov “highlighted the significance of a consolidated response to terrorist groupings that have seized a sizable part” of Syria.” Russia acknowledges it has sent military experts to assist with Russian arms deliveries.

8Azerbaijan is ready to continue supporting fraternal Afghanistan in developing the transport, energy, information and communication technologies, Ashraf Shikhaliyev, the head of the Azerbaijan International Development Agency (AİDA) under the Azerbaijani foreign ministry, said Sept. 9. He said that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and new Baku International Sea Trade Port will create favorable opportunities for Afghanistan to enter the world markets. This will revive and contribute to the sustainable development of the economy of Afghanistan.

9The depreciation of Kazakhstan’s national currency, the tenge, after the abolition of the currency corridor has put additional pressure on the balance sheets of the country’s banks, but the entire market implements prudential and other regulations, and the situation in the banking sector is under control. This remark was made by the Deputy Chairman of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, Kuat Kozhahmetov at a press-conference in Almaty on September 9. The official also said that the conducted stress tests showed that “the adequacy of the capital is good.” For several months the National Bank has developed a package of legal acts aimed at facilitating conditions for banks in the current economic situation.

10The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has prepared a new bill ‘On tourism’ for improvement of legislative base in the sphere of tourism. In line with the sources in the ministry, the new bill ‘On tourism’ which reflected proposals and recommendations of the Twinning project experts of the World Tourism Organization and European Union, features the major institutional, regulatory and advanced experience for a more effective control of the tourism sphere. According to the ministry, application of this bill will promote further development of the tourism potential of Azerbaijan, raising effectiveness of business processes, regulation of tourism activity by the state and creation of broad opportunities on support of tourism industry.

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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Commission revealed 12 winners of VET Excellence Awards

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The European Vocational Skills Week took place across Europe and beyond last week (from 16 to 20 May). Organised by the European Commission every year, it is an occasion to celebrate best practices in Vocational Education and Training (VET), bringing together everyone involved – from local, to national and regional authorities, students, teachers and education and training organisation stakeholders – to showcase the benefits VET offers to young people and adults alike. This year’s sixth edition focused on ‘VET and the Green Transition’, supporting people to acquire the necessary skills for the green transition, in line with the European Green Deal.  

At the VET Excellence Awards ceremony, the Commission announced the winners of this flagship prize in different categories. An accountancy apprentice from Greece, the Piedmont Region in Italy, and a Swedish tree care programme have received the European Vocational Skills Week Excellence Award 2022, along with 9 other award winners.

Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “It is great to see so many outstanding nominees and winners, celebrating the true benefits that vocational education and training can offer to everyone, young people and adults alike. They showcase the transformational impact that education and training can have on people’s careers and lives. I would also like to give a ‘special mention’ for our partners in Ukraine. We have been working closely together, also through the European Training Foundation, and will continue doing so, to support on topics such as qualifications, to help the Ukrainian people in these extremely difficult times.”

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The green transition can become a real job engine if people receive the right support they need to thrive in their careers and the changing labour markets. The VET Excellence Awards help us identify the best approaches to become fit for the green economy, overcoming today’s labour shortages in key sectors such as construction, manufacturing and energy. I would like to congratulate all the nominees and VET learners, and to thank the thousands of providers of vocational education and training for their dedication.”

This year’s winners

The Commission awarded 12 prizes in four categories and one special mention to apprentices, projects, companies and regions, from the EU, neighbouring and neighbourhood countries, who have successfully used VET to build a greener, more digital and more inclusive society.

The award winners include:

  • Evangelos Pouftas, an apprentice with an accountancy firm in Greece, who demonstrated the key role of apprentices in accelerating the digital transition of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), by helping the company’s clients to digitalise their work, such as setting up online services to remain competitive, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased remote working.
  • The Piedmont Region of Italy,with the support of theEuropean Social Fund, promoted to young learners a culture of sustainability in food production and consumption along the agri-food chain.
  • The ‘Veteran Tree Management Skills Certification’ project of Stiftelsen Pro Natura. This Swedish programme, funded by Erasmus+,is designed to raise the standard of the caring for trees that have an exceptional value for nature conservation, landscape or culture, known as ‘veteran trees’.

Further award winners are:

  • AKMI S.A., Greece
  • Programme ‘Working inclusion and equal opportunities for the most disadvantaged’, ALMI BILBAO S.A.L., Spain
  • Cyclades –  5th Evening Vocational High School of Patra, Greece
  • Environmental and Agricultural Education in School, Georgia
  • Prof. Dr. Linda Clarke, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
  • ÖBB Infrastruktur AG, Austria
  • Otto Stöckl Elektroinstallationen GmbH, Austria
  • Riga State Technical School, Latvia
  • Virtual Dawn, Finland

In addition to the prizes in the different categories, a special mention went to Ukrainian partners who, along with the European Training Foundation, have been reforming their education and training systems, focusing on qualifications, the future of skills in key economic sectors, and governance arrangements to modernise the system and to bring it closer to the system in the EU.

EU actions to promote VET

The Commission is actively promoting vocational education and training as part of its work to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, and specifically the right to education, training and lifelong learning. This is also important to achieve the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan EU headline target that all partners committed to at the Porto Social Summit: at least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year.

On 1 July 2020, the Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training, to make VET more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital age and the green transition. This proposal is embedded in other Commission initiatives, such as the European Skills Agenda and the Communication on Youth Employment Support – A Bridge to Jobs for the next generation.

In addition, the Commission put forward in December 2021 proposals for Individual Learning Accounts and Micro-credentials, to help open up more opportunities for people to find learning offers, and employment opportunities.

The European Commission also supports vocational education and training through significant funding, such as through the European Social Fund Plus (with total budget of almost €99.3 billion for 2021-2027), Erasmus+, and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which has ‘reskilling and upskilling’ as one of its seven flagship areas for reforms and investments. 

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, Addresses World Economic Forum

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, in a live video address to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters, told participants how he wakes up every day to read the numbers of his people killed in the war in the last 24 hours.

“Today,” he said, “we lost 87 people and the future of Ukraine will be without these 87 people”.

His stark message was in response to the question, whatis your dream for Ukraine?

Zelenskyy was speaking at the opening session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022. Nearly 2,500 leaders from politics, business, civil society and the media were welcomed by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, to the first in-person Annual Meeting for more than two years held under the theme, History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies.

Speaking through a translator, the Ukrainian president said: “This year the words ‘turning point’ appear to have become more than just a rhetorical figure of speech. This is really the moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world.”

He went on: “Brute force does not discuss – it kills, as Russia does in Ukraine as we speak today.”

“Instead of successful peaceful cities there’s only black ruins. Instead of normal trade there are seas full of mines and blocked ports. Instead of tourism there are closed skies and thousands of Russian bombs and cruise missiles.” He said: “This is what the world would look like if humanity misses this turning point.”

He called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia, including an oil embargo and a complete withdrawal of foreign companies. “All trade with the aggressor should be stopped. All foreign business should leave Russia so that your brands are not associated with war crimes. So that your offices, bills and goods are not used by war criminals in their bloody interests. Values must matter.”

He continued: “This is what sanctions should be. They should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbour clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions.”

He compared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with events in Sarajevo in 1914 and Munich in 1938, two historic moments that preceded the two world wars.

Zelenskyy praised his people’s courage. The war and the Ukrainian people’s resistance have stirred the unity of the democratic world and showed “that freedom must be fought for”. The Ukrainian leader received a standing ovation.

“The war in Ukraine represents a turning point in history and the resulting tragedy will reshape our political and our economic landscape in the coming years,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive, Chairman, World Economic Forum.

Ignazio Cassis, President of Switzerland, said: “Switzerland has strongly opposed the war of aggression in Ukraine. There can be no neutral attitude in the face of a brutal attack on our shared values of freedom and democracy. We stand alongside other countries in condemning the war.”

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In Times of Division, Arts and Culture Bring Us Together: Meet the Davos Cultural Leaders

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Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist, USA, captured during the 'Presentation of the Crystal Award' at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2008. Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) www.swiss-image.ch/Photo by Andy Mettler

The World Economic Forum announced today the participation of prominent cultural leaders in the Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters. These prominent figures will join their peers from business, government, the media and civil society to advance dialogue on how to reconnect in a post-pandemic era and unite to rebuild a world of inclusivity and sustainability under the meeting’s theme “History at a turning point: Government policies and business strategies”.

Cultural leaders will include former Crystal Award recipients world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and musician will.i.am; portrait and documentary photographer Platon; Verbier Festival and Academy founder and director Martin Engström; Grammy-winning classical pianist Emanuel Ax; singer/songwriter, actress and activist Inna Modja; and new media artist and director Harry Yeff.

“Never has there been a time more important, more pressing, then the present for arts and culture to unite us,” said Joseph Fowler, Head of Arts and Culture at the World Economic Forum. “When you experience culture, there is a sense of expansion when you cease to think about yourself and you feel part of something larger. The creative sectors are some of the most important when it comes to social impact and human connection and when they are coupled with the power of new technologies, arts and culture have an immense potential to nurture a culture of peace.”

Arts and culture will be integrated across throughout the Annual Meeting 2022:

Thepower and potential of the human voice is the focus of Voice Gems – Messages of Hope. Created by Harry Yeff and Trung Bao, the Voice Gems system sculpts over 200,000 particles with fingerprint-like voice data to create the colours and form of the each unique gem stone. The exhibition will feature a total of 17 messages of hope that have been recorded by a diverse selection of people including primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall; creative innovator, entertainer and tech investor will.i.am; poet and author Rupi Kaur; author and disability advocate Sinead Burke; and spiritual leader Sadhguru.

The Annual Meeting concert entitled “Our Shared Humanity” – to be performed byYo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax – is a celebration of humanity and shared hopes for a united and prosperous future. The accompanying immersive backdrop includes images provided by Atlas of Humanity as well as an exclusive filmed performance by dancer and choreographer Ahmad Joudeh. It is also a musical statement of support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

In collaboration with the Natural History Museum – London, a selection of photographs from the 2021 edition of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will be showcased, inviting viewers to gaze through the lens of some of the world’s best wildlife photographers and explore the natural world in all its fragility, diversity and wonder.

Exploring the endless scope of opportunity the Metaversepresents, the Forum has partnered with Microsoft and Accenture to create the Global Collaboration Village. This will be anopen, collaborative platformbuilt together with international organizations, governments, civil society organizations and arts organizations. The overall concept and architecture will be showcased at Davos as well as a prototype of the experience and its functionality. An immersive experience will tell the story of the Sahel and Africa’s Great Green Wall Initiative supported by 1T.org.

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