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The West is culpable for the bloodshed in Ukraine and Syria

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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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 West is culpable for the bloodshed in Ukraine and Syria – and Putin holds the key to any breakthrough. “There are significant developments in two proxy wars in which the West is involved. The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine now appears to be holding, with flickering hopes of a future peace. New efforts are meanwhile under way to reach a settlement in Syria’s savage strife, but that is unlikely to be for some considerable time. Russia, too, is involved in these wars and, at present, is in a strategically strong position. A frozen conflict in the Donbas will suit the Kremlin, which wants sanctions imposed over its annexation of Crimea and activities in the Donbas to be eased. In Syria it is openly stepping up its military presence while, at the same time, taking a leading role in diplomatic initiatives” The Independent.

2The resolution of the European Parliament on Azerbaijan is completely baseless, and is a political provocation built on lie, slander and biased attitude, said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev Sept. 15.“We know which forces stand behind this. Certainly, here we see the role of the Armenian lobby as well and I believe that it won’t be bad if the relevant law enforcement agencies of Europe investigate the secret relations between the European Parliament members and the Armenian lobbyists,” said Aliyev. “Meanwhile, I want to say once again that unfortunately, today, an anti-Azerbaijani group has been created in Europe, especially, in the European Parliament and this group tries to do everything possible to defame Azerbaijan and tarnish its image,” the president said.“For us, for me as a president, the resolution adopted by the European Parliament is no more than a piece of paper,” said Aliyev. “I do not attach any importance to it and of course, condemn it.”

3The EU Eastern Partnership program will lose a key component if Azerbaijan leaves it, Czech President Milos Zeman said during the press conference in Baku, Sept.15. Zeman said he considers the Eastern Partnership a useful program and praises the role that Azerbaijan has played in this organization up to now. Zeman said he has been informed about the recent resolution of the European Parliament on Azerbaijan and the country’s reaction to it. However, the EU Eastern Partnership program has nothing to do with this position, said the Czech president, adding that such initiatives have never been discussed within this program.

4Oil production in Kazakhstan is projected at 92 million tons in 2020, the vice-minister of national economy of Kazakhstan Marat Kusainov said Sept.15, Novosti-Kazakhstan information agency reported.“Oil production forecast of the ministry of energy in 2016 will amount to 77 million tons, followed by an increase to 92 million tons in 2020, which is lower than the previously forecasted data about 3.8 million tons and 12 million tons respectively,” Kusainov said during presentation of the draft state budget for 2016-18 in the Majilis of Parliament. The three-year budget project is based on the forecast of socio-economic development for 2016-2020 approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan in August 2015.

5Ashgabat hosted the 13th meeting of the Coordination Committee on operation of the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China pipeline. Reports on the current technical condition of the pipeline route were presented at the meeting. The speakers were representatives of the Beijing Coordination Center, Turkmengaz State Concern, as well as the Turkmen branch of CNPC International. The schedule for the transportation of natural gas and the work schedule for the fourth quarter 2015, as well as the schedule of maintenance of the gas pipeline for 2016 presented by a working group of the Coordinating Committee, was discussed. Currently, work is underway to construct the additional fourth branch (D) on the new route through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

6Russia in ‘information war’ with West to win hearts and minds. The crisis in Ukraine has unleashed what some see as a new bout of information warfare between Russia and the West. Stephen Ennis –BBC.

7Iran has produced more than 69.9 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas during the first five months of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2015). Abdolhossein Samari, National Iranian Gas Company’s deputy managing director for operations, said on Tuesday that the figure is up by five percent compared to the production figure for the corresponding period of the preceding year. The official added that the country has also produced more than 1.17 million tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) during the same period, up by about 102 percent compared to the same period last year.

8Chairman of Central Bank Elman Rustamov has met World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus Mercy Tembon to discuss the bank`s programs and projects in the country. Rustamov stressed the role of the World Bank in supporting economic reforms and institutional building in Azerbaijan. Tembon praised the development programs carried out in Azerbaijan over the last 20 years.

9How Americans see Kazakhstanis. “Kazakhstanis never look like Kazakhstanis. At least, it is true when you travel abroad and being a Kazakhstani you are constantly mistaken for anyone but a Kazakhstani.”Oh, Kazakhstan? But shouldn’t you look more Russian?” confused Americans say if you look too Asian. “But you do not look Asian!” they say in no less confusion if you are of a Slavic or Caucasian descent.What do others see aside from silly Borat-jokes, “too-Asianness” or lack of it when they meet Kazakhstanis? Tengrinews.

10What Happened to Turkmenistan’s Tiger Economy? “Earlier this year, it appeared that Turkmenistan, of all the Central Asian states, might be the one to weather the storm of depressed oil prices and decimated remittance returns battering the region. Buoyed by the lifeblood of Chinese energy demands and without relying on the Russia-based migrant labor propping up Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Turkmenistan seemed positioned to outpace its neighbors and outlast this Eurasian recession. Turkmenistan, for a spell, looked positioned to be the “next Central Asian tiger.” The Diplomat.

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

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New ADB Platform to Help Boost Financing for Climate Action

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a new platform aimed at helping its developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific mobilize funding to meet their goals under the Paris Agreement.

The NDC Advance platform will help countries mobilize finance to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) regarding greenhouse gas emissions that each country has voluntarily committed to under the Paris Agreement. NDCs also describe priority actions for countries to adapt to climate change.

The announcement was made at the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, which is aiming to finalize a rulebook for the Paris Agreement when it goes into effect on 1 January 2020.

The agreement aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C, while aiming for 1.5°C.

“Through their NDCs, our developing member countries have made ambitious commitments to respond to climate change,” said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Mr. Bambang Susantono. “We need to ensure that countries are able to mobilize the needed financing to deliver on their commitments. NDC Advance will help countries devise investment plans to tap financing from a variety of sources and to implement priority projects effectively.”

NDC Advance is funded through a $4.55 million grant from ADB and will have three aims: providing technical assistance that helps countries better engage with potential sources of climate finance and to make use of innovative finance mechanisms; identifying and prioritizing climate projects; and supporting countries in tracking how projects deliver against their NDC goals.

The new initiative will help propel the climate actions ADB has committed to under its Strategy 2030 program.

ADB earlier this year committed to ensuring that 75% of its operations will support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030, while providing cumulative climate financing of $80 billion from its own sources between 2019 and 2030.

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Egypt: Shifting Public Funds from Infrastructure to Investing in People

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Egypt has an opportunity to capitalize on current reforms by enabling more private investment in infrastructure and freeing up public funds for investments in people’s education, health and social protection. This is according to a new World Bank report launched today in Cairo,‘’Egypt: Enabling Private Investment and Commercial Financing in Infrastructure’’, which calls for increasing the public funds available for building human capital by expanding successful energy reforms to other key sectors, such as transport, logistics, water and agriculture.

Egypt can learn from global experience and gain by increasing the use of private sector finance, management expertise and innovation in commercial infrastructure and agriculture, conserving public sector resources for where they are needed most”, said Clive Harris, Head for Maximizing Finance for Development for the World Bank.

Egypt is now beginning to reap the benefits of its transformative economic reform program. Macroeconomic stability and market confidence have been largely restored, growth has resumed, fiscal accounts are improving, and the public debt ratio is projected to fall for the first time in a decade.

Egypt has demonstrated that by having a package aimed at reducing economic risks, pursuing sector level reforms and well-prepared bankable projects, large scale foreign and domestic investment can be achieved, This is visible through the  US$ 2 billion invested in the largest solar park in the world, Benban, as well as US$ 13 billion in the Zohr field and other natural gas projects” said Ashish Khanna, Program Leader for Sustainable Development at the World Bank.

The report indicates that the action plan to further enabling private investment requires clear policy actions to resolve four cross cutting barriers to private investment – namely better management of land, transparency in Government procurement, efficiency in state owned enterprise and encouraging long term domestic financing. This needs to be complemented with developing projects for private investments with maximum economic impact, like the regional energy hub, logistics corridors, freight transport and agricultural transformation hubs.

The gains from reforms would also free up scarce public resources and allow for them to be re-allocated to investments in the education and health of Egyptians, the country’s human capital. Reforms in the energy sector provide an example of what is possible. The reform of energy subsidies freed up US$14 billon, reduced the pressure on the national budget and allowed the quadrupling of the investments in social safety net programs.

According to the report, for Egypt to maintain its reform momentum and focus on investing in its citizens, it will need to broaden and deepen its reform agenda to other sectors. This would be part of a fundamental shift away from the state as a provider of employment and output to an enabler of private investment; with the economy driven by a dynamic private sector generating jobs for the youth.

The report identifies four sectors which have huge potential for private investments and illustrates how successfully attracting those investments would generate growth, create jobs and ultimately contribute to developing Egypt’s human capital. The four sectors analyzed in the report are: transport, energy, water and sanitation, and agriculture.

The World Bank provides technical, analytical and financial support to help Egypt reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity. The focus of Bank support includes social safety nets, energy, transport, rural water and sanitation, irrigation, social housing, health care, job creation, and financing for micro and small enterprises. The World Bank currently has a portfolio of 16 projects with a total commitment of US$6.69 billion.

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New Initiative to Mitigate Risk for Global Solar Scale-up

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The World Bank and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) are developing a joint Global Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI), an integrated approach to tackle policy, technical and financial issues associated with scaling up solar energy deployment, especially in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Initiated in Delhi at the first International Solar Alliance (ISA) summit in March 2018, the initiative will support the ISA’s goal to reduce costs and mobilize $1,000 billion in public and private investments to finance 1,000 GW of global solar capacity by 2030.

“The World Bank, in partnership with AFD, remains committed to the International Solar Alliance’s goals and to global efforts to fight climate change. Through this new, integrated approach, we hope to further scale up solar energy use by reducing the cost of financing for solar projects and de-risking them, especially in low-income countries,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank.

As the costs for solar power have fallen steadily, solar power is increasingly viewed as a key component in the fight against climate change. However, solar deployment has been slow in some emerging markets, particularly Africa, due to layers of risks perceived by the private sector in financing solar projects. The SRMI aims to change that.

“This partnership with ISA and the World Bank is another step towards achieving the objective of the Paris Agreement of redirecting financial flows in favor of low carbon and resilient development pathways.  AFD is glad to join forces with these partners to deliver on the commitments made at COP21, to bring solutions to de-risk potential solar investments and mobilize the private sector to invest in sustainable development” said Rémy RIOUX, CEO of AFD.

The SRMI’s integrated approach will include:

  • Support for the development of an enabling policy environment in targeted countries
  • A new digital procurement (e-tendering) platform to facilitate and streamline solar auctions
  • Targeting relatively small (under 20 MW) solar projects, offering a more comprehensive risk mitigation package of support to a wider range of investors and financiers to promote scale up at later stages. The financial risk mitigation package offered by SRMI will be supported by technical assistance and concerted engagement on planning, resource mapping and power sector reforms to ensure the creditworthiness of utilities in these countries
  • Mitigating the residual project’s risks through adequate risk mitigation financial instruments for both on and off-grid projects

The governments of India and France launched the ISA, an international organization as part of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 to scale up solar energy resources, reduce the cost of financing for solar projects around the world and ultimately help reach the Sustainable Development Goal on energy (SDG7) of providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to all. To date, 71 countries have signed the constituting treaty of the ISA, and 48 have ratified it.

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