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Russia begins military operations in 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

1Russia has begun its first military operations in Syria, and poured in 28 fighter jets as it becomes more deeply involved in the conflict, US officials say. The officials said 12 fighter jets and 12 close support aircraft had arrived in recent days in a Syrian air base in Latakia, where four jets were stationed last week. Also, Russian drones had started surveillance flights. Earlier, Novaya Gazeta, had reported that Moscow might launch “demonstrative” strikes in support of Bashar al-Assad’s embattled Syrian government in the coming days, before President Vladimir Putin is due to speak to the United Nations general assembly next week.

2A large plant for producing liquid fuel from natural gas (GTL) will be constructed in Derweze district of Turkmenistan’s Ahal province.The new plant will process 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas and produce 1.691 million tons of liquid fuel per year. During a government meeting, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov pointed out that creating such enterprises is a key vector of further diversification of the country’s fuel and energy industry.

3Russia says it is ready for more talks with Japan on a long-delayed peace treaty, but there is no room for compromise over the two countries’ territorial dispute. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the comments after talks with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, in Moscow on September 21.A dispute over the Kuril Islands, which Russia seized from Japan at the end of World War II, has strained ties and has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty.”On our agenda is reaching the peace deal,” Lavrov said. “Moving forward on this issue is possible only after we see clearly Japan’s recognition of historical realities.”The two ministers agreed to hold bilateral consultations on a peace treaty next month.They also discussed a long-delayed visit by President Vladimir Putin to Japan.Lavrov said the Kremlin had accepted the invitation, but that the specific date was up to Tokyo.

4All relevant measures were taken for holding democratic, fair and transparent elections in Azerbaijan, and all conditions were created for observation missions that will monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections in the country. Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament Ogtay Asadov made the remarks at a meeting with the members of the PACE ad hoc committee on election observation, AZERTAC reported. Head of the PACE delegation Jordi Xuclà said that during the visit they held several meetings and assessed the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan.

5Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its long-term corporate ratings on Kazakhstan’s national railroad company, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), and its core subsidiary, freight-wagon owner JSC Kaztemirtrans (KTT), to ‘BB+’ from ‘BBB-‘. The outlook is negative, Standard & Poor’s said. At the same time, Standard & Poor’s lowered our rating on KTZ’s senior unsecured bonds, including those issued by its financing subsidiary, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy Finance B.V., to ‘BB+’ from ‘BBB-‘. “The downgrade primarily reflects our expectation that KTZ’s adjusted debt to EBITDA will increase to more than 5x by year-end 2015 and will not improve to a level we consider commensurate with a higher rating in 2016,” the statement said.

6President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov will be on a working visit in New York Sept. 24-27 to take part in the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. A summit on sustainable development objectives for the period after 2015 will be held in New York as part of the jubilee session of the UN General Assembly. It is expected that the Turkmen leader will announce initiatives of the country aimed at optimizing the fruitful international cooperation and ensuring peace, security and progress.

7Kazakhstan’s Oil Dependence Jeopardizes Domestic Stability. On August 20, the National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK) came forward with a surprise announcement. The central bank’s chairman, Kairat Kelimbetov, made official the immediate shift to a floating exchange rate of the tenge, the national currency. Jamestown

8What’s Next For Iran? 5 Possible Futures, From Disaster To Hope. “Is the Iranian nuclear deal just a nuclear deal? Is it something bigger that will transform Iran and the broader Middle East? Or is it a slow-motion nightmare? Nobody can know today, of course — and yet it’s important to game out the possibilities. What you think of this deal, with terms lasting a decade or more, depends heavily on what scenarios you think are most likely in the future” Steve Inskeep NPR

9Azerbaijan forecasts oil price for next four years at $50, APA reports quoting 2016 state budget package of Azerbaijan. According to the document, the base price of oil in 2016-2019 will make $50. Taking into account the forecasts of international financial organizations and instability in oil price, the sale price of crude oil in the state and consolidated budgets makes $50 a barrel.

10Developing relations between Azerbaijan and Indonesia was mulled as Azerbaijan`s Minister of Energy Natig Aliyev has met director general of oil and gas at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Gusti Nyoman Wiratmaja. Aliyev stressed the role of such meetings in deepening cooperation. Speaking about the historical importance of “Contract of the Century” signed in 1994, the minister said cooperation for Azerbaijan which has great experience in oil refining field with Indonesia in energy sphere had wide opportunities. The meeting also focused on discussion of successful relations between State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and Indonesian state-owned oil and natural gas Corporation Pertamina.

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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Human Rights

Another 170 migrants disappear in shipwrecks: UN call for an end to Mediterranean tragedy

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Refugees from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa await assistance and a health-screening by the Spanish Red Cross in the port of Malaga, after disembarking from a Spanish rescue ship. 19 September 2018. © UNHCR/Markel Redondo

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, stated on Saturday that “no effort should be spared” in saving lives at sea, following reports of two new shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea, in which some 170 people either died or went missing.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to various NGOs, about 53 people died on the Alborán Sea, in the western part of the Mediterranean. One survivor is understood to have been rescued by a passing fishing boat after being stranded for more than 24 hours at sea and is receiving medical treatment in Morocco.

According to UNHCR, Moroccan and Spanish rescue vessels have been searching for the boat and survivors for several days to no avail.

The Italian Navy are also reporting another shipwreck on the central Mediterranean. Three survivors, who were taken for treatment on the island of Lampedusa, reported that another 117 people, currently dead or missing, had boarded the ship with them in Libya.

UNHCR has been unable to independently verify the death tolls for these two shipwrecks, but in 2018, 2,262 people lost their lives attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

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Guterres:The best-selling brand today is fear

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Warning against the dangers of widespread fear and mistrust in our planet, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, told journalists on Friday he wants to reaffirm the UN as a “platform for action to repair broken trust in a broken world.”

“The best-selling brand in our world today is indeed fear,” stated Mr. Guterres. “It gets ratings. It wins votes. It generates clicks,” he added, during the press conference, held at UN headquarters in New York.

“I believe the biggest challenge that governments and institutions face today is to show that we care – and to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s fears and anxieties with answers, with concrete answers,” he explained.

The Secretary-General was speaking two days after presenting his areas of action for the UN for 2019 to the 193 Member States, who, he said, widely responded to his remarks by highlighting the importance of multilateralism.

“As we look to the challenges we face – from climate change to migration to terrorism to the downsides of globalisation – there is no doubt in my mind that global challenges require global solutions,” he noted. “No country can do it alone. We need multilateralism more than ever.”

The UN chief noted that “dismissing or vilifying the doubters of multilateralism will lead nowhere,” and insisted on the importance of understanding why “many people around the world are not convinced of the power and purpose of international cooperation.”

Citing the fact that, in the process of globalisation and technological progress, many people, sectors, and entire regions were left behind, he explained the UN needs to focus on addressing the root causes of this widespread mistrust, anxiety, anger and fear, over three key areas of work: accelerating sustainable development, strengthening the added value of the United Nations through reform, and engaging societies to put an end to the rise of hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance.

“We hear troubling, hateful echoes of eras long past. Poisonous views are penetrating political debates and polluting the mainstream,” warned Mr. Guterres, as he stressed the need to remember the lessons of the 1930s and the Second World War.

“Hate speech and hate crimes are direct threats to human rights, sustainable development and peace and security,” he said.

Stressing that “words are not enough,” the UN Secretary-General announced he has tasked his Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to bring together a team to develop a UN-wide strategy and urgent global plan of action against hate speech and hate crimes.

Mr. Guterres stated that his “absolute priority for 2019” is to make sure the United Nations is a “platform for action to repair broken trust in a broken world and deliver for people”.

Following his opening remarks, the Secretary-General answered questions from members of press on various issues handled by the UN, including the situation in Venezuela, in Syria, and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the plight of migrants and refugees worldwide, recent uncertainty around the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as UN funding challenges.

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Knowledge Exchange Program between World Bank and Parliamentarians of Nepal

MD Staff

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photo: World Bank

Members of the Federal Parliament in Nepal and officials from the World Bank held consultations and development policy dialogue at a knowledge exchange program held today. Over 40 members of the Parliamentary Finance Committee and the Parliamentary Secretariat took part in the program.

“These engagements with the representatives of the people of Nepal are a key part of our role and responsibility as trusted partners in Nepal. They allow us to exchange ideas, and to better understand the vision of the Nepali people in reducing extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. It also allows us to share experiences on development narratives from the rest of the world.” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, “The country’s path of nation-building and sustainable development relies on sound policies and institutions, and the Parliament is key in ensuring that these are both in place.”

During the program supported by the World Bank and facilitated by the Parliament Secretariat, the Country Manager Faris H. Hadad-Zervos introduced the World Bank Group operations in Nepal, its instruments, country partnership framework and areas of development support. This was followed by a synopsis of the Bank’s analysis of latest macroeconomic and development updates, presented by World Bank Senior Country Economist Kene Ezemenari. Xiaoping Wang and Rabin Shrestha, Senior Energy Specialists from the World Bank then presented on the current scenario of the power sector in Nepal.

“The program was a great opportunity to understand the World Bank Group operations and explore avenues of cooperation and support in the days to come,” said Krishna Prasad Dahal, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Finance Committee, “Extensive sharing of data, information and practical knowledge will help pinpoint the direction of future policies and refine our responsibilities as lawmakers.”

The World Bank is engaging the Nepali Parliament in various ways. Through the Integrated Public Financial Management (PFM) Project supported by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (financed by Australia, Switzerland, DFID, EU, Norway and USAID), The World Bank is currently supporting the Parliament of Nepal through strengthening of the PFM capacity of technical staff in the Secretariat. Knowledge exchange opportunities will be provided to MPs within this program. Provincial Parliaments will also be progressively targeted since they can benefit from the expertise of the Federal Parliament to build their own.

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