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The U.N. is turning 70, but Obama and Putin might spoil the party

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 annual General Assembly session is expected to draw more world leaders than ever before. Pope Francis will speak at the U.N. on Friday morning before many heads of state even arrive. But the main event will come Monday when Obama, Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders take turns on the podium to begin a debate on how to end Syria’s bloodletting, battle the violent extremist groups emerging from it and stem the flood of refugees and economic migrants flowing from it. At the center will be Putin, whom the West has tried to isolate for the last year for his aggressive support of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Paul Richter and Christi Parsons –Los Angeles Times

2Syria: As the West dithers, Putin makes his move. “As we have seen in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Mr Putin is not shy about using military force when it suits his geo-political agenda. And with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime reportedly on the brink of collapse, the Russian leader has clearly decided that the deployment of Russian warplanes and armoured vehicles is vital to prevent the Syrian capital falling into the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants, with all the implications that would have for the region” Telegraph

3Tehran continues its efforts on connection of Iranian Astara to the railway network of Azerbaijan. Oxu.Az reports with reference to the “News of the Caucasus” that the governor of the province of Gilan Mohammed Ali Najaf. According to him, the policy of the government of Iran is aimed at comprehensive development of the country in view of the potential of different regions. Speaking about the project for the construction of the railway Rasht – Astara, which is implemented by the order of the Iranian president, the governor pointed out that in this regard, Azerbaijan has agreed to extend its railroad to 8 km, which will allow to link its railway network to Astara. At that the improvement of customs service, sea port and special economic zone in Iranian Astara continues.

4Russia planning military drills in eastern Mediterranean. The Russian defence ministry on Thursday said it was conducting drills involving a guided missile cruiser in the eastern Mediterranean, which could be near the Syrian coast. Pre-empting possible questions about the sensitive timing of such manoeuvres, the ministry said Russia always holds an array of military drills at this time of the year and that the government approved the Mediterranean manoeuvres a year ago.

5Chessboard Strategy: Russia and UN Resolution 2117. “Two notable sectors were kept under government control: the energy and defense-related sectors. The purpose of this brief paper is to examine the current actions of Russian approaches to influence the transnational weapons market throughout the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. This will be accomplished through critically analyzing Russia’s actions associated with U.N. resolution 2117, where it abstained from voting and honored instead an arms sale plan with Iran, shipping a modern-day missile-defense system, and a recent sale to Iraq that provided fighter jets for the fight against DAESH” ZR–Modern Diplomacy

6Here are the winners and losers of Iran’s return to the oil market. “Although the Iranian sanctions will probably only start to be lifted by spring next year, there is one nation particularly eager to see sanctions removed: South Africa.”We are definitely negotiating and looking at when to fully resume oil imports from Iran. For South Africa, if there’s a process of doing that lawfully, tomorrow we will do it, if there are no obstacles to that,” said Nomaindia Mfeketo, South Africa’s deputy foreign minister. As the second-largest economy on the continent, South Africa also has the highest rate of energy consumption. In the year 2014, South Africa imported close to 425,000 barrels of crude oil. Until 2011, Iran was South Africa’s largest supplier of crude oil, contributing around 25 percent of its total crude oil imports” Gaurav Agnihotri –OilPrice.com

7Azerbaijan has left Europe behind in the implementation of energy projects and launched the TANAP project, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sept. 25. He made the remarks while answering questions of reporters, according to the Turkish TRT Haber TV channel.Erdogan went on to add that while Europe remained inactive regarding the Nabucco project, Azerbaijan has successfully launched the TANAP project in which Turkey has its share as well.

8Leaving the Euronest: Why Azerbaijan is Unhappy. “When the Euronest decided to hold the 2015 session in Armenia, it left Azerbaijan feeling like it had no place within the assembly. Azerbaijan did not understand how the Euronest would claim such atrocities committed by the Azeris while turning a blind eye toward the Armenians’ bad behavior and even giving them a great honor by holding the next session in their state” Dayna Rice –Modern Diplomacy

9Kazakhstan’s oil dreams. “Just a few years ago, Kazakhstan had ambitious plans to join the world top ten oil-producing countries. However, it seems that these plans are destined to remain unfulfilled. At present, oil production is not expected to be increased in the country. On the contrary, for several consecutive years, oil production has been slowly but steadily falling in Kazakhstan” Elena Kosolapova –Trend.

10The world’s largest gas-chemical complex is being constructed in the territory of the Derveze District of Turkmenistan’s Akhal province.The facility, equipped with the latest technologies from the famous Danish Haldor Topsoe Company, will annually recycle 1.782 billion cubic meters of natural gas and produce 600,000 tons of gasoline of the A-92 brand, which will meet the ecological requirements of the Euro-5 standard.The commissioning of the complex in 2018 will create about 800 new jobs, according to Turkmen media.The construction of the complex is being conducted by Turkmenistan’s State Concern Turkmengaz and a consortium created by the Japanese Kawasaki Company and Turkish Rönesans Holding.

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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UNIDO and WAIPA launch e-learning module on impact investing

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) launched a 4-module e-learning course on “Impact Investing” on the Knowledge Hub of UNIDO’s Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation (TII). The course will allow to improve knowledge of the fast-rising impact investing segment and to understand how this new important trend will affect investment promotion and facilitation efforts by investment promotion agencies (IPAs). The course was prepared with the support of one of the pioneers and now largest impact investors in France, “Investisseurs et Partenaires” (I&P). I&P is headed by former Director of France’s International Development Agency, Jean-Michel Severino, who visited UNIDO in April 2018 to explore cooperation and synergies with UNIDO’s investment promotion work in Africa.

This course is the follow-up and complement to the successfully organized workshop for IPAs on impact investing, organized between WAIPA, UNIDO and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in February 2018. It is a response to the IPAs’ need to be equipped with novel methodologies for the promotion of foreign direct investments (FDI) with concrete impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a recent IPA survey report of UNIDO’s partner WAIPA revealed, 67 per cent of all IPAs consider the attraction of SDG investments to be of great importance, with job creation and technology transfer impact ranked highest.  The e-learning course will be complemented by physical classroom trainings.

The TII Knowledge Hub features further e-learning courses on “Quality Infrastructure and Trade” (9 modules in total) and “E-commerce” (8 modules in total). Participation is free of charge and a certificate will be issued.

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Guterres: Two States ‘side-by-side’ is the ‘peaceful and just solution’ for Israel-Palestine conflict

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A “peaceful and just solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict can “only be achieved” through two States “living side-by-side in peace and security”, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated on Friday

In his address to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1975, Mr. Guterres said on Friday that “based on relevant UN resolutions, long-held principles, previous agreements and international law”, Jerusalem should be the capital of both States.

“Unfortunately, over this past year, the situation has not moved in that direction”, he continued, pointing to protests that began along the border fence with Gaza last year that left hundreds dead and thousands wounded by Israeli security forces.

He also cited “security incidents and provocations by Hamas and other militants in Gaza”, including the launching of rockets and incendiary kites that dangerously escalated the situation.

“Thanks to UN and Egyptian mediation efforts, a major escalation was avoided”, he continued, appealing to Hamas authorities in Gaza to “prevent provocations”. The UN chief said that under International Humanitarian Law, “Israel, too, has a responsibility to exercise maximum restraint”, except as a last resort.

Mr. Guterres underscored that the UN firmly supports Palestinian reconciliation and “the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government to Gaza”, as “an integral part of a future Palestinian State”.

Spelling out that the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza must be “immediately addressed”, he detailed that some two million Palestinians “remain mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to adequate health, education, water and electricity”, leaving young people with “little prospect of a better future”.

“I urge Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which also hamper the efforts of the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, without naturally jeopardizing legitimate security concerns,” the Secretary-General stated.

Lauding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for its “critical work” in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and across the region, he called on the international community to “significantly” increase efforts to revitalize Gaza’s economy.

Turning to the “risk of further unrest in the West Bank”, the UN chief flagged that Israeli construction and settlement plans have expanded, including in East Jerusalem.

“Settlements are illegal under international law” he asserted. “They deepen the sense of mistrust and undermine the two-State solution”.

Mr. Guterres said he regretted Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, saying: “I hope an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement.”

“Palestinians have endured more than a half-century of occupation and denial of their legitimate right to self-determination” with both sides continuously suffering from “deadly cycles of violence”, said the Secretary-General.

He indicated that leaders bore the responsibility to “reverse this negative trajectory and pave the way toward peace, stability and reconciliation” and praised the Committee for keeping the focus on the ultimate objective of a “peaceful solution with two States coexisting in peace and security” as the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

“As I have said repeatedly, there is no Plan B”, concluded Mr. Guterres.

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Reducing Gender Gap Boosts Sri Lankan Economy

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The World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer concluded his three-day visit to Sri Lanka on Friday with a commitment to work with public and private sectors to create the space for women to access work and remain at work. Evidence suggests that Sri Lankan women are excelling in higher education and outlive men, but they are not part of the workforce. This comes at great cost to economic growth.

During the visit the Vice President met with the President of Sri Lanka, HE Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister, Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe, Minister of Finance, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, State Minister of Finance, Hon. Eran Wickremaratne, the Mayor of Colombo, HW Rosy Senanayake and the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Indrajith Coomaraswamy. He also interacted with community groups, project officials, private sector, development partners, civil society groups and completed a field visit to learn about a planned project to mitigate flood risk in Colombo. He also launched the latest edition of the Sri Lanka Development Update (SLDU), a report on the key developments over the past six months in Sri Lanka’s economy, placed in a longer term global context. On the last day, he participated in an exhibition and awards ceremony for female photographers at the Colombo Municipal Council.

“Getting more women into jobs is not only a development imperative, but there’s also a strong business case” said Schafer highlighting Sri Lanka’s achievements in human capital development and economic growth amidst challenges and risks. “Sri Lanka specifically could grow its economy by as much as 20 percent in the long-run by closing the gender gap in the workforce” emphasized Schafer quoting data from an IMF study.

Schafer concluded his visit with a meeting with His Excellency, the President of Sri Lanka. The VP reaffirmed the World Bank’s commitment to continue the over Six-decade long partnership with the country.

Earlier, Schafer visited a future project site along the Kelaniya river, the third largest river basin in Sri Lanka providing around 80 percent of drinking water to residents of Colombo. Schafer met with the project officials and communities to understand the current challenges due to changing weather patterns, flash floods and loss of life and livelihoods. Around 740,000 people are at risk of a 5 year flood with around $240 million flood related losses estimated. He observed the potential investments that could mitigate flood risk as well as improve the quality of drinking water and quality of life alongside the river.

During meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and the Central Bank Governor, Schafer discussed the Government of Sri Lanka’s reform agenda. Schafer congratulated the Government’s achievements in reforms and moving up to the top 100 rank in the Doing Business index. Inland revenue act, the fuel pricing formula, national audit act and the active liability management act were among the noteworthy reform achievements. They also discussed the remaining challenges of stabilizing financial system, risk management and building fiscal resilience.

The State Minister of Finance and the Mayor of Colombo engaged in conversations around increasing women’s participation in the workforce on the sidelines of two events; the launch of the SLDU and an event to award women photographers, which was a part of a year-long partnership campaign to press for progress in reforms to increase women’s participation in the workforce. The World Bank will continue to work with both public and private sector partners through its operations in Sri Lanka to press for progress to create the space for women to get into work and remain at work.

Background: IBRD and IDA portfolio commitments currently total US$ 1728.5 million (as of January 2019) with 14 operations under implementation. Currently, nearly 60 percent of commitments comprised lending in the sustainable development cluster (urban, climate resilience, agriculture, environment and water) and another 36 percent in human development (education, health and social protection). Sri Lanka graduated from IDA at the end of IDA17 and currently receives transitional financing from IDA18 (FY18-20) amounting to US$407 million.

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