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

Dimitris Giannakopoulos



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] 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 –

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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Partnerships key to promoting economic empowerment for rural women in the MENA region




The economic empowerment of rural women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was the topic of a side-event organized by the governments of Italy and Tunisia, in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), UN Women and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The event featured a range of high-level speakers from Italy, the MENA region, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and was moderated by Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations in New York. “Women face several barriers to their equal participation in the social, economic and political spheres, and these constraints are felt even more harshly by rural women,” he stated in his opening remarks.

Fatou Haidara, Managing Director of Corporate Management and Operations at UNIDO, highlighted the significance of industrialization in reducing poverty and increasing employment, and the positive benefits of this for women. She referred to the holistic approach adopted by UNIDO in its work in promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the MENA region, stating that both policy and capacity-building dimensions are crucial.

“We have facilitated an ecosystem of knowledge and support, successfully partnering with governments and the private sector to create the foundation for structural change that has mobilized women’s entrepreneurship throughout the region,” she said. “For UNIDO, this project is one step forward in our long-term strategy for enabling women’s economic independence, because the resulting benefits will go beyond women and girls to put us all on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda.”

The importance of integrating women into the political system was stressed by Neziha Laabidi, Minister of Women, Family and Childhood of the Government of Tunisia, who also highlighted the inclusion of women in Tunisia’s national, multi-sectoral strategy.

Teresa Bellanova, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Italy drew attention to Italy’s commitment to promoting women’s rights and gender equality and to supporting women entrepreneurs and capacity-building at the local level in light of the radical, recent economic and geographical changes shaping the MENA region’s reality.

The discussion also touched upon issues faced by women in the region, such as access to land rights and discriminatory socio-cultural norms. The need for partnerships to come up with integrated solutions to such issues was addressed by Mohammed Naciri, Regional Director for Arab States, UN Women.

Engagement with the financial sector, including making capital more easily accessible to rural women, was underlined as a key factor in empowering rural women by Emanuele Santi, founder and president of Afrilanthropy, which connects social start-ups in Africa to impact investors. Santi added that creating incentives – for example by giving bonuses to companies that invest in companies led by women and rural women in particular – was another key to success. Finally, he stated that the development community had to “work as an ecosystem” and blend financial support with non-financial support.

The event was held on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), an annual two-week session at the United Nations in New York. The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Speaking at the opening of the CSW, UN Secretary- General, António Guterres, stated that the Commission was “leading the way” when it comes to empowering women. “When women are already taking action, we need to listen to them and to support them,” he said. “By building equality, we give women a chance to fulfil their potential. And we also build more stable societies.”

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Four countries on track to graduate from UN list of least developed countries




Four countries could soon “graduate” from the ranks of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations, a United Nations expert committee announced on Thursday

Bhutan, Kiribati, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands have increased national earning power and improved access to health care and education, making them eligible to exit the group of least developed countries (LDCs).

“This is an historic occasion,” said Jose Antonio Ocampo, chair of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), noting that only five countries have graduated since the UN established the LDC category in 1971.

LDCs are assessed using three criteria: health and education targets; economic vulnerability and gross national income per capita.

Countries must meet two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews of the CDP to be considered for graduation.

The Committee will send its recommendations to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for endorsement, which will then refer its decision to the UN General Assembly.

For CDP member Diane Elson, a professor at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, Thursday’s announcement was good news for millions of women in rural areas.

She pointed out that the latest session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), currently under way in New York, is discussing the challenges facing this population.

“The success of the countries that are graduating reflects things like the improvement of the health and the education of the population, which extends to rural women, and the increase in incomes in the country, which extends to rural women,” she said.

However, Ms. Elson stressed that the countries will need continued international support because they remain vulnerable to external shocks, including the impact of climate change.

Mr. Ocampo said this vulnerability is particularly evident in Pacific Island states such as Kiribati.

Globally, there are 47 LDCs, according to the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The majority, 33, are in Africa, while 13 can be found in the Asia-Pacific region, and one is in Latin America.

In the 47 years of the LDC category’s existence, only five countries have graduated (Botswana, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Maldives and Samoa)

The CDP said two more countries, Vanuatu and Angola, are scheduled for graduation over the next three years.

Nepal and Timor-Leste also met the criteria but were not recommended for graduation at this time, due to economic and political challenges.

That decision will be deferred to the next CDP triennial review in 2021, according to Mr. Ocampo.

Bangladesh, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar met the graduation criteria for the first time but would need to do so for a second time to be eligible for consideration.

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ADB, India Sign $120 Million Loan to Improve Rail Infrastructure




The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India today signed a $120 million loan agreement to complete double-tracking and electrification of railway tracks along high-density corridors in India and improve operational efficiency of the country’s railway networks.

The $120 million financing is the third tranche of a $500 million financing facility for the Railway Sector Investment Program approved by ADB’s Board in 2011. The loan amount will be used to complete the ongoing works started in the project’s first two tranches.

The agreement was signed by Kenichi Yokoyama, ADB Country Director for India, and Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions) of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, at a ceremony in New Delhi.

“The program will help develop energy efficient, safe, and reliable railway systems that will result in reduced travel time along project rail routes and also reduce annual accident rate,” said Mr. Khare.

“Funding for the project’s third tranche will contribute toward achieving the overall program outputs of double-tracking about 840 kilometers (km) of rail routes and electrification of 640 km of tracks along high density corridors,” said Mr. Yokoyama. “The program is also helping implement new accounting systems and provide additional safety measures including collision avoidance equipment.”

The investment program is targeting busy freight and passenger routes in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Odisha, including the “Golden Quadrilateral” corridor that connects Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi. The doubling of rail sections is being implemented along Daund-Titlagarh section, Sambalpur-Titlagarh section, Raipur-Titlagarh Section, and Hospet-Tinaighat section, while electrification is being undertaken along the 641-km Pune-Wadi Guntakal section.

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