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
1Obama should ask himself one basic question: Would the United States benefit from diplomatic engagement from Russia? Looked at from this perspective, it’s obvious that the answer is yes. In a number of global trouble spots, including Syria, Ukraine and others, the two powers’ interests potentially overlap in a number of ways. The reality is that in the last decade, from Iraq to Libya and Syria to Ukraine, the United States has consistently misjudged its ability to control and manage events on its own. It’s now time for Obama to bite the bullet, meet Putin, and see if any concrete scope for furthering American national interests via engagement with Russia exists. Josh Cohen –Reuters
2Wanting Peace, Preparing for War:The Military Issue. “Diplomacy and politics are still the chief tools of the trade for how Caspian littorals try to remedy their problems, both with each other and with external nations. This is a good thing. But it does not mean no Caspian state is prepared to go to war or is unwilling to wage it. This issue proves that supposition false and misleading. Thus, Modern Diplomacy offers this edition with the expectation that better information leads to greater understanding. And it is only better understanding that can ensure the limitation of misperception, that one eternal flaw that always seems to weigh heavily on the initiation of war” Read the new issue of The Caspian Project
3President Bashar al-Assad’s key backers declared victory on Sunday night after Western leaders who had previously backed Syrian rebels, including David Cameron, said they accepted he would stay in power, at least for the time being. Speaking to reporters on his way to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Cameron said Mr Assad had no “long-term” future but suggested he could remain in place during a transition period. Germany and America have also talked up the possibility of keeping him in place in a deal to end the four-year Syrian civil war and help defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
4Political divisions prevent the global community from reversing the rise of the Islamic State group, Kazakhstan’s top diplomat said, urging world leaders to unite efforts to combat extremism. Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday night that his country was until recently “100 percent immune from fundamentalism and extremism,” but prosperity and growth had made it easier for what he called “crazy, extreme ideas” to take root in some parts of the population. He said it was “a culture shock” that estimated 200 Kazakh nationals are now fighting in Syria. Describing political divisions as a key impediment to overcoming the threat posed by Islamic State, Idrissov called on major international players to come together to fight the organization that controls a third of Syria and Iraq and has spread to North Africa, the Sinai and Afghanistan. He said it was unimaginable that the United States, China, Russia and Europe were unable to “overcome a relatively small group.”
5The 3rd Azerbaijan and Caspian Sea Oil and Gas Week has kicked off in Baku, on September 28. Over 250 delegates and more than 30 high-level speakers attend the event organized by the Oliver Kinross, a business research organization operating in the UK. Oil and gas week aims to create conditions for using new business opportunities for oil and gas corporations, government officials, experts. The main topic of the event is development, opportunities and problems of Azerbaijan and CIS countries. An exhibition of modern industrial technologies and services has been organized within the Oil and Gas Week.
6Vast oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region and its potential to supply the world energy market make this area relevant for investments, John W. Harkins, chief executive officer and president of Greenfields Petroleum Corporationbsaid. He made the remarks addressing the 3rd Azerbaijan and Caspian Sea Oil and Gas Week 2015 in Baku Sept.28. In particular, Azerbaijan has proved to be relevant economically and politically in the world energy markets, Harkins added.“Azerbaijan is poised to be a transportation hub for oil and gas,” he said.The Southern Gas Corridor will allow Europe to diversify its hydrocarbon supply sources and strengthen energy security and also will allow Azerbaijan to obtain a new market in Europe.
7Why Kazakhstan Is Running for a Non-Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council. No UN member state from Central Asia has ever sat on the UNSC. Time to correct this oversight. Kazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Erlan Idrissov –The Diplomat
8A plant for producing gasoline from natural gas is under construction in Turkmenistan’s Ahal province. The enterprise supplied with the latest technology will annually process 1.782 billion cubic meters of natural gas and produce 600,000 tons of A-92 gasoline meeting the highest environmental requirements on Euro-5 standard. This industrial facility will be the first gas chemical complex in the world producing high quality, environmentally friendly gasoline from processing natural gas, once commissioned in 2018, this facility will allow to create 800 new jobs.
9The PACE Bureau held its meeting on the first day of the autumn session on Monday. The issue of sending an observation mission for the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan was discussed at the meeting. After long discussions, the participants – 17 of them in favor of and 10 against the decision – agreed on sending a 32-person delegation led by Jordi Chukla, a Spanish parliamentarian, to Azerbaijan. The decision is expected to be approved at the plenary meeting of the PACE session.
10Oil Dependency No More: Iran Goes for Taxation, Resists Oil Curse. “Tax overtakes oil in providing more revenues in Iran, promising to lead to the country’s new economic growth. Oil appears to have been downgraded in its position as the main source of the Iranian government’ revenues for the first time since the 1960’s, a sign the country is getting rid of the ‘oil curse’ thanks to a ‘tax revolution’ launched by President Hassan Rouhani” Sputniknews
The COVID-19 Shock to Kazakhstan’s Economy Largest in Two Decades
For the first time since the late 1990s Kazakhstan’s economy is expected to contract by projected 3 percent in 2020 with a moderate recovery by 2.5 percent in 2021, according to the World Bank’s latest Kazakhstan Economic Update (Summer 2020) – Navigating the Crisis report.
Although Kazakhstan’s GDP showed mild growth at 2.3 percent in the first quarter, economic activities weakened in the following months as commodity prices dropped, trade declined, and COVID-19 preventive measures slowed economic activity. Consumer demand showed moderate growth at at 1.2 percent, reflecting growing concerns over COVID-19 and the restriction measures. Investment is expected to ease to 1.0 percent annually, supported mostly by the on-going foreign direct investments into the oil and gas industry and residential construction. Supply disruptions and currency depreciation pushed up inflation to above the upper bound of the National Bank target range.
“The authorities acted early to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accumulated fiscal buffers allow the government to introduce a relief package to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy,” said Sjamsu Rahardja, Senior Country Economist, World Bank in Kazakhstan. “Weak demand and oil prices, as well as the protacted pandemic expose significant risks to the economic outlook. Authorities may want to consider using the available resources to provide relief to the poor and vulnerable, protect productive assets, and introduce reforms to sustain economic recovery.”
A prolonged crisis is likely to increase poverty and can increase inequality in Kazakhstan. Preliminary estimates suggest that poverty rate may rise in 2020 from a projected 8.3 to 12.7 percent – equating to more than 800 thousand additional people living in poverty. The shock to the labor market in Kazakhstan due to both the pandemic and the mitigation measures, is expected to have severe implications for jobs, particularly in sectors that employ low-skilled workers.
The report also argues that COVID-19 has a negative impact on human capital development in Kazakhstan. Unequal access to quality education, especially during lockdown, can negatively impact human capital development for the poor. School closures could result in learning loss of more than one-third of a school year and the impact could mean a decline in the Program for International Student Assessement (PISA) points. As most students in the country currently perform around the threshold for functional literacy and assuming some will lose more than others, the estimates suggest that the percentage of students performing below functional literacy will increase by 3 percentage points (from 64 to 67 percent).
“The impact of COVID-19 on education and learning losses will have a decades-long impact on the economy by an estimated 2.9 percent, amounting to an overall economic loss of up to $1.9 billion every year”, says Jean-Francois Marteau, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “A focus on improving access to quality education, including distance learning, would be important to prevent a decline in the quality of human capital, especially among Kazakhstan’s low-income population.”
The report concludes that under the risk of a prolonged slump in the global oil market, Kazakhstan’s pathway for a resilient recovery may focus on strengthening the effectiveness of public administration and services, including the use of e-platforms to deliver key public services, better tax administration, and a mechanism to review and redeploy fiscal resources toward better state programs. A renewed emphasis on reforms in the logistics, digital telecommunications, and financial sectors could help the overall private sector explore new opportunities.
China-Eurasia Council condemns aggression of Azerbaijan
China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research strongly condemns Azerbaijani aggression which Baku started on July 12, 2020. Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense is a threat for the entire World as it is speaking about its aims to strike Metsamor Nuclear Plant, which is located in Armenia. Baku must understand that this is a crime against humanity, and it is equal to nuclear strike.The destruction of Metsamor Nuclear plant will be a disaster not only for Armenia, but also for Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan, it will harm World’s environment and stand a real problem for several generations of the World. It is worth mentioning, that this time Baku attacked the Northern borders of Armenia, which are sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia according to International law. Azerbaijan violated the principle of territorial integrity of a sovereign state, which is one of the important pillars of International law.
China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research condemns Azerbaijan for using force against civilian population of Armenia and calls for peaceful negotiations. Baku must show solidarity and join global ceasefire initiated by the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and must not try to escalate the situation on the border to deflect public attention from the situation concerning the outbreak of Covid-19 in Azerbaijan. We call official Baku to take care of Azerbaijani people in the hard times of Coronavirus and not send its soldiers to real death. Being multinational Council, for us It’s terrible to hear about lossfrom both sides and we express our sincere condolences. Hopefully peace will come to South Caucasus, which is an important crossroad in Eurasian mainland and it can stand a very important link for Belt and Road Initiative, if all problems solved in a peaceful way.
Condemnation Of Armenian Aggression By Friends Of Azerbaijan (FoA)
Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) strongly condemns the coward act of Armenians aggression in the Tovuz district of Azerbaijan that is a sheer violation of international borders and law. The act is an attempt of Armenia to drive global attention from the peaceful dialogue and negotiation process on Nagorno Karabakh.
In an online meeting of the delegates of the Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA), a joint declaration of condemnation has been issued by the honorable members of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA).
According to this declaration, Armenian aggression can jeopardize the whole South Caucasus region. The incident on July 12, 2020, is being considered as a direct attack on Azerbaijan and the repercussions of this incident can result in massive catastrophe in the entire region.
The delegates of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) stressed the global powers to come forward and take serious action on Armenian intervention by violating the international border of Azerbaijan. The act of Armenia is an open challenge to the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
Malik Ayub Sumbal founder of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) termed that Armenia is losing its legal and moral position on Nagorno Karabakh and there is mounting pressure on Armenia by the international community for the peaceful solution of Nagorno Karabakh according to the UN Resolutions. At this time to get rid of such kind of diplomatic moves, Armenia has launched another major front in Tovuz.
When the whole world is busy against the Covid19 Armenian Prime Minister has chosen a very dangerous path that can take the whole region into war and bloodshed.
Friends of Azerbijan (FoA) is firmly standing with shoulder by shoulder to the people of Azerbaijan and martyr’s families at this hour.
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