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What Obama can learn from Vladimir Putin

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

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

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 Satellite Data Reveals Progress: Global Gas Flaring Declined in 2017

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New satellite data released today shows a significant decline in gas flaring at oil production sites around the world in 2017, despite a half-percent increase in global oil production. The nearly 5 percent flaring decline begins to reverse years of increases in global gas flaring that started in 2010.

The data reveals about 141 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas was flared in 2017, down from nearly 148 bcm in 2016. While Russia remains the world’s largest gas flaring country, it also saw the largest decline in flaring last year. Venezuela and Mexico also reduced their flaring significantly in 2017. In Iran and Libya there were notable increases in gas flaring.

The data was released by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank-managed organization comprised of governments, oil companies, and international institutions working to reduce gas flaring. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and GGFR have developed the flaring estimates in cooperation with the University of Colorado, based on observations from advanced sensors in a satellite launched in 2012.

Gas flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – takes place because of technical, regulatory, and/or economic constraints. It causes more than 350 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, with serious harmful impacts from un-combusted methane and black carbon emissions. Gas flaring is also a substantial waste of energy resources the world can ill afford.

“The latest global gas flaring data is encouraging, but we will have to wait a few more years to know whether it represents a much-needed turning point,” said Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s Senior Director and head of its Energy & Extractives Global Practice. “Ending routine gas flaring is a key component of our climate change mitigation agenda, and the global flaring reduction Initiative we launched just three years ago now has 77 endorsers, covering about 60 percent of the total gas flared around the world.”

In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and 25 initial endorsers launched the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative that commits endorsers to not routinely flare gas in new oil field developments and to seek solutions to end routine flaring at existing oil production sites as soon as possible and no later than 2030. It has now been endorsed by 27 governments, 35 oil companies, and 15 development institutions.

“The Initiative is an essential tool for ending routine flaring,” said Bjorn Hamso, GGFR’s Program Manager. “Going forward, it is paramount that oil field operators continue to address ongoing “legacy” flaring, and that new business models are developed that will enable more investors to participate in flaring reduction projects.”

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World Tourism Day Places Focus on Innovation & Digital Transformation

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The importance of digital technologies in tourism, providing opportunities for innovation and preparing the sector for the future of work, is at the centre of World Tourism Day 2018, to be celebrated in Budapest, Hungary (27 September 2018).

World Tourism Day, celebrated every 27 September around the world, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on tourism’s actual and potential contribution to sustainable development.

This year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) will help to put the opportunities provided to tourism, by technological advances including big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees digital advances and innovation as part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.

“Harnessing innovation and digital advances provides tourism with opportunities to improve inclusiveness, local community empowerment and efficient resource management, amongst other objectives within the wider sustainable development agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The WTD official celebration will be held in Budapest, Hungary, a country enjoying steady growth of tourism backed by consistent policy support and a commitment to the digital future. Other celebrations will take place worldwide.

The official celebration will also see the announcement of the semi-finalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, launched by UNWTO and Globalia to give visibility to startups with innovative ideas capable of revolutionizing the way we travel and enjoy tourism.

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EU and China step up cooperation on climate change and clean energy

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At the China-EU Summit on 16 July in Beijing, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, and the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang adopted a “Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy”. Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on emissions trading between China and the EU.

In the Leaders’ Statement, China and the EU underline the need to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC process, and to get the Paris Agreement Work Programme – the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement – adopted at the next global climate conference in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The Statement shows how the EU and China will intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy to drive forward a world-wide transformation to a thriving low carbon and climate-resilient economy and society and clean energy system. It clearly shows their commitment to climate action and achieving a clean energy transition are urgent imperatives.

In the Memorandum of Understanding China and the EU acknowledge emissions trading as a cost-effective policy tool with significant potential to contribute to a low-carbon economy and the necessary innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Welcoming this commitment, President Juncker said: We have underlined our joint, strong determination to fight climate change and demonstrate global leadership. It shows our commitment to multilateralism and recognises that climate change is a global challenge affecting all countries on earth. There is no time for us to sit back and watch passively. Now is the time for decisive action.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: Further developing cooperation between the two largest emission trading systems of the world is not only in our mutual interest but also necessary to tackle common challenges in the mid- and longer term. The newly established policy dialogue will be instrumental in this context.

The Memorandum of Understanding on EU-China cooperation on emissions trading establishes a policy dialogue, foresees the joint organisation of seminars and workshops, as well as joint research activities.

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