Caspian Weekly Roundup
BP Works to Finalize Negotiations with Azerbaijan on Deep Gas Production at ACG
BP Azerbaijan Vice President Bakhtiyar Aslanbayli recently told Baku-based Trend News Agency that negotiations continue on deep gas production from the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) block. He expressed the expectation that negotiations will be concluded shortly, allowing exploratory drilling to commence before the end of 2019. ACG has produced large volumes of crude over the past several years, but sizable gas deposits in the block, which are located deeper than the oil deposits, have not entered exploitation.
Kazakhstan Launches Operation of Central Asia’s Largest Solar Power Station
The Saran solar plant in Kazakhstan’s Karaganda Province entered operation on January 24th. The 100 MW power station will provide approximately 145 million kW/h annually, helping Astana to reach its targets to increase use of alternative energy. As the EBRD noted, the project will contribute to Kazakhstan’s endeavor to increase the share of non-hydro renewables to 3 percent of its energy mix by 2020. The Saran station’s output will be used to reduce dependence on coal power, which currently supplies 75 percent of Kazakhstan’s electricity needs.
Turkmen Energy Minister Updates President on Plans to Sell Electricity to Pakistan
Turkmen Minister of Energy Charymyrat Purchekov recently presented a report to President Burdymukhammedov on a project to sell electricity to Pakistan. The project envisions the construction of 500-kilovolt transmission lines beside the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. Turkish Calik Holding A.S. is serving as Turkmenistan’s partner in this venture based on a memorandum of understanding signed by the parties. Purchekov stated that construction is proceeding according to plan. Turkmenistan’s electricity generation capacity is expected to experience significant growth in the next several years, so the TAPI electrical transmission project will help the Central Asian nation develop additional export markets.
Greece Names TAP, IGB Among Most Important International Projects
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), which envisage transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Europe, have been named among important international energy projects of Greece, according to the Greek Integrated Energy and Climate Plan for the Period from 2021 to 2030.
SOCAR to Use Jackup Rig of KazMunayGas in its Own Projects
Satti, a jack-up rig of Kazakhstan’s company KazMunayGas will be delivered to Baku where it will be modernized and later used for drilling work by Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR in the projects in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. This is envisaged by the memorandum of understanding signed by SOCAR and KazMunayGas. The document was signed by SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev and Alik Aydarbayev, chairman of the Management Board of the KazMunayGas.
New U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Appointed
John Mark Pommersheim was appointed as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan on January 7, and is expected to arrive in Tajikistan soon, the US Embassy in Dushanbe said on January 27. John Mark Pommersheim was nominated by President Donald Trump on September 12, 2018, to be the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan. Most recently, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission (2015-2018) at the U.S. Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan. Prior to Kazakhstan, he served as Director of the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs where he was responsible for managing the full spectrum of U.S. relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. In his Foreign Service career, he has served in a wide array of positions in Washington, D.C. and worked in Embassy political sections in Japan, China, Belarus, and Germany. He served also as U.S. Consul General in Vladivostok, Russia.
U.S. and Taliban Agree in Principle to Framework for Peace Deal
In comments given to the New York Times and confirmed to CNN by the US Embassy in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad said the framework for peace would see the insurgent group vow to prevent the country from being used as a hub for terrorism in return for a US military withdrawal. “We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” Khalilzad told the Times on Monday. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.”
OSCE to Monitor Azerbaijan-Armenia Border
The Office of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will hold a regularly scheduled monitoring of the Azerbaijan-Armenia state border on January 29th. The monitoring will occur in the Tovuz district in the northern part of the border.
Montenegro to Open Diplomatic Mission in Azerbaijan
The Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry of Montenegro Veselin Sukovic announced last week that the country has delivered a note of its intent to open a diplomatic mission in Azerbaijan. Secretary Sukovic made this announcement after a meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, where both sides reportedly praised the development of friendly Azerbaijan-Montenegro relations.
Kazakh Parliamentarians Propose Changing Official Name
Members of the Kazakh Parliament’s Ak Zhol faction have asked the Prime Minister to call the country the Kazakh Republic in official circulation. The group argues that the name will provide historical justice and increased unity among all of Kazakhstan’s nationalities. The initiative would not remove the name “Kazakhstan” from general use, but it would be replaced by “The Kazakh Republic” in official circulation.
Iranian and Turkmen Officials Meet
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Turkmenistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Wafa Khadzhiev on Sunday. Minister Zarif said that Iran values its relationship with Turkmenistan and is ready to implement joint projects in the Caspian Sea. Deputy Minister Khadzhiev said that he and other officials are “trying to remove the obstacles” to closer bilateral relations.
Georgia Adopts National Counterterrorism Strategy
Georgia’s government adopted a National Counterterrorism Strategy. Formulated by the country’s Interagency Commission, the plan lays out Georgia’s primary challenges in the realm of terrorism and how to combat them, including preventative measures and an action plan.
Tajikistan, World Bank Group Mark 25 Years of Partnership
This year marks 25 years of partnership between Tajikistan and the World Bank Group. During this time, the World Bank has provided over $1.5 billion in grants, highly concessional credits and trust funds to Tajikistan. The World Bank Group is committed to continuing its support to the country, as it strives to improve the lives and meet the aspirations of its young and growing population, the World Bank said.
Baku to Host 8th Meeting of Azerbaijan-Germany High-Level Working Group
The 8th meeting of the Azerbaijan-Germany high-level working group will be held in Baku on January 31, the Azerbaijani Economy Ministry reported. The issues regarding the current trade and economic relations between the two countries, the work that has been carried out since the 7th meeting, the prospects for expansion of cooperation and other issues will be discussed during the meeting.
Turkmenistan Commences Construction of High-Speed Road to Uzbekistan
“Turkmen Autobahn” CJSC has commenced the construction of the 600-kilometer Ashgabat-Turkmenabat high-speed road. The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan is the customer and general contractor through “Turkmen Autobahn”, the local “Turkmenistan” TV channel reports.
Uzbek Banks Acquire Over $1 Billion Worth of Foreign Loans
Commercial banks of Uzbekistan acquired foreign credit lines for the development of small business and private entrepreneurship in the amount of about $1.04 billion in 2018 which is two times more compared to 2017.
Cargo Transportation via Viking Train Route to Increase
The volume of cargo transportation via the Viking train route is expected to reach 49000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) in 2019, while in 2018 the indicator was 43233 TEUs, the Lithuanian Railways reported. Further, commenting upon the question on which countries plan to join the project, the company noted that it would be great to see Sweden and Kazakhstan joining the project.
ADB to Finance Development of Central Asian Railways
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a grant of $2 million for the development of railways in the countries of Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC). ADB Senior Transport Specialist Jurgen Sluijter noted that rail transport should be the preferred mode of trade in the region, but it is still difficult for railways to compete with road transport.
Turkmenistan Aims to Export Carbon Black
The Khazar chemical plant (Balkan region, Turkmenistan) almost doubled the production of high-quality carbon black, according to the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper. At the end of last year, the plant exported about 2,000 tons of carbon black. Its main consumers were companies in the US, Russia, Scotland, Uzbekistan, and other countries. The carbon black K-354 produced at the plant on an industrial scale is widely used as a reinforcing filler in the manufacture of rubber products.
World Trade Center Building to Appear in Astana
The President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has held talks with Rolf Draak, member of the Board of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA), and Mehran Eftekhar, Finance, and Corporate Services Director at Nest Investments Holdings. The meeting was also attended by the Head of the Presidential Administration Asset Issekeshev, Mayor of Kazakhstan’s capital Astana Bakhyt Sultanov and architect-designer Kenneth Bruce James Anderson.
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan Creating Joint Business Council
Creation of the Turkmen-Uzbek Business Council was announced at the government meeting in Ashgabat. This structure is being created in accordance with the agreement between the chambers of commerce and industry of the two countries signed during the state visit of the Turkmen president to Uzbekistan in April 2018.
Iranian Exports to Turkmenistan Down
Iran’s export to Turkmenistan has decreased by 7 percent, Rahmatullah Khormali, commercial attaché of Iran to Turkmenistan, told ISNA. Some $305 million worth of products have been exported from Iran to Turkmenistan during the nine months of the current Iranian year (starting from March 21, 2018), with a 6-7 percent decline in export as compared to the same period last year, he said.
(Sources: AzerNews, Agenda.ge, Caspian News, CNN, Mehr News Agency, News.am, Pakistan Today, RFE/RL, the Times of Central Asia, Trend News Agency, TRT World, and Xinhuanet.)