Media Highlights of the Week
Kazakhstan to Achieve Compliance with OPEC + Cuts, Considers Joining Monitoring Committee
Kazakh Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev announced that Kazakhstan will achieve compliance with OPEC+ 6-month production cuts. Kazakhstan has exceeded its quota of 1.86 million b/d in the past months, pumping an average of 1.885 million b/d in January and 1.893 million b/d in February. The Kashagan oil field, which had experienced rising output, will cease producing. Referring to the field, Bozumbayev stated that “output there is currently between 300,000 and 350,000 b/d, so it will be a significant cut.” As a consequence, the average output in Kazakhstan for the six months of the OPEC+ agreement will be less than 1.8 million b/d.
In other OPEC-related news, Saudi Arabian Minister of Energy Khaled al-Faleh announced that OPEC+ has invited Kazakhstan to join the organization’s monitoring committee, currently chaired by Saudi Arabia and Russia. Bozumbayev suggested that Kazakhstan in considering the proposal, but highlighted that a final decision could only be reached at the general meeting of the group in April.
Lukoil, KazMunayGas to Start Exploration at Caspian Zhenis Block within One Year
Russia’s oil major Lukoil and Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas have set up a joint venture to conduct exploration at the Zhenis block in the Caspian Sea and will start exploration within a year, Kazakhstan’s Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev told reporters on Sunday. “This year,” he said when asked when the companies plan to start exploration at the block, adding that the two companies have already had direct talks and are about to enter into the subsoil use contract.
Uzbekistan Suspends Jizzakh Refinery Project
Hustniddin Turaev, deputy director of Neftegazinvest, revealed the decision to suspend a project on the construction of a large oil refinery in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan. The project, which was expected to cost $2.2 billion, was dedicated to processing crude oil imported from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Turaev explained that upgrades to the Bukhara and Fergana refineries would be undertaking in lieu of construction of a new refinery.
Blackouts Return as Rohun Sputters
The last two weeks in Tajikistan have brought reports of power blackouts in the regions, indicating that the recent commissioning of a generating unit at a huge hydropower project is not yet yielding dividends. As Asia-Plus newspaper reported on March 14, the majority of regions in Tajikistan have seen rationing of electricity between midnight and 6 a.m. over that period. There have also been reports of blackouts throughout the day, and even occasionally in the capital, Dushanbe, which has largely been immune from such occurrences in recent years. A source at state utility company Barki Tojik told Asia-Plus that the problems were caused by ongoing repairs on power lines and sub-stations.
Azerbaijan Signs MoU on Alternative Energy with ACWA POWER
Representatives of Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia’s ACWA POWER signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on March 17 relating to the development of renewable energy resources in Azerbaijan. Deputy Energy Minister Samir Valiyev represented Azerbaijan during the ceremony while Ayad Al Amri, Director of ACWA POWER, countersigned the document. This MoU comes on the heels of similar agreements which Azerbaijan has concluded with international oil firms BP and Total.
Azerbaijan President Aliyev Orders Mass Pardon
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed a decree pardoning more than 431 people on March 16. Those pardoned include over 50 opposition politicians and activists listed as political prisoners by human rights organizations. This is another positive indication of the political and economic reform process that was launched in recent months in Azerbaijan. The decree received positive reactions from both local and international experts. European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the amnesty for over 400 people included representatives of political parties, non-government organizations, bloggers and journalists, calling it “a welcome step.”
NATO-Georgia Exercises Begin
NATO and Georgia will hold NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019 at the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) from March 18th to March 29th. The exercises will include 350 soldiers from 21 NATO member states (Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey, the UK and the US) and 4 NATO partner countries (Azerbaijan, Finland, Georgia and Sweden).
Kazakhstan Appoints New Prosecutor General
A new decree from Kazakhstan appointed Gizat Nurdauletov as Prosecutor General on March 18th. He previously served as First Deputy Prosecutor General and prior to that had spent much of his career working for the National Security Committee.
Kazakhstan and Turkey Sign Joint Military Plan
Kazakhstan and Turkey and Kazakhstan signed a military cooperation plan for 2019, according to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense. Defense ministry officials from both sides met and signed the agreement in Astana. The plan covers cooperation in intelligence, peacekeeping, and cybersecurity.
Taliban Captures 150 Afghan Soldiers Near Turkmen Border
The Taliban overran an Afghan military unit in Murghab district in northwest Afghanistan. The Taliban at first chased the soldiers over the border into Turkmenistan, but Turkmenistan forced them back. The incident is the largest Taliban capture in recent years.
Iranian President Visits Iraq
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani visited Iraq to meet with high-level officials. Representatives from the two delegations signed five Memoranda of Understanding on issues including the Basra-Shalamcheh railway project, visa facilitation for investors, health- and energy-related projects, and trade. The two sides also discussed common security challenges such as counterterrorism.
Azerbaijan Launches Military Exercises
The Azerbaijani military held large-scale maneuvers from March 11 until March 16. The exercises included approximately 10,000 troops, 500 tanks, 300 missile systems, aircraft, and other military equipment. At the same time, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian traveled to occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and held a meeting of Armenia’s Security Council there.
Uzbek Authorities Prepare Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime for WTO Accession
Authorities of Uzbekistan have prepared a memorandum on the foreign trade regime for accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The document was reviewed and approved at the first meeting of the interdepartmental commission of Uzbekistan on cooperation with the WTO. In late November 2017, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that the country resumed work on joining the organization. Earlier, Deputy Director General of the WTO, Alan Wolff, said that the process of country’s accession would take about one or two years.
Kazakhstan’s Car Industry Lures Chinese Bus Giant
Kazakhstan is stepping up economic cooperation with China by bringing one more Chinese automobile brand to local production. The country’s car wholesaler, Astana Motors, reached a distribution agreement last week with Xiamen Golden Dragon, which is ranked one of China’s ‘big 10’ bus makers. Hyundai Trans Auto, which is a subsidiary of Astana Motors, will start manufacturing the “Golden Dragon” passenger bus brand at a plant in Almaty by the end of this month. The cost of the Kazakhstan-made buses will start at 31.9 million tenges, or approximately $84,427. Officials from Astana Motors believe that a wide range of buses and a reasonable price will meet the needs of Kazakhstani passenger transportation companies.
Uzbek-American Business Forum to be Held in the U.S.
An Uzbek-American business forum will be held in Washington in October, Trend reports via Uzbek media. The parties agreed on that after a briefing on the achievements of the Uzbek economy, which was held in Washington DC. It is planned that the leading US companies in the fields of agriculture, energy, infrastructure development, high technology, medicine, transport, and others will take part in the business forum.
Georgia, Tajikistan Sign Draft Agreement on International Road Transport
Georgia and Tajikistan signed a draft agreement on International Road Transport which will facilitate the growth of the passenger and freight traffic flow between Georgia and the Republic of Tajikistan and strengthen mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Georgia’s Ministry of Economy reports that the draft agreement determines the bilateral, transit or via-third-party-countries transportation based on quota permits, the number of which is determined by the parties on the basis of the agreement and the exchange of permit forms.
Uzbekistan May Work on Common Space Project with Central Asian Countries
Kazakhstan presented the space project to the heads of official governmental delegations of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan in the framework of the first Central Asian Economic Forum at Uzexpocenter exhibition, according to Uzbek media. Collaboration in the space sphere may be one of the new areas of five-sided cooperation. Kazakh developers stated that the regional project envisages the creation of a group of five Earth remote sensing satellites.
New Feed Processing Plants Launched in Azerbaijan
A feed processing plant has been commissioned in the Azad Garagoyunlu village of Azerbaijan’s Terter district as part of the project SEDA (Socio-Economic Development Activity in Azerbaijan) being jointly implemented by the Azerbaijani government and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In connection with the commissioning of the feed processing plant, an event was held with the organizational support of the Agency for the Development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) of Azerbaijan.
Uzbekistan to Receive $30 Million Loan from Kuwait
On March 18, Uzbekistan together with the KFAED has implemented several large projects, aimed at improving the water supply to the population, transport infrastructure and the development of the medical care sector in the country. The Board of Directors of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) has approved the allocation of a preferential credit line for $30 million to Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan Investment Development Fund Established
At the presentation of amendments to the Republican budget in the Parliament, Vice-Minister of Finance Tatyana Savelyeva said that 370 billion tenges ($984,775,868.00) were provided for the creation of the Fund through the allocation of a targeted transfer from Kazakhstan National Fund.
(Sources: Anadolu Agency, Azer News, Bloomberg, Caspian News, the Economic Times, Eurasianet, Georgia Today, KazInform, New York Times, RFE/RL, S&P Global, TASS, Trend News Agency, and Tsarizm.)