Media Highlights of the Week
Baku and Budapest Set up Working Group for Bringing Caspian Gas to Hungary
Government representatives from Azerbaijan and Hungary have set up a working group dedicated to bringing gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore fields to consumers in Hungary. Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó and Azerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov signed the agreement on March 29 in order to create the aforementioned group. Hungary currently imports gas from Russia, but more than half of its imports transit Ukraine. This has generated concern in Budapest, since the gas transit agreement between Russia and Ukraine expires at the end of 2019 and Russian has expressed the intention to limit Ukrainian gas transit after that date. Concerned about being left out in the cold as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Hungary has thus started to explore its options for developing other relationships.
Kazakhstan Extinguishes Fire at Kalamkas Field
The blaze at the Kalamkas oilfield in Kazakhstan was extinguished early in the morning of March 28, according to Nurlybek Zhenisbek, a representative of Kazakhstan’s Energy Ministry. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who reported via Twitter that he had “commissioned the Government to take all necessary measures” to contain the blaze, has thus overcome his first challenge since inheriting his office from Nursultan Nazarbayev. Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev stated that the fire would not diminish Kazakhstan’s overall energy output. Vice-Minister of Energy Magzum Mirzagaliyev said that the investigation into the disaster is currently ongoing, so the environmental impact of the blaze and possible criminal charges related to the fire are currently being assessed.
Uzbekistan and UAE ‘Reach Agreement’ on Broadening Economic Ties
Uzbekistan’s presidential administration recently announced that it had “reached agreement on broadening economic and investment cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UAE.” The agreement is said to include more than $10 billion, although an enumeration of the various projects included in the deal is not yet forthcoming. Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev also released a decree enabling Emiratis to travel to Uzbekistan for up to 30 days without a visa, promoting Tashkent’s goal of boosting the tourism sector in the economy.
Uzbekistan Receives 23 Proposals in 100MW Solar Power Tender
Uzbekenergo, the state-run utility of Uzbekistan, announced that it had received 23 proposals in connection with a competitive tender for the construction of 100MW of photovoltaic solar panels, the first such tender in Uzbekistan. The tender, launched at the beginning of February, is being overseen by the International Financial Corporation (IFC), an arm of the World Bank Group. On the advice of the IFC, the tender will be conducted using a two-step process. The 23 bids were submitted to the first round, with the goal of selecting qualified candidates to participate in the second round, when short-listed firms will submit bids for the project. Georgi Petrov, IFC public-private partnership regional manager, suggested that the large number of participants in the first round was indicative of investor confidence in the project.
Azerbaijan’s Azerenergy Laying New High-Voltage Power Transmission Line in Baku
Azerbaijan’s Azerenergy OJSC is laying a new 220 kilovolt high-voltage power transmission line from the Janub power station in Shirvan city to the Khirdalan substation to further enhance the reliability and sustainability of supplying Baku with electricity. The new power transmission line will increase the reliability of the power system.
More Than 700 Power Towers Damaged by Flood in Iran’s Khuzestan
Around 724 transmission towers have been damaged as a result of floods in Iran’s Khuzestan province, however, the power stations are not in danger there, said the managing director of Khuzestan Regional Electric Company Mahmoud Dasht-e-Bozorg. The official noted the flood has caused damages amounting to $1.1 million in the province.
Leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan Meet
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinian met to discuss a peace deal for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on March 29th. The meeting, which took place in Vienna, was the first official meeting between leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Observers described the meeting positively.
Azerbaijan Air Defense Forces Conduct Special Training
The Azerbaijan Air Defense Forces recently conducted tactical-special exercises. During the training, the battalions of the Air Defense Missile Systems marched into the positional areas, where they worked out the issues of changing, equipment and camouflage of starting positions. Rocket units also fulfilled tasks to defend important facilities from air attack, including the repulsing a massive missile strike of the imaginary enemy.
Council of Europe to Open Regional Office in Kazakhstan
The Council of Europe will open its regional office in Kazakhstan in the near future. The news broke after a meeting in Strasbourge between the Council of Europe’s Rapporteur Group on External Relations and representatives of Kazakh Foreign Ministry. Kazakhstan announced at the meeting that it has joined three legal instruments of the Council of Europe: the Convention on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of criminal proceeds as well as terrorism financing, convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax and protocol amending the convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax.
Military Training Helicopter Crashes in Kazakhstan
A Kazakh military helicopter crashed on a training flight in Zhalagash on March 27th, killing all 13 people on board. The Mi-8 helicopter was part of a group of aircraft flying from Aktau on the Caspian Sea to Shymkent near the border with Uzbekistan. Kazakh President Toqaev said he has ordered an official probe into the reasons for the crash.
Turkmenistan Holds Parliamentary Elections
Turkmenistan held elections to the Mejlis (parliament) and Khalk Maslakhaty (local councils) on March 31st. The Gentral Election Commission reports voter turn out rates of 91.12% for parliament and 90.86% for local councils. Results have not yet been released.
Mass Protests Held in Ingushetia
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Ingushetia’s capital Magas to protest a controversial land swap deal between Ingushetia and Chechnya’s North Caucasus regions. Ingushetian residents feels the swap gives too much Ingushetian land to Chechnya without receiving enough in return. They are denouncing the swap and calling for Ingushetia’s leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov to step down
NATO Leader Declares Support for Georgian Membership
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was quoted as saying “Georgia will join NATO, and Russia can do nothing about it.” The Secretary General was in Georgia at the time, observing the NATO-Georgia exercises near Tbilisi.
Turkey Holds Local Elections, Opposition bloc wins major cities
Turkey held local elections over the weekend and preliminary results indicate that for the first time the ruling AKP party lost control of the capital Istanbul. The opposition CHP party took 48.79% of the vote to AKP’s 48.51%, according to reporting from Anadolu Agency. However, some AKP candidates are insisting that there were “irregularities” in the ballot and are waiting for the official announcement from the election council.
Zelensky Wins First Round of Ukrainian Presidential Elections
Ukraine held presidential elections on March 31st. Officially, dozens of candidates were up for the job. However, in the weeks preceding the election the field was effectively narrowed to three major contenders: incumbent president Petro Poroshenko, veteran politician Yulia Tymoshenko, and comedian Volodomyr Zelensky. Zelensky, the outsider candidate who plays a history-teacher-turned-anti-corruption-president on a popular television show, won 30.4% of the vote, a comfortable lead over Poroshenko, who earned only 17.8%. Since neither candidate exceeded 50% vote, these two will now face each other in a run-off election.
Turkish Airforce Conducts Operation in Iraq’s North
The Turkish Air Force has conducted an operation against PKK terrorists in Iraq’s Avashin, Baysan, and Hakurk areas on March 27th. The Turkish National Intelligence Organization and the country’s Air Force conducted the operation to eliminate Riza Altun, the closest ally of Cemil Bayik, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group. After Altun’s location was revealed, the Turkish Air Force delivered a precision strike on a house where the terrorist was.
Azerbaijan Constructing New Bus Plant
Azerbaijan will soon construct a bus plant in Hajigabul Industrial Quarter. This comes after Azeri company Azermash reached new agreements with Iranian companies Qartal and Etihad. The plant should be completed by the end of 2020.
Azerbaijan to Export Pomegranate to Europe
Azerbaijan plans to export pomegranate to several European countries, according to Executive Director of the Azerbaijan Pomegranate Producers and Exporters Association Yusif Akhundov. Negotiations are underway on export to Latvia, Poland and France. Currently, Azerbaijan exports small quantities of pomegranate to Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
Swiss Company to Build Fertilizer Production Plant in Kazakhstan
The Swiss-based company EuroChem will begin constructing a fertilizer production complex in Kazakhstan this summer. The plant is expected to produce 1 million tons of fertilizer. EuroChem is also developing two deposits of the Karatau phosphorite basin in the south of Kazakhstan, which will serve as the resource base for the new plant.
FlyArystan Prepares for Launch in Kazakhstan
FlyArystan, the brand-new Eurasian low fare airline from Air Astana, will begin services on May 1st. Inaugural domestic routes from Almaty International Airport will depart for Taraz and Uralsk. FlyArystan is flying Airbus A320 aircraft configured with 180 economy seats on both routes. Operating daily, FlyArystan will offer more than 130,000 seats on each of the routes annually.
Kazakhstan to Open Three New Vehicle Production Plants
The country will open three new vehicle assembling plants jointly with Hyundai, KAMAZ and Kirovets as part of its plan to double domestic production of automobiles to meet demand within the Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan is also pushing to increase industrialization overall. This year it hopes to introduce about 120 projects worth 1.1 trillion tenge (US$2.9 billion) and create 20,000 new jobs.
(Sources: Astana Times, Breaking Travel News, AzerNews, Trend News Agency, CNBC, CNN, RFE/RL, New Europe, AKI Press, Kazakh-TV, Eurasianet, Unian, PV Magazine, Renewables Now, KazInform, Reuters)