Caspian Brief: July 5, 2017
Two civilians killed in Karabakh truce violation
Two civilians have been killed and one was injured when Armenian troops shelled a village in Azerbaijan’s Fuzuli District, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said on its website on the evening of 4 July. A two-year-old girl was among the casualties.
Civilians were killed when Armenian troops shelled the village from mortars and grenade launchers at 2040 local time (1640 gmt), the ministry said, adding that international agencies have been informed about the incident.
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmat Haciyev said in a statement published by local media on 5 July that “Armenia’s armed forces carry deliberate and systematic attacks on civilian settlements along the front line”. Haciyev added that “Armenia’s political and military leadership bears full responsibility for the existing situation”.
The Azerbaijan Prosecutor-General’s Office has launched criminal proceedings into the incident, APA news agency said on 5 July.
Turkish Cargo to connect Baltic region with Central Asia
Turkish Airlines’ cargo carrier Turkish Cargo plans to provide very fast connections between the Baltic region and the Central Asia, Africa, Middle East and Far East, the airline’s Regional Cargo Manager Efe Ozler said.
He made the remarks commenting on the opening of direct Turkish Cargo flight between Istanbul and Riga (Latvia), the press-service of Riga airport said in a message.
The first cargo plane operated by Turkish Cargo landed at Riga International Airport on July 1.
“The goal of Turkish Cargo is to provide very fast connections from the Baltic region to the Far East, Africa, the Middle East and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan through our extensive network of routes,” Efe Ozler said.
Flights to Riga will be operated twice a week by Airbus 330-200F aircraft, capable of carrying up to 68 tons of cargo. The scheduled cargo services will complement the scheduled passenger flights between Istanbul and Riga that have been operated by Turkish Airlines since 2006.
Riga International Airport is the largest air traffic hub in the Baltic States. The 20 airlines operating at Riga Airport offer more than 60 destinations in the winter season and almost 90 in the summer season. In 2016, Riga Airport handled over 5.4 million passengers — nearly 45 percent of the entire Baltic air passenger traffic.
Turkey contributes $20 million to support FAOs work in Central Asia and the Caucasus
Turkey has announced today a $20m donation to back FAO’s work aimed at improving food security, rural development and natural resource management in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The announcement was made at a launch ceremony on the sidelines of FAO’s governing Conference.
In his opening remarks at today’s ceremony, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva praised Turkey for its significant political and financial support to FAO which is seen as a model of cooperation in the region and globally.
Graziano da Silva said: “We have a long-standing cooperation between FAO and Turkey and this has improved over the recent years and now with the second phase of this partnership programme FAO will be more visible in the subregion”.
For his part, Faruk Çelik, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Livestock of Turkey, said at the ceremony: “We have now completed the first phase of FAO-Turkey partnership programme under which we have realised 28 projects in 7 countries. Under the second phase of the programme launched in Rome and also at a special event in Ankara today, we hope to further widen the scope of the programme and undertake many important initiatives”.
With a financial contribution of $10 million from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Turkey has committed its support to the second phase of the FAO-Turkey Partnership Programme initially launched in 2009.
The second phase (2017-2020) will cover activities in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and beyond in the field of food security and nutrition, agricultural and rural development, protection and management of natural resources, agricultural policies and food safety.
The Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs has committed to allocate another $10m to FAO-Turkey Forestry Programme to support sustainable management of forests and other natural resources in the region.
Italy, Iran to sign, 1.2bn rail deal next week
Renato Mazzoncini, CEO of Italy’s state railway company Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), will visit Tehran on July 11 to finalize the construction of the 135-kilometer line, Press TV reported.
It is the first stretch of a high-speed rail line which FS plans to build in Iran, with the other being a 320-km planned link between Tehran and Hamadan.
The overall deal is worth 5 billion euros which Ferrovie initially signed under a framework agreement when former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Tehran with a delegation of business leaders last April.
FS will supply assistance to the Iranian railways for both high-speed and conventional rail lines, including a complete program for training personnel, the company said at the time.
The group has also been connected with the planning and construction of a high-speed rail corridor between Tehran, Qom and Isfahan, and electrification of the rail link between Tehran and Tabriz on the way to the Caucasus and Turkey.
Iran and Italy have signed deals potentially worth billions in sectors including energy, railways and defense. Italy’s export agency and state lender has pledged billions of euros in credit lines and guarantees.
Beside FS, oil major Eni, electricity and gas distributor Enel, oil contractor Saipem, steel firm Danieli, infrastructure firm Condotte d’Acqua, rail and road company Gavio, and airplane manufacturer Finmeccanica are the companies which have undertaken big ticket investment plans in Iran.
Italy’s state-run lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti has offered credit lines to companies building oil-and-gas and transport infrastructure, while export agency SACE has committed to guarantee those loans.
The agreements were reached when Renzi visited Iran with by a delegation of some 60 business leaders – three months after President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Italy.
Checkpoints on Kazakh-Uzbek border resume work after 9 years of shutdown
Several checkpoints on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that closed in 2008 resumed their work and will operate around the clock, Kazinform reports.
This was announced at the meeting of border authorities of the two countries.
The sides agreed to switch over the work of Kyzart, Kaplanbek and Atameken checkpoints to a round-the-clock regime.
The checkpoints on the territory of Kazakhstan will be regularly updated and equipped with new technologies, which will allow to speed up the process of registration of documents for transport.
Uzbekistan earlier resumed work of two checkpoints on May 15.
ASAN Visa to be available at customs checkpoints
ASAN Visa system is improving in Azerbaijan, and it will be possible to get an e-visa to enter the country just in three hours. The system will be applied not only at airports but also at the customs checkpoints.
Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfas Garayev announced about this at a meeting with Zahra Ahmadipour, Vice-President of Iran and Chairman of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization on July 4.
Garayev further mentioned that the relations between Azerbaijan and Iran, the two neighboring and friendly countries, are on the rise, and the presidents of both countries have done great work in this regard.
In accordance with the presidential decree, ASAN service, Azerbaijan’s leading e-Government institution, should ensure consideration of applications of foreigners and stateless persons to obtain a visa in an expedited manner for those, who want to visit Azerbaijan, within three hours.
ASAN Visa also simplified the travel of Iranian tourists to the country. Now Iranian tourists wishing to come to Azerbaijan do not need to contact the Consulate in Tehran, as they can get a visa online.
Uzbekistan to hold first joint military drills with Russia since 2005
Russian and Uzbekistan armed forces will hold the first joint military exercises since 2005 in Uzbekistan this autumn, Russian media reported.
The Russian and Uzbek militaries will hold joint tactical exercises at the Forish training ground in October 2017, Assistant Commander of Russia’s Central Military District, Colonel Yaroslav Roshchupkin, said on July 3, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
“The working meeting between the delegations of the Russian and Uzbek Defense Ministries led by Commander of the Central Military District, Colonel-General Vladimir Zarudnitsky, and Uzbekistan’s Defense Minister, Colonel-General Kabul Berdiyev, has ended in Tashkent. During the meeting, the parties discussed the situation in the Central Asian region reaffirming their interest in developing cooperation. Staff talks that will focus on regional security issues, the joint tactical exercise at Uzbekistan’s Forish ground and other events will be held as part of this cooperation,” Roshchupkin said.
Russia will be represented by the Central Military District troops at the drills. Work is in progress on the details of the upcoming exercises, specifically, the number of military personnel and equipment, Roshchupkin said.
He added that similar exercises were held in 2005 in Uzbekistan.
Turkmenistan, Afghanistan reach energy, transport deals
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on 3 July signed several energy and transport communications agreements during a visit to Ashgabat by Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani held cooperation talks with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, pro-government Turkmen website Arzuw.tm reported the same day.
“During the talks, the two sides paid special attention to the gas pipeline TAPI [Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India], the Turkmen section of which is already under construction, while the project’s implementation in Afghan territory is at the stage of agreeing some technical issues,” the report said.
In terms of transport cooperation, another very important project is construction of a railway line from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, which is later going to be connected with a new railway line being built in western Tajikistan, the report said.
With an aim to boost its electricity exports, Turkmenistan is seeking to erect new power lines towards Afghanistan, which was also discussed at the talks. “There are plans to expand the network from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to Pakistan and from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan to Tajikistan to Afghanistan to Pakistan. These projects will help to integrate the power grids of South and Central Asia,” the report said.
Currently, Afghanistan is buying Turkmen electricity and natural gas at lower rates, the website mentioned. Signed documents
After the talks and meetings at various levels, the two leaders signed a joint declaration “which confirmed the strength of fraternal and good neighbourly relations between these countries, and their readiness for close economic cooperation and joint implementation of large-scale transport and energy projects”, the report said.
During the state visit, the two countries signed seven more documents, including the following: a cooperation agreement between the Turkmen and Afghan energy ministries on supplying Turkmen electricity to the Afghan provinces of Badghis and Jowzjan; an agreement between the Turkmen and Afghan governments on international railway service across their common border; an agreement between the two governments on transport communications by road; and a cooperation programme between the Turkmen and Afghan foreign ministries for 2018-19.
Kazakhstan, USA ink five-year military cooperation deal
Washington has hosted bilateral defence consultations between representatives of the defence departments of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United States of America.
The Kazakh military delegation was led by Deputy Defence Minister Lt-Gen Talgat Mukhtarov. During the event, the two sides discussed the current and prospective issues of military cooperation between Kazakhstan and the USA. They also signed another five-year military cooperation plan for 2018-22, which defines the areas of cooperation for the forthcoming five-year period.
As part of the visit, the [Kazakh] delegation also held meetings with representatives of the US Department of Defence, the Bureau of the National Guard, the US Army and the National Defence University of the USA.
Sources: BBC Monitoring International Reports, Trend News Agency, FAO, PressTV, AKIPress, AZER News, The Times of Central Asia, BBC Monitoring International Reports, BBC Monitoring International Reports