Media Highlights of the Week
Security and Politics
Kremlin Ban Halts Direct Flights Between Russia and Georgia
A Kremlin ban on direct flights between Russia and Georgia took effect on July 8, affecting thousands of travelers and dealing a serious blow to Georgia’s tourism industry. The flight ban impacted dozens of flights operated by six Russian airlines and one Georgian airline. President Vladimir Putin introduced it following a wave of anti-Russian protests in the Georgian capital sparked by a Russian lawmaker’s appearance at the Georgian parliament.
Kyrgyzstan Ends Statelessness in Historic First
In a breakthrough in the global fight against statelessness, the Kyrgyz Republic become a leading example of how statelessness can be eradicated by bringing the number of stateless people in the country from over 13,000 to zero in just five years. In a ceremony on July 4 in the capital Bishkek, 50 previously stateless people, including 15 children, were issued with birth certificates and passports, making them citizens. They are the last known stateless people in Kyrgyzstan and will now have the same rights as any other citizen.
Kazakhstan Attends First Pacific Alliance Meeting as Observer
Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile Kairat Sarzhanov attended the 14th summit of the Pacific Alliance on July 8, Kazakhstan’s first meeting as an observer. Both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan’s applications for observer status were approved on May 10 at the 21st session of the Council of Ministers of the Pacific Alliance.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Visits Turkmenistan
The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini traveled to Ashgabat to meet with Parliamentary Speaker Gulshat Mammedova and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov. Their discussions focused on social and economic development, regional cooperation, transport, and infrastructure.
Armenia and Russia to Hold Joint Military Drills
Spokesperson of the Armenian defense ministry Artsrun Hovhannisyan announced that Russia and Armenia plan to hold several joint military exercises this year. At least two of the planned exercises will be large scale, according to the announcement, and there will be both offensive and defensive drills.
Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Hold Talks on Demarcation of Borders
The joint Uzbek-Kazakh demarcation commission held a series of meetings from July 1-5 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Delegations from the two countries continued to work on the drafting of the final documents on the demarcation of the interstate border. The commission has agreed on specific dates for commencing work on certain parts of the interstate border.
Energy and Economy
Central Asian Countries to Create United Electricity Market
Central Asian countries signed a joint declaration on regional cooperation in the field of energy reforms and the creation of a united electricity market. The document was signed in the framework of the second Central Asian Conference on Energy Reform, held in Istanbul, Turkey.
Kazakhstan Looks to Boost Crude Oil Exports to China
Kazakhstan plans to increase oil exports to China to 6-7 million tonnes (6-7 billion kg) a year from just 1 million tonnes (1 billion kg) at the expense of shipments to Europe, starting from the second half of 2020. In order to do this, the Central Asian nation will reverse the domestic Kenkiyak-Atyrau pipeline that is currently used to ship crude in a westerly direction. The move will reduce transit shipments through Russia’s Transneft.
Uzbekistan to Become HRC Steel Self-sufficient with New Mill
Uzbek steel rebar and light sections producer Uzbekistan Metallurgical Plant (Uzmetkombinat) will start construction this year on a hot-strip steel mill, making the country self-sufficient in hot-rolled coil once it comes online in 2021. The mini-mill, featuring quality strip production (QSP) technology, will produce up to 1 million mt/year of the hot strip at the steelworks’ existing site in Bekabad, eastern Uzbekistan. Uzmetkombinat plans to break ground on the project by the end of this year.
TOTAL (TOT) Expands Operation in Kazakhstan’s Dunga Project
TOT and its partners have approved the Phase 3 development of the onshore Dunga field in the Mangystau Region of western Kazakhstan. Courtesy of the approval, new wells will be added to the existing infrastructure and the processing plant will be upgraded to enhance its capacity by 10 percent to 20,000 barrels of oil per day by 2022. This will add production of more than 70 million barrels of reserves.
Uzbekistan, Afghanistan to Sign New Contract for Electricity Supply
Uzbekistan and Afghanistan plan to sign a 10-year contract by the end of October 2019 for electricity supply on “take-or-pay” terms. The Uzbek side made the key decision that it would build a 500 kV line from Surkhandarya to Afghanistan, which would allow it to export three times more electricity than it does now.
IMF Forecasts Oil Sector Growth in Azerbaijan
IMF Mission Chief for Azerbaijan Natalia Tamirisa recently stated that Azerbaijan’s oil sector growth should rise by 2.5 percent this year. She said that the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline network will also become operational in 2019. Once this occurs, she estimated that the growth will start to moderate to about 1.2 percent going forward as oil production declines.
SF Airlines Launches Route Links China, Kazakhstan
A new air freight route was launched on July 4, which links Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Almaty in Kazakhstan. It was the second international all-cargo air route launched by Xinjiang following a route between Urumqi and Bishkek of Kyrgyzstan in May. Charter flight service will be operated by SF Airlines, the aviation branch of China’s express giant SF Express, twice a week, using a Boeing 757-200 aircraft with a maximum loading capacity of 28 tonnes (28,000 kg).
South Korea Starts Program to Hire Seasonal Agriculture Workers from Kyrgyzstan
On July 5, the Republic of Korea launched a program to hire Kyrgyz citizens for seasonal agricultural work in South Korea. According to the program, 116 citizens of Kyrgyzstan arrived in the province of Gangwon-do (South Korea) for temporary employment on local farms.
(Sources: AKI Press, Anadolu Agency, Armenpress, AzerNews, Crime Russia, Daily Sabah, Eurasianet, Reuters, RFE/RL, S&P Global, The Times of Central Asia, Trend, UNHCR, UzDaily.com, Xinhua News, and Yahoo! Finance.)