Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Georgia Cancels Contract for Major Black Sea Port Project
Georgia has terminated an investment agreement with an international consortium for the construction of a major deep-sea Anaklia port on the Black Sea coast. The port was deemed as the project of the century that would turn Georgia into a global entrepot as part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. The decision to revoke the contract comes amidst delays from the Anaklia Development Consortium and unwillingness of the government to provide guarantees on loan repayment.
SOCAR Sets to Open New Gas Stations in Ukraine
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) plans to open new gas station complexes in several cities of Ukraine, including Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipro, in 2020. These will add to the existing 60 gas stations currently functioning in the SOCAR Energy Ukraine, 13 of which are located in the Kyiv region.
EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Reaffirms Commitment to Energy Cooperation
Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas stated that energy cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU) goes beyond the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). While he stressed the paramount significance of SGC that would physically connect the EU and Azerbaijan, Jankauskas noted the abundance of other important ongoing projects as well.
Azerbaijan to Foster Renewables Development
Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov spoke on the implementation of major projects in the energy sector and plans for 2020. He noted that Azerbaijan sees the development of renewable sources of energy as one of the main priorities and aims to decrease the volume of greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent till 2030 in line with the country’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Azerbaijan and Italy to Discuss Economic Ties at Intergovernmental Commission
The 5th meeting of the Azerbaijani-Italian Intergovernmental Commission on economic cooperation is to be held in Rome on January 14. Azerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov and Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Manlio Di Stefano will meet in Rome to discuss the prospects of deepening cooperation in trade, economy, energy, infrastructure, investment, agriculture, culture, and tourism.
Ganja Automobile Plant Finalizes Agreement with Finnish Company
Azerbaijan’s Ganja Automobile Plant announced the launch of the assembly of Finnish combine harvesters of the Sampo-Roselew brand in 2020. Additionally, in line with the cooperation agreement signed with Sampo, the plant will provide after-sales services. According to a Ganja Auto official, the company will also aim to export the combined to the nearest markets in the future.
EuroChem Invests in New Fertilizer Plant in Kazakhstan
EuroChem Mineral and Chemical Company and Kazakhstani Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development signed an investment agreement to build and operate a $1 billion fertilizer plant in the Zhambyl region. Once it starts operations in 2021, the new plant will produce one million tons of fertilizers per year and create 2000 new jobs.
Kazakhstan’s Exports Fell by 4.5 percent in 2019
Kazakhstan’s export volume fell from $50 billion in 2018 to $47.7 billion in 2019, rounding up to 60.1 percent of all trade volumes, according to the Ministry of National Economy’s Statistics Committee. Trade turnover increased by 3 percent compared to 2018, amounting to $79.1 billion. Import increased 17 percent in 2019, from $26.8 billion in 2018 to 31.4 million. The share of imports in total trade increased from 34.9 percent to 39.6 percent in 2019.
P&G Considers Beginning Production in Uzbekistan
Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) reportedly is considering the potential of starting to manufacture products in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade has recently hosted the P&G delegation that arrived to discuss this possibility with Uzbek officials. The parties agreed to work closely together to explore the potential of the initiative.
Kyrgyzstan to Strengthen Efforts to Mitigate Shadow Economy
The Kyrgyz government will accelerate the efforts to curb the shadow economy in 2020. As Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev stated, a number of measures in this direction, such as automatic monitoring systems at the border checkpoints with Kazakhstan, have already been implemented. In addition to that, vehicle examination systems will be installed at the external border of the Eurasian Economic Union, expediting the customs process and reducing false declarations. Meanwhile, the government will continue to further digitalize tax and customs procedures in 2020.
Security and Politics
Kyrgyz PM Increases Security Along Tajik Border After Incident
The Kyrgyz Border Guard Service claim that gunshots were fired from the Tajik side, while the Tajik Border Guard Service blame Kyrgyz residents in Kok-Tash. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry reported no causalities. Both countries’ presidents affirmed their commitment to border stability, and delegations from both sides are set to hold talks on January 14.
Upgrades to Azerbaijani Army’s Infrastructure to be Completed by 2021
Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said that live-fire exercises and practical training will be held to increase combat readiness. Improvements are to be made to professional training and the use of more powerful weapons for the aim of suppressing actions of Armenian armed forces. Additionally, new food warehouses have been opened close to the frontline to support armed forces.
Kazakhstan Increases Security Measures After Killing of Soleimani
After U.S. airstrikes killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for increased security of government agencies and companies operating in the Middle East and increased monitoring of possible domestic threats. Since the airstrikes, Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s largest airline, has avoided operating in Iraq and Iran’s airspace.
Border Checkpoints Between Turkmenistan and Iran Close
On January 8, border checkpoints between Turkmenistan and Iran at Bajgyran, Artyk, and Etrek were closed. This follows the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by U.S. airstrikes. Turkmenistan Airlines has suspended all flights over Iran.
Germany Gifts the Georgian Defense Ministry 12 New Vehicles
Germany gifted the Georgian Defense Ministry eight water tank carriers and four container carriers in an affirmation of German support of Georgian sovereignty. These gifts come shortly after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Black Sea region is of strategic importance and that NATO has increased its presence there.
Kazakhstan Assumes Leadership of Group of Landlocked Developing Countries
Kazakhstan will lead the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) for 2020-2021. The group consists of 32 nations – sixteen in Africa; ten in Asia, including all five Central Asian countries and Afghanistan; four in Europe and two in South America. Kazakhstan will continue implementing the Vienna Program of Action for LLDCs (2014–2024) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to economically develop landlocked countries and increase relations with transit countries.
Kazakhstan Implements 72-hour Visa Waiver for Indian and Chinese Citizens
This visa waiver has been adopted for traveling through six cities – Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Aktau, Karaganda and Taraz – with the hope of increasing transit visitors and tourism. This is part of a long-term development program which aims to promote trade and tourism through relaxing requirements on foreigners to visit Kazakhstan.
Turkmenistan to Join International Conventions
Turkmenistan will join a number of international conventions including United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements in the economic sphere, which aims to foster international trade and trade mediation; the European Agreement of Main International Traffic Arteries, which seeks to create an international road system utilized by the UN Economic Commission for Europe; the Stockholm Convention Persistent Organic Pollutants; the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions; and the Patent Law Treaty, which aims to improve the process of consideration of national patent applications.
Abkhaz Leader Resigns with No Intention to Run Again
Raul Khajimba, leader of the self-proclaimed Georgian republic of Abkhazia resigned after four days of protests and does not plan on running for re-election. The Abkhaz parliament named de facto Prime Minister Valery Bganba as acting president, stating the cabinet will continue to operate until a new president is elected. Protests began January 9, when demonstrators stormed the building housing Khajimba’s administration claiming he won in a fraudulent election. The de facto court of Abkhazia announced that the elections were illegitimate and called for new elections.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, AKI Press, Astana Times, Azer News, Caspian News, Cincinnati Business Courier, Eurasianet, Reuters, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency.)