Media Highlights of the Week
ENERGY & ECONOMY
TAP Project Continues Despite Possible Disruptions from COVID-19
Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) AG Consortium announced that pipeline delivery from Azerbaijan to Europe will continue despite possible changes caused by the spread of COVID-19. The company has announced that a majority of its employees from Albania, Greece, Italy, and Switzerland are working from home. Only business-essential activities will continue without disruptions as the company vamps up their practices to align with public health officials. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline project has been in its construction phase since 2016.
SOCAR and Equinor Confirm the Discovery of Karabagh Oil Field in Azerbaijan
SOCAR and Equinor have confirmed a discovery of Karabagh field located 74.5 miles (120 kilometers) offshore, east of Baku, in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. Drilling of the first appraisal well at Karabagh oil field was started on December 23, 2019. The well was drilled in a water depth of 590 feet (180 meters) by the Dada Gorgud semi-submersible drilling rig operated by SOCAR’s Caspian Drilling Company (CDC). The reservoir is at a depth of approximately 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers). The estimated size of the discovered volumes of oil and gas are satisfactory for pursuing commercial development of the Karabagh field.
Azerbaijan Restores Country’s Largest Hydro Power Station
Azerbaijan has repaired the Mingachevir Hydroelectric Power Plant. The facility’s security, reliability, and stability were strengthened to mitigate the results of an accident which occurred in the power plant in 2018.
Hyundai Signs $60 Million Deal to Provide Turkmenistan with Buses
The South Korean-based company, Hyundai Motor, signed a deal with Turkmenistan to provide buses with enhanced security measures and are compliant with Euro-4 emission standards. The $60 million deal, or $150,000 per bus, is not surprising as Hyundai Motor has already supplied Turkmenistan with 1,200 buses of varying models. The buses from this deal will operate in the capital city of Ashgabat.
Seasonal Tajik Workers Impacted by Russian Border Closures
Moscow’s announcement that its borders would be closing to foreigners starting March 18 until at least May 1 sparked panic amongst Tajik workers who depend on seasonal employment in Russia to support their families. Thousands of Tajik workers migrate to Russia annually to take on seasonal jobs at construction sites, factories, and farms. For some, this work is their only source of income. Many hope that they will still be able to travel to Russia for work once the restrictions caused by the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.
POLITICS & SECURITY
Pompeo Visited Afghanistan
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Afghanistan to attempt to broker a deal between President Ashraf Ghani and his political opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. Pompeo hoped to mitigate discrepancies over the presidential election results, claiming that it was vital to quickly come to a resolution to avoid the faltering of a peace deal with the Taliban. Pompeo had to leave Afghanistan on March 23 without the announcement that a deal had been brokered.
The United States Terminates Funding for Nagorno-Karabakh
The United States has removed funding for its program to remove land mines in Nagorno-Karabakh, citing that there have been no reported civilian injuries from land mines in the region since 2017. Despite Armenian opposition to end the program, U.S. officials have suggested that the funds from the program could be allocated to promote good governance in Armenia and to support energy security programs in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan Agree to Improve Telecommunication with a Fiber-Optic Cable Line
A state visit by Turkmen President Berdymukhamedov to Azerbaijan culminated in a memorandum of understanding to construct a fiber-optic cable line along the bottom of the Caspian Sea. The line will stretch 186 miles and will act as the primary hub for internet traffic between Europe and South Asia. Other countries in the region will benefit from the project, such as Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
Abkhaz Opposition Leader Wins “Presidency” of Breakaway Georgian Region
Opposition leader Aslan Bzhania was declared the winner of a repeat presidential election by the Abkhaz Central Election Commission. According to the commission chairman, Bzhania won 56.6 percent of the vote. This election comes after the Abkhaz Supreme Court annulled the presidential victory of Raul Khajimba.
Trial of Kyrgyz Former President Postponed
A Kyrgyz court postponed the trial of former president Almazbek Atambayev for a week due to the drop in his blood pressure as the trial began on March 23. Atambayev and thirteen others are being tried for murder, threatening or assaulting representatives of authorities, hostage-taking, and forced power seizure. The standoff with law enforcement took place last summer at his compound in a Bishkek suburb.
Uzbek Draft-Bill Aimed to Ease Restrictions on Living in Tashkent
A draft-bill designed to ease the so-called propiska (residency registration process), which limits the ability of Uzbeks to legally reside in the capital city of Tashkent, fell short of public praise. The bill allows for temporary residents of Tashkent to renew their status every few months instead of having to seek a family member or friend in Tashkent to sponsor them.
Georgia Pledges to Support South Ossetia and Abkhazia
State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia Ketevan Tsikhelashvili has urged residents of these two regions to comply with World Health Organization recommendations. Despite tensions, he stated that the Georgian government has promised to support the two self-declared republics amidst the COVID-19 crisis. This month, two regions have experienced shortages of vital medical supplies.
MH17 Trial Lasts Less Than an Hour – Follow-Up Trial’s Date Set
The third trial in the Netherlands for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 convened March 23. Head judge Hendrik Steenhuis explained the rescheduling of the trial: “The court decided to postpone the decision on additional investigations until the hearing, which will begin on June 8, 2020.” Flight MH17 traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over the contested region of Donbas. The Netherlands and Australia formally accused Russia of being responsible for the plane crash in 2018.
Azerbaijani Parliament Creates Information Exchange Groups Amidst Social Distancing
The parliament of Azerbaijan has made three online information exchange groups so that officials can stay productive while working from home. The three groups are meant to foster communication between the leadership of the Azerbaijani parliament and the heads of committees and commissions; between the leadership of the parliament and the leaders of political parties in parliament; and between the leadership of the parliament and senior officials of the Office of the Azerbaijani parliament and the Department of Affairs of the Azerbaijani parliament respectively.
Germany to Allocate 500,000 Euros to Kyrgyzstan
Germany pledged to aid Kyrgyzstan 500,000 euros (537,590 USD) in order to fight COVID-19 in the country. This money is a grant which was provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The funds will be used for protective equipment, training medical staff, and raising awareness in the Kyrgyzstani population.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Akipress, Anadolu Agency, Azernews, Caspian News, Eurasianet, News.am, Reuters, RFE/RL, SOCAR.az, Ukrinform, and 24.kg.)