Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
OPEC and non-OPEC Oil Producers Negotiate a New Deal on Output Cuts
During a ministerial videoconference, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia-led non-OPEC bloc reached a new deal on the gradual increase of production starting January 2021. According to the agreement, the output will increase by 500,000 barrels per day until it hits the overall production cut of 5.8 million barrels per day. The parties also agreed to meet once a month starting next year to discuss market developments and make necessary production adjustments.
Asian Development Bank Allocates $105 Million Grant to Tajikistan’s Power Sector
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $105 million grant to improve the resilience and sustainability of Tajikistan’s power sector. The financed reforms include restructuring Tajikistan’s power distribution company and adopting a tariff methodology. In addition, new distribution networks will be constructed. The new reforms and distribution networks are expected to reduce the cost of metering, lower outage costs, and improve the reliability of electricity transmission.
Uzbekistan Opens the Tashkent Metallurgy Plant
Uzbekistan officially opened the Tashkent Metallurgy Plant after three and a half years of construction. It is projected that the plant will produce 500,000 tons of zinc and polymers annually. Officials hope that hundreds of nearby enterprises will benefit from the metal sheets manufactured from this plant. The plant will employ 700 people directly but could create as many as 5,000 jobs in adjacent industries.
Polish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Calls for Heightened Bilateral Cooperation
The Polish ambassador to Azerbaijan, Rafal Poborski, called for improving bilateral relations between the two countries. He noted that sealing a deal between the European Union and Azerbaijan and ensuring that Azerbaijan accede to the World Trade Organization were cornerstones to improving relations. He also proposed enhancing multimodal transport corridors between Europe and Asia that pass through both countries.
USAID and Enterprise Georgia Collaborate on COVID-19 Mitigation Projects
USAID and Enterprise Georgia launched their partnership to attract foreign direct investment to Georgia to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19 related shutdowns. The partnership will prioritize export-oriented projects, such as electronics, mechanical parts, and medical instruments.
Georgian Restaurant Owners Propose Five-Point Plan to Support Hospitality Sector
Georgian restaurant owners have proposed a five-point plan to support the hospitality sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposals include offering state reimbursements for employees, guaranteeing loans from financial corporations, reducing the VAT rate for the hospitality sector, creating a grace period for paying utility bills and extending the income tax subsidy program. The proposal comes amidst further shutdowns by the government to curb the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Kyrgyzstan Lifts COVID-19 Border Restrictions
On December 5, Kyrgyzstan lifted its COVID-19 border restrictions, allowing international visitors to enter the country through Manas, Osh, and Issyk-Kul international airports. Visitors must display a negative PCR test administered 72 hours before the flight. Kyrgyzstan will offer tests for passengers who arrive with expired test results. Kyrgyzstan’s borders have remained closed since the initial coronavirus outbreak in the spring.
Security and Politics
CSTO Holds Collective Security Council Session
Leaders from CSTO including Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Kazakhstan’s President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Kyrgyzstan’s acting President Talant Mamytov, and CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas participated in the Collective Security Council meeting. The meeting focused on measures to counter threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and cyberattacks.
Georgian Soldiers Join NATO Mission in Afghanistan
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili bid farewell to 100 Georgian servicemen of the Georgian Defense Forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. The objective of the Resolute Support mission, launched in 2015, is to train, advise, and assist Afghan Security Forces. Georgia is the largest non-NATO member to contribute to the initiative.
Kazakhstan to Produce Russia’s “Sputnik V” Vaccine
The president’s office released a statement on December 4 saying that an agreement was reached with the Russian government to allow for the production of the “Sputnik V” vaccine in Kazakhstan starting December 22. Kazakhstan plans to begin public vaccinations early next year. Kazakhstan is also developing its own vaccine, which is expected to conclude its third phase of trials at the end of March 2021.
Armenia’s New Foreign Minister Pays Visit to Moscow
Armenia’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on December 7 in Moscow. The two discussed the current state of affairs regarding the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ayvazyan highlighted the need for the rapid implementation of a policy to exchange prisoners and deceased soldiers between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Kyrgyz Supreme Court Cancels Atambaev’s Conviction, Sends Case Back for Retrial
Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court has canceled the conviction and prison sentence of former President Almazbek Atambaev that was handed to him in June over the illegal release of Aziz Batukaev. He was arrested in August after inciting rebellion against then-President Sooronbay Jeenbekov. Trials were postponed due to Atambaev’s health and the pandemic. Protesters illegally freed Mr. Atambayev from a detention center in Bishkek following protests of the election. He was rearrested soon after and charged with organizing illegal demonstrations.
Georgian Dream Holds Meeting with Opposition Parties
Leaders of Georgia’s current ruling party, Georgian Dream, met with the leaders of eight opposition parties that were voted in during the October 31 parliamentary elections. This was the third round of meetings between Georgian Dream and the opposition, and the opposition is still demanding that repeat elections be held. The diplomatic corps is currently mediating talks between the two sides to help end the stalemate in Parliament.
Uzbek Ministry of Public Education and USAID Partner to Help Improve Secondary Education
From November 30 to December 4, more than 80 education professionals participated in a virtual workshop on “Curriculum Development and Review” hosted by the USAID-funded Education for Excellence Program. This workshop focused on modern curriculum development, including student standards, student textbooks, and teacher guides. USAID initiated the four-year Uzbekistan Education for Excellence Program in December 2019 to support reforms in the general secondary education system.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Armenpress.com, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, Eurasianet, Kazinform, RFE/RL, Times of Central Asia, UzDaily)