Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Uzbekistan Cuts Natural Gas Exports in Anticipation of Winter Shortages
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered his government to cut natural gas exports in an effort to build up Uzbekistan’s domestic supply in anticipation of the winter months. President Mirziyoyev announced that Uzbekistan had a shortfall of 20 million cubic meters of gas daily. The new limitations could reserve an additional 7-8 million cubic meters of gas for Uzbek citizens. The decision was made amid increased power outages reported in the country this year.
Azerbaijan and Turkey to Construct New Gas Pipeline
Azerbaijan and Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the construction of a new gas pipeline that will run from Turkey’s Ighdir province to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. The new project is expected to be completed within a year and will significantly bolster the exclave’s energy security.
New Azerbaijani-Russian Commission to Oversee Hydroelectric Plant
Azerbaijani and Russian delegations at the 19th Meeting of the Azerbaijani-Russian Joint Commission established the Azerbaijani-Russian Commission for the Distribution of Water Resources of the Transboundary Samur River. The new commission will be responsible for overseeing the operations of the Samur River hydroelectric complex.
Azerbaijan and Italy Discuss Infrastructure Development in Karabakh
Italy has pledged to contribute to the construction of energy infrastructure in territories returned to Azerbaijan following its most recent war with Armenia. According to Italian company Ansaldo Energia, the project would include the construction of four 110 kW substations in the Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Gubadli regions.
IMF to Set Up a Regional Technical Assistance Center in Kazakhstan
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will set up a regional technical assistance center to help the Caspian states, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, bolster their economies during and in the aftermath of the pandemic. The center will be headquartered in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and will advise on multiple issues, including monetary policies, international trade, and financial stability.
Train Carrying Goods from Turkey Reaches China in 12 Days
The first train transporting goods from Turkey to China reached its destination in just 12 days. The train ran along the Trans-Caspian East-West Middle Corridor via Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. The 12-day trip started on December 4 and covered 5,401 miles of distance: 136.7 miles in Georgia, 267.2 miles in Azerbaijan, 261 miles across the Caspian Sea, and 1,988 miles in Kazakhstan. Officials hope that the new railway will facilitate greater regional economic collaboration.
Georgia Expands Enterprise Georgia Program
The Georgian government announced its plans to expand the Enterprise Georgia program to include seven additional sectors, including health and social services, forestry and fishing, and the processing industry. The program established and organized by the Georgian government, seeks to attract foreign investment and business attention for the South Caucasus republic. According to the expansion details, investors can receive the same benefits from these additional industries.
Azerbaijan To Auction Over One Hundred State Properties
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Economy announced that it will host an auction in January 2021 to transfer ownership of 103 facilities of state property, including 25 small state enterprises and non-finished facilities. The auction will be held in a remote format, and participation will be open to the public.
Kyrgyzstan and Turkey Sign Pension Agreement
Kyrgyzstan and Turkey inked a retirement agreement that would allow Kyrgyzstani citizens to enjoy the same social security rights as Turkish citizens. According to the agreement, Kyrgyzstani citizens working legally in Turkey are eligible to receive pension payments upon their arrival to Kyrgyzstan paid by the Turkish government. The same procedure applies to the Turkish citizens working in Kyrgyzstan.
European Union Grants Georgia $67 Million to Develop Rural Areas
The European Union (EU) granted Georgia a $67 million relief package to support the country’s agricultural and rural regions. The program will assist in implementing EU-quality standards in Georgia’s agricultural sector and support vulnerable communities residing in rural regions throughout the country.
FAO Reviews Uzbekistan’s Aquaculture Strategy
During the National Validation Webinar, experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) came together with the Uzbekistani officials to discuss the current status of aquaculture and offer ways to improve the sector’s productivity and efficiency. The meeting aimed to analyze new opportunities in the sector and finding ways to implement international best practices in the industry.
Security and Politics
Uzbekistan and Russia Complete Joint Special Forces Exercise
On December 14, Russian and Uzbek special forces concluded joint exercises in Termez, Uzbekistan. Tactical special forces of both militaries began training exercises at the beginning of December. In total, the exercises included about 200 participants, members of Uzbek law enforcement, and 20 units of military and special equipment which included four Mi-8 helicopters and drones.
Azerbaijan-European Union Partnership Council Meets in Brussels
The 17th Cooperation Council Meeting between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan was held on December 18 in Brussels, Belgium. The Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeyhun Bayramov was joined by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, and the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi. The Council discussed the bolstering of bilateral ties between the EU and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan’s reform agenda. The EU also reiterated its support for a negotiated peace to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its desire to facilitate the implementation process.
Armenia-European Union Partnership Council Meets in Brussels
On December 17, a Partnership Council meeting was held between representatives of the European Union and the Republic of Armenia. The Council reviewed the status of the implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and expressed its support for Armenia as it implements reforms. The parties also discussed the issues surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, in which the EU affirmed that it supports a lasting peace agreement.
Georgian Healthcare System Forms Partnership with the EU and WHO
The Georgian government has formed a partnership with the European Union and the World Health Organization to support the healthcare system and to provide equipment and training to health workers during the current pandemic. The announcement of the partnership included statements by the EU Ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell, and the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge. Georgia, the EU, and the WHO are discussing ways to support vaccine deployment and vaccination efforts in the country.
First Georgian Judge Appointed to the Hague International Criminal Court
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia nominated former deputy justice minister Gocha Lortkipanidze for a nine-year tenure role with the International Criminal Court based in the Hague, Netherlands. Previously, Lortkipanidze worked in the Georgian Foreign Ministry and as the prime minister’s advisor in foreign affairs and international law. Recently, he has served as the acting justice minister after the recent parliamentary elections in Georgia.
Azerbaijan Announces Plans for Returning Residents to Shusha
Faig Ismayilov of the Organization for Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Public Union conducted an inventory and assessment of Shusha to determine its ability to support the returning population. According to the evaluation, the water supply has returned, but there is still other infrastructure work that must be completed. It is expected that Azerbaijanis will be able to relocate to Shusha by next summer.
Tajikistan Bolsters Border Defenses After Reports of Tajik Militants in Afghanistan
Tajikistan recently deployed additional troops at the country’s southern border with Afghanistan after reports were made stating that Tajik militants were involved in a Taliban-organized capture of an Afghan district last month. Afghan officials concluded that the attack on the Maymay district in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province was carried out by foreign fighters, including Tajik militants. Tajikistan’s Security Service is continuing efforts of identifying those involved.
Afghan Officials Arrive in Tajikistan for Official Visit
A two-day official visit to Dushanbe, beginning on December 21, will be led by Afghanistan’s Chairman on the High Council for National Reconciliation, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Abduallah will hold talks with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Prime Minister Qohir Rasoulzoda, Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, and other officials. The talks will include discussions on trade and energy distribution, as well as the current security situation and the Afghan peace process.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Asia Plus, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, Fergana News, Report.az, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency and UZ Daily.)