Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Azerbaijan Commences Regular Natural Gas Deliveries to the European Union
On December 31, 2020, Azerbaijan began the commercial delivery of natural gas from its Shah Deniz 2 field in the Caspian Sea to Italy, Greece, and Bulgaria via the newly constructed Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). TAP is the newest 545-mile segment of the Southern Gas Corridor, which aims to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey to the European Union. Construction on the pipeline was completed in mid-November.
Uzbekistan Planning to Construct New Solar Plants
Uzbekistan is planning to build three solar photovoltaic plants in Bukhara, Namangan, and Khorezm regions. The project is part of the “Scaling Solar 3” framework and will start in February 2021. According to the Ministry of Energy, tender offers will identify potential investors.
Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia Sign Wind Farm Deal
The Azerbaijani Energy Ministry and Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power Company inked an agreement to construct a 240 MW wind power farm on December 29. The new wind farm will contribute to the Azerbaijani government’s plans to diversify its energy resources and expand its renewable energy sector.
SOCAR Plans to Install Electric Charging Equipment in All Gas Stations
The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) adopted an initiative to install charging equipment for electric cars in all of its gas stations by the end of June 2021. The company owns 37 gas stations in the country. This initiative is a further development in Azerbaijan’s push to adopt clean energy practices.
Kazakhstan Looks to Purchase Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine
According to Kazakhstan’s Vice Minister of Healthcare Marat Shoranov, Kazakhstan has signed an agreement with Pfizer to purchase the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Shoranov also notes that the vaccine has strict storage requirements and will be twice as expensive as the Russian vaccines. Kazakhstan has already begun the production of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
ADB To Provide Tajikistan Financial Assistance to Restore Roads in Khatlon Province
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will grant Tajikistan $67.49 million to improve two road sections in Khatlon province – from Danghara to Oqmazor, and from Hulbuk to Kangurt. The project will start in 2021 and is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
Kyrgyzstan and Russia to Increase Bilateral Cooperation
During a meeting between the First Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Artem Novikov and the Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Nikolay Udovichenko, the two sides discussed strengthening bilateral cooperation in trade, economy, health, and transport. Novikov also stressed the importance of a $20 million assistance package that Russia is providing Kyrgyzstan to fill the country’s budget gap.
Azerbaijan Extends COVID-19 Related Financial Support Measures
The Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) extended relief measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic until April 1, 2021. This included the extension of programs to reduce fees for online transactions intended to stimulate non-cash payments during the pandemic, extended benefits associated with loan payments, and other initiatives to support small- and medium-sized enterprises navigate the financial hardships of the pandemic.
Armenian Lawmaker Proposes Eliminating Tax Payments on Donated Goods
Armenian member of parliament Sisak Gabrielyan proposed legislation to eliminate tax payments on donated goods to the country. MP Gabrielyan argues that implementation of the bill will incentivize more individuals to provide financial assistance to Armenia because their payments will not incur further costs. Parliament is scheduled to debate the issue.
Security and Politics
Turkish Troops Arrive in Azerbaijan to Join Turkish-Russian Center in Nagorno-Karabakh
Turkish troops tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Azerbaijan. Up to 35 Turkish troops will be stationed at the Joint Turkish-Russian Center, located in Aghdam, a recently reclaimed territory of Azerbaijan. After the construction of the site is completed, the number of troops will be increased to 60. Turkish forces are expected to remain at the center for one year.
Kazakhstan Abolishes the Death Penalty
On January 2, Kazakhstan abolished the death penalty after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed the ratification of the “Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, directed at the abolition of the death penalty.” Kazakhstan has not administered capital punishment since 2003.
Kyrgyz Police on Heightened Alert for Upcoming Elections
Interior Minister Ulan Niyazbekov said that the police force will be on “raised alert” starting January 8 to ensure public safety and order during the January 10 presidential election and referendum. Over 11,000 police officers will be involved, with 5,000 stationed at polling locations.
Prime Minister Pashinyan Invites Opposition to Hold Consultation on Snap Elections
Although rejecting calls to step down, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan offered to meet with opposition groups to hold a consultation on snap elections sometime in 2021. Pashinyan came under fire after the trilateral peace agreement ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which saw Azerbaijan reclaim territory in Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions.
Heads of Azerbaijani and Armenian Security Services Meet in Moscow
The Head of the Azerbaijani State Security Service Ali Nagiyev held a meeting with the Director of the Armenian National Security Service of Armenia Armen Abazyan through the Director of the Russian Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov. They discussed the implementation of the trilateral peace agreement, the fight against terrorism in liberated territories, and the exchange of prisoners.
Drones to Record Traffic Violations in Fergana Region
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, traffic violations will be recorded through the use of drones starting January 1, 2020. This technology will record driving violations such as speeding, phone use while driving, and not yielding to pedestrians. The drones will also record noncompliance to mask-wearing public safety orders.
Tajikistan to Establish Virology Lab in 2021
The president of the National Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan Farhod Rahimi said a new virology lab, essential to the production of COVID-19 vaccines, will be established next year with help from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Specialists will be trained in Beijing and Minsk.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, AKI Press, Azernews, Asia-Plus TJ, Caspian News, Fergana News, Kazinform, Report News Agency, RFE/RL, Trend News Agency, UZ Daily.)