Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
The United States, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan Launch Central Asia Investment Partnership
The United States, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan jointly launched the Central Asia Investment Partnership, an initiative designed to raise at least $1 billion over the next five years to support private-sector growth and bolster regional economic cooperation. The initiative will utilize the existing infrastructure established by the C5+1 multilateral format. The three involved countries expressed their support for other countries in the region to join the initiative.
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia Increase Oil Output After OPEC+ Meeting
Last week, Russia convened a meeting among member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil-producing nations to discuss oil production amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the agreement, Kazakhstan will increase production by 10,000 bpd in February and again in March. Russia plans to increase its production by 65,000 bpd on the same timeline. Azerbaijan will increase its oil production by 8,000 bpd. The OPEC+ countries agreed to drastically scale down oil production last March after demand fell due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Sends Wheat and Soybeans to Georgia
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has committed to sending 13,000 tons of wheat for sale on the Georgian market and will bolster local agribusiness. The USDA will also allocate 4,000 tons of soybeans necessary for supporting the country’s agricultural sector.
Afghanistan Requests Tajikistan to Increase Power Supply
Afghanistan requested that Tajikistan increase its power supply to the country from 80 MW to 120 MW. Afghanistan experienced severe power shortages after electricity imports from Uzbekistan were discontinued on January 6 due to technical issues. The capital city, Kabul, reported only having electricity for 20 minutes on January 7 due to shortages.
Kazakhstan Prepares for Arrival of Foreign Banks Following New Law
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan signed new amendments to the application procedure for foreign banks operating in the country into law. According to the new law, foreign banks will be eligible to open branches in Kazakhstan after submitting a simplified application. This new law follows a December 16 decision to grant foreign banks permission to operate in the country, a prerequisite to acceding to the World Trade Organization.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan Plan to Resume Regular Flight Service
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are considering resuming regular flight service between Dushanbe and Tashkent in late January or early February. Flight service between the two capital cities was suspended following the COVID-19 outbreak. Plans to resume regular flight service on November 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021, were both postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.
Tajikistan to Increase Flight Connectivity with Russia
Tajikistan’s privately-owned carrier Somon Air announced plans of operating more than 130 charter flights from Russia to Tajikistan this month. Flights between the two countries have been suspended since March 20, 2020, but charter flights repatriated about 70,000 Tajik nationals between April and October. Russian and Tajik authorities continue to negotiate the restoration of regular flights, but Somon Air’s charter options will provide connections between Dushanbe and the Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Ufa, Krasnodar, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, and Surgut.
Security and Politics
Japarov Wins Election While Referendum to Return to Presidential Rule Passes
Sadyr Japarov won the Kyrgyz presidential election with 79.9 percent of the vote. In the referendum, 84.2 percent of voters supported the transition to a presidential system, while only 11.2 percent voted to retain the parliamentary system. The Constitutional Council must prepare a new draft constitution, and a second referendum for it will be conducted in the spring.
Nur Otan Secures Majority of Votes in Parliamentary Elections
Exit polls carried out by the Public Opinion Research Institute indicated that the Nur Otan Party secured 72 percent of the votes, Ak Zhol Democratic Party secured 10.2 percent of votes, closely followed by the People’s Party of Kazakhstan with 9 percent. Of the 312 candidates that were nominated by five political parties, 126 were from the Nur Otan Party, 113 were from the People’s Party of Kazakhstan, and 38 were from the Ak Zhol Democratic Party.
Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to Meet for Trilateral Talks in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan are scheduled to meet for trilateral discussions in Moscow today. The leaders will review the implementation of the peace agreement signed by the three parties on November 10, 2020, that ended the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Further discussions are dedicated to the establishment of trade and economic linkages.
Armenian and Azerbaijani Security Services Hold Meeting
The heads of the security services of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan met on January 9. The Director of the National Security Service of Armenia, Armen Abazyan, met with the Director of the State Security Service of Azerbaijan, Ali Nagiyev, in a neutral border zone adjacent to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and the village of Yeraskh in Armenia. The two officials discussed the continuing exchange of prisoners of war as well as the search for missing soldiers.
Chair of Uzbek Senate Meets with U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues
Chair of the Senate, Tanzila Narbaeva, met with U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Kelley Eckels Currie. At the meeting, Currie welcomed the creation of an informal platform for the Dialogue of Women Leaders of Central Asian Countries and Afghanistan. Currie also recommended the creation of a project to support women’s entrepreneurship within the framework of the C5 + 1 format.
Georgian Battalion Leaves for NATO Mission in Afghanistan
The 32nd Infantry Battalion of the Georgian Defense Forces (GDF) left Tbilisi to replace the 13th Infantry Battalion at Bagram Air Base, which is located north of Kabul. The departing battalion is the second GDF unit that has undergone all training for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Georgia.
Georgia Offers Assistance to Abkhazia as Wildfires Rage
A series of wildfires continue to burn in Georgia and in the country’s occupied region of Abkhazia. Georgian authorities have offered support to Abkhazia, although these gestures have been rejected by the Russian-backed de facto authorities. Georgia reports that Abkhaz authorities continue to reject support, and Tbilisi remains concerned about the effects on the local population.
Georgia’s New Parliament Adopts Resolution on Foreign Policy
Georgia’s new parliament recently approved a resolution that defines the country’s foreign policy for the near future. The resolution includes themes beyond issues of territorial integrity and de-occupation to cover hybrid threats from Russia, Euro-Atlantic integration, and relations with partner states. Georgia’s Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani commented on the new priorities, adding that Georgia has plans to apply for full EU membership by 2024.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Azernews, Asia-Plus, Astana Times, Caspian News, Eurasianet, Kloop, Report News Agency, Trend News Agency, U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Kazakhstan, and UZ Daily.)