Media Highlights of the Week
Energy and Economy
Shanghai Cooperation Organization Economic Forum Meets in Dushanbe
Economic Ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states met in the Dushanbe to discuss economic development in the digital age. A declaration was signed by those in attendance to increase cooperation through digital trade and innovation.
Azerbaijan and Turkey Sign Memorandum on Nakhchivan Gas Supply
Turkey and Azerbaijan have signed a memorandum of understanding to connect the exclave of Nakhchivan between Armenia and Turkey to gas from Azerbaijan. The joint venture seeks to route gas from existing pipelines through newly constructed pipelines to the region. The agreement was signed by the Ministers of Energy of both countries.
Capital Bank Kazakhstan Closes Amidst Lending Sector Clean-up
On June 25, the Financial Market Regulation and Development Agency revoked the license of Capital Bank Kazakhstan for failing to comply with capital level requirements. Capital Bank was the 23rd largest bank in Kazakhstan with $80 million assets. Following the revocation of licenses from Tengri Bank and AsiaCredit Bank, Capital Bank’s closure is the latest in the country’s efforts to increase regulation of the lending sector.
Kyrgyz Republic Receives International Assistance to Improve Water Services
To improve clean drinking access and wastewater services, six municipalities in the Kyrgyz Republic received €2.4 million worth of vehicles and maintenance equipment and over €33.6 million in grants and loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, European Union, and Global Environment Facility. The project aims to modernize water infrastructure for 165,000 citizens.
Kyrgyz-Turkmen Development Fund Created
President Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan and President Japarov of Kyrgyzstan established a $100 million Kyrgyz-Turkmen Development Fund during bilateral talks in Ashgabat. The Fund will support joint business ventures between the two countries, the construction of a Kyrgyz-Turkmen trading facility in Bishkek, and the supply of Turkmen electricity and natural gas to Kyrgyzstan.
Security and Politics
New Fighting with Taliban in Afghanistan Causes State Forces to Flee into Central Asia
Fresh fighting between the Afghan government and Taliban militants caused Afghan security forces to flee north into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan reported that 17 Afghan soldiers fled the country after a Taliban attack on a border checkpoint. Last week, the Taliban assumed control of Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan. The Taliban resurgence has renewed fears of spillover into Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, which all border Afghanistan.
Azerbaijan and Turkey Conduct Joint Tactical Drill Exercises
Azerbaijan and Turkey began joint military drills in Baku in order to improve the countries’ military interoperability. The ‘Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – 2021’ drills will last two days and include up to 600 personnel, 40 tanks and armored vehicles, and seven helicopters. Earlier this month, Ankara and Baku agreed to increase military and defense cooperation. According to the Azerbaijan Defense Ministry, the primary objectives of the exercises are “to improve interaction between the two countries’ army units during combat operations, to develop the commanders’ military decision-making skills and their ability to manage military units.”
Georgian Ruling Party and the Opposition Agree on Electoral Constitutional Amendments
The ruling Georgian Dream party and a coalition of opposition leaders came to a consensus on constitutional amendments initially proposed by the EU-mediated April 19 agreement. The proposed changes to the electoral law include: reduction of the election threshold from 4% to 2%; reduction of required number of members to form parliamentary factions from seven to four; election of the next Prosecutor General through qualified parliamentary majority or 76 MPs. The parties agreed that the latest date for approval of these constitutional changes is October.
International Observers Describe Armenian Elections as ‘Competitive and Generally Well-Managed’
The joint observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have concluded that Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections were competitive and generally well-managed, and most polling stations followed transparent vote count practices. The OSCE official statement noted that, “Reconciliation and counting procedures were followed overall, and observers noted very few significant procedural errors or serious violations.” On the whole, the election was characterized “by intense polarization and marred by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among key contestants.”
Delegation of EU Foreign Ministers Visit South Caucasus
Under the auspices of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell the foreign ministers of Austria, Romania, and Lithuania, Alexander Schallenberg, Bogdan Aurescu, and Gabrielius Landsbergis paid an official visit to the South Caucasus. Joined by the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar, the ministers visited Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia on June 24-26. The trip comes following the May 27 meeting in Lisbon of EU foreign ministers, at which the attendees discussed ways to more efficiently and actively address protracted conflicts in the Eastern Neighborhood.
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Mandate New COVID Restrictions as Delta Variant Causes Spike in Cases
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have mandated new COVID-19 restrictions due to a spike in cases caused by the more transmissable Delta variant. New restrictions in Uzbekistan limit the operations of entertainment facilities, recommend that mosques hold prayers outdoors, and restrict entry into Tashkent by bus and car for two weeks. Kazakhstan has designated most major cities as “red zones,” a classification that includes bans on visiting shopping and entertainment centers on the weekends and restrictions on indoor dining.
Dozens Rally in Kazakhstan to Demand Release of Man Jailed for Protests at Chinese Consulate
Dozens of demonstrators gathered in Almaty, Kazakhstan to demand the release of a man sentenced to 15 days in jail for participating in protests held in front of the Chinese consulate. The jailed man claims to have been protesting to prompt the Chinese government to release his detained relatives. About 30 protesters gathered on June 24 in support of the jailed Kazakhstani man despite authorities warning them that their gathering was illegal.
Popular Uzbek News Site Suspends Operations in Protest of Government-Imposed Fine
Kun.uz, a popular Uzbek news website suspended its operations in protest of a government-imposed fine on one of its reporters for publishing articles deemed in violation of Uzbekistan’s religious extremism legislation. Mahsudjon Askarov was fined about $1,200 for an article published in April about the Interior Ministry’s anti-religious extremism department.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Asia-Plus Tajikistan, Astana Times, Azernews, Caspian News, EBRD, EurasiaNet, Kabar, Report.az, RFE/RL, UZ Daily, Reuters)