Media Highlights of the Week – April 12, 2021
Energy and Economy
Azerbaijan and Croatia Discuss Cooperation in Energy Projects
During a meeting, Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov and Croatian Ambassador Branko Zebic talked about current energy projects and identified areas for future cooperation and partnership. The two sides discussed the progress of the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline that could be connected with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and expressed interest in further developing green energy projects.
Azerbaijan to Increase its Offshore Wind Energy Capacity
In a virtual meeting between Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov and representatives from the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the sides discussed the development of offshore wind energy infrastructure in Azerbaijan. The parties emphasized the importance of establishing a road map and attracting new investors to facilitate green growth projects and support the country’s decarbonization plans.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Broker Trade Hub
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan brokered a large-scale trade and economic cooperation hub along the border of the two countries. The hub has the capacity to transit 35,000 people and up to 5,000 trucks from each side across the border daily. The hub is located at the Gishtkoprik-Zhibek Zholy border checkpoint.
Kazakhstani MPs Approve Ban on Foreigners Buying and Renting Farmland
Deputies in the lower chamber of Kazakhstan’s parliament approved a bill banning foreigners from buying and renting farmland in the country. The bill was proposed by President Kassym Jomart-Tokayev in February. The law will come into effect as Kazakhstan’s five-year moratorium on purchases or rentals of farmland by foreigners comes to an end.
EU Commits to Supporting Infrastructure Projects in Georgia
The European Union has committed to supporting infrastructure projects in six municipalities of Georgia’s Imereti and Guria regions. The project is estimated at 2.5 million GEL ($729,000) and is a part of Georgia’s Pilot Integrated Development Grant Programme. The funding will renovate bridges, build roads, and establish tourist and business development service centers.
Tajik Migrants Scramble to Purchase Return Tickets from Russia
On March 26, Russia lifted its stringent border restrictions imposed in March 2020 to stem the spread of COVID-19. Regular flight service between Russia and Tajikistan resumed but tickets remain scarce. Several Tajiks have opted to take on debt to purchase expensive tickets home.
Turkmen Currency Continues to Fall
Turkmenistan’s currency continues to fall on the black market amidst economic downturns. On April 3, the manat fell to 40 to the U.S. dollar, which was more than 11 times the official rate. In addition, the black-market exchange rate dropped by more than 20 percent in one week.
Security and Politics
Aliyev Claims that Iskander-M Missiles Were Used in Second Karabakh War
On April 12, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed that Iskander-M missiles were used by Armenia in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. He claimed that Azerbaijan has “enough information” and is only waiting for an “official explanation” of their use.
Kyrgyz Voters Approve Constitutional Amendments Strengthening the Presidency
The Central Election Commission reported that with 90 percent of ballots counted, results showed that around 79 percent of voters backed the constitutional amendments. It said turnout was around 35 percent, just above the 30 percent threshold required to make the referendum valid. The new constitution reduces the size of parliament by 25 percent to 90 seats and gives the president the power to appoint judges and heads of law enforcement agencies. The president will now be able to run for reelection.
Georgian Opposition Leader Goes on Trial
Nika Melia, the jailed leader of Georgia’s main opposition force, went on trial on April 8. The hearing was held behind closed doors due to the pandemic, with hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the courtroom. The next hearing is set for April 13. Melia is accused of organizing “mass violence” during 2019 anti-government protests, and he could face nine years behind bars if convicted.
EU Says Further Financial Aid to be Made Conditional on Georgian Judiciary Reforms
The EU says that revising the selection process of Georgian Supreme Court judges in line with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission recommendations will be a condition for the disbursement of the second tranche of macro-financial assistance to Georgia under its current program. On April 1, the Georgian parliament adopted legislative amendments reviewing the selection process of Supreme Court judges. EU officials criticized the Georgian parliament for swiftly adopting the amendments “without an inclusive consultation process.”
Azerbaijan and Turkey Hold Joint Military Exercises
On April 8-9, Azerbaijan and Turkey held joint military exercises aimed at “improving interactions” between the countries’ military forces. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement that the drills were aimed at “developing the military decision-making, initiative, and management skills of operational unit commanders.”
Tajikistan and Iran to Form a Defense Committee
Iranian and Tajik authorities have agreed to establish a joint defense committee. Iran’s Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Mohammad Baqeri said that this committee would determine the future of Tajik-Iranian security cooperation. According to Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo, the fight against terrorism is dependent on the expansion of cooperation between the countries of the region.
Rahmon Says Vorukh Exclave Won’t Be Part of Land Swaps
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon made a statement on April 9 on a visit to the Vorukh exclave, saying that it will not be part of a land swap with Kyrgyzstan. His statement comes weeks after a top Kyrgyz official publicly stated that Bishkek is ready to include the exclave in a land exchange.
Kazakhstani PM Meets with Roscosmos General Director
Kazakhstani Prime Minister Askar Mamin visited Baikonur city and met with Dmitri Rogozin, the General Director of Roscosmos. They discussed continued space cooperation between Kazakhstan and Roscosmos. They also watched the liftoff of the Soyuz MS-18 manned transport spacecraft and its docking with the International Space Station.
Pashinyan Asks Putin for Help in Releasing Armenian Detainees in Azerbaijan
On April 7, on a trip to Moscow, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in securing the release of dozens of detainees captured by Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the ceasefire agreement that ended the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. He told Putin that issues regarding prisoners of war, hostages, and detainees had not been settled. Pashinyan also said that Armenia was interested in acquiring more Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Azernews, Eurasianet, Fergana News, KazInform, RFE/RL, TASS, Washington Post)