Media Highlights of the Week- July 12, 2021
Energy and Economy Program
Tajik-Afghan Trade under Taliban Control
The Taliban have gained control over the main border-crossing between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the American-built Sher Khan Bandar. The gateway remains operational, with a Taliban spokesman reporting that the Taliban have assured the Tajik and Uzbek governments that border customs will remain unchanged and territorial sovereignty will be respected.
Uzbek-UN Committee Approves Development Plan for Aral Sea Region
The Advisory Committee on Sustainable Development of the Aral Sea region, an initiative organized by the Uzbek Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade and the United Nations (UN) to coordinate Aral Sea rehabilitation efforts, approved a draft multilateral action plan. The plan covers environmental, economic, social, and resource aspects of development, with a total of 248 projects and activities and a budget of about $205 million.
Azerbaijani-USAID Partnership Supports Local Businesses
USAID and the Azerbaijani Agency for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises signed a memorandum of understanding to support entrepreneurs in Azerbaijan. The two agencies will jointly implement projects to create a more competitive business environment, diversify markets, increase productivity, and introduce entrepreneurs to modern technology.
South Caucasus to Benefit from EU Eastern Partnership Investment
On July 2, the EU European Commission unveiled a $2.75 billion investment plan for Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. An additional $20.1 billion will potentially be available for public and private investments. Funding is geared towards supporting renewable energy projects, digitalization, gender equality, connectivity, trade, jobs, and rule of law. An Eastern Partnership summit is scheduled for December 2021.
Canadian Firm Continues Legal Contest over the Kyrgyz Kumtor Mine
The Canadian-firm Centerra Gold Inc., responsible for the operation of the Kumtor gold mine before the Kyrgyz Government assumed full control on June 1, filed a Notice of Arbitration this week. The notice seeks to hold the Kyrgyz Government and Kyrgyzaltyn JCS responsible for any losses and damages that occurred during the seizure of the mine.
Politics and Security Program
One Border Guard Killed, One Injured Along Kyrgyz-Tajik Border
One border guard from Kyrgyzstan was killed and one was injured following a dispute along the Tajikistan border. Both Tashkent and Dushanbe deny fault in what precipitated the incident and give two differing accounts. Currently, this is an isolated incident and has not led to a larger conflict following the deadly border conflict in April.
Tajikistan to Involve CSTO in Border Defense
Dushanbe requested support from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) after the Taliban continues to capture territory along the Tajik-Afghan border including the Shir Khan Bandar border crossing. The Tajik Representative to the CSTO Hasan Sultonov called on the CSTO to adopt “measures to strengthen the capacity to protect (Tajikistan’s) southern borders.” Russia operates a base in Southern Tajikistan and would be able to coordinate operations close to the Afghan border.
Protesters Demand the Resignation of Georgian Prime Minister
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has stated that he will not step down after calls for his resignation after a cameraman was found dead following the anti-Pride protests in early July. The government maintains that former President Saakashvili and the United National Movement are behind hosting the Pride march that was met with hostility from Georgian Orthodox and far-right groups. Those protesting the PM claimed that they will restart demonstrations if their deadline for his resignation is not met.
Tajikistan Repatriates 600 Afghan Soldiers Who Fled Across the Border
Tajikistan officials announced that 600 Afghan soldiers who had fled into the country to avoid the Taliban are being flown back to Afghanistan. At least three injured Afghan soldiers were not repatriated and were receiving treatment in Tajikistan. In the past several weeks, over 1,000 Afghan soldiers are estimated to have crossed into Tajikistan, but it is unclear how many remain.
Turkmenistan Mandates COVID-19 Vaccinations
Turkmenistan has made vaccinations mandatory for all citizens 18 years of age and older. Despite registering no cases of COVID-19, the Health Ministry announced that all adult citizens must get vaccinated. The majority of Turkmenistan’s vaccines have been procured from China and Russia.
Turkmenistan Meets with Taliban Representatives
Taliban representatives met with members of Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry to discuss “bilateral economic and political ties” and border security. These talks occur while there are reports that Turkmenistan is reinforcing its border guard and the Taliban is carrying out offensives in the Afghan provinces that border Turkmenistan.
(Sources: AsiaPlus, Civil.ge, Inform.kz, Reuters, RFE/RL, Trend.az, UZDaily, Wall Street Journal)