Media Highlights of the Week- March 1, 2021
Energy and Economy
Kazakhstan Discovers Largest Oil Field Since Independence
Kazakhstan discovered what could be its largest hydrocarbon field since the country gained its independence in the western Mangistau province. The field has been named after Khalel Uzbekgaliyev, a Soviet-era oilman. Officials are supporting further studies to determine the exact size of the new field. Mangistau province currently accounts for 25 percent of all oil and gas production in Kazakhstan.
Largest Eastern European Oil Company Begins Exploration Works in Georgian Black Sea
The largest Eastern European oil company and one of the ten largest oil conglomerates in Europe, OMV Petrom has initiated its offshore explorations and acquisitions for oil and gas extraction in Georgia’s Black Sea. Romania-based OMV Petrom won an open international tender last year, which granted it permission to explore 2,039 square miles for 25 years.
Protesters Rally Against Construction of Hydropower Plant in Western Georgia
Protesters rallied in the western Georgian town of Kutaisi to halt Enka Renewables from constructing the Namakhvani hydropower plant. The hydropower plant has attracted about $800 million in foreign direct investment and is the largest energy project in Georgian history. While the completed plant could account for 12 percent of the country’s electricity demand, residents argued that its construction threatens the local environment.
Azerbaijani and Kazakhstani Companies to Conduct Joint Drilling Project on the Caspian Sea
Kazakhstan’s KMG Drilling & Services Company and Azerbaijan’s Caspian Drilling Company inked an agreement according to which Azerbaijan will use Satti, Kazakhstan’s first drilling rig, for conducting offshore drilling work under its waters in the Caspian Sea. The agreement follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019 between the SOCAR’s President Rovnag Abdullayev and the Chairman of the Management Board of the KazMunayGas Alik Aydarbayev to cooperate on joint exploration of the Caspian Sea.
German Development Agency to Support Development of the Aral Sea Region
Uzbek Minister of Agriculture Jamshid Khodjaev and Paul Schumacher, project manager of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), signed an agreement to support efforts in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for sustainable development in the Aral Sea region. The four-year project is worth €8 million ($9.6 million) and will provide consulting services, digitalize operations, and support data management.
Kazakhstani President Proposes Ban on Selling and Leasing Farmland to Foreigners
Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed a ban on selling and leasing farmland to foreigners. He also declared that he ordered for the development of a commission on land reform by March 25. Since 2016 protesters have sought to encourage the Kazakhstani government to take steps towards these measures.
Tajik Bloggers Are Now Subject to Tax Payments
Bloggers in Tajikistan are now subject to tax payments on any revenue generated from advertisements or payments from larger companies. The Tajik government justified the decision by claiming that bloggers should be subject to equal tax treatment as workers in other industries are. However, several bloggers have responded to the decision by saying that their revenues are not large enough to afford tax payments.
Georgia Lifts Several COVID-19 Restrictions
Georgia is instituting an overhaul of most COVID-19 related restrictions starting March 1. These changes will include allowing ski resorts, restaurants, intercity travel, conference and training and sessions, kindergartens, vocational schools, and libraries to reopen. In addition, shopping centers and entertainment centers are scheduled to reopen in the following weeks. However, Georgia will continue to impose its nighttime curfew in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Kazakhstan to Ease COVID-19 Restrictions in March
Kazakhstan’s coronavirus commission has made a decision to ease restrictions starting March 1. The extent to which the restrictions will be reduced depends on the classification of the region. The Health Ministry categorizes its regions into three zones – high-risk red, moderate risk yellow, and low-risk green zone. No region is currently in the red zone.
Security and Politics
Protestors Break into Government Building Calling for Pashinyan’s Resignation
Protestors broke into a government building and called for the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. He began to face calls for his resignation following the Karabakh War. Last week, he faced even more opposition after he attempted to fire the chief of the military’s General Staff Onik Gasparian after he and other generals signed an open letter demanding his resignation. President Armen Sarkisian refused to sign the order.
Japarov Meets with Putin in First International Visit
On February 24, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov made his first trip abroad as head of state to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Japarov said that his first trip to Russia demonstrated the high level of bilateral ties between their countries and that Kyrgyzstan intends to strengthen its ties with Russia. Ahead of his visit on February 22, he appointed lawmaker Gulnara-Klara Samat as Kyrgyz Ambassador to Russia.
Japarov Asks Putin to Vaccinate Kyrgyz Migrant Workers in Russia
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to vaccinate Kyrgyz workers in Russia. Japarov said that there are more than 800,000 Kyrgyz citizens in Russia who have integrated into society.
Uzbek Foreign Minister Meets with Kyrgyz President
February 27, Uzbek Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov met with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov in Bishkek. They discussed the development of bilateral relations in the political, commercial, economic, cultural, humanitarian, and other spheres. They also discussed the opportunity to create a system of transport corridors that provide the quickest access to new external markets.
Uzbek Foreign Minister to Visit Russia
The Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov will visit Russia on March 1-2 to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. They will consider the progress of preparations for the signing of interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents and discuss cooperation in the political and economic spheres.
EU-Armenia Partnership Pact Comes into Force
The European Union-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) came into force on March 1. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the agreement “sends a strong signal” that the EU and Armenia are committed to supporting democratic principles, the rule of law, and a broad reform agenda. The agreement promotes cooperation in the economic, transit, digitalization, green energy, and judicial spheres.
Georgian Opposition Demands Snap Elections
Georgian opposition protestors gathered in Tbilisi on February 26, calling for snap parliamentary elections and the release of political prisoners. They erected 11 tents in front of the parliament. The protests started on February 23 after police raided the opposition party UNM’s (United National Movement) headquarters in Tbilisi. Nika Melia, Chairman of UNM, as well as several activists were arrested.
EU Council extends mandate of Special Representative for South Caucasus
The EU Council has extended the mandate of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar by a year until February 28, 2022. He plans to visit Azerbaijan in the near future.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, Astana Times, Caspian News, Eurasianet, Fergana News, Report.az, RFE/RL, and UZ Daily)