Trending Headlines from the Caspian: July 26, 2021
Energy and Economy
China and Russia Continue to Prioritize Developing Trade Routes Despite Taliban Advances
Representatives at a July 15-16 conference in Tashkent continued to prioritize developing north-south trade routes linking the Arabian Sea and South Asia with Central Asia and Russia despite Taliban advances in Afghanistan. The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) trade corridors sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are eager to push forward with infrastructure development plans.
Preliminary Research for Hydrogen Transport via TAP to be Completed by End by 2021
According to Murad Heydarov, Board of Directors member for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) consortium, considerations, and preliminary investigations are underway to transport hydrogen via the pipeline. The preliminary study results are expected by the end of this year and will include an assessment of technological, operational, and commercial challenges.
Kazakhstan and Russia Ink Manufacturing Agreement
The Russian Ural Civil Aviation Plant and the Kazakhstan Aviation Industry (KAI) inked a $13.5 million agreement last week. The agreement stipulates that Kazakhstan will be responsible for the final production of the new light multipurpose aircraft. Per the agreement, the aircraft will be sold in both domestic and international markets.
Kazakhstani IT Company Launches First Kazakh-Language Voice Assistant
Kazakhstani company Kazdream launched the first Kazakh-language voice assistant. The technology can recognize and respond in both the Russian and Kazakh languages. Creators hope that the introduction of this technology will popularize the use of the Kazakh language and promote Kazakhstan’s developing information and technology sector.
Working Group Holds Meeting to Engage Japanese Private Sector in Uzbekistan
The Bureau of Economic Strategy for Business and International Promotion of the Government of Osaka hosted a working group from Uzbekistan to convene top Uzbek and Japanese business officials. The attendees discussed enhancing the private sector relationship between the two countries, opening up regional offices in each other’s countries, and accelerating financing for joint projects.
Georgia Plans to Spend 32 billion GEL on Infrastructure and Regional Development Over the Next 10 Years
During the presentation of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s 10-Year Plan, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced that Georgia plans to spend close to 32 billion GEL (over 10 billion USD) on infrastructure and regional development. “Nearly 3,000 villages do not have quality water. The maintenance and renovation of both intercity and inland roads, as well as the completion of the construction of central highways, remain a challenge, therefore, our main priority and the main focus will be on the development and renewal of the regions in the coming years,” said PM Garibashvili.
Security and Politics
New Azerbaijani Ambassador to the United States Appointed
On July 26, President Ilham Aliyev appointed Khazar Ibrahim as the new ambassador to the United States. Ibrahim was recalled from Turkey, where he served as Ambassador (2017-2021) following his time as Head of the Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to NATO (2011-2017) and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Azerbaijan Embassy in the United States (2009-2011). Ibrahim holds a Masters’s Degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University.
Tajikistan Holds Largest Military Drill Since Independence on the Afghan Border
On July 22, about 100,000 servicemen and 130,000 reserve troops participated in “Border-2021,” the largest military exercise in Tajikistan since independence, along the country’s 1,300-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan. President Emomali Rahmon called the security situation in northern Afghanistan “extremely difficult and uncertain,” and reiterated that he “will not use [Tajikistan’s] armed forces against neighboring countries.”
Russia to Hold Joint Military Maneuvers with Uzbekistan
Russia announced that it would participate in joint military maneuvers with Uzbekistan from July 30-August 10 at Termez Military Field in Uzbekistan. The drills are intended to help maintain the territorial integrity of Central Asia and will involve approximately 1,500 Russian soldiers and 200 vehicles including aircraft.
Multinational NATO Drills Start in Georgia
On July 26, about 2,500 troops from 15 NATO member and partner countries began military exercises in Georgia aimed at strengthening regional security cooperation. The drills will take place in five bases across the country and include troops from Azerbaijan, Turkey, the United States, the UK, Germany, and Ukraine, amongst others.
Surveillance Cameras Installed on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Border
The mayor of Isfara, a city in Tajikistan bordering Kyrgyzstan, announced the installation of surveillance cameras near the Golovnoy Water Distribution Center. This facility was at the heart of clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in late April, and tensions remain. The mayor of Isfara, Bahovaddin Bahodurzoda, denied that the cameras were related to border disputes and explained that they were to monitor the water level and distribution at the facility.
Potential U.S.-Russian Cooperation for Afghanistan Operations
Russia and the United States have reportedly discussed a limited U.S. military presence at its bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to carry out some intelligence and security operations. However, no agreement has been made yet and neither Kyrgyzstan nor Tajikistan has publicly commented on potentially hosting U.S. forces.
Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova Sign Joint Declaration on European Integration
At the Batumi International Conference on July 19, the presidents of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine signed a declaration that reiterates their dedication to enacting reforms and cooperating with one another to further their aim of joining the European Union. EU Council President Charles Michel vowed that the EU would remain a reliable partner to the region. Earlier in the week, Michel visited Yerevan and Baku.
Tajikistan Announces its Readiness to Host 100,000 Afghan Refugees
Tajikistan is prepared to host up to 100,000 refugees from Afghanistan. Imomali Ibrohimzoda, the first deputy chief of the Committee for Emergency and Civil Defense, said that the construction of two food storage units have begun in the southern Khatlon region to prepare for a possible influx of refugees crossing the Tajik-Afghan border.
Kazakhstan’s COVID-19 Situation Worsens
Currently, 51 percent of hospital beds for infectious diseases and 41 percent of intensive care beds are occupied. This is not entirely due to COVID-19, however, the rate of infection in July for Kazakhstan is 4.8 times the rate in June. The Health Ministry urged people to get vaccinated, explaining that the country can only achieve herd immunity if 80 percent of its population gets vaccinated. With its current vaccine supply, it will take the country 2-3 months to achieve this goal, however, Nur-Sultan is negotiating to purchase more vaccines.
Leader of Armenia’s Opposition Bloc Will Not Join Parliament
Robert Kocharyan, former president and leader of the opposition Armenia Alliance bloc that placed second in the July 20 snap election, announced that he will not take up his seat in parliament. However, his multi-party alliance will accept the voting results and participate in government. The first session of the new parliament is set for August 2.
(Source: Agenda.ge, Al Jazeera, Astana Times, AzerNews, Azerbaijani Embassy in Turkey, Caspian News, Eurasianet, Fergana News Agency, Report.az, RFE/RL, UZ Daily)