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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 23-29 April 2018

By Alexander Vorobiov (@AlexandVorobiov) - translated by Toni Michel (@villageescape)

The most important news out of Central Asia last week were the negotiations between Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Tashkent that concluded with an accord on trade and economic cooperation while Uzbekistan decided to support the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran Pipeline (TAPI) – a key priority for Ashgabat. Kazakhstan also had important economic news to report as Astana is earmarking US$8 billion to implement five key social initiatives that President Nursultan Nazarbayev had laid out in an address in March. The plan aims at improving the quality of life in the country. Moreover, one of Kazakhstan’s most prominent businessmen, Timur Kulibayev was granted permission by Russia’s authorities to buy a commercial port at the Baltic Sea. In Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, Otkurbek Djamshitov was appointed as the country’s new General Prosecutor while neighbouring Tajikistan demanded financial guarantees from Russian firms that transfer money across borders; the case illustrates how important such remittances from Tajiks in Russia are for social stability in the country. Tajikistan’s Parliament moreover ratified an accord with Tashkent on the activities of the two countries’ border services.


SCO Foreign Ministers Meet in Beijing

Member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) sent their foreign ministers to Beijing this past week to discuss the most prominent questions facing the institution and key problems in the international arena. Special attention was paid to formulating a coordinated position on the situation in Afghanistan, Syria, the Korean Peninsula and the Iran Nuclear Deal. The foreign ministers’ summit concludes the preparations for the meeting of the SCO’s heads of states on 09-10 June in the Chinese city of Tsindao. (Press Service of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 April)


Kazakh Entrepreneur Kulibayev Granted Permission to Buy Russian Sea Port Vysotsk

A governmental commission regulating foreign investment in Russia has granted Kazakh businessman Timur Kulibayev permission to acquire the Russian sea port of Vysotsk – 50 km from the border with Finland. The port includes a coal and liquid oil terminal and facilities to transit other oil products. According to Forbes, Kulibayev was the most influential businessman in Kazakhstan last year and the third richest entrepreneur. (Vedomosti, 29 April )

Astana Earmarks US$8 Billion for Implementation of Social Initiatives

The government in Astana is planning to spend 2,6 trillion tenge (US$8 billion) on five key social initiatives that were laid out by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in an address in early March of this year, the Kazakh leader said during the 26th session of the Assembly of the Kazakh People. Nazarbayev called the measure “an infusion of investment into our people and future.” National Bank Chief Daniyar Akishev also announced that the institution has already prepared all necessary legislation which is currently being considered by Parliament. A vote is expected for May. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 29 April)

Madina Zhunusbekova and Dana Zhunusova Appointed as Deputy Economy Ministers

Madina Zhunusbekova, the former Head of Policy Analysis in Kazakhstan’s Government Administration and Dana Zhunusova, who worked as Deputy Head of the National Chamber of Commerce since 2013, were both appointed as deputy economy ministers this past week. Baurzhan Bekeshev, who previously occupied the post, was removed “in connection with a transfer to other duties.” (Press Service of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, 27 April)

Kazakh Authorities Deny Russian Media Reports on New US Base on Caspian Shore

Astana’s embassy in Russia has denied reports in the Russian media about a new American naval base at the Caspian Sea following an agreement between Kazakhstan and the US on the use of Kazakh sea ports to transit special military supplies to Afghanistan. (Embassy of Kazakhstan in Russia, 26 April)


Uzbek Authorities Announce Pension Reforms

The government in Tashkent announced pension reforms last week that will see the retirement age rise step-by-step to the world average. Currently, Uzbek men can retire when they reach 60 years of age, while women can receive pensions five years earlier. The authors of the reform also propose to increase the minimum length of service entitling people to receive an old-age pension from the current seven to 15 years. (, 27 April)

Foreign Minister Kamilov Meets Pakistani Military Officials in Tashkent

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov met with the Commander of the Land Forces of Pakistan, General Kamar Javed Badjwa, during the latter’s visit to Tashkent this past week. The officials discussed the state and prospects of strengthening Uzbek-Pakistani ties in various fields. Pakistan’s Ambassador Irfan Yusuf Shami also took part in the conversation that also touched upon the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan. The two sides agreed in their positive assessment of the outcome of the conference on the settlement of the Afghan crisis, that had been held in Tashkent in March (Press Service of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry, 26 April).

Erdogan in Tashkent for Talks on Uzbek-Turkish Relationship and Cooperation

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived Tashkent on 29 April for a visit lasting several days. Negotiations with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev are to be held on 30 April in Kukarsky Residence where the two leaders will discuss cooperation in trade, investment, economics and other spheres. An address by Erdogan to Uzbekistan’s Parliament, the Oliy Majlis, is also planned just as a joint visit with Mirziyoyev to a business forum organised by the trade chambers of the two countries as well as a trip to Bukharu on 01 May. (Press Service of the President of Turkey, 26 April)

Uzbekistan to Participate in TAPI

In the course of an official visit by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to Tashkent on 23 April, the two countries agreed on Uzbekistan providing assistance to Ashgabat in constructing the TAPI pipeline, Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced. He also noted that Uzbek diplomats were already embarking to Ashgabat to hammer out the details of Uzbekistan’s part in the project. Mirziyoyev added that Turkmenistan’s TAPI initiative would profit the entire region. (Sputnik Uzbekistan, 23 April)


Bishkek and Tashkent Resolve Border Dispute

Kyrgyz and Uzbek border agencies have introduced a new code of conduct at the border between the two states that is to promote friendly mutual relations. The document was initially adopted during a plenary session of Kyrgyzstan’s and Uzbekistan’s border services where all sides were prepared and interested in resolving existing disputes and arriving at effective cooperation in guarding the border. During an incident near the demarcation line in early April, a Kyrgyz citizen was killed on the Kyrgyz side of the border. (CA-News, 28 April)

New Kyrgyz General Prosecutor Appointed

President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has appointed Otkurbek Djamshitov as Kyrgyzstan’s new General Prosecutor. Djamshitov previously served as the Prosecutor for Djalal-Abad Region; his candidacy for the national post was then supported by Parliament, with 109 out of 110 deputies voting for as General Prosecutor. Djamshitov pledged to raise wages for the institution’s employees, crack down on corruption, ease business inspections and look into a number of criminal cases that Parliamentary Deputies had raised with him. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, 26 April)


Tajikistan Ready to Grant Chinese Companies Permits to Develop New Gold Mines

The management of the Chinese company TVEA, which built Dushanbe’s Thermo-Electric Station, announced last week that the Tajik Government agreed to grant them the right to develop further gold mines in the country. According to the deal, the permits will come into effect if the profit from gold reserves in East Duoba and Upper Kumarg will not cover the cost of building the mentioned thermo-electric plant. Earlier, a Chinese Import-Export Bank provided a US$349 million loan to TVEA to build the 400 MW Dushanbe plant. (Ozodi Radio, 27 April).

Dushanbe Demands Guarantees from Russian Money-Wiring Services

Tajikistan’s National Bank demanded guarantees from Russian companies that offer cash transfers abroad that they would fulfil their obligations; the institution also introduced stricter regulations for Tajik banks cooperating with such Russian companies after the operating system of a company called Lider crashed. The National Bank thus proposed a number of measures to guarantee the integrity of the service in such events like the placement of a guarantee deposit in a local bank to cover one day’s turnover of money transfers. In 2017, Tajikistan took the third place in terms of money transfers among all CIS countries. (TajikTA, 26 April)

18 Border Posts to be Set Up at Uzbek-Tajik Border

The Lower Chamber of Tajikistan’s Parliament ratified an agreement with Uzbekistan on the activities of border agencies last week that was initially signed during the state visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Dushanbe in March. The accord provides for the opening of 18 border offices on the border of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; seven are to be set up by Tajikistan, 11 by Uzbekistan. Officers on the ground are to promptly resolve any emerging dispute directly in the field (Asia-Plus, April 25).


Berdymukhammedov in Tashkent on Official Visit

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev welcomed his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Tashkent for negotiations on 23 April. The two leaders later signed a joint declaration and 17 documents concerning the development of regulatory cooperation, trade missions in both countries as well as the transport, transit and agricultural spheres. Another 15 accords were concluded between higher educational institutions of the two countries and representatives of the IT sector. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, 23 April)

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan Sign US$250 Million Trade Deal

Negotiations between trade circles of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan during the visit of Turkmen leader Berdymukhammedov to Tashkent produced a number of agreements, valued at US$250 million in total, this past week. Simultaneously, the Turkmen-Uzbek Business Forum was also held in Tashkent. (Turkmen State News Agency, 25 April)

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