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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 25 December to 07 January

In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 25 December to 07 January

Translated by Toni Michel (@villageescape) – read his latest article on “The State of Democracy in Kyrgyzstan” at

The past two weeks over the holiday season have been relatively calm in Central Asia. Nevertheless, a number of events are well-worth mentioning. At the end of December, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov visited Kazakhstan where the recent frictions in mutual relations was finally set aside. In Kazakhstan itself, significant new internet regulations were passed as well as novel laws on mineral mining and customs rules. Neighboring Uzbekistan made headlines with a mass reshuffle of Finance Ministry staff after public criticism from the Republic’s President Mirziyoyev. At the same time, Tashkent moved forward to strengthen relations with Astana. In Kyrgyzstan, Omurbek Babanov, the former Presidential candidate and primary competitor to President Jeenbekov, announced his final retreat from politics. And Tajikistan’s Parliament ratified an agreement with the World Bank on the preservation of ecosystems while Turkmenistan’s President Berdimuhamedow held negotiations with the Emir of Qatar.


Russia Prolongs Transit Ban For Ukrainian Goods To Kazakhstan And Kyrgyzstan

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order prolonging a transit ban for certain goods en route from Ukraine to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan until 30 July 2018. The ban for automobile or rail transit has been in effect since 01 January 2016 when the free trade zone with Ukraine was stopped and import duties were introduced. (CA-News, 05 January)

Nazarbayev Signs New Internet Regulations Into Law

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a new law on information and communications according the publication of private, family-related, banking and financial information is forbidden without the consent of the concerned person. Furthermore, the law bans anonymous online comments and obliges the owners of online media sites to conclude written agreements with users either through digital signatures or SMS-identification. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 28 December)

Kazakh President Signs Mining Codex

Nazarbayev furthermore put into effect a new codex on mining activities in Kazakhstan that, according to the authorities, concerns the introduction of international accounting standards for the effective use of fossil resources, simplified methods of concluding contracts in the mineral mining sector as well as the systematization of legal norms to attract investment to this field. (Official Website of the President of Kazakhstan, 27 December)

New Customs Code Goes Into Effect In Kazakhstan

It has truly been a busy few days for Kazakhstan’s President, who furthermore signed the Republic’s new customs codex into law as well as a number of corresponding legal acts. The new regulations will help small and medium-sized businesses, the government says. The new regulation also introduces an income-tax-free regime for online retailers to stimulate the growth of the sector. (Official Website of the president of Kazakhstan, 25 December)

Nazarbayev Stresses Need To Settle Border Issues With Kyrgyzstan

In the course of Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s visit to Astana in December, Nursultan Nazarbayev highlighted outstanding issues between the two countries concerning border demarcations and respective rivers. “Demarcations have been an unresolved issue for years. And there will simply be no calm at the border without mutual trust between our two countries. I am grateful to the Kyrgyz President for picking up on this topic so that we can resolve it today”, Nazarbayev said. He went on to point out that there are now no more obscure or hidden issues that will strain mutual relations between the two countries. (, 25 December)

Kazakh-Uzbek Trade Doubles In 2017

Mutual exchanges of goods and services between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has doubled last year to reach $2bn, Nursultan Nazarbayev has said in an interview with local media. “Relations with our neighbor are extremely vital and beneficial for Kazakhstan. In one year, we doubled our mutual trade from $1bn to $2bn. And I have agreed with the new Uzbek President Mirziyoyev to push that number up to $5bn”, the President underlined. He furthermore announced a joint industrial project in Kostanay, a city in Kazakhstan’s north, that is to produce electric cars. Nazarbayev also stressed that the settlement of problems in the transport sector further encouraged the strengthening of mutual trade relations. (Atameken, 25 December)


Tashkent Admits EIB To Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has affirmed a framework agreement on cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) that had been signed in October 2017 in Washington DC to “improve the climate for Foreign Direct Investment and technical cooperation”. EIB can now implement projects both in the public and private sectors in sectors like infrastructure, energy, efficiency and SME development. EIB is already active in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. (National Database on Legislation, 05 January)

Uzbekistan And Kazakhstan Revive Bus Transport Links After 17 Years

After a 17-year interruption, a bus connection between Tahskent and the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent has been reopened on 08 January. 20 MAN, Mercedes-Benz and Higer busses will operate on the route and pass the border at the “Gishit Kuprik” crossing on the Uzbek side and at “Zhibek Zholy” in Kazakhstan. Just like in Europe or Turkey, the busses will enjoy preferential processing at the border. (, 05 January)

Uzbekistan Closes More Than 50 Internal Control Posts

54 internal control posts of the traffic police and at regional borders inside Uzbekistan have been closed, according to the Interior Ministry. This is after President Mirziyoyev had told Parliament in a session on 22 December that these checkpoints limit people’s mobility and hinder the economic and touristic development of the country. The Interior Ministry had also set up a fact-finding-mission on the necessity of controls at the regional borders that identified 66 control posts for closure. (, 04 January)

Tashkent Facilitates Imports From Kazakhstan

Uzbek citizens are free from 01 January 2018 to import goods from Kazakhstan for private consumption up to a value of $1000 without paying a customs fee, Uzbekistan’s Customs Committee confirmed. Previously, $10 were charged for every single imported item from neighboring states, even for private use. People at the border confirmed that there were no such customs controls anymore. (CA-News, 03 January)

Uzbek-Turkish Business Forum Held In Tashkent

For the first time in 25 years did Turkish and Uzbek companies meet for a mutual business forum. The event was taking place in the larger context of a trade delegation that discussed cooperation and the strengthening of business ties between the two countries, the construction of agricultural farms and processing plants, food exports and the planning and implementation of new projects, among others in the pharmaceutical sector. (Uzbek Business Chamber, 25 December)

Shake-Up In Uzbek Finance Ministry After Presidential Rebuke

Over 50 officials of Uzbekistan’s Finance Ministry have been relieved of their responsibilities after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had demanded to clear the institution of bureaucrats that are unresponsive to necessary changes. The head of the tax and customs division, Irina Golysheva, had to clear her post as well as the director of the accounting and audit division, Sharofitdin Chaidarov and two deputy division leaders. Shortcomings in the work of the institution during the past year were given as the official reason for the shake-up. (Sputnik Uzbekistan, 25 December)


Government Launches Nature Fund With “Kumtor” Project Resources

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov has signed an order this past week to create a welfare fund for the purpose of “developing nature” in order to improve the ecological situation in the country, in particular through the “Kumtor” project – named after the initiator of the fund, the closed stock corporation “Kumtor Gold Company” that is providing an initial cash infusion of $50mln up front and yearly contributions of $2,7mln, starting in 2017 and lasting until the end of the resource exploitation of the “Kumtor” mine. (Vecherni Bishkek, 04 January)

Babanov Resigns As Parliamentary Deputy And Leaves Politics

Omurbek Babanov, who is leading the parliamentary group of “Respublika – Ata Zhurt” in Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament, has announced his resignation as deputy and his exit from politics as a whole. “I sincerely thank you for your support and understanding. There were competitive and democratic presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, much to the merit of former President Almazbek Atambayev”, Babanov wrote on Facebook. Earlier, Babanov had been indicted for alleged extremism during an address to a crowd in Osh, when he was running for President. (Kabar, 30 December)

Uzbek-Kyrgyz Working Group Meets To Discuss Hydro Power Project GES-1

Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to Uzbekistan, Daniyar Cydykov has announced that Uzbekistan will participate in the construction of the Kambarata Hydropower Plant GES-1. “This agreement exists not only on paper, but is already taking shape on the ground. The working group of the project has already met for its first session in Tashkent and has outlined our first joint steps”, Sydykov said. “I think that Uzbekistan can contribute to the project through technologies and resources”, he added. At the beginning of October, a memorandum on cooperative construction of Kambarata GES-1 had been signed by “UzbekGidroEnergo” and the National Energy Holding of Kyrgyzstan. (CA-News, 28 December)

Jeenbekov Visits Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbay Jeenbekov embarked on an official visit to Astana on 25 December where he met with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev. The two Presidents signed a roadmap to normalize the situation at the mutual border as well as an inter-governmental agreement on demarcations of the same boundary. The two sides furthermore stressed the importance to strengthen mutual economic ties and to reach a trade volume of $1bn by 2020. (, 25 December)

Remittances To Kyrgyzstan Up 25% In 2017

Kyrgyzstan’s National Bank has told the news agency “Kabar” during a press conference that the first 11 months of last year saw remittances of Kyrgyzs from abroad rise to $1,9bn - an increase by 25 percent when compared to the same period in 2016. Chief banker Tolkunbek Abdygulov added that $926,5mln of the money came from Russia alone while $3,1mln left Kyrgyzstan. From further abroad, Kyrgyzs sent a total of $39mln home. (Kabar, 26 December)

“UzAvtoProm” To Assemble Cars In Kyrgyzstan In 2018

Sanjar Alimov, a representative of “UzAvtoProm” has said that the company will begin to assemble ISUZU busses and RAVON light cars in Kyrgyzstan until the end of 2018. To reach that goal, though, the support of the Kyrgyz government is necessary. “We already have an assembly line in Osh where mass production of RAVON cars will begin in a first step. In Bishkek, we are planning to set up shop in order to build the busses of the stock company “SamAvto” whose partner company is the Japanese corporation ISUZU”, Alimov added (Vecherni Bishkek, 25 December)


Tajik Oil Company Sentenced To Pay TOTAL And CNPC Compensation

“Kulyab Petroleum Limited”, a Tajik oil company, has been sentenced by a court to pay TOTAL and the Chinese CNPC compensation of $13,7mln for failing to invest $2mln into the gas exploitation project “Bochtar”, as provided in a contract. When this investment did not take place despite repeated demands by its partners, Kulyab did neither leave the contract nor pay its debts. CNPC and TOTAL own an equal share of the “Bochtar” project, valued at 33,335 percent, while “Kulyab Petroleum” holds 33,33 percent. (Tajik TA, 04 January)

Afghanistan To Build Military Base At Tajik Border With Chinese Help

General Davlat Vaziri, a representative of Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry announced this past week that a new military base will be built in the country’s northern province of Badakhshan. China will provide financial help and the full material and technical equipment of the base as well as arms, uniforms and so on, due to Beijing’s concerns about ethnic Uyghurs that are associated with the so-called “Islamic State” (banned in Russia) and could infiltrate Chinese territory from northern Afghanistan. Vaziri added that the construction of the base has already begun. (Fergana News, 03 January)

Tajik Parliament Ratifies Accord With World Bank

The Lower Chamber of Tajikistan’s Parliament has ratified an agreement with the World Bank from August of last year on the funding of a project on strengthening the country’s critical infrastructure to ensure resilience against natural disasters. Over the next five years, the plan provides for the construction of 18 bridges in Tajikistan’s Western Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Republic as well as 31 kilometers of river bank stabilization in the country’s South-Eastern Khatlon Region. The World Bank has earmarked $50mln for the project. (Azia-Plus, 27 December)

Rahmon Highlights Situation In Afghanistan To CIS Leaders

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has raised the worsening security situation in Afghanistan during an informal meeting with his fellow heads-of-state of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Moscow on 26 December. The Tajik President underlined the need to strengthen cooperation in the fight against global threats that endanger regional security. Rahmon had already sounded a similar alarm during the CSTO summit in Minsk on 30 November 2017. (Press Service of the President of Tajikistan, 27 December)


Central Asian Gas Deliveries To China Up 13% In 2017

Over the course of 2017, Central Asian states have delivered a grand total of cbm38,7bn in natural gas to China – an increase of 13,37 percent over the previous year. According to the operator company located in Chorgoc at the Chinese-Kazakh border, the bulk of the shipments came from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In addition, Kazakhstan managed to sell more gas to the Middle Kingdom. At least 15 percent of China’s total gas demand is provided by Central Asian states. (CA-News, 06 January)

Turkmenistan Doubles Price For Electricity Deliveries To Afghanistan

Ashgabat has cut off its electricity supplies to Afghanistan’s Herat, Faryab, Sar-e Pol and Jowzjan Provinces on 31 December after Kabul rejected a new contract that provided for a price hike that would have seen the delivery price double from 01 January. However, after negotiations between the two sides, the deliveries were prolonged for one month on 02 January. In case of a constant rupture in supplies, Kabul will temporarily divert a part of electricity deliveries from Iran to northern Afghanistan. (Chronika Turkmenistana, 03 January)

Turkmen Media Report Ban On Black Cars

Several Turkmen media have reported that from January 2018, the use of black cars is forbidden in Turkmenistan. The traffic police are picking off black cars from the streets and parking lots; they are later returned to their owners with a voucher and the obligation to have the lack changed either to white or to other colors. As a consequence, the price to repaint a car in a workshop has doubled to $1000. The import of black cars to Turkmenistan had already been forbidden in 2015. (Chronika Turkmenistana, 03 January)

Berdimuhamedow Speaks With Emir Of Qatar

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow spoke with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the phone about the state of affairs in the implementation of previously reached agreements and plans for the future. What exact projects were discussed, though, remains unclear. According to the Gulf Times, Berdimuhamedow invited the Sheikh to visit Ashgabat which Al Thani accepted. Though, no concrete date has yet been fixed for the visit. Turkmenistan is interested in attracting Qatari investment for the construction of a pipeline from Turkmenistan to India, via Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Neutral Turkmenistan, 29 December)