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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 30 April to 13 May

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



The first half of May turned out to be ripe with significant events in national and international political and economic life of Central Asia. The authorities of Kazakhstan scrambled to find a solution to the problem of oil production on the Kokzhide massif in western Kazakhstan: environmental problems and pollution of underground lakes called the prospect of hydrocarbon production there into question. At the same time, quite rare opposition rallies were held in Astana and Alma-Ata which were organised by the disgraced businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov who lives in Europe. The main event in early May in Uzbekistan was the visit of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the country with various economic and inter-societal agreements concluded. Tashkent continued its active foreign policy, announcing the visit of the country's president Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the United States. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan furthermore launched an international bus connection between Bishkek and Tashkent and the authorities of neighboring Tajikistan warned of a significant concentration of Taliban militants at the borders of the country. The National Bank of Tajikistan, meanwhile, prohibited sending money abroad to persons who are not citizens of the country. An important political event for Ashgabat was the visit of a Turkmen delegation to Iran where the Foreign Minister met his counterpart as well as the Iranian President himself. Tehran offered Ashgabat a number of promising joint projects. Finally, the opening of an international sea port in the city of Turkmenbashi marked an important economic event for Turkmenistan.






EEU Signs Accord on Temporary Free Trade Zone with Iran

The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will sign a temporary free trade zone with Iran during the Astana Economic Forum which will be held from 17-19 May. The agreement provides for the reduction or zeroing of import customs duties for a fairly wide range of goods. At the same time, an accord on trade and economic cooperation between the EEU and China is to be signed at the summit. (Interfax, 11 May)


New Rail Connection Between Inner Mongolia and Iran Running Through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan

A new freight rail route linking Bayannur in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia (North China) and the capital of Iran opened on 10 May. A train loaded with 1150 tons of sunflower seeds has now set off from the Chinese province and is expected to travel the 8,325km to Teheran within 15 days. Baynnur is the largest producer of sunflower seeds in China. (Xinhua, 10 May)






English High Court Denies Moldovan Businessman Suspension of Lawsuit Against Kazakhstan

The High Court of England has denied Moldovan businessman Anatoly Stati and his son the cessation of the case against Kazakhstan. According to the Ministry of Justice in Astana, Stati justified the application for the revocation of the claim by the fact that it is not necessary, so in the provision of the decision of the Stockholm court in his favour there are already enough assets. In the court’s reasoning, "the real reason for giving notice of the termination of the case is that Stati does not want to face the risk that proceedings may lead to an unfavourable ruling against him and his son." (Press Service of the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan, 11 May)

Kazakh Opposition Rallies for Rare Protests in Astana and Almaty

In Astana and Alma-Ata, unsanctioned rallies were held on May 10 to support victims of politically-motivated prosecutions. Dozens of people took part in the protests, many of whom were later detained by law enforcement. The organiser of the protests was the movement "Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan" of Mukhtar Ablyazov. In Kazakhstan, his organisation is banned due to alleged extremism. (CA-News, 10 May)

Uzbek-Kazakh Trade Increases 46 Percent

The trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from January-March 2018 stood at $543.1 million – a 46.1% increase over the same period last year ($371.8 million). At the same time, exports from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan from January-March increased by 55.1% and amounted to $399.9 million. Imports from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan grew during this period by 25.6% and amounted to $143.2 million. Uzbek entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan payed a total of 2 billion tenge in additional taxes over last year. (Kazinform, 10 May)

Kabul Ready to Support Kazakh Initiative for Peace in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is fully prepared to support Kazakhstan's initiatives aimed at restoring peace and security in the country, Afghan Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah said at a meeting with Kazakh Ambassador to Kabul Alimkhan Esengeldiyev. Abdullah pointed to the special importance of Kazakhstan's initiatives as a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council. The Ambassador on his part noted the connection between economic development and security. The two sides also agreed on the urgency of expanding trade and economic ties between the countries. (Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, 08 May)


Kazakh Authorities Might Ban Oil Exploration in Kokjid Massif

Kazakhstan’ Cabinet of Ministers does not exclude the possibility of banning oil production in the Kokzhide Massif, located in the west of the country, due to the risk of pollution to underground water reserves, Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev pointed out when responding to a parliamentary question. The concern of deputies was caused by the fact that the largest underground fresh water lake in Kazakhstan is currently polluted with oil products. (KazTAG, 04 May)

Chinese Investors to Build Lead and Zink Waste Processing Plant

The head of the local administration of the Southern Kazakhstan Region, Zhanseit Tuimebayev, met with a delegation of Chinese investors, headed by He Chan, a representative of the Chinese province of Shaanxi (PRC) in Kazakhstan. The Chinese side expressed its intention to build a plant in Kazakhstan for the processing of lead and zinc waste. The project is estimated at 4.8 billion tenge ($ 14.5 million) and will be able to process 300,000 tons of waste per year. It is expected to create more than 100 new jobs. (CA-News, 04 May)




Head of Uzbek Revenue Service Removed from Post

The Head of the State Tax Committee Botir Parpiev, who held this post for 14 years, was dismissed from his post in early May. In the summer of 2017, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev sharply criticized the tax service for illegal inspections of entrepreneurs. The 71-year-old Parpiev is related to the former head of the National Security Service, Rustam Inoyatov, who married his son Parpiev. Parpiev's relatives have earlier occupied high positions in law enforcement, diplomatic and commercial structures. (UzNews, 11 May)


Uzbek State Air Line to be Privatised

Sardor Sagdullayev, the head of the State Committee for Investments, said that Uzbekistan is ready to privatise the state-owned airline. "We have one airline-monopolist of Uzbekistan Airways, but we are working closely with the World Bank to reform the sector and make the privatisation of the company possible," he said. At the same time, a broader set of state industries are to be passed to private hands in the near future, too. "The key industries that must remain under state control are gold and oil production," Sagdullayev said. (Reuters, 11 May)


One Belt One Road Conference Held in Uzbekistan

An international conference on "Uzbekistan and China: prospects for joint implementation of the One-Belt, One Way" initiative was held in Tashkent on 14 May. At the event, analysts, heads of diplomatic missions and representatives of state structures discussed the development of relations between Uzbekistan and China. The organisers of the event are the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in cooperation with the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. (CA-News, 11 May)

Mirziyoyev to Visit Washington

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will visit the United States from 15-17 May upon an invitation of US President Donald Trump. Negotiations with the American leader should be held on 16 May. Mirziyoyev and Trump will "expand the strategic partnership" between the countries, discuss a deeper trade and investment partnership, as well as options for solving regional security problems. Mirziyoyev's visit to Washington also includes bilateral meetings in Congress, the Ministry of Defense the US State Department and the World Bank. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, 10 May)


World War 2 Monument to Soviet Hero Rachimov to be Moved in Tashkent

In Tashkent, the 1981 monument to Major General Sabir Rakhimov, was returned to its original place in the center of the city. A grand opening ceremony was held on 08 May. Uzbekistan’s Minister of Defense of Uzbekistan Abdusalom Azizov and the Mayor of the capital Dzhagonkhir Artykkhodzhaev laid flowers at the monument. Sabir Rakhimov died in battle in March 1945. In 1965 he was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. On 02 May, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that he would return the monument to its former place. (, 08 May)

Tashkent and Ankara Conclude Agreements on Business, Geological Cooperation

As a result of a visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Tashkent in early May, 24 documents were signed in Uzbekistan, as well as business contracts and agreements worth about $3 billion. An agreement on geological exploration was also concluded. The Turkish side will carry out work in two regions of Uzbekistan, particularly in promising areas around the Khurob, Aydim-Dzhetymtau and Sarytau ore fields to search for gold and rare earth metals. Ankara and Tashkent also signed an agreement on "Protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families". (, 02 May)


Canadian Company Invests $1,3 Billion in Uzbek Solar Power Plants

SkyPower Global will invest $ 1.3 billion in the construction of solar energy facilities in Uzbekistan with a total capacity of 1,000 megawatts. An agreement on the purchase of electricity was signed between Uzbekenergo and SkyPower Global on 19 April. It is expected that the projects will be implemented in Tashkent, Samarkand, Navoi, Jizzakh, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya. For the period of the agreement, the company and its future subsidiaries in the regions will be granted tax and customs privileges. (, 01 May)




New Bus Route Opened Between Bishkek and Tashkent

The first bus on a new connection between the capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan embarked on 05 May for the first time. Regular rides on the 601km route were to start two days later. The company Uzavtotrans had announced earlier that it is preparing to open four new connections between the two states; from Tashkent to Bishkek, Fergana to Osh, Andijan to Osh and Taskhent as well as from Issyk to Kul. (CA-News, 07 May)


Telephone Diplomacy Held Between Jeenbekov and Nazarbayev

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov talked on the phone with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev on 05 May to discuss current questions in the two states‘ cooperation projects, the realisation of previously concluded accors in the economic, political and social sector. The two leaders also touched upon problems in the relationship and on how to strengthen mutual cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, 05 May)

Jeenbekov Calls for End of North-South Tensions in Kyrgyzstan

In the course of a visit to Issyk Kul Region, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov noted in an address to local citizens that attempts to convince people that he was trying to weaken family and clan ties in the countries had multiplied recently. Jeenbekov added that he would see to it that the north-south divide in Kyrgyzstan will not be artificially widened. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, 03 May)




Tajik Authorities Ban Cash Transfers for Foreigners

Tajikistan’s National Bank has banned cash transfers to foreign citizens from the country. Tajiks can still transfer up to $9700 to compatriots without opening a bank account, while there are more restrictions for non-residents. At the same time, Tajiks will be able to make money transfers to non-residents only on an exceptional basis, to pay for subscriptions to foreign periodicals, for studies and treatment or for alimony, pensions, state benefits. (CA-News, 08 May)

1000 Taliban Fighters at Afghan-Tajik Border, Dushanbe Says

The Taliban have deployed about 7,000 of its fighters at 29 training bases on the Afghan-Tajik border, the commander of the border troops of Tajikistan’s National Security Committee, Rajabali Rahmonali, said in early May. He stressed that the militants were transferred from the south to the north of Afghanistan and are now in the provinces of Balkh, Kunduz, Takhhor and Badakhshan. "Many of these militants are natives of the Central Asian countries," Rahmonali said. (CA-News, 03 May).


International Conference on Anti-Terrorism Strategy Held in Dushanbe

A two-day international conference "Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism" was held in Dushanbe together with the UN, the OSCE and the EU. The event was attended by representatives of 46 countries and 30 international and regional organizations, as well as research institutes. Foreign ministry officials of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Hungary, Switzerland, Bahrain, India, Armenia, Russia, China and other countries also took part. (, 03 May)


Trade Volume Between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan Nearly Doubles in First Quarter of 2018

The trade turnover between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the first quarter of this year increased by 1.8 times compared to the same period last year. According to the statistics, the volume of trade between the two neighbours amounted to $41.5 million. Tajikistan mainly exports raw materials to Uzbekistan and imports finished products from there. The list of products imported from Uzbekistan includes a wide range of goods from food to cars. (, 07 May)




Turkmen Foreign Minister in Iran for Talks with Rouhani

Turkmenistan’s chief diplomat Rashid Meredov met his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in Teheran and President Hassan Rouhani in the course of a visit to Teheran. Zarif noted during a ceremony that nothing stands in the way of deepening Turkmen-Iranian relations. President Rouhani added that Iran stands ready to fulfill contracts on infrastructure development and to assist Turkmenistan through technical help. He also expressed interest in working out deals on trade, transport, electricity and gas infrastructure. (MEHR, 12 May)

Turkmenistan Moves to Introduce Construction Price Registry

The authorities in Ashgabat prepared a state classification system for construction materials in early May that will serve as the basis for a registry for norms and prices of construction projects. Dadebai Amangeldiyev, the head of the cabinet, laid out the plans to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. Earlier, the Turkmen leader had ordered to meet the demand of construction firms from domestic sources. (Turkmen State Information Agency, 12 May)

Turkmenistan Receives Italian Fighter Planes – Media Reports

President Berdymukhammedov was seen inspecting new fighter planes on Altyn Asyr TV that analysts at Jane’s Defence identified as Italian-made. The head of state was seen sitting in a Alenia M-346 training jet while other planes featured were the transport plane Alenia C27Jspartan. Jane’s Defence also noted that Turkmenistan had earlier already bought Italian military equipment like, for instance, the drone Selex Falco and the helicopter Agusta AW109. (Jane’s Defence, 09 May)

Ashgabat Proposes Central Asia-Turkey Highway Project

Turkmenistan’s leader Berdymukhammedov used an international trade forum to propose building a highway system in Central Asia and link it up with Turkey’s road infrastructure. He called upon all interested actors to sign up to the project and added that the states of the region should first consider the experiences made by the International Road Transport Union, the Eurasian Economic Commission and the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. (Press Service of the President of Turkmenistan, 03 May)

New Caspian Sea Port in Turkmenbashi Opened

A solemn ceremony attended by Turkmenistan’s President, the Speaker of the Majlis (parliament), the Head of Cabinet, international delegations and ambassadors marked the opening of the new international sea port in Turkmenbashi earlier on 02 May. The port covers sqm1.358 million and 3.6km long. The car and ferry terminal covers sqm230,000 and can service 300,000 passengers and 75,000 trailers per year. (Chronika Turkmenistana, 02 May)


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