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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: April 09-15 2018

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


Last week again brought to light how closely Central Asia is linked economically and politically to the rest of the world. With everyone’s eyes fixed on US President Donald Trump’s announcement and execution of rocket strikes against Syria as well as new Western sanctions against Russia, representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan took part in an emergency meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on April 14 to discuss the issue. The swings in the value of Kazakhstan’s currency persisted as the government adopted a monitoring regime in order to head off negative spill-overs from the sanctions regime against Russia on the Kazakh economy. Moscow and Tashkent, meanwhile, came to an agreement to double regular flight connections between the two countries. In Kyrgyzstan, last week saw significant staff reshuffles with the General Prosecutor becoming new Justice Minister and Head of the Government Administration. Turkmenistan pursued the same path this past week with President Berdymukhammedov removing three deputy prime ministers from their posts – two of which were charged with the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI). The Chinese company TBEA, finally, was granted a license from the Tajik Government to develop a new gold mine in the country.






Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik Representatives at Emergency CSTO Meeting on Syria

An emergency meeting of the CSTO’s Permanent Council assembled on the initiative of Russia to discuss the rocket strikes by the US, France and the UK against military and civilian infrastructure in Syria on April 14. From Central Asia, the ambassadors of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan participated in the session. (TASS, April 14)



Kazakhstan and China to Build Steel Mill in Astana in 2018

Kazakh Invest, a state corporation, has signed a contract with a Chinese partner to invest US$50 million in the construction of a plant that will produce large welded steel tubes by the end of 2018. The project – officially part of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road Initiative” – promises to substitute up to 70 percent of Kazakhstan’s imports in steel pipes. (, April 13)


Kazakh Authorities Brace for Knock-On Effects of Anti-Russia Sanctions on National Economy
The government and National Bank in Astana adopted a joint action plan last week to be ready for negative spill-over effects from the latest US sanctions against Russia that were introduced on April 06. The Energy Ministry noted that Kazakhstan’s economy could be affected through trade, investment or currency swings. Last week saw a downturn of the Kazakh tenge, following the path of the Russian ruble. (, April 10)


Kazakhstan Places Three Initial Public Offerings of State Companies in Hong Kong

Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhstan’s National Welfare Fund, is planning to place initial public offerings for three of its assets. The Fund owns shares valued at US$ 70 billion in Air Astana, the uranium producer Kazatomprom and the telecommunication company Kaztelekom. The government in Astana announced the privatization by 2020 of more than 800 state companies in 2015. A quarter of the firms earmarked for this process belong to Samruk-Kazyna. (South China Morning Post, April 12)




Free Economic Zone to be Introduced in Sirdarya Region

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree last week founding a 30-year free economic zone under the name of “Sirdaryo” on the basis of an already existing zone in Uzbekistan’s eastern Sirdarya District and a small industrial zone in the city of Yangiyer. The zone will benefit raw material processing industries with high value-adding. (, April 13)


Moscow and Tashkent Agree on Doubling Flight Connections

Following an accord by the aviation authorities of both Russia and Uzbekistan on April 11, the number of flights between the two countries is to more than double. The two sides agreed on a roadmap to add new flight directions and widen commercial rights on a number of agreed routes. Talks were already being held in the past, though Tashkent then declined to increase the number of flights and connections from Zhukovsky Airport. Moscow, on the other hand, did not grant permissions for flights to Sochi and Vladivostok. (Press Service of the Ministry of Transport of Russia, April 11)


Uzbekistan Picks Up Military-Technological Cooperation with US

In order to modernize its armed forces, Uzbekistan has decided to continue cooperation with the US in the military-technological field, a Presidential Decree on mid-term priorities concerning sectoral cooperation with principal international partners read. In detail, Tashkent seeks to work closer with Washington military training and launch a new dialogue with the US on scientific exchanges and on questions concerning the modernization of the economy. (CA-News, April 09)

Uzbek Foreign Currency Reserves Grow to US$27 Billion

The Central Bank in Tashkent announced last week that the country’s currency reserves had grown to US$27 billion. On April 01, reserves stood at US$28,4 billion: US$14,5 billion were held in foreign currencies, US$13,9 billion in gold. On January 01, currency reserves amounted to slightly over US$25 billion. Over the course of 2017, the reserves had grown by 5,5 percent. (Press Service of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, April 11)





Jeenbekov Appoints New Head of Government Administration and Justice Minister

Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbay Jeenbekov named Murat Mukambetov as new Head of the Government’s Administration this past week, replacing Nurchanbek Momunaliyev who requested to be relieved of his duties on March 12 after it became clear that serious shortcomings in the preparation of documents of international importance fell into his responsibility. At the same time, Ainur Abdyldayev became new Justice Minister; he previously worked as the institution’s State Secretary. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, April 13)


Kyrgyz General Prosecutor Removed from Office

President Jeenbekov furthermore proposed the removal of General Prosecutor Indira Joldubayeva to Parliament on April 10. In the end, 105 deputies followed the proposal of the President (61 required for the motion to pass) who said that Joldubayeva was not properly defending citizen rights and that the number of corruption cases was on the rise. Experts say that the former General Prosecutor was an ally of ex-President Almazbek Atambayev. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, April 13)

Conflict Between Locals and Chinese Investors Breaks out in Jalal-Abad Region

Mass unrest broke out last week after a protest on the territory of the Makmalzoloto Gold Mine in Jalal-Abad Region where the Chinese mining company Ji El Makmal Developing is building a joint Kyrgyz-Chinese industrial complex. The protesters set buildings and equipment on fire and caused US$5 million in damages, according to official data. The conflict erupted due to local discontent over ecological issues. China’s embassy in Bishkek called upon the Kyrgyz interior and foreign ministries to protect Chinese investors. (, April 12)


Jeenbekov Meets Erdogan in Ankara for Negotiations

The Presidents of Turkey and Kyrgyzstan met in Ankara this past week to discuss the most pertinent issues in the mutual relationship between the two countries. Besides that, Erdogan brought up the activities of Fethullah Gülen who Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. “Gülen’s organization FETO tries to sabotage our cooperation and cook up provocations; this has already negatively impacted our relations. I consider the visit by Sooronbay Jeenbekov as a good answer to these people,” Erdogan said. He then expressed hope that Bishkek would strengthen its fight against FETO. (Sputnik Kyrgyzstan, April 09)




EBRD and Green Development Fund Provide Funds to Restore Kayrakkumskaya Hydropower Station

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Green Climate Fund have agreed to support the restoration of the Kayrakkumskaya Hydropower Station in northern Tajikistan with US$88 million. The credit allows for the ambitious investment project, that had been begun in 2014 with the EBRD’s financial support, to be completed. The new funds will now be used to implement the second and final stage of the restoration and modernization of the 60-year-old hydro station which supplies 500.000 people with energy. (Asia-Plus, April 13)

Chinese Company Licensed to Develop Tajik Gold Mine

TBEA, a Chinese corporation, has been granted a license to develop the “Upper Kumarg” Gold Mine in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd Region. The license is part of a quid-pro-quo which is to give the Chinese a return on their investment that multiplied Dushanbe’s heating capacities for a total of US$349 million, of which the Tajik government provided US$17 million itself. Earlier, TBEA had already been granted access to the “Duoba” Gold Mine in Ayni District of Sughd Region. (Sputnik Tajikistan, April 11)




Turkmen President Reshuffles Three Deputy Prime Ministers

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov relieved Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Gas, Maksat Babayev, from his post last week due to the “transition to work connected with the TAPI Pipeline”. He is to be replaced with Myratgeldi Meredov. The same formula was used to justify the removal of Bairam Annameredov who until now served as Deputy Prime Minister for Transport and Communications. Orazmyrat Gurbannazarov, meanwhile, was reshuffled from his post as Deputy Prime Minister for Trade to become Head of the Trade and Industry Chamber. (Turkmen State News Agency, April 11)


Uzbek Delegation Visits Turkmenistan

A delegation headed by Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Abduzhabar Abduvakhitov visited Ashgabat last week to discuss issues of mutual interest, including transport, machine engineering, agriculture, the water economy, electricity, oil and gas. The two sides also discussed the upcoming visit of the Turkmen leader to Tashkent. (Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, April 09)

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