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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: February 13-20 2018

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

Last week saw a number of meaningful steps taken in Central Asia towards greater economic and political cooperation. During his upcoming visit to Tajikistan, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will officially launch a program to support Tajik entrepreneurs that conduct business in Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Astana proposed Bishkek to cooperate closer in the defense and aerospace sector in the context of a Kazakh delegation from the Defense and Aerospace Ministry visiting Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, though, relations between the two countries were put to the test when the Kazakh security service arrested a Kyrgyz parliamentarian during a special operation against corrupt practices in the customs service. When it comes to economics, news broke this past week that Tajikistan set up a new record in the extraction of gold in 2017. In neighboring Turkmenistan, President Berdimuhamedow opened Central Asia’s biggest glass factory while Ashgabat held negotiation with Turkey on bringing Ankara into the pipeline project TAPI.


Astana Proposes Aerospace and Defense Cooperation to Bishkek

In the course of the visit of a Kazakh delegation from the Defense and Aerospace Ministry to Bishkek, a proposal from Astana was submitted to the Kyrgyz side to cooperate closer in maintenance and repairss of aircraft. Also, Kazakhstan’s defense sector would begin taking orders from the security services of Kyrgyzstan while the two sides would jointly use Kazakhstan’s space systems in order to prevent and respond to emergency situations. (CA-News, February 18)

Kazakh Authorities Conduct Significant Anti-Corruption Operation Against Smuggling Ring

On February 15-16, Kazakhstan’s security services cracked down on corruption in the customs authorities of the city and region of Almaty as well as in the Oblasts of Jambyl and Southern Kazakhstan. “35 suspects from the customs service, the border police, business circles and organized crime groups were arrested – three of the people in custody are Kyrgyz citizens,” a press release of Kazakhstan’s General Prosecutor read. Reports soon indicated that Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Asylbek Damirbek is among the arrested. (, February 17)

Lukoil Decides to Participate in Development of Kazakhstan’s Caspian Shelf

The head of the oil company Lukoil, Bagit Alekperov, said this past week that the company is going to participate in the exploration of two parcels of Kazakhstan’s Caspian Shelf, located near the border with Russia. “After we had constantly pushed for legislative changes in Kazakhstan together with our local partners, such reforms are now in place and they positively impact the rentability of exploring such a difficult and deep terrain,” Alekperov noted. Lukoil is currently active in developing the Karachaganski Gas Field in Kazakhstan’s most Western region of Uralsk. (TASS, February 15)

Kazakh Exports to Vietnam Increase 25 Times over Two Years

After a free-trade agreement between Vietnam and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) came into effect in 2015, Kazakhstan has been able to increase its exports to the South-East Asian country to $274,2 million in 2017 – a 25-fold increase over 2015, according to Deputy Economy Minister Baurzhan Bekeshev. He also added that his ministry would open more markets worldwide for Kazakh goods this year. “One of the EEU’s central priorities for 2018 is to conclude more mutual trade agreements with third countries. We are currently actively negotiating free-trade deals with Israel, Serbia and india,” the official said. (CA-News, February 12)


Tashkent Subsidizes Tajik Companies Trading with Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will sign an accord during his upcoming visit to Dushanbe that will assign $100 million to Tajik businessmen doing business with Uzbekistan through preferential credits provided through a Tajik bank. “In accordance with the stipulations from the Uzbek side, extremely cheap credit will be provided only to companies that have concrete business plans to expand their cooperation with Uzbek state and private companies,” a source said. (Asia Plus, February 16)

Uzbekistan Lowers Export Price for Electricity to Afghanistan by a Third

Kader Shach, Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, said this past week that Uzbekistan would immediately lower its export prices for electricity by 35 percent, from 7,6 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour. At the same time, though, Afghanistan would have to pay 4 instead of 2 cents per kilowatt hour to Turkmenistan, another important electricity provider to the country. In January, Ashgabat cut electricity deliveries to Afghanistan’s northern provinces after intergovernmental consultations between the two countries. Deliveries were later resumed. (, February 15)

Uzbek Customs Chief Removed from Post

Against the background of far-reaching investigations into the activities of tax and customs authorities, the head of Uzbekistan’s Customs Service, Muidzhon Tochiryi, has been removed from his post and replaced with the 42-year-old Murodzhon Azimov who will move over from his previous job as Deputy General Prosecutor. Reports indicate that the investigation unearthed a lot of material documenting illegal activities. Before his appointment as chairman of the Customs Service, Tochiryi had been a Deputy Head of the SNB. (CA-News, February 14)

Uzbek and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Hold Talks in Islamabad

The state of Uzbek-Pakistani relations and cooperation in advancing common objectives in international organizations like the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation stood in the center of a meeting between the foreign minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov and his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif. The two diplomats also discussed the issues on the agenda of the upcoming international conference on Afghanistan that will be held in Tashkent under the motto “The Peace Process, Security and Regional Cooperation”. (Press Service of the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan, February 12)



Kyrgyzstan Delivers Diplomatic Note to Kazakhstan on Arrest of Parliamentary Deputy 

The Foreign Ministry in Bishkek has handed the Kazakh Embassy a diplomatic note in connection with reports that Kyrgyz parliamentarian Asylbek Damirbek has been arrested during a Kazakh anti-corruption operation in its customs service. “Kazakhstan’s Consul to Kyrgyzstan Abishev was invited to an emergency meeting to the Foreign Ministry on the evening of February 16 where he was handed a diplomatic note with an official inquiry on whether Kazakhstan confirms or denies these reports,” a press release from the Foreign Ministry in Bishkek read. (RIA Novosti, February 16)

Kyrgyz PM Meets Indian Counterpart

Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Sapar Isakov met Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi on the sidelines of the 6th World Government Summit to discuss mutual cooperation in trade, economic affairs and the cultural-humanitarian field. Modi said that he remembers his visit to Kyrgyzstan well and stands ready to discuss deepening the cooperation between the two countries. Isakov noted that Bishkek is equally interesting in enhancing the partnership, particularly in the health care and tourism sectors. (, February 15)

Kyrgyz Parliament Fines Social Media Criticism

The deputies of Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament have supported an initiative of the ruling Social-Democratic-Party (SDPK) to fine criticism with no basis in facts with 20 thousand soms ($293). Dastan Bekeshev, the leader of SDPK in Parliament, said that internet users online often slander specific persons in the public eye and that the fines should be seen as compensations for moral damages. The leadership of the parliamentary group of “Onuguu-Progress” supported the proposal to ramp up the fines in case online comments are made based on false or misleading allegations. (Sputnik Kyrgyzstan, February 14)


Dushanbe to Deliver Electricity to Uzbekistan from March

Tajikistan will be able to begin electricity deliveries to neighboring Uzbekistan from March, a source in the Tajik government said. The amount of such exports from Tajikistan will add up to at least 1,5 billion kilowatt hours per year. The two sides are currently negotiating on the exact prices of the deliveries and a final decision is expected during the state visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Dushanbe in early March. (Asia Plus, February 14)


Tajikistan Reports Record Gold Extraction in 2017

Last year saw Tajikistan extract a record amount of 5,5 tons of precious metals. All gold was immediately acquired by the National Bank, Industry and Technology Minister Shavkat Bobozoda said. Gold extraction alone grew by 11,2 percent when compared with the numbers from 2016. Bobozoda added that the Ministry is projecting another 20 percent increase in the amount of gold to be gathered this year to a total of 6,6 tons. “For four years now has gold extraction grown by an average of more than 20 percent,” the Minister said. (Asia Plus, February 13)



Largest Glass Factory in Central Asia Opened in Turkmenistan

Turkmen President Bederimuhamedow has opened the largest glass factory producing the "Türkmen aýna önümleri” sort in the city of Ovadandep, 25 kilometers from the capital Ashgabat. The complex, which is the largest in Central Asia, will produce 3,95 million sqm of transparent, 1 million sqm of colored, 300 thousand sqm of tempered and 100 thousand sqm of laminated glass as well as 400 thousand sqm of insulated glazing. $375 million were invested into the project. (Press Service of the president of Turkmenistan, February 15)


Turkmenistan Looking into Turkish Participation in TAPI 

The head of Turkey’s Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, was hosted by Turkmenistan’s President Berdimuhamedow this past week to discuss the possibility of having Turkish companies participate in the realization of the Pipeline Project “Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India” (TAPI). No information was forthcoming on whether Ankara might help finance the project or assist in construction works. At the end of January, Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Energy and Turkey’s Çalık Holding signed a memorandum on cooperation to construct an electricity pipeline along TAPI’s gas infrastructure. (Turkem State News Agency, February 14) 


Iranian Experts Worried over Prospect of Fourth Gas Pipe from Turkmenistan to China

Mohamad Aminrad, a senior analyst on Iranian energy policy, has expressed concerns about Beijing’s plans to increase gas imports from Turkmenistan and to the beginning of the construction of a fourth gas pipeline between the two countries. Iran is worried that, once the project is finished, a big junk of Turkmen gas will be sent to China while Iran might lose the possibility to import Turkmen gas. Aminrad noted that negotiations are necessary between Teheran and Ashgabat to find a way out of this situation. (MEHR Information Agency, February 13)