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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: February 19-25 2018

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

This past week was again filled with notable events in Central Asia’s economic and political life, both domestically and internationally. Kazakhstan’s President signed an order specifying the country’s transfer to the Latin alphabet, a reform deemed important to the country’s further development. Nazarbayev also confirmed Kazakhstan’s strategic development plan for the time until 2025. Uzbek media this week reported the arrest of the previous General Prosecutor and two of his deputies – another data point in the continuing tough reform process of the country’s security services. Apart from that, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov was in Moscow on a busy visit to conclude a number of important accords with the Russians. Further positive news came in the form of Tashkent agreeing with Tajikistan on opening new border crossings. Turkmenistan’s President Berdimuhamedov, meanwhile, attended a ceremony marking the beginning of construction at TAPI’s Afghan parcel while Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister got appointed to the portfolio dealing with energy and infrastructure in the Eurasian Economic Commission.



Nazarbayev Signs Order on Transit to Latin

Following a decree from last October regulating details of Kazakhstan’s transition to the Latin alphabet, President Nazarbayev has again signed an order clarifying further technicalities last week. The new version includes 32 characters and has replaced the previously envisioned apostrophes with stresses on top of single letters; furthermore, “sh” and “ch” sounds have been adopted in order to make the alphabet more easily usable. The new order entered into force immediately. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, February 23)

Kazakh Strategic Development Plan Until 2025 Adopted

Nursultan Nazarbayev has also signed Kazakhstan’s new Strategic Development Strategy 2025 into law, replacing an analogous document that had previously served to give the government and authorities a sense of direction until 2020. The new plan is built around seven important systemic reforms and seven political priorities that are to be implemented in Kazakhstan’s economy and society until 2025. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, February 23)

Kazakh PM Negotiates with Deutsche Bank on Digitalization and Infrastructure

Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev met Deutsche Bank’s CEO for Central and Eastern Europe, Peter Tils, to discuss joint projects in digitalization, infrastructure and the prospects for building the international financial center “Astana” this past week. Deutsche Bank also expressed interest in the state program “Digital Kazakhstan”. (Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, February 20)

Honeywell and Kazakh Innovation Fund to Cooperate on Smart Cities

The American company Honeywell has signed a memorandum with Kazakhstan’s state fund “Park of Innovative Technologies” to cooperate on high-tech solutions for smart cities and companies as well as on automation, security system administration, energy efficiency and controlling. The agreement came about as a result of President Nazarbayev’s visit to the United States a few weeks ago. (Park of Innovative Technologies, February 20)


Uzbek Foreign Minister in Moscow for Talks

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and the country’s National Security Secretary Viktor Machmudov were in Moscow this past week for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the National Security Chief Nikolai Patrushev. Kamilov underlined that the visit came at the right moment as current relations allow for discussions of a comprehensive agenda. Lavrov, on his part, noted Russia’s support for the international conference on Afghanistan that Tashkent is planning to host on March 26. (TASS, February 23)

Uzbekistan to Officially Send 50 Thousand Labor Migrants to Russia in 2018

An intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Uzbekistan from April 2017 that entered into force last December is allowing Uzbekistan to send an official contingent of temporary labor migrants to Russia. “We are planning to send more than 50 thousand laborers to Russia in 2018 through our Foreign Labor Migration Agency,” Zakir Umarov, Deputy Minister for Employment and Labor Relations said. (Sputnik Uzbekistan, February 23)

Former General Prosecutor Arrested – Uzbek Media

Uzbekistan’s former General Prosecutor Rashid Kadyrov was arrested on February 22 together with two of his former deputies under a warrant issued by the Prosecutor’s Office, which to date has neither confirmed nor denied the reports. Kadyrov is accused of misappropriating substantial state funds and money laundering through foreign banks; investigators are currently questioning him in a Tashkent detention center. Kadyrov headed the Prosecutor’s Office for 15 years until April 2015. (Fergana News, February 22)

10 New Border Crosses to be Opened Between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

Tashkent decided last week to re-establish one frontier post, one crossing point for trains and eight points for car traffic at its border with Tajikistan. According to the government’s resolution, Tashkent will provide all the necessary infrastructure on the ground for the car crossing while the firm “Uzbekiston Temir Iullari” will re-instate an abandoned rail crossing until March 01. (, February 21)


Astana Says Arrested Kyrgyz Lawmaker Has Kazakh Citizenship

Almas Sadubayev, the head of the Department on Public Relations and Information in Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said this past week that Kamirbek Asylbek, a Kyrgyz parliamentarian who got arrested during a Kazakh anti-corruption operation, is in fact a Kazakh citizen. “The suspect was born in Kordaiski District of [the southern Kazakh] Jambyl Region and is a Kazakh citizen. Reaching adulthood, he received personal documentation and a passport of our country,” Sadubayev pointed out. Earlier, Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received a note corroborating media reports on Asylbek’s arrest from Kazakhstan. (Kazinform, February 23)

Emil Kaikiyev Named EEU Commissioner for Energy and Infrastructure

Kyrgyzstan’s representative to the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), Emil Kaikiyev, has been named Commissioner for Energy and Infrastructure, effective from February 20, following a decision by the heads of state of the Union’s member states, the institution said. The Commission consists of ten people, two of which represent each member country. Kaikiyev had previously been Deputy Foreign Minister since March 2015. (Press Service of the Eurasian Commission, February 20)

Russia Says Trade with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan Rises by 30 Percent

According to Russia’s Federal Customs Service, trade turnover with Kyrgyzstan rose by 31,6 percent while Uzbekistan’s numbers grew by 33,0 percent in 2017. At the same time, mutual trade with Azerbaijan rose by 34,5 percent and 29 percent with Armenia. Russia’s closest partner within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was Belarus, with turnover increasing by 26 percent to $30,2 bn. Kazakhstan came in second, with a growth rate of 30 percent and $17,2bn in total trade. (Proved, February 20)


Tajikistan Opens Armed Forces Command Center

President Emomali Rahmon opened an integrated command center for Tajikistan’s armed forces on February 21 which will serve as the nerve center for the armed forces and their commander in chief in case of any serious threat to the state. The new structure will be connected to the regional administrations of Kūhistoni Badakhshon, Sughd, Khatlon and Gharm. Mobile command centers are equally foreseen that will be able to coordinate and synchronize with the integrated command. (Press Service of the President of Tajikistan, February 21)

Tajik Government Purchases Stocks of Largest National Goldmine for One Dollar

“Tszinfen”, a Chinese mining conglomerate has sold the Tajik government 5 percent of its shares in the company “Zarafshon” for the symbolic price of one dollar. At the beginning of February, President Emomali Rahmon had charged the state’s property agency to sign a corresponding agreement with the Chinese. After the sale, the government’s stake in the country’s largest gold mining enterprise is going to rise to 30 percent while the Chinese company Zi Jin Mining will hold 70 percent. (CA-News, February 19)



Berdimuhamedov at Ceremony Marking Beginning of Afghan Parcel of TAPI

Last Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Gani visited Turkmenistan’s south-eastern Mary Region where he met his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Mobasher Akbar to attend the first part of a ceremony marking the opening of the Afghan parcel of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI). Right afterwards, the officials crossed the border into Afghanistan by car and arrived in Herat where the construction works on TAPI, which will run 1700 kilometers in total, were officially opened. (Fergana News, February 23)

Turkmenistan’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan Announces Presidential Visit to Tashkent

Shiri Shiriyev, Turkmenistan’s diplomatic representative in Tashkent has told local media this past week that President Berdimuhamedov would come to Uzbekistan on an official state visit on a yet unspecified date this autumn. He added that the two sides are currently preparing the meeting between the Presidents of the two countries. Mirziyoyev and Berdimuhamedov already spoke by phone in January about the possibility of a visit. The Uzbek head of state already came to Ashgabat on his first visit abroad as President in March 2017. (Vesti.iz, February 22)

Turkmen-Russian Trade Crashes by 50 Percent

In 2017, Russia saw its trade turnover increase with nearly every member country of the CIS, with the exception of Turkmenistan. The Federal Customs Service says that in this case, mutual goods exchanges declined by 52,5 percent to $428 mln. Turkmenistan’s exports to Russia also suffered a 30 percent decline to §343,8 mln while imports from Russia contracted by a total 74,4 percent, to $84,4 mln. The decline mainly concerned plastic materials, minerals and the textile industry. (Proved, February 20)