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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: January 15 to 21 2018

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


The new week in Central Asia was again ripe with activity, especially in international politics. Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev strengthened his country’s political and economic ties on a visit to the United States – a move observed closely from Moscow. But the other countries of the region had their moments in the international spotlight as well. Their representatives got together in Washington for consultations within the “C5+1” format that includes the US. In the economic sphere, Kazakhstan’s intent to privatize 40 percent of its assets made news, just as Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s proposal to build a new metallurgical and mining complex until 2024. He also pushed the country’s diplomatic missions to work harder to boost exports and sent more diplomats to key partner countries to work on trade and investment. Good economic news, moreover, are coming from Tajikistan where GDP growth last year amounted to 7 percent. Finally, Kyrgyzstan this week decided to limit Chinese meat imports because they failed to live up to Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) standards.


C5+1 Meeting in New York Brings Together Regional Leaders


Representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the USA, who together form the so-called “C5+1” group, discussed strengthening regional security and jointly countering arising threats and challenges. All Central Asian countries except Turkmenistan were represented at the meeting with their Foreign Minister. Ashgabat sent its UN Ambassador Aksoltan Atayev while Washington was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister John Sullivan. The “C5+1” format was established in late September 2015 by the Central Asian states and the USA in order to consult on regional issues. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, January 20)





 Trump Offers Nazarbayev to Move Donbas Talks from Minsk

Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev said last week that US President Donald Trump suggested moving the Donbas peace talks from the Belarussian capital after both leaders had agreed that the Minsk Peace Process was going nowhere due to an absence of mutual understanding. “Clearly, the talks must come to Kazakhstan and we agreed to work towards that end. I have already travelled extensively to get everyone together in a room there,” Nazarbayev stressed. (Ria Novosti, January 19)


Kazakhstan to Privatize 47 Companies in 2018

Serik Zhumangarin, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Economy Minister, announced that the government will privatize 47 companies in 2018. According to his statement, investors are particularly interested in the substantial stocks held by the National Welfare Fund “Samruk Kazyna” which includes “Kazakhstan Temir Joly”, “MazMunaiGaz”, Kazatomprom”, “Samruk Energo”, “Air Astana”, “Kazpochta” and “Tolkin Samruk”. “We expect to raise $3,5 to $5,5 billion through the sales”, the deputy minister continued. “In the oil-and-gas sector we expect to sell 10 companies, one in the rail transport and four in the nuclear field as well as eight energy companies.” (CA-News, January 18)


Kazakhstan And US Sign $7bn Deal

US President Donald Trump stressed that the more than 20 investment and trade agreements that were signed during Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to the US would create jobs for the American economy. The accords concerned cooperation in aerospace research, the oil and chemical industries, agriculture and infrastructure and amounted to around $7 billion. A number of firms are standing ready to participate in the projects, among them Boeing, GE Transportation, GE Digital, Chevron, Air Astana and the National Welfare Fund “Samruk-Kazyna”. Apart from that, another three accords on a number of different issues were signed between the two governments. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, January 17)


Kazakhstan To Pay Blogger $1,4 mln to Promote Latin Alphabet

The government in Astana is planning to pay a blogger a total of 462 million tenge ($1,4mln) to promote the country’s transition to the Latin alphabet on social media. A timetable providing for the shift to be carried out between 2018 and 2025 has meanwhile been published on the e-government website and is under consultation until January 30. The plan also includes supporting a number of other framework projects like setting up a journalist pool and developing IT-Apps. (FerganaNews, January 17)





Tashkent and Kabul Propose Conference on Settling Afghan Conflict

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov has announced during a session of the UN Security Council this past week that Uzbekistan and Afghanistan will jointly organize a ministerial conference at the end of March in Tashkent, titled “Afghanistan – the way into a peaceful future”. “This meeting in Tashkent will be a logical addition to the second session of the ‘Kabul Process’ that is planned for the end of February 2018 and will equally build upon previous achievements from joint efforts on different levels”, the Minister said. (CA-News, January 21)


Uzbek FM Meets US State Secretary

Further expanding the Uzbek-American dialogue in political, economic, trade, investment and cultural-humanitarian sector stood in the center of a meeting between Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon, on January 17 in Washington. The conversation aimed at working out practical means to put the ideas that US President Donald Trump discussed with fellow President Shavkat Mirziyoye in a phone conversation on December 19, 2017 into practice. (Press Service of the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan, January 19)


Uzbekistan to Build Metallurgical-Mining Complex until 2024

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev affirmed plans this past week to build a metallurgical and mining complex on the Tebinbulak Ore Field until 2024. The project will have the capacity to produce 1 million tons of steel per year. The government endorsed the findings of a preliminary feasibility study on the technical and economic aspects of developing the Tebinbulak field. “UzbekEnergo” has been charged at its own cost with linking the newly erected complex to external energy systems by January 01 2019. (Sputnik Uzbekistan, January 15)


Mirziyoyev Demands Maximum Efforts from Diplomats Abroad to Promote Exports

Uzbekistan’s President has announced this past week that ten ambassadors have been relieved of their duties for failing to live up to expectations in 2017 – among them the country’s representatives to China, Japan, Turkey and Malaysia. Mirziyoyev stressed the need for the Foreign Ministry to become more active in promoting exports from Uzbekistan. This year, more diplomats will be sent to the economic, trade and investment divisions of the country’s embassies in Central Asia, Russia, China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Turkey. (CA-News, January 15)





Babanov Quits Politics

Kyrgyzstan’s Central Electoral Commission on January 19 certified that Omurbek Babanov, leader of the political group “Respublika – Ata Zhurt” in Parliament and former presidential candidate, had resigned from Parliament with immediate effect. The Commission’s Deputy Chairman Abdyzhapar Bekmatov said that the corresponding documents are in line with the legal requirements – a previous resignation letter from earlier in January had been rejected by the Electoral Commission for procedural mistakes like failing to hand in the papers personally or through a legal representative. (KaktusMedia, January 19)


Kyrgyzstan Restricts Chinese Meat Imports, Upholding EEU Standards

Erkin Choduyev, Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Land Develoment has told a session of the Parliamentary Group “Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan” that Bishkek had put caps on Chinese meat import for failing to live up to the standards of the EEU. He added that Kyrgyzstan is producing 250 thousand tons of meat and exporting 971 tons; this is why the government is stressing exports in its 2017-2021 development program for the food industry. (Vecherni Bishkek, January 19)





Tashkent Prolongs Rail Cargo Transit Discounts for Dushanbe

Uzbekistan is continuing to grant Tajikistan a discount between 30 to 50 percent on goods transiting the country by rail. Reports indicate that the transit over the rail route Keles-Kudukli will be discounted at 40 percent while the knock-off for oil-based products over the Karakalpakstan-Kukukli route will be 30 percent. The fee reduction for other goods on the same route will amount to 50 percent. In August 2017, the rail companies of both countries had signed an agreement on reducing transit fees by 40 percent. (CA-News, January 18)


Tajik GDP Grows More Than 7 Percent in 2017

Tajikistan’s Statistics Agency announced last week that GDP growth in the country amounted to 7,1 percent in 2017, or 61,1 billion Somoni ($6,9bn). Agriculture, wild animal hunting, forestry and fishery are dominating the GDP’s structure with 21,1 percent of the total. Other sectors that impacted GDP were trade, construction, tourism and gastronomy with 14 percent. Transport, communications and storage facilities amounted to 11,1 percent and services to 10,8 percent. (Sputnik Tajikistan, January 18)


Uzbek-Tajik Trade in 2017 Rises by 82%

Tajikistan’s Statistical Bureau further reported last week that the mutual trade with Uzbekistan grew to $936mln last year – a 82 percent or $126 million increase. Trade turnover with Russia reached $936mln (a minus of 9,7 percent), with Kazakhstan $838mln (a plus of 24 percent) and with China $591mln (a minus of 33 percent). Tajikistan’s exports grew by 33,3 percent overall in comparison with 2016 while imports shrank by 8,5 percent. (CA-News, January 18)





HRW Names Turkmenistan World’s Most Closed-Off State

In a HRW report on human rights all over the world, Turkmenistan was singled out as the most closed-off state in the world with President Berdimuhamedow and his closest underlings controlling all aspects of societal life. In 2017, Ashgabat had hosted the Asian Indoors and Martial Arts Games – a rare exception to the country’s isolation which, however, only led to a further crackdown on freedom of expression and other rights by the government. HRW’s experts also sounded the alarm on a decreasing respect for human rights in a number of other post-Soviet states. (, January 17)

Ashgabat Sets up Commission to Push TAPI Pipeline

A working commission was set up by Turkmenistan this past week in order to coordinate the implementation of the pipeline project TAPI which is to create a transport and energy corridor along the route Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India. The second half of February will see the inauguration of the Afghan parcel of TAPI as well as optical fiber cables, electrical transmission systems and the railroad line from Serchetabat to Turgundi. Turkmenistan will build 214 kilometers of TAPI over its territory. The project is expected to be finished by the end of 2018. (Turkmenportal, January 15)


High-Level Officials and Security Service Agents Arrested in Turkmenistan – Media Reports 

Turkmenistan’s economic crime agency has arrested a number of agents of the country’s National Security Council in the northern Daşoguz Region on bribery charges as well as for allegedly cooperating with drug smugglers. Sources say that the head of the Customs Directorate in the capital’s Kopetdagski District has been arrested for alleged corruption as well. In October of last year, President Berdimuhamedow demanded strict measures in the fight against corruption within the state apparatus. Only a few days ago did the President relieve a number of judges and prosecutors from their duties who were then swiftly indicted for bribery. (CA-News, January 16)