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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: January 29 to February 04 2018

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

READ ALSO: Central Asia’s Self-Defeating Anti-Terrorism Efforts


The past week has again been rife with notable events in Central Asia’s politics and economics: The resignation of Uzbekistan’s eternal security chief Rustam Inoyatov made headlines – appointments as Presidential advisor and as a senator made sure, though, that he landed softly and was immune from criminal charges. Kazakhstan this week was center-stage in regional politics, hosting both the Forum on a Digital Agenda in the Age of Globalization as well as the Eurasian Union’s Intergovernmental Council that saw the prime ministers of the EEU’s member states come together in Almaty. Equally notable this past week was the visit of Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov to Tajikistan where he signed a number of key agreements. President Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan meanwhile met Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov to test the waters for cooperation in the energy sector which is key for both countries.


Kazakhstan Hosts EEU Intergovernmental Council 

The prime ministers of the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EEU) member states met in Almaty on February 02 for the EEU’s Intergovernmental Council and the Forum on a Digital Agenda in the Age of Globalization to discuss closer cooperation among the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the digital economy and thus adapting to a globally shifting environment. In total, 14 agreements were signed. International experts on communication technologies, business representatives and government officials from CIS member states were all invited to the conference. (RIA Novosti, February 02)



Kazakhstan Leads Central Asia In Economic Freedom

The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom saw Kazakhstan occupy the 41st position in the world ranking, ahead of Kyrgyzstan (78th place), Tajikistan (106th place), Uzbekistan (152nd place) and Turkmenistan (169th place). The index is measuring economic freedom in entrepreneurship, work relations, monetary questions, trade, investment and finance. (Heritage Foundation, February 03)


Nazarbayev Discusses Sochi Syria Talks And Almaty EEU Summit With Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed the importance to continue talks on the Syrian Conflict in the Astana Format during a phone conversation in which the two leaders also examined the results of the Congress on Syrian National Dialogue that had previously taken place in Sochi. A press release read that the Presidents „equally touched upon a number of measures to extent mutual cooperation, particularly in modern technologies and highlighted the results of the Forum on a Digital Agenda in the Age of Globalization.” (Press Service of the Russian President, February 03)

Kazakh Trade Turnover With EEU Members Increases 28 Percent

Trade with other EEU members grew to 22,5 percent of Kazakhstan’s total trade volume in the first 11 months of 2017 – an overall increase of 28 percent. Kazakhstan’s imports from these countries grew by 41,7 percent to $11bn while exports saw an increase of 31,3 percent to $4,6bn in comparison with 2016. A number of goods, including gland and metallurgical flat-rolled products, precious and rare metals, radioactive elements and isotopes, iron ore and concentrates were key to achieve these numbers. Oil and readily-processed related goods as well as transport machinery featured prominently among Kazakhstan’s imports from the EEU. (CA-News, February 01)

Kazakhstan To Spend More Than $900 Million On Combatting Extremism And Terrorism

The government in Astana is planning to spend 286 billion tenge (about $880mln) on anti-extremism and anti-terrorism from 2018 to 2022, according to a plan prepared by the National Security Committee (KNB); the document has been published recently so that citizens and interested organizations can contribute their input. The consultation will run until February 06. “Both federal and local budgets will contribute to the realization of the 2018-2022 plan. Kazakhstan’s Parliament will decide on all other resources to be spent on these priorities,” a statement read. (TengriNews, January 30)




Mirziyoyev Curtails Security Services

Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (SNB) will be stripped of all units not concerned with security work, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said in a meeting with the SNB’s extended leadership. He particularly criticized some of the SNB’s departments which had mirrored other government agencies, indicating serious shortcomings in intra-governmental coordination, staffing decisions and operational as well as investigative priorities. (Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan, February 04)

Uzbek Foreign Minister Meets US State Department Official

During a historic first trip to Tashkent, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells met Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, the Senate Speaker Sodik Safoyev and the President’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ismatil Ergashev. “We have a common interest in the stability and the steady development of Central Asia that will in turn impact the situation in Afghanistan and the development of the country,” Wells said. (CA-News, February 04)

Mirziyoyev Dismisses SNB Chief Inoyatov

Lieutenant-General Rustam Inoyatov, the head of Uzbekistan’s National Security Service for the last 23 years, has been removed from his post and named Presidential advisor on political and legal questions. On January 31, he was furthermore appointed to the country’s Senate and is thus immune from any criminal charges. IhtiyorAbdullayev, who was Uzbekistan’s General Prosecutor since April 2015, was named Inoyatov’s successor as head of the SNB. (CA-News, January 31)

IBRD To Invest $500 Million In Uzbek Fruit And Vegetable Industry

The World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has allotted $500 million to the development of Uzbekistan’s fruit and vegetable sector. A press release said that the project was approved by the World Bank’s board on January 30 in Washington. The participating Uzbek banks will provide affordable credits to local farmers to build depots and greenhouses, acquire equipment for the processing of fruits and vegetables, implement water saving technologies like dropwise irrigation and purchase semen and saplings. (Fergana News, January 31)


Former Interior Minister Arrested – Uzbek Media

Adham Ahmedbayev, Uzbekistan’s former Interior Minister, was arrested on January 26 in Tashkent, Ozodlik (RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service) reports, referring to a high-ranking official of the ministry who assisted in the arrest of the former minister. Ahmedbayev was detained by special operations units of the Presidential Guard, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office, the same source said. At the moment, he is being interrogated by Interior Ministry investigators. (Ozodlik, January 29)


Jeenbekov In Tajikistan On Official Visit

A number of accords on economic and technical cooperation as well as joint border measures were signed during an official visit by Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov to Tajikistan where he met his counterpart Emomali Rahmon. Jeenbekov also sat down with Prime Minister Kokhir Rasulzoda and the Parliament Speaker Shukurdjon Zuchurov for talks. (AKI Press, February 02)

Kyrgyz and Russian PMs Discuss Deeper Cooperation

The deepening of mutual ties in the Russian-Kyrgyz intergovernmental commission on economics and trade, science and technology and integration projects was at the center of a meeting between Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sapar Isakov and his Russian counterpart Dimitri Medvedev at the sidelines of the EEU’s Intergovernmental Council session in Almaty this past week. Isakov also congratulated Medvedev on Russia’s chairmanship of the EEU’s bodies. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, February 02)


Tajik Authorities Close Nearly 2000 Illegal Mosques

1938 Tajik mosques that operated without an official license have been transformed into social foundations, the head of the department for religious institutions of Tajikistan’s Committee on Religious Questions, Traditions and Ceremonies, Husein Shokirov, said. He added that some mosques were closed due to insufficient property documentations while others had not even been registered as a religious organization; another 231 prayer houses have now been given time to get their documents and registration in order. (Asia Plus, February 04)


Import Of Old Cars Forbidden In Tajikistan

A new regulation forbidding the import of cars built before 2005 from February 15 has been approved by Tajikistan’s cabinet. The customs service has been ordered to “carry out controls and make sure all imported cars and busses are conforming to the new norm.” The government had been ordered by President Rahmon to look into the issue due to concerns about the environment and road capacities. (AsiaPlus, February 02)

Construction of Pipeline From Turkmenistan To China Begins In Tajikistan

Djamshed Shoimzod, Tajikistan’s Deputy Minister for Energy and Water Resources announced this past week that the construction of Tajikistan’s parcel of a pipeline running from Turkmenistan to China has begun. “Everything is running smoothly and the realization of our part of the pipeline will be taking place within the budgetary frame,” he added. A daughter company of the industrial group CNPC is charged with the construction. The pipeline project was launched already in a 2013 treaty. (CA-News, January 31)


Fuel Prices On The Rise In Turkmenistan

The price for one liter of fuel in Turkmenistan has risen by 50 percent since February 01 – from 1 manat to 1,50 for the 95% octane sort, while the 92% variety is now sold for 1,35 manats, up from 0,94 (one dollar is sold for 3,5 manats at the official rate while the course on the black market is more like 10-11 manats). Rumors about an imminent fuel price hike led to stockpiling of gas among Turkmen drivers and higher taxi fares. Despite the increase, fuel prices in Turkmenistan remain among the lowest among all CIS members. (RIANovosti, February 03)


Berdimuhamedow Talks Energy With Azeri Foreign Minister

During a meeting between the Turkmen President with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and the Vice President for Investment and Marketing of the State Oil Company (SOCAR), Elshad Nasirov, “both sides agreed on the importance of the energy sector in mutual relations where Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are working towards balanced multi-vector systems to deliver energy to world markets,” a press release read. The two delegations also formed working groups to discuss the issue in more detail. (TurkmenStateInformationAgency, January 31)