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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: March 12-18 2018

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


Strengthening regional cooperation stood at the center of Central Asia’s political and economic life this past week. The most important event in this regard was the summit of Central Asian heads of state in Astana where the leaders consulted on political and economic issues. The get-together displayed the region’s agency and its willingness to strengthen mutual ties and cooperation. Last week also saw a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey about Syria in Astana while Uzbek President Mirziyoyev renamed the National Security Service SBU into the State Security Service. In Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, the President’s new Chief of Staff, Muhammedkaly Abdylgaziyev, was appointed. At the same time, Turkmenistan’s President toured the UAE and Kuwait and signed dozens of agreements with the two Gulf countries.




Astana hosted mutual consultations of Central Asia’s leaders, except Turkmenistan, this past week. Ashgabat was however represented at the summit through Akdja Nurberdyyeva, the Parliament’s Speaker. No outside power was participating in the meeting that did not come together in its current form for ten years. The presidents discussed political and economic questions, international relations and cultural ties in bilateral and multilateral formats. (Asia Plus, March 15)




Iranian, Russian and Turkish Foreign Ministers Discuss Syria in Astana 

Apart from the Central Asian leaders’ summit, Astana also hosted the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran on Friday to discuss a settlement for the conflict in Syria, to lay out the road ahead and to analyze the results, lessons and achievements after one year of cooperating in the “Astana Format”. The ministers stressed the importance of ensuring the viability of four de-escalation zones while affirming their continued resolve to fight extremist groups. (RIA Novosti,March 16)

Kazakhstan and Tajikistan Remove Mutual 30-Day-Registration Duty

In the course of negotiations between Kazakh President Nazarbayev and his Tajik counterpart Rahmon, the foreign ministers of both countries signed a protocol abolishing registration duties for citizens of both countries for 30 days. After obtaining a registration, citizen can stay for up to 90 days. Furthermore, the ministers agreed on extraditing convicted criminals from the two countries back home to serve their sentence while labor ministers concluded an accord on other migration questions. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, March 14)

Kazakh Government Adopts Roadmap Implementing Nazabayev’s Social Initiatives

The five key initiatives in the social sphere that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev laid out in an address in early March were analyzed and adopted for implementation in the form of a roadmap by the government this past week. Economy Minister Timur Suleimenov presented the document that was cooperatively developed with all concerned state institutions and Kazakhstan’s National Bank to the public. The roadmap channels 35 measures and foresees 7 new laws, 6 governmental and 3 National Bank decrees. (, March 13)

Former Kazakh Economy Minister Bishimbayev Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Kuandyk Bishimbayev, Kazakhstan’s former Economy Minister, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption while he was banned from government service for life. The court also ruled that all property that Bishimbayev obtained illegally would be confiscated. The former minister was arrested in January 2017 by officers of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly accepting substantial illicit funds. (RIA Novosti, March 14) 




Tashkent Says No Additional Flights to and from Russia

Russia’s and Uzbekistan’s civil aviation authorities were unable to reach an accord on further flights between the two countries, a negotiation protocol on the site of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said. The essence of the dispute was the status of Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport and, in particular, a unilateral increase in flights to Uzbekistan that was not to be reciprocated by Uzbekistan’s only national airline, “Uzbekistan Xavo Iullari”. (Fergana News, February 17)

Uzbekistan Running a $1 Billion Trade Deficit in January and February 2018

The first two months of this year saw Uzbekistan import goods and services worth $2,4 billion while exporting $1,5 billion. In imports, machinery equipment, chemical and industrial products while 32 percent of exports amounted to transport and tourist services, followed by energy and oil deliveries abroad. Uzbekistan’s main trading partners were Russia (25,6 percent), China (22,5 percent), Kazakhstan (9,3 percent) and Turkey (5,8 percent). (Uzbek Statistics Committee, March 15)

Uzbek President Orders Further SBU Reform

A presidential decree from March 14 became the latest in a string of reforms pushed by Uzbekistan’s President. The order changed the name of the National Security Service SBU into the State Security Service SSS. The document notes that the SNB had previously been sparsely regulated and expressly aims to create a solid legal foundation, a clear status and precisely defined competences and guidelines for the SSS. (Uzbekistan 24, March 14)


Kyrgyzstan Appoints New Head of Presidential Administration

Muhammedkaly Abdylgaziyev, the former Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, was elevated to the top job in the institution this past week. In 2016-2017, he occupied the post of First Deputy Minister and Adviser to the President. Two weeks ago, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov finally signed off on the voluntary resignation of his previous Chief of Staff, Farid Niyazov, who had worked in the post since December 2017. (Press Service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, March 16)


Jeenbekov Meets Nazarbayev in Astana for Negotiations

Regional and bilateral issues topped the agenda during negotiations held between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Kyrgyz colleague Sooronbay Jeenbekov during the latter’s visit to Astana for the abovementioned regional leaders’ summit. Nazarbayev highlighted the development of trade and economic ties between Astana and Bishkek while Jeenbekov stressed the importance of further strengthening mutual relations and jointly working towards a resolution of pressing regional issues. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, March 14)





Dushanbe Ratifies Visa-Freedom for Uzbek Citizens

Tajikistan’s Parliament ratified a visa accord this past week that had been concluded during a visit by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Dushanbe on March 09. Uzbek and Tajik citizens will be able to visit the neighboring country for 30 days without any visa, starting from March 16. The Uzbek side already fulfilled all necessary legal procedures last week for the treaty to enter into force. (Asia Plus, Mach 17)


Uzbekistan to Deliver Gas to Tajikistan at Half-Market-Prices

Pursuant to a contract between TajikTransGaz and UzTransGaz, Uzbekistan will deliver 126 million cbm of natural gas to Tajikistan in 2018 for a total of $15,1 million, a source in the Tajik government said. The official added that the delivery price was set at $120 per thousand cbm – more than 50 percent below world market prices. Uzbekistan is allegedly also prepared to increase delivery volumes to Dushanbe should there be more demand. (Asia Plus, March 14)

Russia Threatens Tajikistan with Retaliatory Measures for Cancelling Ural Airline Flights

After a decision by the Tajik authorities to deny Russia’s Ural Airlines necessary registrations, the Transport Ministry in Moscow threatened retaliatory measures. The two countries are also arguing over more flights from Russia to Tajikistan as well as over the status of Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport – mirroring a dispute between Russia and Uzbekistan, as noted above. Dushanbe insists that the airport belongs to the Russian capital, which would impact flight quotas and charges. Moscow, however, says that Zhukovsky is a regional airport. The two sides will meet on March 22-23 in order to attempt resolving the issue. (Asia Plus, March 14)






Turkmenistan Signs Cooperation Package with UAE

Turkmen President Gurganguly Berdimuhamedov signed ten cooperation agreements in the economic, political and the legal sphere during a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week. Meetings were also held with Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan. Berdimuhamedov invited the UAE’s largest oil and gas companies and financial institutions to invest in the construction of the TAPI pipeline project. (NeutralTurkmenistan, March 15)


Ashgabat Not Ready to Increase Gas Deliveries to China

China is planning to faster switch from coal to gas as an energy resource in 2018, after the process had been slowed down last year. Ho Tsyaofen, an expert at the State Research Council in Beijing said that one of the reasons was the dragging increase in gas deliveries from Turkmenistan last year. In 2017, Chinese gas demands rose to a record 237,3 billion cbm while Ashgabat’s deliveries rose to 33,58 billion cbm – a 13,3 percent increase. At the same time, a the construction of a fourth gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China was announced. (Chronika Turkmenistana, Marh 14)


Berdimuhamedov in Kuwait on Official Visit

Turkmenistan’s President embarked to Kuwait for a two-day visit last week to sign a package of agreements on economic and technological cooperation and trade. The two sides also concluded a memorandum on cooperation between the Turkmen government and the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Developlment as well as an accord between Turkmengaz and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. (Neutral Turkmenistan, March 13)