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

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


Lots of political, international and economic news to cover all over Central Asia this week: Primarily important was Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to bring foreign investment home; the resource-rich UAE turned out to be ready to develop the mutual relationship. An incident in the Caspian Sea that left two Iranian citizens dead also made headlines this past week, complicating relations between Teheran and Ashgabat ahead of a visit by Hassan Rouhani to Turkmenistan. The spat over air traffic between the Russian and Tajik authorities continued with both sides taking parallel measures that significantly complicated overflights by airlines from these two countries. More “constructive” news came out of Uzbekistan where the construction of an electricity delivery line to Afghanistan finally got underway, promising to raise energy deliveries by 70 percent. Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, broke its own record from 2013 in remittances sent home from labor migrants abroad while Turkmenistan held parliamentary elections.




Nazarbayev in UAE for Official Visit

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev met the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the head of the UAE’s armed forces Sheikh Muhammed Ben Zaid Al Nakhayan and his General Staff during an official visit to the Persian Gulf last week. The two sides signed accords on invesment protection and promotion, a memorandum on cooperating in building a chemical-gas complex in Atyrau Region and a number of other economic agreements. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, March 25)

Kazakh and Uzbek Leaders Meet in Samarkand for Talks

Vital issues in mutual relations stood in the center of negotiations held in Samarkand between Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev. A press release read that the two Presidents “noted the improvement in relations between the states of the region while the simplification of border procedures made the peoples of Central Asia move closer together and has created new opportunities.” Nazarbayev and Mirziyoyev also paid tribute to former Uzbek President Islam Karimov at his memorial shrine near the city. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, March 22)

Chinese Firm Invests Over $150 Million in Electricity Pipeline to Southern Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to China, Shakhrat Nuryshev, conducted negotiations with the Vice President JiangsuZhenfaHoldingsGroupCo. Ltd. on realizing a $154,5 million project that is to deliver sun and wind energy to Kentau, a city in Southern Kazakhstan. The output from wind energy is expected to rise to 50 megawatt hours and 30 megawatt hours form sun energy after the completion of the project. Construction is expected to begin in August of this year and to finish by 2020. (, March 21)


Kazakh Agriculture Export to China Rise by a Third

Kazakhstan’s First Deputy Agriculture Minister Arman Evniyev said this past week that the country managed to increase its agriculture exports to China by 34,3 percent last year. He added that the Chinese market is open to fishery products, sheep, bee and horse trading as well as wheat, bran and soy beans. “We exported 7,7 thousand tons soy beans for the first time and increased the export of soy butter by a factor of 7,3. The export of frozen fish, vegetable oil and butter grew by an average 2,7 times,” the official said. (Infoshos, March 20)





Uzbekistan Begins Construction on Electricity Pipeline to Afghanistan

Construction at the new electricity pipeline “Surchon-Puli-Chumri” is now underway in Uzbekistan before works will begin in Afghanistan in June of this year, the head of Uzbekenergo, Ulugbek Mustafoyev, has said. The $150 million pipeline will be 260 kilometers long and is set to increase the delivery volume to Afghanistan by 70 percent. The agreement on building the line was signed in December 2017 during a visit by Afghan President Ashraf Gani to Tashkent. (CA-News, March 24)

25 People Arrested in Affair Surrounding Former Uzbek General Prosecutor Kadyrov

According to sources in Uzbekistan’s General Prosecutor’s Office, 25 people – former and current co-workers of the Prosecutor’s Office itself, the security and the customs service – were arrested on March 20 in connection with the case against former General Prosecutor Rashid Kadyorv and the Deputy Prosecutor for Tashkent Miraglam Mirzayev. Eight of the detained worked for the SNB while around 10 were prosecutors for cities and districts. (, March 23)

Uzbekistan Raises Gas Prices for Population by 10 Percent

UztransGaz said this past week that it would raise gas prices by 10 percent by April 01 for the general population. The new price register was approved by Uzbekistan’s Finance Ministry on March 16. Accordingly, the price for 10 cubometers of natural gas will cost 2897,4 Som instead of the current 2634, starting from next month. The authorities raised the prices for gas and other commodities was in June 2017. (, March 19)

Mirziyoyev Invites Putin to Tashkent

During a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev congratulated the Russian leader on his re-election and invited him to come visit Uzbekistan. Mirziyoyev noted that his high-level trip to Russian in April 2017 and the enduring intensive contacts between the two countries have contributed to an enhanced mutual relationship in different spheres, like trade, economics, investment, banking, transport and communications. (, March 19).



World Bank Grants Kyrgyzstan $50 Million to Develop Internet Access

The project “Digital CASA – Kyrgyzstan” which aims to improve access to fast and cheap internet, attract private investment to the country’s IT sector and promote the possibilities to provide state services digitally is to be supported by $50 million from the World Bank, the institution decided last week. Half of the money will be made available as a grant, the other half as a credit. (Kabar, March 22)

Record Amount of Remittances Sent to Kyrgyzstan in 2017

Russia’s Central Bank announced last week that Kyrgyz migrant workers sent $2,21 billion home in 2017, a 27 percent increase over 2016 and 5 percent more than in 2013. The Bank also noted a 42-percent-increase in remittances to Uzbekistan ($3,9 billion). This number is, however, still 42 percent lower than in 2013. Tajiks meanwhile, sent $2,54 billion home – a 31-percent-increase over 2016, but still 40 percent lower than in 2013. Remittances from Russia to Central Asia declined sharply in 2014. (FerganaNews, March 21)

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan Talk Border Delimitations

Kyrgyz media reported last week that government delegations from Tashkent and Bishkek had met in Batken to discuss border demarcations from March 12-15. Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the two sides brought new proposals for a new border line covering about 15 percent of the whole Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. A protocol was signed as a result of the negotiations. (CAToday, March 20)


Dushanbe Mirrors Russian Overflight Limitations for Tajik Airlines

Tajikistan’s air traffic authorities have increased the flight times to the Republic for Russian airlines by an average half hour by changing the “entry and exit” points into its airspace. This measure is meant to mirror analogous decisions by Russia introducing new aviation rules or Tajik airlines to the country on March 08 that increased flight times by 30 to 50 minutes, thus increasing costs. (AsiaPlus, March 23)

Aluminum Plant in Tajikistan Supplied by 30 Percent by Uzbek Gas

TALKO, a Tajik aluminum producer, is planning to cover 30 percent of its energy needs in 2018 by buying natural gas in neighboring Uzbekistan. The remaining 70 percent are to be covered by synthesizing local gas and coal supplies. Uzbekistan will deliver 126 million cubometers of natural gas to Tajikistan in 2018 for a total of $15,1 million. (TajikTA, March 20)


Parliamentary Elections Held in Turkmenistan

In Parliamentary elections last Sunday, 91 percent of 3,2 million eligible Turkmens turned out to vote, according to data released by the Central Electoral Commission. Official results will be released no later than seven days after the vote. The Parliament, called Majlis, consists of 125 deputies, elected to five-year-terms. (CA-News, March 25)

Teheran Officially Protests over Death of two Iranian Citizens

The government in Teheran has sent Ashgabat an official diplomatic note of protest after Turkmen border guards opened fire on an Iranian fisherboat, killing two Iranian citizens and arresting two more on March 20. Theheran called Turkmenistan’s actions “aggressive”. Ashgabat in turn said that the Iranians were engaged in drug smuggling and asked Teheran not to politicize the issue. (ChronikaTurkmenistana, March 24)

Iranian President to Visit Turkmenistan on March 27

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s President, will visit Ashgabat on March 27 after a lower-level delegation lead by Bizhan Zangane, Iran’s Minister for the Oil Industries, had already come to Turkmenistan on March 19 to settle a gas dispute between Ashgabat and Teheran that is already running for several years. The visit also looked at perspectives for further cooperation in the energy sphere between the two countries. (Mehr, March 20)