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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: March 26 to April 01 2018

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


Central Asia did not disappoint when it comes to interesting political and economic news last week. In Kazakhstan, the headline broke that construction at a significant gas pipeline linking the western and central parts of the country would already start in July of this year. Astana and Tashkent meanwhile signed an agreement on stock trading. Uzbekistan last week agreed with Russia on the delivery of 10 M-35 helicopters while the Senate in Tashkent passed an important reform on the country’s security service and its exact competences. News about negotiations in Ashgabat between the Presidents of Iran and Turkmenistan stood out this week as well, despite the fact that the two leaders did not manage to resolve the long-standing conflict over natural gas pricing. The Russian-Tajik airline conflict also escalated again with both sides instituting new mutual measures that restrict air traffic. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, finally, former President Almazbek Atambayev was elected leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party.




Regional Conference on Afghan Security Held in Tashkent

Regional leaders and heads of states invested in Afghanistan’s security and cooperation on the issue came together in Tashkent last week for an international conference. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev opened the summit together with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani. Russia was represented through Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov while the EU sent High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. (RIA Novosti, March 27)






Prognosis on Kazakh Resource Wealth Predicts Significant Gold and Copper Reserves

Kazakhstan’s Ministry for Investment and Development announced this past week that geological searches have revealed new ore fields that hold 1,5 thousand tons of gold, 28,2 million tons of copper and 22,6 million tons of other half metals. Search missions for precious metals in were carried out in eastern Kazakhstan as well in order to estimate tin and lithium reserves. According to the collected data, the mineral wealth of the region is equally promising. (Press Service of the Ministry for Investment and Development of Kazakhstan, March 30)

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Sign Accord on Stock Trading

Following a meeting of representatives of the stock exchanges of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the two sides signed an agreement to regulate stock trading between the two countries. A working group will produce an index of goods to be traded via the exchanges of both country and coordinate the first pilot trades. The two sides also looked at the perspectives for opening Uzbek marketplaces at Kazakhstan’s stock exchanges in order to promote trading of Uzbek goods. (Regnum, March 30)

Construction on Gas Pipeline to Astana to Begin in July

Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev attended a meeting last week to discuss the construction of a vital gas pipeline from Kyzylord, via Zhezkazgan, Karagand and Temirtay to Astana as well as the possibility to secure international financing for the project. Construction is set to begin already in July of this year while the local administrations of Karaganda and Akmola Regions will plan and build secondary gas infrastructure until July 2019 and link it to the completed main pipeline. (TengriNews, March 27)

Kazakhstan to Launch 150 Projects under Industrialization-Innovation Plan in 2018

Zhenis Kasymbek, Kazakhstan’s Minister for Investment and Development, announced last week during a session of the cabinet that 150 new projects valued at over 1 trillion tenge ($3,1 billion) would be launched this year under the country’s industrialization and innovation strategy. This will create 15 thousand jobs, the minister said. “The successful realization of the program last year boosted the processing industry by 5,7 percent in comparison with 2015.” Over the last 3 years, 378 projects worth more than 3 trillion tenge ($9,32 billion) were implemented under the roadmap. (CA-News, March 28)



Uzbek Senate Passes Security Service Reform

Uzbekistan’s Senate passed a reform bill on Thursday during a plenary session concerning the State Security Service (SSS) – the former National Security Service SNB that was renamed by a Presidential decree on March 14. The explanatory statement to the law noted that the name change was due to the re-orientation of the service after more and more competences had been added over time without proper grounds. (, March 29)

Media Censorship Ban Passes Uzbek Senate

Apart from Security Service reform, Uzbekistan’s Senate also passed reforms to a law from 1997 on protecting the work of journalists, the ban on censorship of media and the status of journalists that conforms to international law. The law postulates that “nobody has the right to demand previous approval of journalistic materials, changes to texts or their complete removal.” The precedence of international over national law was moreover established in this particular field. (, March 29)


Uzbek Government Announces Simplification of Tax Code

The government in Astana has started a consultation on reforming the tax code in the country. A proposal by the National Agency for Project Management in the Presidential Administration proposes a radical simplification of the entire system and corresponding obligations: the tax rate and the number of taxes are to be lowered, accounting systems and collection rules for different tax brackets are to be simplified. (Fergana News, March 28)

Moscow to Deliver Mi-35 Helicopters to Tashkent

Russia and Uzbekistan have signed a contract on the delivery of 10 Mi-35 helicopters, the Deputy Head of the Service for Military and Technical Cooperation in Moscow, Vladimir Drozhov, has said. Military Cooperation with Uzbekistan is developing very well and dynamically,” he added. The Mi-35M is built to destroy armored vehicles, deliver close fire support for the infantry and can also be used as a transporter for personnel. The helicopters are equipped with modern weaponry. (TASS, March 29)




Almazbek Atambayev Elected Leader of Ruling Social Democratic Party

A party convention of 179 delegates of Kyrgyzstan’s Social Democratic Party elected former President Almazbek Atambayev as its leader this past week and reviewed the party’s recent activities. Heavyweight politicians like Salaidin Avazov, Farid Niyazov, Kushbak Tezekbayev, Muzaffar Isakov, Ocmonbek Artykbayev, Dastan Bekeshev, Isa Omurkulov and others were among the delegates. (AkiPress, March 31)

Local Administration Chiefs of Kyrgyz and Uzbek Border Regions Meet in Fergana

Kyrgyzstan’s and Uzbekistan’s Prime Ministers Sapar Isakov and Abdullah Aripov chaired a historic summit with the local administrative leaders of border regions of the two states. The chiefs of Uzbekistan’s Andijan, Fergana and Namangan Region and their colleagues of Kyrgyzstan’s Jalal Abad, Osh and Batken Regions participated. The summit addressed the implementation of agreements on inter-regional cooperation, the promotion of regional trade and investment as well as border crossings in the area. (Government of Kyrgyzstan, March 29)



Dushanbe Limits Flight Permits of Four Russian Airlines to the Country

Tajikistan’s aviation authorities have withdrawn flight permits of Russia’s Ural Airlines, YutAir, Sibir and North Wind to 11 Tajik cities. Concerned flights are from Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Saint Petersburg and Samara to Dushanbe as well as flights from Novosibirsk, Samara, Saint Petersburg and Surgut to Khujand. (TASS, April 01)

Russia’s aviation authorities have meanwhile shut down flights of Somon Air from April 02 from Dushanbe to Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Kazan, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Saint Petersburg and Sochi as well as from Khujand to Kazan and Saint Petersburg. Furthermore, the permit for flights from Khujand to Moscow will expire at the beginning of April as well. Somon Air said that Russia’s punitive policies are connected with a dispute over air transportation between Moscow and Dushanbe. (Interfax, April 01)

Tajik President Meets Polish Counterpart for Negotiations

During a working meeting between Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon and Polish President Andrzej Duda, who stopped in Dushanbe en route to Afghanistan to talk about Tajik-Polish relations and economic cooperation as well as to exchange their views about current regional and international issues, including security and stability in neighboring Afghanistan. (Press Service of the President of Tajikistan, March 27)


Serdar Berdimukhammedov Named Deputy Foreign Minister

Turkmen President Gurganguly Berdimukhammedov has signed a decree appointing his son Serdar to the post of Deputy Foreign Minister this past week. The President’s son was also elected to Parliament in late March, claiming over 90 percent of the vote in his district. Serdar Berdimukhammedov also visited Astana on March 15 where he informally represented Ashgabat at a summit of Central Asia’s heads of state. (Turkmen State News Agency, March 30)

Iranian Leader in Ashgabat on Official Visit

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani embarked to Ashgabat this past week for a two-day state visit. He first met Turkmen leader Gurganguly Berdimukhammedov before consulting with the broader Turkmen government in an open meeting. The two sides discussed cooperation in transport, transit, energy and in Caspian issues; moreover, accords were reached concerning joint road construction and the opening of a bridge in Serakhs in southern Turkmenistan to connect the city with Mary province – a project with Iranian participation. (Chronika Turkmenistana, March 28)

The two sides also signed a package of other concrete agreements, namely a memorandum of understanding in trade, industry and agriculture questions and a cooperation treaty in cultural, artistic and scientific affairs. The two sides also plan to electronically exchange customs information and cooperate on opening new air routes between the two countries. (Turkmen State News Agency, March 27)