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Kyrgyzstan: President visits new oil and garlic processing facility in Uzgen

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — On August 15, Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbai Jeenbekov toured the new edible oil and garlic processing facility in Uzgen as part of his visit to Osh and Jalal-Abad oblasts in the south of the country. The new facility, a joint investment of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and ElDan Atalyk, will employ 73 full-time workers and purchase large quantities of local crops. ElDan Atalyk already has plans this year to buy 4,200 tons of safflower, soybean and rapeseed from thousands of local farmers, the US Embassy in Bishkek reported.

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Kazakhstan’s economic growth at 4% in 7 months of 2018

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s GDP growth in January-July 2018 reached 4%. It was said at the meeting of the Government on August 14 which reviewed the results of the country’s economic development for the first 7 months of 2018, the official website of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reported.

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Tajikistan lets activists' families reunite, but human rights crisis continues — HRW

  • Written by TCA

DUSHANBE (TCA) — Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed recent decisions by Tajikistan authorities to allow two children of exiled dissidents to leave the country and reunite with their families who live abroad, RFE/RL reported.

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ADB to provide over $300 million to Tajikistan in 2019–2021

  • Written by TCA

DUSHANBE (TCA) — Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President Mr. Wencai Zhang on August 13 met with the Prime Minister of Tajikistan Mr. Kohir Rasulzoda, First Deputy Prime Minister and ADB Governor Mr. Davlatali Said, Economic Development and Trade Minister and ADB Alternate Governor Mr. Nematullo Khikmatullozoda and other senior government officials in Dushanbe. Mr. Zhang reiterated ADB’s support to Tajikistan’s development agenda, as the country strives to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.

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Tajikistan: rights groups urge int’l community to press authorities to free journalist

  • Written by TCA

DUSHANBE (TCA) — Diplomats and representatives of international organizations should press Tajikistan authorities to unconditionally set aside the conviction against a respected Tajik journalist convicted on politically motivated charges, twelve human rights organizations said in a collective statement on August 13.

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New hopes for shorter Caspian-Black Sea canal spark growing opposition

  • Written by Paul Goble

BISHKEK (TCA) — The idea of building a new canal between the Caspian and the Black Sea may see implementation as the project enjoys support of Kazakhstan, China, and Russia (despite internal opposition in areas where the planned canal would pass). We are republishing this article on the issue, written by Paul Goble, originally published by The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor:

The hopes of China and some Central Asian countries for the construction of a new canal between the Caspian and the Black Sea have sparked serious ethnic and environmental opposition even before the first spade of ground is turned. The project has its roots in the megaprojects of the Stalinist Soviet era—the types of massive “public works” that have experienced a comeback under current President Vladimir Putin. The existing waterways in this region lack the capacity to be economically significant. However, any canal large enough to compete with alternative routes would not only be massively expensive—costing at least $10 billion—but would also have a deleterious impact on the environment. Therefore, inhabitants of areas through which this canal would pass, in particular the newly active Kalmyk nation and its political leadership, express increasing opposition to this initiative. Many Russian environmental activists feel the same way. But some in the Kremlin may not: giant projects like this one open the way for massive diversions of public funds into the hands of its oligarch allies.

The proposed so-called “Eurasia” shipping channel would expand and connect a series of rivers and waterways across the northern territories of the North Caucasus. The eastern end of the route would open to the Caspian along the Kuma River, at the border between Dagestan and Kalmykia; the western end would open into the Taganrog (Tahanrih) Bay, in the Sea of Azov, which itself connects to the Black Sea via the Kerch Strait. As a straighter and more direct riverine transit corridor than the pre-existing Caspian–Black Sea link—the more northerly, 17-lock Volga-Don Canal—the 700-kilometer-long Eurasia canal would shave approximately 1,000 kilometers off the Volga-Don route and consist of only 6 locks. Additionally, the Eurasia canal could handle larger cargo vessels (10,000 tons, with a draft of up to 10 meters) compared to the Volga-Don Canal (5,000 tons, 5 meter draft), promising annual shipping capacities of as much 45 million tons (Zonakz.net, July 12, 2018; The Brussels Times, June 1, 2018; see EDM, October 1, 2010).

The leading advocates of this project today are Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Chinese government. Nazarbayev says that such a canal would radically expand Kazakhstan’s foreign trade with Europe, especially bulk cargoes like coal. For his country, he suggests, such a canal could make all the difference between becoming an economic star or fading into a backwater with few prospects beyond its immediate region. Other Central Asian countries are interested as well but less focused on this project than Kazakhstan (Total.kz, July 21).

The Chinese government is also supportive; yet, for Beijing, such a canal is not essential but rather an additional insurance policy should problems in the Indian Ocean restrict its ability to send most of its goods to European markets by sea. As analysts in Kazakhstan and Russia note, China does not want to rely on any single route and, therefore, promotes a band of links between itself and the West. A large new canal connecting Central Asia and Europe via the Caspian and Black Sea could be an essential part of that broader strategy (Zonakz.net, July 12; Casp-geo.ru, August 3).

The Russian government is at present less supportive. On the one hand, at least some in Moscow do not want to give Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries yet another way to reach Europe without passing through European (northwestern) Russia, especially if the central Russian government would likely have to bear much of the cost for any canal. Indeed, financing issues had blocked earlier plans for such a project in the 1930s. And on the other hand, far more Russian officials today are worried about the environmental consequences as well as the political consequences that they might face if they ignored them. The reason for that is not difficult to discern: In the early 1980s, Moscow’s push for Siberian river diversion broadly undermined Russian support for the Soviet government and ultimately forced the authorities to drop that large, expensive and environmentally disastrous project.

Analysts from both Russia and Kazakhstan have been playing to those fears. They point out that while a new canal would expand trade opportunities, it would be extremely expensive and would inflict environmental devastation on the Russian North Caucasus, a region already suffering from water shortages. To make a larger canal function, ever more water would have to be diverted from other purposes, including providing water for human needs. Some of these analysts are describing the canal plan as “idiotic” or using even more damning terms (Zonakz.net, July 12).

They are joined in their opposition by ethnic groups living along the route, including most prominently the Kalmyks, through whose territory the new canal would pass. In Kalmykia, not only the expert community but also the government have come out against the plan, arguing that it could destroy the economic and social welfare foundations of the population. Their objections have become so loud that they have even attracted the attention of the national Russian media (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, August 1).

This new opposition and Russian memories of the Siberian river diversion case would seem to be enough to kill this project. But there is a compelling reason not to write it off just yet: the Putin government’s proclivity for engaging in giant projects like the recently completed bridge to Crimea or the just-begun bridge to Sakhalin Island. Illustratively, the Kremlin is engaged in these megaprojects even as budgetary stringencies force it to cut back on more banal but important services like hospitals, schools and pensions. Putin clearly hopes he will achieve a boost in support from Russians as a result of such enterprises, which play to the notion that the Russian nation can overcome even the most difficult geographic tasks. Moreover, he knows—as anti-corruption activists have documented, from the Sochi Olympiad (see EDM, February 10, 2014) to the World Cup (RFE/RL, June 15, 2018) to the Kerch Bridge (Crimerussia.com, July 26, 2016)—such projects give ample opportunity to divert funds to his friends and, thus, maintain their support.

Taken together, all this means Moscow will likely begin the project, possibly with major allocations of funds that can be handed out to the oligarchs. But the government may ultimately back off if environmental and local opposition grows too strong.

China reportedly interested in joining TAPI gas pipeline project

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — China has expressed an interest in joining the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, by building a link from Pakistan to China, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported citing the Pakistani media.

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Kazakhstan holds presentation of multimodal transport hub at Kuryk port

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — A presentation of the multimodal transport hub — the ferry complex of the Kuryk port on Kazakhstan’s Caspian coast — was held in Mangystau region on August 11 with the participation of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Heads of state bodies, transport and logistics companies of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Iran, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan took part in the event, the press service of Kazakhstan’s national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy reported.

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Kazakhstan and China explore cooperation in textile industry

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — Heads of more than 30 largest Chinese companies — members of the Union of Textile Industry of the People's Republic of China — visited Astana for the first time to study investment opportunities of Kazakhstan. The meeting with the Kazakh side, held last week, was organized with the support of Kazakh Invest National Company, the official website of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reported.

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Three tourists, two crew members killed in helicopter accident in Tajikistan

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — Five people have died in a helicopter accident in eastern Tajikistan, including three Russian mountaineers and two Tajik members of the helicopter crew, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported.

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The Taliban takes on Islamic State: insurgents vie for control of northern Afghanistan

  • Written by Waliullah Rahmani

KABUL (TCA) — The Taliban and the Islamic State are engaged in heavy fighting for control of Afghanistan, and this rivalry meets security interests of Russia and its Central Asian allies. We are republishing this article on the issue, written by Waliullah Rahmani, originally published by The Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor:

Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghan chapter of IS, have seen hundreds of militants killed in Jowzjan and Faryab provinces, two provinces in northern Afghanistan considered to be IS-K strongholds. About 300 militants were killed in two weeks of clashes between IS-K and the Taliban, which began on July 25 in the Darzab district of Jowzjan. It was the Taliban’s third major offensive against their rivals, and saw about 200 IS-K fighters hand themselves over to government forces rather than face the Taliban. Video footage from August 1, released by the government, showed IS-K fighters demanding protection in return for their surrender (Khabarnama, August 2).

The Taliban reportedly attacked IS-K forces, inflicting heavy losses on the group. Senior commanders on both sides were killed in the fighting. A spokesperson for the Jowzjan governor told local outlets that Haji Qumandan, the deputy leader of IS-K in northern Afghanistan, had been killed. The governor also reported the deaths of many senior Taliban members, including Haji Shakir, the district chief for Sangcharak district of Sar-e Pol (Khabarnama, July 25). An earlier report on July 18 claimed that two IS-K fighters targeted a Taliban gathering in Sayyad district of Sar-e Pol, killing 15 Taliban militants and wounding five others (Khabarnama, July 18).

Sar-e Pol, Jowzjan and Faryab are not the only provinces where the Taliban and IS-K have engaged in heavy clashes. The fighting appears to be a growing trend that has hit record levels of violence in the last three years following emergence of IS-K in Afghanistan. While a truce of sorts appears to be in place between the two groups in Afghanistan’s southwestern and southern provinces, in the north it appears to be the Taliban’s intention to eliminate IS-K forces entirely (Khabarnama, July 2018).

Darzab: IS-K’s Northern Stronghold

IS-K has come to dominate Darzab district in the southwest of Jowzjan province in northern Afghanistan—to the west lies Sar-e Pol province, while Faryab province is to the east. As of 2012, the district had a population of 52,800 people (IFPS, August, 2012). IS-K’s presence in northern Afghanistan began to emerge in 2015, when Qari Hekmat, a former Taliban commander in the north, shifted allegiance to IS-K and started recruiting local insurgents and building alliances (AAN, March 4). The group’s fighters are dominant in Darzab, having sidelined the Taliban and other armed actors there. The district faces many reports of IS-K carrying out killings, attacking international aid workers, beating teenagers, preventing female education and exploiting mineral resources (Tolonews, December 9, 2017; Tolonews, July, 5, 2017; khabarnama, February 8, 2017; 1tvnews, April 17).

It is unclear why IS-K has focused its energies on Darzab, Qush Tepa and the rest of Jowzjan province. Bashir Ahmad Tahyanj, a member of parliament from Faryab province, however, told The Jamestown Foundation that Darzab’s strategic geography, coupled with the local population’s highly conservative views, have paved the way for IS-K’s emergence.

IS-K first began to seriously establish its presence in Darzab district in early 2017. In June that year, two groups of Taliban fighters who had switched allegiance to IS-K staged a series of attacks on government outposts in Darzab. In those battles, IS-K fighters killed at least 10 government fighters and many civilians (AVA, April 10, 2017).

Since then, three major battles have taken place between Taliban and IS-K fighters. The first major attack took place in the second half of October 2017. The Taliban had mobilized hundreds of fighters from several provinces to oust Qari Hekmat and his forces from Darzab (AAN, November 11, 2017). The second military offensive of Taliban insurgents against IS-K fighters took place within four months, but again failed to recapture the territorial control of Darzab district. Qari Hekmat and his forces survived the attack, which lasted for around 10 days starting from January 19, 2018, and involved hundreds of Taliban fighters. In early April, Qari Hekmat was reportedly killed in a U.S.-Afghan joint raid in the north, but even without their leader IS-K survived a third Taliban attack on the district.

Composition of IS-K in Darzab

The presence of foreign fighters among IS-K in Darzab and other northern provinces is an additional concern. In August 2017, the Jowzjan police chief confirmed the presence of foreign fighters including Chechens and Uzbeks—like the prominent Aziz Yuldashev, son of Tahir Yuldashev—along with Pakistani and even Uyghur fighters on the battlefields of Darzab, fighting against Afghan government forces (Khabarnama, August 25, 2017).

Abdul Ahad Elbek, the Faryab deputy provincial council chief, had reported that Russian and Tajikistani citizens were present alongside other IS-K fighters in the battlefields of Jowzjan and Faryab. It would be weeks before Afghan senior security officials confirmed the presence of these foreign fighters in Jowzjan. (Khabarnama, August 10, 2017).

Soon after the claims of foreign fighters’ involvement in Darzab district by local officials in northern Afghanistan, another report emerged in December 2017 stating that Algerian and French fighters had joined IS-K in Darzab. The report bolstered fears of a growing presence of foreign fighters among IS-K militants in that area (Tolonews, December 10, 2017).

IS-K’s ranks in northern Afghanistan¬—particularly in Darzab, Qush Tepa and other Jowzjan and Faryab districts—are an unusual combination of foreign and Afghan fighters. This has attracted the attention of the Afghan government and international forces, which have been concerned about northern Afghanistan becoming a destination for IS fighters fleeing the battlefields of Iraq and Syria. Moreover, the trend has also concerned Russians and citizens of Central Asia who are part of the broader picture of the IS-K formation in northern Afghanistan.

Roots of Resentment

The Taliban made clear its unwillingness to tolerate IS-K from the day the group first emerged in 2015. In early October that year, Taliban officials announced the formation of an elite force—one that insurgents claimed was better trained and equipped than regular Taliban fighters—and deployed it to provinces where IS-K had emerged (BBC Persian, December 23, 2015).

The Taliban then began a broad offensive against IS-K affiliated groups. In late November, insurgents brutally killed IS-K members in Zabol province (Pazhwok, November 9, 2015). Ahead of Zabol in June 2015, they crushed IS-K fighters in western Farah province. Later, the Afghan national army would say IS-K had been stamped out from the province entirely (al-Arabia, June 1, 2015). Since then, there have been no reports of IS-K activities in Farah and other western provinces bordering Iran. Some believe the Taliban had been subcontracted by Iran to ensure the provinces remains free of the group.

Fighting between the Taliban and IS-K continued into the following years in other areas of Afghanistan. In 2016, Nangarhar emerged as a major IS-K stronghold and became the focus of the Taliban. Fighting between the two insurgent groups resulted in a large number of casualties, although interestingly the Taliban found it was unable to eliminate the IS-K Nangahar strongholds. Instead, in many areas, IS-K emerged as a dominant player, controlling wider areas of land and winning territory from the Taliban (BBC Persian, January 6, 2016). Clashes between the Taliban and IS-K continued, even as the Afghan government and U.S.-led international forces targeted IS-K with the “mother of all bombs” and killed IS-K leaders (BBC Persian, May 7, 2017).

In contrast to the Taliban’s success against IS-K in south and western Afghanistan, the group has failed to suppress IS-K fighters and eliminate their strongholds in eastern and northern parts of the country.

The Role of Russia

Concurrent with IS-K emergence in Afghanistan, Russia has continuously developed its relations with the Taliban. In April 2016, a senior Russian official confirmed his country’s relations with the group but denied any cooperation with them (Azadi Radio, April 11, 2016). Russia’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told the press that his country’s concern about IS-K is the main reason for Moscow’s contacts with the Taliban (BBC Persian, December 26, 2016). In fact, Russia’s concerns go further. Moscow is continuously engaged in discussions with regional players, including Pakistan and China, to address regional security and the risk of IS-K infiltration into the Central Asian region (8am, April 1, 2016).

Afghan experts believe Russia first started talks with the Taliban in 2006, urging the group to fight the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and counter drugs trafficking to Central Asia (VOA Dari, November 13, 2016). No official sources confirm Moscow’s relations with the Taliban as early as 2006, although Russians in more recent years have been vocal about their country’s channels of communication with the Taliban. This has led to assumptions that the Taliban’s aggressive stance against IS-K in northern Afghanistan, particularly in the Darzab district of Jowjzan, might be due to Moscow’s involvement. If true, utilizing the Taliban as a proxy against IS-K in Afghanistan seems to be a double-edged sword for the Russians who are putting at risk their relations with Kabul. Moreover, such a tactical stance only strengthens the Taliban, which still brutally kills Afghan and international forces and is responsible for thousands of civilian casualties every year.

Russia has been uncompromising in its stance toward Islamic State, and Moscow is doubtless concerned about the emergence of IS-K in Afghanistan. The heavy Russian military presence in Tajikistan and its involvement with the Taliban clearly illustrates that Moscow sees IS-K as a strategic threat both to Russia and Moscow’s wider “security belt” throughout Central Asia.

UN panel says millions of Uyghurs living in 'massive internment camp' in China’s Xinjiang

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — A United Nations human rights panel says that an estimated one million ethnic Uyghurs in China are being held in "counterextremism centers," with millions more forced into reeducation camps, turning China's far-western Xinjiang-Uyghur region into "something that resembles a massive internment camp", RFE/RL reported.

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Taliban delegation visits Uzbekistan, meets with foreign ministry officials

  • Written by TCA

TASHKENT (TCA) — A delegation of the Taliban led by the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar visited Uzbekistan from August 6-10 for talks with senior officials from Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry, Taliban and Uzbek officials said.

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Switzerland helps improve access to clean drinking water in rural Kyrgyzstan

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — An official launch of improved drinking water supply service took place in Bagysh municipality of Jalal-Abad province in southern Kyrgyzstan on August 9. A new 3245-meter water pipeline was installed, a 500 m3 reservoir was reconstructed at water intake facilities, a 180-meter-deep well was drilled, and a new deep-well pump with electronic control was installed. Water pipelines have been installed in 848 households and now more than 5,800 inhabitants of Oktyabrskoye and Kedey-Aryk villages of the Bagysh municipality have access to clean drinking water 24 hours a day, the Embassy of Switzerland in the Kyrgyz Republic reported.

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Five littoral states sign convention on legal status of Caspian Sea

  • Written by TCA

AKTAU, Kazakhstan (TCA) — At their summit in the Kazakh port city of Aktau on August 12, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, after more than two decades of discussions.

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Kyrgyzstan: How to benefit from labor migration

  • Written by Maria Levina

BISHKEK (TCA) — Labor migrants are the main source of remittance to Kyrgyzstan. If it were not for their money, the country's GDP would have decreased by a third, including budget revenues and wages, Economy Minister Oleg Pankratov said at the fourth Mekendeshter (Compatriots) Forum held on August 8-9 in Cholpon-Ata, a resort city at Lake Issyk-Kul.

About 200 compatriots from 27 countries participated in the meeting, organized by the Initiatives of Roza Otunbayeva Public Foundation with the support from the Swiss Bureau for International Cooperation. Representatives of diasporas and compatriots living abroad shared their experience in implementing social and business projects in Kyrgyzstan and told their success stories.

Earning abroad

According to official data, about 800,000 Kyrgyz citizens are working abroad, mostly in Russia. According to unofficial data, the figure exceeds one million. Their remittances to the homeland amount to about $2.5 billion annually.

Over the first half of 2018, the total inflow of remittances to Kyrgyzstan exceeded $1.2 billion, 13% more compared to the same period last year. Traditionally, the largest volume of remittances was from labor migrants from Russia followed by USA and Kazakhstan.

According to the World Bank, one from three persons lives below the poverty line in Kyrgyzstan’s villages. Most of the rural population receives income from agriculture and remittances from relatives working abroad.

The National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic forecasts an increase in the inflow of remittances from labor migrants this year.

Modern phenomenon?

"The fact that many of our compatriots are living and working in different countries is not a tragedy but a modern phenomenon. They master new technologies and study democracy, and learn to develop. Therefore, we should use their experience and intellectual potential. We need to properly manage migration and benefit from it," said Roza Otunbayeva, the initiator of the forum and ex-President of Kyrgyzstan.

Labor migration is a temporary phenomenon, Economy Minister Pankratov believes. The Government should ensure that people, having gained experience and capital, were able to return home and work in Kyrgyzstan. The Government is now planning to stimulate the economy’s transition to industrial development. The largest number of jobs is generated in the industrial sector, primarily in the processing and light industry, he said.

The money that comes from labor migrants does not replenish the loss of the able-bodied population and the demographic gap in the country. If the migration continues in Kyrgyzstan, a situation may arise when the number of elderly people would prevail over the young population, experts say.

Council under the President

President of Kyrgyzstan attended the Compatriots’ Forum for the first time in its history since 2012. President Sooronbai Jeenbekov showed that he is seriously concerned about the problems of migrants and wants to help them.

"There are successful compatriots who have achieved much abroad and are going to invest in large investment projects in Kyrgyzstan, as well as to attract serious investments into our economy," Jeenbekov said.

Such patriotic contemporaries need a single platform for solving problems and achieving common goals. Jeenbekov proposed to create a Council under the President which would work with fellow-investors on an ongoing basis. The State will always support compatriots, he stressed.

The creation of the Council could settle the situation and keep it under control, experts say.

It is expected that the Council will include the Cabinet members involved in the migration issues, as well as representatives of the diasporas and the Presidential administration.

Initiatives of compatriots

The forum participants expressed concern that their children and grandchildren would forget their native language, culture and traditions.

They proposed to simplify the procedure for obtaining citizenship for ethnic Kyrgyz. They suggested introducing of a "meken-card" system (system of temporary suspension of citizenship). Citizens involved in this system will not be able to exercise their rights to vote or to be elected as well as to work in state bodies, but all other civil rights will be retained for them. In case of return, they will be able to regain their citizenship.

Entrepreneurs working in Russia offered to open representative offices of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agency of Kyrgyzstan in major Russian cities. If the Investment Agency has projects, Entrepreneurs abroad could discuss them and offer their Russian partners.

Many compatriots are ready to invest in Kyrgyzstan but the State should create conditions and provide support for them, for instance, tax incentives. Foreign compatriots who come to Kyrgyzstan and try to open their business here face various difficulties and obstacles. Despite the fact that they bring in investments from abroad, they have no benefits and work in Kyrgyzstan as ordinary companies.

The country’s future

After Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1992, compatriots went abroad mainly to earn money. “But now many compatriots glorify Kyrgyzstan in science, education and culture,” President Jeenbekov said.

In the near future, a meeting of the National Council will be held, at which the long-term Development Strategy of the country will be discussed, which provides concrete steps aimed at rendering real support to compatriots abroad, the President said. The ideas and proposals voiced at the forum will be taken into account, he added.

According to the President, the society should preserve and multiply Kyrgyzstan’s historical heritage and be merciful to orphans, old people and the needy.

"In our society, there should not be homeless old people and abandoned children," Jeenbekov said.

The creation of new jobs and the elimination of unemployment are the main goals of the State, he said. For these purposes, the State conducts an uncompromising fight against corruption, and various gray schemes are eliminated. Efforts are being made to ensure transparency in the tax and customs spheres. The state takes steps to support exports of goods, helping businesses access major markets.

The President told compatriots about recent measures to support labor migrants, especially those living and working in the Eurasian Economic Union member countries. The problems of labor migrants in Russia related to the registration and obtaining patents were resolved. Members of migrant families will be provided with pensions and medical services. The issue of providing pensions for Kyrgyz citizens working in Turkey was also resolved. An appropriate agreement was signed, which will soon be ratified and come into force.

Legislative amendments have been made to exempt new industrial enterprises in the country’s regions from property tax, income tax and land tax for a period from 5 to 10 years. The Government plans to introduce a three-year moratorium on inspections of new enterprises by the tax and supervisory authorities.

The President urged compatriots to participate in building new enterprises to process environmentally friendly agricultural products. The demand for such products is high in foreign markets.

"We need to adopt a package of laws supporting our compatriots," the President concluded.

Weekly Digest of Central Asia

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.

KAZAKHSTAN

How Kazakhstan’s anti-extremism blacklist forces activists, bloggers and opposition politicians into the shadows

In Kazakhstan, persecution of citizens convicted for extremism does not end with a court sentence — being blacklisted also threatens an indefinite suspension of citizens’ financial rights

Aug 7 — “In Kazakhstan, it’s easy enough to find yourself charged with extremism and terrorism offences. Being affiliated to a “non-traditional” religious denomination or belonging to the political opposition can lead to prosecution. But people who face criminal prosecution on “extremism” and “terrorism” charges are subject to punishment even after release. A complex system of financial blacklisting means many find it difficult to return to their normal lives.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/andrey-grishin/kazakhstan-anti-extremism-blacklist

Kazakhstan’s Bet on the Future

The Astana International Financial Center is an ambitious initiative aimed to turn Kazakhstan into a regional financial hub of Central Asia and beyond

Aug 7 — “In the twenty-first century, countries that traditionally added value by extracting natural resources are doing their best to diversify their sources of income. Financial services are becoming one of the alternatives to oil and gas. Canada, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, even Morocco are developing their international financial sectors. Now, Kazakhstan is joining this club. It is a bold, long shot, but those who don’t risk, don’t win.” READ MORE: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/kazakhstan’s-bet-future-28192

Kazakhstan offers Azerbaijan to introduce single tourist visa for Turkic countries

Multivisa between Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan is proposed to be introduced within the Modern Silk Road project to facilitate foreign tourists’ travel across the region

Aug 8 — “Kazakhstan has offered Azerbaijan, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan to join the introduction of the Silk Road visa intended for tourists, Kazinform reported. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have already come to such an agreement. This regime will make it easier for foreign tourists following the Silk Road tourism products to cross the Kazakh-Uzbek border.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/business/135960.html

Kazakhstan: will Astana’s financial gamble pay off?

The prospects of the recently inaugurated Astana International Financial Center may be uncertain, observers say, and it is yet to be seen whether this ambitious project will succeed in becoming Central Asia’s main financial hub

Aug 9 — “If the gamble behind the Astana International Financial Center pays off, Kazakhstan could be propelled into the international financial services premier league. The main champion of the AIFC, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, rung a confident note at its raucous official inauguration on July 5.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20106-kazakhstan-will-astana-s-financial-gamble-pay-off

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan: growing poverty and poor state budget

Kyrgyzstan has extremely low living standards of the population — every fourth Kyrgyz citizen lives below the poverty line

Aug 4 — “The Kyrgyz Government has recently put forward several initiatives aimed at replenishing the state budget at the expense of ordinary citizens. The Government offered to raise the tariffs for cold water and fines for violation of traffic rules, as well as to introduce mandatory paid registration of mobile phones. These suggestions caused a negative reaction of the society. Earlier, the Government appealed to citizens asking them to help pay the country's foreign debt.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20086-kyrgyzstan-growing-poverty-and-poor-state-budget

Well-being of 'left behind' children in Kyrgyzstan focus of study

Understanding the economic, health, behavioral and educational effects of labor migration on children in Kyrgyzstan is one aspect of a three-year research project carried out by researchers in Penn State's Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Liberal Arts, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Health and Human Development, and Education

Aug 6 — “Growing up can be hard no matter what a family's circumstances, but it is often more so for children living in the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia, one of the poorest countries in the world, known for its dry environment, high mountains, nomadic culture and animal-husbandry heritage.” READ MORE: https://news.psu.edu/story/530435/2018/08/06/research/well-being-left-behind-children-kyrgyzstan-focus-study

President of Kyrgyzstan divides compatriots into robbers and creators

Kyrgyzstan’s economy remains strongly dependent on labor migrants working in Russia and sending billions of dollars a year back home

Aug 8 — “The President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov participated in Mekendeshter Forum today. The Information Policy Department of the Presidential Administration of Kyrgyzstan reported. According to him, «the time has come when everyone is forced to think about new prospects.» «Every country has to look for its own way of development. When determining the path of development of Kyrgyzstan, it is necessary to take into account the contribution of compatriots living abroad, their active participation in the building of the future of the country,» the President noted.” READ MORE: https://24.kg/english/93007_President_of_Kyrgyzstan_divides_compatriots_into_robbers_and_creators/

Kyrgyzstan’s north-south road to corruption

A new investigation revealed corruption schemes behind China-funded biggest motor road project in Kyrgyzstan

Aug 9 — “On 26 June 2018, the Fergana website published my investigation unveiling corruption schemes behind Kyrgyzstan’s biggest infrastructure project, an alternative 433km road linking the capital Bishkek in the North with the country’s main city in the South, Osh. The project has been funded with a 850 million USD loan from the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China under the One Belt One Road Initiative, with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) as the main implementing partner.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/satina-aidar/kyrgyzstans-north-south-road-to-corruption

TAJIKISTAN

Killings in Tajikistan send chill through tourism business

The killing of four foreign cyclist tourists in Tajikistan has been a blow on the country’s tourism and hospitality industry, despite the government’s efforts to boost incoming tourism in the Central Asian country

Aug 5 — “The murder of four foreign cyclists in Tajikistan this week has already had a palpable dampening effect on the country’s tourism industry – a cruel blow in a year the government had dedicated to drawing more visitors. Hostels, tourist agencies and one major airline contacted by Eurasianet have all reported cancellations and last-minute travel-plan changes after the Islamic State group claimed the hit-and-run killings.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/20088-killings-in-tajikistan-send-chill-through-tourism-business

A Dream Ended on a Mountain Road: The Cyclists and the ISIS Militants

A review of the biking journey around the world that ended tragically for a young American couple in Tajikistan

Aug 7 — “Asked why they had quit their office jobs and set off on a biking journey around the world, the young American couple offered a simple explanation: They had grown tired of the meetings and teleconferences, of the time sheets and password changes. “There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world,” wrote Jay Austin who, along with his partner, Lauren Geoghegan, gave his two weeks’ notice last year before shipping his bicycle to Africa.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/07/world/asia/islamic-state-tajikistan-bike-attack.html

After Deadly Cyclist Attack, Tajik Minister Turns To Drama To Warn About Islamic State

Tajikistan's interior minister has written a play, The Heart Of A Mother, the story of a Tajik woman who goes to Syria in a bid to bring her IS-fighter son back home

Aug 8 — “In official meetings and speeches in recent months, Tajikistan's interior minister has frequently warned about the dangers of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group. Now Ramazon Rahimzoda has turned to the stage in an attempt to use drama to tell the tale of how joining IS can destroy lives and tear families apart.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/after-deadly-cyclist-attack-tajik-minister-turns-to-drama-to-warn-about-islamic-state-/29420747.html

Why an attack by grassroots jihadists in Tajikistan matters

Tajikistan has experienced the first attack claimed by the Islamic State in the Central Asia region, and with its young and impoverished population, the country may see increasing radicalization, especially among the youth

Aug 8 — “For a group of seven international cyclists, the trip through breathtaking Tajikistan following a section of the ancient Silk Road was a dream come true. But that dream turned into a nightmare July 29, when, in a deliberate act, a dark sedan smashed through the group. The men inside got out and attacked the cyclists with knives.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/20101-why-an-attack-by-grassroots-jihadists-in-tajikistan-matters

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: Facts are stubborn things

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Aug 7 — “A government get-together in Turkmenistan this week was a predictable smorgasbord of half-truths, untruths and self-reassuring fantasies. The ostensible agenda of the August 3 Cabinet meeting overseen by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was to discuss the "work of the economic branches [of government] over the past seven months.” There should have been much to talk about given the rampant inflation, food shortages and all manner of concomitant problems. Instead, it was the usual medley of dubious figures.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/turkmenistan-facts-are-stubborn-things

Inside Ashgabat, the flashy but empty 'city of the dead'

Film-maker and ‘dark tourist’ David Farrier on his visit to Turkmenistan’s capital and his impressions of the white-marble city

Aug 8 — “Wandering around Ashgabat, I had Land of Sunshine, the song by Faith No More, looping in my head. The capital city of Turkmenistan, is blisteringly dry and hot, dumped in the middle of the desert. It also holds the record for the highest density of buildings made from white marble, which bounce the sun right back in your face, blinding you.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/aug/08/inside-ashgabat-the-flashy-but-empty-city-of-the-dead-david-farrier-dark-tourist-netflix-turkmenistan

Turkmen universities charge bribes for enrollment in dollars

Bribes to secure enrollment to universities in Turkmenistan range between $20,000 and $80,000 (!) depending on the chosen profession

Aug 8 — “School graduates seeking to be admitted to higher and secondary vocational educational establishments in Turkmenistan are taking their entrance exams. Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that since currency conversion was not permitted last year, parents of prospective students were charged bribes in manats whereas now only dollars are accepted.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2018/08/turkmen-universities-charge-bribes-for-enrollment-in-dollars/

UZBEKISTAN

Hokim Hubbub: Making Sense of Local Government Shuffles in Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is shaking up local governance structure in the country’s regions — to make ‘government officials serve the people, not vice versa’

Aug 6 — “Accountability of government officials and economic sustainability have been two major goals put forward to local governments by Uzbekistan’s new leadership. Hokims (regional governors) are at the helm of the reform process at the regional level, but because many are ill-fitted to President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s entrepreneurial spirit and ideals, this misalignment of management style has been reflected in the regular sacking, removing, and shuffling of hokims.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/hokim-hubbub-making-sense-of-local-government-shuffles-in-uzbekistan/

Why there's never been a better time to visit Uzbekistan, best of the 'Stans'

An account of a western traveler’s journey across Uzbekistan’s famous historical sites

Aug 6 — “From the air, Uzbekistan, with its towering serrated peaks that sweep down to dusty desert plains. looks like it's been designed by some malevolent cosmic hand to keep visitors at bay. How could such a forbidding terrain sustain life, let alone one of the greatest civilisations ever known? And how is this Central Asian country, once the plaything of European empires, faring since it stepped out of the Soviet shadow. That is what I have come here to discover.” READ MORE: http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/destinations/asia/106036179/why-theres-never-been-a-better-time-to-visit-uzbekistan-best-of-the-stans

Uzbekistan proposes scrapping exit visas

The scrapping of the Soviet-style system of exit visas signals that Uzbekistan is committing to further political liberalization

Aug 8 — “The government in Uzbekistan has published draft rules online that will lead to the abolition of a Soviet-style system of exit visas that rights activists say violate the basic right to freedom of movement. The new rules, which were posted online on August 7 for public discussion, envision Uzbek citizens being issued foreign travel passports from January 1, 2019.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/s/uzbekistan-draft-rules-to-scrap-exit-visas-go-online

AFGHANISTAN

TWISTED ALLIANCE: Taliban begs America for support in defeating ISIS in Afghanistan after the group was crushed by the West

The Taliban has asked the US to stop bombing the province of Nangarhar where it plans to launch an attack on ISIS

Aug 8 — “THE Taliban has asked the US to help it destroy ISIS in Afghanistan as it prepares for a massive assault to drive the terror group out of the country. Militants have requested that America stops airstrikes on the eastern province of Nangarhar, an ISIS stronghold, to avoid hitting its troops during the battle.” READ MORE: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6968051/taliban-begs-america-for-support-to-defeat-isis-in-afghanistan-just-years-after-being-crushed-by-the-west/

War Without End

The Pentagon’s failed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan left a generation of soldiers with little to fight for but one another

Aug 8 — “Second Platoon did not hide its dark mood as its soldiers waded across the Korengal River in the bright light of afternoon. It was early in April 2009 and early in the Pentagon’s resumption in earnest of the Afghan war. The platoon’s mission was to ascend a mountain slope and try to ambush the Taliban at night.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/magazine/war-afghanistan-iraq-soldiers.html

The true costs of the Afghan war, America's longest and most invisible war

The war in Afghanistan has cost the United States 2,372 American military deaths, 1,720 U.S. civilian contractor fatalities, over 20,000 troops wounded and likely trillions of dollars spent

Aug 8 — “The War in Afghanistan began with the invasion of the country by U.S. forces on October 7th, 2001. It followed the shock of 9/11 and the decision by President George W. Bush to destroy the terrorist network al-Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden, which was blamed for the horrendous attack on American soil. Bin Laden was reportedly hiding in Afghanistan, protected by the Taliban, which then ruled the country.” READ MORE: https://bigthink.com/charles-koch-foundation/the-true-costs-of-the-afghan-war-americas-longest-and-most-invisible-war

Months of U.S. Strikes Have Failed to Curtail Taliban Opium Trade

Poppy production hit record highs in Afghanistan last year and valued at between $1.5 billion and $3 billion, fuelling insurgency in the country

Aug 8 — “American efforts to cripple the Taliban drug trade in Afghanistan have fallen short of expectations, U.S. officials say, creating new challenges for the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken the insurgency as the warring parties try to jump start peace talks.” READ MORE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/taliban-drug-trade-persists-despite-u-s-strikes-1533726120

WORLD

Central Asia and Afghanistan: Helping Your Neighbor

All of the post-Soviet Central Asian countries are interested in stability in Afghanistan, as they are afraid of a potential spillover of extremism and violence from their southern neighbor

Aug 7 — “The vast majority of literature since the 2001 US-led multinational military operation has focused on the role of the global powers in Afghanistan. However, it is important to also discuss what interests Central Asian states have in the country, since the view from Astana or Tashkent is not that of a far-away government, but a neighbor with which Afghanistan has strong cultural, geographic (it borders Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), and political ties.” READ MORE: https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/central-asia-and-afghanistan-helping-your-neighbor/

China's Belt and Road Initiative Finds Shaky Ground in Eastern Europe

As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, China is building economic and security ties with Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova

Aug 9 — “As China expands its influence around the world, Europe has become a prime destination for Chinese investment and infrastructure projects. Chinese companies have poured over $300 billion into the Continent over the past decade, lately under the Belt and Road Initiative, to acquire strategic assets in Western Europe, develop energy and port infrastructure in Southern Europe and increase transport connectivity to Eastern Europe.” READ MORE: https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-finds-shaky-ground-eastern-europe-0?id=87179e919a&e=600669d279&uuid=c205ee71-c125-4c1c-96e6-9f60a90ce4a3&utm_source=Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=a60e6696ba-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_09_12_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_87179e919a-a60e6696ba-53490981&mc_cid=a60e6696ba&mc_eid=[UNIQID]

US military bases at Caspian Sea ‘out of question’, Kazakhstan FM says

  • Written by TCA

AKTAU, Kazakhstan (TCA) — The establishment of US military bases at the Caspian Sea is "out of question," Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told Russia’s Sputnik news agency.

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WFP celebrates Breastfeeding Week in Tajikistan

  • Written by TCA

KULOB, Tajikistan (TCA) — The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on August 10 held a special event in Tajikistan to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week to highlight the importance of breastfeeding as key to children’s survival, nutrition and early development.

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EBRD provides $45 million to Kazakhstan’s Bank CenterCredit

  • Written by TCA

ASTANA (TCA) — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said it is providing a financial package of up to US$ 45 million to Bank CenterCredit, a long-term financial partner in Kazakhstan with 19 branches and over 100 outlets across the country.

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Caspian agreement may trigger cascade of energy projects

  • Written by Peter Leonard

BISHKEK (TCA) — A convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, expected to be signed this Sunday, would pave way to implementation of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline — a project that will diversify gas-export routes for Turkmenistan. We are republishing this article on the issue, written by Peter Leonard, originally published by Eurasianet:

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