Weekly Digest of Central Asia


BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Central Asia is an important geopolitical area between Europe, Russia and China. It is in Central Asia that world powers have confronted each other for centuries; it is here that China needs to succeed with its new Silk Road Belt for direct access to the Western markets; and it is here that a large wealth of raw materials has its origin. Every week thousands of news appears all over the world in printed and online media and it is quite understandable that 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 the region, and for this reason we are presenting this Weekly Digest of Central Asia which compiles what other media have reported during the past week.


Kazakhstan oil output exceeds agreed limit

Kazakhstan is increasing crude oil production, mainly from its giant Kashagan oil field whose putting into operation has taken huge financial investments

March 13 — “Kazakhstan’s oil production in February exceeded its agreed limit under an Opec-led deal to cut output and support prices, official Kazakh data showed on Monday.” READ MORE: http://www.upstreamonline.com/live/1225459/kazakhstan-oil-output-exceeds-agreed-limit

Syria peace talks in Astana close with no sign of rebels

The only outcome of the third round of Astana talks on Syria is an agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran to hold the next meeting in Astana on May 3-4

March 15 — “Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan closed on Wednesday without any substantive negotiations taking place, after rebels boycotted the meeting that took place as a deadly double suicide bombing marked the start of the civil war’s seventh year.” READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-astana-idUSKBN16M0M8

Kazakhstan announces $7.5 bln bailout of top lender Kazkommertsbank

The government of Kazakhstan is taking steps to resolve the problem of non-performing loans, the main problem facing the country’s banking sector

March 15 — “Kazakhstan’s state-run “bad bank” will buy 2.4 trillion tenge ($7.5 billion) of bad loans from Kazkommertsbank, the country’s biggest lender by assets, paving the way for a takeover by its closest rival, the central bank said on Wednesday.” READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/kazkommertsbank-ma-halyk-bank-idUSL5N1GS4NK

Astana to be positioned as one of leading platforms for Islamic finance, says AIFC governor

Kazakhstan’s Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) is expected to play a major role in Islamic finance development in the Central Asia region

March 16 — “The future and prospects of Islamic finance in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), as well as investment opportunities, Islamic capital market development and other issues, were discussed March 14 at the Islam Finance News (IFN) CIS Forum in the capital.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/03/astana-to-be-positioned-as-one-of-leading-platforms-for-islamic-finance-says-aifc-governor/

Leroy Merlin to invest $31 million in first supermarket in Almaty

Another European retailer is coming to Kazakhstan’s growing market that promises great potential for investment in trade  

March 16 — “French giant in gardening, retailer Leroy Merlin is building the first of three supermarkets in the Almaty region and plans to invest $31 million in the outlet.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/03/leroy-merlin-to-invest-31-million-in-first-supermarket-in-almaty/

Kazakhstan to Join ATA Carnet Trade-Facilitation System

Kazakhstan has taken another step to facilitate and boost its exports

March 18 — “Kazakhstan will join on April 1 the ATA Carnet System, an international customs system that allows for the duty-free and tax-free temporary import and export of goods for up to one year.” READ MORE: http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2433096&CategoryId=12396


Qatar to expand ties with Kyrgyzstan

This week Kyrgyzstan sent government delegations to Qatar and Saudi Arabia in an effort to attract much-needed investments from the rich Arab countries

March 14 — “Minister of Economy and Commerce, H E Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, has stressed the need to further strengthen economic relations between Qatar and Kyrgyzstan.
He was addressing the first session of the Qatari-Kyrgyz Joint Committee on Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation, held in Doha over two days.” READ MORE: https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/14/03/2017/Qatar-to-expand-ties-with-Kyrgyzstan

Pakistan seeks to forge air, rail links with Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan can offer each other more opportunities for transit and trade, with plans to export Kyrgyz electricity to Pakistan as part of CASA 1000 power transmission project

March 15 — “Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has underlined the need for developing more economical air and rail routes to push trade and cooperation with Kyrgyzstan as the Central Asian state invites Pakistan business community to invest in its agriculture, mining, pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors.” READ MORE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1355308/pakistan-seeks-forge-air-rail-links-kyrgyzstan/

Kyrgyzstan: MPs Reject Ban on Hunting Endangered Animals

Kyrgyz parliament members still consider the sale of licences for hunting rare animals, especially by foreign tourists, as a source of revenue for the country’s state budget

March 16 — “Parliament in Kyrgyzstan has narrowly rejected legislation that would have made it illegal to hunt endangered animals until 2030. Opponents of the bill, which was defeated 56 to 52, argued that the ban could cost the country money in lost tourist revenue. They also said the legislation would do nothing to solve the problem of poaching.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82881

Kazakhstan to allocate $41 million of technical assistance to Kyrgyzstan

Kazakhstan’s assistance will help Kyrgyzstan to equip certification labs which will allow the export of Kyrgyz agricultural products to Eurasian Economic Union member countries

March 18 — “Kazakhstan will allocate $ 41 million of technical assistance to Kyrgyzstan to equip laboratories in the framework of the republic’s joining the EEU, the Ministry of Economy reported.” READ MORE: http://24.kg/english/47526_Kazakhstan_to_allocate__41_million_of_technical_assistance_to_Kyrgyzstan/


Tajikistan and Islamic State: Threat or Bogeyman?

Research says that an alarming number of Tajiks have carried out suicide missions in Syria and Iraq over the past year

March 14 — “Perhaps the greatest existential threat facing Tajikistan is posed by the Islamic State militant group, according to the government narrative. Or maybe not, some officials suggest.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82826

Explosion in Tajikistan: Terrorism or Accident?

The strange explosion near a military prosecutor’s office in Tajikistan might have been a terrorist act, as many Tajik citizens are fighting in the IS ranks in Syria and may bring terrorism back home

March 15 — “The car of a 67-year security guard in the southern Tajikistan city of Qurghonteppa exploded late at night on March 12 in the vicinity of a military prosecutors’ office, prompting official claims of possible terrorism afoot. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the blast was caused by an incendiary device.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82856

Jailed Tajik Human Rights Lawyer’s Sentence Extended To 25 Years

Tajik authorities have extended the prison term of the lawyer of members and leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which was banned in Tajikistan as a terrorist organization in 2015

March 16 — “Judicial authorities in Tajikistan have sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov, who is serving a 23-year prison sentence, to an additional two years behind bars.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-tajik-rights-lawyer-sentence-extended-to-25-years/28373043.html


Turkmenistan to host int’l gas congress in May 2017

Turkmenistan plans another gas forum as natural gas remains the main export item and hard-currency earner for the country

March 15 — “The 8th meeting of Turkmenistan Gas Congress is scheduled to be held May 23-24, 2017 in the Avaza National Tourist Zone in the city of Turkmenbashi, said the article of the Nebit-Gaz, the online newspaper of the Turkmen Oil and Gas Complex.” READ MORE: http://www.azernews.az/oil_and_gas/110250.html

Turkmenistan Airlines goes public

Turkmenistan’s amended air code allows for private ownership of aircraft, airports, equipment, and leases in the country

March 15 — “Turkmenistan Airlines, the flag carrier of Turkmenistan and a subsidiary of state-run Turkmenhowayollary holding company, has been turned into a joint-stock company by a presidential decree, according to the government portal Turkmenistan: Golden Age.” READ MORE: http://www.rusaviainsider.com/turkmenistan-airlines-goes-public/

Turkmenistan offers Qatar to partake in TAPI project

Turkmenistan is looking for investors in Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, a vitally important gas export project for the cash-stripped country

March 16 — “Turkmenistan is interested in discussing the issues related to the participation of Qatar’s big financial and investment structures in the implementation of transnational Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, said Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/business/energy/2732454.html


EBRD confirms return to Uzbekistan after leadership change

EBRD’s return to Uzbekistan was apparently caused by the change of leadership in Tashkent and promises of reforms made by the new Uzbek president. At the same time, the Bank would now help the country advance with liberal economic reforms

March 16 — “The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed a memorandum with Uzbekistan on Thursday to resume operations halted under the previous Tashkent leadership.” READ MORE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4321378/EBRD-confirms-return-Uzbekistan-leadership-change.html#ixzz4bZMlqzHD

CNPC to develop new gas fields in Uzbekistan

China is involved in several projects in Uzbekistan’s oil and gas sector, and is a major importer of Uzbek natural gas

March 16 — “The Uzbek-Chinese joint venture New Silk Road Oil & Gas Company Ltd will launch arranging and production of gas on the fields of Karakul investment block, located in Bukhara-Khiva region in the second half of 2017, according to the investment program for 2017.” READ MORE: http://www.azernews.az/region/110309.html

Uzbekistan Puts a Smile on an Economic Blow to Turkmenistan

The pipeline project aimed to increase Turkmen natural gas exports through Uzbekistan to China is facing a delay

March 16 — “Mirziyoyev paid his first visit to Turkmenistan while their main joint project – a pipeline to China – was being killed.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/03/uzbekistan-puts-a-smile-on-an-economic-blow-to-turkmenistan/


The Never-Ending War in Afghanistan

The author of an opinion piece reflects on why has Washington ceased to care about the Afghan war

March 13 — “Remember Afghanistan? The longest war in American history? Ever? When it comes to wars, we Americans have a selective memory. The Afghan war, dating from October 2001, has earned the distinction of having been forgotten while still underway.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/opinion/the-never-ending-war-in-afghanistan.html?_r=0

John McCain and Lindsey Graham: Why we need more forces in Afghanistan

US Senators say that President Donald Trump and his administration must treat Afghanistan with the same urgency as the fight against the Islamic State, or the stalemate in Afghanistan risks sliding into strategic failure

March 16 — “On Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida terrorists murdered 3,000 innocent civilians on American soil while under the sanctuary of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In response, U.S. and NATO forces deployed to Afghanistan to hunt down those responsible and ensure that Afghanistan would never again be a haven for terrorists.” READ MORE: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/John-McCain-and-Lindsey-Graham-Why-we-need-more-11007389.php

Pakistan warns of threat to entire region from Daesh in Afghanistan

Pakistani official says that Daesh in Afghanistan is a threat not only for Pakistan but also for other countries in the region, though some experts believe the IS strength in Afghanistan is highly exxagerated

March 16 — “Pakistan has evidence of militant group Deash being present in Pakistan, Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said during the weekly briefing on Thursday.” READ MORE: https://www.geo.tv/latest/134495-Pakistan-warns-of-threat-to-entire-region-from-Daesh-in-Afghanistan

Security Council extends mandate of UN mission in Afghanistan for one year

The UN Security Council reiterates support for the Government of Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and against the threats posed by the Taliban, Al Qaida, and the Islamic State

March 17 — “The Security Council today extended the mandate of United Nations assistance operation in Afghanistan until 17 March 2018, stressing the political mission’s role in supporting an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.” READ MORE: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56375


A stable Central Asia, Putin’s 2017 goal

Chinese analyst says that amid the unfolding confrontation with the US, Russia sees safeguarding the security and stability of its peripheries, including the Central Asian region, as its priority on the national security agenda

March 14 — “Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up a two-day visit to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in late February, a rare Central Asian trip of late. Since Uzbekistan withdrew from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 2012, it has had estranged relations with Moscow. Turkmenistan has been keeping a distance from Russia given its neutral foreign policy after it gained independence in 1991. In contrast, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have been closely following the Kremlin in their foreign policies.” READ MORE: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1037732.shtml
CPEC: China approves huge infrastructure projects for Xinjiang

Xinjiang is poised to become China’s trade hub linking countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt, with a plan to construct the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway to boost China’s economic cooperation with Central Asia

March 17 — “The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will invest heavily in more high-speed railways and highways to build a high-quality transportation network that can truly support the Belt and Road Initiative.” READ MORE: https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/192871-CPEC-China-approves-huge-infrastructure-projects-for-Xinjiang

Belt and Road Initiative — idea from China but belongs to whole world

China’s Belt and Road Initiative would benefit not only China itself, but also countries along its routes, including Central Asia, Russia, Asia, and even Europe

March 17 — “The Belt and Road Initiative has become the most popular public goods and platform for international cooperation with the brightest prospects in the world amid rising protectionism and unilateralism, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on the sideline of the recently concluded China’s two sessions.” READ MORE: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-03/17/content_28596217.htm

Sergey Kwan