Weekly Digest of Central Asia

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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

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan Sign Strategic Partnership Agreement, Border Accord

Kazakh and Turkmen leaders agreed on increased bilateral cooperation in energy, transit and transport spheres

April 20 — “President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed bilateral relations during Berdymukhamedov’s April 18-19 state visit to Kazakhstan. His visit corresponded with the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/04/kazakhstan-turkmenistan-sign-strategic-partnership-agreement-border-accord/

Kazakhstan pledges to abide by output cut deal

Kazakhstan’s failure to meet its oil production cut commitments in February and March largely owed to the relaunch of the huge, and expensive, Kashagan oilfield

April 20 — “Kazakhstan plans a deep cut to its crude output in May and June in order to fulfil its commitments under a deal struck between major global oil producers last year, Kazakh Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev has said.” READ MORE: http://www.youroilandgasnews.com/kazakhstan+pledges+to+abide+by+output+cut+deal_141527.html

Kookmin Bank sells share in Kazakh bank

A South Korean bank quits Kazakhstan’s banking sector in a move to be followed by a merger of two Kazakh banks

April 20 — “South Korean Kookmin Bank has completed a deal on the sale of its share in Kazakh Bank CenterCredit, a message of the bank published on the website of Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE) said. Kookmin Bank sold its 41.93 percent share to the main shareholder of Bank CenterCredit Bakhytbek Baiseitov and Kazakh Tsesnabank and Tsesna financial holding.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/business/economy/2744586.html

Heavy Floods Cause Damage, Spark Anger In Northern Kazakhstan

Spring floods occur almost every year in northern and southern regions of Kazakhstan, often causing serious damages

April 20 — “Heavy floods have hit regions across northern Kazakhstan, destroying hundreds of buildings, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people, and leading to accusations of a botched state response.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-floods-damage-anger/28441118.html

Kazakhstan improves four slots to 81st in WEF’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index

More than 4.5 million people visit Kazakhstan annually and Kazakhstan’s travel and tourism industry brings in around $3 billion or 1.6 percent of the country’s total GDP

April 21 — “Kazakhstan improved its position by four spots to 81st in the latest World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index. The index is published biannually and compares 136 economies on factors and policies enabling sustainable travel and tourism development, which contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country, according to the WEF report.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/04/kazakhstan-improves-four-slots-to-81st-in-wefs-travel-tourism-competitiveness-index/

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan to sell or liquidate unprofitable state-owned enterprises

The Kyrgyz government is taking measures to improve the management of state-owned enterprises by either making them profitable or privatizing them

April 15 — “According to official data, 1,130 state-owned enterprises are registered in Kyrgyzstan and 900 of them are idle, 166 regularly receive subsidies from the state, and only 33 enterprises are operating efficiently.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/17913-kyrgyzstan-to-sell-or-liquidate-unprofitable-state-owned-enterprises

Kyrgyzstan: Four Opposition Politicians Jailed for “Coup Attempt”

The verdict is seen by many as an attempt of Kyrgyz authorities to demonstratively settle scores with opposition politicians, so as to show their strength ahead of the presidential elections

April 18 — “A district court in the capital of Kyrgyzstan has convicted four opposition politicians on charges of attempting to violently seize power in a case that the defendants’ supporters say was politically motivated.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83266

Iran ready to help bolster Kyrgyzstan’s hydropower sector

Iran’s foreign minister says his country is ready to help Kyrgyzstan build new hydro power plants

April 20 — “Kyrgyzstan’s hydroelectric power sector could receive a boost from the government of Iran, per a statement made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a joint press conference held yesterday.” READ MORE: http://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2017/04/iran-ready-to-help-bolster-kyrgyzstan-s-hydropower-sector.html

Germany interested in fruit and veg imports from Kyrgyzstan

As Kyrgyzstan enjoys the EU’s GSP+ trade preferences, the country can export a number of products to EU member countries duty-free

April 20 — “A meeting between Kyrgyz Ambassador Erinas Otorbaev and the leadership of the German company “Landgard Bio GmbH” was held in the city of Bornheim. Otorbaev and the head of “Landgard Bio GmbH”, Albert Fuhs, discussed possibilities for cooperation to facilitate the supply of Kyrgyz agricultural products to Germany.” READ MORE: http://www.freshplaza.com/article/174201/Germany-interested-in-fruit-and-veg-imports-from-Kyrgyzstan

Economic Recovery and Confronting Corruption in Kyrgyzstan

A recent public opinion survey shows that the majority of Kyrgyzstan people think the country is moving in the right direction

April 21 — “After a few difficult years in which the economies of Central Asia were pulled down by the oil crash and the Russian economy’s doldrums, either directly or indirectly, recovery seems to be dawning.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/economic-recovery-and-confronting-corruption-in-kyrgyzstan/

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan’s Islamic State Contingent Reportedly Suffers Grave Blows

Hundreds of Tajiks are fighting with Islamic State militants in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and they can bring terrorism back to their home country

April 17 — “Media outlets have in recent days reported on the death of senior Islamic State group militants from Tajikistan — including US-trained former riot police commander Gulmurod Khalimov — in what appears to amount to a devastating blow to the radical organization’s Central Asian contingent.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83261

Tajikistan Opens A New Chapter: No Books Allowed In Or Out Without Approval

Some believe the move is really intended to stop the dissemination of extremist religious material, especially books written in Farsi and Arabic

April 17 — “The country’s Culture Ministry recently announced that no books are allowed in or out of the country without written permission, part of a stated effort to prevent valuable manuscripts from being smuggled out of the country.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-books-religious-extremist-material-culture-ministry/28434892.html

Dushanbe, Tashkent At Odds Over Shooting Death Near Border

About one-fifth of the 1,400-km Tajik-Uzbek border has not been delimited, which still causes border incidents

April 18 — “Tajik and Uzbek authorities have given contradictory explanations for the killing of a Tajik man on April 15 along the border between the Central Asian nations.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/tajiskistan-uzbekistan-border-shooting-conflicting-reports/28436751.html

TURKMENISTAN

Iran, Turkmenistan Weigh Up Plans for Trade in Own Currencies

The plan will be helpful for cash-stripped Turkmenistan that is suffering from decreasing hard-currency revenues from gas exports

April 17 — “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he has discussed plans in a Monday meeting with Turkmen president for trade exchanges between the two countries using their own currencies, namely rial and manat.” READ MORE: https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/04/17/1382118/iran-turkmenistan-weigh-up-plans-for-trade-in-own-currencies

Turkmenistan opens bid process for country’s second potash plant

Turkmenistan is trying to diversify away from natural-gas exports by expanding into the potash fertilizer market

April 18 — “Turkmenistan continues to expand into the potash market by opening Monday an international bid process for its second potash plant.” READ MORE: http://www.mining.com/turkmenistan-opens-bid-process-for-countrys-second-potash-plant/

Belarus – Turkmenistan: The End Of A Success Story?

A Belarusian analyst says the Belarusian government needs to obtain new large-scale construction contracts in Turkmenistan and reverse the negative trend in the sale of machinery to the Central Asian country

April 19 — “On 30-31 March, talks were held in Ashgabat between Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenka. The launch of the $1bn Garlyk potash fertiliser plant which Belarus built in the country differentiated this encounter from other such annual meetings between Turkmenistan and Belarus.” READ MORE: http://belarusdigest.com/story/belarus-turkmenistan-end-success-story-29840

Turkmenistan plans to supply power to Caucasus countries

As Turkmenistan’s natural-gas exports have fallen, the country is trying to boost electricity exports to more countries of the region

April 20 — “Energy-rich Turkmenistan intends to export electricity to the Caucasus countries through the Iranian territory, Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported.” READ MORE: http://www.azernews.az/region/111749.html

UZBEKISTAN

France Urges Closer Security Ties With Uzbekistan After Militant Attacks

Both France and Uzbekistan are facing the problem of terrorism and radicalization among youth

April 15 — “France and Uzbekistan need to strengthen security cooperation in order to combat jihadist groups and prevent violent attacks, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told Reuters on Saturday during a visit to the Central Asian nation.” READ MORE: https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-04-15/france-urges-closer-security-ties-with-uzbekistan-after-militant-attacks

Uzbekistan: BBC Set to Make a Return?

Uzbek Foreign Minister says Uzbekistan is interested in seeing a greater number of leading international media outlets represented in the country

April 17 — “Uzbekistan has said that it is considering restoring journalistic accreditation for the BBC, signaling a possible opening to greater international exposure. Almost all international media were drummed out of the country following the bloodshed that ensued after the crushing of the Andijan uprising in 2005.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83251

Why Uzbekistan’s Shifts on Water Politics Matter

The recent moves and statements by Uzbekistan’s leadership point to a thaw in Tashkent’s relations with neighboring countries

April 18 — “By all indications, the first four months of Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s tenure as Uzbekistan’s head have seen the new leader place his own stamp on the presidency.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/why-uzbekistans-shifts-on-water-politics-matter/

Uzbekistan’s Test For Wannabe Labor Migrants Sparks Controversy

With Uzbek workers hit hard by a financial crisis in Russia — a prime destination for labor migrants — Uzbek authorities are looking to diversify destination options to include Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Oman

April 20 — “An effort to present Uzbek migrant laborers in the best light possible to their South Korean hosts has cost a high-level official his job. Foreign Migration Agency Director Ulughbek Nazarov was dismissed on April 18 along with his agency’s brainchild — a general knowledge examination given to Uzbeks hoping to work in South Korea under a bilateral labor agreement.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistans-test-wannabe-labor-migrants-/28443067.html

AFGHANISTAN

Massive Bomb In Afghanistan Killed Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Pakistanis

Natives of many countries of Central Asia and Russia are in the ranks of Islamic State militants in the Middle East and Afghanistan

April 19 — “The massive U.S. bomb dropped on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan last week killed militant fighters from Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, India, and other countries, an Afghan official said.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/massive-bomb-moab-afghanistan-killed-uzbek-tajik-russian-pakistani-militants/28438194.html

WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: FORMER PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI CLAIMS THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISIS AND AMERICA

Karzai criticized the U.S. attack on ISIS on April 13, when the U.S. dropped the largest ever non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan

April 20 — “Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai claimed Wednesday that the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) was a tool of the U.S. Karzai, a former ally to Washington who has become increasingly critical of U.S. foreign policy, said America’s’ two-year fight against ISIS has been ‘weak.’” READ MORE: http://www.newsweek.com/hamid-karzai-us-afghanistan-isis-taliban-russia-587031

Afghanistan: Time Bomb In A Major Geopolitical Game

In Afghanistan, Russia has entered a major geopolitical game against the U.S., expanding its influence in the region and improving ties with neighboring countries

April 20 — “Afghanistan finds itself in the middle of a major geopolitical game between Russia, China and Pakistan on one side, and the U.S. on the other. Russia and China – bringing Pakistan along – have come to replace the U.S. in Afghanistan to put an end to what is arguably the most pressing issue of our time: the spread of radicalism and terrorism.” READ MORE: http://www.valuewalk.com/2017/04/afghanistan-time-bomb/

Moscow Not About To Challenge U.S In Afghanistan: Envoy

The Russian ambassador says Moscow’s contacts with the Taliban aim at helping ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan

April 20 — “The Russian Ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytskiy said on Wednesday at a press conference in Kabul that Moscow is not interested in challenging the United States and NATO in Afghanistan nor is it following a hidden agenda regarding the country.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/moab-was-warning-iran-and-russia-envoy

WORLD

Will Kurds in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan seek joining Greater Kurdistan?

The plan of creating the Great Kurdistan may trigger a new geopolitical game in the Middle East and surrounding regions

April 9 — “Should Central Asia care whether or not Kurds in the world will have their own home in the form of the Greater Kurdistan Republic, covering the northern regions of Iraq and Syria? The answer would be no without taking precedent mechanisms into consideration.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/17887-will-kurds-in-kazakhstan-kyrgyzstan-turkmenistan-and-tajikistan-seek-joining-greater-kurdistan

Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik radicals behind terrorism ‘made in Central Asia’

Natives of Central Asian countries are behind a series of terror attacks in Russia, Europe, and Turkey, making a bad fame for their home region

April 10 — “In the attack on an Istanbul nightclub last winter and recent ones in Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Astrakhan most of the perpetrators appeared to be not Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanians “as usual” but people from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as ethnic Uygurs from western China.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/17892-uzbek-kyrgyz-and-tajik-radicals-behind-terrorism-made-in-central-asia

TURKEY’S VOTE MAKES ERDOĞAN EFFECTIVELY A DICTATOR

The referendum in Turkey has in fact put an end to democracy in this country and given Erdogan the powers of a sultan

April 17 — “Fifteen years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the hope of the Islamic world. He was an Islamist, of course, but that was part of his appeal. As the mayor of Istanbul, one of the world’s great cities, Erdoğan had governed as a charismatic and smart technocrat.” READ MORE: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/turkeys-vote-makes-erdogan-effectively-a-dictator

Multiple Routes Between China And Europe Is Why The New Silk Road Is A Real Game Changer

In May, China will host a summit on its New Silk Road or One Belt, One Road, an initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe

April 17 — “The power and potential of the Belt and Road — aka the New Silk Road — lies in its versatility. This emerging network of revitalized transportation routes and new trading hubs which stretch between China and Europe finds efficiency, security, and healthy competition in the fact that it is not a single route but a network of multiple, interconnected trans-Eurasian corridors.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/04/17/multiple-routes-between-china-and-europe-is-why-the-new-silk-road-is-a-real-game-changer/#16aa65521feb

4 maps that signal Central Asia is at risk of war

George Friedman says geography is at the root of Central Asia’s battles, as it is fraught with tensions over ethnicity, Soviet-drawn borders, and high competition for resources

April 21 — “Central Asia is crumbling. The speed and extent of this leans in part on political and economic shifts in Russia, China, Afghanistan, and more. Geography is the main reason outside forces are shaping the growth of Central Asia.” READ MORE: http://www.businessinsider.com/maps-show-central-asia-is-at-risk-of-war-2017-4

Sergey Kwan

TCA