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 aims to be regional hub

Kazakhstan is aimed at tapping Singapore’s know-how in areas such as IT and business services

April 22 — “With its vast oil reserves and land mass the size of Western Europe, Kazakhstan cannot be more different from tiny Singapore. But like Singapore, Central Asia’s largest economy wants to be the hub for its region.” READ MORE: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/kazakhstan-aims-to-be-regional-hub

Kazakhstan bans foreign ownership of country’s airlines

The move is seen as part of the preparation for privatization of the country’s flag carrier Air Astana

April 25 — “The parliament of Kazakhstan has approved legislative amendments banning foreigners from holding more than 49% ownership of the country’s airlines, Kazakhstan Today newswire reports.” READ MORE: http://www.rusaviainsider.com/kazakhstan-bans-foreign-ownership-countrys-airlines/

Cooperation between Kazakhstan, Qatar to have international impact

Kazakhstan and Qatar have bright cooperation prospects, as both countries are already looking towards a post-fossil fuel world

April 26 — “There are plenty of differences between Qatar and Kazakhstan as even the briefest glance at a map of the world will show. But despite these big contrasts in size, geography and climate, there are also many surprising similarities which go beyond a shared religion of the majority of their populations.” READ MORE: http://astanatimes.com/2017/04/cooperation-between-kazakhstan-qatar-to-have-international-impact/

Finding the Energy for Increased Cooperation

Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States says that the theme of the Expo 2017 in Astana offers a chance to increase Kazakhstan’s ties to the U.S.

April 27 — “Kazakhstan’s quarter century of bilateral relations with the United States has been positive and productive, forging a partnership that is making a difference across a range of issues. In this new era, Kazakhstan and the United States are working together to support mutual interests and address global challenges that face both our nations.” READ MORE: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-04-27/letter-from-kazakhstan-building-on-common-ground-and-driving-future-energy

This Little-Known US Ally Could Be Pivotal on Russia, China Policy

Commentator believes that Kazakhstan can become a potentially key intermediary for contentious global issues important to the U.S.

April 27 — “As the U.S. grapples with many complex challenges to its interests in the vast region of Eurasia, one country should attract Washington’s particular attention. Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest country by land mass, sits right in the heart of Eurasia on what is best described as a convergence of global challenges and strategic opportunities for the U.S.” READ MORE: http://dailysignal.com/2017/04/27/this-little-known-us-ally-could-be-pivotal-on-russia-china-policy/

Kazakhstan expects $180M cash flow from Kashagan in 2017

Oil production at Kashagan oilfield now hits 180,000 barrels per day and by the year-end it is expected to increase to 370,000 barrels per day

April 28 — “Kazakhstan will get $180 million in cash flow from Kashagan oil field in 2017, Kazakhstan Today news agency quoted Dauren Karabayev, executive vice president and financial director of KazMunaiGas oil and gas company, one of the shareholders of the project.” READ MORE: http://en.trend.az/business/energy/2747564.html

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament considers challenges facing agricultural sector

Kyrgyzstan’s farmers badly need cheap loans and subsidies from the state

April 23 — “Kyrgyz parliament deputies have considered receiving a 40 million euro Polish loan for agricultural producers in Kyrgyzstan.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/17943-kyrgyzstan-s-parliament-considers-challenges-facing-agricultural-sector

Kyrgyzstan holds security exercises to prepare for state of emergency

The exercises mobilized the ministries, state administrations and local governments to carry out tasks that would stabilize the situation in a state of emergency

April 27 — “Kyrgyzstan has launched joint command and mobilization exercises in case of emergency, the press service of the country’s General Staff of the Armed Forces reported Thursday.” READ MORE: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-04/27/c_136241202.htm

Kyrgyzstan holds first international cultural forum

Representatives of 24 countries from Europe, Asia and Africa and some international organizations attend the week-long forum

April 28 — “The opening ceremony of the first Bishkek Cultural Forum was held in Bishkek on Thursday, aiming at presenting Kyrgyz culture in front of international organizations and national cultures of the world.” READ MORE: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-04/28/c_136241405.htm

Atambayev: biometric passports to make elections in Kyrgyzstan more fair

Introduction of new passports is important as Kyrgyzstan holds presidential elections this autumn

April 28 — “Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev discussed with Prime Minister Sooronbai Zheenbekov and Chief of Staff of President’s Office Sapar Isakov the start of introduction of electronic biometric passports in Kyrgyzstan.” READ MORE: http://vestnikkavkaza.net/news/Atambayev-biometric-passports-to-make-elections-in-Kyrgyzstan-more-fair.html

Kyrgyzstan: Thin-Skinned President Sets Dogs on Media, Again

Authorities continue the crackdown in courts on media outlets that criticize President Atambayev

April 28 — “Life in Kyrgyzstan for independent media and critics of President Almazbek Atambayev took a fresh turn for the worse on April 28 as an embattled website revealed it is facing a fifth lawsuit from the government.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83386

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan: The migrant workers return

As Russia is experiencing a crisis and has tightened its immigration laws, many Tajik labor migrants have to return to their home country

April 22 — “Russia’s economic crisis is hitting many of the migrant workers from Central Asia hard. Hundreds of thousands of Tajiks have been forced to return to their home country – often to poverty and hopelessness.” READ MORE: http://www.dw.com/en/tajikistan-the-migrant-workers-return/av-38544548

Tajikistan: State Media Forced to Always Call President By Unwieldy Title

The new requirement for the media testifies to the growing personality cult of Tajik President Rakhmon

April 24 — “State media in Tajikistan are under strict instructions to start always referring to President Emomali Rahmon by his full title: The Founder of Peace and National Unity — Leader of the Nation.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83331

Tajikistan: Top Anti-Corruption Officials Detained

Large-scale corruption was revealed in the anti-corruption agency that was until early January headed by the President’s son, Rustam Emomali, who has since become the mayor of the capital, Dushanbe

April 26 — “Tajikistan has reportedly embarked on a major would-be battle against graft, detaining at least 17 officials with the government’s top anti-corruption body, including the deputy head of the agency. The sweep was organized by the anti-corruption agency itself in conjunction with the State Committee for National Security.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83351

TURKMENISTAN

OSCE helps Turkmenistan take advantage of its solar potential

The OSCE organized an event to help the Turkmen government and institutions to develop a national strategy for solar energy use

April 24 — “Something is moving in Turkmenistan, one of the countries with the lowest solar development. The Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) has organized a seminar on best practices in developing a national strategy for solar energy at the Turkmen State Energy Institute in Mary, Turkmenistan.” READ MORE: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/04/24/oecd-helps-turkmenistan-take-advantage-of-its-solar-potential/

Wuhan (China) hosts the forum on perspective directions of Turkmen – Chinese cooperation

Turkmenistan and China’s main areas of cooperation are natural-gas export and import and the development of regional transit transport routes along the modern Silk Road

April 24 — “Administration centre of Hubei province of China hosted “Turkmenistan – China: Cooperation on new Silk Road” forum on the final day of the events dedicated to the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between two states.” READ MORE: http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=8147

Turkmenistan’s Ongoing Gas Quandary

Turkmenistan currently has only one buyer of its natural gas — China, and gas exports remain the main hard currency revenue source for Ashgabat

April 25 — “Reports of a late resolution of a dispute with a Chinese supplier show further problems in Turkmenistan’s gas industry.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/turkmenistans-ongoing-gas-quandary/

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek president sidelines member of ruling triumvirate – sources

Reuters sources say Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov has now been sidelined by President Mirziyoyev in an attempt to consolidate his power

April 26 — “Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the new president of Uzbekistan, has moved to consolidate his power by sidelining a member of the triumvirate that has ruled the ex-Soviet state since last year, two sources familiar with the government told Reuters.” READ MORE: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-exclusive-uzbek-president-sidelines-member-of-ruling-triumvirate—sources-2017-4

Uzbekistan starts construction of $2.2 bln oil refinery –report

The new oil refinery is to help Uzbekistan cope with a shortage of motor fuel, although the country also faces a shortage of crude oil of its own

April 27 — “Uzbekistan started contruction of a $2.2 billion refinery on Thursday which will use oil imported from Russia and Kazakhstan, state news agency UzA reported.” READ MORE: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL8N1HZ5S2

Turkey vows to strengthen ties with Uzbekistan

Turkish Foreign Minister said Presidents of Uzbekistan and Turkey, Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, plan to hold talks before the end of 2017

April 27 — “Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is on an official visit in Tashkent, on April 26, the Uzbek national news agency UzA reported.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/112091.html

Uzbekistan: Russia-Themed War Remembrance Ribbons Ruffle Feathers

Some in Uzbekistan oppose the Russian-style attributes of WWII victory celebration, considering them a reminiscence of the Russian imperial colonialism

April 27 — “In advance of the May 9 holidays to mark victory in World War II, the Russian Embassy in Uzbekistan is getting busy distributing St. George remembrance ribbons to the public.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83366

AFGHANISTAN

2 Top Afghanistan Military Officials Resign After Taliban Attack

The deadly Taliban attack on Afghan government troops has caused a reshuffle in the Afghan military and urged Washington to think about sending more troops to Afghanistan

April 24 — “The Afghan defense minister and the army chief of staff both resigned on Monday as the government faced mounting pressure over a Taliban sneak attack that killed more than 160 soldiers last week.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-defense-minister-resigns.html?_r=0

How to Stabilize Afghanistan

Iran, Russia, and the United States share essentially the same interests in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan

April 26 — “The Afghan military, backed by some 8,400 U.S. troops, is struggling to shore up its ranks after a devastating attack killed over 100 soldiers on a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif, marking a morbid beginning to another summer fighting season. This time around, though, the Afghans and their American partners have two more forces to contend with: Russia and Iran.” READ MORE: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2017-04-26/how-stabilize-afghanistan

Afghanistan: Civilian casualties show how unsafe it is for refugees to be returned

The rights watchdog says that tens of thousands of Afghan refugees have been returned back home against their will from Pakistan, Iran, and European Union countries

April 27 — “Attacks on civilians in the first three months of this year and the inability of the Afghan government to ensure their adequate protection show that Afghanistan remains an unsafe country for refugees to be returned to, Amnesty International said today.” READ MORE: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/04/afghanistan-civilian-casualties-show-how-unsafe-it-is-for-refugees-to-be-returned/

Former Afghan Warlord Hekmatyar Holds First Meetings With Government Since Peace Deal

Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with the Afghan government in September, a move that may help come closer to establishing peace in Afghanistan

April 28 — “Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-hekmatyar-warlord-peace-deal-ghani-/28457340.html

WORLD

Turkish referendum: sending the wrong signal to Central Asia

Turkey has ceased to play the role of a shining beacon for Central Asia where state government is concerned

April 22 — “It all looks like a shameful charade. But on a slightly longer term, Turkey’s referendum can be considered a step backward rather than forward and is certain to create more problems than it could possibly solve. It goes in the opposite direction of a trend emerging throughout Central Asia away from personality rule and towards a more collective form of government.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/17941-turkish-referendum-sending-the-wrong-signal-to-central-asia

Why ‘One Belt, One Road’ in Central Asia Will Test Chinese Diplomacy

David Lewis, a Central Asia expert and senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, describes the political and other challenges China will need to grapple with to make the One Belt, One Road initiative a success

April 25 — “Traditionally, China has preferred to pursue bilateral deals when investing in Central Asia, but its ambitious plans for the One Belt, One Road initiative will require a more integrated approach.” READ MORE: http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/21956/why-one-belt-one-road-in-central-asia-will-test-chinese-diplomacy

Mounting Incitements to War With Russia

Nation’s contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War

April 26 — “Villainizing the Kremlin—without much evidence—for crises from Washington and Europe to Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan is increasing the possibility of a US-Russian war.” READ MORE: https://www.thenation.com/article/mounting-incitements-to-war-with-russia/

French elections, round 1: sending the right signal to Central Asia

Like in France, fresh faces and fresh ideas are gaining popularity also in Central Asia where people tend to get tired of seeing the same familiar faces time and again

April 27 — “If Turkey’s referendum in favour of authoritarianism gave the wrong hint to Central Asia’s former Soviet republics, France’s choice for its next head of state is a message well worth heeding. The possible defeat of the nationalistic party and Marine Le Pen may secure a massive adhesion of other losing camps to Emmanuel Macron, and may encourage former Soviet states to move away from one-man regimes towards government by consensus.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/26-opinion-head/17960-french-elections-round-1-sending-the-right-signal-to-central-asia

Sergey Kwan

TCA