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

With World Expo 2017, Kazakhstan Takes Another Step Onto the Global Stage

The government of Kazakhstan is trying to use Expo 2017 in Astana to raise the country’s international profile and bring in much-needed foreign investment

June 9 — “This weekend’s launch of Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan is this former Soviet state’s big moment. Kazakhstan is cementing its role on the world stage and out of Russia’s shadow.” READ MORE: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/06/09/with-world-expo-2017-kazakhstan-takes-another-step-onto-the-global-stage/#267c07e92cd8

Kazakhstan Comes Under Fire for Workers’ Rights Crackdown

Global trade unions and key foreign governments call on Kazakhstan to release detained workers and implement a legal reform

June 13 — “For the third year in a row, Kazakhstan’s woeful record on workers’ rights has come under scrutiny at the International Labour Organization (ILO), the premier international body monitoring labor rights.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/13/kazakhstan-comes-under-fire-workers-rights-crackdown

Pension Fund Problems in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan may lose around $250 million of pension funds invested in bonds issued by the International Bank of Azerbaijan which is currently in trouble

June 14 — “In April 2013, Kazakhstan’s parliament passed a bill creating a single pension fund (ENPF), with the objective of nationalizing the pension funds that were previously held at banks and other financial institutions. At the time, the objective was to safeguard pension assets, given the troubled period that banks in Kazakhstan had just experienced after the global financial crisis of 2007.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/pension-fund-problems-in-kazakhstan/

Kazakhstan Central Bank To Sell Blockchain-Based Bonds

Kazakhstan’s National Bank plans to launch a Blockchain-based system in the second half of 2017, through which it will sell short-term bonds to retail investors

June 14 — “Blockchain has great advantages for storing digital assets – quick transfer of title, robustness, counterfeit-proof and low transaction costs. The latest to recognize these advantages is the central bank of Kazakhstan.” READ MORE: https://cointelegraph.com/news/kazakhstan-central-bank-to-sell-blockchain-based-bonds

Interpreters witness booming border trade between China and Kazakhstan

The Khorgos Frontier International Cooperation Center located on the border between China and Kazakhstan is the first trans-border international free trade zone in the world and a successful example of Kazakh-Chinese cooperation within One Belt, One Road initiative

June 15 — “Marina has to cross border every day for work, but the one hour drive from her home in Yarkent, Kazakhstan to China’s border town Khorgos is nothing compared to the monthly payment of 2,700 yuan (about 400 U.S. dollars), an income above the average in her hometown.” READ MORE: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-06/15/c_136367985.htm

Not All that Glitters in Kazakhstan Is Gold

A Central Asia researcher says that mega events like EXPO 2017 should not distract the attention from the serious human rights problems in Kazakhstan

June 15 — “Kazakhstan’s EXPO 2017, an international exposition featuring the theme of “future energy,” opened with much fanfare on June 9 in Astana, the country’s capital. The large spherical building that houses Kazakhstan’s national pavilion, the “Nur Alem,” was the centerpiece of the event’s opening ceremonies, which included an impressive display of fireworks and a laser light show.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/15/not-all-glitters-kazakhstan-gold

KYRGYZSTAN

Journalist Charged With Inciting Hatred Says He Fled Kyrgyzstan

The situation of the freedom of the press has deteriorated in Kyrgyzstan in recent months, which may be related to the upcoming presidential election

June 12 — “A prominent journalist who has been charged by Kyrgyz authorities with inciting ethnic hatred says he has left the country. Ulugbek Babakulov, a correspondent for the Russia-based news site Ferghananews, wrote on Facebook on June 12 that he had left Kyrgyzstan on June 8 to get away from what he called the “insanity” launched against him.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/fergana-website-blocked-kyrgyzstan-hatred-charge/28542352.html

Kyrgyzstan censors leading news agency Ferghana

Kyrgyzstan was the only Central Asian country where Ferghana was still accessible. It has long been blocked in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and in recent years in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan

June 13 — “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that the Ferghana website, one of the leading sources of news about Central Asia, can no longer be accessed in Kyrgyzstan as a result of court-ordered blocking, which it condemns as an unwarranted act of censorship unworthy of Kyrgyz democracy.” READ MORE: https://rsf.org/en/news/kyrgyzstan-censors-leading-news-agency-ferghana

Kyrgyzstan to host CSTO collective rapid response forces exercise in 2018

The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization remains the main force capable of effectively countering possible terrorist and other military threats in its Central Asian member countries

June 13 — “An exercise of the collective rapid response forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will take place in Kyrgyzstan in 2018, BelTA learned from CSTO Secretary General Yuri Khachaturov on 13 June.” READ MORE: http://eng.belta.by/society/view/kyrgyzstan-to-host-csto-collective-rapid-response-forces-exercise-in-2018-102305-2017/

Economy on the rise in Kyrgyzstan, President Atambayev says

Official statistics in Kyrgyzstan boasts economic growth whereas the real life of Kyrgyz citizens shows little signs of improvement

June 14 — “Over the past five or six years, no large enterprises or plants have been built in Kyrgyzstan, and no oil and gas fields have been discovered, but the country was able to increase its GDP 2.5-fold primarily due to the fight against corruption, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said on June 11 at an international forum in Bishkek.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18187-economy-on-the-rise-in-kyrgyzstan-president-atambayev-says

TAJIKISTAN

Tajik President Gives Rank Of State Justice Counselor To Daughter

The Tajik president is consolidating his grip on power, as a number of his close relatives occupy important government positions or control lucrative businesses in the country

June 13 — “Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has given the rank of state justice counselor to his daughter Ozoda Rahmon, the head of the presidential administration.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-rahmon-gives-rank-to-daughter/28545291.html

Tajikistan’s first public private partnership awarded for bringing clean energy to East Tajikistan, North Afghanistan

The Government of Tajikistan, the International Finance Corporation and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) established a company to supply electricity to remote areas in Tajikistan and now to Afghanistan

June 14 — “Pamir Energy has won the 2017 International Ashden Award for Increasing Energy Access for its work bringing hydro power to 220,000 people in East Tajikistan and 35,000 people in North Afghanistan, as well as to many businesses, schools, and health centres, the Aga Khan Development Network said.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18184-tajikistan-s-first-public-private-partnership-awarded-for-bringing-clean-energy-to-east-tajikistan-north-afghanistan

Going Postal: Tajikistan Stops DHL, UPS and Pony Express in Their Tracks

The Tajik Communication Service has taken steps that may lead to monopilization of mail and courier services in the country

June 14 — “Tajikistan, a country with an atrocious state postal service, has shut down several international courier firms such as DHL, UPS, TNT, and Pony Express. The government says that the firms that have been working in the country for the bulk of its 25-year independence will now need licenses to operate.” READ MORE: https://globalvoices.org/2017/06/14/going-postal-tajikistan-stops-dhl-ups-and-pony-express-in-their-tracks/

Tajikistan is ready to create favorable environment for Armenian investments

During his visits abroad, the Tajik leader continues inviting foreign investors to Tajikistan — this time from Armenia, one of the poorest members of the Eurasian Economic Union

June 15 — “At a joint briefing with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has arrived Wednesday in Yerevan for a two-day official visit, invited Armenian companies to invest money in Tajikistan’s economy and to take part in economically beneficial projects.” READ MORE: http://arka.am/en/news/politics/tajikistan_is_ready_to_create_favorable_environment_for_armenian_investments/

TURKMENISTAN

Teachers, students of Turkish schools targeted in Turkmenistan — watchdog

In a reported purge of people associated with schools previously affiliated with Fethullah Gülen, Ashgabat has shown the desire to maintain good relationship with Turkey, an important business partner of Turkmenistan

June 10 — “A Turkmen court sentenced 18 men to up to 25 years in prison on February 8, 2017, in what appears to be a purge of people associated with Turkish schools believed to have been previously affiliated with the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, Human Rights Watch said on June 9.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18164-teachers-students-of-turkish-schools-targeted-in-turkmenistan-watchdog

For Turkmen Visitors, Tour Guides A Must ‘At All Times’ During Asian Indoor Games

The Turkmen government is said to have demanded that tour guides regularly inform authorities about their foreign clients’ movements and whereabouts

June 11 — “Turkmen officials say they’re expecting tens of thousands of foreign tourists to pour in for the Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games (AIMAG) that the normally cloistered country is hosting in September. Now, Ashgabat is warning that foreigners must hire local guides and avoid straying too far from them.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-asian-indoor-martial-arts-games-tour-guides-closed-society/28540823.html

Turkmenistan Air OJSC is to launch new flight to Dushanbe

Turkmenistan expands international air routes, as the country is preparing to host the Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games this September

June 12 — “The test flight on new international route is planned on Boeing-737-800 on June 12. Turkmen aviators plan to open regular connection in near future with the Republic of Tajikistan that has traditionally friendly relations with our country.” READ MORE: http://www.turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=8508

UZBEKISTAN

UN secretary-general visits Aral Sea disaster area in Uzbekistan

The UN chief urged the world to take lesson from the Aral catastrophe and to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated

June 12 — “As part of his visit to Central Asia, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on June 10 visited the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan – once the world’s fourth largest inland sea, that has now shrunk to about a quarter of its original size due to human mismanagement.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18168-un-secretary-general-visits-aral-sea-disaster-area-in-uzbekistan

Uzbekistan Starts Shopping For Kazakh Weaponry

Tashkent and Astana have started developing military cooperation, although Uzbekistan has traditionally seen Kazakhstan as its rival for regional dominance

June 15 — “Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have steadily begun to build military ties, suggesting that Tashkent’s thaw in relations with its Central Asian neighbors may even extend to such a sensitive area as military cooperation with its regional rival.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/84011

Religious extremism, terrorism recognized as crimes in Uzbekistan

The new Uzbek leadership continues the late President Islam Karimov’s policy of tough suppression of any signs of religious extremism and terrorism in Uzbekistan

June 15 — “Measures to fight radicalization are enshrined in national legislation and international agreements of Uzbekistan. In the Constitution and normative acts, religious extremism and terrorism are recognized as crimes against peace and humanity, as well as against public security, said Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov at the high-level dialogue “Central Asia-UN” in Ashgabat.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/114786.html

Uzbekistan forms single service to explore uranium, non-ferrous, precious metals

Uzbekistan — a major producer of uranium and gold in Central Asia — has taken steps to boost its resource base and future mineral exports

June 16 — “A single service for geological exploration of uranium, precious and non-ferrous metals will be created in Uzbekistan under the State Geology and Mineral Resources Committee, according to the decree of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.” READ MORE: https://www.azernews.az/region/114823.html

AFGHANISTAN

World Bank to provide over $500 million to Afghanistan

Afghanistan has received another package of foreign aid that will hopefully help the country restore its economy and infrastructure, as only military actions are not enough to stop the ongoing insurgency

June 14 — “The World Bank on June 13 announced a financing package for Afghanistan of more than $500 million to help the country through a difficult phase in its struggle to end poverty and to signal a long-term commitment to the country’s people.” READ MORE: https://timesca.com/index.php/news/18185-world-bank-to-provide-over-500-million-to-afghanistan

Isil claims to have captured Osama bin Laden’s former hideout in Afghanistan

The capture of Tora Bora means a significant symbolic victory for Islamic State militants in Afghanistan and a major tactical advantage in their clashes with the Taliban

June 15 — “The Islamic State claims to have seized Osama bin Laden’s infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout in eastern Afghanistan. A black-and-white flag was hoisted above the huge cave complex according to a radio bulletin by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which also claimed to have taken over several nearby villages.” READ MORE: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/15/isil-claims-have-captured-osama-bin-ladens-former-hideout-afghanistan/

Mr. Trump, Afghanistan Is Your War Now

In its editorial, The New York Times writes that President Trump leaves the impression that he is cowed by the weighty responsibility of sending more Americans into Afghan battle, and is looking to put that onus on Defense Secretary Mattis so he has somebody to blame if things go wrong

June 16 — “President Trump was typically self-absorbed in his tweet on Wednesday celebrating the 242nd birthday of the United States Army. “Proud to be your commander-in-chief,” he proclaimed to the soldiers. Yet, when it comes to the actual life-and-death responsibilities of the commander in chief — overseeing America’s vast war machine and sending men and women into conflict — Mr. Trump seems more like the delegator in chief.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/trump-afghanistan-mattis-military.html?_r=0

For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan

Analysts say that Pakistan supports the Taliban in the hope that it would counterbalance Indian influence in Afghanistan

June 16 — “The Trump administration’s Afghanistan policy review provides an opportunity to confront a central truth: No strategy, even with more troops, will succeed without reducing Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and the affiliated Haqqani network that is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against the United States and its partners in Afghanistan.” READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/afghanistan-pakistan-taliban.html

WORLD

Energy in Central Asia: Who Has What?

A review presents a breakdown of hydrocarbon resources of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan

June 15 — “Each summer, BP releases a statistical review of world energy. The review — in its 66th year — is well regarded and draws on a variety of sources, giving one of the most comprehensive views of energy reserves and consumption around the world.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/06/energy-in-central-asia-who-has-what/

ISIS’s Terror Campaign Comes to Iran

The National Interest’s author says the attack on Iran shows that the Islamic State is moving to the next phase of its lifecycle by decentralizing its operation, turning into a jihadist movement from a hierarchical organization, and indulging in clandestine activities

June 15 — “For years, the Islamic State terrorist group has harbored the ambition of attacking Iran. This finally came to pass on June 7, when two teams of ISIS terrorists nearly simultaneously struck the Iranian parliament and the shrine of the Iranian republic’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, two symbols of the 1979 Shia revolution.” READ MORE: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/isiss-terror-campaign-comes-iran-21172

SCO Will Help India, Pakistan Collaborate On Mutual Issues Of Interest

China dismisses fears that India and Pakistan’s differences could disrupt the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, saying that the group’s charter prohibits members to bring their hostility into SCO

June 16 — “Indian Ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale and his Pakistan counterpart Masood Khalid on Thursday attended a ceremony to formally admit their nations as new SCO members in Beijing, which hosts the group’s headquarters.” READ MORE: https://sputniknews.com/asia/201706161054683574-india-pakistan-sco-china/

Sergey Kwan

TCA