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 Lifts Visa Requirements For Europe, UAE And Other Western Countries To Boost Tourism

Kazakhstan is simplifying its visa regime in an effort to attract more tourists and foreign investment

Jan 4 — “Countries part of the European Union, the OECD and other states in Central and Southern Asia could journey to Kazakhstan without a need for Visas to improve its tourism economies from January 1 2017. Aside from Western countries, travelers from the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore could stay up to 30 days in the country for travel without a visa.” READ MORE: http://www.travelerstoday.com/articles/32865/20170104/kazakhstan-lifts-visa-requirements-europe-uae-western-countries-boost-tourism.htm

The New York Times recommends to visit Kazakhstan in 2017

Kazakhstan is seeking to become an attractive travel destination, and hosting of the upcoming Expo-2017 in Astana may contribute to achieving this goal

Jan 5 — “The New York Times has named the best 52 places to visit in year 2017. Kazakhstan ranks the 26th in this list.” READ MORE: http://www.inform.kz/en/the-new-york-times-recommends-to-visit-kazakhstan-in-2017_a2986112

Kerry Says U.S. ‘Encouraging’ Syria Peace Talks In Kazakhstan

Astana is to host talks between the Syrian government and opposition on January 23

Jan 5 — “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is encouraging Syria peace talks set to be held in Kazakhstan later this month and hopes that they could lead to progress in the international push to resolve the nearly six-year-old war.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/kerry-says-us-encouraging-syria-peace-talks-kazakhstan/28216520.html

13,000 Chinese study in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is looking to China not only as a large export market for oil and agricultural products, but also as a major tourism partner

Jan 6 — “China plans to increase the number of its citizens studying in Kazakhstan, who at the moment exceed 1,300 people, Deputy Chairperson of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, National Commissioner of the Chinese EXPO 2017 pavilion and Representative of the Chinese Government Wang Jinzhen said.” READ MORE: http://www.inform.kz/en/13-000-chinese-study-in-kazakhstan_a2986259

Kazakhstan: Registration Law Sparks Widespread Indignation

A new law in Kazakhstan is to help authorities to combat terrorism by keeping a closer eye on people’s movements in the country

Jan 6 — “Kazakhstan has adopted a law requiring citizens traveling within the country to register with local authorities if they remain in one locality for more than one month. Anybody found in violation of the law will first receive a written warning and then, if found to be committing the same offense within a year, a fine of around 30,000 tenge ($90).” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/81866

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan Says Passport Holder No Longer Suspect In Istanbul Nightclub Attack

Amid reports on Kyrgyz citizens joining the Islamic State in Syria in recent years, Kyrgyzstan nationals have been reported as being alleged suspects of conducting terrorist acts in the recent time

Jan 3 — “Kyrgyz officials say the man whose name and passport have been circulated in Turkish and Italian media, as well as widely on social media, as the possible perpetrator of the New Year’s Day massacre at an Istanbul nightclub is not a suspect in the case.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/turkey-kyrgyzstan-checking-identity-istanbul-nightclub-attack-suspect/28211165.html

Kyrgyzstan settles 9 international arbitration disputes worth $1.5 bn out of 14

Arbitration lawsuits filed by foreign investors have haunted Kyrgyzstan in recent years, undermining the country’s investment attractiveness

Jan 5 — “In the years 2014-2016, fourteen lawsuits were filed against the Kyrgyz Republic with over $1.8 billion claims and 9 arbitration disputes have been settled to date, Tazabek reported citing the center of legal representation of the Government.” READ MORE: http://akipress.com/news:587276/

Year of 2017 in Kyrgyzstan announced Year of morality, education and culture

2016 was the Year of History and Culture in Kyrgyzstan. Now the authorities have proposed a new slogan

Jan 6 — “Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed a decree “On declaring 2017 the Year of morality, education and culture,” his press office reported.” READ MORE: http://www.eng.24.kg/community/183613-news24.html

TAJIKISTAN

Tajik ruling party reviews the results of the past year’s work and determines tasks for 2017

The party of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon sets new goals for the new year

Jan 6 — “Tajik ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held its plenary session in Dushanbe on January 5, 2017. The session participants included members of the party board, heads of the party organizations in the provinces, and members of the party faction in the parliament, Usmon Soliyev, the head of the PDP public relations department, told Asia-Plus in an interview.” READ MORE: https://www.news.tj/en/news/tajikistan/politics/20170106/235167

Tajik Human Rights Lawyer’s Prison Term Extended

A Tajik court gives a lengthy prison term to a lawyer of leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan which was banned in 2015 as a terrorist organization

Jan 6 — “A court in Tajikistan has extended the prison term handed down to a prominent human rights lawyer. In October, the Dushanbe City Court found Buzurgmehr Yorov guilty on charges of issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government and inciting social unrest.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/tajik-rights-lawyer-yorov-prison-extended/28217161.html

Tajik authorities continue easing electricity rationing for rural areas

Tajikistan continues experiencing electricity shortages and power rationing in winters, though this year the situation seems to be better

Jan 6 — “Tajik authorities are continuing to ease electricity rationing introduced in rural areas. On January 6, they increased the daily supply of electricity for rural areas by one more hour.” READ MORE: https://www.news.tj/en/news/tajikistan/economic/20170106/235191

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan’s Image as Gas Supplier Takes Hit in Iran Row

A row between Turkmenistan and Iran over the halt of Turkmen gas export to the neighboring country may bring the sides to international arbitration
 
Jan 4 — “As Turkmenistan and Iran continue to trade accusations in their unfolding dispute over natural gas debts, Turkmenistan has suffered a dismal defeat in the information war.” READ MORE: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/81836

Turkmenistan to transit 300,000 tons of cargo via Azerbaijan in 2017

Turkmenistan is seeking to diversify its export transit routes

Jan 6 — “Transit of 300,000 tons of cargo through Azerbaijan from Turkmenistan will be carried out this year.” READ MORE: http://abc.az/eng/news_06_01_2017_101187.html

Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong: China highly esteems the achievements of Turkmenistan for the years of independence

Chinese Ambassador to Turkmenistan speaks about bilateral relations, as China has remained the only importer of Turkmen gas

Jan 6 — “It is 25 years of diplomatic relations between Turkmenistan and People’s Republic of China on January 6. On the occasion of the anniversary in the history of bilateral relations, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Turkmenistan Sun Weidong gave an interview.” READ MORE: http://turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=7287

UZBEKISTAN

Xi Jinping: China and Uzbekistan are sincere and mutual friends

Chinese President speaks about “One belt one road” initiative and cooperation in the fight against “three evils” as key aspects of relations with Uzbekistan

Jan 3 — “On 2 January, the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping sent a message to the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev, expressing his good wishes on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.” READ MORE: http://news.uzreport.uz/news_2_e_147206.html

Hwang voices hopes for deeper strategic partnership with Uzbekistan

South Korea’s leader calls for Uzbekistan’s cooperation in exploring new bilateral business projects

Jan 5 — “South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister on Thursday voiced hopes for close cooperation with Uzbekistan to cement the two countries’ strategic partnership during his telephone talks with the Central Asian state’s leader.” READ MORE: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2017/01/05/0200000000AEN20170105011500315.html

Uzbekistan’s leaders among key figures in international life

The power succession in Uzbekistan and election of the new President last year were named among the major events by the international media

Jan 6 — “Spain’s leading analytic center Barcelona Center for International Affairs has published the list of 40 key people of international life in 2016 which includes the first President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov and recently elected President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev.” READ MORE: http://news.uzreport.uz/news_2_e_147251.html

AFGHANISTAN

Terrorism equally threatening Afghanistan and Pakistan: Pak Army Chief

Pakistan reiterates its commitment to helping Afghanistan achieve peace and fight terrorism

Jan 1 — “Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said terrorism and extremism equally threatens Afghanistan and Pakistan as he pledged full support to cooperate in eliminate the menace of terror.” READ MORE:  http://www.khaama.com/terrorism-equally-threatening-afghanistan-and-pakistan-pak-army-chief-02598

Legalizing Opium Won’t Work for Afghanistan

Will legalization of opium cultivation in Afghanistan help reduce the illegal income that fuels the insurgency in the war-torn country?

Jan 5 — “With a unique incoming U.S. administration, many are contemplating ongoing U.S. foreign policy issues with the hopes of shaping a policy platform that has yet to be clearly (or consistently) articulated. A prominent topic on this list is America’s longest war, Afghanistan, plagued by a lack of progress, an ongoing insurgency, and political dysfunction. With no indication that the situation will improve without drastic changes, many are contemplating what those changes should be.” READ MORE: http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/legalizing-opium-wont-work-for-afghanistan/
    

Kandahar’s Dried Fruit And Nuts Export Up By 41 Percent

Afghans are now producing and exporting agricultural products as an alternative to illegal opium cultivation

Jan 5 — “Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries’ (ACCI) office in Kandahar said on Tuesday that despite transit challenges, the province has exported more than 13,000 tons of dried fruit and nuts, such as figs, almonds and raisons, to India, Dubai and Kazakhstan in the past 10 months.” READ MORE: http://www.tolonews.com/business/kandahar%E2%80%99s-dried-fruit-and-nuts-export-41-percent

Did U.S. aid win hearts and minds in Afghanistan? Yes and no

Analyst says that aid by the U.S. military in Afghanistan in many cases produces violent backlash from insurgents against troops and civilians

Jan 6 — “Over the past decade, U.S. military expeditions have increasingly used development aid to undermine popular support for insurgents and extremist groups, and pacify turbulent areas. But does this tool work in conflict zones like Afghanistan?” READ MORE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/01/06/did-u-s-nonmilitary-aid-win-hearts-and-minds-in-afghanistan-yes-and-no/

WORLD

China to London rail freight service launched

China is increasing its trade with Europe via rail transit routes through Central Asia, particularly Kazakhstan

Jan 4 — “An inaugural freight service carrying containers between China and the UK is scheduled to arrive at Barking in east London on January 18, having left Yiwu Xi station in eastern China’s Zhejiang province on January 1.” READ MORE: http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/freight/single-view/view/china-to-london-rail-freight-service-launched.html

Russian Military Says It Has Begun Drawdown Of Forces In Syria

Russia is reducing its military deployment in Syria under a cease-fire agreement brokered by Moscow and Ankara. The truce will be followed by peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, later this month

Jan 6 — “Russia’s military has begun a drawdown of its forces in Syria, media reports quoted the chief of Russia’s general staff as saying.” READ MORE: http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-syria-military-withdrawal/28216973.html

Sergey Kwan

TCA