Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – From February 12 to February 18, 2022

Central Asia Watch Team : Aliya Yechshanova, Sarah Guérin and Denis Lavaud

02/12/2022: Kazakh Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin – Aliya Yechshanova –

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Moscow on February 11 as part of a working visit to Russia. The politicians considered the sides of the practical implementation of the agreements reached during the previous high-level negotiations. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev shared that during a long and intensive dialogue with Vladimir Putin, almost all issues aimed at developing cooperation, as well as those related to the international and regional situation, were touched upon. In this direction, the President stressed the special importance of the coordinated interaction of Mikhail Mishustin’s team with the new government of Kazakhstan.The Head of State noted that he was ready to stimulate all relevant contacts in the name of close and business-like active joint activities. He recalled that Kazakhstan and Russia have serious strategic projects with the participation of KAMAZ, SIBUR and a number of other leading companies of the Russian Federation, focused on expanding production cooperation, technological potential and employment of people. At the same time, Kazakhstan is determined to develop cooperation within the framework of the EAEU, Tokayev said. In turn, the head of the Government of the Russian Federation assured the guest that his structure will do everything necessary and take all possible measures to implement the decisions taken at the highest level.

02/13/2022: Cordial rapprochement between inhabitants of the villages on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan despite the tensions – Sarah Guérin –

Over the weekend, on February 12-13, residents of the Tajik villages Khojai Alo and Somoniyon met with neighbors from the Kyrgyz border villages Oktatyr and Ortabuz. This is the second informal meeting of the inhabitants of these border territories of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, following the bloody clashes which left two Tajik dead and dozens injured on the night of January 27 to 28. The meetings were organized through the mediation of police officers from both states, and more than 100 people reportedly attended the last meeting. Representatives of the border villages of the two states gathered to cook the “friendship pilaf”. They agreed on continuing to organize similar meetings in the future, the conviviality of which makes it possible to overcome the tensions and misunderstandings between inhabitants of the border regions

02/14/2022: 89 transactions were registered in Turkmenistan during the second week of February – Aliya Yechshanova – 

At the auctions of the State Commodity Exchange of Turkmenistan for the second week of February, the total amount of transactions exceeded 56 million 447 thousand US dollars. In total, 89 deals were concluded during the week. Entrepreneurs from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan purchased liquefied natural gas, base oil, gasoline and refined paraffin produced at the Turkmenbashi complex of oil refineries for foreign currency. Representatives of the UAE and Afghanistan business circles purchased liquefied natural gas produced at the enterprises of the state concerns “Türkmengaz” and “Türkmenhimiýa”. In addition, cotton yarn was sold for foreign currency. Buyer countries: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, domestic businessmen bought high-density polyethylene “Türkmenhimiýa” and handmade carpets totaling more than 13 million 989 thousand manats for the domestic market.

02/14/2022: In March, Erdogan will visit Tashkent – Aliya Yechshanova – 

In Istanbul, at the Vahdetdin residence, the Turkish leader held talks with the elders of the Organization of Turkic States, during which were discussed issues of further cooperation between the participating countries. In particular, in this context, Recep Tayyip Erdogan intends to visit Tashkent in March, where the next summit of the Organization of Turkic States is to be held this autumn. It was noted at the meeting that further development of multi-vector cooperation relations between the member countries of the Organization of Turkic States is of great importance. The future summit of the Organization of Turkic States in Uzbekistan should give special importance and bring their participants to new levels of relations, the President of Turkey noted, conveying sincere greetings and best wishes to Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

02/14/2022 : Nomination of Serdar Berdymukhamedov, son of the Turkmen President, as candidate for the early presidential elections in Turkmenistan – Sarah Guérin –

On February 14, Turkmenistan’s ruling Democratic Party voted unanimously to nominate Serdar Berdymukhamedov as their candidate. This nomination took place three days after current President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov called, during an extraordinary session of the upper house of parliament, for the holding of early presidential elections on March 12. It is time, he says, to pave the way for “young leaders”. This unofficial resignation coincides with his son’s 40th birthday, the age at which Turkmen citizens can run for the presidency. The presumed dynastic succession is on its way in Turkmenistan. Dynastic succession has not been attempted elsewhere in Central Asia, although some experts believe Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon has it in mind for his son Rustam Rahmon. But nepotism is common in Central Asia. To cite only one example, the eldest daughter of the first Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Dariga Nazarbayev, was until recently Deputy Prime Minister. Serdar Berdymukhamedov has over the past four years held various positions in the government: head of Akhal velayat in 2019, the central region of Turkmenistan, he was then appointed Minister of Industry and Construction in 2020. In 2021 , he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Supreme Chamber of Control and presented to the State Security Council.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is expected to retain an important official role as President of the Senate. The outgoing president is also Chairman of the State Security Council and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The only question lies in how independent Berdymukhamedov Jr. will be of his father.

02/14/2022: Moscow and Kabul reinforce their armed forces on the Tajikistan border as the situation in Gorno-Badakhshan deteriorates again – Sarah Guérin –

The Taliban Armed Forces Chief of Staff Kari Fasihuddin Fitrat announced on Monday 14 the dispatch of 10,000 soldiers to the northeastern Afghan provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan, bordering Tajikistan. This deployment is, in the first place, a response to the Russian decision to reinforce its military presence in the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan in an attempt to prevent new crises there. But the Afghan authorities are also worried about the Tajik minority in northern Afghanistan, who is particularly resistant to the Taliban power. Finally, this military deployment is also meant to send a message to Russia. Indeed, Kabul wants Moscow to help it put an end to the freezing of Taliban assets by the United States. This deployment thus aims to demonstrate the importance of Afghan assistance in stabilizing the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and that the reduction of such an effort would create a worsening of the security conditions on the border that Russia hardly wishes.

The situation in Gorno-Badakhshan, also called Pamir, has never really been stable since the end of the Soviet era. The situation there deteriorated again in November 2021, following the controversial murder of a local Pamir activist by the Tajik security services. But this time, the instability in the area takes a dangerous turn due to the increase of Russian and Afghan forces in the region as well as the intensification of Chinese activity in eastern Tajikistan. Moscow analysts even predict that Tajikistan will be the theater of the next confrontation of the post-Soviet space. The risks that the instability in the Pamir regions poses to Moscow are obvious. If Tajikistan’s central government loses control there, drug trafficking and refugee flows from Afghanistan could increase. There is also a risk that radical Islamists among the Tajiks in Afghanistan will exploit the situation to seize power in the eastern part of the country.

02/15/2022: The President of Tajikistan pointed to new facets in relations with Germany – Aliya Yechshanova – 

Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon sent a telegram to the head of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier on February 14. In it, Emomali Rahmon congratulated his colleague on his re-election to the post of head of state. Special attention was paid to the state of interstate relations. The President also expressed satisfaction with the current level of relations between the two countries. According to him, maximum efficiency and constructiveness are observed in this direction. He pointed to new facets in the framework of Tajik-German cooperation. One of the main goals of Tajikistan’s foreign policy is to strengthen ties with the German government, Emomali Rahmon added. He drew attention to the fact that Dushanbe is ready to continue taking all necessary steps in the appropriate direction.

02/15/2022: Kyrgyzstan and Switzerland plan to implement projects worth $ 86 million – Aliya Yechshanova – 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan outlined plans within the framework of relations with Switzerland. Thus, for the period 2022-2025, the countries intend to implement several projects, the total cost of which is about 80 million Swiss francs, which is approximately 86.6 million US dollars, aimed at implementing reforms in public administration, economic development, the water sector, as well as in the field of combating climate change. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry also recalled that on February 14, the states celebrated the 30th anniversary of the activation of diplomatic relations. The Ministry’s staff described the cooperation between the two countries as stable and positive. Special attention was paid to the volume of assistance provided to Bishkek by Bern.So, for 30 years, Switzerland has helped Kyrgyzstan by 480 million US dollars, thus becoming one of the main donors of the Central Asian republic.

02/15/2022: The Tajik territories of the Pamir region again threatened by China – Sarah Guérin

On February 15, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojidin Muhriddin said during a press conference that Dushanbe had officially sent a protest note to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. In recent months, several Chinese sites have published articles on the alleged historical belonging of the territory of modern Tajikistan to China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) did not respond to this note, but the aforementioned Chinese publications have been deleted.

The Tajik-Chinese border has been regulated since 1999 by the main agreement “On the Tajik-Chinese state border”, as well as by the 2002 complementary agreement “On border demarcation and settlement of disputes”, under which Tajikistan ceded a thousand square kilometers in the Eastern Pamirs to the PRC and China renounced claiming more Tajik territory. But since 2016, following the signing of a bilateral Tajik-Chinese agreement “on strengthening the Tajik-Afghan border”, the PRC has fortified its border and patrols the territory. China has also set up four headquarters, a training base, military units and a police station on Tajik territory. The Chinese military presence in Tajikistan is growing.

02/06/2022: The kazakh minister of foreign affairs unveils the number of victims from the january events – Denis Lavaud –

During a meeting at the ministry of foreign affairs on the 16th of january, the head of the kazakhstan’s republic’s committee of enquiry , Sanjar Adilov, unveiled the official numbers of victims from the events that occurred in January. «According to the Minister of public health, during the events that occured in January, 1726 protesters received emergency care, 673 of which were received for gunshot wounds, 469 for stabbing wounds», according to Sanjar Adilov during the meeting. More than 3000 members of the law enforcement were injured during these events, 273 of which are still hospitalized, in reanimation or severely wounded.

02/15/2022: New satellite launching from Baikonour’s cosmodrome  – Denis Lavaud –

On the 15th of february, the head of Baikonour’s cosmodrome announced the new launching of satellites «OneWeb» as part of the space mission «Progress MS-19». This mission was set for enlarging the network of satellites «OneWeb», built for providing a better internet connection in the world, especially in remote regions of the world, by helping the network of 40 antennas built on Earth. The launching of these satellites is set for the 5th of march, onboard of the convoy «Fregate» made of Soyuz-2.16 rockets, and will join a group of 428 satellites from the company that are already in space. 

02/16/2022: Customs officials of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia discussed strengthening cooperation between the countries – Aliya Yechshanova – 

The first Deputy head of the Government of Kyrgyzstan Arzybek Kozhoshev arrived in Almaty on February 15 at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov. Upon arrival, Kozhoshev took part in a trilateral meeting of the customs and tax services of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia.Russia was represented by Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Sazanov.During the negotiations, special attention was paid to the issue of ensuring effective coordination of actions between the three States. The parties noted that recently there has been a tendency to increase the gray turnover of Chinese goods in the EAEU market. In this regard, the inadmissibility of such a trend on the part of the governments of the three countries was noted. Bakhyt Sultanov focused on the risks posed by the increase in gray imports: the underpayment of taxes to budgets, the import of counterfeit, substandard and, sometimes, unsafe products to the Union markets. Following the meeting, the parties stressed that the agreements reached give a positive impetus to strengthening cooperation.

16/02/2022: Sardor Umurzakov held talks with the Director General of the WTO – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On February 15, during online talks with the Director General of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Prime Minister, Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan Sardor Umurzakov discussed the progress of preparations for Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO, as well as current tasks for further advancing negotiations in this direction, outlined in the new “Roadmap for 2022”, developed jointly with the Secretariat of the Organization in order to intensify the negotiation process. The Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan stressed that WTO membership is one of the key tasks outlined in the Development Strategy of the New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in turn, on behalf of the Organization, expressed readiness to provide Uzbekistan with all possible support in the process of WTO accession, including in the form of technical assistance to facilitate negotiations with the member States of the World Trade Organization.

02/17/2022: The Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Italy and the President of IFAD discussed the establishment of a bilateral partnership – Aliya Yechshanova – 

The head of the diplomatic mission of Turkmenistan in the Italian Republic Toili Komekov held talks with the head of IFAD Gilbert Fossun Houngbo. Both sides expressed full readiness to establish and expand bilateral cooperation in order to implement common projects to support agricultural producers in the future. The Turkmen diplomat familiarized Ungbo with the reforms and major activities that are being carried out in the state to transform the agro-industrial complex into a high-tech area, comprehensively open and ready for innovative solutions. He noted that the Turkmen government faces tasks aimed at strengthening agriculture by increasing the profitability of this industry, the expedient use of land and water resources, as well as the introduction of new innovative technologies.

02/17/2022: The UAE confirmed its readiness to further expand cooperation with Kazakhstan – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On February 16, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with the diplomatic representative of the United Arab Emirates in Kazakhstan, Mohammed Said Mohammed Al-Ariki. During the conversation, the prospects of building up the strategic partnership of the two states were discussed. Politicians have made a special bias towards the intensification of trade, economic and investment cooperation. In this case, the most priority options were considered in detail.The Head of State of Kazakhstan noted the positive and progressive nature of cooperation.

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