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Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – From February 19 to February 25, 2022

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

02/21/2022: The Eurasian Economic Union countries under the chairmanship of Kyrgyzstan discussed the project “Eurasian Agroexpress”- Aliya Yechshanova – 

A regular meeting of the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission was held under the chairmanship of the First Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic Arzybek Kozhoshev via videoconference. Within the framework of the Council meeting, 27 issues were considered. One of the issues discussed is the implementation of a joint project of the Eurasian economic union member states on the implementation of accelerated container rail transportation of agricultural products “Eurasian Agroexpress”. Recall that in 2020, Uzbekistan and Russia agreed to launch the Agroexpress train from Tashkent to Moscow. Later it was said that Kazakhstan also joined the project, in connection with which agricultural products from Uzbekistan will first be delivered to Kazakhstan and then to Russia. After some time, Kyrgyzstan expressed its intention to join this project. In particular, then the head of the Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan Akylbek Zhaparov said that the republic would like to use the opportunities of Agroexpress.

02/21/2022: The system activity of the Development Bank of Kazakhstan will be reformed to meet modern requirements – Aliya Yechshanova –

Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov initiated a meeting on February 21 to consider measures to improve the core core functionality of the “Development Bank of Kazakhstan” JSC in the fulfillment of the tasks set by the President of the country. As part of the reform, it is planned that the “Development Bank of Kazakhstan” will be more focused on financing large-scale and capital-intensive investment projects with long payback periods that have strategic and economic significance for the country, as well as industrial production. “Development Bank of Kazakhstan should focus on financing the creation of new production facilities. It is necessary to continue working to increase the transparency of activities, optimize and digitalize business processes and expand access to the Bank’s services,” said the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov.

02/22/2022: An online conference “Dialogue-a guarantee of peace” for representatives of the education sector was held in Ashgabat – Aliya Yechshanova – 

The secretariat of the Turkmen National Commission for UNESCO organized the conference “Dialogue- a guarantee of peace” via videoconference on February 22. The participants of the event stressed that the government will make every effort to develop the country’s authority on the international platform and support peace and unity of the inhabitants of all countries of the world. The speakers stated that at the moment the world community is interested in the initiatives of international importance of the head of the Turkmen state Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the foreign policy implemented by him, as well as the ties established by the president with a number of countries of the world. It was stressed that the policy of the Turkmen leader enjoys the support of the international community. In addition, the participants of the online meeting noted the importance of the new doctrine of the President, called «Abadançylygyñ röwşen gadamlary» («The bright way towards prosperity»), which contains information about the history of Turkmen diplomacy, the successes achieved in the domestic and foreign policy of the country, which describes specific and significant approaches to the main issues of modern politics of Turkmenistan.

02/23/2022: Singapore PSA Group of Companies expressed interest in investing in a number of projects in Kazakhstan – Aliya Yechshanova – 

Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held an online meeting with the head of the Singapore PSA group of enterprises Tan Chong Man on February 23. The interlocutors considered the prospects for the implementation of various common investment projects in the state. From the Singaporean side, it was noted that PSA is sincerely interested in investing in transport and logistics projects in the country. The head of Kazakhstan told his interlocutors in detail about the existing potential of the state in the field of transport, logistics and infrastructure. In this context, he said that eighty-three percent of land transit traffic on the China-Europe highway passes through the territory of the republic. The President also said that the experience of Singapore PSA in port management, logistics, and digitalization is of great interest. In turn, the foreign businessman expressed readiness to cooperate with Kazakh partners in providing the necessary services in the field of logistics and strengthening the digital transport corridor in partnership with the National Enterprise “Kazakhstan Temir Zholy”, as well as improving customs procedures that will be based on the experience of Singapore.

02/22/2022: Arrest of the former minister of defense of the Kazakhstan Republic, Murat Bekhtanov – Denis Lavaud – 

On the 22 february, kazakh authorities announced the detention of the former minister of the defense, Murat Bekhtanov. The minister, who was fired on the 19 january after the riots that occured in the whole country, was accused of inaction during those events. On the 19 february, the attorney general launched an inquiry against the former minister of defense. On the 20, Murat Bekhtanov was taken into custody for the inaction he was accused of, which is a crime according to the kazakh law, that can sentence a representative who failed to fulfill its task to 5 to 10 years in prison.

02/23/2022 : Agreement on a common approach between the countries of Central Asia and the European Union to the Afghan situation – Sarah Guérin and Denis Lavaud –

On February 23, Tashkent hosted a meeting of special envoys from the European Union and Central Asian countries on Afghanistan. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev said after the meeting that the countries agreed on a common approach to the Afghan problem, especially regarding the recognition of the country’s interim government. «All representatives of Central Asian states and the European Union have agreed that we will decide together on our common actions to help Afghanistan.» The special representative specified that the recognition of the Afghan government would only happen when the requests of the international community are heard in Kabul and that the government shows signs of commitment to its promises. A declaration was adopted at the end of the meeting, in which the parties confirmed the possibilities of cooperation between the EU and Central Asia to support the Afghan people, as well as to ensure security and stability in the region. The participants agreed to continue to meet in this regional format, which provides a useful platform for consultation and cooperation in order to coordinate efforts to support the Afghan people. On the 24 february in Bishkek, the delegation met with the kirghiz government in order to discuss the recent events that occured at the border with Tajikistan.

02/24/2022 : Different security reactions of Central Asian countries regarding their nationals in Ukraine following the deterioration of the situation between Russia and Ukraine – Denis Lavaud and Sarah Guérin –

On 24 february, following the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine since February 22 and the Russian recognition of the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, the security reactions and recommendations of the Central Asian countries differed. The Uzbekistan embassy in Kyiv has drawn up an evacuation plan and a list of citizens wishing to leave the country, the diplomatic mission’s press service reported. As for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, he recommended to its nationals in Ukraine to comply with the rules laid down by the host country, and to take all the necessary personal security measures. The Consular Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in Ukraine have implemented a hotline, through which citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic currently in Ukraine can ask their questions. The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Ukraine also advised its citizens to strictly follow the guidelines of the local governments, and also invited its citizens to go hide in shelters in case of bombings. Kazakh citizens who decide to stay home are asked to stock up provisions and water in case of danger, to turn off lights in their homes, and to stay away from the windows. The ministry of Defense of Tajikistan set up a hotline and asked the citizens to stay home as far as possible. Turkmenistan’s government, known for its neutrality regarding the foreign problems, has not made any declaration so far.

02/24/2022 : First meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Kazakhstan, that chairs the Eurasian Economic Union for 2022 – Sarah Guérin –

On February 24-25, Kazakhstan is hosting the first meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council of 2022, which includes Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. For the upcoming year, Kyrgyzstan will lead the three key structures of the EEU: the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council. The Kyrgyz Republic has thus defined the priority topics that will be discussed during the meeting. The EEU’s heads of government will discuss the traceability of the movement of goods imported into the EEU, in order to «minimize cargo control measures and increase the speed of passage of goods», said Maksat Mamytkanov, Kyrgyz Minister of customs cooperation. As Sadyr Japarov recalled, this would make it possible to resolve the issue of customs barriers within the EEU. Moreover, during the meeting, Kyrgyzstan announced the organization in 2022 of the first Eurasian Economic Forum. President Sadyr Japarov also drew attention to the migration issue and stressed that the development of the EEU is inextricably linked to the well-being of its citizens. The latter should benefit from decent living conditions, including access to social security and medical assistance, regardless of the State of the Union in which they work. Finally, the Kyrgyz authorities believe that the Eurasian Development Bank should pay more attention to the economies of Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus, because it turns out that 99% of the money is spent to support the Kazakh and Russian economies.

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