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Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – From February 26 to March 4, 2022

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

02/26/2022: Leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkey consider further expansion of multifaceted cooperation – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On February 26, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev held a telephone conversation with the President of the Turkish Republic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the course of the discussion the topical issues of the bilateral agenda were considered. According to the parties, trade and economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and Turkey has shown steady growth in many respects. The level of bilateral contacts at various levels, trade and cooperation at the enterprise and regional levels is still high. Cultural and humanitarian programmes are also being implemented. In addition, the Presidents of Uzbekistan and Turkey discussed preparations for the next meeting of the High-level Council for Strategic Cooperation, to be held in the Uzbek capital.

02/26/2022: The States of the Eurasian Economic Union have agreed on a roadmap for expanding cooperation in the aircraft industry – Aliya Yechshanova – 

The Eurasian Intergovernmental Council concluded its work in Nur Sultan on 26 February. Representatives adopted a plan of action for the development of integration cooperation in Eurasian space. « There is an understanding in our countries that the potential of the Union’s aircraft industry is great and that we must realize it fully. For this there are technological and human resources possibilities, and it is only necessary to combine efforts », noted the Minister of Industry and Agro-Industrial Complex of Eurasian Economic Commission Artak Kamalyan. Within the framework of the road map, it is planned to create a platform «Civil Aviation», improve the legal basis, develop academic mobility, conduct analytical work, as well as solve financial aspects. The expected outcome will be the formation of production chains.

02/28/2022: Kazakhstan started working in the UN Human Rights Council – Aliya Yechshanova – 

Within the framework of his visit to the Swiss Confederation that happened on the 28 february, the Deputy Prime Minister – Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mukhtar Tleuberdi participated in the High-level Segment of the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. In his address to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Minister stressed that Kazakhstan attached particular importance to the beginning of its three-year membership of the Human Rights Council. «The decision on Kazakhstan’s accession to the Human Rights Council for the second time is based on our firm commitment to protect and promote human rights at the national and international levels», said Mukhtar Tleuberdi.

03/01/2022 : Historically low rate of forced labor in the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan – Sarah Guérin –

According to a preliminary report issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on March 1, the use of forced labor in cotton harvesting in Uzbekistan has fallen to record levels. Following the dispatch of a mission last fall, the report concludes that “The eradication of forced labor has accelerated in 2021 to the point that only 1% of cotton pickers have experienced or perceived coercion“, according to Jonas Astrup, the representative of the ILO in Uzbekistan. This is the fifth consecutive year that a decline in forced labor has been noted by ILO observers in Uzbekistan. When President Shavkat Mirziyoyev pledged to eradicate it in 2017, forced labor affected 13% of cotton pickers. This forced labor led to an international boycott of cotton from Uzbekistan. For more than a decade, 331 international brands, led by human rights group the Cotton Campaign, have pledged to “not knowingly source cotton from Uzbekistan”. The Uzbek State, which has worked for this development by increasing the salaries of pickers and by toughening the sanctions in the event of coercion, hopes for a lift of the international sanctions in view of the progress made in the field of human and labor rights.

03/01/2022: Kazakhstan signed a military cooperation plan with the UAE and Turkey – Aliya Yechshanova – 

A regular meeting of the Joint Military Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates was held in Abu Dhabi on march 1. At the meeting, the Head of the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Colonel Olzhas Husainovo and the Head of the Department of International Relations of the Ministry of Defense of the United Arab Emirates, Brigadier General of Aviation Muhammad Al-Mazrui discussed the state and prospects for the development of cooperation in the field of military education, radiation, chemical and biological protection, combat training, military intelligence and in the military-technical sphere. Following the talks, a plan of military cooperation between the defense departments of Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates for 2022 was signed. 

Earlier, on February 25, the same Military Cooperation Plan was signed between the defense departments of Kazakhstan and Turkey for 2022.

03/01/2022: The ruling party of Kazakhstan has been proposed to be renamed «Amanat» – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On March 1, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev supported the initiative to rename the political organization «Nur Otan»  to «Amanat» within the framework of the extraordinary congress of the ruling party, focusing the public on the tasks of creating a New Kazakhstan. The President noted that he himself was directly involved in the consideration of this issue. In addition to Amanat, a number of other proposals were put forward. However, «Amanat» is a sacred concept that has a special meaning for Kazakhstanis. «The word «amanat» means «the covenant of the ancestors» and «prescription to future generations». «Amanat» is a deep concept that has a special symbolism in the history and culture of our people. It embodies the unfading ideals of Independence, the values of strong statehood and national unity, the boundless expanses of our Motherland, which our ancestors bequeathed to us. We must preserve and strengthen this priceless heritage. This is our sacred duty to past and future generations. Therefore, I fully support the official name of our party «Amanat», said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. 

03/01/2022: Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov wishes to modify the Constitution of Turkmenistan – Denis Lavaud –

On March 1, the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov declared that it was necessary to enhance the country’s Constitution, for it to be in accordance with the new development’s politics within the socio-economic development programme of Turkmenistan for the years 2022-2052.

These modifications aim to improve the Constitution, in order to facilitate the country’s political life, after the amendments that were taken since 2020.

These statements were made before the thirtieth anniversary of the country’s first Constitution. The president declared this modernisation as urgent, and asked for it to be ready for 2027.

02/03/2022: Islamic bank of development plans on opening a branch in Bishkek – Denis Lavaud –

On march 3, the first deputy to the representative of the ministry cabinet of Kyrgyzstan, Arzybek Kozhoshev, met with several financial institutes directors in Ryad, Saudi Arabia. He discussed with Muhammad Bin Souleyman Al-Jassir, head of the Islamic development bank (IDB), of their joint projects of transport, irrigation and healthcare infrastructures. Arzybek Kozhoshev suggested opening a branch of the IBD in Bichkek, to facilitate the realization of these projects in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the setting of new ones as part of their ten years cooperation’s anniversary.

«I wish that these projects are completed by this date, and I would like to set up new ones that would help provide a more comfortable life to the people of Kyrgyzstan» declared Arzybek Kozhoshev.

03/02/2022: The Eurasian Economic Commission  and Ecuador discussed prospects for increasing export-import supplies – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On March 2, Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Mikhail Myasnikovich met with Juan Fernando Holgin Flores, Ambassador of Ecuador to Russia at the headquarters of the organization. The sides discussed issues of expanding trade and economic cooperation. The main issue of the meeting was the discussion of the possibility of increasing support in the economic sphere, in particular export-import supplies and diversification of trade between the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union and Ecuador. The Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission noted that Ecuador is a promising partner. He added that in order to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and open markets, it is necessary to achieve a balance in the field of commercial activity. In turn, the Ambassador stressed the importance of developing relations with the Union. Last year, the trade turnover exceeded $ 2 billion, which exceeded the 2020 figures by 20%. Additionally, agreements were reached on the activation of the actions of the Joint Committee, which was established according to the memorandum of understanding and trade and economic cooperation.

03/02/2022 : The silent reaction of the leaders of Central Asian countries to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine – Sarah Guérin –

On March 2, during the UN vote on the resolution condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan abstained from voting, and Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan did not take part in the vote. Parviz Mullojanov, a Tajik political scientist, believes that they pursue a policy of neutrality in order to “preserve their relations with Russia and […] not to harm their relations with the West“. If the Tajik and Turkmen authorities have made no comment on the events in Ukraine and have chosen to remain silent, the three other Central Asian countries emphasize neutrality. Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev said “We don’t support either side.” On March 3, at the initiative of the Ukrainian side, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spoke by telephone with President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to Berik Uali, spokesman for the Kazakh President, the heads of state have agreed on cooperation in the humanitarian field. On March 1, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev had declared during an exceptional congress of the Nur Otan party that Kazakhstan offered to mediate, “if necessary“, in the negotiations between Moscow and Kiev. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a February 28 online meeting with his counterparts from four Central Asian countries, said that “the United States steadfastly supports sovereignty, independence, and peace. territorial integrity of the Central Asian States“. Turkmenistan was missing.

03/02/2022 : Disinformation denials of their military commitment and false Russian declarations: desire for neutrality in Central Asia – Sarah Guérin –

On March 2 and 3, the Defense Ministries of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan all refuted speculation about the participation of Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Kazakh armed forces in military operations abroad. Following the circulation of false information on this subject, citizens were asked to trust only information coming from official sources. The two countries’ desire for neutrality has also been highlighted by recent disagreements between the Kremlin’s press services and the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Indeed, following a telephone conversation between the presidents of Uzbekistan and Russia on February 25, the Kremlin.ru site declared that Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev “expressed his understanding of the actions undertaken by the Russian side”. But on February 26, the president’s press secretary, Sherzod Asadov, clarified that “Uzbekistan takes a balanced and neutral position on this issue”. Likewise, according to the Kremlin press service, Sadyr Zhaparov “supported Russia’s actions to protect the Donbass” on February 26. But Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry released an official statement that made no mention of any “support for decisive action” from Moscow.

03/03/2022: Zijin Mining Corporation will expand investment partnership with Kyrgyz companies – Aliya Yechshanova – 

A delegation of the Chinese corporation Zijin Mining, which specializes in the search, exploration and production of gold, copper and other minerals in 11 countries of the world, arrived in Bishkek on march 3. Representatives of the company were received by the Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Akylbek Zhaparov. At the meeting, the emphasis was placed on the prospects of cooperation between Zijin Mining with JSC«Kyrgyzaltyn» and LLC «Altynken». Particular attention was paid to the importance of expanding investment cooperation through Kyrgyz projects. The topic of the activity of the Taldybulak-Levoberezhny gold deposit, located in the Chui region, was also raised. The Cabinet of Ministers stressed that 60% of the authorized capital of «Altynken» belongs to Supurb Pacific Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Zijin Mining. The state stake in the open joint stock company «Kyrgyzaltyn» is 100%. The holder of the package is the State Property Management Fund under the Ministry of Investments of the Kyrgyz Republic.

03/03/2022 : New security measures in Central Asian countries following the evolution of the war in Ukraine – Sarah Guérin –

On March 3, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Dastan Bekeshev said that the Cabinet of Ministers is drawing up an anti-crisis plan in relation to the current situation. “All ministries will take special measures to mitigate the impact of outside influences on our citizens.” Thus, in view of the impending economic crisis due to the severe sanctions imposed on Russia, the President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov addressed his citizens on his Facebook page on February 28, and recommended that they store their capital in gold rather than currency. Similarly, on March 3, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev instructed the government to draw up an action plan to deal with the impact of anti-Russian sanctions. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry said it had assisted the departure of 431 of its fellow citizens from Ukraine since the beginning of the evacuation. On March 2, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan meanwhile indicated that the total number of Uzbeks evacuated from Ukraine via Polish territory now amounted to 1,186 people. The Foreign Ministry’s press secretary noted that its “main priority at the moment is to ensure the safe evacuation of all citizens of Uzbekistan.” For its part, the Tajik Foreign Ministry has registered more than 200 citizens wishing to return home from Ukraine. However, the Tajik Embassy in Kyiv advised them to adhere strictly to martial law, to remain calm and to stay at home as much as possible. Currently, thousands of Tajik citizens are still in Ukraine. Regarding Turkmenistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a request to Belarus and Poland to allow citizens of Turkmenistan to enter their territory. However, since its border with Ukraine is closed, the Belarusian side refused to accept citizens of Turkmenistan. Poland has said it only grants asylum to Ukrainians, so citizens of other states will most likely be sent back to their country of origin via third countries. There is no exact data on the number of Turkmen citizens on the territory of Ukraine.

03/02/2022: No modification of the law «On the leader of the Nation» will be made, according to the Kazakhstan Republic’s Majilis – Denis Lavaud –

The law «On the leader of the Nation», which guarantees Nursultan Nazarbayev’s immunity as well as his family’s, will not be modified according to the statement made on the 2 march by the president of the Lower House of Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Yerlan Koshanov.

«Majilis has never planned to (amend the law), and why should we change it? The decision was made. No one questioned it. No one questioned the historic role that Elbasy (leader of the nation, name given to Nurusltan Nazarbayev) had, and the head of the government itself reminded it», declared Yerlan Koshanov.

He also declared that several modifications have been made on the legislation, which now prevent Nursultan Nazarbayev from running the security council, the people’s of kazakhstan’s assembly , as well as interfere in the country’s internal and external politics.

Yerlan Koshanov also reminded that the former president kept his status as Elbasy that guarantees his and his family’s immunity, as written in the Constitution, and that this status will not be disputed.

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