Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – From February 5 to February 11, 2022

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

02/05/2022: Talks between the heads of Turkmenistan and China on oil and gas cooperation were held in Beijing – Aliya Yechshanova- 

On February 5, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met with President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing. The parties discussed issues of bilateral cooperation in the field of oil and gas. The Turkmen leader noted that his country is ready to begin joint work to increase natural gas supplies to China, accelerating work on the fourth line of the Central Asia-China pipeline. Berdimuhamedov added that thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, the Turkmen-Chinese relations have achieved significant progress, equality and mutual trust. The parties called the development in the oil and gas industry a special achievement, which has brought tangible benefits to the peoples of the two countries. Xi Jinping, in turn, noted that since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Turkmenistan, relations between the two countries have made significant progress.

02/05/2022: Representatives of the Foreign Ministries of Uzbekistan and Germany discussed issues of further development of cooperation in Berlin – Aliya Yechshanova-

The next round of political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Federal Republic of Germany took place in Berlin. The delegation of Uzbekistan was headed by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ghairat Fozilov. The German side was represented by a delegation led by the Commissioner of the German Foreign Ministry for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia Matthias Luttenberg. During the consultations, the current state and prospects for the further development of bilateral relations, interaction within the framework of international structures were discussed. Particular attention was paid to the opportunities for strengthening political dialogue, expanding inter-parliamentary ties, and intensifying trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian contacts. M. Luttenberg announced the support of the German side for the ongoing reforms in Uzbekistan and Berlin’s readiness to comprehensively strengthen cooperation with the Uzbek side. As part of the consultations, a set of measures for joint implementation was agreed, which, among other things, includes events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and Germany (March 6), intensify the activities of interaction mechanisms, and organize mutual visits at various levels.

02/05/2022: The symbolic presence of the five presidents of Central Asia in China for the opening of the Beijing Games – Sarah Guérin –

On February 4, the Beijing Winter Olympics opened on the backdrop of a Western “diplomatic boycott”. Despite sending very few athletes, even none from Tajikistan or Turkmenistan, the presence of the five Central Asian leaders in Beijing confirms the dynamics of deepening relations between the region and China. The six leaders have  discussed trade and investment relations in the region during individual meetings. Xi Jinping accepted Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s invitation for a state visit to Kazakhstan, and several memoranda were signed with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov. Additionally, the leaders re-discussed the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway, a “flagship project” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative according to Sadyr Japarov’s statement  on January 25, 2022. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Xi Jinping have  spoken of “green technologies” and security issues. Finally, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Xi Jinping re-discussed the construction of line D, the fourth branch of a gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan to China. While the agreements signed on the sidelines of the ceremony confirm the central economic dimension in China-Central Asia relations, the political message behind it is more far reaching. At the same time, the challenge was for Beijing to display Central Asia’s support for its policy in Xinjiang, in order to deter any form of external interference by making the Uyghur question a regional issue.

02/07/2022: Rashid Meredov received the head of the diplomatic mission of the Republic of Korea – Aliya Yechshanova –

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov met with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Turkmenistan Shin Song-chul. At the beginning of the meeting, the diplomats exchanged congratulatory messages from the Presidents of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Korea, as well as the heads of the foreign ministries of the two countries on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. During the meeting, the parties noted the positive dynamics in the development of bilateral dialogue between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Korea at the highest and highest levels in all areas of mutual interest. The diplomats also called for further expansion of cooperation in the field of political-diplomatic, trade-economic, cultural-humanitarian cooperation.

02/07/2022: The Embassy of Japan will contribute to the study of the Japanese language in Turkmenistan – Aliya Yecshanova – 

The Turkmen National Institute of World Languages ​​named after Dovlet Azadi and the Embassy of Japan in Turkmenistan signed a grant contract to equip the university with equipment for teaching the Japanese language. The project is being implemented under the program of the Government of Japan «Grass Roots – Grant Aid in the Field of Culture», it is planned that it will be implemented until the fall of 2022. In order to more effectively study the Japanese language, three classrooms at the D. Azadi Institute will be converted and renovated into a language laboratory. Thus, a higher educational institution will have a class for language classes using audiovisual materials, a room for simultaneous translation, where modern computers, a projector, printers will be installed, as well as a special room for Japanese language teachers.

02/08/2022: Uzbekistan – Latvia: signed a protocol of mutual understanding in the field of aviation – Aliya Yechshanova – 

The second meeting of the Uzbek-Latvian Business Council was held at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan. At the event, special attention was paid to strengthening comprehensive ties between the business circles of Uzbekistan and Latvia as a key factor in the further development of investment and trade and economic cooperation. The Uzbek-Latvian Business Council is holding a number of joint events aimed at further deepening and expanding trade, economic and investment ties, as well as the establishment of direct cooperation between the business circles of the two countries. This serves as an important platform for cooperation between Uzbekistan and Latvia in technological, transport and logistics and other areas. During the talks, prospects for the development of Uzbek-Latvian cooperation in the field of transport were also discussed. In particular, the resumption in 2021 of regular flights on the Tashkent-Riga-Tashkent route was highlighted. In order to further develop cooperation in this direction, a protocol of mutual understanding was signed between the aviation administrations of Uzbekistan and Latvia. In accordance with it, commercial cooperation between «Uzbekistan Airways» and «AirBaltic» will be consistently expanded.

02/08/2022: The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev demands a plan for the repatriation of offshore assets – Sarah Guérin –

In a speech to the Cabinet on February 8, the President of Kazakhstan gave the government a two months period to define a plan for the repatriation of “sums of money illegally taken out of the country”. While it does not name anyone, this statement implicitly refers to the family of the previous president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In January 2022, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published an investigative report revealing the concealment of assets worth up to $8 billion behind charitable foundations under the control of Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has often suggested that the country’s corrupt elite is responsible for the deep inequalities in the country. Following the unrest of January 2022, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has shown concern for the well-being of the Kazakh population, and his speeches show concern for economic and social issues. “At this point, the main task of the government should be to improve the standard of living of our citizens […]. We should all work for the benefit of the people,” he said on February 8.

02/09/2022: Belarusian Ambassador met with Rustam Emomali in Tajikistan – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On February 8, 2022, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Republic of Tajikistan Viktor Denisenko met with the Chairman of the Upper House of the Parliament of the Republic of Tajikistan, the head of Dushanbe, Rustami Emomali. During the constructive dialogue, issues of bilateral relations between Belarus and Tajikistan were comprehensively considered with an emphasis on the development of inter-parliamentary and inter-regional cooperation, trade and economic cooperation. The parties positively assessed the dynamics of the development of Belarusian-Tajik relations, and expressed a common opinion on the need to deepen contacts and implement new joint projects in various fields. As a result of the conversation, new promising areas of cooperation between the two countries were outlined.

02/09/2022: A petition has been created in Kyrgyzstan against the construction of a nuclear power plant – Aliya Yechshanova – 

Representatives of the “Green Alliance of Kyrgyzstan” began collecting signatures against the initiative to build a nuclear power plant in the country. The statement notes that the country already has radioactive tailings, and the construction of a nuclear power plant is another risk to the radiation safety of Kyrgyzstan. The initiators of the petition are asking questions: where the raw materials for the nuclear power plant will be supplied, where the spent nuclear waste will be disposed of, how it will be neutralized, and also how the safety of the plant will be ensured. They believe that it is necessary to abandon the idea of ​​building a nuclear power plant and focus on renewable energy sources and green energy. Earlier it was reported that Rosatom and Kyrgyzstan agreed to cooperate in the construction of a small nuclear power plant. The Ministry of Energy informed that the Kyrgyz side only expressed interest in studying the promising development of Russian nuclear scientists based on the RITM-200N reactor plant.

02/09/2022 : New protests in Janaozen – Denis Lavaud –

On the 9th february 2022, new protests took place in the kazakh town of Janaozen, in the Mangistau region. A hundredth of protesters came to ask for labor in front of the townhall of the city. They sent their demands to the president Kassym-Jomart Tokaev. The mayor redirected them towards the Akimat (the regional administration), who organized a meeting in video with the deputy governor of the region , Abzal Mendibaev, the governor of the regional administration, Maksat Ibagarov, as well as with the legal representatives of the petroleum companies “KazMunayGaz” et “OzenMunayGaz”.

This meeting has resulted in the creation of a special commission dedicated to help the jobless find a position in the petroleum companies in Janaozen, in order to take care of the high unemployment rate of the region, which is the cause of lots of problems occurring in the region. 

02/09/2022 : Meeting of the Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Watch about the January’s events – Denis Lavaud –

On the 09th of February 2022, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Mukhtar Tleuberdi, met with the General Director of the organization Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Rot. Together they discussed the international norms for Human rights, after the event that happened in January in almost every city of the country.

Kenneth Roth declared: “Kazakhstan has announced investigations […] to examine the January events, but the government has a long history of such efforts failing to bring accountability or justice.” 

Kazakh authorities committed to hire international experts in order to confirm the results of their own expertise on the violation of Human rights that would have occurred in January, upon request of the High-Commissioner for Human rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the USA and EU delegations. The NGO numbered 225 killed, thousands of arbitrary arrests as well as several cases of tortures during the events of January.

During this meeting, they discussed different human rights abuses that occurred in the countries, such as the killings of Janaozen that occurred in 2011.

The NGO was nevertheless satisfied with the will of the Kazakh government to partner up and enhance the human rights standards in the country. President Kassym-Jomart Tokaiev said he has been working on a new approach on political and economic affairs of the country, in order for this kind of events not to happen again.

02/09/2022 : CSTO keeps wanting to reinforce its international peace politics at the Valdai Club Forum  – Denis Lavaud –

A new summit of the CSTO on “the collective security in modern times: experience and perspectives of the CSTO ” was held, on February 9th in the presence of representatives of the highest authorities of the Member States: the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Armen Gevondian, of Kazakhstan Marat Syzdykov, of Kyrgyzstan Nouran Nyazaliev, of Russia Alexander Pankin, and Tajikistan, Sodik Imomi. Belarus was represented by Vyacheslav Remenchik, permanent representative of the Belarusian Republic to the CSTO.

During this meeting, different topics were discussed. First, Stanislav Zas, Secretary General of the CSTO, wished to draw particular attention to the situation on the Afghan-Tajik border: it was mentioned that, although the security situation in Afghanistan remains worrying, there is no imminent danger of Taliban intrusion into Tajikistan, and the threat is for the moment confined to the borders of Afghanistan.

They talked about the parallel economy the Afghan population has turned in during these times of crisis, and which represent a real danger for Tajikistan and the member countries of the CSTO, such as the sale of opium; they also talked on the possibility of the creation of terrorist groups at the border which would be a potential threat to security of the organization.

The members of the Organization then discussed the crisis between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and stressed the need to ease tensions between the two states. Both countries have also organized bi-national Tajik-Kyrgyz patrol brigades that aim at preventing the emergence of future conflicts. The two countries renewed their wishes to solve this problem peacefully, through the voice of their respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

The events that occurred in Kazakhstan were also part of the discussions, and especially the participation of the CSTO in the solution found to this problem. Stanislav Zas stressed the importance of this first joint action in resolving this conflict, the experience brought to the organization and announced future joint crisis resolution exercises.

Finally, the problem of delimitation of the borders in the former USSR countries was debated, through the problems experienced by Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia and Azerbaijan have nevertheless declined the CSTO’s offer to interfere in solving this problem.

Stanislav Zas concluded this meeting by confirming the desire of the CSTO to participate in security and world peace by strengthening diplomatic ties between the countries of the organization, as well as with other international organizations.

02/10/2022: Uzbekistan and Pakistan are ready to take their trade and economic partnership to a new level – Aliya Yechshanova –

On February 9, Mayor of Tashkent Jakhongir Artikhodjaev met with members of the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan headed by the governor of Punjab province Chowdhry Mohammed Sarwar. The delegation includes the heads of large companies and prestigious universities: Fatima Group of Industries CEO Fawad Mukhtar, Lake City Holdings founder Gohar Ijaz, Orient Group of Industries CEO Mian Talat, Ghani Glass Float CEO Anwaar Ah Ghani, University of Lahore Rector Awais Raouf. During the meeting, an interesting exchange of views took place on concrete steps to increase Uzbek-Pakistani cooperation in various sectors of the economy, such as high technology, the textile industry, tourism, education, science and history. More than a hundred Pakistani entrepreneurs are currently working in the capital of Uzbekistan alone, and about a hundred more heads of leading companies from the Punjab province will arrive in the country in the near future. A new impetus to the trade and economic partnership between Uzbekistan and Pakistan was given by the recent meeting of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

02/10/2022: Tajikistan and Iran traded $121 million in 2021 – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On February 9, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Republic of Tajikistan, Zavqizod Zavqi Amin, met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Muhammadtaqi Sabiri. The parties discussed the prospects for increasing trade between the states. Officials noted that the trade turnover between Tajikistan and Iran in 2021 reached 121 million US dollars, or 2 times more than in 2020. The parties agreed to make full use of the available opportunities in connection with the development of the Roadmap to increase bilateral trade up to $500 million and create joint ventures in the free economic zones of the Republic of Tajikistan. Zavqizod Zavqi Amin noted that cooperation between the two countries has reached a qualitatively new level, and all this is thanks to the presidents of the respective states.

02/10/2022: United States launches a new 5-year program to improve trade connectivity in Central Asia – Sarah Guérin –

The press service of the United States’ Embassy in Kyrgyzstan announced on February 10 a new $19 million program to improve trade connectivity in Central Asia. It will cover the neighboring republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. This program aims to simplify trade procedures by harmonizing customs and border procedures, by improving cross-border connectivity between businesses and by strengthening public-private dialogue on trade and investment, in order to expand economic opportunities in Central Asia. In addition, visits to foreign companies and meetings will be organized so that Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Kazakh, Turkmen and Tajik companies learn more about the requirements of foreign buyers and are trained to compete in new markets. This will be coupled with a partnership with national committees, associations and more than 400 representatives of the private sector for the promotion of tourism.

This program follows the successful five-year $1.97 million project launched in 2017 by U.S. Agency for International Development to improve competitiveness, trade and job creation in the region. This project has enabled the creation of 634 new jobs and access to 37 new markets in Central Asia.

02/11/2022: Russia is ready to help Bishkek and Dushanbe in delimiting a common section of the border – Aliya Yechshanova –

Russia is ready to share its experience of border demarcation with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. « The situation on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border remains turbulent, which causes Russia the most serious concern. We consistently stand for the resolution of all disputes that arise there exclusively by peaceful means: strict observance of the ceasefire agreements, the withdrawal of forces and military equipment, and the prevention of inciting ethnic hatred, including in the media,» the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia said. Earlier, Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Nikolai Udovichenko noted that Russia is ready to assist Dushanbe and Bishkek in delimiting and demarcating a common section of the state border. In particular, according to him, Russia can assist Bishkek and Dushanbe in working with cartographic materials if the parties agree to involve Russian experts. On January 27, at 18:15, Tajik border guards blocked a section of the Batken-Isfana road in the Tort-Kocho area of ​​the Batken region. The border units of Kyrgyzstan, deployed on this section of the border in the Batken region, switched to an enhanced mode of service. There was a firefight from both sides. The Tajik military used mortars and grenade launchers.

02/11/2022: Uzbekistan – European Union: multifaceted cooperation reaches a new level – Aliya Yechshanova – 

On February 10, in Brussels, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan – Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov met with Vice President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas. During the dialogue, key issues on the agenda of bilateral cooperation in the political, trade, economic and investment spheres, as well as in the field of regional cooperation and security were considered. The European side welcomed the approval of the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 and the importance it attaches to measures for sustainable development, ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens, the rule of law and strengthening the role of civil society, and also expressed its readiness to support the promotion and implementation of large-scale socio-economic reforms in the country. There was also an exchange of views on issues of the regional agenda. The parties stressed the importance of events dedicated to the development of regional cooperation and scheduled to be held in the near future, including  «the EU-Central Asia summit». As a result of the meeting, further steps were identified for the development of multifaceted bilateral cooperation and an agreement was reached to intensify dialogue in all areas considered.


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