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Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – from October 22 to October 28, 2022

Central Asia geopolitical watch team : Aliya Yechshanova, Tristan Jarraud, Sophie Marc, Julie Eifler-Bolander, Paul Dza

10/23/2022 : Demonstrations against the Kyrgyz draft agreement on the border with Uzbekistan and the water reservoir of Kempir-Abad – Julie Eifler-Bolander –

In Kyrgyzstan, several demonstrations have been taking place since the 23rd of October 2022, and are repressed by the authorities. Tensions between activists and the government crystallise around a draft agreement about a new border delineation with Uzbekistan.

According to the Kyrgyz newspaper Kaktus, the conditions for casting votes did not respect the requirements of democracy and transparency. Moreover, the area covered by the agreement includes the Kyrgyz water reservoir of Kempir-Abad (10873 acres of surface, 1,9 km3 of water), which, as Novastan reminds us, is crucial for agriculture and as water access. Many politicians and members of civil society are concerned about the consequences of this deal, especially when President Sadyr Japarov used to advocate for the defence of the Kyrgyz sovereignty before his election in 2021. Some politicians, activists and citizens set up a “Committee for the Protection of Kempir-Abad”. In response, on the 23rd of October, the authorities carried out searches and arrests. For the head of security services Kamchybek Tashiyev, the activists would have been preparing an uprising to overthrow the government. However, the number of – repressed – demonstrations increases, and the authorities are accused of “sliding into authoritarianism”, says the lawmaker Dastan Bekeshev. These events occur in a broader context of increasing repression in Kyrgyzstan. The government tries indeed to pass a bill allowing a stronger control on independent media. Representatives of newspapers and civil society already appealed on the 20th of October to the mediator Atyr Abdrakhmatova to apply for an opinion to the Venice Commission, which ensures the respect for democracy through the law. On the 26th of October, nevertheless, Azattyk, one of the main critical media, was blocked by the authorities, as reported by Kloop

10/24/2022 : The Uzbek President received a Russian delegation led by the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade – Sophie Marc –

On Monday 24 October, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev received a delegation from the Russian Federation led by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry and Trade and Co-Chairman of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan, Denis Manturov. 

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the meeting discussed the results of the commission’s work on promoting cooperation projects that would benefit both countries. The commission has already met many times to discuss the development of cooperation projects in the fields of energy, chemical, pharmaceutical, textile and food industries.

Denis Manturov also stressed the importance of the Declaration on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan, signed in September 2022, an agreement that reaffirms the commitment of both countries to develop their bilateral relations in the long term. According to the Minister of Industry and Trade, several joint projects are underway in Uzbekistan in the oil and gas, mechanical engineering and chemical industries, among others, with a total value of $8.4 billion.

10/25/2022 : “Republic Day” national holiday celebrated for the first time since 2009 in Kazakhstan – Julie Eifler-Bolander –

On the 25th of October 2022, Kazakhstan celebrated its Republic Day. As reported by the Kazakh President Kassym-Jamart Tokayev’s official press service, this national holiday is meant to reinforce the Kazakh people’s unity and harmony.

This date marks the adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the country, on the 25th of October 1990. As many Kazakh newspapers (Astana Times, Vlast, Express K) reminded us, this Declaration was the first step toward Kazakhstan’s independence (16th of December 1991), which was then still part of the USSR : it laid the political and legal foundations of the Republic, by sanctifying the territory’s integrity, indivisibility and inviolability and the reinforcement of its national identity. From 1995 to 2009, the 25th of October was a holiday, successively set as a national holiday – celebrating its significant impact on the Kazakh State’s development – then as a public holiday – focused on its socio-political significance. However, in 2009, the 25th of October lost its holiday status, in favour of the Independence Day, on the 16th of December. President Tokayev re-established the 25th of October as a national holiday, the “Republic Day”. Yet, this choice has a peculiar significance in the context of war in Ukraine, and the willingness of Kazakhstan to move away from Russia. Kazakhstan is indeed trying to get closer to the European Union and the U.S.A.. The Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken even insisted on Twitter on their shared priorities in Central Asia, while reiterating the U.S.A.’s support for Kazakhstan’s independence.

10/25/2022: Busan hosts 15th South Korea-Central Asia Cooperation Forum – Paul Dza –

On October 25, foreign ministers from the Republic of Korea and five Central Asian countries met at a regional forum in the port city of Busan to strengthen economic and security cooperation. According to KazInform, the five Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan were represented. 

The South Korea-Central Asia Cooperation Forum is a dialogue platform launched in 2007 to strengthen cooperation in economic, cultural and other fields. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the five Central Asian nations in 1992. 

10/27/2022: An amnesty law for participants in the January 2022 protests in Kazakhstan-Tristan Jarraud –

On October 27, 2022, the Kazakh Senate passed a law concerning the rioters of the January 2022 demonstrations, reports Astana Times. Officially these demonstrations resulted in 238 deaths and more than a thousand injuries. This law will allow people who have been arrested during this period to have their criminal record cleared up and their sentences cancelled. This law only deals with minor offences. For those who have committed more serious offences, they will see their sentences reduced by three quarters and for the lesser criminals by half. For these two categories, it will be a question of helping them after serving their prison sentence. As for the most serious crimes, such as the organisers, the amnesty law will not apply to them. 

10/27/2022: Meeting of the Heads of Central Asian States and the President of the European Union – Aliya Yechshanova – 

According to the European Council press, On 27 October 2022, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Zhaparov, President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov (represented by Turkmenistan’s Deputy Chair of the Cabinet of Ministers) and President of the European Council Charles Michel welcomed the first regional high-level meeting in Astana.

In the 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Central Asian States and the EU, interregional cooperation has advanced in many areas and sectors and serves as an example of a multilateral partnership for prosperity and sustainability.

The Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening dialogue on the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and the work of institutions, which are guiding principles for inter-regional cooperation in the framework of the EU Strategy for Central Asia of 17 June 2019.

The leaders noted the positive outcome and potential of cooperation between Central Asia and the EU in border management and security, in the joint fight against terrorism, transnational organized crime, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking in small arms and light weapons, transnational drug trafficking and cybersecurity threats in accordance with universal principles.

Central Asian leaders welcomed the EU’s intention to facilitate development of sustainable transport, logistics and digital interconnectivity while respecting green development standards. The expected outcomes of the EU study on sustainable connectivity in Central Asia are important, as is the close cooperation between the parties to harmonise Central Asia and EU transport routes including with the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). In this context, participants welcomed the EU-Central Asia Ministerial Conference on Connectivity planned for November 2022.

The participants expressed their deep gratitude to Kazakhstan for initiating and hosting the first meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia and the EU and agreed to meet regularly.

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