Headlines from the Caspian: February 7, 2022
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Feb 7, 2022
Energy and Economy
EU, Seeking Diversification of Energy Sources, Turns to Azerbaijan
EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the eighth ministerial meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor in Baku on February 4 to discuss increasing the volume of gas exported from Azerbaijan to Europe. Simson noted that Europe hoped exports from Azerbaijan to Europe would grow to 10 billion cubic meters. These discussions are taking place as growing tensions over Ukraine have raised concerns about European dependency on Russian gas and potential supply interruptions.
Kazakhstan Looks to Boost Domestic Oil Supplies
Kazakhstan’s energy ministry has asked foreign companies operating its main oilfields to supply the domestic market. Currently three foreign-operated oilfields account for roughly 63% of Kazakhstan’s oil output. Energy Minister Bolat Akchkulakov has outlined a plan to address rising fuel prices by boosting Kazakhstan’s domestic refining industry but noted that it is impossible to do so without supplies from the foreign-operated oilfields.
Government of Kazakhstan Cracks Down on Unlicensed Crypto-Miners
On February 3 Kazakhstan’s Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry Minister Bagdat Musin appealed to the public for help detecting unlicensed crypto-miners. The Kazakhstani government has raised concerns that unlicensed miners are putting excessive strain on the aging electrical grid and have sought to regulate the crypto sector.
Central Asian States Maintain Electricity Supplies to Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s national power agency Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) has failed to meet its obligations to Central Asian suppliers amid a growing humanitarian and economic crisis. As of late December, arrears are estimated to total $100 million. Despite the lack of payment, energy suppliers in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which provide 80% of Afghanistan’s electricity needs, show no indication of cutting off electricity exports.
Security and Politics
Uzbek President Mirziyoyev Meets with Chinese Counterpart
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The two presidents agreed to consolidate the bilateral comprehensive cooperation, especially in economic, trade, and investment cooperation. The meeting was among the first presidential level meetings held by President Xi since the outbreak of COVID-19 two years ago.
Source: UZ Daily
Kazakhstan Parliament Strips Former President of Additional Powers
On February 2, the Kazakhstani parliament’s lower chamber approved a recommendation from the upper house to strip First President Nursultan Nazarbayev of additional lifetime powers. The decision would revoke Nazarbayev of his lifetime right to “coordinate the main direction of Kazakhstan’s domestic and foreign policies.”
Kazakhstan Launches Probe into Accusations of Illegal Detentions
Kazakhstan announced that it has launched about 100 investigations to analyze accusations of illegal detentions and rights abuses that occurred during the nationwide protests in early January 2022. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that it would meet the requests of Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups who were voicing concerns for those who remained detained. An estimated 1,000 people remain in custody, out of the nearly 12,000 that were arrested as a result of the protests.
First Demonstration Since Deadly Protests in Kazakhstan Held Over Mayoral Elections
The first demonstration held in Kazakhstan since nationwide protests gripped the country last month was held in Almaty. About 100 people gathered to peacefully protest the appointment of a new mayor to the city. The previous mayor, Bakhytzhan Sagintayev was dismissed by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for his handling of the protests last month. Protesters on February 5 called for universal suffrage and the right to elect mayors and governors
Citizens in Kazakhstan Demand Economic Improvement
Citizens in Aktau and Zhanoazen are demonstrating to express their continued frustration with poor wages and lack of economic opportunity. While these protests are smaller than the massive demonstrations that took place in January, the ongoing negotiations between workers and authorities show that the protesters remain unsatisfied with progress in the country.
Azerbaijan Parliament Ratifies Shusha Declaration
Azerbaijani parliament ratified the Shusha Declaration signed with Turkey last week. According to the declaration, Azerbaijan and Turkey agree to facilitate bilateral cooperation in defense, economy, energy, trade, and other sectors. In addition, Turkish parliament has approved the document and is waiting for confirmation from its foreign relations committee. The declaration was signed between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June 2021 in Shusha.
Source: Caspian News
Azerbaijan Releases Eight Armenian Military Detainees
On February 7, Azerbaijan released eight Armenian military detainees. Azerbaijani officials claimed the decision was based on “humanist principles.” European Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter that the recent release of Armenian military detainees is a positive development in repairing Armenian-Azerbaijani bilateral relations.
Rare Protests Occurs in Turkmenistan at Makeshift Bazaar
A protest started in the Mary province of Turkmenistan at a makeshift bazaar after police attempted to dismantle it. Merchants reportedly refused to obey authorities to remove their stalls, which led to people blocking a road to protest. Vendors cleared the highway several hours later after authorities agreed to their demands.
(Sources: Caspian News, Eurasianet, RFE/RL, Reuters, UZ Daily, and Vlast.)