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Uzbekistan postpones Tashkent International Investment Forum over coronavirus fear

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TASHKENT (TCA) — The government of Uzbekistan has postponed the Tashkent International Investment Forum to November 2020. This was announced on February 21 by the Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan Sardor Umurzakov, Uzbekistan’s official information agency Dunyo reported.

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Turkmenistan organizes forums in Dubai to attract investment in oil and gas sector

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — The International Conference “TAPI – Gas line of peace and cooperation” and international forum for attraction of foreign investments to the oil and gas industry of Turkmenistan are to be held in Dubai (UAE) on February 24–25. This was said at the regular video conference session of the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers held by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov last week, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.

Read more: Turkmenistan organizes forums in Dubai to attract investment in oil and gas sector

Kazakhstan: Dozens detained as police block opposition rallies

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ALMATY, Kazakhstan (TCA) — Dozens of people trying to attend opposition rallies in Almaty have been detained by police, who were deployed across Kazakhstan’s biggest city in large numbers in a bid to halt the unsanctioned events, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

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Weekly Digest of Central Asia

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BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.

KAZAKHSTAN

Does the EAEU-Skepticism Have Prospects in Kazakhstan?

Given the fact that the authorship of the EAEU belongs to Nursultan Nazarbayev, criticism of Eurasian integration is perceived as opposition to the political course by the authorities in Kazakhstan

Feb 18 — “In May 2014, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus gathered in the capital of Kazakhstan. The heads of the three states were in a good mood and were filled with the historical moment – the signing of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This moment was especially exciting for Nursultan Nazarbayev, the leader of Kazakhstan. His idea of Eurasian integration has finally (after 20 years) came true. After signing the Treaty, Nazarbayev’s political status was scaled from the national to the continental level: he became known not only as father of the nation – Elbasy , but also the initiator of the EAEU.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/does-the-eaeu-skepticism-have-prospects-in-kazakhstan/

Unknown Charms of Republic of Kazakhstan

Japanese companies foraying into Kazakhstan are increasing as the country constitutes a strategic railway transport link connecting East Asia and Europe

Feb 19 — “What sort of image do you have about the country called Kazakhstan? Is it a Central Asian country, the Silk Road, nomadic people, or a country rich in natural resources such as oil and gas? Many people may answer that they cannot think of any clear image. But please look at this photo. It shows amazing landscapes -- a neo-futuristic city as depicted in a movie, breathtakingly beautiful nature, and more. People who already had a clear image and those who did not must have completely different impressions. As a result, we were prompted to take a look at Kazakhstan, a country which the more you know, the more interesting you will find it.” READ MORE: https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/02/c7e6c0cf7c35-unknown-charms-of-republic-of-kazakhstan.html

How technology, and Kusto Group, are making Kazakhstan a global leader in agriculture

Daniel Kunin, managing director at the predominantly Kazakh Kusto Group, on the company’s – and Kazakhstan’s – development, its ongoing plans, and the role that technology will play in the future of agriculture

Feb 20 — “Since its beginnings in Kazakhstan in 2002, as a company which initially made its way by buying and turning around failing businesses in its home market, Kusto Group has become one of the most innovative conglomerates in the region, a powerhouse whose success has mirrored, and to a wide extent supported, Kazakhstan’s own emergence as a prominent global player in a number of sectors.” READ MORE: https://emerging-europe.com/business/how-technology-and-kusto-group-are-making-kazakhstan-a-global-leader-in-agriculture/

Kazakhstan cracks down on Eurasian Union car imports

Used cars are far cheaper in other members of the Eurasian Economic Union, so some 170,000 Kazakhs imported cars from these partner countries duty-free. Now they’re getting an unexpected bill

Feb 20 — “When Dastan Kuldanov paid a little over $5,000 for a second-hand Nissan X-Trail last March, it felt like a bargain. Bought brand new, a spacious SUV model like that normally costs several tens of thousands in Kazakhstan. But with this year’s introduction of new rules on vehicle registration, Kuldanov is about to get another bill – one that could set him back more than buying the car in the first place.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-cracks-down-on-eurasian-union-car-imports

KYRGYZSTAN

Analysis: Phantom Foe? Russia To Upgrade Kyrgyzstan's Air-Defense System

The deployment of S-300PS in Kyrgyzstan would be a significant upgrade for the country's air defenses

Feb 18 — “Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov announced on February 11 that a modern air-defense system would be sent to the Russian military base in northern Kyrgyzstan. Although some questioned the motives for the move, Moscow and Bishkek have been discussing it for several years and placing the system at the Kant military base -- some 40 kilometers from the capital, Bishkek -- is a rather logical step in creating a unified air-defense system for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-air-defense-russian-upgrade-analysis/30442120.html

Kyrgyzstan: Authorities wake up to business climate blues

A business ombudsman appointed in Kyrgyzstan last year has yet to start work

Feb 19 — ““A paradise for business.” That was what Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbai Jeenbekov pledged to make of his country when he was sworn into office in 2017. More than two years later, these words are regularly thrown back at him by sarcastic critics. Jeenbekov’s own recent comments suggest a more sober assessment of challenges ahead. For many businesses, Kyrgyzstan feels more like purgatory.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-authorities-wake-up-to-business-climate-blues

Kyrgyzstan: Free Ailing Rights Defender

Azimjon Askarov, 68, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his alleged role in the inter-ethnic violence that rocked southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, suffers from deteriorating health and inadequate medical attention in prison, Human Rights Watch says

Feb 20 — “Kyrgyzstan authorities should release the ailing human rights defender Azimjon Askarov and quash his conviction after an unfair trial, Human Rights Watch said today. The country’s Supreme Court will hear an appeal of his case on February 25, 2020.” READ MORE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/20/kyrgyzstan-free-ailing-rights-defender

TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan: High Interest Rates Aggravate Business Conditions

Experts note that under the current unfavorable conditions for Tajik entrepreneurs, loan interest rates at commercial banks of the country should be drastically lower

Feb 17 — “Mahmud Nuraliev, young entrepreneur from Dushanbe, needed additional funds to expand his business. He had to request a loan from a commercial bank. “The process of obtaining loans at Tajik banks is quick and easy. It is only required to present documents certifying the identity, the business, collateralized property and find a couple of guarantors,” says the entrepreneur.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/tajikistan-high-interest-rates-aggravate-business-conditions/

How is Tajikistan entering 2020? Results and Trends

Tajikistan anticipates many public sector reforms in 2020, while urgent issues hover

Feb 19 — “Tajikistan has entered a new decade with both accumulated experience and multiple problems that have existed in the country for more than a year. The following events come to the forefront of Tajikistan’s domestic political life in 2020: elections, digitization, a new tax code, reform of power structures and promotion of natural sciences under the aegis of the year of education. Resolving border disputes remains an important aspect of foreign policy. The insides of Tajikistan’s baggage on the threshold of subsequent 2021 depends on the effectiveness of tasks and reforms implementation.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/how-is-tajikistan-entering-2020-results-and-trends/

Can't Go Home: Former Fighters Of Tajik Renegade Commander Seeking 'Legal Status' In Uzbekistan

Many of the rebels who fought against Tajik forces in the 1990s have served in the Uzbek military since fleeing Tajikistan after their failed rebellion

Feb 20 — “Dozens of followers of renegade Tajik Colonel Mahmud Khudoyberdiev are seeking legal residence in Uzbekistan, afraid to return to their home country where their former leader has long been a wanted man. Two former fighters -- veterans of the Tajik Civil War -- told RFE/RL that many of Khudoyberdiev's "soldiers" are still registered in Uzbek Army units in the city of Angren and Jizzakh Province.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-khudoyerbiev-renegade-commander-fighters-seeking-legal-status-uzbekistan/30446025.html

TURKMENISTAN

Public transport: Modernization and growth passenger traffic

More than 1.5 thousand buses and light vehicles have been bought from foreign automobile manufacturers for the last ten years for Ashgabat

Feb 17 — “According to statistical data, more and more Ashgabat citizens and guests of the city use public transport services. Running along urban and suburban routes, modern bus and taxis have become a signature of modernized system of passenger transportation and quality of automobile transport services. Almost one thousand vehicles enter urban and suburban routes of Ashgabat every day. The fleet of public transport of the capital includes buses Hyundai Super Aero City, Hyundai New Super Aero City, Yutong ZK 6129H, Yutong ZK 122119 and PAZ-32054 as well as taxis Toyota Corolla and Toyota Hiace which are used both in intercity and suburban routes.” READ MORE: http://turkmenistan.gov.tm/_eng/?id=13965

Turkmenistan: Masking reality

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Feb 18 — “With global anxiety over the spread of the coronavirus showing no immediate signs of abating, health officials across the world are advising their citizens to self-isolate. Turkmenistan has been doing that for decades already, but this has bought it little peace of mind over the course of this ongoing epidemic. RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, Radio Azatlyk, reported on February 17 that municipal workers in the capital, Ashgabat, have been ordered to step up their campaign to kill stray dogs and cats as part of precautionary measures.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-masking-reality

Turkmen students in Turkey demand their relocation from dilapidated University dormitory

About 140 Turkmen nationals are doing a course of study in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey in line with the government program

Feb 20 — “On 19 February 2020 several overseas students held an action of protest outside Kahramanmaraş Sütçüimam University located in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey. About 400 people, including students from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, demanded that they be transferred from the dilapidated dormitory building to safer accommodation. Police officers with water jets were summoned to the University.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/02/turkmen-students-in-turkey-demand-their-relocation-from-dilapidated-university-dormitory/

UZBEKISTAN

Historic Uzbekistan theatre under threat from developers

The independent Ilkhom theatre in Tashkent opened under Soviet rule in 1976

Feb 16 — “A cherished independent theatre in Uzbekistan is fighting eviction after realestate developers in the booming capital selected its historic location for a new business centre. The Ilkhom theatre of Mark Weil, which has provided a rare venue for experimental theatre and culture in Tashkent since the Soviet era, says it could be forced out of its home for up to two years because of renovations required by a new building owner, Ofelos Plaza.” READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/16/historic-uzbekistan-theatre-under-threat-from-developers-ilkhom

'We Made Mistakes': In Uzbekistan, A Rare Admission Over Andijon Killings

Though there are still many questions about what really transpired on that day in Andijon nearly 15 years ago, Uzbek officials may not yet be ready to provide the answers

Feb 18 — “On the morning of May 13, 2005, a group of armed men -- some of them recently escaped from prison -- stormed into Uzbekistan's eastern city of Andijon. They killed some government officials and took others hostage. A peaceful protest involving hundreds of locals had been going on in Andijon for several days prior to May 13. Order broke down and the armed group, the peaceful protesters, and curious residents of the city all mixed in the streets.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-andijon-assacre-officials-willingness-talk-analysis/30442215.html

Uzbekistan postpones Tashkent Investment Forum due to spread of coronavirus

However, the forum in Tashkent is bound to take place as it is very important for Uzbekistan

Feb 20 — “The first Tashkent International Investment Forum, which was scheduled to be held March 5-6, has been postponed until autumn at risk of spreading of the coronavirus, Trend reports citing Uzbek media. For this reason, only about 500-600 delegates out of 1,500 expected participants have expressed the intention to attend the forum. As reported, the forum was rescheduled at the request of the participants.” READ MORE: https://en.trend.az/business/economy/3194715.html

AFGHANISTAN

Will China and India Collaborate or Feud Over Afghanistan?

As the China-India competitive dynamics play out elsewhere, Afghanistan presents an opportunity for those dynamics to fluidly and seamlessly switch between cooperation and competition

Feb 19 — “India has enjoyed a long period of primacy in Afghanistan but a growing Chinese interest in the war-ridden country is poised to upset that delicate arrangement. China and India’s acrimonious border disputes epitomize their ongoing strategic rivalry but inadequately reflect the nature of their coexistence in a third country like Afghanistan. Investing in development projects on increased connectivity and trade to stabilize Afghanistan―also to fill the gap given the potential U.S. exit―makes economic and strategic sense for both countries, which have their respective objectives, and also provides opportunities for a deepened cooperation.” READ MORE: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/will-china-and-india-collaborate-or-feud-over-afghanistan-125131

In NYT Op-Ed, Taliban’s deputy leader — wanted by the FBI — pushes for complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

The Taliban’s deputy leader says that once Afghanistan is free from “foreign domination” an Islamic system granting equal rights to all Afghans can be constructed

Feb 20 — “The Taliban is still angling for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s deputy leader said — comments that come as the U.S. and the Taliban are on the brink of a 7-day agreement to reduce violence. “We did not choose our war with the foreign coalition led by the United States. We were forced to defend ourselves,” Sirajuddin Haqqani, who the FBI has labeled a designated global terrorist, wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times Thursday. “The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand.” READ MORE: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/20/in-nyt-op-ed-talibans-deputy-leader-wanted-by-the-fbi-pushes-for-complete-us-troop-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/

'Best Shot At Peace': Explaining The Finer Points Of The U.S.-Taliban Deal

If the weeklong reduction of violence holds, the United States and the Taliban will officially sign the peace accord on February 29

Feb 21 — “The United States and the Taliban are on the verge of signing a historic deal that could pave the way to ending America’s longest-ever war. The deal due to be signed on February 29 will trigger the phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and kick off talks among warring Afghan factions over a power-sharing arrangement.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/best-shot-at-peace-explaining-the-tenuous-u-s--taliban-deal/30447725.html

WORLD

A new strategy for Central Asia

The new strategy indicates that at long last Washington is beginning to take Central Asia seriously

Feb 18 — “This month, the Trump administration released its strategy for Central Asia. This marks the first time in more than two decades that the United States has come up with a serious approach to a region where vast economic, geopolitical, and civilizational stakes are at issue. It follows visits by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the first trip to the region by someone in that role in half a decade.” READ MORE: https://thehill.com/opinion/international/483511-a-new-strategy-for-central-asia

Its Caspian Sea Trade Cut by US Sanctions, Iran Turns to Railways—and Moscow Helps

Tehran has launched a major effort to build rail lines into Central Asia enabling countries in that region to ignore US sanctions and expand trade with Iran

Feb 20 — “The United States’ sanctions against Iran and the unwillingness of most Caspian littoral states to challenge them have sent Tehran’s maritime trade in this sea plummeting over the last two years, reducing its non-petroleum component by half (Financial Tribune, May 27, 2019). But that has only inspired the Islamic Republic to expand its efforts to develop trade with Central Asian countries and, through them, with China by developing rail links with that region.” READ MORE: https://jamestown.org/program/its-caspian-sea-trade-cut-by-us-sanctions-iran-turns-to-railways-and-moscow-helps/

Government forcing Internet firms to locate Uzbek user data within Uzbekistan

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan has announced a plan that will force Facebook, Google, and the Russian search engine Yandex to store the personal data of Uzbek users within the territory of Uzbekistan, RFE/RL reported.

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Kazakhstan: Leader of nascent opposition party detained

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The leader of a group seeking to create the opposition Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, Zhanbolat Mamai, has been detained on the eve of a planned protest in Almaty. Mamai's wife, Inga Imanbay, posted video of Mamai's February 21 detention on Facebook, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

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Central Asia: Police investigators trained to combat trafficking in new psychoactive substances facilitated by Darkweb

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ALMATY, Kazakhstan (TCA) — A five-day training course on developing cooperation among law enforcement agencies in combating the spread of new psychoactive substances facilitated by the Darkweb concluded on February 21 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported.

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Afghanistan: Weeklong 'reduction in violence' to start on Feb 22

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KABUL (TCA) — A week-long "reduction in violence" between the Taliban and U.S. and Afghan security forces will begin at midnight local time, a senior Afghan official and Taliban leaders said on February 21, RFE/RL reported.

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Uzbekistan president meets with Turkish business leaders

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TASHKENT (TCA) — During his official visit to Turkey, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev on February 20 met in Ankara with leaders of major Turkish companies and banks, including heads of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (TiKA), Gebze Organized Industrial Zone, Ziraat Bank, and such companies as Zorlu Holding, Coşkunöz Holding, Exachibashi, Baykar, Dünyagöz, Kanymed Saglik, Bau Global, and HAVELSAN, the president’s press service reported.

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Kazakhstan: Prosecutor-General's office calls on citizens not to take part in ‘illegal’ rallies

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's office has called on citizens not to take part in what it called "illegal" rallies planned by the banned Kazakhstan’s Democratic Choice (DVK) movement on February 22, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

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Model OSCE conference for youth starts in Kazakhstan

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The four-day Model OSCE conference for youth started on February 20 at Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan. Thirty-five participants from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan involving Masters and PhD students as well as young professionals are taking part in the conference.

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Climate Action Pact signed between Kazakhstan Government, UNDP and Bitfury

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The Government of Kazakhstan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kazakhstan and the Bitfury Group have announced a joint plan to pursue a climate action project in the country. The parties will work to decrease greenhouse gases in Kazakhstan through increasing forest areas and enhancing forest management practices, as well as increasing public awareness of climate change, UNDP in Kazakhstan said in a press release.

The global Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) provides countries with a methodology that shows innovative steps to measure current biodiversity expenditures, assess financial needs, identify the most appropriate financial mechanisms and advise on how to implement these mechanisms to achieve national biodiversity goals.

One of the solutions is offsetting carbon emission through the storage potential of healthy, intact forests. The mechanism is designed to promote the mitigation of climate change and at the same time increase investment in forests, as well as advance sustainable management of existing forest ecosystems and biodiversity.

“Using innovative financial solutions, such as carbon offsets through the creation of new forests and improving forest management, we will achieve two global goals — the conservation of forest biodiversity and the reduction of carbon footprint,” said Yakup Beris, UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan.

UNDP has developed several legislative proposals for the draft of a new Environmental Code. This includes new methodologies for forest assessments and the development and implementation of forest carbon projects in Kazakhstan under the UN’s climate agreements.

“In the future, we plan to continue to assist the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan in improving environmental legislation and demonstrating new finance solutions to environmental management. It is key to drive the interest and role of the private sector in this agenda,” concluded Yakup Beris.

The Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals state that a full transition to a sustainable, low-carbon and climate-resilient world will require significant investment and innovation as well as a serious shift in investment both by the state and the private sector.

Kazakhstan ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016 and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030 through mobilizing innovative solutions with the participation of the private sector.

“Today, the main air pollutants in Kazakhstan are from the transport and energy industry. Every year, the ecosystem load is growing, and without natural carbon sinks, that is, green spaces, the concentration of greenhouse gases will only grow and it is almost impossible to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Magzum Mirzagaliyev, Minister of Ecology, Geology and Nature Resources of Kazakhstan.

“At the same time, in addition to the efforts of the state, the support and environmental responsibility of the private sector is extremely important in this case. Therefore, we welcome Bitfury’s initiatives in the field of climate conservation,” he said.

Bitfury, a leading emerging technologies company, is dedicated to tackling climate change and other environmental challenges around the world.

“We fully support the sustainable development goals to protect our planet, and we are inspired by Kazakhstan’s national initiative to create offset mechanisms to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions. I look forward to our joint efforts to support the forests of Kazakhstan and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vadim Krutov, Head of Administration at Bitfury.

To support Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources UNDP in collaboration with Bitfury are developing a project for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the support of forests.

According to experts, the total volume of forest carbon in Kazakhstan is estimated at more than 718.3 million tons of CO2 equivalent. The increase of forest cover from 4.6% to 5% will help increase carbon absorption by forests additionally to 2.9 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually. As well as their importance for carbon, healthy forests also provide essential services including water regulation, biodiversity as well as food and other benefits such as medicines and ecotourism.

IFC loan to help finance micro-housing and small businesses in Tajikistan

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, on February 19 said it is providing a loan of $2 million equivalent in Tajik somoni to microcredit deposit-taking organization Humo in Tajikistan to help underserved populations improve housing conditions and for micro and small businesses to access finance.

On the housing front, there is a pressing need to improve living conditions in Tajikistan, a low-income country, where most homes are built with substandard materials, leaving them exposed to natural hazards and creating challenges in extreme seasonal weather. Furthermore, access to financing, to purchase and improve homes, is extremely limited.

Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) also face limited access to finance. According to the SME Finance Forum, the country’s MSME-finance gap is estimated at around $1.5 billion, equivalent to 18.5 percent of aggregate GDP. IFC’s financing for Humo will help address these financing gaps. This is IFC’s first loan to Humo and the second to a Tajik financial institution to support micro-housing in recent months. Both loans are being provided through currency swaps with the International Development Association’s Private Sector Window Local Currency Facility.

Mavsuda Vaisova, General Director of Humo, said: “We are looking forward to working with IFC to help change the predicament that Tajikistan’s micro and small businesses face when they want finance to grow their operations. Apart from the financing, we are eager to tap into IFC’s global experience in working with the small-business sector so we can learn to better serve our clients.”

Georgina Baker, IFC Vice President for Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, said: “Our financing will enable low-income families to build new homes and renovate existing dwellings, thus improving their quality of life. It will also help micro and small businesses, which often lack access to affordable financial products and services, to grow, create jobs, and provide incomes for more people, especially in Tajikistan’s rural areas.”

IFC has provided loans, equity financing, trade-finance guarantees, and risk-management solutions (currency swaps) to local financial institutions, supporting the development of MSMEs in Tajikistan. IFC was the first development finance institution to offer local currency denominated financing in the country. IFC has also provided advisory services to support banks and microfinance institutions and helped establish the country’s first credit bureau.

Humo, a leading microfinance organization in Tajikistan, has operated in the sector for 15 years. The company is among the country's top five financial institutions, including banks, in terms of loan-portfolio size and serves almost 60,000 borrowers. The company's mission is to provide affordable and innovative financial solutions for individuals, small businesses, and agriculture.

Uzbekistan and Turkey launch new format of cooperation

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TASHKENT (TCA) — As part of Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s visit to Turkey, official delegations of Uzbekistan and Turkey convened on February 19 in Ankara for the first session of the Strategic Cooperation Council of the two countries.

The new body operates under the co-chairmanship of the Presidents of Uzbekistan and Turkey. It defines a joint strategy for the development of cooperation in the fields of politics, security and defense, economy and trade, investments, tourism, energy, transport and transit, agriculture and forestry, culture, education, science and technology, innovation, healthcare, as well as in other areas of mutual interest, the Uzbek president’s press service reported.

The co-chairs of the Joint Uzbek-Turkish Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation regularly report to the Council on the results achieved. The coordinating bodies of the Council are the two countries’ ministries of foreign affairs.

At the first session, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan greeted the Uzbek leader and expressed satisfaction with the enhancing interaction between the parliaments, government agencies and business circles of the two countries. Erdogan stressed his full-fledged support for joint projects with Uzbekistan.

President Mirziyoyev said: “This meeting is a bright embodiment of the current high level of strategic partnership between our two nations. Surely, the Council will serve as an important backbone for the implementation of priority tasks to bring the trade turnover between our countries to five billion dollars in the coming years. It’s advisable for us to consolidate the results of this session and now decide on the agenda for the upcoming meeting next year and the key areas of our cooperation.”

The Uzbek-Turkish cooperation has intensified significantly over the past three years. Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s state visit to Turkey in October 2017 and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Uzbekistan in April 2018 strengthened mutual political trust and opened up great opportunities for a fruitful partnership.

The bilateral trade turnover exceeded 2.5 billion dollars in 2019 in contrast to the nearly 1.2 billion US dollars in 2016. In Uzbekistan, there are more than 1.3 thousand enterprises with the participation of Turkish investments. Under implementation are investment projects worth $500 million.

Interaction has been expanding in the transport sector. For instance, in 2019, the volume of motor road transportation grew by 33 percent, that by rail rose by 17 percent, and by air – by 42 percent.

In addition, 64 thousand Turkish tourists visited Uzbekistan last year.

The meeting addressed a wide range of issues of interstate cooperation and reviewed key tasks for the future. The parties agreed on the realization of joint projects.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev invited Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Uzbekistan to the next session of the Strategic Cooperation Council.

Kazakhstan: New opposition party cancels founding congress amid pressure from authorities

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ALMATY, Kazakhstan (TCA) — The Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, a newly created opposition party, has cancelled its founding congress amid pressure imposed by law enforcement authorities against supporters and activists across the country, a party leader said, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

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Kyrgyzstan’s investment and trade mission visits Japan

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BISHKEK (TCA) — An investment and trade mission of Kyrgyzstan visited Japan last week with the assistance of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic (IPPA), the Japan Association for Trade with Russia and the Newly Independent States (ROTOBO) and the Department of Economic Diplomacy of Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry together with the Kyrgyz Embassy in Japan, the ministry reported on February 18.

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Kazakhstan: Activists pressured ahead of opposition party's founding congress

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Three Kazakh opposition activists were detained by police while they were traveling to Almaty to take part in the founding congress of a new opposition group, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

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Afghanistan: Abdullah contests final results showing President Ghani elected to second term

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KABUL (TCA) — Afghanistan's election authorities have declared incumbent President Ashraf Ghani the winner of last year's presidential election, but his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has contested the final official results, RFE/RL reports.

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Kazakhstan aims at increasing export through e-commerce

  • Written by TCA

NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — At the Kazakh Government meeting on February 18, Prime Minister Askar Mamin ordered to work out measures to expand the export of Kazakhstani products through electronic platforms, the prime minister’s press service reported.

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Kazakhstan to replenish mineral resources base with new geological exploration program

  • Written by TCA

NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The Kazakh Government session on February 18, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin, considered a draft Concept of the State Geological Exploration Program for 2021-2025, the prime minister’s press service reported.

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Uzbekistan president to visit Turkey

  • Written by TCA

TASHKENT (TCA) — The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev is to visit the Republic of Turkey on February 19-20 at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Uzbek president’s press service said.

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Kyrgyzstan: Chinese project closed following protests of local residents

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Kyrgyz-Chinese enterprise At-Bashi SEZ has closed the project of construction of an industrial, trade and logistics center in Kyrgyzstan's Naryn province, after hundreds of people gathered near the village of At-Bashi on February 17 to protest against the Chinese project in the area, 24.kg news agency reported with reference to the press service of the Naryn Free Economic Zone.

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Tajikistan: UCA’s SPCE Bokhtar holds milestone first graduation for 160 students

  • Written by TCA

DUSHANBE (TCA) — The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) celebrated its first graduation ceremony at its learning centre in Bokhtar (Tajikistan) on February 15. Over 160 students successfully completed courses in Conversational English, Russian, business planning, accounting and the International Computer Driving License (ICDL). The Bokhtar centre opened in March 2019, and has enrolled 635 people to date.

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