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Kazakhstan’s food plant increases production 85% compared to 2019

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The Mareven Food Tien-Shan plant, located in Kazakhstan’s Almaty region and implemented with the support of Kazakh Invest national investment promotion company, continues to increase production volumes due to a steady increase in demand for the company's products in Kazakhstan and the countries of the Central Asian region. The company produces instant pasta, traditional pasta, and broths under the brands Rollton, Big Bon and Petra, mashed potatoes, sauces, and carbonated beverages. During the first half of this year, sales across the region increased by more than 30% and production - including as a result of localization of the main product lines - increased by 85% compared to the same period last year, Kazakh Invest reported.

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Taiwan tops EU e-bike import market

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TAIPEI (TCA) — Taiwan’s e-bike exports to the European Union (EU) soared 76.4 percent to US$430.4 million in 2019, surpassing China and Hong Kong to become the top supplier to the EU member states for the first time, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs said on July 6, Taiwan Today reported.

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Kyrgyzstan: Automated weather station to improve early warning of natural disasters

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BISHKEK (TCA) — In order to improve early warning of natural disasters in the country, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Kyrgyz Republic transfers an automated weather station and computer equipment to the State Agency for Hydrometeorology under the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic. The total amount of support is $56,786. Assistance is provided under the project “Strengthening Integrated Risk Governance Capacities of the Kyrgyz Republic and Regional Cooperation in Central Asia” financed by the Government of Japan, UNDP Kyrgyzstan said on July 7.

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Tajikistan: Improved WASH as key factor to respond to COVID-19 in rural areas

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) opened a new water supply system to provide piped drinking water to all household in Laboba village in Khatlon to improve water supply and sanitation conditions for the people, UNDP Tajikistan said.

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AIIB approves EUR661.8 million loan for Kazakhstan’s pandemic response

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) Board of Directors has approved a loan of EUR661.8 million (approximately USD750 million equivalent) to provide budgetary support to the Government of Kazakhstan in mitigating the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the health, income and economic opportunities of the country’s population, the Bank said.

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Afghanistan: China, Pakistan urge Taliban to reduce violence, start talks

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KABUL (TCA) — In a trilateral virtual meeting held between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China on July 7, the Pakistani and Chinese officials reiterated the call on the Taliban to reduce violence to help pave the way for the start of intra-Afghan talks, Afghan broadcaster TOLOnews reported.

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WHO mission arrives in 'coronavirus-free' Turkmenistan

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — A long-delayed mission from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Turkmenistan, the only Central Asian nation that has not officially registered a single coronavirus case, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported.

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Kazakhstan gardeners to increase yields with Dutch technologies

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — To develop the fruit-growing sector in Kazakhstan, the government of the Netherlands in cooperation with a group of Dutch entrepreneurs is implementing a project of Dutch Fruit Solutions Kazakhstan aimed at introducing new technologies in the country, Kazakh Invest national investment promotion company reported.

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UNDP carries out energy audit of rural houses in Uzbekistan

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TASHKENT (TCA) — As part of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) joint project with the Ministry of Construction of Uzbekistan and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) “Market transformation for sustainable rural housing in Uzbekistan”, 60 houses in rural areas in five regions will be examined by energy audit specialists. The aim of the project is to provide the rural population of Uzbekistan with improved, affordable and environmentally friendly living conditions, UNDP Uzbekistan said on July 6.

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Uzbekistan to speed up transformation of commercial banks

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TASHKENT (TCA) — On July 6, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev chaired a government meeting to discuss the implementation of the 2020-2025 Banking System Reform Strategy and the process of transformation of commercial banks with an eye to uplifting the private sector share in banking assets from 15 to 60 percent, the president’s official website reported.

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Taiwan's tourism sector readjusting to COVID-19 realities

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TAIPEI (TCA) — Taiwan's tourism industry is moving to create special attractions for domestic travelers this summer, in a bid to boost business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has halted international travel, Focus Taiwan reported.

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Uzbekistan border troops receive personal protective equipment

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TASHKENT (TCA) — The Border Troops of the State Security Service of Uzbekistan are now better equipped to respond to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is thanks to the provision of personal protective equipment in the framework of EU-funded Border Management in Central Asia Programme (BOMCA), which includes 830 protective suits, 1 000 antiseptic sprays, and 15 000 facemasks. The protective items will be used to reduce the exposure to health risks faced by the frontline border guards responsible for providing control functions at the state border, the Delegation of the European Union to Uzbekistan said.

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Kazakhstan’s largest wholesale distribution center launched in Karaganda

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The largest wholesale distribution center in Kazakhstan was launched in Karaganda on July 4 with the participation of the Akim (Governor) of Karaganda region Zhenis Kassymbek. The center includes warehouses, a vegetable store, and a customs clearance zone. The capacity of the center for loading and unloading products as well as cargo handling will be more than 350,000 tons annually, Kazakh Invest national investment promotion company reported.

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India supports Afghanistan’s education infrastructure

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KABUL (TCA) — Afghan and Indian officials signed five memoranda of understanding (MOUs) at a ceremony in Kabul on July 5 for the development of educational infrastructure in four Afghan provinces — Nuristan, Farah, Badakhshan, and Kapisa, Afghan broadcaster TOLOnews 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

Kazakhstan: Secularism is Not a Western Invention

Central Asia spoke about the religious freedom and separation of religion from state back in the 10th century. Today’s concept of “secularism” in Kazakhstan has changed and is not working for all

June 29 — “According to doctor of philosophy, theologian Rasim Chelidze, it is widely accepted that the idea of secularism of the state emerged in the end of 18th century in France and United States. It was documented for the first time in the French declaration of human and citizen’s rights, where the man’s persecution for religious views and opinions was banned. However, the French concept of secularism differed from the American one by the fact that it developed amid state religion.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/kazakhstan-secularism-is-not-a-western-invention/

Courts in Kazakhstan Return Assets to Criminal Group

In a surprising move, the Prosecutor obtained the restitution of assets to a criminal group facing corruption charges

June 30 — “After two appeals, Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor General overturned a Supreme Court decision and obtained the return of confiscated assets worth tens of millions of dollars to a group of former state officials close to ex-governor of the Atyrau region Bergei Ryskaliyev. Beyond the apparent benevolence of the courts, local press pointed to several events and rumors that could have led to the decision.” READ MORE: https://thediplomat.com/2020/06/courts-in-kazakhstan-return-assets-to-criminal-group/

Kazakhstan’s Eurasian illusions

Trying to find out what “Eurasia” means for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy turned out to be much harder than predicted

July 1 — “The Heart of Eurasia. This slogan, popularised through a far-reaching campaign funded by the Kazakh government, has defined how mainstream international observers approached the geopolitics of post-Soviet Kazakhstan for almost two decades. Framing the answer to a captivating question (“Do you know where the magic lives?”), the campaign’s flagship video suspends Kazakhstan in an intermediate space, situated at the crossroads between East and West, tradition and modernity, the vastity intrinsic to Steppe nomadism and Astana’s hyper-urbanised locality.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/kazakhstans-eurasian-illusions/

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyzstan The Missing Link In China's Railway To Uzbekistan...And Beyond

The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway is still missing the Kyrgyz connection

June 29 — “The big problem with the announcement in early June that the first freight train had left the Chinese city of Lanzhou bound for the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, is that the railway link in Kyrgyzstan needed for the trip is not yet done. Not even close to being completed. It would seem the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway is just another of those grand projects conceived decades ago that might never be built.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-the-missing-link-in-china-s-railway-to-uzbekistan-and-beyond/30697016.html

Why Care About Feminism in Kyrgyzstan?

Although the country’s legislation does not provide for discrimination, a de facto large number of cases of gender-based violence indicate the systemic failure of at least the judicial system

June 29 — “The events in Kyrgyzstan related to physical, sexual, and domestic violence[1][2] prompted peaceful rallies opposing violence against women and feminist marches striving for the protection of women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan. These events, nonetheless, have triggered conflicts between conservative, national and liberal groups. Following the attack on activists during the peaceful march[3] for protecting the rights of women, neither the judiciary nor the parliament responded whatsoever. On the contrary, they detained the activists[4] instead of their attackers, the masked provocateurs. While gender discrimination does not officially exist in Kyrgyzstan, gender-related crimes happen every day. Those are the practice of kidnapping and forced marriage; physical, sexual, and domestic abuse.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/why-care-about-feminism-in-kyrgyzstan/

Grazing Disputes in Kyrgyzstan Reveal Pasture Access Concerns for Herders

A highly decentralized system allocates pasture use rights in Kyrgyzstan, which contributes to tensions between herders

July 1 — “In early June, livestock herders from two neighboring districts in Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn oblast, or administrative region, clashed over disagreements regarding pasture access. Grazing disputes are not new, however, for herders in Kyrgyzstan, where glaciers in the Tien Shan mountains supply water for the herds which graze on the lush meadows of the country’s highlands. Pastoralism is a long-held tradition in this Central Asian country, but it is becoming increasingly complicated by economic, environmental, and governance issues.” READ MORE: https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2020/07/01/kyrgyzstan-pasture-access-disputes/

TAJIKISTAN

Reform of the tax system in Tajikistan

Tajikistan has a complex tax administration system and high tax burden on manufacturing enterprises, and in the near future a new version of the Tax Code of Tajikistan will be submitted for public discussion

June 27 — “Tajikistan, in line with any other modern state, is obliged to fulfill social functions. This requires significant government spending, the source of which is the tax revenue. So, on the one hand, the growth of government spending requires the greatest degree of consolidation of the country’s financial resources through taxes. On the other hand, it is advisable to adhere to the optimal level of tax burden to stimulate the process of investment and business development.” READ MORE: https://cabar.asia/en/reform-of-the-tax-system-in-tajikistan/

TAJIKISTAN: Impunity for torturers continues

Impunity for multiple instances of torture of Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Protestants continues in Tajikistan

July 1 — “Despite multiple complaints, the officials who are suspected of torturing Nilufar Rajabova in December 2019 have still not been arrested or put on criminal trial for torture as Tajikistan's international human rights obligations require. Dushanbe's Sino District Deputy Police Chief Lieutenant Colonel Mashrafi Islamzoda hit her repeatedly, causing Rajabova to fall down and be unable to walk, she told Forum 18. Officials also threatened to severely physically assault her mother in front of her. Officials from the General Prosecutor's Office and Dushanbe City Prosecutor's Office have refused to tell Forum 18 why the suspect torturers have not been arrested and put on criminal trial for torture.” READ MORE: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2582

Tajikistan’s fears, hopes on intra-Afghan peace

Dushanbe has strong national security interests in Afghan peace and stability

July 3 — “During the Taliban’s control over much of Afghanistan in the 1990s, Tajikistan did not recognize their authority, and fully supported the rule of Burhanuddin Rabbani. After the fall of the Taliban, relations continued to be pursued with goodwill by Tajikistan. Political relations between Afghanistan and Tajikistan have been growing over the past 19 years.” READ MORE: https://asiatimes.com/2020/07/tajikistans-fears-hopes-on-intra-afghan-peace/

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan: It’s my party, and I’ll go if I want to

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

June 30 — “It is party time in Turkmenistan as the president marks his milestone 63rd birthday – the age at which the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have died. Foreign-based opponents to Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s regime, however, decided to mark the eve of the occasion, on June 28, in less celebratory manner, by gathering for protest pickets in places like the UN headquarters in New York and the Turkmen Embassy in Washington. Similar demos have been organized in Istanbul and Northern Cyprus, which both have sizable Turkmen diasporas.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-its-my-party-and-ill-go-if-i-want-to

View from the North 40: Redefining leadership the old-Turkmenistan way

A westerner’s glimpse on the present-day Turkmenistan and its authoritarian leader

July 3 — “Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov — who has also been known to bust a move singing rap — has written a poem to honor Turkmenistan’s wheat and the farmers who grow it. “I wish success to the farmer, the whole world warms itself with wheat,” read the poem attributed to Berdymukhamedov in a June 30 Agence France Presse article, which was picked up by news agencies all over the world.” READ MORE: https://www.havredailynews.com/story/2020/07/03/opinion/view-from-the-north-40-redefining-leadership-the-old-turkmenistan-way/529609.html

Turkmen residents who have completed military services are waiting for the international air service to be resumed to find jobs abroad

As unemployment is rampant in Turkmenistan, many Turkmen people try to find jobs abroad

July 4 — “Correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” report that young people who have completed a two year military service are being discharged from the army. As there are no jobs in the capital they get together in the backyards of residential districts and have nothing to do.” READ MORE: https://en.hronikatm.com/2020/07/turkmen-residents-who-have-completed-military-services-are-waiting-for-the-international-air-service-to-be-resumed-to-find-jobs-abroad/

UZBEKISTAN

Volkswagen, Skoda to set up shop in Uzbekistan

The plant is slated to eventually produce 20,000 units annually

June 30 — ““You can have any color as long as it’s black” is what Henry Ford reputedly used to tell buyers about his Model T cars. Aspiring motorists in Uzbekistan have traditionally had a little more choice than that, but not much. Most people drive cars churned out of the GM Uzbekistan factory, which produces the 10 or so models that account for almost all the vehicles one sees on Uzbek roads. But under a deal overseen last week by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a factory in the city of Jizzakh will from 2022 begin to produce cars under the Volkswagen and Skoda brands.” READ MORE: https://eurasianet.org/volkswagen-skoda-to-set-up-shop-in-uzbekistan

For western brands, Uzbekistan’s cotton privatisation raises red flags

As Uzbekistan turns to privatisation to solve forced labour in the state-controlled cotton sector, an investigation into an international equipment contract raises red flags over business practices and government control

July 1 — “Since 2017, Uzbekistan has initiated one of the more ambitious privatisation efforts in its post-Soviet history, with the Central Asian republic’s state-managed cotton sector being rapidly handed over to local corporate operators and foreign investors. It’s not just about the familiar economic and political questions large-scale privatisation provokes. Some hope it will help address the labour abuses that have tarnished Uzbekistan’s cotton sector. For years, children, public servants and even doctors have been forced into the cotton fields to meet targets in a key export area.” READ MORE: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/for-western-brands-uzbekistans-cotton-privatisation-raises-red-flags/

Feature: Chinese water-saving technology facilitates agricultural development in Uzbekistan

Drip irrigation is a new farming system that opens up broad prospects for the further development of Chinese-Uzbek agricultural cooperation

July 2 — “Abdullah Begmatov, 54, who has more than a decade of experience of growing cotton in Uzbekistan, is very confident in his traditional irrigation practice. But in the face of new technology, he started to waver. Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree in December 2018 on urgent measures to create favorable conditions to use drip irrigation technology in cotton production across the country. Since then modern water-saving technology has been applied to cotton fields on many farms in the country, the Central Asian region's largest cotton producer.” READ MORE: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-07/02/c_139183335.htm

AFGHANISTAN

Explainer: What Does Russia Want In Afghanistan?

Questions are being raised about the Kremlin's true motives in the war-torn country

June 29 — “Controversy continues to mount over reports that Russian security officers allegedly offered bounties to the Taliban for the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Though U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the intelligence reports were not deemed credible and the Kremlin and the Taliban have rejected reports alleging that officers of the GRU – Russia's foreign military intelligence -- either paid or offered money for killing American soldiers, questions continue to surround the charges.” READ MORE: https://www.rferl.org/a/explainer-controversy-over-alleged-russian-bounties-for-taliban-to-kill-u-s-troops-puts-spotlight-on-moscow-s-motives-history-in-afghanistan/30697171.html

A Failed Afghan Peace Deal

The United States has reached an agreement with the Taliban, but significant challenges, such as political power-sharing, the role of Islam, and women’s rights, remain for achieving intra-Afghan peace

July 1 — “On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement intended to be a first step toward an intra-Afghan peace deal. Important provisions of the deal included a U.S. commitment to eventually withdraw all U.S. and foreign troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from using Afghan territory to threaten the United States and its partners, and a promise by both sides to support intra-Afghan peace negotiations.” READ MORE: https://www.cfr.org/report/failed-afghan-peace-deal

US, Russia share a complex and bloody history in Afghanistan

In today’s Afghanistan, the threat facing Russia is the Islamic State affiliate and its allies known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist organization that has taken aim at Russia’s Muslim regions and was born of brewing discontent in Muslim-dominated Central Asia

July 3 — “Moscow and Washington are intertwined in a complex and bloody history in Afghanistan, with both suffering thousands of dead and wounded in conflicts lasting for years. Now both superpowers are linked again over Afghanistan, with intelligence reports indicating Russia secretly offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops there. But analysts suggest that despite these apparent differences, the two adversaries actually have much in common, especially when it comes to what a postwar Afghanistan should look like: Both want a stable country that does not serve as a base for extremists to export terrorism.” READ MORE: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/07/02/us-russia-share-a-complex-and-bloody-history-in-afghanistan/

WORLD

China’s past border tactics, especially in Central Asia, offer India a clue

China’s past border tactics should offer some example, if not a complete cue to Chinese strategy

June 29 — “The motive behind China’s incursion in Ladakh is to push India to settle the boundary issue and cede Aksai Chin to China. Experts phrase China’s border policies differently, but the overriding assessment is that they are essentially an outward projection of internal security concerns. The key, in essence, is to ward off the threat at the periphery to achieve internal stability.” READ MORE: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-china-diplomacy-border-dispute-lac-china-foreign-policy-galwan-valley-ladakh-6480700/

China’s Rise as a Global Power Reaches Its Riskiest Point Yet

China’s growing role in the international arena has both strong and weak sides for Beijing

July 3 — “China is an empire in the modern sense -- a nation strengthened (but also held hostage) by its long supply chains, compelled to ever greater economic and political intercourse to preserve its interests, and increasingly drawn into the security sphere as well. It uses its economic, political and military leverage to expand its own direct sphere of operations, from the South China Sea to India and across Central Asia into Europe. The more engaged it is internationally, the more dependent it is on maintaining and strengthening those connections, which are critical for Chinese economic growth and, by extension, domestic management of its massive, diverse and economically unequal population.” READ MORE: https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/china-s-rise-global-power-reaches-its-riskiest-point-yet

Central Asia: Conference explores strategies for digital resilience

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Digital transformation is leading a new era of change around the world. In 2016, the digital economy accounted for 16% of global GDP, and without considering the impact of Covid-19, had been projected to increase to 26% by 2020. Considering this growth, a country’s digital resilience and ability to develop technology-dependent operational capabilities are becoming increasingly important. Digital resilience uses technologies to make government, business and society more resilient, and adapt to changing circumstances to withstand and bounce back from crises and shocks, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

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US Embassy launches girls’ tech camp in seven cities of Kazakhstan

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Classes will be held online and offline in the capital city Nur-Sultan, Karaganda, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, Uralsk, Aktobe and Ust-Kamenogorsk, the embassy said.

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Kazakhstan: 16 investment contracts signed via elicense.kz

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — According to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Almas Aidarov, 16 investment contracts worth 266 billion tenge were signed online. He added that the service has been digitalized and provided through the portal elicense.kz, Kazakh Invest national investment promotion company reported.

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Taiwan adjusts rules on COVID-19 testing of foreign visitors

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TAIPEI (TCA) — Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on July 2 slightly relaxed its regulations on the timeframe for COVID-19 testing of foreign nationals traveling to Taiwan, Focus Taiwan reported.

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US senators call on Central Asian leaders to release imprisoned activists

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Twelve U.S. Senators have called for the release of “prisoners of conscience” in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, Freedom Now, a U.S.-based non-profit, non-governmental, and non-partisan organization that works to free individual prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political and public relations advocacy efforts, said.

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World Bank financing to help Kazakhstan unleash full potential of livestock industry

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on July 2 approved a $500 million loan for the Sustainable Livestock Development Program to support the development of environmentally sustainable, inclusive, and competitive beef production in Kazakhstan.

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Tajikistan: World Bank provides additional resources for rehabilitation of Nurek hydropower plant

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved additional grant financing of $50 million from the International Development Association (IDA) for the second phase of the Nurek Hydropower Rehabilitation Project in Tajikistan. The Nurek Hydropower Plant (HPP) is the most important asset of Tajikistan’s energy system.

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Kazakhstan reimposes restrictions as coronavirus cases surge

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Authorities in Kazakhstan have reintroduced a partial lockdown amid a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the Central Asian country, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

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