Category Archives: Central Asia

The Growing Influence of the United Arab Emirates in a Complex Central Asian Region

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (L) and Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan (R) in Astana during an official state visit in July 2018 /AFP

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan in Astana during an official state visit in July 2018 /AFP

With vast energy sources and favorable geography, Central Asia has been subject to intense rivalries between Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and the Gulf monarchies, among others, for influence.

The energy sector has become the key prize, with natural gas being of greatest importance. Increasingly, gas is a major source of exports for the region. Central Asia accounts for about 4 percent of global energy deposits. The oil reserves in Central Asia and along the Caspian Sea coast amount to 17 to 33 bbl/d, which are comparable to that of Qatar The Gulf monarchies have been particularly active in this area in recent years, signing several memoranda and partnerships in the region. The energy giant UAE heavily invests in energy sector of the Central Asian countries to increase its own footprint in the region, bring additional investments to fragile economies, and help them to move away from the energy-based economy. Also, the UAE’s growing investments in the region give additional leverage to Dubai-based private companies operating in these countries. Continue reading

How Will Erdogan’s Recent Visit to Uzbekistan Enhance Turkish-Uzbek Cooperation?

President Shavkat Mirzoyev and President Recep Tayyib Erdogan

President Shavkat Mirzoyev and President Recep Tayyib Erdogan

While Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is focused on the upcoming snap elections on June 24, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a historic visit to Uzbekistan in early May. Uzbekistan-Turkey relations reached its zenith in the 1990s shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan became an obvious target for Turkish soft power. Since the beginning of the 2000s, however, the bilateral relationship between Ankara and Tashkent deteriorated, in part because of the isolationist policy of then-President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov and also in part because of ideological differences and the fact that exiled opposition leader Muhammad Salih resided in Turkey.

When President Shavkat Mirziyoyev assumed power in Uzbekistan, hope arose for rapprochement. In February 2018, Turkey was one of the countries granted visa-free access to Uzbekistan, which has the potential to become a significant tourist destination as it is home to well-known Islamic cultural monuments like the Registan and the homeland of scholars like Imam al-Bukhari, Abu Mansur Maturidi, and Bahauddin Naqshband. Continue reading

China to Europe By Way of Azerbaijan’s Trans-Caspian Gateway

On February 6, the Azerbaijan-China Business forum held in Beijing gathered together a number of state officials including Minister of Economy Shahin Mustafayev, the Chairman of the Export and Investment Promotion Fund of Azerbaijan (AZPROMO), as well as officials from the Ministry of Commerce of China and the Chinese Council of Propaganda of International Trade. The business forum was reportedly devoted to the Trans-Caspian Transit Corridor as part of China-led ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, a corridor of 6,500 km links Asia with Europe and passes through countries including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. A flagship project of the corridor, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway, was inaugurated in October in 2017. The railway connects Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, establishing a freight and passenger link between Europe and China. During the inauguration ceremony President Ilham Aliyev stated that “Baku-Tbilisi-Kars will connect not only countries, but continents as well.” Thus, the BTK project is undoubtedly has enormous importance to the competitiveness of the Trans-Caspian corridor. Continue reading

Will the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway Become Uzbekistan’s New Connection to Europe?

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 130

On September 27, the head of Azerbaijani Railways Company, Javid Gurbanov, along with his Georgian and Turkish counterparts, Mamuka Bakhtadze and Ahmad Arslan, respectively, attended the first test run by a passenger train along a section of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway, from the Georgian capital to Akhalkalaki (in the country’s southwest). After the test train reached the final destination, Gurbanov declared that the BTK railroad is likely ready to begin regular operation (AzVision, September 27). Hence, the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, during a joint press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, in Tbilisi, stated that the official opening ceremony of the BTK will be held on October 30 of this year (Apsny.ge, October 10). Continue reading

China’s Long March into Central Asia: How Beijing Expands Military Influence in Tajikistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Tajikistan section of Line-D of the Central Asia-China gas pipelines in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, on September 13 (HUANG JINGWEN)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Tajikistan section of Line-D of the Central Asia-China gas pipelines in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, on September 13 (HUANG JINGWEN)

China’s gradually increasing economic role in Central Asia since the early 2000s is unsurprising considering the region’s geographic proximity to China’s dynamic economy. In this context, Beijing has carefully shaped a military strategy in the region, particularly in neighboring Tajikistan. In September 2016, Beijing offered to finance and build several outposts and other military facilities (in addition to the Gulhan post, which was opened in 2012) to beef up Tajikistan’s defense capabilities along its border with Afghanistan, whereas China’s and Tajikistan’s militaries performed a large counter-terrorism exercise in October 2016. These unexpected actions have raised concerns in Russia over rising Chinese influence in Tajikistan.

China’s gradually increasing economic role in Central Asia since the early 2000s is unsurprising considering the region’s geographic proximity to China’s dynamic economy. In this context, Beijing has carefully shaped a military strategy in the region, particularly in neighboring Tajikistan. In September 2016, Beijing offered to finance and build several outposts and other military facilities (in addition to the Gulhan post, which was opened in 2012) to beef up Tajikistan’s defense capabilities along its border with Afghanistan, whereas China’s and Tajikistan’s militaries performed a large counter-terrorism exercise in October 2016. These unexpected actions have raised concerns in Russia over rising Chinese influence in Tajikistan. Continue reading

Will Central Asia Fight Over Water Resources?

Water has always been a major cause of wars and border conflicts in the Central Asian region. For being one of the greatest geographical regions, Central Asia has limited water resources. The modern history of the region has been fueled with various ethnic and territorial clashes. Apparently, the main catalysts behind conflicts have been attempts to take control of rich water resources. The main sources of water in Central Asia are the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, mostly fed by snow- and glacier melt from the Pamir, Hindu Kush, and Tien Shan mountain ranges. The 2,200-kilometer Syr Darya originates in the Tien Shan, flows through Kyrgyzstan as the Naryn River, and combines with the Kara Darya to become the Syr Darya.

The water resource crisis is not a new phenomenon in Central Asia. With the eventual fall of the Soviet Union, the resource-sharing system is imposed on the region totally disintegrated. The root of the problem is that the main water resources in Central Asia flow from territories of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan holds the rule of downstream Syr-Darya flow at the Toktogul dam, while Tajikistan re-launched the building of Rogun dam on Vakhsh River, which was then shut down due to lack of funds and strained relations with neighboring Uzbekistan. If completed, the Rogun dam will be able to ensure mountainous Tajikistan electricity, as it is in need of energy. Despite its quite favorable location in an energy-rich region, the Central Asian country faces energy-related problems. Continue reading

Will the ‘Troika format’ of Astana talks bring peace to Syria?

Share on Twitter Share via Email Print this page Middle East Astana Talks on Syria to Continue Despite Setbacks By Daniel Schearf February 18, 2017 07:26 PM Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, Feb. 16, 2017. Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, Feb. 16, 2017.

Participants of Syria peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhtor Kholdorbekov – RTSYZEI

On January 23, the next phase of peace talks started in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. Syria’s government and opposition forces are to meet in Kazakh capital Astana for the first time since the fall of Aleppo. Negotiations between the Syrian government delegation and rebel fighters, sponsored by Russia and Turkey – who have been backing different sides of the conflict – are expected to last three days.

One of the most significant points of the talks is that this time Syrian opposition is represented mainly by the militant groups, which fight in Syria, not just by secular, and political forces. Nevertheless, uncertainty prevails over all aspects of the talks – from the attendant list to the agenda of the meeting. The guarantors of the Astana talks – Turkey, Iran, and Russia are seemingly making efforts to show the effectiveness of the “Troika” format over Syrian talks. The governments of Russia, Turkey, and Iran are set to send officials from their ministers of defense and foreign affairs. The ministers are not expected to attend what is expected to be an essentially technocratic gathering. Continue reading