Ukraine Talks: Meetings in Minsk Extend Through Night

Meetings in Minsk between leaders from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine continued throughout the night on Monday and through much of the day on Tuesday as leaders attempt to craft a lasting cease fire agreement. The Ukrainian side, for one, has been optimistic in its predictions, with President Petro Poroshenko stating that he was certain that a deal would be reached, while remaining emphatic that the deal was “essential” for an end to the Ukrainian conflict to be reached.

Meanwhile, fighting has continued in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luthansk. Shelling of the rebel-held city of Luthansk by the Ukrainian military has continued up until the present, and hospitals in similarly rebel-held areas of Ukraine have also been hit by Ukrainian artillery. It is uncertain whether or not a cease fire would be effective in putting an end to ongoing military conflict in the region, as similar negotiated cease fires have failed miserably.

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News Briefs:

  • Construction on the much-discussed TAPI pipeline has hit an impasse due to the present lack of a credible operator for the pipeline. French oil major Total recently abandoned the project after the Turkmen government refused to permit it a share in the gas field from which the natural gas will originate. As one of the principal benefactors of the project, India has pressed Turkmenistan to allow Total to obtain a share of the gas field. Turkmen laws currently prohibit international firms from owning its natural resources, which is a problem due to the relatively weak capabilities of the national energy companies in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
  • Operations carried out by Tajik police and border forces have ended in the seizure of nearly 140kg of narcotics. Radio Free Europe reports that operations beginning last weekend and ending on February 9 were conducted in Vose District, Khatlon Province, Tajikistan. The drugs seized were being transported in a single vehicle stopped by police.
  • Tajikistan announced that it will put together a team of experts to evaluate the pros and cons of joining the Eurasian Economic Union. The Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Igor Lyakin-Frolov issued a statement in Russian language publication RIA Novosti confirming that he’s optimistic that Tajik senior officials will opt to join the EEU after considering the possible benefits. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has not dismissed the possibility but has stated that the possibility is being considered from a “legal perspective” within the country.
  • Standard & Poor’s downgraded Kazakh long-term credit ratings as a result of low oil prices and pessimistic predictions regarding future prices of hydrocarbons. S&P downgraded Kazakh credit from BBB+ to BBB, with a “negative outlook” that comes dangerously close to a junk rating. S&P estimates that the fall in oil prices will have a negative impact on the Kazakh economy beyond the immediate and short term. Partially as a result of the rating, Kazakh President Nursaltan Nazarbayev issued a warning to the Kazakh Central Bank not to allow inflation to increase and to prevent “exchange-rate jolts.”



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