Ukraine: New ceasefire talks in Minsk scheduled for June 23

After the reported death of an additional two servicemen yesterday in Ukraine as reported by Kiev’s military spokesman Andrei Lysenko and increased heavy weaponry presence on both sides in the contested region of Luhansk has prompted calls by both separatists and Kiev to meet again on June 23 in Minsk. The last meeting in the Belarussian capital resulted in the Minsk II Accords, which were hailed as a breakthrough ceasefire and later faltered due to noncompliance and continuing violence.

OSCE officials announced that they will be participating in the upcoming negotiations and talks in Minsk next week as well as with the three sub-group meetings that will proceed the onset of official discussions. There are apparently three working sub-groups that are meeting this week to go over the agenda and needed points, and the initial contact group will be joined by the meeting of the three working sub-groups next week on June 23 to go over what could potentially be a new ceasefire framework.

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News Briefs:

  • ENOC (Emirates National Oil Company) has bought Turkmenistan-focused drilling company Dragon Oil for $2.6 billion, gaining control over its wells. ENOC already owned a majority stake in Dragon Oil of 54% and paid a 47% premium on its remaining shares. Dragon has been a player almost exclusively focused on Turkmenistan well drilling, but it is engaged in exploratory efforts in the rest of Central Asia to raise its overall production this year to 100,000 bpd from 79,000 bpd last year. Dragon is publicly traded on the London exchange and jumped some 9% in early morning trading on the news.
  • Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif announced he plans to construct roads from Gadwar port to Central Asia city of Termez, which lies between Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, and will serve as an import port access route for Central Asian goods to reach the seaborne market. Unfortunately for Pakistan, this route leads straight through Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, but steers away from Kabul towards Balochistan and Quetta, all hotbeds of insurgent activity and frequent violence.
  • EurasiaNet has a great article detailing the outcome of a conference in Tajikistan to promote cooperation on water resource development between the five Central Asian states on June 9-10. Tajikistan has been pushing for an international water diplomacy center to be established in Dushanbe to diminish the risk of water disputes creating conflict in other areas. Many leaders have suggested the idea of a regional water and energy consortium, which fell apart in its opening stages.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that some 40 ICBM’s are being added to its nuclear arsenal during the Army-2015 arms show outside of Moscow – along with several tanks and new armored vehicles. Putin also praised the testing of a new long-range early-warning radar detection system to monitor the “western strategic zone.” Simultaneously, in the press, Putin spoke out against “arms race” citing how costly it will be to its economy and other officials have accused NATO of encroaching upon Russia’s borders.
  • The NATO-Russia Pact, called the NATO-Russia Founding Act appears to be dead in the water after the complete breakdown of relations after the annexation of Crimea last March. NATO has recently accused Russia of completely reversing its decisions to abide by NATO’s restrictions on its westward operations, namely with its expanding military presence in the Baltic and Eastern Europe. This has triggered a NATO response in the form of a buildup of troop deployments throughout the region.
  • The Kazakh National Guard was called in to disperse a large demonstration and violence outside of a mall in Astana earlier today. The riot was sparked when security personnel of a nearby building prevented a handicapped woman from begging inside or outside a particular building – some 18 people were arrested and charges are being filed under “hooliganism.”
  • With a deadline on nuclear negotiations with Iran just weeks away, the Obama Administration is now weighing how quickly it will relieve sanctions on the economy of Iran. While Iran Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani has claimed that sanctions will be relieved immediately, which German, French, and American representative’s privy to the negotiation details do not support. Iran has already accelerated its negotiations with international businesses.
  • Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said yesterday that he guarantees Kashagan operations will resume by 2017, and that the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC) the consortium running the Kashagan project, will cover the costs related to the leaks and replacement of underwater drilling pipelines. The project has been called a “supergiant,” containing roughly 13 billion barrels of recoverable oil and is one of the largest fields discovered in the past fifty years worldwide.
  • China announced it will loan $300 million credit to build a strategic road in Kyrgyzstan, as part of the Silk Road Economic Belt strategy to develop China’s neighbors. The allocation comes from China’s state-run Export Credit Agency as a part of an $850 million project to create a North-South route in the Central Asian country. The deal was struck during a cooperation forum with all five Central Asian state representatives in attendance in the Chinese city of Rizhao yesterday.
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