Russia has proposed an eight-point plan designed to put an end to the crisis in Syria, alleging that it presents Moscow’s vision and ideas, but also that it remains open to alternative proposals in the upcoming peace talks on November 14. The leaked document propose a constitutional reform in Syria lasting for 18 months followed by presidential elections. The plan does not clarify the position of current president Bashar Al-Assad but says that the president of Syria will not chair the constitutional commission or the reform process but a candidate agreed upon by all the sides. It also called for the UN Special Envoy to lead negotiations between the Syrian government and a united delegation of opposition groups based on the Geneva agreement in 2012, which called for the formation of a transitional government in Syria.
Shortly after circulating the proposal, the West and Gulf Arab nations dismissed the Russian plan saying that it will not form the basis of the upcoming Vienna talks. The plan has been rejected primarily due to the unclear fate of Assad. The plan omits whether the current president should step down or remain in power during the political transition. The Western and Gulf states wish are conditioning any transition process on Assad’s resignation. Even though Assad has not been proposed as a potential chair of the constitutional commission, the plan does not prohibit him from running for president again. Saudi Arabia is particularly insistent on a clear commitment from Russia and Iran that Bashar Al-Assad will step down as a president.
Tehran maintains the position that the key question spreads over security and stability not a specific person, with en emphasis on strong state role in eradicating terrorism. Both Russia and Iran maintain that Syrian people rather than peace negotiators should decide Assad’s fate through elections. But previous mixed statements suggest that Iran might be more committed to Assad staying in power, as some of Iranian representatives made statements that no better person could replace Assad at this stage. Keeping Assad in power is not a matter of principle for Moscow who insists on the role of Syrian people to make a decision.
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- Kazakhstan is considering nuclear cooperation with Iran. Kazakh Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Rapli Zhoshybayev stated that the Kazakh government is interested in making technological contributions to the plant’s construction. Zhoshybayev described the cooperation as very likely given Kazakhstan’s plan to construct two nuclear plants and the expectation that its new nuclear infrastructure will meet the latest technological standards in the field of nuclear technology. Iran and Kazakhstan already collaborate in the field of oil and gas and Kazakhstan seeks further investment in residential construction in Iran. Zhoshybayev announced the goal of increasing annual trade turnover between the two countries to $1.5 billion and noted the attractive prospect of increased bilateral transit in order to provide access to the Persian Gulf but also to import goods from Iran including food and furniture.
- Russia plans to establish a joint air defense system with Armenia. President Vladimir Putin formally authorized plans to create a Russian-Armenian united regional air-defense system in the Caucasus and instructed its defense and foreign ministries to launch negotiations with their Armenian counterparts. It is not yet clear how the proposed “regional system” will differ from the existing one as Russian and Armenian militaries have already been joined since the mid-1990s to protect Armenian airspace. The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has granted the integrated defense system a “regional” status back in 2007. Armenian experts suggest that Russia plans to expand the joint air defense to the entire Caucasus by introduction of new fighter jets. Similar prepositions were made to Belarus and Kazakhstan and Russia plans to sign similar deals with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well.
- The European Commission expects gas supply from Azerbaijan Shah Deniz II gas field by the end of 2019. 16 billion cubic meters of gas is expected to be transported to Turkey and Europe though the Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline known as TANAP. The developments have been planned in the framework of the Central Eastern and South-Eastern European Gas Connectivity (CESEC) initiative which aims to provide at least three gas sources for the countries of Central and South Eastern Europe. The Southern Gas Corridor is one of the priority energy projects in the initiative as it envisages gas transportation from the Caspian Sea to the European states through Georgia and Turkey and considers Shah Deniz field as the main source. The second stage of the Shah Deniz development implies construction of TANAP and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline as well as expanding the South Caucasus Pipeline.
- China has overtaken the U.S. and Russia in Central Asia as it further strengthens its grip on the region’s resources. Active works are under way to link Turkmen natural gas field Galkynysh to China’s northwest region of Xinjiang via a 833 km pipeline funded by the China Development Bank. Another china-funded oil pipeline running from Kazakhstan to China and which has a capacity of 10 million tons per year is also expected to double in volume. The China National Petroleum Corporation now transports around 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually and supplying one-third of Chinese natural gas demand. It has planned to supply another 30 billion by 2020 from Central Asia alone. Chinese trade volume with all the Central Asia states reached $50.2 billion by 2013, whereas Russian volume only amounted to $32, European $39.1 and U.S. $3.4 billion.
- S&D Dow Jones Indices will reclassify Ukrainian market from the current status as a frontier to a stand-alone market. S&D DJI explained the change by increased liquidity and difficulties that investors face in the current market environment. Frontier market status requires domestic stock market turnover less than $1 billion and an exchange development ratio of less than 5%. However, even though certain steps were made to improve market accessibility, Chinese A-shares are excluded from all standard global benchmark indexes. The change is not expected to affect status of non-locally listed Ukrainian stocks.
- Romanian President Klaus Iohannis asked the Parliament to review the loan it intends to grant to the Republic of Moldova. A new EUR 150 million loan agreement was signed and approved by the two sides back in October and aimed at helping Moldova finance its budget deficit and refinance its public debt. President Iohannis has suspended the loan due to the recent political changes in Moldova where a pro-European government was removed after a no-confidence motion. The president nuanced that the loan was not advisable as long as the country’s dedication to reforms was uncertain. However, he also emphasized that the move does not mean the “door is shut” and Romania would not give up on helping the Romanians across the border.