Latest filings

Ethiopia’s ‘Ministry of Peace’ hires lobbying firm as fighting rages in Tigray; Uzbekistan hires PR firm to sell US on privatization push; Pelosi’s ex-chief of staff lobbies former boss on Egypt’s behalf: Thursday’s Daily Digest

Ethiopia’s ‘Ministry of Peace’ hires lobbying firm as fighting rages in Tigray

Ethiopian Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil announces the launch of a disaster alert system in July 2020

Ethiopia’s recently formed Ministry of Peace has hired its first lobbying firm amid escalating US criticism of the country’s handling of the conflict in the northern Tigray region.

Peace Minister Muferiat Kamil signed a six-month, $45,000-a-month contract withglobal law firm Holland & Knight on March 12, according to a newly disclosed lobbying filing. The firm will provide “strategic counsel and federal government relations assistance” before Congress and the Joe Biden administration.

Holland & Knight has assigned a powerhouse team of five attorneys, all of them partners at the firm, to handle the contract. The lobbying push comes as human rights advocates are urging the Biden administration to sanction Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s government.

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Uzbekistan hires PR firm to sell US on privatization push

Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

Uzbekistan is launching a months-long public relations campaign to attract private investors and US government support for the Central Asian country’s massive privatization push.

The former Soviet republic’s Agency for Management of State Assets has hired Tashkent-based AH5 Ventures to provide “public relations, event management, and branding and marketing activities” for the agency and its related entity UzAssets. The campaign aims to “increase awareness and improve the perception of this important economic reform in Uzbekistan and to build support among stakeholders in the United States, including in the US government, for Uzbekistan’s continued economic development, and particularly the privatization agenda.”

The eight-month contract runs from March 25 to Nov. 25 and is worth about 1.2 billion Uzbek soms, or $113,000. AH5’s Chief Strategy Officer Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, a US citizen based in London who also runs the Middle East and Central Asia-focused Bourse & Bazaar think tank, is registered on the account along with Tashkent-based CEO Dinara Dultaeva.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree in October to fully or partly privatize more than 620 state-owned companies and properties as part of the Uzbek leader’s market reforms to the planned economy bequeathed from his late predecessor Islam Karimov. According to Reuters, the decree included “32 of the largest state companies, including energy firm Uzbekneftegaz, gold and uranium miner Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combine, Uzbekistan Airways and Uzbekistan Railways and car maker Uzautosanoat.”

Last week the agency announced the start of a public sale process for several state-owned real estate assets, including a business center, a hotel complex, a home goods and appliance superstore and two downtown buildings in Tashkent as well as three mountain resort complexes. And in December, potential investors were invited to express interest in taking a stake in Coca-Cola Ichimligi Uzbekiston, which Reuters reports controls almost a half of the soft drinks market in the Central Asian nation of 34 million people.

AH5 previously registered last year as a foreign agent of the Uzbek Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations to produce a report on the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s labor market and the government’s response. The $7,000, short-term effort was funded by the International Labor Organization.

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NEW LOBBYING FILINGS

Africa

Angola: Squire Patton Boggs reached out last week e on behalf of the Angolan government to a senior US Agency for International Development (USAID) official who has been detailed to the National Security Council’s Africa directorate. Firm partner Robert Kapla emailed Daniele Nyirandutiye, a senior adviser to the agency counselor at USAID, on April 2 to discuss Angola’s priorities. The firm has represented the country since June 2019.

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Asia

Taiwan: The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US (TECRO), Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, paid the Nickles Group $180,000 during the six months through February. During that period the firm contacted several lawmakers to encourage them to sign a Senate letter to then-US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging him to begin the formal process of negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with Taiwan. A total of 50 senators from both parties signed the letter, including 16 of the 23 the Nickles Group reached out to. Talks around a bilateral trade deal, a longtime Taiwanese priority, gained momentum at the end of President Donald Trump‘s term after another Taiwanese lobbying firm, Potomac International Partners, played a behind-the-scenes role in easing trade tensions over Taiwanese restrictions on imports of US beef and pork.

Meanwhile Nickles Group partner Emily Porter, a former assistant for policy to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has left the firm to become vice president of government affairs at Sidecar Health.

Thailand: Siriwan Seeharach replaced Kittipong Prapattong as director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Los Angeles on Aug. 1. The agency reported spending almost $1.3 million in the second half of 2020 to promote tourism to the country.

Europe

Bulgaria: Alexandria Group International contacted numerous US government officials about alleged “rule-of-law abuses” by the Bulgarian government during the six months through February. The firm led by former State Department official Marshall Harris represents several Bulgarian businessmen who accuse the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov of falsely charging them with crimes in order to seize their assets. The firm received $212,000 from its Bulgarian clients during the period while reaching out to staff members at the US State Department, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Helsinki Commission and the National Democratic Institute. This includes setting up a Feb. 22 conference call for congressional staff with former US ambassadors to Bulgaria Jim Pardew and Rod Moore soon before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a statement denouncing “persistent corruption” in the country.

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Ukraine: Alexandra Natalya Chopivsky held virtual meetings with the US-Ukraine Business Council, the Ukrainian Institute of America, the US-Ukraine Foundation and Ukraine Invest during the six months through February, according to a new lobbying filing. She also helped set up two meetings with the Tennessee Economic & Development Authority in September “to explore potential two-way economic development opportunities.” Chopivsky registered as a pro-bono foreign agent for Ukraine’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade Ihor Petrashko in August.

Middle East

Egypt: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s ex-chief of staff has been lobbying his former boss on behalf of the Egyptian government. Brownstein Hyatt lobbyist Nadeam Elshami held two phone calls with Pelosi’s national security adviser Wyndee Parker in January to discuss “general policy issues” and “travel,” according to Brownstein’s first lobbying disclosure since the Egyptian Embassy in Washington hired the firm for $65,000 per month last fall. Elshami also sought meetings with staffers for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and for Appropriations Committee members Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) as Congress debates adding more conditions on the annual $1.3 billion military aid package to Cairo over its human rights record.

Meanwhile former House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) held calls with several members of Congress and their staff about the transfer of two Italian-made warships that were sold to Egypt in August. Ahead of the first ship’s transfer in December, Royce called then-HFAC Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and key committee staffers to discuss the transfer. Royce also met with Engel and HFAC ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in December to discuss a call with Egyptian Ambassador to Washington Motaz Zahran. Royce also held calls with Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Chuck Fleishchmann (R-Tenn.) and French Hill (R-Ark.).

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Israel/Palestine: Israeli-American activist David Bedein has hired a former longtime aide to senior House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) as he seeks to additional restrictions on the resumption of US assistance to UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Jeff Speaks and his Kentucky-based firm JBS Communications is slated to lobby on UNRWA funding for Bedein and his Jerusalem-based Center for Near East Policy Research. The registration was effective March 22, the same date as a separate registration for Bedein by Edward Kimball and his Maryland firm EJK, which Foreign Lobby Report first reported Tuesday. The disclosures come as the Joe Biden administration announced this week that it was resuming $150 million in aid to UNRWA that had been frozen by President Donald Trump since 2018, prompting criticism from some congressional Republicans and from Israel’s ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan, who called UNRWA’s activities “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.”

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Syria: Ayal Frank and his firm AF International met with undisclosed US Senate staff on behalf of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) on Nov. 9, according to a lobbying disclosure for the six months through February. Frank also met with The Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) and held a webinar on Feb. 9 with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an author and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He spoke by phone with staffers for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and for Senate Armed Services Committee member Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and emailed staffers with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Department of Defense and the offices of Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

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