POTENTIAL OF COMMON INTERESTS
Like most of the previous summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the SCO fifteenth summit in Tashkent was also held with Turkmenistan's participation. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov attended the summit in the same status as the guest of honor. Although such status does not imply Ashgabat's direct involvement in discussions of the SCO internal issues and decision-making process, it nevertheless helps the sides to build flexible, pragmatic and at the same time trustful and respectful relations that focus primarily on the economic aspect of partnership.
In this sense, the SCO member-states have never made secret of their interest in cooperating with Turkmenistan, who in turn is no less aware of the advantages and prospects of working with the SCO, being both the continent largest interstate organization with the enormous economic potential and the collective of countries, each of which maintains traditionally close neighborly relations with Turkmenistan.
Speaking at the plenary meeting, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that the scope of cooperation looks very wide, including cooperation in the sectors of energy, transport, communications and trade.
The energy sector opens great prospects for establishment of a comprehensive pipeline network to export Central Asian energy resources to the markets of South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. As an example of success and viability of such plans, he referred to the recently built pipelines from Turkmenistan to China and Iran, as well as the start of implementation in December last year of another strategic project on construction of the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) pipeline.
It is significant that all of the above-mentioned countries, albeit in different capacity and status of their membership in the SCO, are parties to the multilateral cooperation as part of the organization. This is obviously a clear indicator of the promise of joint development plans and compatibility of mutual interests in the long term. It is also clear that implementation of such projects can give a powerful impetus to the economic development of Central Asia and neighboring regions and become a serious incentive for effective action on the part of foreign investors. Praising the potential of interaction between Turkmenistan and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in this area, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov confirmed readiness for the constructive discussion and development of further joint plans.
Cooperation between Turkmenistan and the SCO in the field of transport and transit looks no less significant. We are talking about large-scale optimization of the transport network along North - South and East - West routes by road, rail and sea. It would connect the vast expanses from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian and Black Seas, from the north of the European continent to the Indian Ocean. This is indeed the same notorious continental transport "cross" East - West, North - South. These projects are of strategic nature, and Turkmenistan is naturally one of their key links.
In this context, the Global Conference on Sustainable Transport, to be held in Ashgabat on 26-27 November this year, is destined to play a big practical role. The decision to convene the conference was taken at the suggestion of the UN Secretary-General and in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly resolution 70/197 of 22 December 2015 titled "Towards comprehensive cooperation among all modes of transport for promoting sustainable multimodal transit corridors" that was initiated by Turkmenistan. The main objective of the conference is to establish a dialogue on specific areas of international partnership for development of stable and sustainable transport systems as an integral and significant element of the Agenda for Sustainable Development. In his speech at the plenary meeting of the SCO Summit, the President of Turkmenistan invited the delegations from all SCO member-states and observers to participate in the upcoming forum.
Yet, the SCO is not only a powerful economic potential. Turkmenistan sees cooperation with this organization as an important component of its foreign policy that is aimed at ensuring stable and balanced development of regional processes. Ashgabat highly rates the constructive, balanced and responsible position taken by the SCO on issues relating to the strengthening of peace and international and regional stability and security, countering the challenges and threats of the XXI century, building a fairer system of international relations.
Nowadays, this is of particular relevance for the well-known reasons. While addressing the meeting participants, it was not by accident that the President of Turkmenistan expressed confidence that "the potential of the SCO can and should be used for keeping a strong balance of regional security and conflict prevention and using the negotiating tools as the only acceptable means of conflict resolution." He stressed his country's readiness for active cooperation with the SCO in implementing these important tasks.
During his visit to the Tashkent Summit, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov held bilateral business meetings, including the talks with Chairman of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping.
The two leaders exchanged views on the key areas of strategic cooperation, confirming mutual readiness for the further enhancement of economic partnership. They also confirmed willingness to continue joint work in the framework of the United Nations on issues such as the reform of the UN Security Council, the implementation of sustainable development goals, combating modern threats and challenges. In this context, the President of Turkmenistan proposed to establish a Turkmen-Chinese high-level contact group to ensure coordinated actions on these and other relevant areas of international policy. Discussing trade and economic cooperation, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov suggested that the Turkmen-Chinese committee on cooperation should thoroughly review the current state of affairs and prepare a special program to expand the scope of partnership with the focus on cooperation in the field of energy, transport and high technologies.
At the talks with President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, the sides discussed the priority areas of bilateral cooperation in political, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian spheres. The energy sector was singled out as the strategic area of bilateral partnership. In this context, the sides discussed prospects of implementing joint projects in this field to ensure stability and reliability of energy supplies to the East, create conditions for the greater integration of the two countries in the system of continental economic relations. The sides also confirmed their interest in the efficient use of transport and communication potential of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, in particular in the context of practical implementation of the Ashgabat Agreement on establishment of Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran - Oman transport corridor that would significantly increase the international transit flows and provide a new communication corridor to the international markets.
During the meeting with President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the sides discussed issues relating to construction of the TAPI gas pipeline, pace of construction of Turkmenistan - Afghanistan -Tajikistan railway and development of partnership in the field of electricity. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani expressed gratitude to the Turkmen leader for supporting the socio-economic revival of Afghanistan, including through implementation of initiatives and projects in various fields, construction of educational and medical facilities, supplies of electricity and liquefied gas at a discounted price and assistance in training of staff.
The Tashkent SCO Summit with participation of the President of Turkmenistan demonstrated the availability of very significant opportunities for implementation of large-scale joint ventures. The landmarks of cooperation are clearly seen. They are based on the obvious mutual benefits for Ashgabat, as interaction with this organization fits harmoniously in Turkmenistan's foreign economic strategy that is based on its broad geographic and structural diversification. In turn, Turkmenistan with its powerful resource base, dynamically developing transport infrastructure and advantageous location is a natural partner of the SCO in implementing its ambitious geo-economic plans in the Eurasian space. It is exactly the framework for interaction that is now seen as the most optimal and realistic.