STABILITY OF PRIORITIES
The further development of constructive partnership with reputable regional and international organizations remains one of the priorities of the Foreign Policy Concept of Turkmenistan for 2017-2023. Taking a proactive position on regional cooperation, Turkmenistan jointly with partner countries has in recent years initiated and successfully implemented a number of large-scale projects of international importance in the spheres of fuel and energy, transport and communication.
The XIII Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), held last spring in Islamabad, was largely designed to define the pace of development of regional partnership. Participating in the summit, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov confirmed the invariability of his country's priorities aimed at providing constructive dynamics for collective actions to improve regional economic processes.
Speaking at the summit, the President of Turkmenistan noted that it was in Islamabad, more than 20 years ago, namely on 15 March 1995, that the heads of state and government of the ECO member-states gathered for their third meeting and adopted the Islamabad Declaration that supported granting Turkmenistan a neutral status. The Islamabad Declaration was one of the first international documents that laid the foundation for the Resolution "On Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan" that was unanimously passed by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 December 1995.
For the entire period of its membership in this international organization, Turkmenistan has always regarded the ECO platform as conducive for efficient negotiations, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said. He noted that it facilitates establishing a regional dialogue in accordance with the long-term interests of each member-state. The head of state expressed strong confidence that the Organization for Economic Cooperation has the great potential to enhance cooperation, in particular on security issues that are of great importance for the region. Turkmenistan believes that it can be ensured on the basis of principles of unity and integrity of security. For us, this provision means that political, economic, energy, food, environmental and other types of security cannot be ensured separately. They should be regarded as a single whole in the geopolitical and geo-economic terms.
One of Turkmenistan's major initiatives aims at establishing an international legal framework for reliable supply of energy. It resulted in the unanimous adoption of the UNGA Resolution "Reliable and Stable Transit of Energy and its Role in Ensuring Sustainable Development and International Cooperation" on 19 December 2008. The adoption of such an important document was one of the first steps in establishing the international legal framework to ensure global supply of energy, or rather global energy security.
Speaking about Turkmenistan's energy strategy, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized that it is based on the principles of diversification of energy routes, expansion of their geography and involvement of the greater number of countries in the international energy processes.
Elaborating on this topic, the Turkmen leader noted that the Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan - Kazakhstan - China and the Turkmenistan-Iran gas pipelines were built in recent years, and construction of the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India gas pipeline was initiated. These projects are being implemented jointly with the ECO member-states, the head of state said.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that establishment of a modern transport and communication system is one of Turkmenistan's state policy priorities. The large-scale long-term national programs aim to strengthen the material and technical base of the transport industry, build and further develop relevant infrastructure that meets modern requirements, as well as ensure training of highly skilled personnel.
The National Program of Development of the Transport System of Turkmenistan is linked to the expansion of regional and international cooperation in this area, the Turkmen leader said. He emphasized that Turkmenistan initiates and implements large-scale infrastructure projects jointly with foreign partners. According to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, among such projects are the construction of the transnational railways Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran, Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Tajikistan, and establishment of the transit corridors Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran - Oman, Afghanistan - Turkmenistan - Azerbaijan - Georgia - Turkey.
There are also other transport projects such as "North - South" and "East - West", the Turkmen leader noted. He stressed that implementation of these projects are in tune with the immediate interests of the ECO member-states, as they provide great opportunities for cooperation with other regions on the Eurasian continent. In this context, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed the importance of increasing joint efforts in this area.
Establishing energy and transport-transit corridors in the framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization promotes implementation of other infrastructural projects. In particular, as practice shows, one can build new power transmission systems and other communications along under-construction pipelines, the head of state stressed.
For example, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed a tripartite document on cooperation in the field of electricity in December 2015, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov continued. This document provides for construction of relevant infrastructure for supply of electricity from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Work is also currently underway as part of the project on construction of the fiber-optic line in the tripartite format of Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan.
Noting that the Seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan is due in Ashgabat on 14-15 November 2017, the head of state expressed confidence that this forum would provide opportunities for sharing information on implementation of similar and other projects of regional importance.
In this connection, the President of Turkmenistan underlined that ensuring peace, security and accord in Afghanistan remains the basic condition for progress, as well as development of the region. All our political and diplomatic efforts and initiatives are aimed at achieving this goal, the Turkmen leader continued. He said that this is evidenced by the full support to brotherly Afghanistan's efforts on stabilization of the situation in this country and restoration of the social and economic infrastructure.
Turkmenistan has been providing targeted economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan for many years, such as construction of medical and educational institutions in the neighboring country, supply of electricity at privileged prices, training of Afghan students at the educational establishments of our country, regular provision of humanitarian assistance, as well as other types of support. All this support is financed by Turkmenistan. Speaking further on the topic, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov assured the meeting participants that Turkmenistan will continue providing such systematic support.
In this regard, Afghanistan's participation in implementing major regional and international infrastructure projects is a more efficient tool, the Turkmen leader said. He noted that this is our vision of the strategic future for Afghanistan, its role in the regional and global issues and the guarantee of prosperity and wellbeing of the Afghan people.
The results achieved by the ECO member-states present our joint positive experience, the Turkmen leader said. However, time goes on, and the current circumstances, trends in the global economy and specifics of the situation in the region urge us to adopt innovative approaches to the work of the Organization. At the same time, Turkmenistan sees the current forum as a milestone for the ECO, namely in terms of assessing and analyzing the path covered and identifying plans for the future, the Turkmen leader emphasized. We must not politicize this Organization, we must not allow deviations from its economic purpose which is the main mechanism of cooperation between states seeking to implement joint projects aimed at capacity building and achieving success for the common sake.
During the XIII ECO summit in Islamabad, the heads of state and high-ranking officials of the ECO member-states shared their views on the further development of the efficient cooperation within the framework of the Organization.
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met with Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on the summit sidelines. They noted that the trustworthy relations allow their countries to look for ways of cooperation in new areas such as the trade-economic and fuel-energy spheres, construction and agriculture. As Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized, Turkmenistan sees Pakistan as a key partner in building up cooperation with the South Asian countries.
Noting Turkmenistan's constructive approach to cooperation, including within the framework of the ECO, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif spoke highly of Turkmenistan's implementation of the initiatives to ensure energy security and establish a modern transport and communication system. Supporting the call that the Turkmen leader made at the forum on the urgency of development of innovative approaches to the ECO activities, given its extensive experience, the Pakistani Prime Minister supported the idea of inadmissibility of straying from the Organization's economic orientation as the main mechanism of cooperation between states seeking to implement joint projects. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov thanked the head of the government of the friendly country for hospitality and high level of organization of the ECO summit.
The President of Turkmenistan also met with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the ECO summit. The sides discussed issues relating to bilateral cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, energy sector, transport and communications, construction industry and a number of other industries.
The leaders of the two states exchanged views on a number of aspects of the regional and global agenda, stressing the similarity or convergence of positions of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Turkey on the current issues that primarily relate to ensuring universal peace, security and sustainable development. During the meeting, it was noted that Turkey highly rates the policy of positive neutrality pursued by Turkmenistan and supports the international initiatives put forward by the Turkmen side, including proposals voiced at the current ECO summit. The sides reaffirmed their countries' commitment to the friendly relations and comprehensive mutually beneficial cooperation.