UNDER THE LAW OF GOOD-NEIGHBORLINESS
The foreign policy concept of Turkmenistan for 2017-2023 places a special emphasis on relations with neighboring countries. And this is no accident. Ashgabat sees the notion of good-neighborliness not just in terms of geographic proximity. Turkmenistan builds its relations with the regional countries based on deep historical ties, cultural and civilizational commonality and awareness of inseparability of the destinies of the peoples living in these countries. It proceeds from the logic that the countries of Central Asia and the Caspian basin have the relevant potential for cooperation that can provide them with long-term political stability, economic and social well-being and efficient integration into the modern international economic relations.
In this sense, the meeting between President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and the Turkmen leader's official visit to Azerbaijan are evidence of the validity of the course chosen by Ashgabat for the long-term political interaction and economic cooperation with Tashkent and Baku.
Receiving the Uzbek leader at Avaza resort on the Caspian Sea coast, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed that the two sides understand the importance of the further strengthening of friendship and cooperation between the two fraternal peoples and countries and awareness of the realities that require close interaction and coordination of efforts to adequately respond to the trends and challenges of regional and global development.
In the international arena, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan share similar positions on the key issues of global agenda, such as preservation and maintenance of universal peace and stability, countering the threats of international terrorism, extremism, disarmament issues and settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. Both countries cooperate closely through the well-known international and regional organizations, such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Independent States and a number of others. They support each other and it brings visible results and makes positive impact on the processes in the region and the world. Ashgabat and Tashkent have common desire to support the positive development of regional processes, strengthening of cooperation between the Central Asian countries and establishment of lasting peace, stability and security.
In this context, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Shavkat Mirziyoyev discussed in detail the situation in Afghanistan. They agreed that this situation should be settled through the peaceful, political means, supported by sufficient measures to restore the country's social and economic infrastructure and implementation of significant projects aimed at bringing this country back to the system of regional and international economic relations. Guided by this, Turkmenistan attaches special importance to large-scale infrastructural projects involving Afghanistan. Among such projects Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov mentioned the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India gas pipeline project, the practical implementation of which has already started, as well as construction of a railway between the two countries. Given the commissioning of new facilities in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat is also ready to increase substantially electricity supplies to Afghanistan. All these projects can positively affect the situation in the neighboring country and play an effective role in restoring its economy and social sphere and transition to the peaceful life.
The leaders of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan discussed at length water and energy problems in Central Asia and interaction on environmental issues. Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan support the further strengthening and improvement of the work of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. As the country presiding in IFAS, Turkmenistan has developed a Concept that reflects the priority plans of joint activities of IFAS member states.
Development of trade and economic ties has traditionally been on the agenda of the multi-faceted Turkmen-Uzbek dialogue. During the talks, the two leaders expressed confidence that there exist all the necessary conditions to upgrade partnership between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the level corresponding to the real capacities and objective needs of the two countries. The sides noted their interest and readiness for diversification of mutual trade turnover, searching for new areas of cooperation, taking into account mutual needs and opportunities.
Energy is the strategic area of the Turkmen-Uzbek cooperation. In this area, the two countries have a successful and mutually beneficial example of partnership. This is a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China commissioned in December 2009, one part of which passes through the territory of Uzbekistan. The project of construction of another gas pipeline along the route Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan - Tajikistan - Kyrgyzstan - China looks extremely promising.
During the talks, the sides confirmed the crucial role of cooperation in the transport sphere for the successful economic development of the two countries and their integration into the system of global relations. The commissioning on 7 March 2017 of the rail and road bridges across Amudarya River between the cities of Turkmenabat (Turkmenistan) and Farab (Uzbekistan) is one of the impressive results. It is no exaggeration to say that these large facilities, meeting the highest world standards, serve as visible symbols of the strategy pursued by Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for the efficient use of the potential of our region as the most important link in the transport system of the entire Asian continent. In this sense, establishment of new transport and transit corridors and hubs between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan organically fits into the 21st century economic architecture emerging in this part of the globe.
In general, it is obvious that the Turkmen-Uzbek cooperation in the transport segment is currently one of the driving forces of development of Central Asia and adjacent regions, the most important factor for successful economic integration and partnership in the North-South and East-West directions. In particular, we are talking about the opportunities of joint work for implementation of the transport route along the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea-South Caucasus line with access to the Black Sea ports of Georgia, Turkey, Romania and other countries. In the context of diversification of continental traffic flows, Turkmenistan is also ready to thoroughly consider jointly with Uzbekistan the possibility of establishing a railway communication along the Central Asia - China route.
Traditionally, cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian field plays a great positive role in relations between the two countries and peoples. There are long-standing and strong traditions of cooperation based on a solid legal framework and experience.
Representatives of the Turkmen and Uzbek arts and culture meet on a regular basis at various festivals and forums. Among the latest major events one should note holding the Days of Culture of Turkmenistan in Tashkent and Bukhara in November 2016 and the Days of Turkmen Cinema in Uzbekistan in April this year. Holding the Days of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Turkmenistan is scheduled for the second half of 2017. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to provide maximum government assistance and support to such contacts.
An impressive set of bilateral documents in various spheres was signed on the outcomes of the talks. Noting the productiveness of the meeting with the Uzbek leader, the President of Turkmenistan said it marked another important stage in the history of relations between the two countries and peoples.
The agenda of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's official visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan included a wide range of issues, starting from cooperation in political and diplomatic spheres to cooperation in the Caspian Sea and energy supplies to international markets.
In his speech at the meeting of the two delegations, the Turkmen leader noted that Ashgabat and Baku are strongly committed to the preservation and strengthening of international and regional security and stability. According to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the responsible and convincing approach of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan to this key issue makes a significant positive impact on development of political processes in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Caspian region. He expressed confidence that it is important to further strengthen Turkmen-Azerbaijani interaction within the framework of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, other international and regional organizations, make it focused, and identify priority areas where joint diplomatic and other efforts can be used most effectively.
It was noted that cooperation between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in both bilateral and multilateral formats is the most important factor in transforming the Caspian Sea into a place of peace, good-neighborliness, harmony and mutually beneficial partnership. A lot has been done to this effect, especially in recent years. In fact, the joint work on the Convention on the Status of the Caspian Sea is close to completion.
During the talks, the role of the Caspian Basin as the largest transport hub was discussed at length. This strategic area opens great prospects for building up trade and economic relations both between the Caspian countries and in the context of accessing the foreign markets. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have every opportunity to intensify cooperation, develop and enhance the maritime communications in the Caspian Sea. Both countries can initiate the systematic and purposeful work in this direction. In general, according to Ashgabat, the transport aspect should be taken into account as much as possible in developing strategic plans for bilateral partnership.
The visit to Azerbaijan was designed to kick-start a new substantial phase of cooperation between the two countries in the economic sphere. There are enormous prospects for that. Joining the two countries' potentials, using the aggregate resource, geographic and production capacities can provide not only a powerful boost to development of national economies but also give a fundamentally different meaning and character to the entire geo-economic architecture in the Eurasian space. First of all, it is about strategic areas such as energy and transport.
In the sphere of international energy cooperation, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are in favor of establishing a balanced and diverse system of energy supplies to the international markets based on diversification of routes, clear and transparent schemes for their operation, guarantees of reliability and security and satisfaction of multilateral interests. It is in this context that a joint initiative on establishing partnership in supplying natural gas from the Caspian region to the West should be considered. The substantive and systemic discussions of this issue have already started jointly with partners from the European Union and Turkey.
Projects on diversification of energy supplies are surely beneficial to both countries. They are fully justified economically and commercially. In addition, their implementation will provide conditions for balancing the existing system in the energy markets, make it sustainable and protect it from political risks. Ashgabat believes that we need to keep up the pace of active and purposeful work to implement such plans, create relevant legal and organizational prerequisites and develop a joint strategy for joint actions in this direction.
Transport is another important area. The geographical locations of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan ensure the objective need for close partnership based on a verified strategy for establishing transport and transit corridors between Asia and Europe. Such a strategy should provide for construction of new highways involving not only Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan but also third countries. In particular, this is about the establishment of automobile-ferry and rail-ferry services.
The practical implementation of the principle of diversification of transport routes and inclusion of new countries and regions in the geography of such routes are the most important geopolitical aspect of such cooperation. Other than economic benefits, it can objectively contribute to the development of interstate relations, mutual understanding and bringing these countries closer to each other. Last but not least, it is a serious stabilizing factor, implying the efficient multilateral partnership in ensuring the safe functioning of the transport infrastructure, creating favorable foreign policy conditions for its effective use in the interests of not only the immediate participants but also other interested parties. Thus, being the initiators of major projects in the transport sector, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan make a significant contribution to the formation of a new geo-economic space for cooperation in line with the modern international trends.
As regards trade partnership between the two countries, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted the progress made in recent years. For example, trade turnover increased by more than 40 percent over 6 months of 2017 year on year. There is a good experience of interaction at the governmental and departmental levels. At the same time, it should be noted that mutual opportunities are not used in full; they do not reflect the real potential of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. In this context, the leaders of the two countries agreed to enhance joint efforts to improve significantly the current indicators and diversify mutual supplies in the near future. To this end, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov proposed to establish a trade house of Turkmenistan in Baku and, reciprocally, a trade house of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Ashgabat.
Highly rating the results of his official visit to Baku that was held in the atmosphere of full mutual understanding, trust and openness, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed that the meetings and talks provided clear and correct guidelines for the future, a solid foundation for joint work on the most important areas of bilateral cooperation, which is based on the goodwill, understanding of common goals, reliance on the common great historical heritage of the two fraternal peoples and countries.