CIS GAINS FRESH IMPETUS
Upon assuming chairmanship of the CIS in 2019, Turkmenistan stated its intention to infuse new vigor and purport into the CIS work in this period. The first important step in this direction was the initiative that President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov put forward at the CIS Summit in Sochi back in October 2017 on ensuring greater international integration of the CIS and the CIS countries' participation in major infrastructure projects in the field of transport, communications and energy not only within the CIS space but also beyond.
It should be noted that this initiative was supported and understood by the CIS partners. A number of countries provided their proposals and recommendations. The CIS Executive Committee also expressed readiness to facilitate the development of a blueprint in this area. And now, in its capacity as Chair of the CIS, Turkmenistan presented a comprehensive vision of the CIS prospects at the Ashgabat meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Government.
According to Ashgabat, there is now an objective need for development of joint projects that despite all their importance would address not the local issues but strategic tasks to integrate the CIS countries into the continental and intercontinental transport and energy chains.
The logic of modern global development calls for a strategic vision of the CIS prospects, a clear definition of its role as a major economic entity capable of implementing large-scale projects of continental significance that would cover adjacent regions as well. It is only in this way that the CIS can become a magnetic pole of multilateral economic cooperation for neighboring countries, other integration bodies and a promising partner for international investment funds and financial institutions. It is clear that one cannot achieve it by acting only within its own borders.
Speaking to the CIS heads of government in Ashgabat, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that the CIS countries, being bounded by geography, common historical experience and multiple humanitarian relations, have to find their rightful place in the changing modern world. That is why the CIS needs to fully use its objective advantages, primarily in terms of geoeconomics, for the full-scale, efficient and equal participation in the global and continental processes.
This is exactly what Turkmenistan's initiatives aim to achieve, i.e. widening the geographical and economic horizons of partnerships within the CIS. First of all, the point is about the well-known Turkmenistan's proposals in the field of transport, logistics and energy, the CIS countries' participation in the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in Eurasia along the East - West and North - South corridors that go beyond the CIS borders.
There are already good examples of implementation of such projects with participation of the CIS countries. The Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran railway with the throughput of up to 10-12 million tons of cargo annually creates opportunities for the CIS countries to connect to the transport infrastructure of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in the south.
The Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Tajikistan railway connects three countries and can be continued further through the territory of Kyrgyzstan to the Chinese transport network with access to the Asia-Pacific region.
In fact, an extensive and integrated railway network covering a vast continental space is currently being created. The CIS countries' participation in this configuration is natural and beneficial. It also fits into the logic of ensuring the legitimate interests of the CIS countries that do not have direct access to the sea, including through construction of the so-called "dry ports".
The CIS countries' involvement in implementing yet another large-scale project, such as the combined transport corridor between the Caspian and Black Sea regions, is highly promising. So far, out of all CIS countries, only Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have held substantive discussions in relation to this project. Why not think about engaging other CIS countries in such discussions?
In general, as President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted, the role of the Caspian Sea may become a key one in the context of Eurasian economic cooperation. The Caspian Sea should become a strategic hub to connect business interests not only of the coastal countries but also non-regional countries, including the CIS. It is this vision that guided, among other things, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's initiative to convene the First Caspian Economic Forum.
It is important that the CIS countries join the multilateral projects in the energy sector. First of all, the point is about long-term deliveries of energy to the regions adjacent to the CIS in the eastern and southern directions - China, Pakistan, India. A number of CIS countries are the largest hydrocarbon producers and suppliers in Eurasia. A powerful resource base and transit advantages make it possible to carry out large-scale and in many ways unique projects for delivery of energy to international markets. The gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, part of which runs through the territory of the Central Asian countries of the CIS is a striking example of this. Construction of another gas pipeline branch to China is on the agenda. These projects open up prospects for various forms of participation of other CIS countries. It can be construction of related infrastructure, provision of services, supplies of equipment and construction equipment, etc.
The same can be said about the ongoing Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India gas pipeline project. Ashgabat believes in the prospects of involvement in this work of large continental integration bodies to which the CIS countries are members, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Community.
The CIS potential is far from being fully realized in such crucial area as communications. It is only with the support of modern and reliable communications infrastructure that the CIS countries would be able to fully integrate into the system of international economic relations and take the leading positions in trade and economic partnerships in the continent in the future. The construction of the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan fiber-optic communication line started on February 23 last year. This project can also become a good incentive for implementation of plans on creation of an extensive communication network in other directions, namely along the bottom of the Caspian Sea, covering many countries and entire regions.
Touching on these projects, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized that construction of cross-border transport, energy and communication infrastructure provides the most reliable and justified guarantee of the accelerated economic development of countries, growth of human well-being, creation of additional jobs and attraction of large-scale foreign investments. All this, in turn, will contribute to the steady strengthening of regional security and creation of a favorable political climate for constructive interstate cooperation.
Partnership in the field of innovative development, high technology is now an extremely relevant topic. This is again necessitated by the trends in modern global development, where innovation equals efficiency and competitiveness. The CIS countries have the potential for innovative growth through excellent scientific schools and advanced technological developments. Turkmenistan proposes to unite efforts in this area to steer the economies of the CIS countries and the Commonwealth in general onto a pronounced innovative path and digital dimension of development.
Speaking about the prospects for the CIS as a whole, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that given the talent and hard work of its peoples, their rich historical experience, the CIS has a great and multifaceted potential. The task is to effectively harness this potential and maximize the use of available opportunities in the sphere of production, logistics, resources, science and technology to enable the Commonwealth of Independent States to take its place firmly among the powerful and positive factors and actors of not only political life but also of economic development of the continental scale. Turkmenistan stands ready for the most active cooperation on this path.