On 12 August 2018, the Presidents of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea at the V Summit of Heads of Caspian Littoral States in Aktau, Kazakhstan. This historic, core document embodies legal provisions for cooperation in various fields in the Caspian region.
It was then that the Turkmen leader put forward an initiative to hold the first Caspian Economic Forum in Turkmenistan's national tourist zone Avaza. Noting that cooperation in the Caspian region largely depends on the degree of partner countries' involvement in the trade, economic and transport processes, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov expressed confidence that the first Caspian Economic Forum would confirm the readiness of five countries to join efforts in this direction. According to the head of Turkmenistan, this forum should provide a standing platform for the multilateral economic dialogue with wide participation of government members, business and academic circles, representatives of international organizations and be held on a regular basis in each of the Caspian littoral states alternately.
As a host country, Turkmenistan did its best to uphold the importance of the Caspian Forum to ensure that meetings and talks held in Avaza set a model of productive work for years to come.
And so it happened. A chain of memorable events on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea have become a vivid example of a well-thought-out partnership approach to finding comprehensive solutions to complex economic problems.
The forum was preceded by the Caspian Exhibition of Innovative Technologies and the International Automobile Exhibition "Trkmen Shrasy-2019" (Turkmen Steppe-2019) organized as part of the first Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi.
The forum brought together about 120 companies, and the exhibition area occupied about 14 thousand square meters. It particularly emphasized the processes of full automation of production, the introduction of effective technologies and, based on such technologies, the establishment of modern production facilities for import-substituting and export-oriented products.
The outdoor exhibition of innovations continued to a huge pavilion accommodating the automobile exhibition that demonstrated new and popular car models, including Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, as well as Russian Lada, Aurus, KAMAZ and GAZ.
The Caspian Exhibition of Innovative Technologies provided a space for commodity exchange tenders for products manufactured in Turkmenistan. Over one hundred foreign companies competed in the tenders by the State Commodity and Raw Materials Exchange of Turkmenistan. The geography of customers was vast, including companies from the USA, Great Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Estonia, Switzerland, Russia, Turkey, etc. In the afternoon, business representatives of the Caspian countries held a meeting at the conference room of Berkarar Hotel, summing up the results of commodity exchange tenders.
The heads of economic departments of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Russia also held a meeting as part of the first Caspian Economic Forum.
The discussions focused on the role and place of the regional economies in the global system of economic relations and their potential to broaden cooperation in the areas of digital economy and special economic zones. The meeting also discussed opportunities for implementation of joint investment projects and programs.
The meeting agreed that "Stability through Joint Development" would be the optimal approach to partnership, reflecting the economic needs of each Caspian state. Following the exchange of views on the prospects of building up productive relations, the heads of delegations noted the desire of the regional countries to boost economic contacts and establish effective cooperation mechanisms to create a favorable investment climate in the Caspian region.
Digital economy was described as an important vector of cooperation. It was singled out as a priority direction of state policies of all countries of the Caspian region.
A meeting of the heads of transport departments of the countries that are parties to the Agreement on Transport Cooperation between the Caspian littoral states was another important negotiating venue of the forum. This document was developed by the Turkmen side in accordance with the initiatives that Ashgabat put forward at the IV Summit of the Heads of the Caspian States in Astrakhan in 2014. This agreement was the outcome document of the V Summit of the Heads of the Caspian Littoral States in Aktau (Republic of Kazakhstan) in 2018.
One of the main topics discussed at this meeting was the potential of the transport infrastructure of Turkmenistan, the specifics of delivery of bulky and heavy cargoes to the Caspian region by various means of transport, their transit to other Central Asian states through Turkmenistan.
On the sidelines of the forum in the national tourism zone Avaza, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov received the United Nations Under-Secretary General, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Olga Algayerova.
The head of state thanked the guest for participating in the first Caspian Economic Forum that discussed a wide range of issues relating to the sustainable development of the region.
The sides exchanged views on the prospects of partnership between Turkmenistan and UNECE. Economy, trade, energy and environment were identified as key areas for cooperation.
Given Turkmenistan's membership in the Bureau of the UNECE Inland Transport Committee, the sides had a detailed discussion of issues relating to the creation of new international transport routes in the Eurasian continent. In this regard, the sides emphasized the importance of investing in development of transport infrastructure as an important geopolitical factor that opens up great economic prospects for countries and regions.
Energy security is the priority aspect of cooperation. Speaking in favor of broad cooperation in this area, including through the UN, Turkmenistan initiates and implements large-scale projects to create a multi-vector system of energy supplies to international markets. In this regard, the UNECE Executive Secretary expressed support for Turkmenistan's initiatives aimed at addressing the pressing challenges of our time.
The international conference "Caspian Sea: Benefits of Developing International Economic Cooperation" was the chief event of the forum. It was held at the Congress Center of the national tourist zone Avaza.
The conference was attended by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Novruz Mammadov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin, Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, Iranian First Vice President Eskhak Jahangeri, as well as a number of delegations of foreign countries and international organizations. The agenda of the meetings included topics relating to the promotion of economic cooperation of littoral states and interested foreign partners.
Speaking to the eminent audience, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted the like-mindedness of the meeting participants who shared the understanding of the importance of a multifaceted and systemic dialogue on development of the Caspian region and defining the prospects of international cooperation in the Caspian region. In his speech, the Turkmen leader touched upon important issues relating to broadening cooperation between the Caspian states in the field of energy, transport, trade, science and environment.
In particular, the head of state spoke about the reasonability of creating a workable basic platform for technological and innovative developments. In this regard, he proposed to set up an international innovation and technology center that can be named "Caspian Innovation City."
According to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, such a unique think-tank would provide an enabling environment for scientists, specialists, representatives of fundamental and applied science from the Caspian region and other countries to work together for development of a new technological setup for the Caspian region. The focus should be on development of a model of innovative cooperation, searching for advanced solutions to a wide range of Caspian issues, such as energy, industry, logistics, infrastructure and environment.
According to the Turkmen leader, littoral states, being responsible and respected members of the UN, should implement their own development plans in accordance with the main directions of the UN work. In this regard, the head of state suggested that a multilateral dialogue should be initiated at the UN for integrated development of the Caspian region that would take into account the opinions and assessments of the current forum.
The President of Turkmenistan also proposed to establish a Caspian Regional Logistics Center for coordination of joint activities of the Caspian littoral states in their effort to establish and effectively use new transport and transit corridors connecting Asia with Europe.
Following the speeches by the President of Turkmenistan, the heads of governments of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, as well as the First Vice President of Iran, the forum continued working in sections.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov held a series of bilateral meetings with the heads of delegations of the Caspian littoral states and in their company visited the Exhibition of Innovative Technologies and the Automobile Exhibition "Trkmen Shrasy-2019" (Turkmen steppe) at the International Sea Port of Turkmenbashi.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Novruz Mammedov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin, Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Iranian First Vice President Eskhak Jahangeri viewed the exhibits displayed at the innovative exhibition. They visited the pavilions of the Caspian littoral states that presented high-tech products and services by innovative enterprises, inventions and designs by research and engineering centers.
The President of Turkmenistan and the heads of delegations of the littoral states viewed with great interest the exhibits of the International Automobile Exhibition, featuring the legends and novelties of the world automobile industry. The guests were particularly interested in the Russian limousine Aurus that was presented by Russian manufacturers. In conclusion, a small plane and a helicopter by Tatarstan manufacturers were presented to the Turkmen leader and guests of the forum.
The lively exchange of views on the potential and prospects of development of bilateral cooperation was the distinctive feature of the first meeting of the Turkmen-Astrakhan Business Council on Entrepreneurship held as part of the first Caspian Economic Forum. The meeting noted the high level and positive dynamics of the constructive partnership in all areas. The delegation of Astrakhan region participating in the first Caspian Economic Forum included the heads of large enterprises and companies operating in various sectors of the economy, as well as specialists from relevant enterprises.
Representatives of the Turkmen side briefed their Astrakhan colleagues on the main areas of national and branch-wise development programs currently being implemented in Turkmenistan. As part of the exchange of views on the prospects of enhanced partnerships, the meeting participants spoke in favor of full-scale cooperation in the implementation of projects in the trade, economic, fuel and energy, transport and communications sectors, as well as in agriculture.
Representatives of the Astrakhan companies demonstrated their interest in the ongoing projects in Turkmenistan aimed at the diversification of the industrial sector and fundamental modernization of relevant infrastructure, the use of high technologies and creation of high-tech industries. According to representatives of the Astrakhan business, the meeting of the Turkmen-Astrakhan Business Council on Entrepreneurship helped them to create a new vision of Turkmenistan as a long-term trade and economic partner.
A gala concert of Turkmen and foreign artists in the national tourist zone Avaza wrapped up a busy two-day program of the forum. The honorary guests of the colorful show included President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, delegations of the Caspian littoral states and numerous guests from abroad.
The audience greeted with cheer the artistic performances, including Russian pop singers Zara, Sergey Lazarev, Nyusha. The performances by Rashad Ilyasov and Samira Efendiyeva from Azerbaijan, Adilkhan Makin and Aigerim Altynbek from Kazakhstan, Majid Ahshabi and Hamed Mahzarnia from the Islamic Republic of Iran also wrecked tumultuous applause. The international gala concert concluded with festive fireworks.
The forum adopted the Declaration of the Chair on the outcome of the first Caspian Economic Forum held on August 11-12 in the city of Turkmenbashi. The document recommends that Caspian Economic Forums should be held on a regular basis in the littoral cities of the Caspian States.
The Declaration emphasizes that the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea creates conditions for bringing cooperation between the countries of the Caspian region to a qualitatively new partnership level. The document recognizes that agreements between the governments of the Caspian littoral states on trade, economic and transport cooperation contribute to the further strengthening and development of economic cooperation between littoral states.
The Declaration notes that the platform of the Caspian Economic Forum could become an important form of cooperation aimed at ensuring economic growth in the region and beyond. In this regard, the Declaration emphasizes the need to build capacity with regard to trade and investment policy, export supplies in the Caspian region and facilitate trade processes.
The document recognizes that the countries of the Caspian region and all stakeholders could maintain an active dialogue on best practices and measures relating to the implementation of goals to ensure the development of economic contacts. The document also notes the importance of active participation and assistance on the part of international organizations and financial institutions for development of international economic cooperation in the Caspian region.
Based on the above, it was recommended that the Caspian states should improve the attractiveness of their economies to ensure further integration of the Caspian region into the international economic relations. The document recommended encouraging investments and stimulating innovation in the energy, industrial, transport, trade and other sectors.
The document notes the importance of strengthening regional cooperation in areas such as socio-economic development, environmental protection, science and innovation and the exchange of economic information. Now, the Russian city of Astrakhan will pick up the baton of economic forums in the Caspian region in 2020.