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2019 †N9-10(174-175)
The pathway of the foreign policy of Turkmenistan is becoming increasingly broad in terms of geography and content. While confidently developing relations with individual states, Turkmenistan acts as the initiator of multilateral cooperation on pressing global problems. Combining the bilateral relations agenda with active work through international bodies, harmonizing interests of the global development with the advantages of interstate partnerships have become a distinctive feature of Turkmenistan's foreign policy. This was confirmed in the course of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's participation in the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku and his official visit to the Italian Republic.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in the capital of Azerbaijan was largely intended to shape future prospects of work of one of the world long-standing interstate organizations that accounts for 120 member states and 17 observers. The core principle of non-participation in military blocs that guides this organization since its foundation in 1961 is certainly relevant today. At the same time, it is now clearly insufficient for designing long-term cooperation plans between countries that are very different in size, economic potential, etc. It was all the more important to offer the NAM countries a meaningful strategic agenda that would unite the conceptual needs and capacities of the NAM member states. This is what the leader of Turkmenistan did in his keynote speech in Baku.
Noting the recent major changes in the world, the President of Turkmenistan called upon the NAM countries to consolidate efforts in achieving the main goal, i.e. preservation and maintenance of global peace, strategic stability and security. According to Turkmenistan, this is exactly what should guide the intentions and actions of responsible states at the level of global decision-making or in their work at the local and regional level.
Turkmenistan plays a special role in the Non-Aligned Movement. Grounded in its peace-loving values and ideals, NAM should give a new powerful impetus to strengthening global security jointly with other members of the international community as well as specific political and legal substance and broad vision to the activities in this area.
The effective fight against international terrorism is the most important task in terms of ensuring global security. Supporting the efforts of the international community in creating efficient international mechanisms to combat terrorism, Turkmenistan supports the comprehensive implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Ashgabat is confident that such work should be carried out everywhere - both globally and at the regional and national levels. This challenge is highly relevant for the Non-Aligned Movement countries, some of which are directly confronted with the real and potential threat of terrorism.
Refugees are another global issue that directly affects many member states of the Non-Aligned Movement. The vast majority of them come from the non-aligned countries. In an effort to find a realistic solution to the refugee problem and initiating broad international cooperation in this area, Turkmenistan hosted an international conference on refugees in close cooperation with the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in May 2012. At the national level, in recent years alone, the country granted citizenship to thousands of refugees. At the Tehran NAM Summit in 2012, Turkmenistan proposed singling out the refugee problem as an independent area of work of the Non-Aligned Movement. It seems that this issue has not lost its relevance today.
At present, the global economy is the Non-Aligned Movement's most important area of work. Turkmenistan believes that the NAM countries should take a consolidated stance in defense of the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, actively advocate for justice and equality in international economic relations, resolutely oppose discrimination, unreasonable, and often artificial barriers in world trade, recognition of the economic sovereignty of peoples and states. In this regard, the voice of the Non-Aligned Movement must be firm and influential. It must promote proactively and responsibly its own global economic agenda.
In this context, it is of paramount importance to ensure the active participation of the non-aligned counties in the formation of the global energy security system based on fair and transparent principles, equitable access to energy sources and means of their delivery, taking into account and recognizing the interests of suppliers, buyers and energy transit countries.
The joint work of the Non-Aligned Movement countries in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including food security, can be no less effective. The non-aligned countries should exercise decisiveness and firmness when addressing issues related to ensuring access of states and regions to food resources, guarantee of good nutrition as an inalienable right of any person.
Turkmenistan also advocates for a more emphasized cooperation of the NAM member states in implementing the climate change agreements reached at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development RIO + 20, other global venues and ensuing further measures at the national, regional and global levels.
The global importance of preserving the Caspian Sea, its ecology and unique biodiversity is a separate issue. At the first Caspian Economic Forum in Turkmenistan this August, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov came up with an idea of creating a new Caspian environmental program as a set of environmental measures aimed at preserving and rationally using the rich natural resources of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan intends to initiate a broad dialogue at the UN on cooperation with the non-aligned countries.
The issue of conservation and efficient use of water resources is directly related to protection of environment. It is one of the main and urgent challenges of our time, as it affects the interests of many NAM member states, implying the active work of the non-aligned countries on this issue at the UN, primarily on the basis of those program documents that were adopted at the UN Conference RIO +20 in 2012, the seventh World Water Forum in Daegu, Republic of Korea, in 2015 and other global forums.
The unconditional commitment to the principle of equal and equitable access to water resources, recognizing it as a fundamental human right should remain the main condition for the joint work in this direction. According to Turkmenistan, all states of the world should undertake a commitment to ensuring the right to access to water and taking responsibility for this. The Non-Aligned Movement has a significant role to play in achieving this goal.
Next year, Turkmenistan will celebrate one of the most important dates in its modern history - the 25th anniversary of international recognition of its neutral status. At the same time, there is another significant event associated with this date - the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan's membership in the Non-Aligned Movement. These dates are inextricably linked, and President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov gratefully emphasized that it was at the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Colombian Cartagena in October 1995 that Turkmenistan's desire to become a neutral state was unanimously supported by the non-aligned countries.
The years that have passed since that memorable event have proved that the principles of Turkmen neutrality and its philosophy are in harmony with the goals and values of the Non-Aligned Movement, meeting the expectations and aspirations of all peoples and states that share the ideals of peace, equality, non-interference, respect for each country with its sovereign right to its own development path.
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's official visit to Italy took place against the background of the recently intensified Turkmenistan-EU dialogue that naturally left its mark on the substance of the talks with the Italian leadership. The priorities of bilateral cooperation include issues related to peace and security, energy and transport, trade, investment and the cultural and humanitarian sphere.
During the talks with President of the Italian Republic Sergio Matarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov praised the friendly and equal relations between the two countries, their mutual commitment to the universal legal norms. This implies mutual understanding of Turkmenistan and Italy on key issues of global politics based on the similarity of approaches and vision of ways to address them. First of all, this concerns ensuring regional and strategic stability, withstanding modern challenges and threats and achieving the goals of sustainable development.
Mutual understanding on these issues enables Ashgabat and Rome to interact constructively through the major international organizations, primarily the UN and OSCE. Ashgabat appreciates the support that Italy provides to Turkmenistan's international initiatives, in particular in energy security issues. It is significant that Italy became one of the co-sponsors of the Turkmenistan-initiated UN General Assembly resolution on reliable and stable transit of energy resources to international markets.
In this context, Turkmenistan stands ready to expand the geography of exports and conduct a serious discussion about the western, European vector of natural gas transportation and reasonably considers Italy one of its key partners in Europe.
Transport is another area of cooperation between Turkmenistan and Italy. Ashgabat sees the strategic prospect of such cooperation in creating a combined and multi-choice system of transport and transit corridors from Asia to Europe. The Caspian Sea - Mediterranean Sea corridor is intended to become its most important link. In this regard, Italy is also seen as one of the key partners, not only within the framework of bilateral relations but also as an important component of cooperation with the European Union.
In this regard, the new coastal infrastructure created on the Caspian coast of Turkmenistan, primarily the port of Turkmenbashi may become attractive for the Italian business circles, as it opens up prospects for creating a sustainable transport system along the southern perimeter of Eurasia. Along with port facilities, a shipbuilding and ship repair plant was built in the city of Turkmenbashi. Given Italy's experience in shipbuilding, there may also be prospects for good partnership in this area.
Italy is a traditional partner of Turkmenistan in the trade and economic sphere. Over the years, it has consistently been one of the leading countries in terms of trade turnover with Turkmenistan. A certain legal framework for cooperation has been developed between the two countries. Italian companies have good investment experience in Turkmenistan. The Italian business is present in the oil and gas sector and hotel management of Turkmenistan. A number of projects are being implemented in other areas. The role of the business communities of the two countries is increasing, along with their mutual interest in cooperation.
Turkmenistan currently focuses on developing the innovative sectors of the economy, translating it into digital standards, introducing the latest technologies and management techniques. Ashgabat is interested in cooperation with Italy in this segment and ready to invite partners to explore opportunities for their participation in development of new industries in the country. In addition to the oil and gas sector, promising areas of investment cooperation include agriculture, food processing, textile industry and manufacture of ready-made clothes.
Tourism is another promising area of interaction. The Avaza national tourist zone has been created on the Caspian coast of Turkmenistan. It boasts dozens of international-class hotels and all related leisure and entertainment infrastructure. Turkmenistan invites Italian partners to consider participating in investment projects in this resort area.
Development of cultural and humanitarian ties is one of the priorities of relations with Italy. Turkmenistan is ready to help strengthen cultural cooperation, promote more lively humanitarian contacts, create all necessary conditions for this in the spirit of the times and objective needs of people. There is a large space for collaboration in the spheres of museum, archeology and ethnography. The Archaeological School of Italy is one of the strongest in the world. Italian archaeologists have already conducted excavations in Turkmenistan and accumulated good joint experience of cooperation with their Turkmen colleagues. Joint activities in this area should be continued, and the Government of Turkmenistan is ready to provide Italian scientists with all conditions for work in the country.
Following the talks in Rome, the sides signed an impressive set of bilateral documents, indicating their willingness to continue the joint work to bring Turkmen-Italian cooperation to a new level. In general, the agreements reached once again confirmed the high level of partnership between Turkmenistan and Italy. Ashgabat and Rome have mutual understanding on almost all issues and build the long-term and strategic relations.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005