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2019 †N11-12(176-177)
The heads of Central Asian states gathered recently in Tashkent for their second consultative meeting. According to the meeting participants, such format of communication allows leaders to openly exchange views on the most pressing issues on the regional agenda and jointly decide on the ways of establishing strong and effective mechanisms for interaction as well as viable schemes and models for integrating Central Asia into the international processes as a worthy, equal and valuable partner.
"These tasks are very serious and essential for each and every one of us," the President of Turkmenistan said in his statement, emphasizing the importance of regular "coordination of positions" and candid discussion of all pending issues.
At the same time, the Turkmen leader expressed confidence that constructivism, commitment to creative joint work, understanding of the commonality and indivisibility of the destinies of the fraternal peoples and states and determination to achieve the desired results remain a decisive factor in relations between the Central Asian countries.
"While setting ambitious goals, we understand that a strong and long-lasting peace, security and stability in our region are the key condition for their achievement," the President of Turkmenistan stressed.
It should be noted that a lot has been done in this area in recent years. The mechanisms of political consultations at the level of foreign ministers of the five states have been put in place. Such consultation have been held on a regular basis to discuss specific regional issues, primarily those related to security. This format of consultations can be obviously supported by more coherent and coordinated actions of the Central Asian countries at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to ensure that there are clear guidelines and agreed positions on issues of regional importance.
As Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized, such serious topic as regional security requires that the regional countries should always act in a consolidated manner, demonstrating responsibility and strong resolve to ensure peace and stability at home. This is all the more important nowadays when everyone understands that such phenomena as terrorism, extremism and organized crime pose a real threat to the peace and well-being of states and entire regions.
In this context, the role of Central Asian countries in supporting reconciliation processes in Afghanistan is of particular importance. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov confirmed Turkmenistan's willingness as a neutral state and immediate neighbor of Afghanistan to ensure relevant conditions for direct talks between all parties interested in the peaceful political settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. It is clear that there is no alternative to the negotiation process. All previous experience has shown that forceful action are counterproductive and have no prospects for success.
Implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects involving Afghan partners, primarily in such vital areas as energy, transport and communications, is seen as the key condition for political stabilization, economic and social recovery of Afghanistan and its successful integration into regional and international economic processes.
As is known, working persistently in this direction, Turkmenistan has initiated a number of large regional projects. Some of them have been successfully completed by now. Ashgabat plans to continue the work on implementation of significant projects with participation of Afghanistan and other neighboring countries, and it would welcome Central Asian states joining such projects.
"Nobody knows and feels better than us, neighbors of this country, the scale and depth of the Afghan problem, the aspirations and hopes of the fraternal people," Gurbanguly Berdimuhmedov said. Therefore, the countries of Central Asia are destined to play a special role in supporting Afghanistan, work more actively at the UN with partner states, the UN Secretariat and specialized structures so that the task of providing comprehensive assistance to Afghanistan does not go to the background and remains high on the international agenda.
Interest in Central Asia from external economic and political centers is increasing every year. This is natural. The region is rapidly turning into one of the energy-transport and transit centers of international importance. The availability of huge natural resources and advantageous geographical location are the objective factors that attract serious investments for implementation of large-scale projects. It is clear that economic attractiveness of Central Asia for large foreign companies, investment funds and individual states will only increase over time. And the main task now is to do everything possible to ensure that the region meets the modern requirements of the robust economic competition and becomes an integral part of the international economic processes as an equal and effective partner. In this regard, Turkmenistan believes that the regional countries should play an initiative role in building modern energy and transport-transit infrastructure in the region and a long-term strategy of cooperation with external partners based on shared interests and prospects.
The interaction under 5+ formula has intensified noticeably in recent years. This refers to the cooperation formats of the five Central Asian states with the European Union, the United States of America, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Other leading states of the world are also interested in such format. The agenda of meetings under this format can be very broad and varied, yet issues related to economics, energy, transport and logistics invariably occupy the leading place.
In this context, according to Turkmenistan, it is important to intensify a dialogue with partners in these areas, conduct it purposefully, show them the benefits and prospects of long-term investments in the regional infrastructure and use more actively the levers of international specialized structures.
Industry, transport and energy were the key topics at the First Caspian Economic Forum in Turkmenistan last August. It was noted at the forum that the Caspian region and adjacent territories, primarily Central Asia, play a crucial role in establishing the strategic belt of transport-transit and energy partnerships along the East - West, Asia - Europe route. In this context, the states of the region with no direct access to the World Ocean need to make the most of the port infrastructure of the eastern Caspian to export their products to the markets of Europe, Russia, Transcaucasia and the Middle East. In this regard, Turkmenistan is ready to provide its port facilities on favorable conditions.
The potential of intraregional transport communication is far from realized. However, despite some examples of joint implementation of a number of projects in this area, it is too early to talk about the systematic work on turning Central Asia into a modern, combined and highly efficient transportation hub. Turkmenistan offers to come to grips with these projects and join efforts to develop transport and transit corridors and logistics.
Partnership in the field of innovative development and high technologies is currently an extremely relevant topic. It reflects the course of modern global development, in which innovation is synonymous with efficiency and competitiveness. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov expressed confidence that all Central Asian states without exception have the potential for innovative growth, excellent scientific schools and advanced technological developments. He urged to join efforts in this direction and put the economies of the regional countries and development of the region as a while on the distinctly innovative and digital path.
Ensuring the sustainable development of Central Asia, improving quality of life of the population directly relate to solving environmental problems in the region, including one of the main problem, such as saving the Aral Sea. Efforts in this direction were discussed in detail and certain agreements were reached at the Summit of the founding states of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) in the city of Turkmenbashi in August 2018. To this effect, important steps were made towards improving the IFAS activities and enhancing its effectiveness. Turkmenistan supports the continuation of cooperation in this area and greater use of the potential of the international community, especially the UN and its specialized bodies.
"Saving the Aral Sea is not only a task of practical nature, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized. This is our responsibility to history. The Central Asian civilization evolved and our identity took shape largely on the shores of the Aral Sea. Therefore, we have to do whatever is necessary to bring future back to the Aral Sea."
Conservation and management of water resources are the most important issue for the region. Turkmenistan is in favor of bringing together efforts of Central Asian countries through a common worldview platform and principles of ensuring equal and fair access to water resources as a duty of any responsible state. Ashgabat believes that addressing and solving water management issues should be based on the universally recognized norms of international law, mutual respect and due regard for the interests of all states in the region and with participation of specialized international organizations.
Speaking of finding solutions to the most important political, economic, technological and environmental problems to ensure a worthy place for Central Asia in the 21st century, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that the countries of the region rely on the common civilizational foundation, the centuries-old and largely unique type of relations between the Central Asian peoples. It includes the community and affinity of cultures, traditions, values and moral principles. This great legacy inherited from ancestors is carefully preserved and translated into the present day. Nowadays, culture and history cement interstate relations. They are the most important factor in bringing people closer to each other. By encouraging broad humanitarian contacts and developing cultural ties, states thereby ensure the continuity of traditions of good neighborliness, mutual understanding and sympathy for each other.
Noting the key role of creative intelligentsia in this process, the President of Turkmenistan came up with an idea of establishing a region-wide cultural dialogue, which is to be held on a systemic and regular basis, and proposed to name it the Forum of Cultural Dialogue of Central Asia. The forum should be tasked with establishing a comprehensive, multifaceted interaction between the cultural communities of the regional countries, popularization of the enormously rich spiritual and historical heritage of the peoples of Central Asia, modern achievements in the field of literature, art, cinema and promotion of extensive contacts among youth.
"Turkmenistan is strongly committed to further developing and strengthening the fraternal good neighborly relations with all states of Central Asia, Gurbanluly Berdimuhamedov emphasized. We clearly see the potential and prospects of interaction in politics and security, economics and trade, ecology, science, culture and education. We share common goals, and we gradually move towards their achievement. I am sure that the current meeting will open up new opportunities for this."


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005