ON BOTH SIDES OF THE CASPIAN SEA
As President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said at the beginning of the talks with President Ilham Aliev, the chief goal of his official visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan was to further strengthen the interstate cooperation and raise it to a qualitatively new level in line with mutual aspirations and potential of the two countries.
Indeed, against the backdrop of serious international geopolitical and economic processes and trends, strengthening cooperation between two close neighbors is seen as an objective imperative, as they are endowed with energy resources and occupy the strategic territories on both sides of the Caspian Sea. Moreover, for all its importance, it is relevant not only from the point of view of mutual economic benefits but also in the context of continental stability and security.
Touching upon this aspect of bilateral partnership, it was no accident that Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized that effective Turkmen-Azerbaijani cooperation in the international arena is based, above all, on the strong commitment of both states to preserving and strengthening the international and regional security and stability.
The principled and strong position of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan makes a notable positive impact on the development of political processes in Central Asia, Transcaucasia and the Caspian Sea region. The President of Turkmenistan spoke in favor of the further strengthening of interaction between the two countries through the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Independent States and other international and regional structures, noting that the practice of mutual support serves the bilateral interests and conforms with the long-term goals of the international community to strengthen the global security architecture.
It was natural that during the talks the sides had a separate discussion of issues relating to cooperation on the Caspian Sea. The signing on 12 August 2018 of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea by the leaders of the five littoral states marks a new stage of interaction in the Caspian Sea and opens up greater prospects for cooperation. First of all, it is about coordinated actions for the implementation of the Convention. The Communiqu of the V Caspian Summit contains a provision on establishing a special mechanism for five-way consultations under the auspices of the foreign ministries. It will be charged with the practical implementation of the provisions of the above-mentioned document, and Turkmenistan is ready to seriously participate in this work.
It should be emphasized that in the context of intensification and diversification of Turkmen-Azerbaijani cooperation on the Caspian issues the agreements reached during the first Caspian Economic Forum in Turkmenistan last August are of great importance.
The agreements reached during the Forum are designed to give a qualitatively new impetus to the all-Caspian cooperation and partnership across a whole range of areas, including crucial ones such as energy, transport, industry, trade, innovation and ecology.
The Caspian Sea now plays an objectively greater role as the largest transport and logistics hub. This is a strategic area that offers prospects for building up trade and economic relations both between the Caspian countries and in terms of gaining access to foreign markets.
The joint work on launching the project of the Caspian Sea - Black Sea transport route is the most important vector in this segment. It is no doubt that connecting the Caspian and Black Sea regions to a single transport corridor will open vast prospects for development of economic partnerships, industrial and energy cooperation, trade and investments, covering not only the countries directly participating in this project but also other countries of Asia and Europe as well as large economic associations interested in developing full-fledged and comprehensive intercontinental relations.
Together with partners from Romania and Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan took the lead in making this work systemic and long-term. The quadripartite ministerial meeting held in Bucharest in March last year was an important step towards creating a very promising and mutually beneficial partnership area.
Cooperation of the two countries in trade, economic and investment spheres was the most important topic of the talks. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the prospects of cooperation in these areas are enormous. Combining the potentials of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan and using their cumulative resources, as well as geographical and technological capacities can make not only a strong contribution to the development of national economies but also lend a fundamentally different meaning and nature to the entire geo-economic architecture in Eurasia.
In the area of international energy cooperation, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan advocate the establishment of a balanced, multi-variant system of energy supplies to the European markets based on diversification of routes, clear and transparent schemes of their functioning, guarantees of reliability and safety, taking into account multilateral interests. This, of course, is beneficial to the immediate participants of the project, because it is economically sound, makes it possible to balance the existing energy supply system, giving it the required stability and protecting it from political risks.
The geographical locations of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan explain the objective need for close partnerships based on a sound strategy for creation of combined transport and transit corridors between Asia and Europe. Such a strategy should provide for construction of new highways with participation of not only Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan but also third countries.
An agreement on the Afghanistan - Turkmenistan - Azerbaijan - Georgia - Turkey (Lazurite) transport corridor signed in Ashgabat on 15 November is an example of such successful cooperation.
It is important to use more intensively the international seaports of Turkmenbashi and Baku with the view of broadening mutually beneficial cooperation in the transport sector.
During the talks, the sides also discussed the need for serious improvement of trade turnover and its diversification. In particular, Turkmenistan is ready to increase exports of oil and gas and chemical industry products, textiles, other consumer goods to Azerbaijan and interested in improving the scale and quality of interaction with Azerbaijan in the field of high technologies. In general, Ashgabat believes in the importance of putting economic cooperation with Baku to the expressly innovative and high-tech path.
The two countries need to work on large-scale projects in industrial cooperation, in the service sector, in the agricultural sector. In this context, the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation should play a more active role. Both capitals expect to receive specific proposals from this commission to improve not only quantitative but also qualitative indicators of trade and economic cooperation.
A huge space opens for partnerships between the business communities of the two countries. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov proposed to focus on the establishment of the Trading House of Turkmenistan in Baku and the Trading House of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Ashgabat to boost such partnerships. Other than that, given the rapid development of the private sector in both countries, establishing a Joint Turkmen-Azerbaijani Business Council also looks promising.
The cultural and humanitarian sphere is one of the priorities of bilateral cooperation, which has received a significant impetus recently. Contacts between representatives of the scientific community and education and artists have become more frequent. Representatives of the two countries regularly participate in international conferences, exhibitions and other events both in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
The sides decided to annually exchange days of culture and organize tours of professional art groups and artists of the two countries with the view of strengthening cultural and humanitarian ties between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Contacts in the field of tourism and sports will be increased significantly.
Following the talks, the sides signed an impressive set of bilateral documents covering various areas.
Summing up the visit, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that he was opening a new page in relations between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Two states and two peoples join hands to move together on the path of progress and development. The Turkmen-Azerbaijani cooperation is based on goodwill, understanding of common goals, reliance on shared values and historical ties. This will provide clear and correct targets for the future, turning into a solid foundation for joint work in the most important areas of partnership.