ARTICLE OF THE ISSUE
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The summit of the heads of member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in Ashgabat in late 2021 became an important milestone in the development of regional partnerships and a kind of barometer that shows the economic “climate” in Central Asia.
The state visit to Turkmenistan by President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a kind of prologue to the political agenda of the summit. He held talks with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in Ashgabat. Following the official meeting, the heads of the two states held one-on-one talks, during which they discussed issues relating to the expansion of bilateral cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
The talks finished with the bilateral documents signing ceremony. To the applause of members of the two delegations, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a Joint Statement. After the signing ceremony, the heads of the two states made statements for the mass media.
The signing ceremony was followed by the official ceremony of awarding the President of the Republic of Turkey the state honor of Turkmenistan – the Order “For Contribution to the Development of Cooperation”. The President of Turkey expressed gratitude to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and noted that he sees this award as a symbol of centuries-old friendship between the two fraternal peoples and clear evidence of the mutual desire for closer relations between the two countries.
On the eve of the summit of the heads of member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Ashgabat hosted the 25th meeting of the ECO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA). In his opening speech, ECO Secretary General Khusrav Noziri briefed the foreign ministers on the current state of affairs in the organization.
Then, the floor was given to the Chairman of the 25th meeting of the ECO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov. In his speech, he noted that the ECO remained for many years an effective mechanism for the development and strengthening of trade and economic relations. According to him, guided by the concept of Turkmenistan’s chairmanship in the ECO, a number of key tasks were singled out, such as boosting investment activities in member states, creating free trade and economic zones, new transport corridors and establishing partnerships in the field of sustainable energy.
The meeting reviewed the report by the ECO Secretary General and recommendations on ECO regional projects for 2021–2022 that summarized the major economic achievements of the organization in the reporting period. Preparations for the 15th ECO summit were one of the main topics of discussions. In this regard, the sides exchanged views on the draft agenda of the summit, as well as documents to be signed during the ECO forum. As a result of the meeting, a number of documents were signed, including the Memorandum of Understanding between the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
In addition, on the eve of the 15th ECO summit, a business forum of the ECO member states was held in Ashgabat. The forum was held in a hybrid format and attended by over 170 delegates, including 40 foreign and 138 Turkmen participants. Over 270 participants from around the world took part in the forum via video link.
The business forum discussed topical issues relating to development of partnerships between business structures of the ECO member states. It was noted that the ECO member states have rich natural and human resources and ample opportunities for increasing economic cooperation in the future. In this regard, it was emphasized that one of the main tasks of the ECO is to support investment partnerships. The business representatives also discussed cooperation between business structures of the ECO member states, their access to new markets, as well as exchange of best practices and advanced technologies.
Bilateral meetings were also held as part of the forum, during which the sides discussed specific joint projects in the fuel and energy complex, chemical industry, agriculture, food and textile industries, trade and other areas.
The 15th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was chaired by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. It brought together President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Iran Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, President of Pakistan Arif Alvi, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev as well as Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin and ECO Secretary General Khusrav Noziri.
Speaking at the summit, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that Turkmenistan, having assumed chairmanship of the ECO at the previous summit, made every effort to ensure that the joint work gained momentum and received new creative impulses. According to the head of state, Turkmenistan believes that the most important priorities of the organization should include development of cooperation in the transport and energy sectors which currently objectively define the global economic growth.
He noted that in partnership with a number of ECO member states Ashgabat started implementing large-scale infrastructure projects in recent years. According to him, Turkmenistan pays special attention to promoting transport and transit communications along the East-West and North-South routes that provide for creation of transport corridors Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Iran – Oman as well as Afghanistan – Turkmenistan – Azerbaijan – Georgia – Turkey. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stated that other than these projects there are many other opportunities for joint work.
In conclusion, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov congratulated the summit participants on the ECO Day and wished everyone new success in strengthening interstate cooperation. Then, the Turkmen leader gave the floor to the participants of the ECO summit. Speakers thanked Turkmenistan for the successful chairmanship of the organization, noting that the 15th Summit was a unique opportunity to confirm common commitments and efforts to expand regional partnership. The meeting participants also expressed their views on the ways to address certain regional and global problems.
Then, the summit agreed on the next member state to chair the ECO next year and the venue for the next meeting of the heads of state. According to the established rotation mechanism, the chairmanship of the ECO in 2022 will pass to the Republic of Uzbekistan. In this regard, the head of Turkmenistan congratulated President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and expressed confidence that the Uzbek chairmanship would give a powerful impetus to the further realization of the ECO potential. As for the venue and date of the next ECO summit, it was noted that they would be agreed by the sides through diplomatic channels, of which the ECO secretariat will notify the member states in accordance with the established rules of procedure.
The President of Turkmenistan hosted an official reception in honor of the participants of the 15th ECO Summit. After the reception, the Turkmen leader said goodbye to his foreign counterparts. On the same day, the distinguished guests departed home from the Turkmen capital.
The special role of the summit of the heads of state was emphasized at the briefing for press on the results of the 15th ECO summit which was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. The briefing was attended by the ECO Secretary General, heads of diplomatic missions of the ECO member states and a number of other foreign countries and international organizations accredited in Turkmenistan, as well as representatives of the national and foreign mass media.
Commenting on the main decisions made at the summit, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov noted that in terms of the scale and importance of decisions the Ashgabat forum can have a long-term constructive impact on the entire geo-economic picture on the continent. The minister stressed that the ECO summit agreed on joint actions aimed at introducing clean energy technologies, made decisions to strengthen cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, develop transport and communication infrastructure in the ECO member states, as well as more efficiently use the vast energy resources of the region.
The Secretary General of the ECO, the heads of diplomatic missions of the ECO member states and a number of other foreign states and international organizations also spoke at the briefing. They emphasized the importance of intensifying interstate cooperation between the ECO member states, contributing to ensuring peace, sustainable development and security on a regional and global scale.
The briefing was preceded by the ceremony of presenting a special ECO award to the representative of Turkmenistan. In accordance with the decision of the 15th ECO Summit held in Ashgabat the day before, the award was conferred on the chief researcher of the Magtymguly Institute of Language, Literature and National Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan, Dr. Yazgylych Orazgylyjov, in the category “History, Culture, Literature and Fine Arts”.