CROSSING OF ROADS AND OPINIONS
Early in 2022, Turkmenistan adopted a program on development of transport diplomacy until 2025. The program provides for considerable intensification of international cooperation in the transport sector. It aims to make Turkmenistan one of the key players in the international transport corridors not only in the region of Central and South Asia but also in the Eurasian space as a whole. This will help increase profits from transit and strengthen the national economy. Establishment of optimal cost-effective logistical routes for national exporters and importers is another equally important task pursued by the program.
To address these tasks the government of Turkmenistan provided for measures in the program of transport diplomacy to ensure the dynamic development and building capacity of the national transport industry in order to bring quality of its operations closer to the international level.
Holding an international conference of ministers of transport of landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) in Ashgabat is one of the important practical steps in implementing transport diplomacy. This event is significant in terms of improving transit and transport cooperation between the countries.
The transport conference is an effective platform for the further strengthening of transport and transit cooperation between landlocked countries. It helps to develop recommendations and identify opportunities for improving transport infrastructure in the landlocked developing countries, increase international support in the field of transport, strengthen cooperation in the field of transport for the benefit of LLDCs.
The program of development of Turkmen transport diplomacy until 2025 provides for strategically important measures to ensure the comprehensive modernization of the material and technical base of all types of transport in the country, establishment of modern specialized infrastructure and further strengthening of Turkmenistan’s position as a regional center of international transport and transit corridors.
The program also provides for strengthening the legal framework of the transport sector and international cooperation in this area, preparation of the road transport code of Turkmenistan, continuation of cooperation with the UN, the International Federation of Forwarding Associations, the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Road Transport Union, the Organization for Cooperation of Railways, the International Maritime Organization.
The extent to which the importance of international transport cooperation has increased is evidenced by the attention that the leadership of Turkmenistan is now paying to these issues, and above all in the international arena. In fact, during his first official foreign visits to Russia and Iran as the President of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedov named intensification of partnership in the transport sector the priority areas of bilateral cooperation.
As was noted at the meeting with President Vladimir Putin on June 10 in Moscow, a number of major joint projects are being successfully implemented, including in the field of transport. Among them is the construction of a multi-purpose dry cargo ship, two high-speed passenger motor ships by the United Shipbuilding Corporation, as well as plans for construction of passenger-and-freight ferries for Turkmenistan.
The Russian Transmashholding has built two diesel locomotives for the railways of Turkmenistan. In March, a contract was signed for another five such machines. KAMAZ increased deliveries of its products to the Turkmen market. Last year, about two thousand trucks were supplied, and a new training center of the company was opened in the city of Turkmenbashi.
The Declaration on Deepening Strategic Partnership between Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation signed by the heads of the two countries following Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s visit to Moscow says that Turkmenistan and Russia will expand cooperation in the field of transport. It also notes that the sides welcome the constructive interaction between the Transport and Communications Agency under the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation. The countries will cooperate in the field of civil aviation, international road communication to create favorable conditions for national carriers.
Later, on June 16, at the talks with Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Serdar Berdimuhamedov called transport cooperation in the Caspian Sea a strategic prospect for bilateral cooperation, the role of which as an international hub of commodity flows will increase. In this regard, Serdar Berdimuhamedov highlighted the importance of improving the legal basis for transport cooperation in the Caspian Sea. The talks in Iran resulted in signing a Joint Statement and nine documents, including the Comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding on development of transport and transit cooperation. The Joint Statement by the leaders of Turkmenistan and Iran stressed “the importance of practical implementation of major projects in the field of transport, including the Agreement between the governments of Iran, Oman, Qatar, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on establishment of the International Transport and Transit Corridor” dated April 25, 2011.
Serdar Berdimuhamedov also spoke about the need to intensify regional cooperation between the Caspian countries in the field of transport at the recent VI Caspian Summit of Heads of State that took place in Ashgabat on June 29. The President of Turkmenistan called the economic sphere, including transport, logistics, communications and energy, an unconditional priority of cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
The same topics were reflected in the Communique adopted by the VI Caspian Summit that enshrined the principles of freedom and safety of navigation, the right to free access from the Caspian Sea to other seas and the World Ocean, transit for expansion of international trade and economic development; freedom of civil aircraft flights in accordance with the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Presidents of the “Caspian Five” welcomed the entry into force of the Agreement between the governments of the Caspian states on cooperation in the field of transport, which was signed in Aktau on August 12, 2018.
Turkmenistan also highlighted the transport sector as a priority area of cooperation within the framework of the CIS and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).
In May this year, on the sidelines of the ECO summit in Tehran, representatives of the Foreign Ministries of Turkmenistan and Iran discussed expansion of economic cooperation in the sphere of energy, transport and transit. The representative of Turkmenistan noted that Ashgabat supports increasing mutual trade and economic relations between the two countries in the context of regional integration. The Iranian diplomat also emphasized his country’s readiness to increase cooperation in the field of cargo transportation along the North-South corridor.
The fact that Turkmenistan sees cooperation in the energy and transport sectors as strategic areas of integration within the CIS was emphasized by Minister of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan Muhammetgeldi Serdarov at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in June this year.
“The greater integration within the CIS can give a powerful impetus for development in the new realities as a space where the largest transport and energy projects are being implemented,” Serdarov emphasized. As an example of implementation of such projects, he cited the Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran railway that opens up good prospects for expanding trade and economic cooperation between the CIS states on the Eurasian continent.
It should be noted that the Russian side views the International Port of Turkmenbashi as the main point in the Central Asian direction. This was announced in early June 2022 by the Acting Minister of Industry and Natural Resources of the Astrakhan Region, Ilya Volynsky, at a video conference on cooperation in the field of transport and logistics with Turkmen partners.
During the talks, the participants discussed transport and logistics opportunities. Fe example, the Olya commercial seaport is ready for implementation of joint projects on development of the ferry line. In turn, the Transport and Logistics Center of Turkmenistan and the International Seaport of Turkmenbashi offer relevant infrastructure to increase cargo turnover between the Astrakhan region and Turkmenistan. The Agency for Transport and Communications of Turkmenistan is ready to use its vessels to establish a regular ferry line Olya – Turkmenbashi, given an increase in cargo turnover. The sides also discussed cooperation in the shipbuilding sector.
Turkmenistan naturally seeks to ensure a high level of development and advanced equipment for all types of transport, as well as adaptation of the legislative and tariff base to regional and international standards that regulate mutually beneficial transit of cargo flows in order to participate on equal terms in international transport projects.
It should be recalled that over 30 years of the country’s independence Turkmenistan has built the Tejen – Serakhs – Mashhad, Ashgabat – Dashoguz, Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran, Turkmenabad – Kerki railways, as well as railway lines to neighboring Afghanistan, such as Kerki – Imamnazar – Akina – Andkhoy, and the railway and road bridges across the Amu Darya. New bus terminals were built in the capital and other cities of the country. Construction of highways connecting Ashgabat with Turkmenabad and Turkmenbashi, as well as roads to Kazakhstan in Balkan province is under way.
In 2018, the International Sea Port of Turkmenbashi was built on the Caspian Sea coast, which can be called the main sea gate not only of Turkmenistan but of the whole of Central Asia. Its total capacity is about 17 million tons of cargo per year, excluding oil products, 300 thousand passengers, 75 thousand trucks, 400 thousand containers. The port can accommodate up to 17 ships at a time.
Work is currently under way for modernization of the transport sector. In 2022, billions of Turkmen manat will be channeled into the technological modernization of the key sectors of the national economy, including the transport sector and, in particular, maritime and railway transport. The goal is to achieve the full operational capacity of the International Seaport and work on creation of transport and logistics centers.
In 2021 alone, a 30-kilometer railway between Akina – Andkhoy stations (Afghanistan) was put into operation, an international airport was built in the city of Kerki in Lebap province, the International Airport was built in Jebel in Balkan province (each with the capacity of 100 passengers per hour), a section of the Ashgabat – Tejen road of the Ashgabat – Turkmenabat autobahn was built.
A project was launched in June this year on construction of a road bridge across the Kara-Bogaz-Gol Bay that will be put into operation by mid-2024. It will become part of the logistics system being built in the west of Turkmenistan. The highway Turkmenbashi – Karabogaz – the border of Kazakhstan will pass through it, becoming a continuation of the multimodal highway Ashgabat – Turkmenbashi and connecting Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. This will make it possible to increase the traffic flow and trade turnover between the two countries.
Turkmenistan also continues strengthening the legal and logistical base of transport and transit corridors. In particular, this is about transit corridors Lapis-Lazuli (Afghanistan – Turkmenistan – Azerbaijan – Georgia – Turkey), Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Iran – Oman, transport arteries within the framework of the two seas initiative “Caspian Sea – Black Sea” and other interregional transport bridges along East – West and North – South corridors.
Taking advantage of its geographical position, Turkmenistan aims to become a major transport and logistics hub of Europe and Asia. The results of 2021, during which transportation of transit goods through the territory of the country increased 3.5 times, prove that the plans are beginning to become reality! Moreover, considering that this result was achieved in the time of global pandemic, its significance becomes even greater.