2017 Chronicles: Open doors and positive neutrality policy

During extended session of the Cabinet of Ministers on January 26, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov gave balanced assessment to the outcomes of the last year, having characterized it as successful for the country in general.

The components of this natural success lay within many layers starting from far-sighted leadership and wise management at all levels up to efficient organization of the activities at sites and practical implementation of mere ambitions.

Special cycle of materials starting in this issue presents the review of important events of the last year under the main sphere of social and political, social and economic life of Turkmenistan.

1. Open door and positive neutrality policy

From the beginning of 2017, independent neutral Turkmenistan was in the centre of special attention of the world community. The elections of the Head of the State on February 12 when 2548 ballot pools in the country and 39 stations abroad at diplomatic missions and consulates of Turkmenistan were established raised keen interest.

Existing President of the country had confident victory with 97.69 percent of the votes. The Concept of Foreign Course of Neutral Turkmenistan in 2017 – 2023 outlining the content and priorities of international cooperation of our state in middle-term view was approved at the session of the Government on February 18 right after the inauguration.

Paying great attention to the cooperation with competent structures, Turkmenistan pays special importance to the development of close strategic partnership with the United Nations, which was reflected in the Concept. It also includes constructive proposal of the Leader of the Nation on wide implementation of the instruments of preventive diplomacy, political and diplomatic tools for the solution of complicated situations arising in the world. In this regard, further consolidation of the cooperation with the UN, OSCE, Non-Alignment Movement, ICO and other organizations is stipulated.

Negotiations between President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres who came to our country on working visit on June 13 were bright evidence of wide recognition and support of progressive policy, high international authority of our state that seeks to place its peace-making and creative potential for the service to humanity for universal prosperity and progress.

It was noted during the meeting that the agenda of Turkmenistan – UN cooperation includes such strategic spheres as sustainable transport, energy security, counter-terrorism, fulfilment of the Goals of Sustainable Development and other. The partnership in these fields has long-term character and is built on systematic basis and similar principles and opinions on final result.

During his trip to Turkmenistan. Antonio Guterres took part in the meeting “High-level Dialog between the UN and Central Asia on realization of the UN Global counter-terrorism strategy”. The meeting brought together the ministers, high-rank officials and heads of counter-terrorist agencies and national security of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The agenda included the discussion of the fulfilment of Joint Action Plan of the above-mentioned strategy of the United Nations on regional level. The adoption of Ashgabat Declaration on counter-terrorism was important outcome of the meeting.

It is remarkable that 10th anniversary of the opening of UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) was observed together with the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s membership in the UN. Its establishment was remarkable event in the history of bilateral cooperation. Since the beginning of its work, the Centre has recommended itself as reliable stronghold of the United Nations in the region, having become important negotiation ground for close cooperation between the United Nations and Central Asian countries in many topical issues.

The Resolution of the Role of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia was adopted at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly to mark the anniversary of the Centre. Continuing the subject it is worth mentioning that unanimous adoption of the Resolution on the institution of International Neutrality Day at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly on December 12 was indeed historical fact.

There was another good news from the UN Head Quarter in New York in the end of the year. The Resolution on Strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Goals of Sustainable Development was adopted by all members of the UN during the 74th sitting of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly according to the proposals of Turkmen leader.

It is also worth mentioning that Turkmenistan was elected to the Executive Board of the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) in 2018 – 2020 as well as to the Committee on Women Status in 2018 – 2022 at the session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Economic Cooperation Organization is competent international organization, which main objectives is the establishment of favourable conditions for economic development of the regions, steady and gradual integration of its states to the world economy.

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov took part in XIII High-Level Summit the Head of the States members of the ECO on March 1, 2017 in Islamabad (Pakistan).

Turkmen leader noted in his speech at the Summit that the ECO has big potential for the expansion of cooperation especially in such vital issue for the region as security, which efficient provision Turkmenistan sees based on the principle of its integrity and indivisibility. For our country it means that political, economic, energy, food, ecological and other security cannot exist separately. They have to supplement each other making integral category in geopolitical and geo-economic contexts, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov highlighted.

The Head of the State had a meeting with Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Muhammad Navaz Sharif in the forum, who noted exclusive appropriateness of international initiatives proposed by Turkmen leader aimed at the establishment of solid base for stable peace in the third millennium. The Prime Minister of Pakistan highly appreciated the appeal the President of our country to the necessity of the development of innovative approaches to the activity of the ECO.

Priority directions of bilateral cooperation were discussed during the meeting of the Head of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov with President of Turkey Rejep Tayip Erdogan in Islamabad. Trade and economic sphere, energy sector, transport and communications, construction industry and other were outlined among the main vectors of cooperation.

Continuing transport and logistic subject, we would like to note historical event that occurred in the first decade of March 2017 – the opening of automobile and railway bridges Turkmenabat – Farab with the participation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Head of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev who visited out country on the state visit.

The length of automobile and railway bridges are 1600 and 1750 meters. Both facilities meet high international standards and are made of modern materials and provided with all necessary from technical and operation safety point of view.

During high-level Turkmen – Uzbek talks finished one day before this remarkable event, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted the importance of practical realization of the agreements on development of international transport corridor Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Iran – Oman, which equally meets economic interests of the members of the project.

On May 20, during working visit of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Turkmenistan, the leaders of two states discussed different aspects of cooperation in political sphere including in international organization format as well as consolidation of peace and stability in the region and Asian continent particularly in Afghanistan. The agreements achieved during the meeting as well as package of signed documents gave new impulse to the realization of the potential of Turkmen – Uzbek partnership.

Recently, our State actively improves comprehensive relations with Arab countries, which is indicated by the state visit of the President of Turkmenistan to the State of Qatar in the middle of March. Successful high-level talks confirmed the intent of both sides to give new content to existing relations.

During the meeting, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani discussed key positions of cooperation in accordance with the priorities of social and economic development of two countries at modern stage, outlined specific measures aimed at practical realization of the agreements achieved earlier.

During the visit, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met Eneral Executive Director of Qatar Investment Chamber Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammed Bin Saud Al Thani. The perspectives of cooperation under the programmes of modernization of the economy and implementation of advanced technologies, creation of favourable climate for foreign investors and guarantee of the protection of foreign investments expanded in our country were discussed during the meeting.

Continuing the subject of the cooperation with Middle East countries, it is worth mentioning of the working visit of Turkmen delegation to the State of Kuwait made according to the assignment of the Head of the State.

The interest of Kuwait side in expansion of fruitful partnership including in such perspective directions as trade and economic sphere, energy sector, formation of modern infrastructure and other as well as in realization of large investment projects initiated by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was confirmed during the meetings and talks.

The same subjects were discussed during the session of Intergovernmental Turkmen – Saudi Commission for trade and economic cooperation in Riyadh (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in November. Particularly, the official representative of the Government of Saudi Arabia highlighted that Turkmenistan presents investment interest for large companies of the Kingdom that work in fuel and energy, transport and communication, mining and other spheres as well as said about their support of the construction of Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India transnational gas pipeline.

The Republic of Belarus is also one of reliable partners of Turkmenistan. Willingness of the sides to the consolidation of cooperation has been confirmed during official visit of President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to our country in the end of March. Opening of the complex of buildings of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to Turkmenistan took place during the visit.

The President of Turkmenistan paid official visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan on April 18 – 19. Leaders of two countries Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Agreement on Strategic Partnership between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Agreement on Demarcation of Turkmenistan – Kazakhstan state border.

The issues of peace and stability consolidation in the region were reviewed during high-level meeting. Cooperation in Caspian Sea and regulation of the situation in Afghanistan were among discussed subjects. The agreement on the expansion of bilateral, humanitarian, educational and sport relations was reached.

Continuing the subject, it is worth mentioning that International Specialized Exhibition Astana EXPO 2017 also presenting the exposition of Turkmenistan was held in friendly country from June 10 to September 10, 2017. The Energy of the Future was the main subject of the review. National exposition demonstrated the process of the establishment of Turkmenistan as one of the leading energy states of the world. It revealed the potential of the country in renewable energy sources field as well as gave opportunity to Kazakhstan citizens and the guests of Astana to know rich culture of Turkmen nation.

The President of Turkmenistan was honoured guest of the opening ceremony of International specialized exhibition Astana EXPO 2017. In Astana, Turkmen leader had talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev where the condition and perspectives of interstate cooperation were reviewed. The heads of two states spoke for the expansion of trade and economic partnership, business, humanitarian and scientific relations.

On the same day, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met with Chairman of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping who was also on visit to Astana. The Leaders of two countries noted steadfast dynamics of the development of Turkmen - Chinese dialog.

Discussion of the partnership in transport, fuel and energy spheres was held during Turkmen – Afghan negotiations held during official visit of President of friendly country Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to Turkmenistan on July 3. Particularly, special attention was paid to Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India gas pipeline. It was noted that the implementation of such big project would make positive effect on social and economic development of not only participating countries but the region in general.

Continuing the subject, we would like to note that at present time, Turkmen railroad constructors actively build the railway from border station Serhetabat in Mary Velayat to Afghan city Turgundy. The construction of this railway was completely sponsored by our country, having sent its resources to build the railway with related infrastructure on the territory of Afghanistan.

In addition, the VII Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA VII) was held in Ashgabat in the middle of November by the proposal of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat Declaration reflecting the willingness of participating countries and international organizations to further improvement of beneficial partnership in regional and interregional formats was unanimously adopted by the outcomes of the forum.

Signing of five-sided Agreement on establishment of international transport corridor Afghanistan – Turkmenistan – Azerbaijan – Georgia – Turkey “Lyapis Lazuli” was significant outcome of the Conference. This corridor will support the consolidation of cooperation in vast geo-economic space including the regions of Central and South Asia, Caspian and Black Sea basins and Mediterranean.

Efficient partnership with Caucasian countries is also one of strategically important vectors of foreign course of our country.

Official visit of the President of Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan in August was very successful. This is indicated by the adoption of the Declaration on strategic partnership between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan Republic.

Constructive character was inherent to official visit of the President of Turkmenistan to the Republic of Armenia. During high-level meeting, energy, transport, textile industry, financial and banking sphere, agricultural complex, health protection, education, sports and tourism were outlined within key directions. Perspectivity of the development of the relations between business circles of two countries was also highlighted.

2017 opened new horizons of strategic partnership of our country with the Russian Federation. Official visit of the President of Russian Federation to Turkmenistan took place on October 2. The leaders of two states Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Vladimir Putin reviewed priority subjects of interstate relations, specified key directions of cooperation, discussed actual issues of regional and global agenda that present mutual interest.

Special attention during negotiations was paid to the consolidation of universal peace and security, it was highlighted that Turkmenistan and Russia see Central Asian region as a strong link of strategic stability in Eurasia, as the place for realization of large-scale energy, transport and ecological projects that are important for the whole world.

The sides confirmed mutual willingness to the expansion and diversification of trade and economic partnership. Such spheres as industry, energy, high technologies, transport and communication, health protection, agriculture, culture and sports were outlined among priority directions.

Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation efficiently cooperate under the Commonwealth of Independent State. Being associated member of the CIS, our country holds active position practically proving the interest in open and equal dialog initiating new specific approaches to the intensification of traditional economic and humanitarian relations.

Therefore, the participation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in regular session of the Assembly of the Heads of CIS countries in Sochi (Russian Federation) was important event of 2017.

Speaking at the Summit, Turkmen leader highlighted that it is necessary to intensify political and diplomatic cooperation for the improvement of the level of trust between the CIS countries using big resource potential of foreign departments. It is also necessary to expand the cooperation under large international organizations and to take measures for consolidation of efforts for achievement of the goals of the global agenda, the President said.

The importance of creation of efficient mechanisms of provision of peace and stability in Central Asia, non-admission of the conflicts, solution of all existing issues by political and diplomatic measures as well as consolidation of neighbourhood, consideration of mutual interests were highlighted during the negotiations between Presidents Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Emomali Rahmon during official visit of the Head of Turkmenistan to Tajikistan in the beginning of November. Special attention was paid to the subjects of the regulation of the situation in Afghanistan.

It was noted that Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have enough potential for realization of big infrastructural projects in transport and energy. It includes the construction of Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railway as well as supply of Turkmen electrical energy to Tajikistan via Afghanistan.

In 2017, our country chaired the Conference of International Energy Charter. The 28th session of this organization in Ashgabat gathered together 200 delegates from 50 states and demonstrated again its high status of competent ground for the discussion of modern condition and the trends of the world development including in the subjects of global energy. Turkmenistan plays one of the key roles in this direction and as it is highlighted by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, it is able to make positive effect on the development of balanced and agreed solutions in universal scale of energy security.

Turkmenistan chairs International Fund for Saving of Aral Sea since 2017. Improvement of social, economic and environmental situation of Aral states, provision of rational use of water resources and high level of environment protection in the region are the main objectives of this organization.

International conference “Role of International Fund for Saving of Aral Sea in development of cooperation in Central Asian region” was dedicated to the discussion of priority directions of the activity of our state in IFAS during three years (2017 – 2019), to the ways of activation of the cooperation of Central Asian states in all spectrum of issues of environment protection based on successful experience and close cooperation with big international organizations, especially with the UN and its specialized agencies.

Besides, our country was the organizer of various events for the discussion of the issues of cooperation in Caspian Sea. The necessity of constructive partnership for general interests was highlighted during international conference “Peace, Stability and International Cooperation in Caspian Sea” held in Turkmen capital in October 18 with the participation of the representatives of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. Five-sided documents, particularly the Agreement on cooperation of Caspian states in trade, economic and transport spheres developed according to the proposal of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov uttered at the Summit of the Head of Caspian States in Astrakhan (the Russian Federation) in 2014, were signed during the forum.

Unanimous decision of the 201st session of the Board of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held under the 137th Assembly of this Organization on acceptance of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan to the membership of the IPU was another remarkable event of the year. The main activity of Inter-Parliamentary Union is the work on the encouragement, protection and consolidation the democracy on the planet. Joining of Turkmenistan to this representative structure indicates the world recognition of successful activity on consolidation of civic institutions and democratic values in the country.

Numerous meetings of the President of Turkmenistan with official representatives of foreign states and international structures including with the heads of big competent organizations, heads of diplomatic missions accredited in our country, different foreign corporations and companies took place last year.