The heads of the Central Asian states “made sure that we are on the same page” outlining development trends

The heads of the Central Asian states “made sure that we are on the same page” outlining development trends

On August 6, the heads of the Central Asia (CA) countries held the third consultative meeting on the Caspian coast that took place in the national Turkmen tourist zone “Avaza”, the city of Turkmenbashi. The Economic Forum clarified the parties’ stand on regional and international issues in the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Central Asian countries.

The Presidents of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Zhaparov and Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon demonstrated their support for the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev (a member of the political council of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan) who is running for this post again in the elections on October 24, 2021.

The heads of the Central Asian countries tried to demonstrate the unity of their views on strategic economic topics, particularly the development of trade and transport communications and energy cooperation as their priorities.

An emphasis on the said agenda was not a mere coincidence. The point is that the Central Asian countries are located on the “Great Silk Road” routes from East to West, and are a linchpin between the north of the Eurasian continent and its south with the region’s richest deposits of mineral resources (oil, gas, gold, poly-metallic ores, etc.) to play an important role in the energy security of both Asian and European states.

In his speech, the head of Turkmenistan (the country is among world’s top-5 countries in gas reserves) emphasized that the Central Asian countries hold a huge diverse potential to meet interests of common well-being, prosperity and progress.

“The solid foundation of relations between our countries allows us to look confidently into the future, build large-scale, long-term and viable plans for cooperation in a wide range of areas and respond to new global challenges,” Berdymuhamedov noted.

It has to be kept in mind that the previous consultative summit of the Central Asian countries was held in Tashkent in 2019; however, since then, threats to stability, such as the coronavirus pandemic, have appeared in the world; the confrontation has resumed in a number of countries, for example, in Afghanistan, conflict situations in a number of regions neighboring on the Central Asia failed to be resolved.

Against this background, the Central Asian states tried to demonstrate unity and identify specific proposals and to continue joint projects.

Gas projects

As viewed by the President of Turkmenistan, a key component of the economy of the Central Asian states is energy.
“We are all conceptually united in our views on the configuration and prospects of partnership in this area, and we realize that the reliability and stability of energy supplies is the most important factor of economic growth.

Proceeding from the UN documents, we are following the path of creating favorable political, legal and economic conditions in the Central Asia to ensure a safe and sustainable energy partnership aimed at meeting intra-regional energy demands and accessing the world markets through international transit corridors. When adjusted for huge natural resources of the region and the advantages of its geographical location, we can say with firm confidence that today we have all the opportunities for effective implementation of the above task,” Berdymuhamedov stressed.

In his opinion, Turkmenistan is ready to significantly increase the volume of its natural gas supplies to the countries of the Central Asia, or through their territories to foreign markets on mutually beneficial terms.

“Examples of effective cooperation in the gas industry are the supplies of Turkmen natural gas to neighboring Uzbekistan, the construction and operation of the Turkmenistan–Uzbekistan–Kazakhstan–China international gas pipeline. At present, it is planned to intensify talks on projecting a new line of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline which might be laid through the territories of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,” the President of Turkmenistan said.

His son Serdar, deputy head of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, added, among energy issues, that “the national project for the construction of the East–West gas pipeline was successfully implemented which made it possible to connect extensive gas fields in the east of Turkmenistan to the Caspian coast; also, the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India gas pipeline is being laid at full speed.”

It should be added that the President of Tajikistan expressed his satisfaction with the efforts of the Turkmen partners aimed at implementing the TAPI gas pipeline project.

It is noteworthy that projects for the construction of a power transmission line and a fiber-optic communication line Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan have been launched in the same direction, and railway tracks from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan are being built with the aim of connecting them with the road transport infrastructure of Pakistan.

Besides, the Government of Turkmenistan noted that the power capacities of Lebap and Mary velayats of Turkmenistan make it possible to significantly increase the supply of electricity to the countries of the Central Asia.

Transport projects

Speaking in favor of more active development of cooperation in the transport and communication sphere, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon expressed his conviction that the full use of the region’s potential in this area would contribute to ensuring the competitiveness of the national economies of the Central Asian countries and their access to seaports.

It has to be noted that on August 6, at a meeting in Avaza, the President of Turkmenistan reaffirmed the country’s readiness to provide its port facilities on the Caspian Sea to be used in the interests of all countries of the region.

In this context, President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov announced a proposal to create a five-party working group at the government level to study the possibilities of forming new transport and communication routes towards the Central Asia-Caspian – Black Sea region with access to Southern Europe, as well as the Central Asia-the Middle East.

He emphasized that “today, the most important task is to restore full-fledged trade and economic relations between our countries, increase the volume of mutual trade turnover, expand it and update it qualitatively. Here you can discuss issues of harmonization of norms and rules in the field of collecting taxes and duties, determining common transit tariffs, simplifying customs and migration procedures. We also need an objective analysis and realistic proposals to increase the volume and diversify trade turnover, “President Berdimuhamedov believes.

His son Serdar called on the neighbors of the Central Asian countries “to get more actively and specifically involved in the development of plans for the creation of modern transport, logistics and energy infrastructure, because the implementation of major projects in the Central Asian region and adjacent zones is a feasible task that enjoys the support and assistance of serious foreign partners.”

He added that “it is necessary to combine efforts to create favorable conditions for cargo and passenger communications between our countries, as well as Central Asia with other regions of the Eurasian continent. This task is directly directed to achieving the strategic goal, specifically the effective functioning of existing and the creation of new transport and transit corridors along the North-South and East–West lines where the Central Asia is minded to operate as the most important link…It is necessary to identify new areas of partnership, primarily through the construction of trans-regional facilities – roads and railways, bridges and other elements of transport infrastructure…The most important aspect of the economic growth of the Central Asian countries is the access to foreign markets, primarily to neighboring countries. We can offer them involvement in the joint energy, transport, and trade projects,” President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov said.

Also, he stressed the importance of developing the transport corridors Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran, Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman (Kazakhstan recently joined it too), as well as the transport and transit corridor Afghanistan-Turkmenistan–Azerbaijan–Georgia–Turkey.

The head of Kazakhstan spoke in favor of expanding the export opportunities of the Central Asian countries and attracting investments in strategically important sectors of the regional economy.

To his opinion, “the existing Kazakhstan–Turkmenistan–Iran railway provides great opportunities. The same is true of port capacities of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as the Turkmenbashi–Garabogaz–Kazakhstan border highway with their great potential.”
In turn, the head of Kyrgyzstan backed the formation of new multi-modal transport corridors; the expansion of the land transport infrastructure of international importance and the creation of logistics centers in Central Asia.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev offered to create a single commodity distribution network integrated into the transport corridors of the Central Asia.
“This new infrastructure, consisting of wholesale distribution and agro-logistics centers, will allow to perform coordinated deliveries of our goods to the markets of the Eurasian Economic Union, the CIS and third countries. It will enable us to saturate our own markets with agricultural products during the off-season,”the President of Kazakhstan said.

To sum up the transport topic, Serdar Berdymuhamedov, following the meetings on August 6, added that the unity of views and approaches to this area of partnership creates the necessary prerequisites for practical cooperation between the Central Asian countries.

“The question here is about the achievement of the two-pronged goal: first, to establish effective cooperation within the region, and second, to fully integrate into continental and world economic relations as an important subject of modern geo-economics. We do our utmost to avail of the most objective competitive advantages that our countries have – benefits of geographical location at the intersection of strategic Eurasian routes, extensive resource and raw material potential, structural compatibility in a number of parameters of the economic development. These factors make Central Asia attractive for serious and long-term external investments, and open up opportunities for a broad international partnership. An appropriate impetus for approaching these objectives depends on real, practical steps by the Central Asian countries themselves, primarily through the initiation of large-scale infrastructure projects, “the only son of the President of Turkmenistan, deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the country believes.

As a result, all the proposals of the parties were summarized in a Joint Statement.
It noted, in particular:
– The parties consider it a priority task to ensure the sustainable development of the Central Asian region by further strengthening ties in trade, economic, investment, industrial, financial, energy, agricultural, communication, social, environmental and other areas of mutual interest.

In order to jointly develop the financial system and attract investments to the region, the parties agreed to use the platform of the Astana International Financial Center as an economic platform connecting the countries of the Central Asian region, including foreign investors.
– The parties note the importance of increasing mutual trade turnover and the need to further develop mutually beneficial approaches to effectively solving the problem of trade procedures simplification in the region.

The parties stress the necessity of intensifying work on expanding cooperation between the business circles and the regions of the Central Asian states in order to increase mutual trade, implement joint economic projects, including the development of trade and production sites in the border territories, as well as a network of wholesale and distribution centers.

– The parties emphasize the importance of further deepening multilateral cooperation in the transport and transit sphere in order to ensure free and unhindered transit of goods and cargo, including the creation of new and modernization of existing international routes for aviation, road, rail, river and sea transport, multi-modal transport corridors, international multi-functional logistics, trade and tourism centers; the introduction of innovative, energy-saving and electronic technologies, simplification of cross-border procedures to comply with the best international practices and the implementation of other joint infrastructure projects that ensure the effective use of the transit potential of the region.

The parties will make every effort to jointly develop the international corridors “North-South “and “East-West”.
The parties stressed the necessity of accelerating the creation of a regional meeting on transport communications, coordinating the program and agreement on the joint development of the transport system in the Central Asia with due regard for the ongoing and promising projects on the formation of profitable international transport corridors with the participation of the region’s states.

It is worth reminding that the parties supported the initiative of the Uzbek party to create a regional center for the development of transport and communication connectivity under the auspices of the United Nations.
The parties intend to increase the volume of mutual trade by creating regional value chains and joint industrial clusters, increasing cooperation in promoting the digital economy.

– The parties stated the need to create a five-sided Council of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of the Central Asian countries in order to make mutual cooperation into trade and economic, energy, transport and logistics and innovation areas purposeful and systematic.

– Guided by the necessity of increasing the sustainability of food systems, the Parties agreed to support supply chains and widely implement mechanisms of “green corridors” for food and essential goods.

– The heads of the states emphasized the necessity of close cooperation in the field of tourism aimed at accelerating the recovery of the sector after the pandemic and resuming tourist exchange between the region’s countries.

The parties also agreed to intensify activity directed to creating tourist zones and clusters in cross-border territories; to promoting tourist products and routes in order to create a single space in the Central Asia.

The parties are supportive of close cooperation between state tourism management bodies and tourism companies, as well as between other organizations involved in the development of international and domestic tourism.

The heads of the states admitted the need in diversifying the economy, in particular, the renewable energy and various chemical industries.
What is important to notice is that the proposal of the President of Kazakhstan on the development of a joint water policy and the introduction of advanced technologies for effective management of trans-boundary river resources as well as the measures to save the Aral Sea and solve environmental problems of the region was adopted.

In general, the “Joint Statement” signed in Turkmenbashi contains 28 items, and it is the time to tell how they will be implemented.

This article originally appeared in TURAN INFORMASIYA AGENTLIYI on 08 August 2021.