Ashgabat, 20 February 2017 — DPM Rashid Meredov (foreign affairs) conducted a press conference on Friday (17 February 2017) immediately after the oath-taking ceremony of Berdymuhamedov. It turned quickly into a candid dialogue.
After his initial remarks, Meredov opened the floor and several heads of diplomatic missions and international organizations voiced their views:
- Ambassador Hassan Abdullah Al-Adhab of UAE
- Ambassador Alexander Blokhin of Russia
- Ambassador Francois Delhousse of France
- Ambassador Takahiko Karsumata of Japan
- Ambassador Valentin Shevalyov of Ukraine
- Ambassador Mustafa Kapucu of Turkey
- Ambassador Orman Nurbayev of Kazakhstan
- Ambassador of Afghanistan
- Elena Panova, resident coordinator of UN system in Turkmenistan and country head of UNDP
- Natalya Drozd, head of OSCE Ashgabat
- Neda Berger, president of Austrian-Turkmen society
- Aksoltan Atayeva, permanent representative of Turkmenistan at the United Nations and ambassador to Venezuela
- Chynar Rustemova, ambassador of Turkmenistan to China, Mongolia and Vietnam
Meredov gave his comments after the remarks of each speaker. It was an important event because there were no prepared speeches – the dialogue was a good indicator of the state of relationships. Moreover, the comments of Meredov can be interpreted as explanatory notes for the foreign policy management of Turkmenistan.
The interactive dialogue continued for about two hours and thirty minutes.
The remarks of the ambassadors of the UAE, France and Afghanistan and the comments of Meredov to their remarks were in the English language. This part of conversation will be presented later.
The remarks of the rest of the speakers and Meredov’s comments were in the Russian, Turkish and Turkmen languages. Here we are producing the English language translation of the transcript:
Meredov: Today, Turkmen President asked me to continue this conversation, which took place here, at Ruhyyet Palace. This dialogue regards to the main trunk lines both in the development of our country, and the priorities in internal and foreign policy of Turkmenistan.
President of Turkmenistan, addressing the people of our country, once again stated about firmness of the policy, which he has pursued for the last 10 years. He has reiterated his commitment, as the leader of Turkmenistan, to the values and priorities that are practiced during this period – short by historical standards, but very important from the point of view of state building.
Many of the issues are of strategic nature in terms of further expansion of the international activities of a neutral country. You, distinguished ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, being directly engaged in those achievements of our country, and you are involved in almost all activities of national and international importance, held not only in Ashgabat, but also in all provinces of Turkmenistan. You know, that President of Turkmenistan shows special respect for the diplomatic corps accredited to Ashgabat. During any significant events, the head of state has used the opportunity for a brief talking with the authorized representatives of foreign countries, representatives of international organizations.
Thereupon, I believe, maintaining a high level of relationship with each other, we will work together and continue the noble endeavors and initiatives emanating from our side and your countries. We are grateful for the active position of many ambassadors, heads of agencies, representatives of international organizations, for your constructive ideas, which become a good basis for building up partnership capacity both in bilateral and multilateral formats.
In his address, President of Turkmenistan, speaking about the foreign policy of our country, had emphasized that the basis of foreign policy is neutrality. We, relying on our permanent positive neutrality, will further develop, strengthen, deepen and broaden our relations with all countries, with the major international organizations. Equally, we treat all countries with respect, and stipulating our priorities, we have always stressed that the foreign policy of Turkmenistan and its main objective is to ensure the most favorable external conditions for the peaceful and stable development of the country. We emphasize that the creation of favorable external environment certainly does not depend entirely only on us. It depends on how Turkmenistan will be able to build and develop its relations with the outside world. It depends on you also, dear colleagues, ambassadors, on your activity in Turkmenistan.
These activities are always charged to the positive. The experience of positive cooperation, which we have achieved within 25 years of independent existence, is a solid political foundation for building relationships.
Today we have heard the vision of the head of state on global issues such as the political system of our country. He has sounded very concrete idea – the idea of strengthening of an important institution i.e. the Council of Elders. Historically, our people always show great respect to elders, having wise life experience, and all the important decisions in the society and country adopted after broad consultations. This regards to issues of internal and foreign policy. President of Turkmenistan has very clearly expressed the idea that this line will be continued and in the near future some proposals will be elaborated, which will be implemented by the Parliament.
The head of spoke in detail stated about approaches to social and economic development of the state. The work towards the creation of an industrial society in our country will be continued. The role of agriculture was stressed, and it will be paid a lot of attention.
In addition, President of Turkmenistan focusing on the fact that Turkmenistan is a country rich in natural resources, has prioritized the development of fuel and energy sector. The head of Turkmen state will target the government, respectively other institutions, and encourage the private sector to deal with development of transport and communication. This is important in the present terms.
Speaking of communications sector, President stressed its importance and said that this is one of the most important areas, not only in economy, but also in social life. Through communication and the access to information, the progress is going on. In this area, pretty much done – access to extensive information network Internet. This is very important in terms of social development.
Turkmen President identified three main principles – Education (educated generation is the key to a very strong state). Culture. Health of the nation is the wealth of the state. These areas will be given a lot of attention.
Turkmen leader, being committed to the idea of further democratization of state and society, said about the introduction into practice in the near future of the Ombudsman institution and briefly described the scope of its authorities. This is very important from the point of view of development of the state and society.
The President of Turkmenistan noted that the most important task is to strengthen the state, sovereignty, enhancing the role of Turkmenistan’s neutral status.
He stressed that being a neutral country and based on its defense doctrine, Turkmenistan will continue to work on further improvement of the law enforcement and military agencies.
This is such a wide range of areas and priorities of the state policy, which you have just heard in the speech of the President of Turkmenistan. It gives us the opportunity to continue this dialogue in our professional format.
I’m talking also about the media. We are engaged with you in activities directly related to the information. So today all together, in such a wide range, we can talk in details on these topics in the context of today’s speech of President of Turkmenistan.
Afghan Ambassador.(eng) ——- Meredov (comments in Eng).
Russian Ambassador Alexander Blokhin: 12 February and today [17 February] – these days in the history of Turkmenistan will become historical dates. We have seen the enthusiasm with which the President of Turkmenistan had been congratulated on winning the election and assumption of office. We see the successes that Turkmenistan has achieved in the previous years of his presidential term. Today, he outlined the priorities for his activities for 7 years. Many will see those successes that Turkmenistan will be able to gain in this period.
I think that Russian-Turkmen relations can make a significant contribution to the realization of the plans of the President of Turkmenistan. Recently, during a telephone conversation with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev just such plans had been discussed. Once again we confirmed that our relations are of strategic nature. The Foreign Ministry and the government of Russia will try by their works at every-day basis to prove to our peoples, that they [relations] are really of strategic character.
On 21 February it is scheduled to hold the meeting of the intergovernmental commission, which is also aimed at enhancing cooperation and filling it with concrete content.
I wish that stability that implements Turkmenistan, throughout Central Asia, and even in a broader context, would be maintained for the medium and long-term prospect. Russia will do everything to ensure that it would be absolutely normal for Turkmenistan.
Meredov: I’m sure that soon we will take a number of practical steps to build cooperation with our strategic partner – the Russian Federation.
The range of the partners of Turkmenistan, expanding annually, will continue to grow. The telephone conversations, took place recently in the last few days, show the high interest for Turkmenistan from other countries of the world. Among first, the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Chairman of the government Medvedev called. During the telephone conversation, the sides exchanged views on a wide range of issues related to our bilateral cooperation. The international, regional issues were touched upon. We very soon will make significant steps to strengthen these relations.
The meeting of the intergovernmental commission will be held on 21 February, Tuesday in Moscow. The agenda of the 10th meeting includes issues of trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation.
We will inform journalists. We are using such format as briefings. I take this opportunity to address to you (media) to be active. We are ready to work with the media in premises of the Ministry of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan.
UAE Ambassador. (Eng). ——- Meredov comments in eng.
Ambassador of Ukraine Valentin Shevalev: Ukraine is very much obliged to the President of Turkmenistan, because Gurbanguly Myalikgulyevich has launched transport construction in Turkmenistan and he decided that these bridges can be built by Ukrainian companies.
In Turkmenistan two rail and two road bridges across the Amu Darya River were built. Complex construction. If the first bridges were [by length] 1410-1418 meters, the bridges that will be commissioned will be of 1620 meters. They are one of the most powerful bridges in Central Asia. Road bridges have the width of 21 meters.
On the railroad Atamyrat-Imamnazar- Akina two railway bridges were also built – 360 and 252 meters – they were built by Ukrainian companies. This decision was taken at the level of the President of Turkmenistan.
(According to the Ambassador, on the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan, Ukrainian companies had gained the chance to engage in realization of a part of Great Silk Road project).
Meredov: Ukraine is one of the very close countries for Turkmenistan. The fact that our President gave a start to the development of cooperation with Ukraine in the sphere of transport and communication is undoubted. However, our cooperation is multifaceted. It includes areas such as political and diplomatic interaction. For 25 years, Turkmenistan and Ukraine, by working together as two friendly states on the international platform, have proved that they are reliable partners. Constructive initiatives of our country are always been supported by Ukraine.
Over the years we have accumulated great positive experience in trade and economic block. The Ukrainian companies pursue activity in various sectors of the Turkmen economy – energy sector, for example. Let’s look at it from the point of view of diversification. What we call today the creation of multiple pipeline infrastructure, there is a huge contribution made by Ukrainian companies – Sumskoye Association named after Frunze is a long-standing very important partner in the construction of new elements of the infrastructure on the territory of Turkmenistan – gas compressor stations, booster stations, built in almost all regions of the country.
Six bridges – in short time. This is a breakthrough. It is the policy of our President, which was supported by Ukraine and part of the policy had been realized by efforts of Ukrainian companies. Ten years ago there were zero bridge on the Amu Darya. Today there are 4 bridges, built by Altcom company and 1 bridge built by Turkmen builders. There are two bridges constructed in the same province along the route of railroad from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan with further access to other countries in Central and South Asia. This road has extension and great future. No wonder, President of Turkmenistan called the railroad as the International Asian railway corridor. Crossing roads in the territory of Central Asia and adjacent zones is an important segment in the transport infrastructure of the Eurasian continent.
(Minister of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan highlighted cultural and humanitarian areas of cooperation with Ukraine. Thousands of Turkmen students study in Ukraine “Turkmenistan is ready to develop a comprehensive partnership with Ukraine as a friendly state”, he said).
Ambassador of Kazakhstan Orman Nurbayev. In Turkmenistan, all tasks are implemented consistently. Predictability and consistency are very important factors in relationships. For Kazakhstan, it is essential. We with Turkmenistan are neighboring countries. We are brother states.
We have almost completed the demarcation of the borders. We had never, have no and will never have any mutual claims and territorial disputes. We are bound by cultural, historical, linguistic, religious roots. Both countries are building multi-ethnic multi-religious societies, maintaining a balance.
The motto of the President of Turkmenistan “Dovlet – adam uchindir” [The state created for man] reflects the essence of the internal policy of Kazakhstan as well. Kazakhstan understands that all the ambitious plans cannot be realized without sustainable stable development of our nearest neighbors. In this regard, there is an interest to the dynamic development of Turkmenistan.
In economic terms, it should be noted the focus on the industrialization of the economy, creation of production with high added value, focus on high-tech industries. This is very important when the matter is the countries closely bound to the commodity sector.
Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are a resource-based economies, it is a big plus, but at the same time, it is great challenge for the state in the long term. This is a serious test. I hope that Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan will stand this test.
The observers from Kazakhstan had been invited for elections as well. They worked in frames of CIS, SCO missions. The head of Central election commission of Kazakhstan personally worked here for a few days. There were representatives of the local electoral and legislative bodies of Kazakhstan. Particularly it was noted how people voted together, I am talking about the civil activity of the population. This is an important factor.
Someone perceived skeptically some ideas, voiced yesterday. But much has been realized. I’m talking about own country and equally about Turkmenistan.
[Ambassador thanked Turkmenistan for support of Kazakhstan’s candidacy in the election for the position of non-permanent member of UN Security Council]. Kazakhstan sees this mission as a regional and a special place is given to Ashgabat considering the peaceful policy of the President of Turkmenistan. We hope that at the platform of the UN Security Council by joint efforts, we can achieve results that will serve the peace and progress in our region.
[Ambassador outlined the transport and transit potential of the region. He mentioned that the regional countries are united by the landlocked country status. This complicating factor is a challenge, presenting new opportunities. Ambassador Nurbayev also referred to a number of major projects, involving both Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. They are gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China, North-South railway].
I would like to note space sector. For skeptics, it may sound unusual, but then being implemented and bearing results for the population.
[According to the Ambassador, the President of Turkmenistan was invited to pay an official visit to Astana]. This visit would contribute to the development of the region. Under the region, I mean Afghanistan as well. We do not leave Afghanistan outside the region. Afghanistan’s problems are the problem of each of us. Turkmenistan has transparent plans and we [Kazakhstan] will be key allies in these plans.
Meredov: The spectrum of relations between Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan is very wide, but we still have great potential for expansion of cooperation in various fields. You outlined transport, energy, space. These are new areas which Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as independent states started to develop. Yesterday, someone had perceived it at the level of ideas, and today it is a reality.
Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are among the space powers. We have our own satellites. We work through them, we do it gradually and competently. In order to extend this activity, along with the technical equipment, facilities and delivery means, it is necessary to have good human resources. We do this and we will continue. This is a promising area of our bilateral relations.
Within the framework of the UN, we today with Kazakhstan have a lot of examples, when two neighboring states, two UN members, sharing the same positions, pay attention to such issues as the strengthening of international peace and security, promotion of sustainable development.
Kazakhstan was honored to be the first country from Central Asia to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. And we hope that in this area, we will find common ground through which we will continue to enhance political ties.
Elena Panova, UN Resident Representative in Turkmenistan (Eng.)
Meredov: Today, President of Turkmenistan, in his statement put forward the tasks that are directly related to SDGs.
For several years Turkmenistan is actively involved in the preparatory process of the United Nations long-term strategy. In particular, President, addressing at the UN General Assembly sessions, initiated and promoted into practice such important components of the current program of SDGs as sustainable energy, sustainable transport, sustainable water, sustainable environment, etc.
The UN has adopted several resolutions on the initiative of President of Turkmenistan – in December 2008 and in May 2013 – UN General Assembly Resolutions on sustainable energy issues.
Resolutions on sustainable transport thematic were adopted by United Nations in December 2014 and December 2015. In addition to the initiation and promotion of these issues at the United Nations, the President has officially voiced concrete proposals in the framework of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio + 20 (June 2012), during the World Water Forum (March 2015, Korea, Daegu).
One of the main goals today is to ensure fair and equitable access to safe drinking water. The concrete proposals were made at the forum in Daegu.
Climate change, namely combating the risks associated with global warming is an important element of sustainable development. Today, it is our common counteraction. What are the means, methods and mechanisms – it is another matter. They are all known to you.
President of Turkmenistan in March 2015 in Japanese Sendai during the global forum on disaster risks presented the program. He stated that Turkmenistan, in the context of the practical implementation of global multilateral instruments at the national level, will take concrete actions to develop a national strategy aimed at early warning of natural disasters. These proposals had been voiced precisely the moment when the SDGs were in the process of elaboration. And we are pleased that the proposals of the President of Turkmenistan to some extent got reflected in the 17 SDGs and 169 tasks.
Turkmenistan became one of the first countries in the world that formally declared on commitment to all 17 goals, 148 tasks and 194 indicators necessary for the implementation of the SDGs at the national level. We are engaged in this, preparing national programs and plans, focusing on these criteria.
These tasks and the criteria will be adapted in our plans and programs. In this regard, cooperation with the UN agencies in Ashgabat will be effective.
OSCE Ambassador Natalya Drozd. Inauguration and election are very important events in the life of any state. Head of state today outlined the priorities and directions, which are also part of the OSCE mandate. This means that we have very good prospects for further fruitful cooperation. Important goal is to strengthen the country’s stability and security.
President outlined the important tasks such as the fight against transnational crime, counterterrorism, fight against illegal drug trafficking, and during his election program – he also spoke about the anti-bribery – a very important element.
OSCE is the major regional organization in the field of security. The potential that has been accumulated by 57 member countries can be very successfully used in the implementation of all the tasks that were raised today by the President.
Regarding the election, we sent evaluation mission to monitor the elections. ODIHR deals with these issues. The mission carried out the evaluation work. The report will be prepared and with the recommendations will be submitted within 8 weeks.
OSCE Centre in Ashgabat implements support for election commissions and working with law frame. According to our report, we think, some recommendations will be made, and we’ll see what kind of assistance we would be able to provide in this area.
Meredov: The report that will be sent to Turkmenistan will be advisory in nature. Recommendations and advice – this is the form of interaction between our country and the OSCE, which is quite effective.
If you look closely, there are colleagues from different countries and international organizations, and the dialogue, conducted in the sphere of human dimension, is sometimes difficult. However, all that is expressed, becomes the subject for thorough study by Turkmen side. If it is normal, suitable and adopted by the Turkmen side, taking into account the traditions, beliefs, laws of our country, we treat this very positively. There are some moments that we have not yet reflected in our legislation, or they have not yet occurred in practice, for whatever reasons, and in that case we respect the opinion of our colleagues in the international organizations.
If someone is watching carefully for this process, Turkmenistan has made some steps as the adoption of the National Human Rights Plan, the National Gender Plan, and the National Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. All of these steps are outcomes of the consultations that we conduct with our partners – international institutions and individual countries. We will increase interaction in this area. We have nothing to hide here. We have no close or uncomfortable subjects. There are formats in which we can discuss them. It is another question.
[Meredov talked on the preparation process of the new edition of Constitutionin collaboration with international organizations and participation of former heads of the judicial institutions of some countries.]
During his visit to Germany, on the eve of the adoption of updated version of the Constitution, the President openly answered all the questions, including the possibility of visiting the prisons. Yes, we will do it consistently, quietly, gently. We had already organized two visits – to prisons in Bayramali and Dashoguz. In this regard, we have problems and questions. And with OSCE, being as very important partner, we will continue to work together on these issues.
You have touched on such issues, as the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational crime. Yes, the President openly said so. Turkmenistan will continue to be committed to the principles of fight against these threats of 21st century. In this direction, we will step up our cooperation with international organizations. OSCE is one of the major international organizations that effectively address these problems.
In the practice of our relations with the OSCE, we have developed such a format that we prepare annual plan, trying to take into account all three main dimensions of the OSCE – the political, politico-military dimension, economic and environmental, human dimension. We will do this in a balanced manner, through projects that are agreed upon for 2017.
French Ambassador (eng) ——- Meredov comments in eng.
Ambassador of Japan (in Turkish). [He mentioned the implementation of the TAPI project, in the light of involvement of Japanese companies in development of Galkynysh field, which will be the raw material base for the pipeline. Ambassador pointed out the power energy sector, where Turkmenistan has all opportunities to increase the volume of electricity exports, including to the neighboring country of Afghanistan.]
Meredov praised dynamic development of friendly bilateral relations between Turkmenistan and Japan. In particular, he highlighted contribution of the high level contacts to the broadening the legal base of Turkmen-Japanese relations.
In our foreign policy, we always pay attention to such important vectors as public diplomacy. In addition to official diplomacy, with our Japanese friends we have such form of contacts as public diplomacy. There are delegations that visit each other on informal basis.
Dr. Neda Berger, the chairman of the Turkmen-Austrian Friendship Society appreciated the high level of cultural relations between two countries.
Ambassador of Turkey Mustafa Kapucu in Turkish
(Meredov noted the historical roots of friendship between the peoples of Turkmenistan and Turkey. It is political and economic relations, and in this aspect, there is still much to do, the minister noted.)
Ambassador Aksoltan Atayeva, Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan to the United Nations expressed gratitude to all the UN members and co-authors for adoption of resolution initiated by Turkmenistan, on recognizing of 12 December as the International Day of Neutrality.
Turkmen Ambassador to China, Chinar Rustamova said that recent presidential elections to the utmost differ from the similar events of the past. “In particular, we are talking about a huge political activity and high level of organization of the presidential elections. In China, all the conditions had been created in all provinces for casting votes by Turkmen students”, she said.
Meredov: The inauguration of the leader of Turkmenistan, which took place this morning, was another strong impetus for further development of our contacts in Ashgabat and abroad.
To be continued . . .