The summit talks between President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov and President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan took place on Thursday morning at the Ruhiyet Palace in Ashgabat.
The presidents inked the strategic partnership agreement and endorsed a joint statement. Eight other documents were signed.
Berdymuhamedov and Ghani spoke briefly to the media about the outcome of the visit but did not take any questions.
Later in the day, President Ghani delivered a lecture at the institute of international relations and answered some questions from the students.
The following documents were signed on conclusion of the summit talks:
- Treaty of Strategic Partnership, signed by the presidents of the two countries
- Memorandum of understanding on the development of cooperation in the oil and gas sector between the governments of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan
- Memorandum of understanding between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on increasing the volume of Turkmen electricity supplied to the province of Herat of Afghanistan
- Agreement on air communication between the governments of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan
- Memorandum of understanding on the construction of Akina-Andkhoi railway link between the agency Türkmendemirýollary of the Ministry of Industry and Communication of Turkmenistan and the administration of the railway transport of Afghanistan
- Agreement between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on point of international railway crossing at the Turkmen-Afghan border
- Rules of organization between the railway stations Serhetabat-Turgundi on the Turkmen-Afghan state border
- Agreement on cooperation between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters
- Memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Maktumguly institute of language, literature and national manuscripts of the academy of sciences of Turkmenistan and the national archives of Afghanistan
The presidents issued a joint statement. The translation of the complete text of the statement is included in this report.
The presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan held tete-a-tete, and expanded format talks, and jointly addressed a press conference.
Here is the gist of the overall narrative:
The Turkmen-Afghan dialogue is now at a new stage, and concrete steps are being taken to strengthen and expand it. This meeting is taking place on the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. — Afghanistan is grateful for the continued support and cooperation of Turkmenistan.
The cooperation in the trade-economic sphere is full of potential which must be tapped. In 2018, the trade turnover between the two countries was USD 684 million. This can be expanded and diversified with active involvement of small and medium enterprises. Turkmenistan will support every step for the expansion of the trade-economic cooperation including the reciprocal exhibition of goods and services.
There is the need to maintain focus on the joint infrastructure projects including TAPI gas pipeline, TAP power and fiber link, railway connectivity, etc.
There is similarity of views. There is the tradition of fruitful interaction, bilaterally and in the framework of regional and international organizations, first of all, the United Nations. — Afghanistan always supports the position of Turkmenistan at international platforms.
Turkmenistan is ready to render full assistance to the UN and other international and regional structures in creating mechanisms for preventing and eliminating conflicts in the region, in developing appropriate political and diplomatic methods. As a neutral state and closest neighbor, our country is ready to create the necessary conditions for establishing direct relations between the Afghan Government and all parties interested in resolving the situation in Afghanistan by peaceful, political means.
Ensuring security in the region can be achieved only as a result of an implacable fight against terrorism, and Turkmenistan is ready to continue bilateral cooperation in this direction and work together with international organizations. The decisive factor in this issue is the integrated implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and the 2011 Ashgabat Declaration.
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan will continue, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to combat drug trafficking, cross-border organized crime and other illegal actions.
The main condition for political stability in Afghanistan, its socio-economic revival, successful integration into the system of regional and world economic relations is the implementation, with the participation of the Afghan side, of major infrastructure projects in such strategic areas as energy, transport and communications.
Turkmenistan has initiated a number of important regional projects that are already being implemented. A year ago, with the participation of the leaders of the two countries, a new stage in the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline was launched. At the same time, the foundation was laid for power transmission lines and fiber-optic communications in the direction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP), and the Serhetabat-Turgundi railway was commissioned. The construction of TAPI will create 12000 new jobs in Afghanistan and the annual transit revenues could be close to USD one billion. TAP will be able to handle 2000 megawatt transmission of electricity.
New opportunities, particularly of local importance, are opening up now. For instance, Turkmenistan is ready to build Kelif-Sheberghan gas pipeline. This would be done by Turkmenistan from its own resources and funds. Negotiations are already taking place between the relevant departments of both the countries.
In the power transmission sector, the Rabatkashan-Kalainau line was commissioned last year and now we are planning Hamyap-Garkin connection.
In the railway transport infrastructure, the Serhetabat-Turgundi line was successfully implemented and now Turkmenistan is ready to start negotiations on the extension of the railway link up to Herat. — The Afghan side is ready to do the necessary work for this project.
Turkmenistan is ready to consider the technical and economic project work for the railway link from Akina to Andkhoi.
In order to harmonize all the issues related to the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, the systematic meetings transport ministers of the participating countries will continue to take place.
The joint Turkmen-Afghan commission for trade and economic cooperation is a productive and useful platform.
In the humanitarian sphere, Turkmenistan has built a school in the Balkh province, a rural hospital in Faryab province, and a maternity hospital in the Herat province.
President Ghani delivered a lecture at the institute of international relations of the foreign office of Turkmenistan. He spoke about the outcome of his visit, the future prospects of partnership between the two countries and his views on the peace process in Afghanistan.
The students and the staff members asked some questions.
Here is the unofficial, slightly paraphrased translation of the complete text of the joint statement issued by the presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan at the end of their summit talks in Ashgabat on 21 February 2019:
At the invitation of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, the official visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to Turkmenistan took place on 21 February 2019.
During the bilateral talks, the heads of state exchanged views on the state of and prospects for the development of Turkmen-Afghan relations, as well as on topical issues of international and regional character of mutual interest.
The presidents, discussing the implementation of previously reached agreements and signed bilateral documents, noted the high rates of development of cooperation in political, trade, economic, scientific, technical, cultural, humanitarian and other fields. In an effort to bring the Turkmen-Afghan dialogue to a new level, the Heads of State signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Turkmenistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. This Treaty will further strengthen the traditional friendship and good neighborly relations between the fraternal peoples.
The parties, on the basis of mutual interest in continuing and strengthening multilateral cooperation on the principles of equality, good neighborliness, mutual benefit, mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests, noted the relevance of further developing the legal framework for the practice of bilateral relations and political consultations.
The Heads of State reaffirmed the need for further interaction in the fight against international terrorism, extremism, hidden migration, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, transnational organized crime and other dangerous challenges of our time, both at the bilateral level and within international organizations.
The President of Turkmenistan expressed readiness to continue to assist in achieving peace and sustainable development in Afghanistan, turning it into a peaceful and prosperous state, while respecting the choice of the Afghan people for the political and socio-economic development of their country.
The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan noted that the policy pursued by the President of Turkmenistan is a great contribution to strengthening stability and security, ensuring sustainable socio-economic development of the states of the region.
The parties agreed to further deepen mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation, support in the development of productive partnerships between the business circles of the two countries and the regions. It was noted that as an effective way of preparing agreed measures for the further development of mutually beneficial cooperation, it is necessary to intensify the work of the joint Commission.
The heads of state, considering the main directions of economic cooperation, paid particular attention to the transport and communications sphere. The sides expressed satisfaction with the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, power lines and fiber-optic communications along the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route (TAP) and their readiness to fully assist in continuing work in this direction.
The leaders of the countries noted with satisfaction the beginning of the implementation of the five-sided Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Turkey and Turkmenistan dated November 15, 2017 on transit and transport cooperation (Lapis Lazuli Corridor Agreement). The parties reaffirmed their support for the proposal to hold a meeting of transport ministers and the heads of the customs services of the States Parties to the Agreement in May 2019 in Ashgabat.
The presidents highly appreciated the completion of works and commissioning of the Serhetabat-Turgundi and Kerki-Imamnazar railways systems, as well as the Rabat-Kashan-Kalainav electro-conductive line. Support was expressed for the implementation of the plans for the construction of the Atamurat-Khamyap-Garkyn transmission line.
The parties agreed to assist in the development of cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture, art, tourism and sports, as well as in establishing links between relevant organizations, cultural figures and artists, research centers, educational institutions and the media.
The presidents praised the expansion of the list of areas [institutions] for training Afghan specialists in educational institutions of Turkmenistan.
The Heads of State announced the provision of comprehensive support in the study, protection and promotion of the rich historical and cultural heritage of the two peoples.
The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Gani, expressed his gratitude to President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov and the people of Turkmenistan for the warm welcome of the delegation and hospitality and invited the President of Turkmenistan to pay a return visit to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at his convenience. The dates of the visit will be agreed through diplomatic channels.
President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Ashgabat, 21 February 2019
The visit of President Ghani to Turkmenistan took place at a time when the situation in Afghanistan is moving to some kind of conclusion. Nevertheless, this visit was planned well in advance and cannot be directly connected to whatever else is taking place in the Afghan picture.
The signing of the Treaty of Strategic Partnership is a bold expression of confidence by Turkmenistan in the peaceful and stable future of Afghanistan.
It is not just a bilateral arrangement – it is the insurance of the continuation of cooperation in all areas, mainly the energy, power, transportation and transit, at regional and global level. The importance of this treaty will gradually become clear when the foreign forces start their withdrawal and the space becomes available for the partnership initiatives.
In all, nine documents were signed and a joint statement was issued. The list of these documents is given elsewhere in this report.
The presidential palace of Afghanistan has prepared an infographic to categorize these documents. According to this infographic, the joint statement and the treaty of strategic partnership are placed at the top, four documents are grouped under the heading of ‘economy,’ one is in the area of ‘education,’ and three are in the category of ‘infrastructure.’
As President Berdymuhamedov pointed out, the new initiatives unveiled during this visit are of local importance.
The railway lines and power transmission networks are being systematically expanded deeper into Afghanistan, creating a belt of opportunities along the Turkmen-Afghan border. Among other things, these initiatives will create the capacity for the local populations to benefit from the mega projects such as TAPI gas pipeline, TAP power and fiber link, and the Lapis Lazuli Corridor.
This visit was also a demonstration of the active neutrality of Turkmenistan at work. The president of Turkmenistan reiterated the offer to facilitate the inter-Afghan dialogue. The parties to the Afghan equation and the world community would be well advised to consider this offer seriously. /// nCa, 22 February 2019