nCa Commentary by Tariq Saeedi
Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are strategic partners since August 2017. Some additional, powerful features were added to the partnership on 11 March 2020 when President Berdimuhamedov visited Azerbaijan.
After the summit talks held in Baku, the presidents of the two countries issued a joint statement. In addition, seventeen bilateral documents were signed covering a wide range of areas.
The joint statement is of particular significance because it defines the next phase of development of mutual interaction. In addition to making use of the available capacities, the joint statement is carefully penned to serve as a layer of insulation against any external economic and financial shocks.
Three areas are given special treatment in the joint statement: 1. B2B cooperation; 2. Transport and transit potential; and 3. Energy sector.
The statement notes the “need to further stimulate business relations, to get acquainted with the products manufactured in two countries, to study export-import opportunities and to find new forms of promoting economic cooperation.”
Immediately following this, it notes the “importance of creating favorable economic, financial and legal conditions for entrepreneurial activity, increasing the opportunities for goods and services to enter world markets, and organizing business forums that will strengthen contacts between business circles of the two countries.”
Together with this desire to promote the B2B interaction, the documents were signed to open the direct air link between Ashgabat and Baku, and streamline the visa regime for the citizens of both the countries.
The stimulation of mutually beneficial interaction between the business communities – and related state structures – will also serve to some extent as shock absorber against the stress caused by the unpredictable and frequent global economic and financial crises.
Directly connected with the business sector is the sphere of transport and transit. The joint statement confirms that deepening of the “close cooperation in the field of transport and transit is of key importance in the development of international trade between countries and regions.”
In this context, it underlines the importance of joint Turkmen-Azerbaijani Joint Commission on Transport, Transit and Logistics, the Lapis Lazuli Corridor (Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey), and other transport projects within the Trans-Caspian space. The need for close cooperation between the Turkmenbashy Port and Baku Port is also highlighted in the joint statement. — This is solid reassurance to any countries that may be studying the use of the space of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan for the transit of their cargo in any direction.
In the energy sector, the joint statement registers the “intention to further jointly develop and implement energy projects with the aim of ensuring energy security in the region, as well as improving the well-being of the peoples of the two countries.”
An obvious joint energy project can be the Trans-Caspian pipeline for exporting the gas volumes of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in the westward direction.
The joint statement, as a logical first step to this kind of project, says: “The parties stated that the effective implementation of the fundamental document – the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea – requires resolving issues related to the delineation of the bottom and subsoil between the two countries, based on the principles and norms of international law. At the same time, the need to continue the work of the Joint Working Group on the delimitation of the bottom of the Caspian Sea between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan was emphasized.”
* * *
For the last several years, Turkmenistan has been systematically and diligently building the capacity of its private sector. At the same time the country has remained focused on the creation and promotion of transport and transit corridors and the development of hard and soft infrastructure that is a prerequisite for such corridors.
New capacities have been obtained in the non-hydrocarbon sector, particularly the cultivation of surplus fruit and vegetables, and production of construction materials.
The time has arrived to utilize these capacities in a profitable manner. This is the standard shape of all the future interactions of Turkmenistan.
President Berdimuhamedov and President Aliyev issued a joint statement on conclusion of their summit talks in Baku on 11 March 2020.
Here is the unofficial, slightly paraphrased translation of the complete text:
At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, on March 11, 2020, the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov made an official visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Presidents of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan (hereinafter referred to as the Parties),
having negotiated in an atmosphere of high trust and mutual understanding, exchanged views on contemporary international and regional issues of mutual interest, noted the achievement of mutual understanding on a wide range of issues;
Based on the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan dated August 8, 2017, the parties noted with satisfaction the high level of bilateral relations of a strategic nature, which is a key factor in ensuring peace, stability and security in the region and will further strengthen historically traditional, friendly and good neighborly relations between the peoples of the two countries as well;
noted the closeness or coincidence of positions on key issues of international politics of mutual interest, and reiterated their intention to intensify mutually beneficial cooperation on the world stage;
emphasized the need for coordination of efforts within the framework of international organizations, of which Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan are members. The Presidents reaffirmed the importance of enhancing the role of the United Nations and its institutions in resolving global issues, ensuring sustainable development, strengthening security and stability in the world, as well as enhancing the efforts of the international community against acts of aggression that pose a threat to international peace;
reaffirmed that Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, being friendly states, provide strong support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the internationally recognized borders of each other;
emphasized the need for peaceful resolution of conflicts in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law, on the basis of respect and observance of the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the internationally recognized borders of states;
stated the need for further development of cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, extremism, illegal migration, illegal trafficking of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, transnational organized crime and other challenges and threats to international security – both at the bilateral level and within the framework of international organizations;
emphasized the high dynamics of the development of interstate ties in the political, trade and economic, transport and communication, scientific, technical, cultural and humanitarian and other fields;
emphasized the strategic nature of the further expansion of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan;
in this regard, they confirmed the importance of the further implementation of the Program of trade and economic cooperation between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2019-2021;
emphasized the need to further strengthen the role of the Intergovernmental Turkmen-Azerbaijani Commission for Economic Cooperation as a coordinating body for the development of bilateral trade and economic relations, including in the transport and communications sector, and noted the expediency of holding its meeting as soon as possible;
in this regard, emphasizing that mutual investment is one of the factors of economic cooperation, they expressed their readiness to continue to support, protect and encourage investment in areas of mutual interest;
noted the presence of favorable conditions for further building up cooperation in the fields of transport, energy, industry, trade, and agriculture. In this regard, the Parties spoke in favor of the need to further stimulate business relations, to get acquainted with the products manufactured in two countries, to study export-import opportunities and to find new forms of promoting economic cooperation;
noted the importance of creating favorable economic, financial and legal conditions for entrepreneurial activity, increasing the opportunities for goods and services to enter world markets, and organizing business forums that will strengthen contacts between business circles of the two countries;
expressed their intention to further jointly develop and implement energy projects with the aim of ensuring energy security in the region, as well as improving the well-being of the peoples of the two countries;
emphasized the opening of a direct flight between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, which will serve the development of bilateral cooperation, including the development of tourism, cultural exchange, the strengthening of relations between peoples, and the increase in mutual trade turnover;
confirmed that deepening close cooperation in the field of transport and transit is of key importance in the development of international trade between countries and regions;
emphasized the important role of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani Joint Commission on Transport, Transit and Logistics in quickly resolving the issues of transporting transit as well as export-import cargo of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan;
stated that they will continue to support important transport projects that meet the interests of the two countries, including the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey transport corridor project, as well as projects within the Trans-Caspian international transport route;
in order to increase the competitiveness and attractiveness of international transport routes running through the territories of the two countries, they reaffirmed their readiness to continue mutually beneficial systematic cooperation aimed at further optimizing tariffs and providing preferential conditions for the transit of foreign trade cargo;
reiterated the need to fully utilize the existing high potential of the Turkmenbashi International Sea Port and the Baku International Sea Trade Port, which will contribute to the development of the transit potential of the two countries and the creation of favorable conditions for increasing the volume of goods in transit through Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan;
emphasized the importance of the signed documents during the visit of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Turkmenistan and the practical implementation of the Agreement on transit and transport cooperation (Agreement on the Lazurit route) dated November 15, 2017;
expressed the need for the speedy implementation of the project for the construction, ownership and use of fiber-optic communication lines along the bottom of the Caspian Sea on the route Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan;
noted with satisfaction the existence of a serious legal basis for five-sided cooperation in the Caspian, serving to ensure the safety of life and sustainable economic development, and the contribution to its formation in Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan. The parties stated that the effective implementation of the fundamental document – the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea – requires resolving issues related to the delineation of the bottom and subsoil between the two countries, based on the principles and norms of international law. At the same time, the need to continue the work of the Joint Working Group on the delimitation of the bottom of the Caspian Sea between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan was emphasized;
paid special attention to humanitarian cooperation, emphasizing the importance of contacts between relevant organizations, cultural and art workers, research centers, educational institutions and the media. An agreement was reached on a substantial intensification of cooperation in the fields of science and technology, sports and tourism;
expressed the view that the cultural dialogue makes a significant contribution to the development of comprehensive cooperation between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, helps to strengthen friendship and mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries, and the mutual enrichment of their cultures. In this regard, the Parties agreed to provide all possible support to the further development of bilateral relations in the fields of education, science and culture;
in order to further strengthen the traditional friendship between the peoples of the two countries, they expressed their intention to continue the practice of holding Days of Culture of Turkmenistan in Azerbaijan and Days of Culture of Azerbaijan in Turkmenistan, as well as the periodic exchange of delegations of representatives of culture and art;
declared the readiness of their states to deepen mutual relations in the field of sports, and also noted the need to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of training athletes, the development of mass sports and sports science;
noted the importance of further improving mutual visa procedures to simplify the procedures for the movement of citizens of the two countries;
emphasized the need for further improvement and expansion of the legal framework of bilateral cooperation. In this regard, they emphasized the importance of bilateral intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents signed during the visit, which will serve to further strengthen relations between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan;
expressed confidence that the negotiations and documents signed during the visit will give a new impetus to the further development of bilateral cooperation in various fields, will serve the interests of the fraternal peoples of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, and contribute to the growth of their well-being.
The President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov expressed gratitude to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev for the hospitality rendered to the Turkmen delegation, a warm and friendly welcome and invited the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan to visit Turkmenistan at a convenient time for him. The invitation was accepted with appreciation. The dates of the visit will be agreed through diplomatic channels.
Signed in the city of Baku on March 11, 2020 in two original copies, each in Turkmen, Azerbaijani and Russian languages.
President of Turkmenistan
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliyev /// nCa, 12 March 2020