Peace in Afghanistan is arguably obtainable in the foreseeable future.
The real question is: Would it be lasting, robust peace?
This would largely depend on how ready Afghanistan is for its economic revival.
Perhaps, economic remake is a better term than economic revival when we imagine an Afghanistan at peace with itself and the rest of the world, an Afghanistan that is not a chronic recipient of aid but a member of the donor community.
Peace, when it is established, will be fragile. To thrive, it will need infrastructure that can stimulate economic activity. The essentials for lasting peace include energy, communications, and transport facilities and infrastructure.
The best time for planning these things was yesterday.
As Afghanistan meandered through the labyrinth of war, how many countries were actually working to create ground realities for the remake of the economy of Afghanistan? How many countries were interacting with Afghanistan that didn’t have their own political agenda?
Very few countries come to mind, and among them is Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan has 744 km of common border, touching the Herat, Badghis, Faryab, and Jowzjan provinces of Afghanistan.
Since its independence thirty years ago, Turkmenistan has been providing different kinds of support to Afghanistan. In addition to subsidized electricity and petroleum products, there have been a number of infrastructure initiatives that are now clustered as a mega-corridor – TAPI Corridor.
The TAPI Corridor includes the TAPI gas pipeline, TAP power transmission network, TAP fiber optic link, motorway, railway line, and related facilities.
14 January 2021 was an important day. A railway line, a power transmission line, and two fiber optic links were put into service, bringing the TAPI Corridor a step closer to reality. The presidents of both the countries participated in the commissioning ceremonies through the video link.
On 16 January 2021, the DPM and foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov moderated a briefing on these events. He turned it into an in-depth discourse when he conducted a question-answer session. In answering the questions from the local and foreign media and the academic community, Meredov gave a detailed picture of Turkmenistan’s long term support for Afghanistan. For some questions, the consul of Afghanistan in Ashgabat, and the minister of energy of Turkmenistan provided additional input. The head of UNRCCA answered an important question.
The heads of UNRCCA (UN Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia), OSCE, the ADB country office, the consul of Afghanistan in Turkmenistan, and the minister of Turkmenistan for energy made speeches. We will produce the text of some of these speeches in the later parts of this report.
In this first part of the report we are producing the press release issued by the Turkmen foreign office on the briefing of 16 January 2021.
In the second part of the report we will briefly describe how Meredov answered the questions, and in doing so how he gave some very important information.
This report is all about Turkmenistan’s role in preparing Afghanistan for its economic remake.
On January 16, 2021, the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov held an Informational briefing in Ashgabat, dedicated to the commissioning of three infrastructure facilities – a power line in the direction of Kerki (Turkmenistan) – Sheberghan (Afghanistan), a 30-kilometer railway section between stations “Aqina-Andkhoy” and the International fiber-optic communication system and transit flows along the route Ymamnazar (Turkmenistan) – Aqina (Afghanistan) and Serhetabat (Turkmenistan) – Torghundi (Afghanistan).
The event was attended by the ministers, heads and representatives of diplomatic missions and representative offices of international organizations working in Turkmenistan, rectors of the country’s universities, chief editors of print media, representatives of national media and journalists of foreign mass media accredited in Turkmenistan. The Ambassadors of Turkmenistan in foreign countries, as well as more than 30 representatives of foreign mass media from 15 countries of the world took part in the event through videoconferencing.
The head of the Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan described these projects as real steps aimed at the consistent involvement of Afghanistan to regional and international economic processes, the integration of this country into the system of continental transport and logistics ties. The importance of their successful implementation was noted in the context of present and prospective bilateral, regional and international cooperation, including the positive impact on the general geo-economic and political situation in the region.
During his speech, R. Meredov emphasized that the construction of infrastructure facilities in Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, in terms of its geo-economic and geopolitical significance, transcend its regional boundaries, and in fact means the formation of a new belt of transport and communications and the energy supplies of the continental level on the Turkmen and Afghan territories, connecting the Central Asia and South Asia with Europe and the Middle East. This, in turn, is the practical embodiment of Turkmenistan’s international initiatives in the field of sustainable development in transport and energy sector, which the country proposes within UN. As examples, the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline, the construction of cross-border railways, bridges, power lines and fiber-optic communications with the participation of neighboring countries and other countries, work on the launching of the Lapis-Lazuli transport corridor along the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey route were presented.
In this context, during the briefing, the importance of cooperation with international organizations, including the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and the European Union, was noted. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan announced the conjugation of multilateral interests, the strive of partners to diversify transport and energy flows, which creates preconditions for joining the mentioned projects of a number of integration associations, such as the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States. In this regard, R. Meredov stressed that the bilateral Turkmen-Afghan infrastructure projects should be considered as part of more comprehensive plans on the establishment of geo-economic space uniting the states of the region, neighboring countries, other states, and aimed at forming an integrated system of continental cooperation in Eurasia.
The head of the Foreign Ministry confirmed the firm adherence of Turkmenistan to providing comprehensive political, diplomatic and economic support to Afghanistan, which constitutes a single long-term state strategy for Turkmenistan’s cooperation with this country. R. Meredov stressed that the basis of such cooperation is the reliance on the historical traditions of friendship and good-neighborliness of the two fraternal peoples, the awareness of the fact that Afghanistan is the most important and integral link of regional and continental stability and security, and the assuredness in the ability of the Afghan people and their leadership to overcome the existing difficulties and achieve peace and harmony in the country, attain its economic prosperity.
The Minister of Energy of Turkmenistan Charymyrat Purchekov, the Counselor of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Turkmenistan Ahmad Tariq Noorzadeh, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Asia, Head of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia Natalya Gherman, Head of the OSCE Center in Ashgabat Natalya Drozd, Director of the Resident Office of the Asian Development Bank in Turkmenistan Chang Ching Yu also gave speeches at the briefing.
Speakers noted that these initiatives of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, which were implemented, contribute to an increase in the volume and expansion of the geography of electricity exports, and an increase in the transport and transit potential of the entire region. It was also noted that the commissioning of these projects contributes to the implementation of the transit and transport potential of the two states, their interaction in the energy and communication sectors, integration into the system of modern international economic relations.
At the end of the briefing, Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan answered the questions of the representatives of the news agencies, in particular the “News Central Asia” (Pakistan), “TRT” (Turkey), “Agence France Press” (France), the faculty members of the Institute of International Relations of the MFA of Turkmenistan, the International University for the Humanities and Development and the local press. /// nCa, 18 January 2021
To be continued . . .