At the inaugural session of the First Caspian Economic Forum at Awaza on 12 August 2019, the president of Turkmenistan, the prime ministers of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, and the first vice president of Iran answered some questions from the moderator.
We are presenting here the slightly summarized and paraphrased translation of their answer:
The President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov answered a question regarding the differences between Turkmenistan’s policy of reviving the Great Silk Road and the project “One Belt – One Road” implemented by the Chinese Government, which are definitely focus on a common historical basis.
The president of Turkmenistan said that at all times, at all ages, the Great Silk Road has historically been a transcontinental route, moreover, a land route with two-way traffic, which has been mentioned many times. It has always connected many countries and peoples. And there is a lot of historical, archival data confirming that Turkmenistan was the core of the Great Silk Road. Evidence of this are the cities such as Amul, ancient Merv, Kunyaurgench, Khazar, as well as the Caspian Sea.
Based on this, we began to revive the Great Silk Road, the Turkmen leader said, noting that in his speech he emphasized that in the context of modern realities it is necessary to modernize the appropriate infrastructure. This is the construction of seaports, airports, highways, etc. As said today, attention must be paid to multimodal highways and modernization of railways. Thus, now we are gradually, at the present level, continuing the ideas of the Great Silk Road, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted.
Participating in these processes, Turkmenistan, as a country whose neutral status was twice recognized at the world level, proceeds from its national, peacekeeping diplomacy, carrying out activities in this direction under the auspices of the United Nations and specialized transport structures, the head of state emphasized. It is encouraging that to date, the UN General Assembly has adopted three Resolutions on transport issues initiated by our country.
Our peoples living in the Caspian region are united by the common bonds, which serve as bridges. And in today’s speeches, it was also noted that it is necessary to continue to build bridges. As our ancestors said, each person in his life must build a bridge, and this is good, but if he builds several bridges, then this is a blessing. That is, they will also unite peoples, countries. As for the Chinese partners’ project “One Belt – One Road” and Turkmenistan’s policy to revive the Great Silk Road, these two economic strategies are in demand, as they are designed to serve the well-being and prosperity of the peoples of all our countries, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted.
The question from the moderator was: I would like to hear your assessment of the prospects for the development of the Caspian, both from the point of view of the actual development of the region, and in the context of intensifying international cooperation in the Caspian.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that my assessment can only be excellent. Obviously, we have not just gathered here to express our warm emotions to each other, although sometimes this is also necessary. We gathered to develop our Caspian region. And Russia is no exception. In this regard, it is no coincidence that the Volga is mentioned. 60 million people live in the Volga basin in our country. Therefore, the Volga and, accordingly, the Caspian are for us the most important parts and the most important arteries of the life of our large state. That is why we are paying great attention to this.
I must admit that in recent years – as it happened – the Volga was engaged in less than it would be necessary, and probably there was not enough money allocated for this.
Now a decision has been made to deal with the revival, restoration of the Volga channel and, accordingly, to develop the regions that are adjacent to the Volga, and there are many such regions. In our program “Improvement of the Volga” 15 regions of the country participate, not counting Moscow. Programs such as Volga Health Improvement should be aimed at ensuring that the Volga retains its significance as a place where more than a third of the population of our country lives, and as a transport artery and a unique ecological pool.
We allocated money – in the coming years, about 200 billion rubles in order to deal with all these projects. And of course, we expect that our efforts will also serve as a contribution to our common treasury for the development of the Caspian basin, since here we are all connected by common environmental requirements. Here, my colleagues answered this question. And of course, we will also make our contribution to the implementation of these tasks.
The moderator asked Prime Minister Askar Mamin of Kazakhstan about the work done on the practical implementation of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, adopted in 2018, and on the coordination of plans and deadlines for the implementation of its provisions. He mentioned that the Kazakh city of Aktau went down in history as the place of signing of this most important document, which opens up great opportunities and prospects for cooperation of the Caspian littoral countries.
The prime minister of Kazakhstan said that indeed, exactly a year ago in Aktau, the above-mentioned Convention was signed, which was worked on for almost 25 years. This was a historic event for the Caspian countries.
But, in addition, several Agreements were also signed, including on cooperation in the trade and economic sphere and in the transport sector, and other documents. All of them form the basis for the development of partnership between the countries of the Caspian basin. Practical work is already underway to implement these Agreements.
At present, Prime Minister Askar Mamin continued, the ratification of the core document by all states is expected. Three countries – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan – have already ratified it.
According to the statement by the head of the Government of the Russian Federation, Russia intends to ratify the Convention this year. We also expect appropriate solutions to these issues from our Iranian friends, expressing confidence that all appropriate legal frameworks will be created in the near future.
At the same time, he emphasized that the First Caspian Economic Forum and the events held within its framework are already the practical implementation of those agreements. Once again expressing gratitude to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for the excellent organization of the forum, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan noted that the exhibition, which opened yesterday, and panel sessions, and the discussion of numerous cooperation development projects, are just effective steps to implement the agreements reached in Aktau.
Thus, a lot of work lies ahead, he said, emphasizing that all the countries confirm their focus on achieving concrete results.
The moderator said that every year on August 12, Caspian Day is celebrated. It was on this day in 2006 that the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, signed in Tehran on November 4, 2003, entered into force. He asked the first vice president of Iran, Ishaq Jahangeri, to comment on the ecological cooperation in the Caspian region.
Answering it, the head of the Iranian delegation emphasized that the ecology of the Caspian Sea, the protection of its flora and fauna is a very important issue that the Caspian countries should pay great attention to.
For this purpose, the aforementioned Convention has been signed, and in the near future a Secretariat should be created for its implementation. Therefore, taking into account that the Caspian is a rich source of raw materials and other resources, when using its wealth special emphasis should be placed on the environmental aspects.
The moderator asked the Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov of Azerbaijan about the cooperation between the Caspian Sea-Black Sea regions, and further steps being taken to bring partnership in this direction to a practical plane.
The prime minister of Azerbaijan said that it is relevant and important. He expressed the opinion that everything that was said today has the goal of developing such cooperation. In this regard, the first step is precisely the holding of the First Caspian Economic Forum. He noted, at one of his meetings with the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the idea was voiced that it was necessary to create a bridge across the Caspian, connecting one side with the other, and then everything would go very well. /// nCa, 15 August 2019