President Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan was interviewed by Radik Batyrshin, the chairman and editor-in-chief of the Interstate Television and Radio Company Mir (MIR TV and MIR 24 TV).
Here is the translation of the complete transcript of the interview:
For the first time, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov gave an exclusive interview to the MIR TV and radio company. In it, the head of state spoke, in particular, about the prospects for cooperation with the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Economic Union, about the country’s neutrality status and about the fight against coronavirus.
– Dear Mr. President, let me first of all thank you for agreeing to this interview. This year, Turkmenistan celebrates the 30th anniversary of its independence. What, in your opinion, does the concept of “independence” mean for the Turkmen people?
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Let me welcome you to hospitable Turkmenistan. Speaking about the importance of independence, I would suggest considering it in the context of the historical development of our country, at least over the last century. Proceeding from this, I am convinced that the acquisition of its independence by Turkmenistan was a logical continuation of its ancient history; the Turkmens, in essence, are a state-forming people. Starting from the early Middle Ages and over the course of several centuries, they took an active and direct part in the creation and successful development of a number of state formations in Central and South Asia, in the Near and Middle East. This is evidenced by numerous facts and documents.
Therefore, I am deeply convinced that 1991 can be considered a significant milestone, from which the return of the Turkmen people to the trajectory of sovereign development began. Our people regained an inner fulcrum, saw the meaning and historical perspective of their existence in the conditions of their own statehood. We really felt a high responsibility for the fate of our state, for the fate and prospects of the next generations. This state, in my opinion, revealed the best features of the multinational people of Turkmenistan: patriotism, dignity, hard work, humanism, respect for the memory of ancestors, tolerance, and willingness to help. All this helped us not only to go through the first, most important period after gaining independence, without shocks, but also to move quickly enough to a stable political,
As a democratic, legal and secular state, as stated in our Constitution, Turkmenistan pays great attention to the development of its legal system, in particular, to the improvement of the legislative framework. I can firmly and confidently say that we have built an understandable and effective structure of state power, the main branches of which: legislative, executive and judicial, function in a balanced manner and mutually complement each other.
Over the years of independence, programs have been implemented aimed at modernizing the economy, integrating Turkmenistan into the world economic space. Today we are following the path of creating an industrial society in the country based on a new industrial infrastructure. At the same time, we are developing other strategically important areas of the national economy such as energy, transport, communications, agro-industrial complex, financial and banking sector.
The strong social policy of the state has become a distinctive feature of our development model. More than 70% of the state budget funds are directed to social needs – to improve the level and quality of life of people, new housing is being built on a large scale, school and preschool institutions, and health care facilities are being built. In total, over 38 billion US dollars have been invested in the construction sector. The size of wages, pensions, allowances, and scholarships is increasing annually by 10%.
The strategic sector of our economy, the fuel and energy complex, has been significantly reformed. New gas pipelines have been built from Turkmenistan, to China, Iran, and the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is in full swing. In addition to energy raw materials, today Turkmenistan supplies environmentally friendly gasoline and diesel fuel, motor oils, liquefied gas and other fuels and lubricants, and electricity to international markets.
A powerful textile industry has been created in the country, the products of which successfully compete in world markets. Food security has been achieved. Conditions for rapid scientific and technological development have been provided. With the launch of the first national artificial Earth satellite into outer space, ample opportunities have emerged for establishing a telecommunication system in accordance with world standards. There is an active process of wide digitalization of all spheres of activity.
In terms of GDP growth rates, Turkmenistan is firmly among the most dynamically developing economies in the world. According to the World Bank, Turkmenistan is among the countries with a level of income above the average developed countries of the world. During the years of independence, the volume of GDP grew by 8.4 times, and the total volume of basic investments in the country’s economy amounted to about 209 billion US dollars. Of these, 66.6%, which is about $ 140 billion, is directed to the manufacturing sector. During the years of independence, 2891 large social and industrial facilities have been built and put into operation. At present, excluding the fuel and energy complex, the share of the non-state sector in the country’s GDP has reached 70%. Despite the negative situation in the world, by the end of 2020, we ensured GDP growth at the level of 5.9%.
Among the state priorities, ecology and environmental protection, the development of a green economy take due place. The country is actively introducing adaptation measures to restore forests and reduce land use to lessen climatic impacts; millions of tree seedlings are planted. In total, over 90 million have been planted in the country over the past 20 years. This year, another 300 million seedlings will be planted in the country. A large-scale project is being carried out to build a unique Lake Altyn Asyr in the very heart of the Karakum Desert to gather collector and drainage waters from irrigated lands in all velayats of the country. Particular attention is paid to providing the population with clean drinking water.
In 2017, Ashgabat hosted the Fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. This event inscribed in golden letters a new bright page in the chronicle of Turkmen sports. The national health care system has been completely modernized, which today includes an extensive network of modern clinics, centers for the protection of mothers and children, diagnostics, emergency medical care and other medical institutions equipped with the most advanced medical equipment. We have achieved widespread iodization of salt, fortification of flour with iron, and a high level of immunization of the population. Diseases such as dracunculiasis, poliomyelitis, rubella, measles, and malaria have been eliminated in the country. These achievements are recognized at the UN level. Our country has been repeatedly awarded relevant international awards and certificates.
The sustainability and efficiency of national health care is evidenced by the fact that we were able to quickly establish the effective operation of medical institutions in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. All other systems of state protection of the population from dangerous infectious diseases were also ready. Among our unconditional achievements, I would also single out the field of science and education, which is experiencing a real upswing today.
It is also obvious that under the conditions of independence, it became possible for an active spiritual revival of the people, its historical identity, the flourishing of the multinational culture of Turkmenistan. Effective cooperation of Turkmenistan with UNESCO is carried out, Ancient Merv, Keneurgench and Parthian fortresses are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which have global and cultural-historical significance and value.
Today, all residents of our country, regardless of ethnic origin, feel that they are an integral part of their common homeland. We are rightfully proud of the unity of the people of Turkmenistan, peace and harmony in society. This allows us to look confidently into the future, to carry out democratic transformations step by step, to improve state and public life, and to successfully develop external relations.
At the same time, I would like to emphasize one, in my opinion, very important point. The Turkmen state is not a frozen structure, it is a living, creative process that goes in line with modern trends in world development and the objective needs of society. Quite recently, on March 28 this year, the first elections of members of the Khalk Maslahaty of the upper chamber of the Turkmen parliament took place in Turkmenistan, and on April 14 the first joint sessions of the two chambers of the Melli Gengesh of the National Assembly of Turkmenistan, now consisting of the Khalk Maslahaty and the Majlis, were held. The transition to a bicameral structure of the legislative body is the most important milestone event in the modern history of Turkmenistan. It showed the firm commitment of our country to follow the basic criteria of world and national democratic practice, the generally recognized principles and norms of international law.
I have cited, perhaps, just a few facts testifying to the large-scale transformations that took place in Turkmenistan during the period of independence. In general, assessing the path traveled, it can be reasonably argued that these years have become a time of creation for Turkmenistan, revealing the enormous potential of our people, creating a solid material and spiritual foundation for the subsequent comprehensive development of the country.
I would also like to add that this year, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the independence of Turkmenistan, our native country will become the venue for important international events with the participation of foreign heads of state, such as the sixth Summit of the heads of the Caspian states, the 15th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization, as well as many different festive events with the participation of distinguished foreign guests.
Here I cannot fail to mention one more event that we are celebrating these days – this is the 140th anniversary of the birth of Ashgabat. We are proud of our capital. In a short time, it has changed beyond recognition. Today Ashgabat is one of the most modern, dynamically developing cities in Asia. It is rightfully a vivid symbol of the confident step of our state along the path of rapid socio-economic development, innovative growth, and the introduction of advanced world experience in all spheres of life. The city is growing prettier before our eyes, becoming a comfortable place for work and rest.
An unconditional priority for the development of the capital is its provision with social infrastructure: schools, kindergartens, medical centers, sports facilities. We also give great importance to the ecology of the city, preservation of the environment, expansion of park zones and squares.
The concept of the city’s development also provides for a careful attitude to its historical part, carrying out large-scale restoration work and preserving the unique Ashgabat flavor. Just the other day, the ceremony of laying the foundation for a new part of our capital, which we call Smart City, took place. Based on this, the people of Turkmenistan will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their independence with dignity.
– Turkmenistan is an associate member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Your country participates actively and constructively in the activities of the CIS. How do you see the prospects for cooperation of Turkmenistan within the framework of the Commonwealth? How can this cooperation develop more productively in the year of the 30th anniversary of the Commonwealth?
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Today, Turkmenistan maintains interstate relations on the principles of equality, while taking upon itself, as a neutral party, the obligations of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-participation in multilateral military-political treaties and alliances. Based on these basic principles, Turkmenistan takes part in the CIS as an associate member, builds its relations with the CIS countries on the basis of deep historical ties, mutually beneficial partnership, similarity of approaches to a number of issues of international politics and maintains active cooperation in the spirit of sincere friendship and trust.
We appreciate the fact that the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth remain unchanged. This is voluntariness, respect, equality. At the same time, I believe that the changing world realities require from the CIS a timely and adequate response, building new coordinates of interaction. First of all, this applies to the economic sphere. I am convinced that it is economic, trade and investment cooperation that should become the locomotive of the efficiency and success of the CIS, provide our countries with the opportunity to fully reveal their potential, and fully integrate in world economic relations.
In this regard, during its chairmanship in the CIS in 2019, Turkmenistan came up with a number of specific initiatives. In particular, we proposed to develop a declaration on strategic economic cooperation of the CIS member states, which was adopted at a meeting of the Council of Heads of State in Ashgabat in October 2019. The principles of this document formed the basis of the CIS economic development strategy until 2030. We believe that the decisive factor in successful economic cooperation is the active participation of the Commonwealth countries in the creation of a stable system of economic interconnection of the CIS states and their neighboring regions of the world. By and large, we are talking about the creation of new economic corridors, including energy infrastructure, industrial zones, transport and transit routes,
We regard the expansion of cooperation of the CIS with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as highly demanded and promising visible good prospects for interaction between the CIS countries in the context of the international agenda. These are such urgent tasks as ensuring global and regional security, combating international terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, including cybercrime, and achieving sustainable development goals.
The cultural and humanitarian sphere remains a solid and reliable connecting link for the states and peoples of the CIS. We note with satisfaction that much has been done and is being done in this direction. Cooperation is developing consistently, covering new areas and, most importantly, that it enjoys the full support of the peoples of our countries.
Of course, in the current conditions, one of the priorities of the CIS is also countering the coronavirus pandemic. We believe that the Commonwealth countries need to establish more effective mechanisms of interaction through scientific diplomacy and medical communities to develop common approaches and methods. Systemic cooperation of the CIS with the World Health Organization is important here.
As you can see, Turkmenistan manifests itself quite actively and creatively in various aspects of the CIS activities. I also think it is important to note the following: yes, the CIS is, first of all, an interstate association, but I am also convinced that the development of bilateral ties between the members of the Commonwealth only enriches multilateral interaction and gives it additional specificity and dynamics.
In this context, of course, I would like to note our relations with the Russian Federation, which are developing on the principles of strategic partnership, genuine good-neighborliness and mutual respect. The established ties of our country with a number of large regions of Russia are an integral part of the Turkmen-Russian multifaceted interaction. Here I can especially highlight cooperation with the Republic of Tatarstan. Recently, the head of Tatarstan, Rustam Nurgalievich Minnikhanov, paid a visit to Turkmenistan. We held very useful, rich negotiations, discussed long-term plans for partnership in the trade and economic field, in particular, in industry, mechanical engineering, aircraft construction, in the transport and logistics sector, the energy complex and in a number of other areas. An agreement was reached on the further development of cultural, humanitarian, scientific and educational cooperation. All this goes to the asset of our interstate relations with Russia. I repeat: of course, it gives on the whole positive impulses to interaction within the framework of the CIS.
– The UN General Assembly has proclaimed this year the International Year of Peace and Trust. This was your personal initiative. You spoke about it at the UN General Assembly, and it was unanimously supported. What prompted you as a politician to come up with such a proposal? What do you mean by the concept of “year of peace and trust”?
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: The initiative to declare 2021 the International Year of Peace and Trust was the result of an objective, honest analysis of the international situation. It must be admitted that international relations are in a difficult state today. This, in our opinion, is largely due to the loss of confidence of states in each other, a decrease in the quality of communication and the culture of interstate dialogue. As a politician and head of state, I am concerned that this situation not only hinders constructive relations between individual countries, but also seriously complicates the solution of universal tasks for which we are all responsible: maintaining strategic balance and stability, combating such global challenges as international terrorism, global warming, solution of refugee problems,
Look at the situation with the coronavirus pandemic. After all, among other things, it revealed a systemic failure in international relations. First of all, there is an insufficient level of trust, political will and readiness to unite in an effort to combat this threat. In such conditions, we considered that the world community, primarily represented by the UN, should take a leading role in improving the international situation, using the existing political and diplomatic levers and formats. One of them is the proclamation of the International Year of Peace and Trust. Coming out with this initiative, Turkmenistan emphasized that it is putting a specific meaning into it. We see the Year of Peace and Trust as a series of representative international events, during which practical decisions will be made and concrete ways and means of improving the international situation will be worked out:
One of the main events in this series is the holding of a high-level international conference in Ashgabat. We hope that our partners in the UN in practical terms will assist and support this initiative, the planned event, and together we can achieve positive results.
– For 25 years your country has had it. This allows Turkmenistan to pursue an independent, predictable and, I would say, distinctive foreign policy line. How do you assess the factor of Turkmen neutrality and its influence on the course and direction of the processes taking place in Central Asia and neighboring regions?
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Turkmen neutrality certainly plays an important stabilizing role in the region. This opinion is shared by both the United Nations and the UN member states. In my opinion, one of the real confirmations of this assessment by the international community was the opening in 2007 of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia with headquarters in Ashgabat. This step became a sign of confidence in Turkmenistan, evidence of recognition of its constructive role in maintaining and strengthening stability and security in Central Asia. At the same time, this was a confirmation of the potential of preventive diplomacy as a tool for preventing conflicts and transferring them to a peaceful political and diplomatic channel. Here, the neutrality of Turkmenistan is a natural, objective factor in the positive background of regional processes,
Therefore, it is probably quite understandable and logical that the UN provides constant and regular support to the initiatives of Turkmenistan aimed at using the peacekeeping potential of neutrality. An important indicator was the fact of the creation of a group of friends within the UN framework at the suggestion of Turkmenistan, to whose neutrality more than 20 states of the world have already joined.
It should also be noted that a few years ago, a new date appeared in the world political calendar at the initiative of our country – the International Day of Neutrality, celebrated annually on December 12.
The above examples indicate that the neutrality of Turkmenistan today has become a factor of not only regional, but also international politics in the long-term UN agenda for maintaining and strengthening peace, stability and security.
An important aspect of the positive impact of Turkmenistan’s neutrality is the economic component. That is, we never politicize international relations in this area. For us, the main criterion is economic and commercial feasibility, mutual benefit, equality and consideration of the interests of all participants. These principles allow us to initiate and implement significant international projects in the energy, transport and communications in the region and beyond. Objectively, they also serve to stabilize the situation, increase mutual understanding, trust and predictability between the participating States. Thus, neutrality acts as an effective lever of economic rapprochement, the establishment of systemic, long-term, trade, investment, industrial ties. As a consequence, this leads to a decrease in the conflict potential.
Last year, Turkmenistan together with the world community celebrated the 25th anniversary of its neutrality. Heads of major international organizations, heads of state and government, prominent politicians, diplomats, public figures, scientists took part in the online international conference dedicated to this anniversary. In their speeches, they highly appreciated the neutral policy of Turkmenistan and declared their support and significance for the whole world. This gives us an inspiring impulse to continue to firmly and responsibly pursue the chosen foreign policy course in the interests of the Turkmen people, in order to maintain and strengthen peace, good-neighborliness, cooperation and development.
Taking this opportunity, I would also like to thank you for the full coverage of this conference by the Mir Interstate Television and Radio Company.
– Let’s continue on global threats. It is already the second year since the whole of humanity has faced the new global threat that you spoke about. This is the COVID-19 epidemic. How did you, dear Mr. President, manage to save your people, the people of Turkmenistan from this misfortune? Indeed, until now, not a single case of COVID-19 has been recorded in your country. I would like to ask, what measures are you taking to prevent the spread of this infection? How is your country dealing with the fallout from the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic?
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: From the first days of the COVID-19 threat, we have formed and prepared a unified national strategy to combat coronavirus, which provides for a set of organizational, legal, financial, economic, sanitary and epidemiological, medical and quarantine measures. To guide all this work, a government commission was created to combat dangerous infectious diseases. It includes members of the government, heads of ministries, departments, and local executive authorities. An operational headquarters was created as a mechanism for interdepartmental coordination with the involvement of representatives of government agencies responsible for health, transport, trade, finance, as well as law enforcement agencies in its work. I would like to emphasize that these coordination structures are vested with appropriate powers in accordance with the legislation. All their actions are carried out on the basis of protocols and plans adopted at meetings of the government commission.
Among the first measures we have taken since the onset of COVID-19, we have introduced a phased strengthening of border, migration and customs regimes. At the same time, restrictions on air communication between Turkmenistan and foreign countries, objectively dictated by the situation, were introduced. For all persons arriving in Turkmenistan from abroad, testing and quarantine measures are carried out by the relevant departments of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry.
We assigned a special place in the activities of health authorities to preventive measures. In all institutions, at enterprises in educational institutions, kindergartens, temperature monitoring of citizens was ensured and strict rules of personal hygiene were introduced. In addition, work is carried out on a regular basis to disinfect shopping centers, markets, educational institutions, and public transport. We have also taken measures to strengthen the system of phyto-sanitary control and veterinary supervision, allowing us to provide us with an adequate level of safety against the introduction of various diseases into the territory through the movement of plants and animals, as well as products of plant and animal origin.
At all checkpoints across the state border, teams of specialists from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection and other relevant government agencies work.
While realizing the seriousness of the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Turkmenistan at the same time fully understands the need to ensure stability and stability of trade and economic relations between states, the viability of transport links in these conditions. In close cooperation with our partners, first of all, with the neighboring states, Turkmenistan is working to ensure that these ties are not disrupted and that reliable schemes for mutual supplies and transit traffic on the Eurasian continent are maintained.
Thanks to the coordinated steps of Turkmenistan and neighboring states, a normal operation of transport corridors along the East-West and North-South lines has been ensured today. Disinfection and fumigation facilities have been erected at all border checkpoints that meet international standards. Similar terminals are created by agreement of the parties and on the territory of neighboring countries.
Education is a critical element in the fight against coronavirus. Its main goal is to ensure that the population clearly understands the danger of the new infectious disease. It should be noted that currently in our country, the population is vaccinated against 14 infections without fail. Along with this, the results of many years of research by Turkmen scientists in the field of prevention of dangerous infectious diseases are applied. Advanced methods of their treatment have been created. Traditional folk remedies are used – medicinal herbs, plants, which in many respects enhances the protective functions of the human body against dangerous diseases.
Turkmenistan is among the top ten countries that have registered the Russian vaccines Sputnik V, and EpiVacCorona, which are now successfully used everywhere for the needs of people at risk.
Work to prevent infectious diseases continues. Construction of new quarantine centers is underway, re-profiling of individual medical institutions for the possible keeping in them of persons with symptoms similar to those of acute infections. The necessary medicines and related medical equipment are being purchased. At the same time, in our country today, a general medical examination of the population is being carried out, and effective measures are being taken to improve the immune status of people. Thanks to such work carried out and being carried out, we have not yet found cases of manifestation of this disease.
– Dear Mr. President, Turkmenistan actively cooperates with the Mir TV and Radio Company. I would like to especially thank you for such close and partnership cooperation. What would you like to wish the viewers and radio listeners of the Mir TV and Radio Company?
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: For your viewers, and you have tens of millions of them in many countries, including outside the CIS, I have traditional wishes – peace, prosperity, health to them and their loved ones, confidence in the future, may it bring more good and positive news.
– Dear Mr. President, let me thank you for this interview!
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Thank you for the interview and for your work.
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The interview, conducted by Radik Batyrshin, the chairman and editor-in-chief of the Closed Joint Stock Company Interstate Television and Radio Company Mir, was aired by MIR TV and MIR 24 TV channels on 31 May 2021. The same day it was carried by the flagship news show Watan of Turkmen TV.
Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company was established in 1992 by the Agreement of the Heads of the CIS Member States in order to cover political, economic and humanitarian cooperation, form a common information space and facilitate international exchange of information.
MIR is accredited in Turkmenistan and plans to upgrade its presence in the country to bureau office. /// nCa, 1 June 2021 (cross-post from MIR 24 TV, the original transcript and picture are available at this link https://mir24.tv/news/16461632/eksklyuzivnoe-intervyu-prezidenta-turkmenistana-gurbanguly-berdymuhamedova-teleradiokompanii-mir)