During a recent interview with the Russian news agency TASS, the ambassador Alexander Blokhin spoke about the current state and prospects of Turkmen-Russian cooperation in the context of the bilateral and multilateral agenda in a rapidly evolving international environment.
Replying the question about the potential impact of anti-Russian sanctions on the prospects of increasing exports from Turkmenistan to Russia, ambassador Blokhin expressed the hope that the restrictions imposed on Russia today will not affect substantially on economic cooperation between Turkmenistan and Russia.
“Yes, there will be some inconveniences due to financial restrictions, but I think we will find an acceptable way of financial interaction. As for trade, cooperation, and project implementation, I think there will be no serious damage, especially given the neutral status of Turkmenistan,” he told.
The envoy emphasized that the relations between the two countries in both the economic and humanitarian spheres are not politicized, but rather stem from the pragmatic interests of Russia and Turkmenistan.
According to the Ambassador, the governments of Turkmenistan and Russia will find a solution for financial settlements, particularly since “the groundwork in this regard is available”.
During the visit of DPM, foreign minister Rashid Meredov to Moscow on 22 February 2022, the parties signed a Roadmap for cooperation between Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation on regional security issues.
Ambassador Blokhin described the general objectives of this document: “The roadmap would ensure constant collaboration on major concerns for stability such as terrorism, drugs, issues related to the interaction of countries in the event of some extraordinary situations.”
As the diplomat explained, “Turkmenistan is an integral part of the Central Asian region, where stability is one of the strategic goals of the Russian Federation. Therefore, cooperation in this area is vital both for Turkmenistan and for Russia and, of course, other Central Asian nations.”
Blokhin praised Ashgabat’s pragmatic approach to establishing relations with the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan’s neutral status is an instrumental in this process.
The high-ranking diplomat recalled that Turkmenistan provides great assistance to Afghanistan, including supplies of electricity in significant volumes at very low prices, supply of fuel and lubricants, construction of schools and hospitals in Afghanistan.
“What Turkmenistan is doing in cooperation with Afghanistan, including with the Taliban, is a positive. Nobody’s going to shoot themselves in the foot. In this sense, the Turkmen side, as it seems to me, is acting very reasonably from a political point of view,” Blokhin said.
According to him, these steps ensure stability on the border of the two countries for a long time.
“If there are any minor problems there, then, as a rule, they are either of a domestic nature, or are associated with some illegal attempts to cross the border, and in that case Turkmenistan acts like any other state. Therefore, I would say that the border between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan is in an absolutely acceptable situation, especially given the difficult environment in Afghanistan,” ambassador summed up.
“The construction of this gas pipeline (TAPI Turkmenistan – Afghanistan– Pakistan– India) does not infringe on the interests of the Russian Federation in any way, so we do not oppose the project and wish the Turkmens success in implementation,” the Russian ambassador said.
Talking on the possible involvement of Russia, the envoy confirmed the interest of Russian companies in the project. The issue is the possibility of delivering pipes, compressors, and other TAPI project components. “On the territory of Turkmenistan, where the pipeline has already been laid, the pipes were supplied by our Russian companies. It was a US $300 million project last year,” Blokhin explained.
Speaking about the social and economic benefits of the TAPI project, the diplomat stressed that ” the operation of the pipeline at full capacity will yield Afghanistan about US $500 million. “From the point of view of the Taliban, they are positive about this. From the point of view of Turkmenistan, this is also a completely practical issue that fits into the ideology that Turkmenistan is interested in stability in Afghanistan”, he added.
When asked whether Turkmenistan is interested in membership in the SCO, ambassador Blokhin stated that Ashgabat is not indifferent to the activities of this organization, particularly considering that the country is located in the region that is covered by the SCO activities – Central, South and Southeast Asia.
“Turkmenistan is an integral part of all these processes. There are some restrictions there that are related to the neutral status, because they do not participate in international organizations with supranational structures, especially if these structures deal with the issues related to the military component,” he said.
However, the ambassador does not exclude Ashgabat’s interest in obtaining observer status in the SCO. “But this is the decision of Turkmenistan itself,” he added, stressing that sovereign states themselves should make such decisions based on their own interests.
“Yes, we are ready to cooperate, if they want to participate in this work one way or another, we will only welcome it,” Blokhin noted.
Commenting on cooperation with the EAEU, Russina envoy expressed the opinion that Turkmenistan, as an observer, could get necessary insight on union’s activity, as well as consider potential pragmatic benefits. /// nCa, 15 March 2022
The full text of the interview is here: https://tass.ru/interviews/14050681
On Turkmen-Russian relations: