Turkmenistan – Russia: the course towards diversification of bilateral partnership

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Turkmenistan – Russia: the course towards diversification of bilateral partnership
Meretdurdy Rozyev

Another significant step in establishing fruitful cooperation between Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation was the Turkmen-Russian business forum held today in the conference hall of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A representative delegation of the Russian Federation headed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin arrived in the Turkmen capital to participate in the business meeting. Among the high-ranking guests are the President of the Republic of Tatarstan of the Russian Federation Rustam Minnikhanov, who is in our country on a working visit, and the heads of a number of other sub-federal units of the Russian Federation. The delegation includes heads and leading specialists of government agencies, line ministries, government agencies and non-profit organizations, higher educational institutions, large companies and enterprises specializing in various fields of economic activity.

The Turkmen side was represented by some deputy prime ministers, heads of ministries and branch departments, state concerns, associations, committees, banks, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a number of universities of the country, and etc.

In the first half of the day, round-table meetings were held, during which an interested exchange of views took place on new opportunities for cooperation in the field of industrial cooperation and construction production, innovative and information technologies, as well as on trends and ways of bilateral cooperation in the transport and logistics sector. The issues of Turkmen-Russian cooperation through educational institutions were the subject of a detailed discussion.

Meetings were also held between a number of ministries and sectoral departments of the two countries, during which issues of further expansion of effective contacts in various fields were considered.

The special status of the business forum, where the key vectors of interstate partnership for the near and long term were specified, was given by the program speech at the plenary session of the Chairman of the Government of Russia Mikhail Mishustin, who arrived in Turkmenistan on an official visit.

Speaking to the audience, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs R.Meredov thanked the Russian partners for accepting the invitation to participate in this forum. As it was noted, such a solid composition of the delegation of the Russian Federation, its high level, wide geographical representation indicates a great interest in cooperation with Turkmenistan, understanding of the prospects and opportunities that are opening up. In turn, in our country, especially recently, there is also a growing interest and willingness to increase business ties with Russia.

In general, as it was emphasized, thanks to the efforts of both sides, cooperation between Turkmenistan and Russia in a general sense has acquired today not only good dynamics, but also a clear focus on concrete final results. This is a reflection of a mature and realistic approach when building joint plans and projects, awareness of the serious cumulative potential for their implementation.

The solid foundation of the interstate dialogue is an extensive contractual and legal framework covering almost all the main directions in politics, economics, cultural and humanitarian fields. The existing solid package of documents allows the two countries to confidently build relations, reach the level of joint strategic planning in various segments of the partnership.

In continuation of the speech, it was stated that the mechanisms of interaction through the Intergovernmental Turkmen-Russian Commission on Economic Cooperation, whose meetings are held on a regular basis and include an increasingly wide range of issues, have worked quite effectively.

Special emphasis was placed on the fact that trade, economic and business partnership is the most important component of the Turkmen-Russian relations. In this regard, it was noted with satisfaction that notable successes have been achieved recently, primarily in such sectors as energy, transport, and industrial cooperation.

As it was noted, bilateral cooperation is increasing in the gas, oil and electric power sectors. At the same time, it was emphasized the growing activity of Tatneft and Gazprom companies in the Turkmen market. In continuation of the topic, the intention was expressed to further expand joint work in the oil and gas industry.

In the electric power industry, work is currently underway on a project to attract the Power Machines Joint-Stock Company to modernize the Mary HPP and CHP in Turkmenbashi.

Serious prospects are opening up in transport and logistics, where cooperation in railway transport and shipbuilding acquires special significance. We are talking, first of all, about the functioning of the eastern route of the International North-South Transport and Transit Corridor.

As it was highlighted, joint activities in this direction are currently being carried out with Russian partners, in particular with the management of the Russian Railways company. According to the preliminary results of last year, there was a 4-fold increase in transit traffic of Russian goods through Turkmenistan to other countries of the region, and the transportation of containers significantly increased within the framework of this transit.

In the context of logistics cooperation on the Caspian Sea, forum referred to the importance of fully utilizing transportation between our countries along the lines of the ports of Turkmenbashi-Astrakhan and Turkmenbashi-Makhachkala.

From the point of view of increasing and diversifying mutual trade turnover in general, business bilateral ties open up good prospects for the participation of the Turkmen side in the activities of the Lotus special economic zone in Astrakhan.

In shipbuilding, there are real opportunities to achieve practical results in the construction of commercial marine vessels at the Balkan shipyard. In this regard, Turkmenistan expressed its readiness to consider proposals on placing orders for the construction of vessels for the domestic merchant fleet at Russian shipyards. There is quite a solid accumulated experience in this matter.

It should be noted the resumption and opening of new air routes between Turkmenistan and Russia, the Deputy Prime Minister, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued.

The sphere of high technologies was singled out as a promising area of bilateral cooperation, to the development of which the Russian Government pays special attention, including international cooperation. Turkmenistan intends to participate in this process, in particular, in the creation of technology parks, IT and Hi-Tech centers.

A constant priority of interstate cooperation is the humanitarian sphere, which is developing consistently, on a systematic basis. Our countries are committed to strengthening historical ties and traditional friendship between their peoples. There are regular exchanges of creative delegations, cross-cultural Days, etc. As an example, the recent successful tour of the Great Moscow State Circus in Turkmenistan.

There is a positive trend in education. So, today about 30 thousand students from Turkmenistan study in Russia. Interuniversity cooperation is reaching a qualitatively new level. Cooperation agreements have been signed between a number of leading universities of Turkmenistan and Russia. In this regard, readiness was expressed to expand ties in this direction.

Russian culture and the Russian language are supported at the state level in Turkmenistan. Currently, 71 general education schools with instruction in Russian are functioning in our country, educational, scientific, artistic and periodical literature is published. Visible symbols of bilateral cooperation in the educational sphere are the Joint Turkmen-Russian Pushkin School operating in Ashgabat since 2002 and the Makhtumkuli Secondary School in the Astrakhan Region, opened in May 2018.

The project initiated by the leadership of Turkmenistan to create a Turkmen-Russian university in our country is intended to become a new stage in this area. To implement this project, a special Working Group has been created, which is working with Russian colleagues to prepare the legal and organizational base of the new university.

At the same time, it was noted the decision taken by the Turkmen side to build a new building of the Pushkin Russian Drama Theater in Ashgabat.

At the end of his speech, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed gratitude to Russian colleagues and partners for their constructive attitude, readiness for further development and strengthening of cooperation with Turkmenistan and expressed confidence that the current forum will have a noticeable effective impact on this process.

In turn, the Chairman of the Government of Russia Mikhail Mishustin, greeting the participants and guests of the forum, expressed gratitude to President Serdar Berdimuhamedov for the warm welcome and hospitality provided in the Turkmen land.

This is the first such large-scale business forum in the history of Russian-Turkmen relations, the guest underlined, expressing confidence that this event will help establish new ties between entrepreneurs of the two countries, will lay the foundation for many promising projects.

There’s the reformatting of the global financial and economic architecture, Mikhail Mishustin said, noting that this is not only a time of great challenges, but also a period when new opportunities are opening up, first of all, to strengthen sovereignty in various spheres, including economic, financial, and technological one.

In continuation, the guest briefly described the current state of affairs in the Russian economy, which is generally in a stable state and is actively developing.

Russia sincerely values friendship, good-neighborliness and strategic partnership with Turkmenistan, the head of the Government of the Russian Federation stressed, noting with satisfaction that the volume of bilateral trade is now at the one-billion-dollar mark. Speaking about the huge potential for deepening economic cooperation, the guest confirmed his readiness to expand the spheres of cooperation and interest in intensifying joint work.

Many Russian companies are represented at the business forum, ready to discuss concrete proposals for the development of cooperation, Mikhail Mishustin continued, placing special emphasis on the fact that Russia and Turkmenistan have always been and will be reliable partners for each other.

The Russian Prime Minister also stressed that last year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries and the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. All these years, joint work has been successfully developing in a wide range of areas. And now it is reaching a new level.

An important priority, as stated, is the development of industrial cooperation. In this context, major projects were successfully implemented, including those related to the supply of diesel locomotives, trucks, primarily KAMAZ. Along with this, it was said that there is a great potential in the field of shipbuilding cooperation, which should be built on a mutually beneficial basis using the construction sites of the two countries.

Special emphasis was placed on the importance of the formation of international transport routes. At the same time, it was emphasized that Russia’s position fully coincides with the approaches of its Turkmen colleagues. As it was noted, the joint work carried out on the development of the North-South international transport corridor, its access to full capacity, in the future will open up a wide field of opportunities for business related to the construction of infrastructure, service and trade-logistics centers, and modernization of seaports.

Naming among the promising joint projects the construction of a highway along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, Mikhail Mishustin spoke out for the need to increase the cargo turnover of Russian and Turkmen ports in the Caspian Sea, expand the supply of railway locomotives, freight and passenger cars.

Ties with Russian regions occupy an important place in bilateral relations. In this context, it was mentioned about the established close contacts of Turkmenistan with St. Petersburg, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Astrakhan region and, in general, about 60 Russian subjects. Agreements have been concluded with many of them in various fields.

In continuation of his speech, Mikhail Mishustin invited representatives of Turkmenistan to participate in a number of major events scheduled in Russia in the first half of the year, in particular, in the International Economic Forum “Russia–the Islamic World”, meetings of the Council of CIS Heads of Government, the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council, the international exhibition of cooperative projects “Eurasia is our Home”, the Eurasian Congress, and St.Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The head of the Government of the Russian Federation also dwelt on the prospects of bilateral cooperation in the regional integration format. In this context, it was noted that Turkmenistan’s involvement in integration processes will have a positive impact on the country’s economy and will be useful for all the five states, will allow implementing many important projects.

At the end of his speech, the guest expressed his conviction that traditionally friendly interstate relations, strategic partnership based on trust, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests, will serve as a guarantee of a qualitative increase in trade and economic ties for the prosperity of the two countries.

Rustam Minnikhanov, who then spoke, noted with satisfaction the progressive nature of bilateral relations successfully developing within the framework of the interstate dialogue with the Russian Federation, emphasized that Turkmenistan has always been a strategic partner for Tatarstan. As it was noted, our peoples are united by a spiritual and cultural community, deep, historically established ties, which are acquiring a qualitatively new content at the present time, based on the solid experience of interaction.

The emphasis was placed on the positive experience of interaction between the business circles of Tatarstan and Turkmenistan, the successful work of the Joint Turkmen-Tatarstan Working Group on trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation. The participation of such leading companies as KAMAZ, Tatneft, KER-Holding, and machine-building enterprises in the implementation of joint projects was mentioned as a number of striking examples of bilateral fruitful partnership.

At the same time, the importance of using the available opportunities to the full, including the expansion of bilateral trade, was emphasized. There is a great potential for developing ties in such areas as oil exploration and oil production, gas transportation, automotive, aircraft and shipbuilding, energy, chemical supplies, pharmaceuticals and medicine, agro-industrial complex and other industries.

In the speech of the Governor of the Astrakhan region Igor Babushkin, the interest in strengthening the established close ties in key areas, including in the trade and economic sphere, which have recently been characterized by good development dynamics, was confirmed. Special emphasis was placed on the potential for building up partnership between representatives of the business circles of Astrakhan and Turkmenistan.

The economic policy is aimed at the comprehensive and sustainable growth of industries based on innovation, the consistent introduction of modern, more effective management methods in market conditions, and, in general, the prosperity of the Homeland and the improvement of the well-being of the population. The practical steps taken by the Government make it possible to maintain stable GDP dynamics, increase the volume of investments directed to the social sphere, industrial production, foreign trade turnover, as well as ensure the stability of prices in the domestic market of goods and services.

Among the main factors contributing to the advancement of Turkmenistan on the path of progress are the active industrialization of the country, the development of credit policy, the creation of production facilities for the production of import-substituting goods and the increase in export supplies, in particular, natural gas, electricity and other products. The implemented innovative principles and methods of management serve as important conditions for the successful integration of the country into the system of world economic relations. The effectiveness of the national development model is confirmed by positive indicators of socio-economic growth, which is also recognized by authoritative public and financial organizations of the world.

As it was emphasized in the speeches, broad prospects for increasing Turkmen-Russian cooperation are opening up taking into account the comprehensive programs deployed in our country, focused on economic diversification, regional development, increasing the output of import-substituting and export products, including through the effective use of available hydrocarbon and mineral resources, the introduction of high technologies. In this aspect, it was stated that there is a great potential for deepening productive partnership in almost all areas, including the fuel and energy sector, energy, industrial sector, construction.

These industries have traditionally been among the key areas of interstate dialogue. Special attention was paid to the expansion of relations in these vectors during the high-level talks in June 2022. Both sides confirmed their interest in establishing business contacts through relevant departments, in supporting initiatives of business circles, as well as in implementing new mutually beneficial initiatives.

Due to its favorable geographical and geopolitical position, Turkmenistan has been initiating and implementing major infrastructure projects in the field of road, rail and sea transport, as well as civil aviation in recent years. Our country’s policy of international cooperation in this direction is based, first of all, on the vision of the Central Asian region and the Caspian Basin as a promising economic partner for interested parties, a major energy and transport-transit hub of continental importance.

The peculiarities of Turkmenistan and Russia are their unique location between Europe and Asia, which opens up great prospects in the field of transit transportation, provision of logistics services and ensures the effective functioning of East-West and North-South trade corridors. In this regard, one of the topics of the plenary session was the strengthening of cooperation in the transport and communication sphere.

The field of information technology is seen as an equally significant vector of bilateral relations. Special importance is attached to the development of this segment, in particular, the transfer of all sectors of the national economy to a digital platform as an integral factor in the further modernization of the national economic complex, increasing its efficiency.

In the context of the transition of the national economy to market relations, great importance is attached to the widespread introduction and use of bar coding and automatic identification systems on the territory of Turkmenistan. The work carried out in this direction allows their users to achieve more efficient activities of their enterprises and operational interaction with international trading partners, promote improving the competitiveness of domestic manufacturers’ products in the domestic and global markets. In this regard, the forum participants spoke in favor of establishing closer contacts between the relevant structures of the two countries.

As it was emphasized, special attention in both Russia and Turkmenistan is paid to the creation and development of platforms for collective export promotion on key electronic trading platforms. In this context, it is useful to exchange experience in this area.

During the business forum, the role of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the two friendly states in promoting the development of national economies and their integration into the world economic system was noted. The emphasis was also placed on the tasks facing these structures, in particular, on the formation of modern industrial, financial and trade infrastructure, the creation of favorable conditions for entrepreneurial activity, the settlement of relations between entrepreneurs and their social partners, as well as the comprehensive development of all types of business, trade, economic, scientific and technical ties between the business circles of the two countries.

In the speeches of the Russian guests, it was expressed the desire of representatives of various spheres to intensify productive contacts with Turkmenistan, which today demonstrates rapid economic development. Confirming their readiness to actively participate in the implementation of large-scale national projects, the businessmen of the friendly country voiced concrete proposals for further expansion of fruitful cooperation.

At the end of the plenary session, it was noted that such meetings promote the effective realization of the huge potential for strengthening bilateral relations, create opportunities for developing popular forms of interaction taking into account modern realities and plans for the future. According to the mutual opinion of the participants, the results of the current forum will give an additional impetus to building productive relations designed for the long term.

In general, as it was emphasized, today’s event made it possible to identify the most promising ways to deepen productive cooperation. The practical implementation of the agreements reached during the meeting will facilitate the diversification of trade and investment exchanges, and the implementation of new joint projects in various fields.

Bilateral meetings between representatives of ministries, departments, private structures and businessmen of Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation are expected to take place tomorrow to discuss priority areas of cooperation and plans for further partnership.

It is also planned to hold a joint meeting of the Turkmen-Russian and Russian-Turkmen business councils, the signing of bilateral documents between business circles.

Among the scheduled events is the opening of a trade and exhibition site for Russian manufacturers “Trading House of Russia”.

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Today, the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin also visited the Joint Turkmen-Russian Secondary School named after A.S.Pushkin as part of an official visit to our country.

During his speech to the staff and pupils of the school, the guest noted that in recent years relations between Turkmenistan and Russia have received a powerful impetus in their development and have reached a qualitatively new level. As it was highlighted, within the framework of bilateral humanitarian cooperation, special attention is paid to the field of education. This is one of the evidences of the unwavering commitment of the two states to the traditional ties of friendship, and mutual readiness to build up mutually beneficial partnership.