Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are two nations with common historical roots. Therefore, the parties prioritize solidifying their cooperation on the basis of similar religious beliefs, languages, cultures, and national traditions. In addition to demonstrating the countries’ desire to enhance their constructive political dialogue, the high level of bilateral contact also demonstrates their desire to enhance their economic and commercial cooperation for mutual benefit.
As a reflection of the partnership, Turkmenistan President Mr. Serdar Berdimuhamedow made a two-day visit to the capital of Uzbekistan on July 14-15, 2022, at the invitation of Uzbekistan President Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev. It is important that Mr. Berdimuhamedow’s first visit to Tashkent will lay the foundation for building efficient bilateral relations that will lead to a new and higher level of bilateral cooperation.
The meeting of the two Presidents revealed a wide range of co-operation in Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan relations. Following the meeting between the leaders, several agreements were signed. There are 19 texts of reconciliation between governments and institutions covering areas such as border trade and interregional cooperation, covering transportation, traffic, agriculture, tourism, common water use, trade, science-technical, chemistry, industry, foreign affairs, customs, railroads, justice, youth policies, and publishing. Additionally, bilateral talks resulted in decisions concerning the future, the implementation of industrial cooperation projects, the expansion of trade, the construction of border trade zones, and the opening of joint project offices.
Trade and economic cooperation have also been influenced by the leader-to-leader relations between the two countries. Recent trade data shows that slightly over 200 million dollars exchanged hands between the two countries in 2016. That figure increased by 67.6% to 902 million dollars by the end of 2021. Comparatively, the trade volume between the parties between January and May of 2022 was 322.6 million dollars, an increase of 1.2% over the same period in 2021.
Industrial cooperation projects also play an important role in the development of commercial and economic cooperation between the two countries. In the two states, joint ventures operate in a variety of sectors of the economy to carry out projects. As a result, the number of Turkmenistan-assisted businesses in Uzbekistan has increased from 11 to 162, an increase of 15 times on average. It is estimated that 61 enterprises in Turkmenistan originate from Uzbekistan, including large ones such as UzAvtoSanoat JSC and UZ Agrotek Sanoat Holding JSC.
In addition to all these, in October 2021, the President of Turkmenistan, Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and Mr. Mirziyoyev; have agreed to develop cooperation in various industries such as automobile assembly, chemical products, manufacturing of building materials and deep processing of cotton fibre. By replacing imports from third countries with competitive products produced in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and sold in both countries’ markets, such joint projects accelerate economic growth.
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are giving preference to ensuring the rational and integrated use of transboundary water and energy sources and the environmental sustainability of the region, across the border of Central Asia.
In this framework, long-lasting and constructive cooperation is forming between Tashkent and Ashgabat in the fields of ecology, environmental protection, and water management system. As both countries have experience in resolute dispute on water management, related officials of parties had been conducting meetings on a regular basis. Hence it has been decided the establishment of an Intergovernmental Commission on Water Management Issues. In this context, it is prominent that Mr. Berdimuhamedow and Mr. Mirziyoyev sign the historic Amu Darya Agreement, which will ensure the efficient use of water resources.
The other critical affairs in bilateral relations are the matters of transportation and transits. By improving the links of transport and logistics, collaboration processes are accelerating. The main reasons for this can be listed as follows:
- Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are subject to some obstacles in accessing large world markets due to their geographical location.
- Traditional transportation and logistics networks are disrupted due to instability in various regions.
- Geopolitical facts associated with sanctions policy for Russia and Belarus limit the possibilities of the North Corridor, where a significant part of the transportation of goods from the region is carried out.
It is therefore essential to strengthen the transport and transit capacities of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In this respect, on June 6, 2022, Uzbekistan International Union of Railways and Turkish Railways Agency representatives has discussed the issue of organizing container cargo transport along multimodal transport corridors, increasing cargo transport in transit traffic and co-operation in infrastructure development.
Furthermore, the integration of the two countries’ communication systems makes it possible to split-second access to the markets of third countries and regions. In particular, the parties are working together to maximize the potential of the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea-Caucasus transport route. This corridor has been designed the provide access to Georgia and Turkey’s Black Sea ports as well as the European Union (EU) markets. Relatively through this, the volume of goods transported between the two countries by land and rail is increasing from day to day. To give an instance, in 2021, international freight shipments between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan was 1.7 million tons by rail and 0.3 million tons by road and amounting to about 2 million tons by 18% increase in 2020.
Tashkent and Ashgabat are intensively making an effort to strengthen regional co-operation. The parties believe the implementation of major infrastructure projects will assist Afghanistan to achieve its economic integration. This means that such projects will be a significant factor in the preservation of peace and stability in Central Asia. The situation has been one of the main agenda items in the meeting of the two Presidents in Tashkent. The leaders once again has confirmed that they are ready to continue working together to improve Afghanistan’s socio-economic recovery. The implementation of energy, transport and communication projects plays a significant role in this respect. For example, Ashgabat leads projects for the construction of the Turkmenistan Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Naturalgas Pipeline and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) Power Transmission Line and promotes the development of railway communications. Taskent also implements major infrastructure projects such as Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar Railway and Surkhan-Pul-e-Khumri Power Line, as well as improving commercial co-operation. In other words, both capitals take steps to develop ties with Afghanistan, implement joint infrastructure projects and provide comprehensive humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
As a result, the leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are likely to seek to strengthen practical co-operation that provides mutual benefit at the bilateral and regional level. This willpower reveals a road map of sustainable development in Central Asia. Therefore, relations between the two countries that develop on the axis of mutual respect and trust also serve the environment of regional co-operation and prosperity.
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