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Gulf Countries in the Multi-vectoral Foreign Policy of Central Asia

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Central Asian states have given importance to develop cooperation with various actors in the world on political, economic and social issues since they gained their independence. In that sense, the states of the region have succeeded in developing cooperation with different countries in the world by adopting a multi-vectoral approach in their foreign policies. Thus, the states of the region have increased their gains with the relations they have established within the framework of the win-win logic. Central Asian states, which actively pursue their policies currently, provide different routes to their multi-vectoral policies through new collaborations.

At this point, it is seen that the Gulf countries become prominent. Because, deeper relations with economic and social dimensions have been established between the Central Asian states and the Gulf countries in recent years. When the bilateral relations are examined in order to exemplify the situation, it is seen that in October 2020, an agreement of 6.1 billion dollars was signed between Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) covering 21 projects in the fields of trade, transportation, logistics, agriculture, construction, petrochemistry, space and tourism.[1]

In 2021, a new agreement was signed between Astana and Abu Dhabi for investments of more than 6 billion dollars for the implementation of joint projects in the sectors of energy, agriculture, industry, transportation, logistics, pharmaceutical and finance. The most significant feature of this agreement is insurance the establishment of a long-term strategic partnership between the parties rather than investments.[2] In October 2022, the parties signed a new investment agreement worth 900 million dollars.[3]

Similarly, Saudi Arabia is strengthening its relations with Central Asia. For instance, in August 2022, the Saudi-Uzbek Business Council was held between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. During the meetings, it was announced that 13 agreements worth 12 billion dollars were signed between the sides.[4] While the relations between the parties develop within the framework of mutual benefit; the number of Saudi Arabian-owned enterprises in Uzbekistan is increasing gradually. Investment of Saudi Arabia in Uzbekistan exceeded 1.5 billion dollars by the end of 2021, and strong relationships are being built in modernizing energy infrastructure, including green energy.[5]

In addition to bilateral relations between Central Asian states and the Gulf countries, contacts including interregional interaction are established and existing ties are strengthened. Therefore, on September 7, 2022, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue meeting was held for the first time between the Central Asian states and the Gulf countries. The meeting was held at the level of foreign ministers in Riyadh under the chairmanship of Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia. Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Oman attended the meeting.[6]

Speaking at the meeting, Faisal mentioned the development of cooperation between the two regions in the face of global challenges and stated that there is unlimited cooperation between the regions. For this purpose, Faisal emphasized the importance of initiatives that will support economic development and reduce tension against the crises.

During the meeting, mainly current issues were discussed. In addition, steps to be taken in the areas of regional security, trade, economy, investment and cultural cooperation were also discussed. In this context, issues such as supply chains, transportation links, food, energy and water security, development of green energy, environmental challenges, climate change and the development of trade and investment mechanisms were discussed. Therefore, the sides adopted the 2023-2027 Joint Action Plan, which covers areas such as politics, security, economy, transportation, water resources, energy, education, health, culture, youth and sports. In addition, to continue the interaction, it was decided to hold the second meeting in 2023 in Samarkand, which stands out with the ancient history of Uzbekistan, and to organize the first Economic Forum of the GCC and Central Asian countries in Kazakhstan in June 2023.

As a result, the Central Asian states desire to develop and deepen their relations with the Gulf countries. Because looking at the economic characteristics of the states in the two regions, it is observed that the actors have complementary qualities. Undoubtedly, the fact that both geographies are rich in energy resources is an important issue that contributes to the development of cooperation. On the other hand, strategic dialogue meetings held between regions seem to enable relations to gain a more structural and permanent dimension. At this point, it should be emphasized that; the developing relations with the Gulf countries serve to strengthen the multi-vectoral foreign policy understanding of the Central Asian states.


[1] Aidana Yergaliyeva, “Kazakhstan, UAE Ink $6.1 Billion Agreement to Develop 21 Joint Projects”, The Astana Times, https://astanatimes.com/2020/10/kazakhstan-uae-ink-6-1-billion-agreement-to-develop-21-joint-projects/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).

[2] “Askar Mamin’s Visit to the UAE: Pool of New Joint Projects to Exceed $6 Billion”, Official Information Source of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, https://primeminister.kz/en/news/vizit-a-mamina-v-oae-pul-novyh-sovmestnyh-proektov-prevysit-6-mlrd-119190, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).

[3] “Kazakhstan and UAE Sign Investment Agreements Worth $900 Million”, The Astana Times, https://astanatimes.com/2022/09/kazakhstan-and-uae-sign-investment-agreements-worth-900-million/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).

[4] “Uzbekistan Strengthens Relations with Saudi Arabia”, Commonspace.eu, https://www.commonspace.eu/news/uzbekistan-strengthens-relations-saudi-arabia, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).

[5] Mukhsinjon Kholmukhamedov, “Uzbekistan-Saudi Arabia: Mutually Beneficial Co-Operation”, Eureporter, https://www.eureporter.co/world/uzbekistan/2022/08/23/uzbekistan-saudi-arabia-mutually-beneficial-co-operation/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).

[6] “Gulf Countries and Central Asia Are Eager to Expand Partnership”, News Central Asia, http://www.newscentralasia.net/2022/09/08/gulf-countries-and-central-asia-are-eager-to-expand-partnership/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.