Kassym Jomart Tokayev’s Visit to Turkmenistan

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For Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan is the one of the neighboring countries of strategic importance in the context of Central Asia. The relations between the two countries have developed day by day. According to a news report from July 2021, trade volume between the countries exceeded 74.6 million dollars in the period covering January-May 2021. At the same time, this amount is 49% higher when compared to the same period of 2020. However, Kazakhstan’s exports to Turkmenistan in the aforementioned period amounted to 48.6 million dollars.[1]

Turkmenistan’s product volume exported to Kazakhstan increased by 99.2% in the period covering January-April 2021 compared to the same period of 2020. Moreover, in the relevant period, Turkmenistan’s imports from Kazakhstan were 6.9% higher. Among the imported products are furniture, electronic and technological equipment, stone, cement and plaster, as well as paper and cardboard products.[2] In addition, it was agreed that the officials of the two countries should visit each other at the point of holding talks on the deepening of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan cooperation, which has increased in the economic field, over certain projects.

Kazakhstan President Kassym Jomart Tokayev went to Turkmenistan for an official visit between 24-25 October 2021. The delegation accompanying Tokayev, who met with the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, also made various contacts with the Turkmen authorities. After the meetings held in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, the parties signed in important agreements memorandums of understanding. According to the Press Service of the Presidency of Kazakhstan, Berdimuhamedov stated that Tokayev’s visit to Turkmenistan will encourage bilateral relations and take it to a new level.

Tokayev, on the other hand, reiterated his proposal to organize Turkmenistan Culture Days in Kazakhstan in 2022. [3] Additionally, the Kazakh leader also emphasized that his country is ready to increase its exports of goods to Turkmenistan, worth 130 million dollars, in more than 60 sectors.[4] All these explanations were interpreted as the parties’ will to develop their bilateral relations within the framework of the principle of good neighborly relations.[5]  

After the meetings, in addition to the bilateral agreements signed between the official delegations of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, Tokayev and Berdimuhammedov also published a joint statement.[6]

The agreements signed within the scope of the visit are as follows:

  • Agreement between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on the Determination of the Boundary of the Two Countries and the Contiguous Areas of the Fisheries Zone in the Caspian Sea
  • Agreement between the Governments of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan Border Procedure
  • Agreement between the Ministry of Finance of Kazakhstan and the State Customs Service of Turkmenistan on the Preliminary Exchange of Information on Goods and Vehicles Transported Between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan
  • Agreement with Jusan Mobile on the Establishment of Information Communication and Telecommunication Networks of the Cable Line on the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan Border of Turkmentelecom telecommunication systems

In addition to the aforementioned agreements, 13 memorandums of understanding were signed between the parties.[7] This is an indication that the two countries will develop close cooperation. The aforementioned cooperation has also great importance for Central Asia. Because the relations with Nur-Sultan-Ashgabat line will attract attention of the other countries in the region, especially Russia and China. Moreover the signed documents will not only stay between the two countries; at the same time it will also consequences that will be reflected in the Central Asian policies of the other global and regional actors.

In this context, it can be predicted that China will increase its investments both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan within the framework the Belt-Road Project. Beijing wants to provide transit passage through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan towards the Caspian Sea and Caucasus region. For this reason, it wants to achieve its own national interests by closely following the process on the Nur Sultan-Ashgabat line.

Another actor that closely following the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan relations is Russia. Because the cooperation between Central Asian countries may weaken Moscow’s influence in the region. In other words, the states of the region’s reaching their own potential can reduce their dependence on Russia. This may result in an outcome that Kremlin does not desire.

On the other hand, Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan relations also attract the attention of Iran. Because developments can increase Iran’s contacts with Central Asia. For example, Kazakhstan’s increasing export volume to Iran via Turkmenistan[8] may enable this country’s freight trains to reach Iran via Turkmenistan.

Moreover, it can be discussed important development such as Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran Railway. [9] This can be interpreted as a joint movement that tries to limit Moscow’s current influence in the region in all areas, including political and economic. At this point, it can be predicted that China will support the steps to be taken and projects to be developed with the aim of increase its influence in the region and limit Russia. In other words, the main issue that Russia should think about in Central Asia is the Chinese factor. Projects that came to the fore within the framework of Tokayev’s visit to Ashgabat may also open the door to developments that are in line with Beijing’s interests.

Thus, Beijing living crisis in Asia-Pacific, focuses its attention to Central Asia. This is what worries Moscow anyway. Therefore, in the upcoming period, the aforementioned region can become an area where the Russian-Chinese rivalry is felt more intensely.  

Consequently, Tokayev’s visit to Turkmenistan, indicates that cooperation between Central Asian countries will increase. This means that Russian influence in the region is decreasing. On the other hand, the development of regional cooperation and the implementation of new projects can deepen the relations of China and Iran with the countries of region. As a result, the competition on the Moscow-Beijing line may come to the fore through Central Asia.

[1] “Gazagystan bilen Türkmenistanyň arasyndaky söwda dolanyşygy $74,6 milliona ýetdi”, Biznes Türkmenistan,, (Date of Accession: 25.10.2021).

[2]“Türkmenistanyň Gazagystana eksporty iki essä golaý artdy”, Biznes Türkmenistan,, (Date of Accession: 25.10.2021).

[3] “Қасым-Жомарт Тоқаев пен Гурбангулы Бердімұхамедов кеңейтілген форматта екіжақты келіссөз жүргізді,” Akorda,, (Date of Accession: 25.10.2021).

[4] “Казахстан готов поставлять в Туркменистан продукцию на 130 млн долларов– Токаев”, Informburo,, (Date of Accession: 25.10.2021). 

[5] “Казахстан готов нарастить экспорт в Туркменистан на $130 млн”, Kapital,, (Date of Accession: 25.10.2021).

[6] “Қасым-Жомарт Тоқаев пен Гурбангулы Бердімұхамедов БАҚ өкілдері үшін брифинг өткізді”, Akorda,, (Date of Accession: 25.10.2021).

[7] Aynı yer.

[8] “Gazagystan Türkmenistanyň üsti bilen Eýrana eksportyny artdyrar”, Biznes Türkmenistan,, (Date of Accession: 26.10.2021).

[9] “Gazagystan-Türkmenistan-Eýran demir ýolunyň ähmiýeti nygtaldy”, Biznes Türkmenistan,, (Date of Accession: 26.10.2021).

Almatı doğumlu olan İldost BABAKAN, 2012 yılında Merkezi Milletler Üniversitesi Azınlıklar Dilleri ve Edebiyatları Fakültesi’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2019 yılında Konya Necmettin Erbakan Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Türk Dili ve Edebiyatı Ana Bilim Dalı’ndan almıştır. Başlıca çalışma alanı Orta Asya olan BABAKAN, Kazakça ve Türkçe bilmektedir.