Modern foreign policy priorities of Turkmenistan
The President of Turkmenistan held a press conference in Ashgabat today following his recent trip to New York where Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov participated in the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly and held a series of bilateral meetings and political consultations with leaders of several countries and representatives of the world business elite.
The press conference, which was held in response to numerous requests from media representatives, was attended by correspondents of foreign news agencies and leading international periodicals accredited in Turkmenistan, as well as domestic journalists - editors-in-chief of newspapers, magazines, heads of TV and radio channels, students of journalism of the Institute of International Relations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan and the Turkmen State University named after Magtymguly.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to be in this hall with the Turkmen and foreign media. It is a pleasant occasion to brief you on the outcome of the visit of the government delegation of Turkmenistan to the United States of America, New York, where we attended the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.
In my speech at the UNGA, I presented the views of our country on important issues of foreign policy.
Turkmenistan's views on these issues were also discussed during the numerous bilateral talks with the heads of state and authoritative international organizations.
However, the utmost eventfulness of the programme of the visit to the United States of America did not let us respond to even one third of the requests for the meetings and talks, which had been submitted to the secretariat of the Turkmen delegation by the participants of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.
Of course, we are pleased with worldwide interest in Turkmenistan, its approaches to the foreign policy issues and achievements in the economic and social spheres.
I believe that with your help I will be able to satisfy the interest shown in our country.
I am now ready to answer your questions related to the outcome of the participation of the government delegation of Turkmenistan in the 64th session of the UNGA.
You are welcome to ask your questions!
Vepa Nazarov (Watan news programme, Turkmen TV):
First of all, let me congratulate you on the success of Turkmenistan's mission at the regular session of the UN General Assembly. The attention paid by the assembly participants to your statement is evidence of the steady growth of Turkmenistan's international prestige in the eyes of the world community. Today, the country actively comes forward with new political models to address complex issues regulating international relations. Please share with us your vision of the development processes in the international politics and the current role of Turkmenistan in the world community.
- I don't think I am making a monumental discovery when I say that inconsistencies persist today in the global political situation. At the end of the first decade of this century, the world is basically still living under the political and economic norms and stereotypes created after the WWII and developed in the period of Cold War.
The burden of the outdated political ideas and justifications is evident to many. Come to think of it. The whole issue of the global financial crisis can also be regarded as a clear illustration of the need for change in the existing system of global cooperation in the changing world. The leaders of many countries and international organizations are now trying aggressively to find mechanisms for attaining stability in the international political and economic relations. This trend was reflected clearly at the 64th session of the UNGA in New York.
If we consider the situation in the historical perspective, we can note the obvious trends that are specific to our times. The world around us is changing rapidly. Political, technological, scientific and social changes that used to take centuries now happen in less than a decade. It is necessary today to not only keep pace with the changes but also find the strength to overcome the inertia of the decrepit political stereotypes. Even more important is the capacity for error-free political foresight, the ability to predict correctly the development of the world community and to respond to the challenges of our times.
Turkmenistan gained independence not long ago. The specifics of the current global situation are such that the fate of the planet does not depend on the will of the traditional heavyweights alone. Today, every country can and must commit to overall universal values, to achieve harmonious relations between the nations and people. I think Turkmenistan today can match the rapid development of the global political thought.
If we talk of the primary challenges facing the world community today, the quest for global security is in the forefront. Turkmenistan approaches this issue with sharp focus on stability in Central Asian and Caspian regions.
For instance, achieving civil peace and stability in Afghanistan - a question of paramount importance for the world community - is vital for us. Several members of the world community, without prior consultations and arrangements, pressed a military model on the Afghan conflict. This protracted path has still not led to attainment of peace and harmony in the troubled land of Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan, on the basis of the principles of good neighbourliness and mutual assistance, offers its own demilitarized model for solving more of the Afghan problems and contradictions. We have helped and will continue to help our neighbour in building social infrastructure facilities, provide electricity and humanitarian aid, and we hope that our contribution to bring a change in the quality of life for the Afghan people would prove much more effective in reviving the country than any military solution.
Let's recall another regional issue - the question of settlement of access to water. This is an extremely sensitive issue for Central Asia.
Today, Tajikistan, on whose territory originate main sources of water of the post-Soviet counties of Central Asia, faces severe shortage of electricity and sees the solution in construction of new hydroelectric stations, which would have adverse effects on the total volume of available water. Turkmenistan urged the countries in the region - Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan - to come to a collective decision on this problem, i.e. to subsidized energy supplies to Tajikistan in exchange for keeping the current level of water discharge at source. We brought in experts of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia headquartered in Ashgabat to monitor the situation. We expect that the continued application of the existing techniques and legal mechanisms of the UN and its arbitration bodies would lead to a solution acceptable to all.
I have just cited two examples that may seem rather modest in everyday practice of global processes. But, in my opinion, this is exactly a very concrete contribution of one country to the global course of harmonization of relations.
Most of the disputes and differences in these processes are dictated by a subjective approach in resolving them. Achievement of the criterion of objectivity is possible only through the attraction of authoritative international organizations, first and foremost, the relevant agencies of the United Nations to address complex issues.
In most cases, this is the path leading to an acceptable outcome.
Michail Pereplesnin ("Turkmenistan" magazine, Russia):
- Dear Mr. President, to what extent, in your opinion, the capacity of the United Nations meets the requirements of a changing world? It is not by chance that debates about reduced effectiveness of the UN and the need for reforms within the Organization have intensified?
- Indeed, such debates have long been carried on. There are both moderate and radical proposals. It is unquestionable for us that despite the changes taking place in the world the great humanistic ideals of the UN should remain moral and legal pillars of the international order. Only on this basis can one consider changing the work of the Organization. We are for the UN reform in the direction of its further strengthening, improving its efficiency, expanding the role and functions of the Community of Nations as a guarantor of international peace and stability.
Since the first years of independence, Turkmenistan sought to enlist support of the international community, using all policy tools available to the UN structures. A similar approach was employed in the process of international recognition of the neutral status of our country. The same approach was used for the establishment of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia in Ashgabat. These two examples are quite vivid illustration of possibilities for the development of the UN capacity.
The Regional Center is the first experimental structure of the UN with such a purpose, where the UN experts operate not behind thick panes of the head office but in the immediate vicinity of the unfolding events, and where they have the opportunity to closely examine and respond quickly to the situation. Isn't it a new method of effective action by the head office of the world community?
Here is another example. Nearly fourteen years ago the collective and unanimous recognition by the UN members of Turkmenistan as a state with a status of permanent neutrality was an unprecedented step in the international practice. The experience that our country has gained over the past years in conducting an effective international dialogue from the standpoint of permanent neutrality suggests extraordinary efficiency of the introduction of such models in the world. This leads to the obvious conclusion: the more countries express readiness to assume the status of permanent neutrality in the future, following Turkmenistan's example, the calmer and safer we will feel in this world.
Turkmenistan is ready to share its considerable political experience with any member of the international community so that a once-applied UN technique gets wide spread use over the planet.
I think that those who now take the liberty to assert that the UN has become less effective pursue short-term selfish political objectives and do not see the greater opportunities for creative approaches to revitalize the work of the UN structures.
Turkmenistan is currently actively seeking a permanent solution to the problem of security of energy transportation. I think that the effectiveness of such international efforts would be significantly lower if they were not accompanied by institutional support from the UN and was not ensured by its high international prestige.
Bahar Muhyeva (TV channel "Turkmenistan"):
- Would it be correct to say that Turkmenistan brings forward the idea of safe transit of energy as a foreign policy priority primarily because the country's economy largely depends on stable exports of natural gas?
- Let us look at the situation from a broader perspective. Indeed, Turkmenistan is one of the world's largest exporters of hydrocarbons, and Turkmenistan will not lose its position over time because we have proven reserves of hydrocarbons that are sufficient for dozens of years of strong exports. However, are China, Russia, countries of Western Europe less interested in stability of gas supplies to the largest consumers?
It is no accident that when commodity markets are reeling, and there are abrupt fluctuations in oil prices, this will ultimately affect the global economy. By the way, the gas market will be no less important in the near future than sales of oil.
Security of energy transit is not the sphere of selfish interests of a single country but a worldwide problem. Moreover, it is also an integral part of the universal system of global security. It is impossible to take, say, military security in isolation from the political, economic, technological, environmental and other aspects of the problem. At the same time, the prevailing system of international exports and imports of energy still remains a vulnerable link in the global economy. There is no generally accepted system of legal accountability for the breach of agreements on guarantees of unimpeded transit of energy resources. Accordingly, we are not only entitled but obliged to consider the vulnerability of this link as a threat to international security.
I must say that we see a genuine understanding of our position on this issue from most of the representatives of the international community. We could see this understanding during international consultations at various levels, and we saw it in New York, both at the UN General Assembly and bilateral meetings with leaders of several countries. Today, we insist on accelerating the adoption by all countries concerned of the final decision and reaffirm our readiness to participate in the development and preparation of a global international legal instrument on security of energy transit.
Orazdurdy Hodzhanazarov (TV channel "Altyn Asyr: Turkmenistan"):
- In your speech at the UN General Assembly, you, Mr. President, said that "we are convinced that the less weapons there are in the world, the more stable and safer it will grow, the more trust and understanding there will be between nations and peoples." And we believe that your idea has echoed in the hearts of all peoples of the world. Also, you proposed to hold an international conference on disarmament in the region of Central Asia and the Caspian Basin in Turkmenistan. How acute is this problem for the region?
- Any person, even after a cursory acquaintance with contemporary geopolitics, will see that our region is really saturated with weapons of all types and components of their production. The abundance of military bases in different countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia has not made the lives of peoples of the region serene.
Turkmenistan has insisted that there is a clear need to discuss measures and tools of regional security at a high-profile international forum.
Offering Ashgabat as a venue for such a conference, we want to emphasize our readiness to assist fully to the disarmament process in the region. Three years ago, was made a very important step in this direction, when all the Central Asian states signed in Semipalatinsk the Treaty on establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons. The process requires a smooth continuation. The less we have weapons of any kind in the region and the world, the more stable the processes of economic development and mutually beneficial international cooperation will be.
Hussein Er (TV and Radio Company "TRT" - Turkey):
- Does not it contradict to your recent decree on strengthening the technical base of the Turkmen navy in the Caspian Sea?
- The term "Turkmen Navy", alas, is not entirely correct. As you may recall, with the division of military-technical base of the former USSR, all combat ships of the Caspian fleet went to ports of their old registration - Baku and Astrakhan. Turkmenistan had then only two or three frontier boats. Thus, the notion of "Turkmen Navy" has for a long time been not applicable because of the absence of the fleet itself.
As for the current process of technological upgrading, there is no controversy or sensation here. Compared with the scale of military equipment of fleets of all the other Caspian countries, our step looks the least possible measure. We, like any other state with access to sea, need ships to patrol our maritime borders in order to maintain the necessary level of security and prevent terrorism, combat organized crime, poaching, deter drug trafficking organizations. No more than this. There can be no question about a massive build up of naval forces.
As you know, the five countries with access to the Caspian Sea are in constant negotiation process on the issues affecting the maritime delimitation and conservation of bioresources of the Caspian Sea, and creating an arms-free zone in the sea. This process is not easy. However, it is in constant development. I think we are all on the right track and will be able to make the Caspian a sea of peace and harmony.
Alexander Vershinin (the Associated Press - U.S.):
- In continuation of our talk about the Caspian Sea basin, what do you think about persisting contradictions between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in terms of zones of jurisdiction in the basin?
- Yes, indeed, such contradictions persist over a fairly long period of time. It is believed that the main differences arise around the claims of the parties to the disputed oil fields of the central part of the sea shelf, where Azerbaijan is already active in hydrocarbon production.
Let me remind you that throughout the negotiation process Turkmenistan upheld the fundamental position that until the legal norms determining zones of jurisdiction are in place, any development of the disputed territory is illegal.
And now, it is much more important for Turkmenistan to solve a legal problem as a whole than to argue about ownership of separate geographical areas. If we do not arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement on the definition of the median line of the sea in clear geographical coordinates, it is simply impossible to continue the process of political and economic development of the region as a whole, and solve the urgent problems of preservation of biological resources of the Caspian Sea, and zones of jurisdiction of littoral countries.
Guided by the priority of a comprehensive solution to the problem, we have recently suggested a way to resolve the contradictions in arbitration. I have instructed relevant departments to prepare all necessary documents to submit them to an international arbitration.
At the same time, we have indicated our willingness to accept any decision of arbitration. Thus, Turkmenistan clearly stated its good will to eliminate any misunderstanding between the neighbor countries, and to create a conflict-free zone for development of international political and economic cooperation in the Caspian Sea.
As for the real steps of our country aimed at creating a zone of most favorable conditions for mutually beneficial partnership in the Caspian Basin, I can't help but exemplify the ongoing work on development of the international tourist zone Avaza on the east coast near the town of Turkmenbashi. This ambitious project on creating a resort with extensive infrastructure for sports, good rest and variety of entertainment has already attracted attention of dozens of companies from around the world who have appreciated the attractiveness of investments there.
In two years since the first presentation of the idea of construction of Avaza resort there have been built six hotels that have already accommodated thousands of guests in a holiday season. And this is only the beginning. In few years, when the number of hotels and health centers increases substantially, we will be able to receive hundreds of thousands of visitors in Avaza.
In the near future, we see "Avaza" not just a full-grown resort for residents of Turkmenistan, but also a kind of center of useful and pleasant intercourse of the peoples of all littoral states, as well as the international base of development of diversified tourism and transport infrastructure. In fact, the model of Avaza would fit the entire Caspian area as a zone of peaceful and mutually enriching contacts between tourists and businessmen of all coastal states.
Vladimir Gubanov ("Neutral Turkmenistan" newspaper):
- We learned an interesting fact on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Five hundred copies of your statement were not enough for all those interested to have it so that the secretariat of the Turkmen delegation had to urgently make three hundred more copies ... What, in your opinion, is the reason for increased attention to our country?
- I was also pleasantly surprised with the abundance of signs of genuine attention that had literally come down on the Turkmen delegation. We received many requests for bilateral meetings from heads of state, the authoritative international organizations, leaders of the world's largest companies. The tight schedule of our working program in New York did not allow us to satisfy a one-tenth of all applications. I managed to meet and talk only with those with whom I had agreed in advance.
At the same time, I took this fact with pride for our country that has been tirelessly demonstrating openness to productive international cooperation. Turkmenistan now finds more understanding of its positive aspirations on the part of the international community. State leaders and heads of international organizations see Turkmenistan as a stable political partner, and businessmen want to get to the Turkmen market knowing the intensity of our economic development, the reliability of the domestic legal framework and impeccable reputation of our ability to pay. Meetings that we had to postpone in New York will certainly take place in the near future in the most favorable atmosphere. We do not disregard any contact that would lead to promising partnership.
Igor Sasin (Agence France-Presse - France):
- During your meetings and negotiations with representatives of the world political and business elite in the United States, many observers noted the pragmatic foreign policy of Turkmenistan. It is believed, dear Mr. President, that most of your political decisions have targeted and accurate economic overtone. How fair are these assumptions?
- Of course, they are true. It can not be otherwise. There is a general line approved by the people of Turkmenistan on the economic, social and spiritual revival of the country, and the fulfillment of our main goal formulated as "the state for the people". All the rest is only a means to achieve this goal. Accordingly, all foreign policy aspirations of the state, eventually, if not directly, then indirectly, are subject to our primary goal.
It is impossible to achieve this goal, if Turkmenistan does not position itself as a responsible member of the international community, who is ready to comply with generally accepted norms and values. The reputation of reliable and predictable partner in the global cooperation, that Turkmenistan won in recent years, the country that abides by all its international obligations, inspires interest and trust in foreign partners, both real and potential.
Those who closely follow news in the international media are well aware of the tremendous changes taking place in Turkmenistan. This process is impossible to imagine without sound economic partnerships with the best world producers of goods and technologies. Today, knowing about the stability of the situation in the national economy, the attractiveness of our investment climate, the Turkmen market attracts the most reputable companies from around the world.
We are responsive to many of the proposals, carefully selecting the best of global manufacturing and technology experience. At the same time, the issue of the current political situation in the sphere of international business cooperation is alien to us. We do not conclude disadvantageous economic agreements in exchange for some political dividends. And here, I am ready to accept the terminology of "extreme pragmatism of foreign policy aspirations."
Metin Koshger ("Ikhlas Khabarlary" agency - Turkey):
- The practice of recent years has shown that Turkmenistan is interested not only in cooperation in trade and economic sphere. How do you explain the interest of your country in "non-commercial" areas such as science, culture, education, sport?
- Development of culture, improvement of science and education are among the priorities of national development. Education reform carried out in our country provides for its participation in broader international cooperation, scientific, educational and cultural exchange. Turkmenistan's cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is an important part of this work.
We highly appreciate the assistance of UNESCO in safeguarding and promoting the rich cultural and historical heritage of Turkmenistan and the unique natural features of our country. At present, the UNESCO World Heritage List includes three cultural-historical monuments located in the territory of Turkmenistan: Ancient Merv, Kunyaurgench and Nisa. We have submitted proposals for inclusion in this list of another cultural-historical site "Mounds of Missirian-Dehistan", the six unique natural sites - the State reserves Badkhyz, Syunt-Hasardag, Repetek, Amu Darya, Khazar, and the unique natural monument - a plateau of dinosaurs and Onyx Caves in the mountain massif Koytentag.
Turkmenistan intends to continue developing and expanding cooperation with UNESCO, including through the National Commission.
In this context, Turkmenistan is interested in a possibility to accede to a number of relevant UN Conventions for UNESCO.
In addition, Turkmenistan actively develops and maintains extensive program of cooperation in the humanitarian field, covering a wide range of education, culture, science and sports issues, with virtually all its foreign counterparts.
Simple enumeration of all points and directions of this work would take more than one hour. Among the most outstanding recent developments in this series I would cite the rally raid "Silk Road - 2009 " - an exciting off-road racing of "Dakar" series from Kazan to Ashgabat, initiated by Turkmenistan and supported by the leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan.
These competitions, which in future will become regular, have been the brightest event not only in the sports calendar of the three organizing countries, but in world motorsport in general. A successful finish of racers was perceived as a victory not only of sportsmen but also a victory that unite the peoples by the power of ideas of global humanitarian cooperation.
Merdan Gazakbaev ("Galkynysh" newspaper):
- News feeds from the American city of Trenton - capital of New Jersey, announced an interesting fact. September 24 was officially declared the Day of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. We sincerely congratulate you on this occasion and would like to know about your impressions?
- I took this news as recognition of Turkmenistan's international prestige which increased considerably in recent years, and as evidence that the foreign policy of our country finds more understanding and approval worldwide.
Kakageldy Charyyardurdyev (Press Secretary of the President of Turkmenistan):
- Dear Mr President, I cordially congratulate you on your historic and deeply meaningful statement on the 64th session of the UN General Assembly. It caused a wide resonance in the international community and the world's media, reflecting the growing interest in Turkmenistan. This is also confirmed by our present press conference. I thank you for your time and the meeting and wish you health, long life, continued success in work.
- Thank you! Are there any more questions?
If there are no more questions, I express my gratitude to all of you for participating in today's meeting and for the interesting questions.
I wish you all good health and success to the delight of many readers, viewers and radio listeners.
I believe that such meetings are useful for all of us, and we will meet regularly in the future, if we need to discuss important issues. Thank you for your attention. Goodbye!