ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO: IT IS NOW IMPOSSIBLE TO HARM OR WEAKEN OUR RELATIONS
On the eve of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s official visit to Belarus the editorial staff of "Foreign Policy and Diplomacy of Turkmenistan" magazine interviewed the President of the Republic of Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko kindly agreed to speak on the topical issues relating to development of good-neighborly relations between the two countries.
- Mr. President, what is your assessment of the current state of relations between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Belarus, and what, in your opinion, are the major areas of interaction of the foreign policies of the two countries?
- The very fact that the annual trade turnover between Belarus and Turkmenistan has reached half a billion dollars and that this trend is growing consistently can be explained quite simply. We have managed to create an efficient model of bilateral relations. Its main point is simple. We meet with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov every year in the framework of official visits. Our regular meetings at the highest level allow us not only to make important and responsible decisions but also successfully monitor their implementation.
In this situation, the governments and officials have nowhere to go. They understand that if two presidents made a decision, then they would meet again the next year and ask them to report on the implementation of the agreements reached. This simple formula of relations at the highest level brings impressive results. That is why the annual trade turnover between the two countries has increased by an average of USD 100 million in recent years.
With regard to our foreign policy aspirations, it is well known that we have absolutely no disagreements on international issues. We have similar views on most issues. We always treat each other as partners and support each other in the framework of international organizations such as the United Nations. Turkmen partners have always supported the Belarusian initiatives, and we always support the Turkmen initiatives.
This was the case, for example, when the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted by consensus a resolution initiated by the Belarusian delegation titled "Strengthening Coordination of United Nations and Other Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking." In turn, Belarus fully supported the initiative put forward by the Turkmen President at the UN General Assembly on ensuring security of international energy transit. This kind of mutual support can serve as a role model for other countries of how the two countries should build friendly relationship.
In summary, we can say that our relations have a characteristic of strategic partnership. Cooperation with Turkmenistan is a priority for Belarus, compared with many other countries. We meet annually as the heads of state to look in detail at our strategic partnership as part of new joint programs and contracts.
Of course, sometimes you have to deal with problems that cannot be solved as quickly as we would like. In the end, they all can be solved. The key to this is the unshakable will of the two presidents. Together with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov we have always followed the principle of compulsory execution of the agreements.
- As is known, trade and economic partnership between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Belarus is noted for highly dynamic development. What indicators can demonstrate this process most clearly?
- If we talk about trade and economic relations, I should tell you that in spite of the global economic crisis our countries have maintained a positive growth trend in trade over the last five years. This is largely owing to the efforts of the President of Turkmenistan. The Belarusian partners are invited to join the implementation of all Turkmen national programs wherever possible, and I am truly grateful for that.
More than five thousand Belarusian MAZ vehicles and more than five thousand new Belarusian MTZ tractors are currently used in the economic sector of Turkmenistan. As you see, our presence in terms of technologies is quite impressive. Moreover, we have agreed with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov that we will receive young men and women from Turkmenistan, who want to become machine operators, to help them learn their profession right in the assembly shops of a tractor plant. I believe that future machine operators can be best trained when they see with their own eyes how a brand new tractor is being assembled at a plant. The same methods can be used in automotive and other technology areas...
Belarus currently supplies chemical fiber, medicine, certain types of food, wood products to Turkmenistan. The range of Belarusian products that may be offered to Turkmenistan can be extended further. We can supply elevators for multi-storey buildings, as well as road construction equipment to support the ongoing construction of the network of highways in Turkmenistan. I can clearly see the great opportunities of cooperation in this area...
In terms of trade turnover with Belarusian partners from the CIS countries Turkmenistan ranks fourth after Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. This figure speaks for itself.
If we talk about some iconic symbols of our partnership, this is, of course, the construction of the Garlyk Mining and Processing Plant with the capacity of 1.4 million tons of potash per year. Construction of this plant is carried out rapidly. The only factor that constrains the dynamics of construction is the complex grounds with a variety of aquifers, where we use expensive equipment that results in slowing down the pace of construction.
These temporary challenges do not diminish our determination to fulfill our obligations and complete the construction of this most modern plant that will become a visible symbol of productivity of our cooperation. In future, we are ready to share with Turkmen partners our own experience in international trade of mineral fertilizers, since Belarus, producing up to 10 million tons of valuable chemical products annually, is one of the world's leading exporters of potash.
- One of the most promising areas of cooperation between the two countries is development of partnership in establishing the supply chains and manifold transport infrastructure along the North - South and East – West routes. How do you see the future of these projects?
Belarus is an open country with transparent economy, located at the heart of Europe. On the one hand, we have the European Union, on the other hand - Eurasia and Russia. Hundreds of millions of tons of cargo annually cross our country by rail, by motor and air ways.
We are a transit country on the crossroads of many trade routes. That is why we are trying to develop transport arteries, increase their capacity and create large logistics centers. Belarus has everything to serve large-scale flows of goods, including specialists and experience.
Similar processes happen in Turkmenistan that is developing a modern transport network and strong logistics while increasing the growth rate of economic development. As regards the completion of construction of Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan – Iran railway, this is for the common good, including us. Now we can move cargo from Belarus to the Gulf region. The counter-flow of goods to Europe will again pass through our territory, and this will bring great benefits to Belarusians. That is why we very much appreciate the efforts of Turkmenistan to develop new trans-continental transport routes.
- Belarus is one of the key partners of Turkmenistan in the sphere of education. About nine thousand Turkmen students currently study in Belarus. This accounts for more than half of all foreign students studying at Belarusian higher education establishments. What is your assessment of this fact, and how do you see the prospects of such cooperation?
At one time I admired the vision of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who prioritized training of qualified personnel as one of the major tasks of the state. We were happy to provide all possible assistance to our partners.
We helped to train specialists in agricultural, medicine, engineering profession, and now we have come to offering education in high technologies. This is a qualitatively new stage of joint training of specialists. The attention that the President of Turkmenistan pays to this area is truly unprecedented. This is evidenced by the steady growth of Turkmen economy and development of society as a whole.
- We know that you, Alexander Grigoriyevich, and the President of Turkmenistan are the ardent supporters of healthy lifestyle and active sportsmen. To what extent your hobbies help develop contacts between the two countries in the field of sports?
Here is a recent example of our sporting contacts. Young Turkmen hockey players went and beat our youth team. I confess that I was a little upset because of this defeat. However, I am sincerely happy for Turkmenistan that increasingly develops new sports.
When the head of state appreciates and understands sports, it ensures the healthy development of the nation. After all, the President of Turkmenistan is a doctor by training. He is the one who is perfectly aware of the healing power of physical culture! I understand very well all what he says and does for development of sports in the country. I think that our common addiction to sports will help make our countries the truly sport-loving nations.
I am understandably behind my colleague in horse riding. He is clearly much better at this. This is his passion, his love. I envy him in a friendly way and admire his riding skills.
- Alexander Grigoriyevich, since we are talking about individual likings and motives, let me ask you about your view of the importance of personal relations between the leaders of the two countries for development of inter-state dialogue as a whole?
Personal relations of national leaders are quite significant for development of bilateral relations, especially for countries with strong presidential powers (and Turkmenistan and Belarus are exactly such countries). It is thanks to the good personal relations that I and President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov have always managed to find solutions to complex issues, and we have eventually built up such a strong foundation for mutual understanding that nothing can shake it now. Speaking figuratively, we have passed the point of no return, when it is simply no longer possible to harm or weaken our relations. And another visit by the Turkmen leader to the Republic of Belarus gives a lot of evidence of the above-said.
© TURKMENISTAN.RU, 2017