20.05.13 21:32


On the final day of his official visit to Turkmenistan, President of the Republic of Latvia Andris Berzins answered questions from international magazine “Turkmenistan” and Turkmenistan.ru website.

Mr. President, let's recall last September in Riga, when you met the President of Turkmenistan. What is your assessment of development of relations between the two countries over the past period? Was there progress in bilateral relations?

I deeply remember those September days last year, as they marked the truly fundamental talks for the further development of relations between our countries. At that time, we were able to clearly identify the level and areas of mutual interests and lay a solid foundation for comprehensive development of the mutually beneficial partnership.

It was at that time, following the meetings and talks with President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, that I got a feeling that we reached deep personal mutual understanding that inspired hope for the successful continuation of the dialogue. Today, I can say with confidence that this reasoning was fully justified.

Serious work preceded the current meeting in Ashgabat. We have managed to work out issues related to the prospects for enhancing mutual understanding in political affairs. Businessmen of our country have shown considerable interest in the possibility of establishing contacts with the Turkmen colleagues, as evidenced by the recent business forum. There are many areas for joint work. And now we have strong confidence that we will be able to fully implement our joint plans.

On the eve of your visit to Ashgabat the Presidents of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan inaugurated the railway section of Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway, which is an important part of the North-South transport corridor. There are plans to connect this transport corridor with the East-West transport corridor. How much do you think Latvia and the EU as a whole are interested in developing the transport infrastructure of the Central Asian region?

It was really great news for us that Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan connected their railways along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. As you probably know, the EU countries are showing great interest in expanding and developing new transcontinental transport corridors. So, it was with great interest that we learned about a new railway line connecting China and Kazakhstan. It was just recently that we discussed with the Presidents of Ukraine and Turkey the possibility of building the logistic chains stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

The emergence of the new transport corridor following the completion of construction of the railroad that connects Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan is very positive news for all countries of the Eurasian continent, including the Republic of Latvia, that seek to establish multilateral trade and economic relations.

The Joint Statement on the outcomes of your visit to Turkmenistan, in addition to the transport sector, outlines a number of areas of cooperation. Which of them, in your opinion, are the priority areas?

I am sure they are all important. However, out of all, I would focus on education. Yes, yet it may seem strange to you, it is not about politics or economics but education.

In a modern world with its problems of unemployment, economic crises, a lot can be solved by building the right processes of educational and vocational training of the young generation. As the retirement age increases across the world, the older generation is unwilling to give way to young people in the traditional sectors of the economy. At the same time, new high-tech industries are rapidly developing and they are increasingly looking for young educated professionals. We have to be flexible enough to accurately respond to the challenges of time and be able to train new professionals.

I learned during this visit that modern Turkmenistan is well aware of the severity of this problem. The country is doing its best to ensure quality education for the young generation. The accumulated experience of our countries in this area can and should be used to enhance cooperation.

As you know, forests are one of the main raw materials of Latvia. They occupy a large part of our territory. Accordingly, our experience in training staff for the forestry industry can be useful for the Turkmen partners. At the same time, the experience of Turkmen higher education establishments in training of specialists in the field of geology or energy sector can be very useful for Latvia.

Elaborating on the topic of development of bilateral cooperation, we should recall the landmark event for both countries. It was for the first time that a big Turkmen delegation took part in the International Textile Exhibition, which was held in Riga last April. In your opinion, how interesting was the meeting with new partners from Turkmenistan for Latvia and its European neighbors?

Turkmenistan’s participation in the International Textile Forum in Riga confirmed high quality of Turkmen goods. During this visit I could see with my own the fast pace of development of the textile sector in Turkmenistan. High quality of Turkmen goods is a guarantee of a decent level of competitiveness and, therefore, compliance with the requirements of consumers in the European market.

Competitiveness of Turkmen textile clothing is confirmed by the fact that it features the design patterns based on traditional folk motifs. It's like a breath of fresh air for the traditional European design. The possibility of cooperation in this area can be considered a component of cooperation of the national cultures, and it is very promising.

Speaking of the European vector of economic and political aspirations of Turkmenistan, one cannot but ask of the EU’s assessment of the regional and international initiatives put forward by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. For example, what is Riga’s assessment of the Turkmen initiatives to achieve global energy security?

It is a well-known fact that Turkmenistan has huge hydrocarbon reserves. The exact volume of these reserves has been estimated by an independent European audit. That is why one can clearly understand the country's aspiration to achieve global consensus on measures to ensure a guaranteed energy security. I can assure you that these issues are of no less interest for the European countries. And here, Turkmenistan gets genuine understanding and support for its initiatives.

And this is not the only international initiative of Turkmenistan that was met with understanding in Latvia and the European Union. Let us take, for example, the process of peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. The international community welcomes the steps taken by Turkmenistan towards providing economic assistance for the resolution of the situation in Afghanistan. This is both the direct economic assistance to the northern regions of the southern neighbor through supply of electricity and humanitarian aid, the initiatives to build a new railway through Afghan territory and plans to build the TAPI gas pipeline.

The Afghan problem is painful for many countries, and Latvia is one of them. Turkmenistan, being a staunch supporter of the peaceful resolution of the Afghan problems, demonstrates to the world community the possibility of an alternative, non-military method for solving the current problems. This approach is fully supported by our country and many of our partners in Europe.

Thus, many recent Turkmen initiatives, being regional in nature, are in fact of the global importance, enjoying sincere respect and support of many members of the world community.

You will spend the final day of your visit to Turkmenistan in the city of Turkmenbashi, where you will see, among other things, the seaport. It is expected that development of this port, cooperation in the field of shipbuilding may also become the subject of partnership between the two countries. What do you think of such prospects?

We discussed this issue together with the President of Turkmenistan in Latvia last year, when he got acquainted with the capacity of the Riga seaport. Latvian port workers and ship builders enjoy high professional reputation in the world, and they are willing to generously share their experiences with the Turkmen friends. We also have a marine school, and shipyards working together with the European partners. I think this is one of the promising areas of cooperation between Turkmenistan and Latvia.

In assessing the possibilities of bilateral cooperation we cannot avoid the topic of culture. Both countries - Latvia and Turkmenistan - have centuries-old cultural traditions. This is not our own perception but the subject of high international evaluation. Next year, Riga will be the cultural capital of Europe, and last year the Turkmen city of Mary acted as a cultural capital of the CIS. What do you think, Mr. President, about the opportunities of cultural exchange and cultural enrichment, taking into account the wealth of folk traditions of the two countries?

There are really a lot of opportunities and we should try to use them as efficiently as possible. In the course of the current talks in Ashgabat, we have agreed that a large delegation of Turkmen cultural workers will visit our capital in 2014, as part of Riga’s status of cultural capital of Europe.

I am convinced that not only the official events should be an occasion for cultural exchange. We will be happy to regularly host Turkmen musicians, artists, filmmakers, theater workers because we are convinced that the original Turkmen culture will find many admirers in our country. Equally, I think, the people of Turkmenistan will be interested in the art heritage of the Latvian people.

As you know, Turkmenistan will host the Asian Games in 2017. It is known that Latvia has good traditions of training world-class sportsmen. Do you think we can establish fruitful contacts between the two countries in the field of sports?

It is difficult at this stage to specify the possible areas of cooperation in the field of sports, but we have already touched on this issue in the conversations with esteemed President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and we have found a lot of common interests.

By the way, I admire the intention of the President of Turkmenistan to develop winter sports in such a hot southern country. Establishment of a network of facilities for winter sports will not only help develop these kinds of sport in Turkmenistan, but also attract sportsmen from many countries for training, including the world famous stars.

In general, the state programme of Turkmenistan on development of physical education and sport is an important component for making the nation healthier. That is why Europe is currently attaches the utmost importance to this issue. So, we can say that Turkmenistan is at the forefront of global trends.

Above all, Latvia is known for its resorts on the coast of the Baltic Sea. There is also a national resort area “Avaza”, which is being intensively developed on the Caspian Sea coast. In your opinion, are there prospects for cooperation between the two countries in the sphere of health resorts?

We surely have excellent opportunities for the mutual exchange of tourists. Why don’t we think of building Turkmenistan’s tourist complex in Jurmala and Latvia’s tourist complex in Avaza? This can be a good idea for joint action in future.

And this is just one of many examples of possible cooperation. At the current stage of development of bilateral cooperation, we are basically exchanging promising ideas. But I am deeply convinced that by the time of our next meeting with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov we will have an occasion to speak about concrete achievements of our cooperation.

At the end of my visit to Turkmenistan I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the President of Turkmenistan for the warm reception and hope for successful continuation of the long-term cooperation.


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