Top-level contacts between Minsk and Ashgabat have developed greatly in recent times, with our presidents meeting annually, alternately in Belarus and Turkmenistan. Besides political liaisons, we’ve nurtured economic collaboration, inspiring a number of mutually beneficial joint ventures. Each official meeting by our heads of state not only monitors the fulfilment of agreements but drives forward further collaboration across various spheres.
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly BerdimuhamedovMr. Lukashenko hosted his Turkmen colleague, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, at the Palace of Independence — discussing issues in narrow and extended formats. Initially, Mr. Lukashenko focused on the presidents’ eagerness to develop inter-state liaisons. Trade turnover has reached almost $0.5bln in a very short period of time, leading to Turkmenistan being ranked fourth among our trade partners: behind Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. No such relationship existed in Soviet times, proving that new levels of interaction are possible where the desire exists. Moreover, much more is yet to be achieved. Mr. Berdimuhamedov is keen to promote joint work in machine building, metallurgy, the chemical and food industries, agriculture and education, among other areas — with Minsk in agreement.
Mr. Lukashenko has proposed increasing deliveries of trucks and tractors to Turkmenistan, as well as harvesters, buses and cargo freight carriages. In fact, harvesters and buses are already being tested in Turkmenistan and are demonstrating good results; it seems likely that supply contracts will soon be signed. However, this is only part of a major Turkmen programme of transport infrastructure development, aiming to connect neighbouring states to the Persian Gulf via optimal automobile and railway routes. The project will require the construction of logistics centres, with which Belarus is keen to help, having experience.
The mining and chemical industries also offer prospects, as does large-scale housing construction in Turkmenistan, using Belarusian materials and lifts. Joint ventures in light and textile industries look promising, with a factory sewing uniforms for Turkmen power agencies likely soon to open. Perhaps the biggest venture is the construction of mining and processing facilities at Garlyk, by Belarusian specialists. Our presidents agree that this is most certainly of mutual benefit.
We enjoy many mutual interests, leading to Mr. Berdimuhamedov supporting Mr. Lukashenko’s proposals to lay out more detailed plans - via the Inter-governmental Commission for Economic Co-operation. In elaborating a clear ‘roadmap’, efforts can be optimised, for maximum efficiency.
Our humanitarian collaboration is of no less importance, with over 8,000 Turkmen students already studying in Belarus; Ashgabat is keen to increase their number, leading to Mr. Lukashenko asking Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich to explore the construction of a hostel dedicated to Turkmen students. Scientific exchange programmes have brought a great many scientists to Belarus from Turkmenistan, inspiring plans to build a dedicated hotel for their use as well.
As a result of negotiations, almost 15 documents have been signed, promoting interaction across diverse spheres. The presidents made a joint statement confirming the progress of inter-state relations — politically and economically. Both heads of state noted the substantive and constructive character of their talks, and Mr. Lukashenko thanked Mr. Berdimuhamedov for approving most of the initiatives offered by Belarus: new projects are now to be added to the 16 already being implemented in Turkmenistan, with support from Belarus. These look set to be worth at least $1.145bln.
Dialogue continues, with the next top level meeting scheduled to take place in Ashgabat. Terms are to be agreed along diplomatic channels, but the principal invitation has been voiced and accepted.
Minsk and Ashgabat have a clear vision of the way forward, as symbolized by Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Berdimuhamedov laying a ‘time-capsule’ in the foundations of the new Embassy of Turkmenistan to Minsk. The gesture confirmimg the seriousness of intentions and, clearly, the construction of a beautiful building in the country with which one plans to co-operate, long and constructively, says much. Belarus has allocated a beautiful and prestigious site, close to the Palace of Independence, where a ‘territory of friends’ is being formed. Nearby, Kazakhstan has begun construction of its new diplomatic mission building, and the Russian Embassy is situated on the other side, as is a residential complex for working diplomats. Such geography speaks much of Belarusian foreign political priorities.
The President of Belarus is convinced that the creation of an island of Turkmen in Minsk will open up new opportunities for expanded collaboration. He has called the embassy complex a house of friendship and hopes to see the model repeated. Mr. Lukashenko emphasized that a site will be chosen for the construction of a student hostel and hotel for scientists arriving from Turkmenistan. Mr. Berdimuhamedov thanked his Belarusian colleague for this and assured him that the new embassy building will be a place in which Belarusians will be welcome to learn more about the culture and arts of Turkmenistan, as well as hosting scientists and cultural figures. He declared, “I’m confident that the building will stand on strong foundations of friendship and mutual understanding; its doors will always be open to friends and partners.”
By Dmitry Kryat