Central Asia

The meeting of the Turkmen and Russian Presidents and its significance for the relationship between countries

The President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Ashgabat on October 2, 2017, to sign the Strategic Partnership agreement aimed at furthering the social, cultural and economic relations between the two countries. In addition to this partnership, a large number of agreements on economic, social and cultural-educational issues have been signed. On this occasion, the Turkmen President was awarded with the state distinction “Alexander Nevsky Order” and the Russian President was decorated with the “Order for Contribution to Co-operation Development”. A new element of strategic importance is the invitation of the Russian Energy Minister, Alexander Novak to Turkmenistan to join the agreement to curb oil production between OPEC and non-OPEC countries.

Presidents’ meeting in Ashgabat

Vladimir Putin accepted the invitation of his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and made an official visit to Ashgabat on 2 October 2017. This is the first official visit of the Russian President in Ashgabat in the last five years. The event took place in the context of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states.

The main topic of the meeting in Turkmenistan’s capital were the trade and economic partnerships between the two countries. Discussions have been held on the need to use geographic and infrastructure benefits to build new directions for development in technology, transport and communications, energy and agro-industry. Turkmenistan declared it is ready to increase the exports of agri-food and textile products, but also to develop mutually beneficial cooperation regarding the supply of oil, natural gas, chemicals and consumer goods. At the same time, the President of Turkmenistan expressed his country’s interest in stepping up the interaction with the Russian Federation in the area of advanced technologies. The priority areas for commercial and economic cooperation also include the banking and financial sector, support for export-import operations and the common external economic projects.

It has also been discussed to continue the cooperation with Russia in the implementation of the strategy for combating terrorism, drug trafficking and crime. In addition, the President of Turkmenistan considers that the vision of Russia and Turkmenistan is identical or similar on all major regional and global issues. Turkmenistan respects Russia’s interests in Central Asia, including its political, economic and humanitarian interests, and considers Russia’s approach in the region as a stabilizing factor, contributing to maintaining balance and stability. He is also grateful to Russia for hosting thousands of students in the Russian educational institutions.

Turkmenistan’s relations with Russia

In April 2003, Russia and Turkmenistan signed a 25-year gas industry cooperation agreement whereby the parties agreed to trade Turkmen gas. Deliveries were made through the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline transit system, which runs through the territory of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Based on intergovernmental agreements, Gazprom acted as an operator for the transit of Turkmen gas through these territories. After 2009, the quantity of Turkmen gas bought by Gazprom began to diminish, and in 2016 the Russian company suspended the acquisition of gas. The People’s Republic of China is currently the main importer of Turkmen gas.

The legal basis for cooperation

The legal basis for cooperation consists of 115 interstate and intergovernmental documents and 76 interdepartmental acts, covering a wide range of areas.

The meeting culminated in the signing of a strategic partnership marking the continuation of the relations between the two states in the economic and social field and a series of agreements:

  1. Agreement between the city of Mary (the governorate of the city of Mary) and the administrative body of the municipal entity “City of Oryol” (Russian Federation) on the establishment of sister-city relations between the city of Mary and the city of Orel;
  2. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Administration of the Krasnodar Krai of the Russian Federation on trade and economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation;
  3. Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation between the Ministry of Finance of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation;
  4. Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of standardization and metrology between the General Public Service “Türkmenstandartlary” (Turkmenistan) and the Federal Agency for Technical Regulation and Metrology (Russian Federation);
  5. Agreement between the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of health;
  6. The program of cooperation for 2018-2020 between the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation;
  7. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of tourism;
  8. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of sports;
  9. Protocol on Amendments to the Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the Field of Sea Transport dated September 17, 2013;
  10. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of agriculture;
  11. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of industry;
  12. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on the mutual opening of representative offices of authorized bodies in the field of migration;
  13. Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on combating illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors.

A new series of agreements in humanitarian sphere of cooperation were signed at the Magtumguly State University in Turkmenistan:

  1. Agreement on Continuation of Cooperation between the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan and the Institute of History of Material History of Russian Federation (Sankt Petersburg);

  1. Agreement on Continuation of Cooperation between the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan and N. N. Miklukho – Maklay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of Russian Academy of Sciences;

  1. Agreement on Cooperation between Magtumguly Turkmen State University and M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University;

  1. Agreement on Cooperation between the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan and Federal State Autonomous High Educational Institution “Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation;

  1. Memorandum of Understanding between International Oil and Gas University and I. M. Gubkin Russian State Oil and Gas University (National Research University);

  1. Memorandum of Cooperation between Turkmen State Institute of Transport and Communication and S. P. Korolyev Samara National Research Institute;

  1. Agreement on Cooperation between Turkmen State Institute of Transport and Communication and Federal State Budgetary High Education Institution “M. F. Reshetnikov Siberian State University of Science and Technology”;

  1. Agreement of Cooperation between Turkmen State Architecture and Construction Institute and D. I Mendeleyev Russian Chemistry and Technology University;

  1. Agreement on Scientific Cooperation between the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan and Federal State Budgetary Institution “Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Studies”

The Russian President gave the President of Turkmenistan the state distinction “Alexander Nevsky Order” as a gratitude for his contribution to strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries and maintaining stability and security in the Central Asian region. In turn, President Berdimuhamedow granted Vladimir Putin “the Order for Contribution to Co-operation Development”.

Also at the beginning of October 2017, the Russian Energy Minister, Alexander Novak, invited Turkmenistan to join the Oil Production Reduction Agreement between OPEC member and non-member countries, and to participate in the forum of gas exporting countries. According to the Russian Energy Minister, Turkmenistan is unlikely to adhere to this agreement but it is ready to assume the role of observer, invited to take part in the talks. Turkmenistan produces about 200,000 barrels of oil per day.

Conclusion

The status of neutrality gives Turkmenistan a special position in Central Asia, but the diplomatic relations that the country has both on a regional and global level encourage its development. Relations with the Russian Federation have been and are intense, with both countries benefiting from their partnerships. The meeting in Ashgabat was aimed at strengthening state relations and creating a common development plan that would allow for increased living standards, trade relations and regional security.

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