Turkmenistan President tries role of mediator on Afghanistan
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov officially visits the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on August 27th. During negotiations with his Afghan colleague Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, he will discuss issues of bilateral cooperation, and several documents will be signed as a result of the talks. One of the main topics for discussion is stability in Afghanistan. By the way, earlier the leader of Turkmenistan discussed it with President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmon, who visited Ashkhabad last week.
Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are the most vulnerable countries of Central Asia from Afghanistan’s side. So the problem of security was the main one in the talks of the two presidents. After the meeting they stated that “a settlement of the situation in Afghanistan is possible only through peaceful political means on the basis of a broad all-national dialogue.” “Military and forceful methods of settling internal Afghan problems are ineffective and unpromising,” Berdymukhamedov stated.
The Arkadag (the official title of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov) confirmed Turkmenistan’s readiness to provide the UN with the necessary support in the sphere of internal Afghan stability, stressing that an important role should be played by the UN Regional Center of Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. “Turkmenistan and Tajikistan stand for providing active international support for the government of Afghanistan, support for the effective integration of the country into regional and international economic processes, including such spheres as energy and transport,” the press service of the Turkmen President says.
Berdimuhamedov will go to a discussion of the topic in Kabul on August 27th. Initially, the visit by the Turkmen leader was planned for August 4th, but due to a leg injury of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani it was delayed.
This is the second official visit (after a visit in April 2008) by the President of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan. In this period, the trade turnover between the countries grew several times, and last year it was $1 billion; it helped Afghanistan to increase its GDP significantly after the overthrow of the Taliban regime.
“Turkmenistan is actively helping the neighboring country to restore the economy, exporting liquid gas, electricity power, oil products, and other goods to Afghanistan. It is expected that after Berdimuhamedov's visit and the signing of new documents, the trade and economic contacts between the two countries will increase to $2 billion,” Shokhrat Kadyrov, PhD (History), a senior scientist of the Oriental Studies Institute of the RAS, told Vestnik Kavkaza. He noted that the main economic problem of Afghanistan is a lack of electric power; and Turkmenistan is ready to solve it. At the moment Turkmenistan is exporting electricity power to Afghanistan through the line of Kushka (current Serhetabad)-Turgundi-Gerat. Tajikistan is working in the same direction, when it has excess electricity power.
The visit to Afghanistan by the President of Turkmenistan is also connected with the end of construction (with the intensive participation of Tajikistan) of the Atamurad (previous Kerki)-Imamnazar (a near-border town)-Akino (Afghanistan) railway and with the practical implementation of the project of the Trans-Afghan Pipeline at the end of 2015 (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran), which will provide Afghanistan, Pakistan and India with more than 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually.
“The direct benefit of Afghanistan from the project is $1 billion and 12 thousand new jobs – primarily, participation of the Afghan Army in protection of the pipeline,” Kadyrov said. The expert thinks that in 4 years the pipeline will be ready and it will enable Turkmenistan to reach the Soviet level of gas exporting – more than 80 billion cubic meters annually. “The implementation of the project will not only become a pillar for the industrialization of rural Afghanistan, but also be a ground for internal and foreign political peacemaking, as without peaceful agreements between Taliban on the one hand and Afghanistan, Pakistan, India on the other hand, normal functioning of the gas pipeline will be impossible,” Kadyrov says.
The project is so attractive that Uzbekistan and Russia have expressed their desire to participate in it too, as well as the U.S. which is interested in weakening of Turkmenistan’s dependence from Russia and filling the world market with new volumes of energy resources to keep prices low.