Turkmenistan celebrates Independence Day
Tomorrow Turkmenistan will mark the 22th anniversary of its independence. The collapse of the Soviet Union did not bring bloodshed to the republic like it did to many other newly-independent states. Almost immediately after it became independent, it announced neutrality as its official foreign policy doctrine. Political scientists call this policy a manifestation of Turkmen society's historical experience and the Turkmen ability to live in peace with their neighbors, as well as the ability to find a common language with everyone. Turkmenistan is a secular state, but religion remains an integral part of the country's culture. The authorities have chosen the phrase "The government is for the people" as their motto.
After becoming the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov travelled to Saudi Arabia to make it clear that he was not going to give up his strong feelings for Islam and Islamic culture. Shortly after the elections he also travelled to Moscow to demonstrate that Russia defines the secular, common cultural traditions which have been developing for centuries.
The economic factor plays a very important role in the bilateral relations between the countries. Turkmenistan exports gas as well as textiles, chemicals and agricultural products to Russia. Russia exports technologies, equipment, metal products, vehicles and household goods to Turkmenistan.
It is fair to say that Russian-Turkmen relations cover almost all spheres of the government and the lives of their peoples. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, "despite unflattering years for the global economy, the rates of turnover increase are impressive. We are pleased with the way relations between our people are developing, as well as our cooperation in the international arena and in regional organizations. We are interested in deepening our partnership in relation to the CIS in the UN. We welcome the interest of Turkmenistan in deepening its ties with the SCO. We have a lot in common with regard to Caspian issues as well."
Indeed, during the Astrakhan summit of the Caspian states, the head of Turkmenistan said that Ashgabat supports the expansion and intensification of the partnership on key aspects of the Caspian issue and that the country is primarily concerned wtih the maintenance and consolidation of peace and security as well as prevention of military confrontation. As a result, the statement signed at the end of the summit included a provision which prohibits the presence of foreign troops on the Caspian Sea.
Some experts believe that Ashgabat's regional contacts are aimed at accomplishing a Central Asian economic revival. However, these contacts are carried out not only in the economy, but also in the spheres of culture, education, spirituality, etc. This weekend Ashgabat hosted talks between the head of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov. Particular attention was paid to bilateral cooperation in the fields of transport and communication. Berdimuhamedov reaffirmed Turkmenistan's readiness to cooperate in creating a transport corridor connecting Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the Caspian Sea and the South Caucasus, which would provide access to the Black Sea ports of Georgia, Turkey, Romania and other countries.
"Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan signed an agreement on establishing an international transportation and transit corridor between Central Asia and the Middle East in April 2011. Now is the stage of implementation of this document," Berdimuhamedov said, proposing a meeting between the heads of the transport and customs services of the parties to the transport corridor between Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Oman.
Speaking about infrastructure, it is worth noting that Ashgabat is very focused on development of the transport sector. Among the most important projects, experts highlight the laying of the foundation of the Turkmenbashi international seaport, the opening of the Turkmen-Kazakh section of the transnational railway North-South, the construction of a railway connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the commissioning of the Atamyrat-Kerkichi railway and road bridges, as well as the commissioning of airports, highways, bridges and overpasses.
Observers agree that gas and other energy resources comprising the main source of the country's income provide Turkmenistan with the financial means to conduct the reforms.