Belarus will help Turkmenistan in modernization
Despite the complicated international situation, the 20th anniversary of Turkmenistan's neutrality, celebrated on December 12th has become a significant event, which was attended by leaders and political figures from 80 countries. One of the respected guests was President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. On the threshold of the solemn event the Belarusian President met with Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Alexander Lukashenko was met in Ashgabat with traditional east luxury. His motorcade en route to the Oguzkhan palace complex was accompanied by the Turkmen cavalry, consisting of the best Akhal-Teke horses. Talks with his Turkmen counterpart took place in the Golden Hall of the residence. According to experts, the results are ''significant''.
The Presidents announced an agreement on a 'road map' of cooperation for the next two years. They adopted a declaration on friendship, deepening of relations and cooperation between the two countries. Agreements were also signed on the food industry, light industry and the Academies of Sciences.
Lukashenko and Berdimuhamedov agreed to increase the number of purchases of Belarusian trucks: MAZ and MTZ. These trucks are necessary for the largest Belarusian-Turkmen project in the production of potash salts. Now Belarusian specialists are building the Garlyk plant. It was decided that Belarus would build an Engineering Center in Turkmenistan on a turnkey basis, where heavy vehicles would be assembled.
According to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the Garlyk mining and concentration complex is the "economic flagship" of Turkmen-Belarusian relations. Turkmen potassium fertilizers will allow the country to acquire more influence in the region. Turkmenistan is also interested in the development of other areas. According to Berdimuhamedov, it is about the supply of freight cars, track equipment and elevators to Ashgabat, as well as other products, manufactured precisely by Belorusian enterprises.
In addition, it was decided to open a trading house in Ashkhabad, which is to become the de facto terminal hub of Turkmen and Belarusian products, supplied to markets in Asia and the Middle East. "I think that we will do a lot together with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in order to create a real sector here [in Turkmenistan], similar to Belarus. We are ready to share our experience and knowledge. There are no taboo topics: from the economy (clothing, shoes) to the military-industrial complex and training of personnel,’’ Alexander Lukashenko said.
According to Ivan Ippolitov, the expert of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Lukashenko has had long and fruitful relations with Turkmenistan. The economic problems of Belarus have worsened in the past three years. Therefore, the revival of cooperation with Turkmenistan is beneficial. "Belarus is interested in selling its products of engineering, contracts for construction, inflow of fee-paying students and so on. And Ashgabat can give this to Minsk. The turnover between these countries is not very large (about $200 million a year). But it decreased for almost all supplies of products from Belarus to Turkmenistan,’’ Ippolitov said.
This was stated by Alexander Lukashenko: "We recognize that turnover has decreased throughout the entire world. Prices for raw materials and products have decreased. Prices have become completely different, and we estimate the price of our turnover. We analyzed that the physical volume of trade of Belarus has stayed at the same level with all countries, and even increased a little bit, but prices have decreased. I support President Berdimuhamedov, that we have enough potential in order to reach and exceed the highest level of turnover that we had before."
According to Ivan Ippolitova, Turkmenistan was one of the three world leaders in purchasing Belarusian trucks MAZ in 2013.
MAZ was specifically used for the Turkmen turbo stalk truck MAZ-641705. Turkmenistan was willing to buy Minsk tractors. But the main economic cooperation between Minsk and Ashgabat still remains the role of JSC Belgorkhimprom in construction of the Garlyk mining and concentration complex.
''The mining and concentration complex was completed this year, but the launch of new plans is expected to be in 2017. The construction involves 400-500 specialists from Belarus, and its number is expected to be increased. Moreover, ideas about possible cooperation between Belarus and Turkmenistan in the sphere of production and sales of fertilizer were announced during the conflict with Uralkaliy," Ippolitov said.
According to him, joint projects between Minsk and Ashgabat were not worked out today or yesterday. In particular, several years ago it was planned to carry out the joint production of drones, but the situation hasn’t changed. But cooperation in the field of education and science may seem exemplary: about 10,000 Turkmen students study in Belarus. It is the second indicator for Turkmenistan. Only in Turkey do more Turkmen students study. "Belarusian education has very high credibility in Turkmenistan. The Turkmen side is attracted not only by the high level of knowledge that Turkmen students receive, but also the low tuition fees, and the most important thing is the quiet overall political situation in Belarus,’’ Ippolitov said.
The Director-General of the Centre for Political Conjuncture, Sergey Mikheyev, said in an interview with a VK correspondent, commenting on Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to Ashgabat, that the success and fruitfulness is caused by the fact that both countries were and still continue to have difficult relations with the world political centers. This influences the situation and has created a certain closeness between Ashgabat and Minsk, as well as stimulating a desire to find common ground on various issues.