Transport and logistics strategy of Turkmenistan – contribution to the connectivity of Europe and Asia

The development of transport communications is becoming one of the most important conditions for an effective international partnership.

Considering that Turkmenistan is geographically located at the crossroads of routes along the North-South, West-East line, the development of transport infrastructure is one of the priorities of the state policy of Turkmenistan.

That is why Turkmenistan in its geo-economic strategy assigns an important role to the creation of a modern transport infrastructure in the country, which includes a combined transport system with access to regional and international road, rail, sea and air hubs aimed at bringing international economic and trade cooperation to qualitatively new level.

President of Turkmenistan systematically emphasizes, including at the platforms of the UN General Assembly, that the formation of diversified transport infrastructure is intended to contribute to the realization of the region’s enormous economic potential and, thereby, to consolidate peace, stability and security and sustainable socio-economic progress.

The relevant Resolutions on transport issues, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2014, 2015 and 2017, clearly demonstrate the relevance of the constructive proposals of the Turkmen President.It is noteworthy that Turkmenistan was elected to the Bureau of the Inland Transport Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for the period 2019-2020.

In this context, quadrilateral meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Romania on March 4, 2019 in Bucharest on the project of creating international transport route „Caspian Sea – Black Sea”, at the end of which the Bucharest Statement was adopted, acts as another timely initiative that further enhances the region’s geopolitical significance, as well as a successful result of efforts undertaken in the diversification of transport and transit routes in the East-West direction, covering the Caspian basin, continental Eurasia with access to the Black Sea and Baltic region, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

Participants of this meeting expressed mutual interest in accelerating regional cooperation and expanding existing economic ties between countries by creating a new transport and transit corridor “Caspian Sea – Black Sea”, which will become a solid basis for sustainable development, peace and stability in the region.
The link between Central Asia and Europe across two Seas is the shortest and most cost-effective route in the transport hub in comparison to previous routes. As Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romanian Teodor Melescanu noted, this transport route will take a significant place in the EU-Central Asia cooperation strategy, which will be approved in 2019.

Romania, holding presidency over the EU Council in the first half of 2019, supports this joint initiative during its European mandate.

Taking into account latest intensification of steps towards reviving the Silk Road, in which EU also acts asinterestedparty, consolidation of efforts to transform the Caspian region into a transport-transit and energy hub between Europe and Asia is of actual demand.

This is testified by the EU strategy adopted in October 2018: Connectivity between Europe and Asia, which considers establishment of transport links. From this, it comes that the EU is now focused on connecting its Trans-European transport network (TEN-T) with networks in Asia.

Taking active position in issues related to cooperation in the development of transport and transit corridors, including in the UN format and other leading international organizations, Turkmenistan initiates and jointly with foreign partners implements large infrastructure projects, contributing to the formation of diversifiedmultimodal transport infrastructure in the regional and transcontinental scale.

Based on objective realities, Turkmenistan at the present stage has formed its own concept of developing interaction with international community in the field of transport.

Promoting this concept, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov states, that the formation of a modern, multimodal transportation and communication system is one of the priorities of the state policy of Turkmenistan aimed at progressive socio-economic development of the country and the establishment of wide regional and international cooperation in the interests of global welfare.

Turkmenistan has developed and successfully implemented long-term national programs aimed at strengthening the material and technical base of the transport industry, expanding existing and creating new transport and communication networks that contribute to the active integration of the transport system of Turkmenistan into the international communication infrastructure centers, thus, ensuring regional coordination of intermodal cargo transport and uniting Central Asia, the Caspian, Black Sea and Baltic regions, Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.

According to the National Program for the Socio-Economic Development of Turkmenistan for 2011–2030, Turkmenistan is defined as a transcontinental economic bridge of interaction between the European, Asian-Pacific and South Asian economic systems.

Creation on the basis of Turkmenistan of a powerful transit hub at the intersection of the most important trade routes of the continent has already entered stage of its practical implementation.
In the context of the diversification of national transport networks, great attention is paid to road transport, the development of which contributes to the integration of various types of transport into the global transport system.

Location of Turkmenistan between two dynamically developing centers of global trade activity – Europe and Asia – predetermines its significant role in ensuring Euro-Asian connectivity. Along with the construction of highways connecting different regions of Turkmenistan, high-speed motorways that meet international standardsare also being constructed. Among those, that are part of international transport corridors, are Turkmenbashi – Ashgabat – Mary – Turkmenabat – Farab – state border Uzbekistan; Ashgabat – Gaudan; Turkmenbashi – Bekdash and Serdar – Gudriolum.
Along with this, practical steps are being taken to strengthen the material and technical base of the motor transport sector by equipping them with modern vehicles from leading world manufacturers.

Railway transport also has strong positions in long-distance land transport, that meet the needs of not only transit, but also the transport accessibility of the countries through which they pass. The main transcontinental routes in Asia are primarily rail routes.

Among the most significant projects implemented under the leadership of President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, in this area was the creation of the North-South transport corridor, designed to become a “bridge” between Europe and Asia.

Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway has become the major transport link of the international North-South corridor.
This railway line is designed to provide convenient delivery of goods from Europe to Central and South Asia, the Middle East, to the ports of the Persian Gulf.

Transit capabilities of this route, which has become an important link in the North-South and East-West transport corridors, are attracting foreign partners. The route passes through those historical lands, where once used to runroutes of the Great Silk Road.

In addition to its economic advantages, China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran transnational railway (Bereket-Etrek (Turkmenistan) -Gurgen (Iran) is an effective way to further strengthen good-neighborly relations.

In this context, real prospects for direct access to the Middle East are opened by the international transport and transit corridor project Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman, the Agreement on which was signed in Ashgabat on April 25, 2011. This large-scale project is intended not only to further enhance mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation between the countries of Central Asia and the Middle East, but also to become one of the effective factors for ensuring sustainable development on a regional and international scale.
Issues of practical implementation of this project were discussed during quadrilateral meeting at the level of foreign ministers, in August 2014 in the capital of the Sultanate of Oman – the city of Muscat. Following the meeting, a Memorandum was signed.

In 2016, Kazakhstan also joined the project of the Central Asia – Middle East transport corridor.
Another important international transport link between the countries of the Asian region is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway, the Turkmen-Afghan section of which (Kerki-Ymamnazar-Akina) was commissioned on November 28, 2016.

On February 23, 2018, another railway line Serhetabat in Mary velayat (Turkmenistan) to the Afghan city of Turgundiwas commissioned.

With the opening of the Serhetabat railway (Turkmenistan)-Turgundi (Afghanistan), the idea of President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, on the connection of Afghanistan to the transport and logistics system of Turkmenistan and through it to the international communications network, is being implemented. The involvement of Afghanistan in the projects for the formation of an extensive transport infrastructure in the region gives the country a unique opportunity to use its geographical dividends as a transport and transit hub on the Eurasian continent. Railways and highways connect the city of Turgundi with Ashgabat, then with the Turkmenbashi International Port on the Caspian Sea. Further, the corridor will continue through the Caspian Sea to Baku, then through Tbilisi to Ankara and to Istanbul, thereby connecting to the “Lapis Lazuli” project.

Turkmenistan actively supports the creation of the international transport and transit corridor “Lapis Lazuli”, the legal basis of which acts the Agreement on transit and transport cooperation between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, signed on November 15, 2017 at the ministerial meeting of the 7th Conference Regional Economic Cooperation for Afghanistan (RECCA VII) in Ashgabat.

This route will contribute to the strengthening of fruitful cooperation in a wide geo-economic area, including the regions of Central and South Asia, the Caspian and Black Sea basins, and the Mediterranean.

An integral part of large-scale plans that are gradually being implemented in the transport sector of Turkmenistan is the modernization of the infrastructure and technical re-equipment of domestic civil aviation, which plays an important role in passenger and freight traffic on both domestic and international routes. In accordance with the National Program for the Development of Civil Aviation of Turkmenistan for 2012–2030, new airports are being built in the capital and regions. Among them, Ashgabat International Airport, which is the main “air gates” of Turkmenistan with a capacity of 1,600 passengers per hour, a major transit point on continental and intercontinental air routes; International airports in Turkmenabat – 500 passengers and Turkmenbashi – 800 passengers, as well as airports in Dashoguz – 500 passengers and Mary – 550 passengers per hour.

In order to efficiently use the advantageous geostrategic position of Turkmenistan, attention is paid to the development of maritime transport.

Turkmenbashi International Sea Port, which is the “sea gates” of Turkmenistan, has a strategic status in this direction.

“The significance of the Caspian Sea region goes far beyond its geographical limits. It is rapidly turning into one of the key centers of geopolitical and geo-economic processes, a powerful global transport and transit hub is being formed here, including sea, land, air routes and energy routes”, stated President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, at the 5th Summit of the Heads of the Caspian Sea States, on 12 August, 2018 in the city of Aktau, Kazakhstan.

Turkmenistan is also ready to act as an active partner and participant of the TRACECA program.
Turkmenistan has been and currently is a beneficiary country for a number of infrastructure projects and technical assistance projects implemented in the framework of the TRACECA project connecting Central Asia and Europe by rail, road, and seaport.

Pipeline transport also belongs to the field of the international transport and logistics system, which acts as a favorable basis for political and economic dialogue.

In this context, another project of global importance is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (TAPI). The project will help to strengthen energy security and economic stability in the region, and will create new prospects for the development of international cooperation in Asia.

Thus, with the successful implementation of large transport projectsby Turkmenistan, practical steps are taken for the revival of the Great Silk Road, that unites Asia and Europe.