The United States Looks to Expand Cooperation with Turkmenistan
Author: Haley Nelson
Apr 27, 2023
On April 24, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, for their annual bilateral consultation. This meeting served as an opportunity for the leaders to coordinate government-wide efforts and to discuss emerging options for bilateral cooperation. However, this year’s conference was held in a different light than the years prior. With Turkmenistan signaling a newfound willingness to expand foreign partnerships and become more involved with international organizations, the relationship between Washington and Ashgabat is beginning to accelerate. And although this meeting was routine, with the backdrop of increasing investment interest in Turkmenistan and shifting geopolitical dynamics, the United States is demonstrating its continued commitment to the shared economic and security interests of Turkmenistan.
For the 9th year, the U.S. State Department has held this bilateral political consultation meeting Turkmen delegation. During this meeting, education, culture, security, economics, energy, labor rights, women's rights, and ecology were all part of the long list of topics discussed. This discussion followed another meeting at the U.S. Department of State between the Turkmen delegation, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov, and the acting Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Horst.
With a visible uptick in the growing U.S.-Turkmen relations, the United States is offering itself as an alternative to Turkmenistan’s traditional ties with Russia and China. While the Kremlin is busy sabotaging its international reputation and defending itself against global ostracization, the United States is showing Ashgabat that it remains committed to supporting “Turkmenistan’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty, its independence.” Especially as Turkmenistan indicates an interest in joining international organizations, like the World Trade Organization or the Organization of Turkic States, there is an opening for the United States to make a mark on Turkmenistan’s economic and security roadmap. Now more than ever, Turkmenistan is showing a readiness to build upon the “cooperation between Turkmenistan and the United States in” the fields of “energy, economics, human rights.” "I very strongly believe that after my visit here in the U.S., we will do everything for the increasing of this cooperation," Meredov stated.
Blinken and Meredov highlighted the growing importance of strengthening their “cultural and educational partnerships,” promoting inter-Afghan dialog, “improving respect for human rights and labor rights in Turkmenistan,” and “the critical importance of reducing methane emissions to combat the climate crisis.” In fact, that day, acting Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Horst and Rashid Meredov signed a Memorandum of Understanding, on cooperation in the field of education.
In the field of climate, since Turkmenistan gained the title of a "super-emitter," as the top methane-emitting country in the world, the United States has repeatedly stressed the importance of diversifying the country’s energy portfolio to reduce its climate impact. Secretary Blinken underscored the role Turkmenistan can play in reducing global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. This low carbon target will depend on foreign investments into Turkmenistan’s renewable energy industries, and into the modernization of its transport logistics. And although the U.S. government cannot demand investments from U.S. corporations, this meeting signaled support for investors interested in expanding their portfolios Into Turkmenistan.
While Turkmenistan is successfully opening its free-trade zone on its border with Uzbekistan, establishing a joint venture with Kazakhstan and Russia, and developing a national digital network, the country is grabbing attention from investors.
Recently, Eric Stewart, president of the U.S.-Turkmenistan Business Council met with Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov to discuss material investment opportunities for Turkmenistan to pivot its foreign affairs strategy. It’s not only rhetorical appeals from the State Department- but these are also materializing through corporate interest. Eric Stewart offered several investment opportunities that American corporations may be interested in, and Turkmenistan relayed a similar interest in these potential projects.
While Turkmenistan is showing openness to international cooperation, the recent meeting between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov is helping to build the foundation of a prosperous U.S-Turkmen relationship. It’s not only this annual meeting, but this has been continuously signaled through regional visits, investor interests, and increased diplomatic talks.