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uzbekistan, tajikistan, and turkmenistan push for regional independence with first-ever trilateral summit

Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan Push for Regional Independence with First-Ever Trilateral Summit

Author: Haley Nelson


Image source: News Central Asia

Underscoring a broader shift in Central Asia as governments grow wary of foreign dependencies, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan aligned their interests at an unprecedented trilateral summit in Ashgabat on August 4

President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived in Ashgabat to meet with President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov during the first-ever trilateral summit between the three states. This meeting aimed to directly address shared challenges, promote integration, and enhance joint efforts, prioritizing harmonized development, cultural cohesion, and tailored economic strategies. 

Among the initial agenda items, the persistent concern of water management took center stage.  The presidents all stressed the importance of the issue of forming mechanisms for the management of water resources and the implementation of practical steps in this direction. Specifically, this entails bringing in new water-saving technologies and modernizing existing water facilities. President Berdimuhamedov proposed the notion of establishing a regional water pipeline network. At the same time, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan advocated for the digital transformation of water management processes and collaborative initiatives in constructing infrastructure for capturing and storing both mudflow and flood waters. 

“In these matters, it is necessary to use the full potential of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, as well as cooperation through partner organizations and structures, such as the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” said President Mirziyoyev.

Energy emerged as yet another paramount theme during the discussions. Given the prevailing energy crisis in the region, there is an urgent need to modernize existing systems to augment capacity in response to escalating energy requirements. This move is intended to reduce reliance on antiquated Soviet-era infrastructure and facilitate regional energy agreements devoid of external impositions. Notably, the electric power industry can potentially increase regional cooperation if upgrade needs are met. Regional electric transmission is currently tethered to inflexible Soviet-era structures that lack the adaptability to accommodate a versatile energy blend. The rigidity of this capacity has impeded the efficient transmission of power generated by newly established renewable energy facilities. Moreover, the regional energy landscape is compounded by the isolation of Tajikistan from the existing electric transmission framework, posing an additional obstacle to comprehensive cooperation. 

The three heads of state agreed that a systematic, substantive approach is needed to resolve this issue and limit future electricity disruptions. President Mirziyoyev underscored the importance of collaborative efforts in energy carrier supply and transit. And regarding green energies, Mirziyoyev noted cooperation in the field of hydro and thermal energy. President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan agreed with this sentiment and voiced Tajikistan’s commitment to further developing the production of green energy, noting the country’s readiness to continue cooperating with the region towards a more sustainable energy mix.

The oil and gas sector was also presented as a potential area of cooperation. While Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan export a majority of their energy resources to China, Turkmenistan committed to exporting more of its gas supply to its neighbors, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. With both countries facing frequent gas shortages in winter, Turkmenistan announced it will increase gas production by 60 billion cubic meters to help supply domestic and regional demands. 

In parallel, given the region's strategic geographic location bridging Asia and Europe, the three presidents also discussed the potential of becoming a full-fledged logistics hub connecting East to West. President Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan presented a compelling proposal for implementing a unified transport strategy, a step expected to enhance the trade and investment allure of the region significantly. President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan echoed these sentiments, advocating for improving the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran corridor and the Trans-Caspian route. The anticipated improvements, he posited, would heighten Central Asia's attractiveness as a transit center for international trade. President Mirziyoyev also advocated for adding favorable regulatory frameworks for international carriers, digitalization of trade processes, and an increase in the efficiency of border crossings.

However, adopting a pragmatic stance, the three nations also engaged in discussions regarding a concerted approach to transport diplomacy on the global stage through entities like the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the International Road Transport Union.

After the summit convened, a joint statement was released, declaring the following measures;

  • strengthening cooperation between their states within the framework of international organizations
  • supporting each other’s candidatures for elected bodies in the United Nations and other international and regional organizations
  • strengthening cooperation in the fight against terrorism, separatism, extremism, cross-border organized crime, drug trafficking, cybercrime, human trafficking and illegal migration
  • strengthening and expanding economic partnerships between countries based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, and consideration of each other’s interests
  • cooperating in the supply of natural gas, oil and oil products, and electricity
  • collaborating in the field of transport
  • intensifying multimodal transportation along the transport route Tajikistan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan
  • continuing cooperation aimed at further optimizing tariffs and providing favorable conditions for the transit transportation of foreign trade goods
  • expanding long-term mutually beneficial cooperation through the creation of joint ventures in the textile, chemical, construction, and other industries
  • increasing trade turnover based on mutual benefit
  • cooperating in the field of food security and agriculture through the systematic development of ties through the agro-industrial complexes
  • conducting further joint research and development in the field of effective management, protection, and rational use of water resources, ensuring the safety of hydraulic structures, reclamation improvement of irrigated lands, efficient operation and modernization of water management infrastructure, conservation, and reuse of water resources
  • strengthening cooperation on climate change mitigation and adaptation, combating desertification, land degradation, melting glaciers, environmental protection, early warning systems, ecology, and biodiversity conservation
  • cooperating in the cultural and humanitarian sphere, emphasizing the importance of contacts between the relevant state structures and public associations, research centers, higher educational institutions, the media, and cultural and art workers. 

As Central Asia becomes a more important region within the global economy, it begins to see external influence as a challenge and less of an economic opportunity. Although the region still finds potential in the large investments from Russia, China, and Europe, it is beginning to push for more economic resilience by reducing dependencies and conducting its own internal affairs. In a surprising first-time event, this summit signals Central Asia's determination to chart an independent course. As Central Asian states that have historically convened under the shadow of their powerful neighbors, this summit resonates with this newfound emphasis on self-directed progression and internal cohesion.


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