Avaza Summit shows Turkmenistan’s confidence

he trilateral summit of the heads of state of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkiye in the Caspian resort of Avaza

The leaders of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkiye meeting in Avaza

By Kuban Abdymen

AVAZA: The trilateral summit of the heads of state of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkiye in the Caspian resort of Avaza did not bring the result expected by some of its participants. Despite the fact that before the summit in this resort town on the Caspian coast there were intensive negotiations and coordination between the heads of the ministries of foreign affairs, energy and transport departments, the adopted documents did not impress politicians.

Immediately struck by the lack of announcement of the full membership of Turkmenistan in the Organization of Turkic-Speaking States. According to a number of experts, Turkey was very interested in this, since it was the initiator of this unique Organization.

Before the trip to Turkmenistan of Turkiye and Azerbaijan presidents some media enthusiastically wrote that President Erdogan “concretized the purpose of the trip to Avaz and the meeting of the troika”: “informing his partners about the idea of creating a gas hub in Turkey and connecting them to its infrastructure.”

Despite the apparent success of the summit in Avaza, as the newly-minted Secretary General of the OTS Kubanychbek Omuraliev said after the meeting of the presidents, Ashgabat did not announce its entry into the OTS as a full member. The Turkish delegation, headed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, hoped and openly spoke about this long before the summit. The minister was the only high-ranking official at the OTS summit in Samarkand, at which he openly stated that Turkmenistan would join the Organization as a full member at the summit in Avaza.

However, referring to the Constitution of the country, which contains clauses about the neutrality of Turkmenistan and the multi-vector nature of its foreign policy, the informal head of state Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov made it clear that Turkmenistan is not going to join the OTS.

The situation that developed after the summit in Avaza did not confuse the Turkish leadership to continue to involve Ashgabat in the “Turkic world” and it decided to act further. And an appropriate and profitable basis was found for this decision – a guaranteed profit through the export of Turkmen gas to Europe through the gas pipelines of Azerbaijan and Turkiye . Thus, the attention of many interested countries, primarily European ones, was drawn to the gas issue raised in Avaza. The issue of the transit of Turkmen gas bypassing Russia has escalated due to the growing energy crisis in Europe.

Turkmenistan, which supplies most of its gas to China via several gas lines, is actively exploring the possibilities of profitable diversification of export supplies. Ashgabat has long sought to insure against any accidents after Russia, which imports their gas, suddenly stopped buying blue fuel, citing technical problems. This was understood as Moscow’s desire to show its superiority and force Ashgabat to play by the established rules. Therefore, the gas issue initiated by Ankara looks very attractive to the leadership of Turkmenistan. Moreover, for a long time, relations between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have been tending towards rapprochement, and specifically in the gas issue. In particular, the transfer of the disputed Dostluk oil field in the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan proves this indoughtably.

The transit of Turkmen gas through Azerbaijan is also beneficial for Baku. Moreover, having such an ally as Turkiye, President Ilham Aliyev is not at all averse to expanding the circle of his supporters at the expense of the Turkic-speaking states, since the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict are still not over. Therefore, further rapprochement with Turkmenistan only expands the horizon of support for Baku’s position in the geopolitical arena. Moreover, everyone knows the friendly relations of Turkmenistan with Iran, with which relations of Azerbaijan have only become more complicated in recent years, and not least because of the developing Iranian-Armenian relations.

In other words, the positions of Baku and Ankara regarding Ashgabat at the summit in Avaza coincided almost completely and did not contradict each other in any way. Therefore, it was very difficult for the leadership of Turkmenistan to resist Erdogan and Aliyev.

However, not Serdar the son, but Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov himself involved somehow in resolving an important issues related to membership in the OTS and gas transit. It is known that the idea of holding a summit of the leaders of the three countries in Turkmenistan did not come from Ashgabat, and therefore, in response to the friendly congratulations from Ankara and Baku on the Day of Neutrality with some hints, Berymukhamedov agreed to hold the summit the next day after the ceremonial events.

What, besides the transit of gas through Turkiye , prompted Ashgabat to move closer to the two leading Turkic-speaking states, is the great interest of Turkmenistan to become an important part of the North-South trans-Caspian route, which Iran is actively promoting and already offers profitable logistics on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

On the other hand, the Russian leadership’s proposal of a gas project, according to which gas will be delivered to South Asia in transit through the countries of Central Asia, including Turkmenistan, also seems very tempting. Some observers note that if such a project is implemented, it can become a real competitor to the stagnant TAPI project.

Ashgabat reasonably assesses its current situation and does not want to fall under someone’s influence to the detriment of its own interests. The leadership of Turkmenistan clearly understands that it is almost impossible to implement large gas projects in the Caspian without their consent. In this case, it is very appropriate to conduct a balanced policy and make decisions with a long-range view. So far, the position of Turkmenistan looks like this. Thus, Turkmenistan proved to be a completely independent political participant in big politics.

Based on the results of the summit in Avaza, a number of documents were signed, which look more like protocols of intent. These documents are limited to such areas as energy and transport, customs, trade, science, education and culture.

Turkiye showed no signs of failing to achieve its goals at the Avaza summit, especially on the issue of the transit of Turkmen gas to Europe through the Turkish hub. However, following the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said, “we decided to create a working group on this issue.” In other words, the officials of the three parties will continue negotiations and will probably come to a consensus on the specific gas issue. Following him, another big Turkish official confirmed Ankara’s intentions. A roadmap for the supply of Turkmen gas to Europe will be developed in the near future, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on the main television of the country.

By this, Turkiye made it clear that Ankara will continue contacts with Turkmenistan on two issues – involving Turkmenistan in its sphere of influence through membership in the OTS, and more practical – accelerating Ashgabat’s participation in the Turkish gas hub, which will strengthen Ankara’s position in relations with Europe.

Turkmenistan, in some respects, looks like a state not interested in getting involved in obscure projects, and therefore, in the future, it is likely to be even more cautious, which fully justifies the status of neutrality.


Search in Site