Taliban and Turkmenistan discussed the TAPI pipeline project

The meeting between the Taliban delegation and Turkmen government representatives focused on mutual projects such as the TAPI pipeline (Credits: CC BY 4.0, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan)

The meeting between the Taliban and the Turkmen representatives in Ashgabat underlined the Taliban’s attempt to create partnerships and joint projects with Central Asian republics and Turkmenistan’s necessity to discuss with the Afghan interim Government the promotion of the TAPI natural gas pipeline.

On January 14th, 2022, an Afghan delegation headed by Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan Amir Khan Mottaqi arrived in Turkmenistan. On January 15th, 2022, within the framework of the visit to Ashgabat, the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov, met with Mottaqi. In a narrow format, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mottaqi discusses with the Turkmen counterpart the development and strengthening of partnerships in many areas.

Then, the meeting continued in an expanded format, during which the parties exchanged views on priority areas of the bilateral agenda. In particular, the interlocutors considered topical issues in political, diplomatic, trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation.

The two parties noted the effectiveness of the Turkmen-Afghan negotiations, which took place during several visits of the Turkmen delegation to Afghanistan. In this context, the parties emphasised the significant role of the dialogue between the two countries foreign ministries in developing interstate relations.

Particular attention at the talks was paid to joint infrastructure projects, an essential aspect of trade and economic cooperation. In this regard, the parties discussed the progress of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) tasks power transmission line. The ministers also noted the joint work on constructing a railway from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.

The interlocutors noted the need for further intensification of the Turkmen-Afghan cooperation to ensure regional security.

Rashid Meredov stressed that Turkmenistan is undoubtedly interested in the political and economic stability of Afghanistan and the Afghan people’s well-being and unity. In this regard, the Turkmen side confirmed that it would continue to provide regular humanitarian support to the Afghan people, based on the principles of good neighbourliness and centuries-old friendship.

Geopolitical analysis

Turkmenistan needs to promote the TAPI pipeline project because the Turkmen economy depends on natural gas export. In this framework, the Turkmen authorities should find a solution to secure and guarantee that the Afghan section of the TAPI pipeline will be built and defended from potential internal and external threats. Since the Taliban took power in August 2021, Turkmenistan has tried to establish good relations with the Taliban interim Government promoting joint projects and cooperation (How Afghanistan is influencing the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan cooperation, Monitoring, SpecialEurasia).

Although recently the Afghan-Turkmen border registered a clash between Turkmen security guards and the Taliban (Taliban involved in clashes at the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, Monitoring, SpecialEurasia), Asghbat and Kabul have demonstrated their willingness to overcome border issues in favour of economic cooperation.

Undeniably, the Taliban aims at establishing relations with regional actors to seek formal recognition and contrast the socioeconomic problems that have been affecting Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power.

The Taliban have focused the Afghan foreign policy on enhancing diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations with Central Asian republics. As the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently reported, the Afghan exports to Central Asia increased by 33 million dollars in the last year, even though imports still exceed exports. The transit of goods from Central Asia to South Asia through Afghanistan has also increased.

Good import-export, transport corridors, and energy projects are among the main topics the Taliban interim Government has discussed with Central Asian republics in the last months to guarantee regional actors’ support and possible future recognition.