Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 25 Issue 8
Author: Vlad Kondratiev
Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s recent visit to the United Arab Emirates confirms Turkmenistan’s interest in expanding ties with the Gulf monarchies and Abu Dhabi’s desire to increase its presence in Central Asia.
On November 21st-22nd, 2022, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov paid an official visit to the United Arab Emirates and met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan holding high-level bilateral talks in an expanded format, with the participation of delegations from both countries.
Noting that this is his first visit to the United Arab Emirates as the President of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedov stressed that a wide range of issues of bilateral relations will be discussed at the current meeting, and views will be exchanged on bringing them to a new level that meets mutual interests and modern realities.
On the same day, the President of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, met with the Vice President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defence of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. During the meeting, an exchange of views took place on the prospects for further strengthening interstate ties, built on the principles of mutual respect and support, as well as on some international and regional issues.
Serdar Berdimuhamedov and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan stressed the importance of intensifying trade and economic ties and discussed interaction issues in several promising areas, including in the fuel and energy sector in such areas as oil refining, gas chemical industry and transport.
The parties also noted the importance of building partnerships in the transport sector, particularly in maritime, rail and air traffic. In this context, the Turkmen President stressed the relevance of establishing contacts with the International Port of Abu Dhabi to join the International Seaport of Turkmenbashi to the system of seaports of the world. A proposal was also made to create a joint bank and open its representative office in both countries.
As a result of the official visit, the parties adopted a joint statement which highlighted issues related to the implementation of the bilateral agreements reached, aimed at the optimal realisation of the potential of the Turkmen Emirati cooperation and the diversification of its directions.
In the past years, the UAE participated in the implementation of different projects in Turkmenistan. Among the investment and Emirati financial institutions, the Abu Dhabi Development Fund played a significant role in supporting Turkmen development projects and infrastructures.
During the one-to-one talks, Serdar Berdimuhamedov and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan also exchanged views on several topical aspects of the regional and global agenda of mutual interest, which primarily concerns ensuring international peace, security, and sustainable development.
On November 22nd, 2022, as part of the second day of his official visit to the UAE, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov took part in the opening ceremony of the Turkmenistan-UAE business forum.
During this framework, the Chairman of the UAE Chamber of Commerce, Abdullah Al Mazrui, emphasised that it was a great honour for him and all those present to meet with the head of one of the most dynamically developing countries in the world. The Turkmen President stressed that the Joint Committee for Cooperation between Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates, established in 2012, as well as the Business Council for Cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the UAE, are exemplary forms of business ties.
Serdar Berdimuhamedov also invited representatives of the friendly country’s business circles to large-scale and mutually beneficial cooperation that meets the massive potential of the two states. The parties concluded contracts for logistics services and various export-import operations. Thus, the Transport and Communications Agency under the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan and the Abu Dhabi Port Group signed a Confidential agreement, while the State Electricity Corporation Türkmenenergo and the company Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company – Masdar signed an agreement on cooperation in the development of renewable energy projects in Turkmenistan with a total installed capacity of 100 MW.
Turkmenistan established diplomatic relations with the UAE in October 1995. Over the years, the countries have developed bilateral trade and economic partnerships, and Abu Dhabi has invested in the Turkmen market and financed infrastructural projects.
In this context, the Abu Dhabi Investment Fund has played an outstanding role in carrying out different activities to develop and implement projects in Turkmenistan. Among them is the construction of the International Airport in Jebel and the first solar-wind power plant in Turkmenistan. The power plant will generate clean energy, providing a reliable and uninterrupted power supply to consumers in the settlements around the Altyn Asyr Turkmen Lake in the Central Karakum Desert.
According to Berdimuhamedov’s recent speeches, Turkmenistan is committed to constructive international cooperation that meets the goals of global peace and prosperity. Among international relations, Ashgabat gives great importance to Middle Eastern countries, especially the UAE.
On the other hand, the recent Turkmen – Emirati business forum stressed that Abu Dhabi had developed a foreign policy to strengthen its position in Central Asia.
Undeniably, Central Asia has proven its significant role in the Eurasian geopolitical chessboard and international arena. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the independence of the Central Asian republics, global powers and regional actors have fought to influence or affirm their presence in these countries rich in natural and energy resources.
The UAE might use its financial resources to consolidate geopolitical influence in Central Asia. Remarkably, Abu Dhabi can use investments and trade to become an essential player in the economic development of Central Asian republics. From this perspective, the UAE has used the leading sovereign wealth fund Mubadala to invest copiously throughout Central Asia, especially in energy and port infrastructure.
For instance, Mubadala has invested in energy projects in Kazakhstan and the production and distribution of electricity in Uzbekistan. Dubai-based logistics giant DP World took part in constructing Aktau port in Kazakhstan and the Khorgos-Eastern Gate Special Economic Zone. Dragon Oil, an independent international oil and gas exploration, development and production enterprise based in Dubai, is the only non-Turkmen enterprise pumping Turkmen oil.
Considering that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are actively involved in promoting their presence in Central Asia through financial investments and supporting infrastructural projects and Russia and China’s role in regional socio-political and economic dynamics, the UAE has used all the means possible to affirm their presence in this strategic area and counter its rivalries’ strategies.
In this framework, it is possible to forecast a significant Emirati economic and religious involvement in Central Asia, which Turkmenistan might interpret as an opportunity to diversify the investments and decrease the international powers’ financial leverage.
Analysis in media partnership with Kaspijskij Vestnik. Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpecialEurasia.