Turkmenistan is located in the south-west of the Central Asia, it has considerable natural gas and oil reserves in both the shelf of the Caspian Sea and other regions and that makes the Republic an attractive cooperation partner to the World’s power.
Turkmens are a Turkic nation. Until 1991, the Republic was in the Soviet Union. After regaining Independence, it announced neutrality and the leader of the country was elected Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi (or the Turkmen Head); he was given the presidential power for life. During his Presidential career (until the end of 2006) several rather peculiar decisions were made – opera, circus, listening to music in the car, hair dyeing was forbidden, several hospitals were closed, also the Academy of Science, new months and names of weekdays were created, etc.
In February 2007, when the new President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, came into power, the Turkmenistan international cooperation began and change in the country as well, the cult of Niyazov’s personality was suspended and the glorification of the new leader began. In the end of 2010, he was given the title Arkadag (Guardian), the activity of Academy of Science, opera and ballet, theatre, circus, library was renewed as well as the payments of pension; the learning period in learning establishments was increased. Berdimuhamedow’s first Presidency (2007 – 2012) was called as the century of the new Renaissance, but his second term (2012 – 2017) as the time of Greatness and Happiness. It is because the phase of the country’s innovative development is set, and the leader of the Republic has announced about being ready to place in Turkmenistan the largest productions of high technology labels in order to industrialize the economy.
Turkmenistan is located in the east of the Caspian Sea. Its neighbouring countries in the north are Uzbekistan (length of border – 1621 km) and Kazakhstan (379 km), in the east – Afghanistan (744 km), in the south – Iran (922 km). Turkmenistan’s territory is 488 100 km² (7.5 times bigger than Latvia; the 52nd largest country in the world), the total length of the land borders is 3736 km. The Republic has a rather small number of rivers and lakes. The shore of Caspian Sea (1768 km) is jagged: the Kara-Bogaz-Gol and Krasnovodsk bays, Cheleken, Darja and Krasnovodsk’s Peninsulas, as well as islands (Ogurja Ada, etc) are located in the north.
Largest river in Turkmenistan is Amu Darya (1415 km) that crosses Turkmenistan north-eastern region towards Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. West from Amu Darya the Karakum Canal is located, the length of which being more than 1000 km. In the south of the country, are located three large rivers – Tejen (1124 km), Morghab (852 km) and Atrek (660 km).
The largest part of the Turkmenistan territory is located in the Turan Lowland. The Karakum desert makes about 90% of the central regions in the country. The west part of the country mainly consists of rock deserts, the east – sand deserts. Mountains and highlands are mainly located in the southern part of the country; only 3% of the Republic’s territory can be used in agriculture.
The Kopet Dag mountain rage is located in the south (highest mountain – Rizeh, 2942 m), including, the Small Balkhan range (up to 777 m) and Great Balkhan Range (Mount Arlan 1881 m). Krasnovodsk Plateau (300 m) is located by the Caspian Sea, in the north-west is the Ustyg Plateau (400–600 m). Badhiz and Karabil highlands (1267 and 984 m respectively) are located in the south of the country. The Kugitangtau mountains, including the Republic’s highest peak Ayrybaba (3139 m, Pamir) is located in the south-eastern part of the country.
In the region of the Kopet Dag mountain rage that is located in the Iran’s borderland, frequently strong earthquakes are happening. The total elevation of the Caspian Sea coastal territory is close to the sea level and the flat territory go as far as 150 km in the inside of the country.
In the largest part of the Republic’s territory, is a subtropical desert climate, which in separate parts of the territory is continental. The summers are long, hot and dry, but winters – moderate and dry. The average amount of rainfall is from 80 mm in the north to 400 mm in the Iran borderland. The average temperature in summer is +28ºC, but in winter – -5ºC. There are 91 mammals, 371 birds, 74 reptiles and 60 fish species found in the Republic.
Natural gas (one-third of the world reserves) and oil are the most important natural resources. Salt, gypsum, as well as gold, lead, zinc and copper are mined. The soil used in agriculture mainly is with low natural fertility and intensive irrigation is necessary. 3.7% of territory is classified as arable land, but less than 0.2% are suited for winter crops. Approximately 17 500 km² of the territory are irrigated and meant mainly for cultivating cotton.
From all the former Soviet Union Republics, Turkmenistan has the cleanest water and air. It can be explained with the relatively small heavy industry sector, low auto transport concentration and low density of population. The main issues concerning Turkmenistan’s environment protection are connected to the desiccation of the Aral Sea (it decreases the water supply to the largest country’s river, Amu Darya), pollution of soil and groundwater. An important issue is the drying of territory and the decrease of water level in the Caspian Sea due to the industrialization. The increase in water deficit becomes more pressing, because of it, the development of agriculture is suffering, and the speed of industrialization is slowing down.
Information about the number of Tajikistan’s population differs between various experts and official national sources (4 – 6 million people). For long time, Turkmenistan had a high growth in the level of population – 4.2% per year, but until 2000, this indicator decreased down to 1.6%, later it slowly but constantly increased.
According to the 2015 data, the number of population is 5.2 million people and the population growth is 1.8% per year. Approximately 55% of the population reside in the rural regions and the population density is 8.9 people on 1 km².
The average life expectancy 61 years (for men – 57.4; for women – 64.7). Citizens in the age until 14 years are 27.5%, between 15 and 64 – 68.4% and older than 65 – 4.1%. The average age in Turkmenistan is 25.8 years (for men – 24.4; for women – 26.3). The gender proportion is 0.98 men on one woman. Birth rate is 27.6 new borns on 1000 citizens (3.4 children per woman), death rate is 8.6 people on 1000 citizens. The main factors for worsening of health are insufficient and off-grade food, unclean drinking water as well as pollution that is especially typical to the north-eastern region near Amu Darya. There is increase in drug contraband through Turkmenistan and also the number of drug addicts in the Republic.
The inequality of income in Turkmenistan is one of the largest in Central Asia, with specific differences between urban and rural territories. Below the level of poverty live 58% of the population.
Now, approximately 50% of the population in Turkmenistan is unemployment, in the rural regions the number is much higher. The government of Turkmenistan does not publish any statistics regarding this issue as they do not acknowledge the existence of the unemployment issue. Unemployment benefits are not planned, there is no programme to decrease unemployment.
It is mandatory for the employees of state institutions to attend horse racing events and concerts in honour to various state holidays; from second half of 2012, they are obligated to subscribe to newspapers and journals. Employees of professional higher learning establishments have to write out at least 4 newspapers and 1 journal, including the paper Ashabad and Mugalimlar gazeti (The Teacher paper); postal workers need to spend at least 17.50 USD for 6 months to subscribe various press publications. Now, the most popular weekly newspaper that is subscribed for is Tukmen dili (Turkmen language), its subscription for six months cost approximately 1 USD. Obeservers point out that the decision for mandatory subscription of state press publications was made in order to compensate the costs of their publishing. The country does not have independent mass media, but the state publications glorify the successes and implemented policy of the President, and they are not very demanded.
The number of citizens departing the country is increasing. According calculations from analysts, the number of immigrants since 2007 has increased three times. The citizens are emigrating mainly to Turkey, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Russia, other CIS countries and EU. In 2012, a representative from State Migration Service in Ashgabat said that in the first nine months of 2012 more than 150 000 citizens left Turkmenistan, 110 000 of them were people, who most likely will not return to the Republic. “The majority of the emigrants are the unemployed, youth and good repurchasers, but they have executed tourist visas as that is the only way how to go abroad” said the representative of the Service, adding that 85% of income for the State Tourism committee and the structures under it are provided by the execution of the future foreign worker documents that will take up to couple of weeks and not 6 months as it is in a case of receiving an official invitation. Most frequently, citizens obtain the tourist visa for 10-15 days and remain abroad illegally. Police officer of Tirkmenabata (Lebapa Vilayet, east of the Republic) informed that during 2012, 34 000 people left to abroad through the Vilayet.
The ethnical environment of the Republic is varied. There are approximately representatives of 40 nationalities, Turkmens make about 80% of all the citizens, Uzbeks – 9%, Russians – 3%, Kazaks – 2.7%. The smaller ethnical groups are Tatars, Ukrainians, Armenians, Azerbaijani, etc.
Uzbeks reside mainly in the Uzbekistan borderland regions and practice agriculture, Kazaks live in the northern and western part of the country and practice live-stock breeding. In the southern regions reside small Beluji and Kurd groups. For 72% of the population, the native language is Turkmen, for 12% – Russian, and for 9% – Uzbek. Russian language is mainly common in the urban territories and the Uzbek populated regions. Since the end the 90s of the 20th century, the government has discussed about the use of the Russian language and in 2000, the President Saparmurat Niyazov made a decision that all in all state institutions and every expert with a higher education have to know Turkmen language. The national minorities discrimination increased (school with a different language for tuition were closed, as well as newspapers). In 2003, the dual citizenship in the country was annulled. In 2005, newspapers and radio broadcasts in Russian were forbidden. Turkmenistan is considered as the most homogeneous country in the Central Asia, but there are five historically established clans/tribes: Teke (central part the country and Ashgabat), Yomut (Western region), Saryk (the southern part and Afghanistan borderland), Ersari (Northern-east) and Chowdur (Northern part). The representatives of the Teke clan usually prevails in the government (Both Presidents, Saparmurat Niyazov and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow represent the Teke clan).
Despite the planned and implemented events for welfare improvements, there is still ethnic tension within the Republic. Turkmenization policy is taking place in the Republic – the representatives of ethnic minorities are not provided with rights to education, culture and jobs. For example, The General prosecutor’s office, constantly has staff cleaning during which, the representatives of other, non-Turkmen, nationalities are being fired. Ethnic Turkmens, ever since Independence, are in the leading positions in the General prosecutor’s office and power structures, though between employees are also Russians, Uzbeks, Kyrgyzs, etc. Due to the damaged education system, Turkmenistan has a lack in national specialists, thus complicating the working process and the development of the structures. In order not to fire professionals that are not Turkmens, they have assigned workplaces in the General prosecutor’s office within one isolated office, independently from the department they are working in.
There is lack of qualified teachers in Turkmenistan as the preparedness of graduates from local learning establishments is low. Engineers, economists and doctors that have graduated from Uzbekistan universities are accredited as specialists with special secondary education in Turkmenistan and receive salary accordingly. There is no official religion in Turkmenistan. 89% of the population are Muslims, Sunnites, as well as Shiites (approximately 120 000 people, mostly ethnic Azerbaijani). 9% of the population belong to the Russian Orthodox church, which has 12 parishes within the Republic. They are united in three communities that, until 2007, were under the control of Tashkent and Central Asia eparchy. In October 2007, convocation of the Russian Orthodox church made a decision to change the subordination of the Turkmenistan eparchy – now it is under direct control of Moscow the entire Russian patriarch.
The Republic has Vatican’s mission and 20 churches, furthermore, there are specially founded programmes to attract adolescent and youth. The programmes foresee the acquirement of faith teaching by books, brochures and various notes in the Turkmen language. The Republic has three Lutheran parishes – in Yoloten, Turkmenbashi and Serakhs. There also harmless Baptist and Adventist parishes, as well as Krishna community.
Since 1994, in order to control the religious activity in the country, there is a Council for Religious Issues, under the control of the President, that has within it mufti, its deputy, orthodox priest and representative of secular power. There are Councils for Religious Issues founded in the Vilayet administrations that are managed by the main imam from the corresponding districts. There is strict control over the activity of religious communities, also about the content of sermons in mosques and churches.
Turkmenistan is divided in five vilayets (provinces), which consist of approximately 46 etraps (districts) and 528 gengeshilks (rural municipal formations). The capital, Ashgabat (with 750 000 citizens) has a separate status for administrative unit.
Number of population
1 203 100
1 169 100
1 291 800
The Turkmenistan’s finance system is under complete control of the country. The banking system consists of the main, Central Bank, as well as from five state commercial banks (and 120 of their branches), one commercial bank, three joint-stock commercial banks and two banks with foreign capital. 95% of the loans are given to state enterprises.
An important field in the economy is light industry, mainly textile industry (Turkmenistan is between the first ten cottons manufacturers in the world). The largest part of the export is made from natural gas, oil, energy, as well as textile production; import consists of machinery production, medicine, etc. There are 48% of economically active citizens employed in agriculture, 14% in the industry and 38% in the service field (in total there are approximately 3 million economically active citizens). Approximately 90% of all employed work in state enterprises.
During the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan SSR was mainly the cotton and energy resource provider, the processing industry was not widely developed in the country. The Republic did not have constant trade with other countries, but in the middle of the 90s, the country’s external economic cooperation began in the light and food industry, as well as in the research and output of geological resources. Industry, agriculture, energy, transport and communications are in the state’s control, many of the state services are free and dependent from subsidies. Water resources are an important factor in the in the development of state economy. Respective Ministry is in charge of the Karakum Canal, administrations for irrigation systems in 44 regions and five districts, more than 6000 kilometres irrigation canals and other hydro technical objects. The efficiency in water use is low.
Institute for Strategic Planning and Economic Development implemented a National Economic Revival and Reformation strategy for the period until 2030, its goal is to ensure the Republic becoming as one of the countries with high life quality and fast-growing economy.
Turkmenistan is one of the largest natural gas and oil exporters in the region, delivering it to China, Russia and Iran. Ashgabat is trying to diversify the economy by developing not only the processing of oil and natural gas, but also cotton and textile industry, production of building materials. According to the World bank statement, Turkmenistan has the Upper Middle-Income Country Status.
Berdimuhamedow points out that the GDP growth needs to be maintained in the level between 8 and 10% that 4 to 5 times exceeds the dynamic of population growth. Regarding the social policy, he also points out that the country offers its citizens free natural gas, energy, water and salt supply until 2030 (within specific limits). At the same time, there have been several discussions and during a meeting of the Council of Elders were mentioned offers to cancel the free deliveries, explaining that it is delaying economic reforms, furthermore, the citizens already have a sufficient level of welfare in order to pay for these services.
According to the calculations of the British Petroleum, Turkmenistan has the fourth largest reserves of natural gas (following Russia, Iran and Qatar). Experts assume that the Republic’s deposits in the land part are not perspective for considerable increase in the amount of mining natural gas, even though it is anticipated in the development strategy. At the moment, there are no investors that would want to invest means in the research of the Turkmenistan’s geological shelf and output in the Caspian Sea.
The oil and natural gas complex makes 75.4% of the state’s industrial production (52.4% are natural gas and 11.1% oil mining, 12,9% – oil processing), ensuring the export of natural gas, oil, oil products, liquefied gas and polypropylene. The export of oil and natural gas constantly grows as the delivery routes are diversified – several pipeline constructions to China are taking place; possibilities are considered to build pipelines to other countries. There are 38 oil, 82 natural gas condensate and 153 natural gas deposits found in the republic, including, 142 deposits on land and 11 in the shelf. In total, there are more than 1000 perspective oil and natural gas structures. Natural gas is the largest Turkmenistan’s resource and the size of it are estimated to be between 15 and 20 trillion m³. Several times in the year, it is being reported about the opening of several natural gas horizons. The largest of them are located in the deposit Gunorta Gutliajak (110 km to northern-west from Ashgabat; the debit of the day is approximately in the amount of 200 000 m³ of natural gas) and in Gunorta Eloten (Mary Vilayet). The natural gas is transported through the pipeline in the northern direction – from the republic’s eastern and western regions through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan to Russia, as well as in the southern direction – to Iran (the pipeline Korpeje-Kurtkui). Turkmenistan supplies the natural gas to Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and China. Ashgabat has shown readiness to provide deliveries through the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline.
G.Berdimuhamedow has put emphasis on the constant neutrality status and the necessity to increase the output of energy and diversify its delivery routes.
Despite the Ashgabat’s announcements about oil reserves in the amount of 20 billion tonnes, experts are doubtful of this number, assuming that could be between 1.5 and 2 billion tonnes. The amount of oil production had a fast decrease after regaining the Independence (from 110 000 barrels per day in 1992 to 81 000 in 1995). Russian company Lukoil concedes that Turkmenistan’s oil reserves could be 400 million tonnes. Although, the country does not have the capacity to considerably increase the oil output, during the past three years, its amount has increased and reached 10 million tonnes per year. The export of oil and oil products happens by mostly using the seat route and to almost all directions. The chance to diversify routes is being considered. In the western direction through Makhachkala, Novorossiysk, Batumi and Baku to the countries of Black sea and Mediterranean Sea regions; in the southern direction through Neka port in Iran to countries in Persian Gulf and Southern-eastern Asia; in the northern direction through Astrakhan and Kerch to Northern-west Europe; in the southern-east direction to Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kirgizstan. There are approximately 200 light industry enterprises in the republic (textile, cotton, silk, rug, knitted fabric, wool, shoes, sewing). During the last ten years, there have been constructed 14 new cotton processing factories. The production is being exported to USA, Russia, Turkey. Every year, approximately 1 million tonnes of cotton is obtained in Turkmenistan, textile industry, alongside hydrocarbon complex, is the most essential source for state income.
After 2000, the specific weight of the agriculture sector GDP has gradually increased, in the 80s of the previous century, Turkmenistan’s SSR obtained 1.3 million tonnes of cotton per year, but during the last years, the cotton fields are partly being replaced with grain that is essential in ensuring food for the Republic and to more efficiently use water resources. The total area of cotton fields is 550 000 hectares. In the hold of state concern Turkmenpagta (Turkmenistan’s Cotton), is the cotton trade enterprise Ak altin (The Golden Age), 35 cotton refinement factories, two maintenance factories, two companies for industry guarantee, one mechanical construction company and two lyceums for employee preparation.
Corn, melons, grapes and vegetables are cultivated (approximately 400 households and unions), though the Republic constantly has problems in providing foodstuff – during summers of 2007 and 2016, in all Turkmenistan’s regions (expect for the Capital) the amount of flour acquisition was limited.
An essential are of agriculture in republic is live-stock breeding – sheep (30%), goats, camels and horses (Akhal-Teke stallion). Fishing industry is developed in the local water bodies and the Caspian Sea (Karakum Canal, Khauz-Khan reservoir, Sarygamysh and Kelif lakes). The wine production is ensured by the Ashgabat, Abadan, Geokdep and Yoloten wine factories. The climate in Turkmenistan allows to grow grapes with 28% of sugar in them.
There are five power plants in the country, largest of them is in Mary (capacity 1.25 million kilowatt hours) that produces 80% of the necessary energy for the republic. There are also Abadan, Turkmenbashi and Balkanbat power plants. Their modernization is being done in cooperation with the General Electric Company from the USA. Turkmenistan exports energy to Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. It is possible, that through Iran the energy could be delivered also to Armenia as the energy network between Armenia and Iran is connected.
The chemical industry is made from the oil and general chemical industry, as well as from the chemical mining industry that develops on the basis of local mineral resources (mineral salt, sulphur, iodine, bromine), their largest enterprises are the Hazar chemical industry, Niyazov’s union Garabogazsulfat. The production of general chemicals is being produced by Niyazov’s Tirkmenbat chemical company, as well as more than 10 industries.
The country has couple dozen machinery and metalworking companies that produce diesel-electric locomotives, railway cars, agriculture technology, equipment for drilling oil, etc. The largest factories are located in Ashgabat, Mary and Serdar.
In 2013, the sea and river transport service in cooperation with German company Inros Lackner AG built a ship maintenance and construction factory, where montage and maintenance of ships with low displacement is taking place.
In 2010, in Ovadan-Depe, the operation of the republic’s first metallurgy industry began, rolled metals are produced there (capacity: 160 000 tonnes per year). The construction of the industry cost 64.5 million USD and it was built by Turkish companies.
Turkmenistan is used as a transit country by the neighbouring countries in their route to ports in Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. The railway is widely used, especially in route Turkmenbat-Atamurat-Kerkichi, the significance of which grows according to the implementation of Afghanistan’s economic renewal projects. During the Independence years, construction was done on railways Tejen-Serahs-Mashhad (in Iran) (308 km) and Turkmenbat-Atamurat (203 km), a railway Ashgabat-Dashoguz was built through the Karakum desert (540 km). Alongside this railway, an auto road was also built.
The total length of the Republic’s railways is 3550 km. 80% of all export and import is implemented by using railway, as well as transportation of transit freight.
The main local waterway is Amu Darya, the largest port in the Caspian Sea is in Turkmenbashi. There is an international traffic line between the ports of Turkmenbashi, Enseli (Iran) and Olga (Russia). An important water transport route is the Karakum Canal.
The country’s trade fleet consists of four bulk carriers (the total load capacity is more than 13 000 tonnes) and six tankers (the total load capacity is 30 700 tonnes). Turkmenistan was supplied with several ships from Russia, Croatia and Turkey.
In May 2007, G.Berdimuhamedow offered an initiative to build a resort Avaza that will comply with all the international standards and will be located in the ecologically clean shore of the Caspian Sea.
Before the start of tourist zone’s foundation, approximately 3000 estates were demolished in the city and there were no financial compensations provided for the occupants of the estates or allocation to new houses.
In 2010, the construction of the canal was finished that connects Avaza with the city Turkmenbashi (7 km). The project costs were 179.4 million EUR.
The width of the canal is between 60 and 70 metres, depth is 5 metres and it is can be crossed by 11 bridges, the canal is suitable for sailing, but in the shore, there are places for entertainment. There are eight hotels in the city (in total there are planned 60) and sanatoriums for employees of law enforcement structures and force departments, as well as for employees from water, railway transport energy, oil and natural gas sectors. At the moment, there can be received 3500 guests at the same time in the Avaza. The city has a good infrastructure, is located not far from an international airport.
External trade is happening with more than 80 countries, 56 countries are making investment in the economy of the republic, though the number of joint ventures is rather small. The largest investors in the economy of Turkmenistan are USA, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Since 2005, the significance of China grew – Beijing obtained the right to develop new oil deposits, the construction of new pipeline to China is happening. Regarding the oil procession, Turkmenistan cooperates with Iran, France, Germany and Japan; in the natural gas sector, the cooperation is with Canada and Germany. French companies actively participate in the improvement of telecommunication system; Turkish companies – in construction. Cooperation has been established with several Turkish textile companies.
The amount of Turkmenistan’s external debt is 1.6 billion USD. The country’s gold reserves are 2 billion USD.
Turkmenistan is planning to expand the export of chemical industry’s production, in Garabogza (western part of the republic) a new sea port will be build. The planned capacity of the new port will be 3500 tonnes of freight per day. A carbamide production factory will be built in Garabogza (the planned capacity is 1.15 million tonnes per year), the production of which will be exported. The construction of the new port will be done by the consortium of Japan and Turkish companies, Mitsubishi Corporation and Gap Insaat. For now, the events of Caspian Sea and its shore research have been done, as well as the amount of construction work has been specified.
Even though the official press regularly is reporting about the state accomplishments in various sectors, employees of state institutions are still being involved in the collection of cotton. The citizens are made to gather early in the morning in the places, specified by the state structures, from which they are taken on busses to cotton fields, where they are working under the supervision of policemen and people, wearing civilian clothing. In protest to the forceful involvement of citizens, including minors, in the gathering of cotton, several international trade companies (for example, Inditex and H&M) have refused to purchase cotton textile form Turkmenistan.
Since autumn of 2017, a considerable staff reduction is happening in Turkmenistan’s water, oil and natural gas sector companies. The administrations of oil and natural gas sectors are planned to be abolished or considerably reduced, the managers of concerns are planning not to fire a part of the employees, but to send them to the Balkan Vilayet (which is located in the western part of the country and the largest oil and natural gas output and processing companies are located there). The companies had already received instructions from the state concerns Turkmengaz and Turkmennbit (Turkmenistan’s Oil) about the necessity to prepare halls of residence in order to place there the employees of other regions of the country, who will work shifts in the Balkan Vilayet.
In 2017, the experts of International Monetary Fund visited Turkmenistan three times and pointed out that Turkmenistan’s economy gradually is adapting to the development in the conditions of lower oil and natural gas prices, but it still needs events that would correct macroeconomy. The experts point out that between the desirable events, there is a gradual, but considerable decrease of costs for the state investments, but the performed tariff transfer for power, natural gas and water deliveries has been positive. International experts are recommending softening the currency regulation events, correct the level of national currency exchange, simplify the administrative regulation, increase the reformation and privatization of state companies. They have already previously recommended to decrease costs for state investments and cancel restrictions on currency operations. For now, the free delivery of power, natural and water has been cancelled and there have been more and more restrictions for currency operations.
In the Autumn of 2011, the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan has announced about implementing limits on the citizen money transactions abroad. The limit is set on 250 USD a day, from which 50 USD are possible to be withdrawn from a cash dispenser, but the remaining 200 USD to be used in transfer settlements. In the Bank report it is indicated that the limit is a temporary event, its goal is to prevent unpurposeful usage of currency by using international payment cards; the citizens, who wish to pay for hotels, treatments, airline or railway tickets, are suggested to use international transfers through bank accounts. At the same time, these accounts have limits – once a month it is possible to transfer an amount of money on them that does not exceed 286 USD or the amount of one month’s salary. For example, to transfer money to children that are studying abroad, the parents have to confirm the close relationship, need to submit a note from the educational establishment and an income statement.
In 2017, other restrictions as well were implemented regarding the money withdrawal from cash dispensers – in February, a 250 USD limit per day was set for cards Visa and MasterCard, in October, this amount was reduced to 100 USD, but for transfer settlements it was reduced to 500 USD per day (previously, Turkmenistan’s citizens had the right to withdraw up to 10 000 USD per day out of their accounts). According to various data, in reality the restrictions on the transfer settlements are stricter than it was reported – entrepreneurs, who purchase something for 500 USD, have their payments denied in the following days. Independent journalists say that from 2018 Turkmenistan will completely stop servicing VISA cards abroad.
Turkmenistan’s citizens have restricted access not only to foreign, but also to the local currency – Turkmenistan manat TMT. The salaries of state institution employees are payed using transfer settlements, but the possibilities to use payment cards outside Ashgabat are restricted, furthermore, money withdrawal from cash dispensers is complicated as they are not so many of them and they usually do not have enough money for all the clients. In March 2017 Turkmenistan set a fee for any kind of transfers on the payment cards (including salary): 1.12% of the amount of transfer that is under 860 USD and 3% for transfers that exceed the mentioned amount.
Turkmenistan’s economy has been considerably influenced by the fall of energy prices as it export makes half of the country’s GDP. In 2015, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow admitted that the country has economic problems and they need to reduce costs. Then, many employees, working in the oil and natural gas deposit sector, were fired and salaries of the rest were reduced. A decision was made to decrease the import of agriculture production. Since 2016, news about food shortages and various restrictions on their purchase are regularly published.
Although G.Berdimuhamedov has stated that Turkmenistan is a major exporter of wheat, there is a shortage of wheat in the internal market. In May 2019, photographs of people gathering in large rows to buy flour were published in independent media. Bread shortages were also reported in previous years. In the beginning of July 2018, G.Berdimuhamedov had announced that wheat harvest was almost completed in Turkmenistan, and its amount confirms that the country has ensured its food security. However, unlike in previous years, this statement was not followed by a formal announcement of the end of the harvest gathering.
The only news of the harvest amount was in the newspaper Neatralny Turkmenistan, which mentioned that in 2018 more than one million tonnes of wheat was harvested. However, at the beginning of the year, official announcements informed about plans to collect 1.6 million tonnes of wheat needed to guarantee the country's food security. During the presidency of the country's first leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, the wheat harvesting plan was 1.2 million tonnes. In the 1990s this was not fulfilled, there was a shortage of products in the country and a system of product vouchers was introduced. In 1998, S.Niyazov severely criticized the development of the agricultural sector, and officials soon reported on the plan's implementation. Since 1999, official announcements of wheat yields have been steadily increasing, indicating falsification of data.
Turkmenistan’s press is creating a positive image of the country and in the end of 2017, the Ministry of Finance and Economy founded a new magazine in order to explain to citizens about the economic reforms happening in the country. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, during a government meeting, suggested founding a new magazine, pointing out that it is important to publish news about the accomplishments concerning the country’s social economic development and explain to citizens the aspects of the reforms.
The President of Turkmenistan is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who was elected in 2007, 2012 and in February 2017, with 89%, 97% and 97% votes accordingly. Although, the constitution determines that one person cannot be elected more than two terms in turn, in Autumn of 2016, the changes were accepted to increase the Presidential term up to 7 years (previously, 5 years).
G.Berdimuhamedow was born in 29 June 1957, in Babarap village (Ashgabat district). In 1979, he graduated from the Turkmen State Medical Institute (dentist), also received PhD in medical sciences. Between 1990 and 1995, he was part of the dentistry faculty at the Medical Institute, later he became the Head of the faculty; in 1995-1997, he was the Head of the dentistry centre of the Health and Medical industry; in 1997-2001, He was the Minister of Health and Medical Industry; from 2001, the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers (President Saparmurat Niyazov was the Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers). In November 2006, he represented Turkmenistan in the CIS summit that took place in Minsk. Before the death of S.Niyazov, mass media speculated that Berdimuhamedow is Niyazov’s illegitimate son.
Berdimuhamedow is married to Ogulgerek, they have one son, Serdar, and three daughters, as well as four grandchildren. President has five sisters.
G.Berdimuhamedow has written the words and music for the song My White Flowers Are For You (2011), his performance of the song was demonstration in television.
G.Berdimuhamedow is an author for several books, including, Live Legend (about traditions for carpet weaving, it was published in 2011, in Turkmen, Russian and English languages), encyclopaedia in three volumes Medicinal Herbs of Turkmenistan (2009), Akhal-Teke Horses – Our Pride and Glory (2008), Turkmenistan – The Land of Healthy and Spiritual People (2007). The President’s grandfather, Berdimuhamed Anayev, was a school’s principal, fought in the World War II and during an earthquake in 1948 (similarly to Saparmurat Niyazov’s mother, after whom (Gurbansultana) was named the month of April and also some geographical objects). After Anayev a school is named in the Izgant village, his biography is outlined in two books.
In August 2012, a book in Turkmen and Russian languages were presented, The Loyal son of the Motherland. Myalikguly Life’s Work. It describes the biography of Berdimuhamedow’s father and is dedicated for this 80th birthday. In the book, prepared by the Archive Fund, it is mentioned that Myalikguly Berdimuhamedow was a teacher and the Head of Ministry of Interior Prison Guard Detachment in the Mary district (lieutenant-colonel), now he is a senior citizen. After him, the Armed Forces 1101st unit (he was a part of it), his office is renewed in its location and a museum is created there.
Poems are dedicated to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. In 2012, new melon and watermelon sorts were named after him (Arkadag and Prezident). After the first President, a sort of melon was named (Turkmenbashi).
Mass media points out that the President’s son, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, is trying to overtake the business sector that belonged to Murad Niyazov (son of the first President). Lately, Serdar Berdimuhamedow has increased political activity by regularly participating in government meetings, even though previously he as only the republic’s largest entrepreneur and avoided participating public events.
In the end of 2011, Murad Niyazov was taken way monopoly rights on tobacco and alcohol trade, but in February 2012, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, in order to expand his hotel sector, demanded that Murad Niyazov sells him his hotel Nisa that is located across from the Presidential Palace. Shortly after M. Niyazov’s rejection, in the planning of the street architecture, where the hotel is located, were made changes and it was recognized as a building meant for demolition as it creates threats for the security of the president.
One of the President’s sisters, Gulnabata, has founded a company that delivers cigarettes from abroad, but her son, Murad, is supposedly building new markets in the administrative centres of the Republic.
Serdar Berdimuhamedov (born 1981) is the only son of the president. He has held various positions in several governmental bodies and his political career became active at the end of 2016, when he began participating regularly in government debates. Prior to that, he was the biggest businessman in the republic and avoided participating in public events. In recent years, S.Berdimuhamedov has repeatedly represented Turkmenistan at international events.
From January 2019 to February 2020, S.Berdimuhamedov was the leader of Achal Vilayet (the southernmost, richest region in the country, accounting for 43% of all natural gas extracted in the country) and is currently the Minister of Industry. Local media regularly point out that Berdimuhamedov is working on expanding the use of digital technology in state structures. To gain experience, he visited Tatarstan and St. Petersburg in February 2020, where he signed several IT cooperation agreements.
At the end of 2019, the social, economic and cultural success of the Aqhal Vilayet Gekdepe District was assessed as the best in the country and a $ 1 million bonus was awarded for its development. According to observers, people in the government currently holding senior positions were born in this area and G.Berdimuhamedov, too, was born in the area. $ 1.5 billion has been allotted for new district center in the Ahal Wilayet. Earlier, observers assumed that the new city is created as the "second capital" for S.Berdimuhamedov.
The President has the largest role in the domestic policy, who simultaneously is the leader of the government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The President has the power to fire and appoint Ministers, their Deputies, as well as the General prosecutor and the judges in the Supreme Court. The President also approves all of the 125 Majlis (Parliament) and 2507 Council of Elders members. According to the constitution, the Council of Elders offer the Presidential candidate and he is elected in a direct election by the citizens of the republic.
The totalitarian system in Turkmenistan developed right after it gained its Independence and there are no political elite or politically active citizen groups that could influence processes in the Republic. The low level of living standards and education between the population (50% of them are unemployed), as well as the isolation from information prevents them from having any possibilities to promote change.
There is President personality cult in the country, that determines the political life. There is nepotism and corruption, but the most important goal between the current politicians and entrepreneurs is to reach the circle of people close to the President as it ensures career opportunities. Thus, they are interested in keeping the current system and not create a new state governance model.
The President regularly changes the high-level leaders, in order to strengthen his power and prevent formation of alternative forces. Officials are appointed in positions after a six-month probationary period.
There is an explicit turkmenisation in the republic that delays the country’s development as there is a lack of national professional employees. Education abroad mostly is not accessible for young people, but the educational system in the republic is impaired and now is in its early phase.
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has pointed out that it is not possible introduce democracy by force, using the already ready import models, in his activity he follows national experience and the traditions of previous generations. Regarding the internal and external policy of the country, G.Berdimuhamedow, is sceptical towards the activity of CIS, saying that its efficiency level is very low.
In August 2007, in the meeting of both, the people movement Galkinish (Revival) and Turkemenistan’s Democratic Party, G.Berdimuhamedow was unanimously elected as the chairman of both organizations. The leader of Galkinish expressed the people request – to call the leader of the country serdar (Chief) and the great, but G.Berdimuhamedow’s response was that it is too early for that as he has not achieved great acts for the country.
The President points out that mass media have an important role in informing the public, spiritual and aesthetic education, as well as in the explanation of the country’s political tasks, thus it needs to be under control. Berdimuhamedow supported the reconstruction of the national opera and circus, the start of libraries, improvements in the patriotic education, as well as suggested that classes about the development questions of modern Turkmen society would be implemented in universities.
From July 2008, the Gregorian calendar month and week names were renewed in the republic in order to simplify the Republic’s interaction with other countries, regarding the development of a new global cooperation model. In order to promote free movement of the citizens in the countries regions, the permits to arrive in borderland districts was were cancelled.
In Autumn of 2017, Turkmenistan’s Parliament unanimously supported the bill for establishing a new medal – Turkmenistan’s medal, Myalikguly Berdimuhamedow. The medal is named after the President’s father, who has worked in the structures of the Ministry of Interior for many years. In Summer of 2017, the President’s new book was presented that was dedicated to his father and his work in the structures of the Ministry of Interior.
The situation regarding human rights in Turkmenistan has created concern in the international society for couple of years now, as the state structures still are in control of all mass media, public and religious organizations, as well as the activities of labour unions in Turkmenistan. Access to information is still complicated in the country.
The President is the founder of almost all newspapers and magazines, he appoints editors-in-chief and their deputies to the mass media. Independent or opposition’s press does not exist in the republic (representatives of the opposition and newspapers are located abroad), the journalist work is censored (according to the Criminal Code’s clause “Treason of the Country”, anyone, who expresses or propagates doubts for the rightness of President’s policy, is a traitor of the country). The local journalists, who cooperate with mass media from abroad, do it secretly, as they could get detained for that. Independent journalists in Turkmenistan are considered illegal (legitimate journalists are the ones that work in the state mass media or are officially accredited). All interviews with officials need to be coordinated with the President’s administration, the journalists from abroad need to coordinate with the specific department of the Ministry of National Security. All officials are forbidden to give interviews to journalists from abroad.
In 2013, the first law came into force (since the country was founded in 1991) “Mass Media” it defines that the right to establish mass media is given to the state power and local governance structures, political parties, public organizations or other juridical persons, as well as Republic citizens, who have reached age of 18. It foresees an unimpeded access to foreign media, forbids intervention in the activity of mass media, as well as the foundation of structures or positions that would control the information before its release. It is stated in the law that “The country guarantees freedom in expressing one’s opinion via mass media, it is not acceptable to forbid or delay the publishing of socially important information, except for the cases, set in legislation, when it is necessary to protect the constitutional system, personal information of citizens, etc.”.
Turkmenistan has 40 press publications (24 newspapers in Turkmen language, including, Risgal (Fortune), that was founded by the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in 2012, and one newspaper in Russian, Neitralnij Turkmenistan, as well as 15 magazines), 5 radio stations, 7 national and cable television channels and 1 state information agency. The national minorities that live in the country, do not have their own magazines. Publications duplicate one another by informing about the industrial and agricultural achievements. Introduction of foreign press, as well as its subscription is forbidden in the Republic. Since the beginning of 2008, state departments to subscribe specialized foreign publications; since 2012, employees of state institutions are obligated to subscribe to newspapers and magazines (employees of professional higher learning establishments have to write out at least 4 newspapers and 1 journal, including the paper Ashabad and Mugalimlar gazeti, postal workers need to spend at least 17.50 USD for 6 months to subscribe various press publications. Now, the most popular weekly newspaper that is subscribed for is Tukmen dili (Turkmen language), its subscription for six months cost approximately 1 USD). The forced subscription of press compensates their publishing costs.
Turkmenistan’s authorities are still constantly blocking foreign and opposition internet portals. During Niyazov’s presidency, a total tracking of journalists existed (psychological pressure, tapping phone conversations). Journalist surveillance, physical force, forced treatment and cases of disappearances still exist. All posts of border security and customs have been given a list of people, created by the Ministry of National Security, that are forbidden to leave the country. During Niyazov’s Presidency, this black list had approximately 2000 people on it; now it has 18 000.
Although, officially it is reported about inland stability, the level of crime is rather high. Majority of crimes is connected to drug contraband. Some observers assume that a current issue could be the activization of Islamists from Afghanistan and fighter attempts to establish contact with Turkmen in power structures, who do not support Berdimihamedow.
There is no opposition in the republic, but in 2019, Turkmen working abroad have set up a political structure „Road to freedom”, aimed at launching talks with President Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov to implement economic as well as political reforms in Turkmenistan and free and open presidential and parliamentary elections. The first meeting of the structure took place in Istanbul and its leader Maksat Saparmuradov (also chairman of the Sootechestvennik Turkmenistan-Russia Friendship Society) announced four political parties had joined the organization (not registered in Turkmenistan) – the Conservative Party and the Democratic Liberal Party (organized by Turkmen students), as well as the Democratic Party and the Communist Party (supporters of these two parties are in Turkmenistan).
According to M.Saparmuradov, about 30,000 persons want to join the Road to Freedom. At the same time, he stressed that the new structure should not be seen as opposition. This is a union of patriots who are not satisfied with the situation in their homeland. „We want free and democratic elections, security for President Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov and his family. We are looking for ways of solving various issues only by peaceful means, and our goal is dialogue with the President. In the event of his refusal, the country may start a turmoil because people are in despair," Saparmuradov said, adding that „the Road to Freedom "also hopes for support from neighboring countries Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan, which are also interested in preventing destructive processes in Turkmenistan and they could influence G.Berdimuhamedov's decisions.
Dozens of people are leaving Turkmenistan as a result of the protracted economic crisis. About 20,000 Turkmen come to Turkey every month as migrant workers, many leave for Uzbekistan and Russia. According to various data, 1.9 million Turkmen have emigrated to settle abroad in the last decade. Informal barriers to citizens' study and work abroad are created to reduce expulsion of citizens, by complicating the expulsion procedure and limiting the amount of remittances to relatives (from and to Turkmenistan).
Turkmenistan has a status of permanent neutrality. The country has diplomatic relations with 131 countries and it is a member of more than 40 international organizations, including NVS.
Turkmenistan is participating in discussions, concerning the status and allocation of the Caspian Sea. This issue still is not resolved and thus it creates disagreements with Azerbaijan, concerning the oil deposit Serdar (In Azerbaijan, Kjapjaz). The deposit is located on the maritime boundary of both countries and the reserves of it are evaluated in the amount of 80 million tonnes of oil and 32 billion m³ of natural gas. Discussion, regarding the disputable issues, continues. Baku has suggested to jointly develop the mentioned deposit.
Turkmenistan has a wide economic cooperation with Belarus that delivers agricultural technology and constructs a potassium complex in the republic. President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has repeatedly pointed out that sees Ashgabat as an important and perspective cooperation partner.
In the cooperation with Kazakhstan, the priority is expansion of communication between countries, including, since 2008, regular air communication is renewed, the road Turkemnbashi-Aktau-Atirau-Astrakhan is reconstructed, and bus communication is established between Turkemnbashi and Aktau. Kazakhstan’s Committee of National Security is cooperating with Turkmenistan’s department of Border Security in operative and investigation events. Turkmenistan has a broad cooperation with Russia, concerning the delivery of natural gas, though due to the disagreements about delivery prices, it has decreased, and the relations have worsened. Both countries have disagreements regarding the dual citizenship. Since 2013, biometric passports have been introduced and they are not given to people with dual citizenship. In 2007, in Ashgabat, a Russian-Turkmen economic forum took place, but it had no success. Turkmenistan has an important cooperation in mechanical engineering – the republic purchases various machinery produced by KaMAZ (mainly trucks); in 2008, Ashgabat, a maintenance and learning centre of KaMAZ was opened. Ashgabat is actively cooperating with Kazan’s Helicopter plant.
At the end of February 2020, Industry Minister Serdar Berdimuhamedov visited Tatarstan and St. Petersburg, where he signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of information technology with Petrosoft. S.Berdimuhamedov also met with Alexander Beglov, the governor of St. Petersburg, who stressed that Turkmenistan is a safe country for business and that it was important to develop cultural ties between Moscow and Ashgabat. A Turkmen representative visited several companies, including a wireless security systems manufacturing company. Prior to his visit to St. Petersburg, S.Berdimuhamedov visited Tatarstan, where he signed a memorandum of cooperation with Innopolis University, which specializes in research and development of information technology and robotics. Alexander Tormasov, Rector of the University, mentioned that cooperation is planned in the training of specialists and highly qualified researchers, as well as in the organization of consultations and implementation of joint scientific research and education projects.
Turkmenistan is also expanding its cooperation with Russia in the field of security. In recent months, the issue of the gathering of militants on the border with Afghanistan has come to the fore, and at the end of 2019, Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev admitted that militants would consolidate and plan an invasion in Central Asia. Shortly afterwards, Turkmenistan was reported to have intensified its border controls, resumed security consultations and military training with Russia. In early February 2020, talks were held between deputy foreign ministers of both countries in Ashgabat.
In 2019, the Turkmen Migration Service has begun accepting documents from Russian citizens for the production of foreign passports. Prior to that, foreign passports were not produced for bipatrides who acquired Russian citizenship after June 2003.
The settlement of agreement on the issue of Turkmenistan-Russia dual citizenship expired in May 2015, and about 10,000 who had acquired Russian citizenship after 2003 had to choose between keeping one citizenship Turkmenistan or Russian.
The law on dual citizenship was proposed by Turkmenistan in 1993, as after the collapse of the USSR about 18,000 officers and their families remained in the republic (about 70,000 in total). Ashgabat was interested in keeping military personnel in Turkmenistan. However, in 2003, President Saparmurat Niyazov offered Moscow a "people in exchange for natural gas" agreement, that is, Russia had to denounce the dual citizenship agreement, and in return Turkmenistan offered favorable prices for the purchase of natural gas. However, the termination of the agreement was not ratified by the Russian State Duma, and after 2003 Russians living in Turkmenistan continued to receive Russian citizenship.
Ashgabat unilaterally stopped recognizing dual citizenship and banned it in 2008. In order to completely eliminate the possibility of dual citizenship, a new model of biometric passports for travel abroad has been launched in Turkmenistan in 2013 - only those who renounce Russian citizenship can receive the new passport. This position created a situation where people renounced Russian citizenship, got a foreign passport and left for Russia. It should be noted that the issue of bipatrides has been resolved shortly after the signing of the agreement on the resumption of natural gas supply to Russia. The new contract is valid up to 2024 and Turkmenistan will supply Russia with 5.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year (resumption of supplies resumed in April 2019). Supply volumes are currently relatively small, so it is possible that Ashgabat could use the issue of bipatrides in order to increase natural gas prices or deliveries.
In 2007, relations with Uzbekistan started to improve, when they signed cooperation agreement regarding border security, customs and transport. Both countries have a 2000 km long joint border and in 2002, they introduced a visa requirement.
Turkmenistan supports the renewal of Afghanistan’s economy, delivering power for reduced prices and writing off the almost 4 million USD Afghanistan’s debt in 2007. A new electro transmission line is being build. Turkmenistan delivers humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Iran was the first country to acknowledge Turkmenistan’s Independence in 1991. Movement towards expanding cooperation with Iran started during Niyazov’s Presidency as Iran is a powerful country of the region and has a border with Turkmenistan. Turkey is being supplied with power from Turkmenistan in transit through Iran, but Iran’s export of goods to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan happens via railway through Turkmenistan. The countries are discussing expanding cooperation in energy, oil and natural gas delivery, as well as in the transport sector. Teheran is ready to participate in the realization of the transport and communications project, North-South. Iran is supporting Turkmenistan’s Armed Forces by supplying Ashgabat with technical equipment for the last 10 years, including, military ships, worth 6 million USD.
There are economic disagreements between Turkmenistan and Iran, for example, from May 2012, customs duty, on all cars brought from Iran, was increased by 5%, it is also forbidden to bring cars in the Republic that are older than five years. There is an Israeli embassy in Turkmenistan and it raises concern to Iran.
Turkey is one of the largest cooperation partners with Turkmenistan, participating in almost all of the wide scale construction projects (including the construction of the tourism zone, Avaza). In the industrial, transport, construction and trade sectors of Turkmenistan, are working more than 600 Turkish companies, 428 companies are registered with the participation of Turkish capital (33% of all the foreign companies), almost 700 Turkmen students are studying in Turkish universities.
Lately, both countries have activated cooperation in providing regional stability, combating the organised inter-border crime and international terrorism; in some of the joint security structure special operations many Turkmenistan’s citizens were found and returned home, they were illegally gone to find jobs in Turkey and were recruited for warfare in Syria.
Although, discussion regarding transporting natural gas from Turkmenistan to Europe through Turkey have been happening for a long time now, there are no agreements signed.
Turkey is implementing the largest energy project regarding Ashgabat’s energy provision that anticipates the construction and connection of 60 substations to the joint power grid. Turkey has delivered several ships and in August 2016, finished the construction of Ashgabat’s international airport.
In 2007, an agreement was made to construct a pipeline, through which China will receive 30 billion m³ of natural gas every year. The contract foresees that the deliveries will happen for 30 years (starting from 2009) and they will be provided mainly by the Bakhtiyarlik deposit. Chinese corporation CNPC is the first foreign company to receive a licence for obtaining natural gas in Turkmenistan. Since the contract was signed, the natural gas deliveries to China constantly grow.
Now, Chinese companies are participating in realization of 49 investment projects in Turkmenistan, majority of them are connected with the oil and natural gas sectors. Beijing is participating in the research of perspective natural gas deposits and industrial production.
Turkmenistan has offered to create a natural gas delivery route to China through Afghanistan. It would be a second pipeline to connect both Turkmenistan and Afghanistan (first is a pipeline in a development phase Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), furthermore, it could replace the planned pipeline from Turkmenistan to China through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Now, the natural gas from Turkmenistan is being delivered to Chine through the pipeline, opened in 2009 through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. This pipeline has three derivations and the total capacity of 55 billion m³ of natural gas per year. In 2013, an agreement was reached to build a fourth phase of the pipeline through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kirgizstan, the construction has yet to begin.
Through the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China pipeline, the natural gas is also being delivered from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, but Turkmenistan is interested in increasing its income from the natural gas export, thus it is looking for possibilities to create delivery routes through countries that could not become competitors, that is, countries that do not have large reserves of natural gas. It is a current topic, as in Spring of 2017, the Minister of Energy of Kazakhstan, Kanat Bozumbayev, confirmed that it is planned to increased deliveries of natural gas to China by expanding the capacity of the functioning pipeline Beineu-Bozoi-Shymkent from 2 billion up to 10 billion m³. Kazakhstan is also planning to increase the output of the natural gas.
Hydrocarbon reserves of both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are enough to ensure the growing demand for at least the next ten years, but the export routes are limited, and it aggravates the competition between the neighbouring countries.
In the period from 2009, when the pipeline Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China was commissioned, Ashgabat has delivered to Beijing 152.6 billion m³ of natural gas (100.5 billion m³ in accordance with the contract between Turkmengaz and Chinese company CNPC, but the rest, 52.4 billion m³, CNPC obtained in the deposit Bagtiyarlik). Now, natural gas is being delivered to China through three pipelines from Turkmenistan (the fourth is in a development phase, the construction is yet to begin); in the period between 2009 and 2016, the price for delivery was in average 185 USD for 1000 m³, and the deliveries partly ensure the writing off the Ashgabat’s debt to Beijing. The deliveries to China are constantly growing. Now, Turkmenistan ensure the majority of deliveries from Central Asia, to whom the cooperation with China is vitally necessary as it provides both incomes in the budget and means to repay credits. Thus, Ashgabat is doing everything possible in order to increase the amount of deliveries to China. Taking into account that Ashgabat lacks the technical possibilities to provide the development of existing deposit in larger amounts, in order to guarantee deliveries in all the current directions, they have stopped delivering natural gas to Russia and Iran. Ashgabat is constantly reporting about finding new fields in the existing deposits and the cooperation expansion in their development.
Berdimuhamedow confirmed the importance in cooperation with the Muslim world in his first official visit abroad as a president, when in 2007, he visited Saudi Arabia and performed umru (a small Hajj). Although, the religion in Turkmenistan is Sunnism, in Iran – Shiism and in Saudi Arabia – Wahhabism, it is essential for Ashgabat to improve the diplomatic cooperation and get involved in the current international processes.
There are 16 agreements made with United Arab Emirates (UAE), the trade turnover of both countries is growing every year. UAE companies built a mosque and a business centre in Ashgabat for free, as well as participated in the reconstruction of a runway in the Mary airport.
An opportunity is discussed with Saudi Arabia to carry out joint projects in the oil output and processing sector, including, building an oil and natural gas processing factory in Turkmenistan. There are discussions about cooperation also happening with Jordan.
There is a UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia located in Ashgabat that is in charge of resolve disputes in international relations and of events to combat terrorism and extremism using peaceful means.
Turkmenistan has joined three of UN conventions in fighting the illegal distribution of drugs and psychotropic substances, as well as participates in international programmes, the goal of which is to offer technical support to law enforcement structures and provide employee training. Ashgabat, alongside other countries of the region, joined the memorandum for cooperation in combating illegal production and circulation of drugs in Central Asia.
The agreement of partnership and cooperation between EU and Turkmenistan was signed in 1998, but it has yet to be confirmed by the member states and European Parliament.
In 2006, European Commission and Trade Commission of The European Parliament voted to assign the trade status within the EU Most Favoured Nation to Turkmenistan. This decision was made due to the interest in Turkmenistan’s natural gas and Niyazov’s announcement that he is ready to begin a dialog with EU regarding the adherence of citizen rights. Turkmenistan has received financial support from EU for the development of higher and technical education, as well as the promotion of reforms in rural regions and economy.
In 2007, shortly after Berdimuhamedow became the President, EU Council distributed an announcement, saying that the organization is ready to begin a political dialogue with the government of Turkmenistan, in order to help the country to implement reforms, especially in the sectors for human rights, democracy and strengthening the rule of law. Berdimuhamedow points out that movement towards Europe is one of the Republic’s priorities, regarding economic policy.
Efficient cooperation has been made with France that provided the development, construction and launch in space of Turkmenistan’s first communications satellite in 2015. French company Thales participated in the modernization of Ashgabat’s airport and in the training of the staff.
Latvia’s diplomatic relations with Turkmenistan were established in 1993. Between 1990 and 1993, Latvia organized eight expeditions, that were searching for the remains of the President, Karlis Ulmanis. In 2008, Ashgabat was visited by the Preside of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers. In 2012, Turkemnistan’s President visited Latvia.
In 1994, Turkmenistan joined the NATO programme Partnership for Peace. The cooperation affected the military training, in strengthening the borders, peace and region stability.
Individual cooperation programme’s main direction is the battle against terrorism, drug contraband, as well as during emergency situations. Within the cooperation with NATO, a project was carried out in the Republic, The Virtual Silk Road, the goal of it was to develop the national information network. Turkmenistan agreed on the NATO using the Republic’s railway to transit freight to Afghanistan that would ensure the alliance access to norther provinces and bypass Russia (from Turkey through Georgia, Azerbaijan and with a ferry to Turkmenistan).
The relations with USA worsened in 1993 and 200, when Washington stopped to grant trade credit to Turkmenistan, by protesting against the detention of human right organization activists. However, the interest in energy softened USA’s stance and the relations between both countries improved. In 2007, USA senator, Richard Lugar, presented a road map – USA’s strategic vision for the role of every Central Asian country in the next 10 to 15 years, including, the creation of transport corridor for resource export from the region, bypassing Russia.
There are several USA company missions in Turkmenistan, including, Chevron and ExxonMobil, and Washington expresses its readiness to support the regional pipeline projects between Turkmenistan and India (through Afghanistan and Pakistan) and Europe (Trans Caspian, through Azerbaijan).
Due to the increasing security threat from Afghanistan and fighters in northern provinces, including the Turkmenistan borderland, Ashgabat (to strengthen its borders) received confirmation regarding the support from USA, when in Autumn of 2015, Washington was visited by the Turkmenistan delegation with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashit Meredow.
Since 2010, both countries are cooperating in the construction of the natural gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), that is complicated by the unstable situation in Afghanistan, as well as friction between India and Pakistan. For India, regarding energy, Turkmenistan is a more perspective partner than Kazakhstan.
The total length of TAPI is 1735 km, the pipeline will cross Herat and Kandahar (Afghanistan), Quetta and Multan (Pakistan), reaching Fazilka (India). Turkmenistan strictly follows the principle of selling natural gas in the Republic’s borderland, meaning that beforehand Pakistan and India will have to resolve both mutual transit issues and the ones with Afghanistan.