On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of independence of neutral Turkmenistan, celebrated this year, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov gave an interview to the chairman of the Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company Radik Batyrshin.
- Dear Mr. President! Let me first of all thank you for agreeing to this interview. What, in your opinion, does the concept of "independence" mean for the Turkmen people?
- Let me welcome you to hospitable Turkmenistan. Speaking about the importance of independence, I would suggest considering it in the context of the historical development of our country at least over the past centuries.
Based on this, I am convinced that gaining independence by Turkmenistan was a logical continuation of its ancient history.
In essence, the Turkmen are a state-forming people. Starting from the early Middle Ages and for several centuries, they took an active and direct part in the creation and successful development of a number of state formations in Central and South Asia, in the Near and Middle East. This is evidenced by numerous facts and documents.
Therefore, I am deeply convinced that 1991 can be considered a significant milestone, from which the return of the Turkmen people to the trajectory of sovereign development began. Our people regained an inner fulcrum, saw the meaning and historical perspective of their existence in the conditions of their own statehood.
We really felt a high responsibility for the fate of our state, for the fate and prospects of the next generations. And this state, in my opinion, revealed the best features of the multinational people of Turkmenistan: patriotism, dignity, hard work, humanism, respect for the memory of ancestors, tolerance, and willingness to help.
All this helped us not only to go through the first, most difficult period after gaining independence without shocks, but also to move quickly enough to sustainable political, economic and social growth.
As a democratic, legal and secular state, as stated in our Constitution, Turkmenistan pays great attention to the development of its legal system, in particular, to the improvement of the legislative framework.
I can firmly and confidently say that we have built an understandable and effective structure of state power, the main branches of which - legislative, executive and judicial - function in a balanced manner and mutually complement each other.
Over the years of independence, programs have been implemented aimed at modernizing the economy, integrating Turkmenistan into the world economic space. Today we are following the path of creating an industrial society in the country based on a new industrial infrastructure.
At the same time, we are developing other strategically important areas of the national economy, such as energy, transport, communications, the agro-industrial complex, and the financial and banking sector.
The strong social policy of the state has become a distinctive feature of our development model. More than 70 percent of the state budget funds are directed to social needs, to improve the level and quality of life of people. New housing is being built on a large scale, school and preschool institutions, and health care facilities are being built. In total, over 38 billion US dollars have been invested in the construction industry.
The size of wages, pensions, allowances, and scholarships is increasing by 10 percent annually.
The strategic sector of our economy, the fuel and energy complex, has been significantly reformed. New gas pipelines have been built from Turkmenistan to China and Iran. The construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is in full swing. In addition to energy raw materials, today Turkmenistan supplies environmentally friendly gasoline and diesel fuel, motor oils, liquefied gas and other fuels and lubricants, and electricity to international markets.
A powerful textile industry has been created in the country, the products of which successfully compete in world markets. Food security has been achieved. Conditions for rapid scientific and technological development have been provided.
With the launch of the first national artificial Earth satellite into outer space, there were ample opportunities for establishing a telecommunication system in accordance with world standards. There is an active process of wide digitalization of all spheres of activity.
In terms of GDP growth rates, Turkmenistan is firmly among the most dynamically developing economies in the world. According to the World Bank, Turkmenistan is among the countries with a level of income above the average developed countries of the world.
During the years of independence, the volume of GDP increased by 8.4 times, the total volume of basic investments in the country's economy amounted to about 209 billion US dollars.
Of these, 66.6 percent, or about $ 140 billion, was directed to the production sector.
During the years of independence, 2,891 large social and industrial facilities have been built and commissioned.
At present, excluding the fuel and energy complex, the share of the non-state sector in the country's GDP has reached 70 percent.
Despite the negative situation in the world, at the end of 2020, we ensured the growth of gross domestic product at the level of 5.9 percent.
Among the state priorities, ecology and environmental protection, the development of a "green economy" take due place.
The country is actively introducing adaptation measures to restore forests and improve land use to mitigate climate impacts, planting millions of tree seedlings. In total, over 90 million have been planted in the country over the past 20 years. Another 30 million seedlings will be planted in the country this year.
A large-scale project is being carried out to build a unique lake "Altyn Asyr" in the very heart of the Karakum Desert for collecting drainage waters from irrigated lands of all velayats of the country.
Particular attention is paid to providing the population with clean drinking water.
In 2017, Ashgabat hosted the V Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. This event inscribed in golden letters a new bright page in the chronicle of Turkmen sports.
The national health care system has been completely modernized, which today includes an extensive network of modern clinics, centers for mother and child protection, diagnostics, emergency medical care and other medical institutions equipped with the most advanced medical equipment.
We have achieved widespread iodization of salt, fortification of flour with iron, and a high level of immunization of the population. Diseases such as dracunculiasis, polio, rubella, measles, and malaria have been eliminated in the country. These achievements are recognized at the UN level, our country has been repeatedly awarded relevant international awards and certificates.
The sustainability and effectiveness of national health care is also evidenced by the fact that we were able to quickly establish the effective operation of medical institutions in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
All other links of the state system of protecting the population from dangerous infectious diseases were also ready for it.
Among our unconditional achievements, I would also single out the field of science and education, which is experiencing a real upsurge today.
It is also obvious that under the conditions of independence, it became possible to actively revive the people, their historical identity, flourish of the multinational culture of Turkmenistan. Effective cooperation between Turkmenistan and UNESCO is under way.
"Ancient Merv", "Kunyaurgench" and "Parthian fortresses of Nisa" are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which have global cultural and historical significance and value.
Today, all residents of our country, regardless of ethnic origin, feel themselves to be an integral part of their common homeland. We are rightfully proud of the unity of the people of Turkmenistan, peace and harmony in society. This allows us to look confidently into the future, to carry out democratic transformations step by step, to improve state and public life, and to successfully develop external relations.
At the same time, I would like to emphasize one, in my opinion, very important point. Turkmen statehood is not a frozen structure. This is a lively, creative process that goes in line with modern trends in world development and the objective needs of society.
Quite recently, on March 28 this year, the first elections of members of the Khalk Maslakhaty, the upper house of the Turkmen Parliament, took place in Turkmenistan. And on April 14, the first joint meeting of the two chambers of the Milli Gengesh - the National Assembly of Turkmenistan, now consisting of the Khalk Maslakhaty and the Mejlis - was held.
The transition to a bicameral structure of the legislative body is the most important, milestone event in the modern history of Turkmenistan. It showed the firm commitment of our country to follow the basic criteria of world and national democratic practice, the generally recognized principles and norms of international law.
I have cited only a few facts testifying to the large-scale transformations that took place in Turkmenistan during the period of independence.
In general, assessing the path traveled, it can be reasonably argued that these years have become a time of creation for Turkmenistan, revealing the enormous potential of our people, creating a solid material and spiritual foundation for the subsequent comprehensive development of the country.
I would also like to add that this year, in the year of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the independence of Turkmenistan, our native country will become the venue for such important international events with the participation of foreign heads of state as the VI Summit of the Heads of the Caspian States, the XV Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization, as well as many various festive events with the participation of distinguished foreign guests.
And here I cannot fail to mention one more event that we are celebrating these days - the 140th anniversary of the founding of Ashgabat.
We are proud of our capital. In a short time, it has changed beyond recognition. Today Ashgabat is one of the most modern, dynamically developing cities in Asia. It is rightfully a vivid symbol of the confident step of our state along the path of rapid socio-economic development, innovative growth, and the introduction of advanced world experience in all spheres of life.
The city is growing, prettier before our eyes, becoming a comfortable place for work and rest.
An unconditional priority for the development of the capital is its provision of social infrastructure - schools, kindergartens, medical centers, sports facilities. We also attach great importance to the ecology of the city, preserving the environment, expanding park zones and squares.
The concept of the city's development provides for a careful attitude to its historical part, carrying out large-scale restoration work, preserving the unique Ashgabat flavor.
Just the other day, the ceremony of laying a new part of our capital, which we call "Smart City", took place.
Based on this, the people of Turkmenistan will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their independence with dignity.
- Turkmenistan is an associated member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Your country is actively and constructively participating in the activities of the CIS. How do you see the prospects for Turkmenistan's cooperation within the Commonwealth and how can this cooperation develop more productively in the year of the 30th anniversary of the Commonwealth?
- Today, Turkmenistan maintains interstate relations on the principles of equality, taking upon itself, as a neutral country, the obligation of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-participation in multilateral military-political treaties and alliances.
Based on these basic principles, Turkmenistan takes part in the CIS as an associate member, builds its relations with the CIS countries on the basis of deep historical ties, mutually beneficial partnership, similarity of approaches on a number of issues of international politics and maintains active cooperation in a spirit of sincere friendship and trust.
We appreciate the fact that the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth remain unchanged. This is voluntariness, respect, equality.
At the same time, I believe that the changing world realities require from the CIS a timely and adequate response, embedding in new coordinates of interaction. First of all, this applies to the economic sphere. I am convinced that it is economic, trade and investment cooperation that should become the locomotive of the efficiency and success of the CIS, provide our countries with the opportunity to fully reveal their potential, and fully integrate into world economic relations.
In this regard, during its chairmanship in the CIS in 2019, Turkmenistan came up with a number of specific initiatives. In particular, we proposed to develop a Declaration on Strategic Economic Cooperation of the CIS Member States, which was adopted at a meeting of the Council of Heads of State in Ashgabat in October 2019. The principles of this document formed the basis of the CIS Economic Development Strategy until 2030.
We believe that the decisive factor in successful economic cooperation is the active participation of the Commonwealth countries in the creation of a stable system of economic interconnection of the CIS states and adjacent regions of the world. By and large, we are talking here about the creation of new "economic corridors", including energy infrastructure, industrial zones, transport and transit routes connecting our countries along the North-South and East-West lines.
We regard the expansion of cooperation of the CIS with the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as highly demanded and promising.
We see good prospects for interaction between the CIS countries in the context of the international agenda. These are such urgent tasks as ensuring global and regional security, combating international terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, including cybercrime, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The cultural and humanitarian sphere remains a solid and reliable connecting link for the states and peoples of the CIS. We note with satisfaction that a lot has been done and is being done in this direction, cooperation is developing consistently, covering new areas. Most importantly, it enjoys the full support of the peoples of our countries.
Of course, in the current conditions, one of the priorities of the CIS is to counter the coronavirus pandemic.
We believe that the Commonwealth countries need to establish more effective mechanisms of interaction through scientific diplomacy and medical communities to develop common approaches and methods. Systemic cooperation of the CIS with the World Health Organization is important here.
As you can see, Turkmenistan manifests itself quite actively and creatively in various aspects of the CIS activities.
I also think it is important to note the following. Yes, the CIS is, first of all, an interstate association.
But I am also convinced that the development of bilateral ties between the members of the Commonwealth only enriches multilateral interaction, gives it additional specificity and dynamics.
In this context, I would like to note our relations with the Russian Federation, which are developing on the principles of strategic partnership, genuine good-neighborliness and mutual respect.
The established ties of our country with a number of large regions of Russia are an integral part of the Turkmen-Russian multifaceted interaction. And here I can especially highlight the cooperation with the Republic of Tatarstan. Recently, President of Tatarstan Rustam Nurgalievich Minnikhanov paid a visit to Turkmenistan. We held very useful, rich negotiations, discussed long-term plans for partnership in the trade and economic field, in particular, in industry, mechanical engineering, aircraft construction, transport and logistics, the energy complex, and in a number of other areas. An agreement was reached on the further development of cultural, humanitarian, scientific and educational cooperation.
All this goes to the asset of our interstate relations with Russia and, I repeat, gives, in general, positive impetus to interaction within the CIS.
- The General Assembly of the United Nations has proclaimed this year the International Year of Peace and Confidence. This was your personal initiative. You spoke with it at the UN General Assembly, and it was unanimously supported. What prompted you, as a politician, to come up with such a proposal? And what do you mean by the concept of the Year of Peace and Trust?
- The initiative to proclaim 2021 as the International Year of Peace and Confidence was the result of an objective, honest analysis of the international situation.
It must be admitted that international relations are in a difficult state today. And this, in our opinion, is largely due to the loss of confidence of states in each other, a decrease in the quality of communication and the culture of interstate dialogue.
As a politician and head of state, I am concerned that this situation not only impedes constructive relations between individual countries, but also seriously complicates the solution of universal tasks for which we are all responsible - maintaining strategic balance and stability, combating such global challenges as international terrorism, global warming, solving refugee problems, ensuring food security and a number of others.
Look at the situation with the coronavirus pandemic. After all, among other things, it revealed systemic failures in international relations, and, first of all, an insufficient level of trust, political will and readiness to unite efforts to combat this threat.
In such conditions, we considered that the world community, primarily represented by the UN, should take a leading role in improving the international situation, using the existing political and diplomatic levers and formats. One of them is the proclamation of the International Year of Peace and Confidence. Coming out with this initiative, Turkmenistan especially emphasized that it is putting a specific meaning into it.
We see the Year of Peace and Confidence as a series of representative international events, during which practical decisions will be made and concrete ways and means of improving the international situation, restoring and strengthening the role of international law will be worked out. One of the main events in this series is the holding of a high-level international conference in Ashgabat.
We hope that our partners in the UN in practical terms will assist and support this initiative, planned activities, and together we will be able to achieve positive results.
- For 25 years now, your country has enjoyed the status of permanent neutrality. This allows Turkmenistan to pursue an independent, predictable and, I would say, distinctive foreign policy line. How do you assess the factor of Turkmen neutrality and its influence on the course and direction of the processes taking place in Central Asia and in neighboring regions?
- The Turkmen neutrality certainly plays the most important stabilizing role in the region.
This opinion is shared by both the United Nations and the UN member states.
In my opinion, one of the real confirmation of such an assessment by the international community was the opening in 2007 of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia with headquarters in Ashgabat. This step became a sign of confidence in Turkmenistan, evidence of recognition of its constructive role in maintaining and strengthening stability and security in Central Asia.
At the same time, this was a confirmation of the potential of preventive diplomacy as a tool for preventing conflicts, transferring them to a peaceful, political and diplomatic channel.
And here the neutrality of Turkmenistan is a natural, objective factor in the positive course of regional processes, one might say, an ally of the UN and all healthy forces in achieving lasting peace and stability in this part of the world, fulfilling development goals.
And therefore it is quite understandable and logical that the UN provides constant and regular support to the initiatives of Turkmenistan aimed at using the peacekeeping potential of neutrality.
An important indicator was the fact of the Group of Friends of Neutrality, created within the UN framework at the suggestion of Turkmenistan, to which more than 20 states of the world have already joined.
It should also be noted that a few years ago, a new date appeared in the world political calendar at the initiative of our country - the International Day of Neutrality, celebrated annually on December 12.
The above examples indicate that the neutrality of Turkmenistan today has become a factor not only in regional, but also in international politics, the long-term agenda of the UN for the preservation and strengthening of peace, stability and security.
An important aspect of the positive impact of Turkmenistan's neutrality is the economic component. We never politicize international relations in this area. For us, the main criteria are economic and commercial feasibility, mutual benefit, equality and consideration of the interests of all participants.
These principles allow us to initiate and implement significant international projects in the energy, transport, communications and communications in the region and beyond. Objectively, they serve to stabilize the situation, increase mutual understanding, trust and predictability between the participating States. Thus, neutrality acts as an effective lever of economic rapprochement, the establishment of systemic long-term trade, investment, and industrial ties. As a consequence, this leads to a decrease in the potential for conflict.
Last year, Turkmenistan together with the world community celebrated the 25th anniversary of its neutrality. Heads of major international organizations, heads of state and government, prominent politicians, diplomats, public figures, scientists took part in the online International Conference dedicated to this anniversary. In their speeches, they highly appreciated the neutral policy of Turkmenistan, declared their support and significance for the whole world.
This gives us an inspiring impulse to continue to firmly and responsibly pursue the chosen foreign policy course in the interests of the Turkmen people, in order to maintain and strengthen peace, good-neighborliness, cooperation and development.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank you for the full coverage of this conference by the Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company.
- Let's continue on global threats. For the second year now, the whole of humanity has faced a new global threat, which you spoke about, this is the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you, dear Mr. President, manage to save your people, the people of Turkmenistan, from this misfortune? Indeed, until now, not a single case of COVID-19 has been recorded in your country.
- From the first days of the emergence of the COVID-19 threat, we have formed and prepared a unified national strategy to combat coronavirus, which provides for a set of organizational, legal, financial, economic, sanitary and epidemiological, medical and quarantine measures.
To guide all this work, a Government Commission for the Fight against Dangerous Infectious Diseases was created. It includes members of the Government, heads of ministries, departments, local executive authorities.
An operational headquarters was created as a mechanism for interdepartmental coordination with the involvement of representatives of government agencies responsible for health, transport, trade, finance, as well as law enforcement agencies in its work.
I would like to especially emphasize that these coordination structures, in accordance with the legislation, are endowed with appropriate powers, and all their actions are carried out on the basis of protocols and plans adopted at meetings of the Government Commission.
Among the first measures we have taken since the onset of COVID-19, we have introduced a phased strengthening of border, migration and customs regimes. At the same time, restrictions on air communication between Turkmenistan and foreign countries, objectively dictated by the situation, were introduced.
For all persons arriving in Turkmenistan from abroad, testing and quarantine measures are carried out by the relevant departments of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry.
We have also taken measures to strengthen the system of phytosanitary control and veterinary supervision to ensure an adequate level of safety against the introduction of various diseases into the country through the movement of plants and animals, as well as products of plant and animal origin.
At all checkpoints across the State Border, teams of specialists from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection and other relevant state bodies work.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Turkmenistan at the same time fully realizes the need to ensure stability and stability of trade and economic relations between states, the viability of transport links in these conditions.
In close cooperation with our partners, first of all, with the neighboring states, Turkmenistan is working to ensure that these ties are not disrupted and that reliable schemes of mutual supplies and transit traffic on the Eurasian continent are maintained.
Thanks to the coordinated steps of Turkmenistan and neighboring states, a normal operation of transport corridors along the East-West and North-South lines has been ensured today. Disinfection and disinfection and fumigation facilities have been erected at all border checkpoints that meet international standards.
Similar terminals are created by agreement of the parties on the territory of neighboring countries.
Education is a critical element in the fight against coronavirus. Its main goal is to ensure that the population clearly understands the danger of a new infectious disease.
It should be noted that currently in our country, the population is vaccinated against 14 infections without fail. Along with this, the results of many years of research by Turkmen scientists in the field of prevention of dangerous infectious diseases are used, advanced methods of their treatment have been created, traditional folk remedies, medicinal herbs and plants are used, which largely contributes to the strengthening of the protective functions of the human body against dangerous diseases.
Turkmenistan is among the top ten countries that have registered the Russian vaccines Sputnik-V, EpiVacCorona, which are now successfully widely accepted for the needs of people at risk.
Work to prevent infectious diseases continues. Construction of new quarantine centers is underway, re-profiling of individual medical institutions for the possible keeping in them of people with symptoms similar to those of acute infections, the necessary medicines and appropriate medical equipment are being purchased.
At the same time, in our country today, a general medical examination of the population is being carried out, effective measures are being taken to improve the immune status of people.
So, thanks to such work carried out and being carried out, we have not yet discovered cases of manifestation of this disease.
- Dear Mr. President! Turkmenistan actively cooperates with the MIR TV and radio company. I would like to especially thank you for such close and partnership cooperation. What would you like to wish the viewers, radio listeners of the MIR TV and radio company?
- For your viewers, and you have tens of millions of them in many countries, including outside the CIS, I have traditional wishes: peace, prosperity, health to them and their loved ones, confidence in the future. Let him bring more good and positive news.
- Dear Mr. President! Let me thank you for this interview.
- I thank you for this interview and for your work.