Berdimuhamedov’s Visit to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan-Turkey-Turkmenistan Relations
Berdimuhamedov’s Visit to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan-Turkey-Turkmenistan Relations
Within the short period between the second half of July and early August 2017, significant improvements took place in terms of Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations, which are of strategic importance. Foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan attended a tripartite summit held on 18-19 July 2017 (AA 2017). President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov paid an official visit to Azerbaijan on August 8-9, 2017.
During the trilateral summit, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan bilateral and trilateral meetings between Foreign Ministers were held. Besides, Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Turkmenistan were received by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. At the trilateral meeting Ministers reviewed important issues and regional developments on the common agenda of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, but the main agenda of the meeting was the preparations for the Leaders Summit to be held in Turkmenistan. Following the meeting, a joint statement of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Raşid Meredov was signed. In the joint declaration, the parties drew attention to the importance of independence and territorial integrity of the countries, solving the conflicts within the framework of the international law, the joint activity of the trio of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan within the international organizations; besides these, they stressed that the legal infrastructure of economic cooperation between the three countries should be strengthened.
At a joint press conference held by the ministers, the bilateral economic relations between these three countries are of utmost importance was highlighted, and it was stressed that there was a decline in foreign trade, and that they had the potential to reverse it and increase it again. Although energy and transportation were primary issues in the meeting, Çavuşoğlu reiterated his support for Azerbaijan for Karabakh conflict and continued to criticize the OSCE Minsk Group as a mediator.
The official visit of Berdimukhammedov to Azerbaijan also had a great importance in terms of Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations as well as Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan triple relations. The documents signed and the statements made emphasized that during the visit, the two countries will act as strategic partners in both bilateral and multilateral venues. At a joint press conference held after the meeting between the delegations, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev emphasized this issue in particular. Aliyev announced that the bilateral relations have been raised to “strategic partnership” level with the joint declaration signed by the two leaders (President.az 2017). Considering the situation of Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations 10 years ago, signing of the “Declaration on Strategic Partnership” between the two countries and raising the relations to strategic partnership level should be regarded as a success, which cannot be underestimated.
Azerbaijani-Turkmenistan relations generally had a favourable course during the immediate aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Haydar Aliyev was in Ashgabat to attend meetings of regional organizations on 23-24 December 1993 and 14 May 1994.On 18-19 March 1996, President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov paid an official visit to Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan 1996). On 13 May 1996 Haydar Aliyev visited to Turkmenistan. But since 1997, exacerbated by disagreements between the two countries about the legal status of the Caspian Sea; bilateral relations have been strained. Moreover, the Turkmenistan embassy in Azerbaijan was closed in 2001 because of financial reasons. Despite having neutral status, Turkmenistan has even begun arming against the Azerbaijan in the Caspian, according to most experts. However, normalization process of Turkmenistan-Azerbaijani relations began with the initiative of Turkey after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, former president of Turkmenistan. Meanwhile, the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Azerbaijan was reopened in 2008. In the same year, on 19-20 May 2008 the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov (Azərbaycan 2008), while his counterpart Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev had paid a the visit to Turkmenistan on 28-29 November 2008. As İlham Aliyev’s visit to Turkmenistan continued, Turkish President Abdullah Gül came to this country and the three leaders had a small trilateral summit meeting. In fact, November 2008 can be considered an intense month in this context. Because, on 5-6 November 2008, Ilham Aliyev has paid an official visit to Turkey on the invitation of Abdullah Gül and Abdullah Gül visited Baku to participate in the Energy Summit this time on 13-14 November 2008. Subsequently, a tripartite meeting took place Avaza on the Caspian coast on November 29, 2008 was held with actually laid the foundations of a new format. But it took some time for this format to spring to life.
Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan Trilateral Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Baku on the first of May 26, 2014 in Ashgabat second on January 29, 2015 while the third was held in Antalya August 28, 2015. The first meeting in Baku was of special importance. Because some of the previous disputes between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan tended to improve after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov by the mediation of Turkey, some problems were brought to agenda recently. Hence, if this tripartite meeting was held in Ankara, it could be the image that Turkey is trying to reconcile Azerbaijan with Turkmenistan. But the fact that it was made in Baku (ie geographically at a central point) provided a suitable environment for the coming of the future (not the past problems) but the future (the common projects). Both these, as well as the scope of the next meetings discussed the possibilities of developing bilateral and regional cooperation on issues related to three countries, mainly energy and transportation, and exchanged views on regional and international developments. Meanwhile, shortly after the first meeting in Baku, a trilateral meeting was held by Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan leaders during the Turkish Council Summit Meeting held in Bodrum on 4-5 June 2014.
In the second Trilateral Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, the Framework Cooperation Program for 2015-2017 was adopted; and in the third meeting it was decided that the Presidential Summits should be held.
Although the first Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan Presidential Trilateral Summit was officially announced on 12 October 2015 in in Turkmenistan’s Avaza city, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelled his visit to Turkmenistan on October 10, 2015 due to a terrorist attack in Ankara (Hürriyet 2015). Despite the statement made by the Ambassador of Turkey Turkmenistan Mustafa Kapucu on July 24, 2016 (Hurriyet Daily News, 2016), saying that the first Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan Presidential Trilateral Summit meeting will be held until the end of 2016, this summit has not been realized yet. However, in the light of recent developments, it is considered highly likely that the summit will be realized.
Undoubtedly, cooperation in the field of energy and transportation is the cornerstone of both bilateral and trilateral cooperation between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, TANAP (Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project) and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway projects to be completed, which are among the most solid bridges of Turkey-Azerbaijani relations; it also offers opportunities in terms of cooperation with the states of the eastern Caspian Sea (as well as with Turkmenistan). These projects also increase the strategic importance of these three countries for the eastern and western countries. Increasing the efficiency of the trilateral cooperation also makes the development of the Trans-Caspian cooperation mandatory in various fields. The various projects in this area are facing hard opposition from Russia and Iran for now. However, initiatives to further diversify the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, or Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan partnership on energy and transportation, are increasing positive expectations for the future.
Meanwhile, Turkey-Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations were forming “weak link in the chain” for a while in relations between Turkic republics. One of them has been significantly disappeared. Now it’s time for Turkey- Uzbekistan relations…
Araz Aslanlı, Instructor, Department of Economy and Business, Azerbaijan State University of Economics (UNEC)
“Azerbaijan – Turkmenistan relations”, http://www.mfa.gov.az/files/file/Azerbaijan_-_Turkmenistan_relations_18.09.2014.pdf, (Accessed: 10.08.2017)
“Dışişleri Bakanı Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu Türkiye-Azerbaycan-Türkmenistan Üçlü Toplantısı’na katıldı (Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attended the Trilateral Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan)”, http://www.mfa.gov.tr/disisleri-bakani-mevlut-cavusoglu-turkiye_azerbaycan_turkmenistan-uclu-toplantisi_na-katildi.tr.mfa,(Accessed :10.08.2017)
AA (2017). “Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan seek to bolster ties”, http://aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/turkey-azerbaijan-turkmenistan-seek-to-bolster-ties/864797, 19 Temmuz, (Accessed: 01.08.2017)
Azərbaycan (1996). “Türkmənistan Prezidenti Saparmurad Niyazovun Azərbaycana rəsmi səfəri”, 20 March.
Azərbaycan (2008). “Azərbaycan- Türkmənistan münasibətlərinin inkişafında yeni mərhələ: Türkmənistan Prezidenti Qurbanqulu Berdiməhəmmədovun Azərbaycana rəsmi səfəri”, 20 May.
Hurriyet Daily News (2016). “Turks, Turkmens, Azeris to meet for European gas”, 24 July
Hürriyet (2015). “Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan Türkmenistan ziyaretini iptal etti (President Erdoğan cancels visit to Turkmenistan)”, 10 Ekim, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-turkmenistan-ziyaretini-iptal-etti-30284068 (Accessed: 10.08.2017)
President.az (2017). “Azerbaijani, Turkmen presidents made press statements”, http://en.president.az/articles/24919 , 8 August, (Accessed: 10.08.2017)