Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan to Strengthen European and Asian Connectivity
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan continue to pave the way for potential trans-fiber optic highways in the Caspian Sea. Baku hosted a trilateral meeting on January 10 that brought together the Ministerial-level officials, as well as high-level representatives from the aforementioned countries’ private sector, to deliberate the establishment of a new submarine cable between the two nations.
The agenda included discussions on the construction of the “Siyazan-Turkmenbashi” fiber optic cable line across the Caspian Sea bed, as well as Afghanistan’s access to the Internet via Turkmenistan; the meeting ended with the agreement to establish a joint working group with the participation of the country’s specialists.
The proposed Siyazan-Turkmenbashi submarine cable interconnection would link Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan—providing a strong impetus to the development of the telecommunications systems of the two Caspian sea-bordering countries. The successful creation and utilization of this project would result in promoting regional Internet security, improving connection speed in the Greater Caspian Region, and ensuring enhanced connectivity with European and Asian nations — further strengthening the fiber-backbone directions.
Work that has Spanned a Decade
Trend News Agency reported in October 2018 that the signing of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea was the push the region needed to become one of the strategic energy hubs in the world. State news agency Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary had noted that the signing of the Caspian Convention is a historic step towards global energy security, citing that the document makes it possible to lay submarine cables along the bottom of the Caspian Sea “provided that their designs comply with environmental requirements and standards enshrined in international treaties to which they are parties.” The text of the document also affirms that only those countries through the sector of the bottom of which the cables and pipelines will be laid, will determine the route of laying of the cables and pipelines.
However, the Siyazan-Turkmenbashi submarine cable has been discussed for almost a decade, now. While many analysts see the recent signing of the Convention as a nod towards the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, it would be foolish to not pay heed to business meetings such as the one just hosted in Baku. An “East-West” information superhighway was discussed back in 2011, when former Minister of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan Ali Abbasov and previous Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan Toyli Komekov met in September 2011 to discuss laying down the necessary fiber optic lines along the Caspian Sea bed. In March 2015, a report on the measures of the “Turkmenbashi-Baku” (the previous name for the Siyazan-Turkmenbashi cables) the fiber optic line was submitted at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov also said at a governmental meeting that year that the high-tech systems in the telecommunication area is an essential factor of the social- economic development of the country and successful international cooperation, Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported.
 Attendees include the Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Ramin Guluzade, Minister of Communications and Information Technologies of the Republic of Afghanistan Shahzad Aryobi, Minister of Finance of the mentioned country Mohammad Humayun Kayami, General Director of Ashgabat City Telephone Network CJSC Yusup Kerimov, TurkmenTelecom “Deputy Director General of the company Durdeley Atayev, and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Republic of Azerbaijan Haeyrullah Spelenay.