Russian and Central Asian FMs Release Statement Committing to Areas of Cooperation
On October 15, the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan released a statement reaffirming the countries’ commitment to strengthen interstate relations. This came following a virtual meeting held in the Central Asia + Russia format. The six countries aim to expand interstate ties to improve security and stability in Central Asia in nine strategic spheres: politics and diplomacy, security, trade and economy, transport, climate change and the environment, energy, sanitary and epidemiological safety, migration, and culture and education.
In terms of politics and diplomacy, all countries pledged to increase political communication at high levels, as well as to establish regular multi-level communication among the countries’ foreign ministries. With security, the states will continue to work with international partners and organizations to support international dialogue and cooperation. At the same time, they will make sure that their actions towards national security will not conflict or be at the expense of each other. While they will continue to counter fake news, extremist recruitment and training, as well as cyberattacks at the bi- and multi-lateral levels, they will also strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorist threats and drug and weapons trafficking from Afghanistan. They have also pledged to assist in ensuring peace in Afghanistan.
On regional trade and economy, they affirmed the continued role of foreign investment in the economic development of the region, as well as coordinated measures to ensure the uninterrupted flow of goods, medical supplies, and medicines that are essential because of COVID-19. They will also work on coordinated transportation policies to promote the socio-economic development of the region. To do this, the countries will promote initiatives for developing international transport and logistic hubs through organizations like the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The countries also recognized the importance of energy, climate change, and the environment. The states will work together to promote environmental wellness in Central Asia by taking measures to reduce water and air pollution, land degradation, and glacier melt. Researchers, medical professionals, and other specialists will also be sent to the Aral Sea and its basin to improve the environmental and socioeconomic conditions in the region. Further, the states will work together on energy cooperation and will continue to grow joint energy projects. They will further collaborate on research and data sharing for the extraction, processing, and transit of hydrocarbons, while giving new focus on new conventional and renewable energy projects.
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the countries emphasized the importance of the World Health Organization in fighting against epidemiological threats. Russia pledged to continue sharing its data and research with Central Asia in the fight against COVID-19. Russia will also increase the number of scholarships for the study of sanitary and epidemiological safety at Russian institutions of higher education for people from Central Asia. Pursuant to this, Russia will also seek to improve the living conditions of the Central Asian labor migrants in Russia and offer them vocational training. Russia will also improve the contractual legal framework that these migrant laborers work under.
Recognizing their shared history, the countries will also work to improve and modernize their educational systems and their intercultural dialogue. They undertook to study and preserve the region’s cultural and ethnographic history. Noting the shared role all the countries had in fighting off the scourge of Nazism, the countries will continue working together to oppose neo-Nazism and extremism, as well as to preserve their memorials, monuments, and cemeteries dedicated to the Second World War (WWII).
While much of the statement refers to continuing spheres of collaboration, Central Asia will play a larger role when it comes to political, economic, and security relations with Afghanistan. As the United States withdraws troops from Afghanistan, Central Asia is left to deal with possible threats on its border. Moscow, however, will continue to aid Central Asia in fighting terrorist threats, cementing its political influence in the region. The Kremlin also ensured continuing Russian cultural influence through the assurances of preserving WWII memorials, since these often particularly celebrate Russia and Russian sacrifices made in the Second World War. This document emphasizes the collaborative and ostensibly equal nature of the parties involved. However, by taking the leadership of this dialogue, Russia appears to be first among equals.