Ecological diplomacy: important sphere of cooperation at the Caspian Sea

Among the strategically important tasks facing the world community, a special place is taken by ensuring environmental safety. This is reflected in the 2030 Global Agenda. Independent neutral Turkmenistan, as a full member of the UN, has identified the solution of problems of ecology and rational use of natural resources among the most important priorities of its foreign policy. The policy pursued by the President of Turkmenistan in this field is based on the principles of positive neutrality and is called environmental diplomacy.

Turkmenistan is a supporter of a consolidated and systematic approach to ensuring environmental safety. At the same time, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stresses that “the environment cannot be a hostage to economic and commercial benefits. Our common task is to combine objective economic interests and the realities of international partnership with the need to maintain an ecological balance.” In its environmental diplomacy, Turkmenistan attaches special attention to the unique natural phenomenon – the Caspian Sea.

In matters of ensuring environmental safety in the Caspian region, our country has always taken an active position in order to expand cooperation among states and with authoritative international organisations and agencies, primarily the UN. A vivid evidence of this is the UN environmental conventions ratified by our country, including those concerning the Caspian Sea. Together with international organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Environment Facility and others, Turkmenistan implements various environmental programmes and projects at the national and regional levels.

As President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasises, one of the topical areas of cooperation in the Caspian region is the preservation of the biodiversity and ecological balance in the Caspian Sea, taking into account the fact that the region is rapidly turning into the world’s largest centre for the production and transportation of hydrocarbons. Turkmenistan views the Caspian Sea in the context of the future of the entire planet. “We see the Caspian region in both geographic and socioeconomic terms as one of the UN strategies until 2030. The stability of the economy, energy security, and ecological balance are the bearing pillars of the common Caspian house,” the President of Turkmenistan said. Turkmenistan is in favour of expanding cooperation with other states and international structures with the aim of minimising environmental risks when extracting energy resources and introducing effective protective technologies into the production cycle.

Proceeding from the principles of positive neutrality, Turkmenistan initiated the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Security in the Caspian Sea, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Prevention of Emergencies and Elimination of Their Consequences in the Caspian Sea, the Agreement on the Rational Use of the Biological Resources of the Caspian Sea and the Agreement on Hydrometeorology of the Caspian Sea. The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea by the heads of all five Caspian states is of decisive importance for strengthening cooperation in the Caspian region. It should be noted that the signing of this Convention was also an initiative of Turkmenistan and our country made great efforts for this.

In the context of the adopted Convention, environmental safety issues became a subject of discussion at the First Caspian Economic Forum, which was held on the initiative of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in the Avaza national tourism zone of the town of Turkmenbashi. At the 2019 CEF, the head of our state highlighted the special role of science in preserving the ecological balance of the Caspian Sea and its unique biodiversity. From an applied point of view, this means that all economic projects in the Caspian basin must be carried out on the basis of high environmental standards. In this regard, the national leader called for the development of the Caspian environmental programme as a complex of environmental measures aimed at the preservation and rational use of the rich natural resources of the Caspian Sea.

A logical continuation of the initiative put forward by the President of Turkmenistan at the Fifth Summit of the Heads of the Caspian States to strengthen the mechanism of the pentalateral cooperation was the holding of four meetings of authorised representatives of the Caspian states in Ashgabat at the end of January-February 2020. During the meetings, the parties discussed the draft Agreement among the governments of the Caspian states on cooperation in the field of scientific research in the Caspian Sea, the Protocol on cooperation in the field of ensuring the safety of navigation in the Caspian Sea, the intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the field of search and rescue in the Caspian Sea and the Protocol on cooperation in the field of combating illegal fishing of biological resources (poaching) in the Caspian Sea. The meetings were organised on the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan within the framework of the implementation of the Caspian Economic Strategy in order to strengthen constructive cooperation in the Caspian region and they serve as a vivid evidence of Turkmenistan’s commitment to active and consistent activities in this direction.

As the head of state emphasises, “Today, the preservation of the ecological wellbeing of the Caspian Sea is on the agenda not only of the Caspian states, but of the entire world community.” At the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Turkmenistan came up with an initiative to develop a new UN Caspian environmental programme, the main goals of which could be monitoring the environmental situation in the Caspian Sea and forming appropriate recommendations to the countries of the Caspian basin.

Thus, the essence of the environmental diplomacy of Turkmenistan lies in preserving biodiversity and ecological balance in the Caspian Sea. Following the principles of the policy of positive neutrality, our country proceeds from the premise that there should not be unilateral actions there, and all issues should be resolved by consensus, taking into account the interests of each country. The initiatives put forward by the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov are becoming the starting point for fundamentally new major trends in the Caspian region.

NT. Photo: Sagit BATALOV