Turkmen leader declares Turkey ‘strategic partner’

Ahead of a planned official visit to Turkey, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has stressed common points between his country and Turkey, while declaring the other “a strategic partner” for his country. Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, speaking at a cabinet meeting held on Saturday, informed cabinet members of Berdymukhamedov’s upcoming visits to Bulgaria and Turkey.

“We have a lot of common points which unite Turkey and our country. Consequently, we consider Turkey our strategic partner,” Berdymukhammedov said at the same meeting. “Turkey is a brotherly country for us,” Berdymukhammedov said, voicing his will for a diversification of bilateral relations between the two countries. Historical relations between the two countries, which have been ongoing for centuries, and economic potential in relations will serve such diversification,” he said.

During a telephone conversation last month, President Abdullah Gül had invited Berdymukhammedov to Turkey for a visit. Gül told him that Turkey was proud of Turkmenistan’s achievements and that he was committed to expanding the friendly ties and cooperation between Turkey and Turkmenistan.

The two leaders also exchanged views on ways to improve cooperation and restated their commitment to intensify bilateral contact between the two countries. Gül invited Berdymukhammedov to Turkey as a first step in the direction of closer dialogue between the two countries.

Berdymukhammedov had welcomed the invitation, but no exact date has yet been announced for the visit. Gül visited the Turkic-speaking Turkmenistan in November last year. During his visit, he participated in a trilateral meeting with Berdymukhammedov and Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev, discussing energy cooperation.

Ankara aspires to become a regional energy hub between Western consumers and Eastern gas and oil producers. Turkmenistan sits on one-fourth of the world’s known reserves of oil. Turkmenistan is a potential supplier of the proposed Nabucco natural gas pipeline that would run from Turkey to Austria via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Sponsors of the project have been hoping to include Turkmenistan, linking the pipeline to the Central Asian country by building a pipeline across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, where it would connect to pipeline networks through the Caucasus to Turkey that have already been built.

In March 2008, following a seven-year hiatus, Ankara for the first time hosted a Turkmen president when Berdymukhammedov arrived in the capital upon an official invitation from his Turkish counterpart, Gül. At the time, the landmark visit was widely considered a positive result of intensified Turkish efforts in recent years to improve relations with Central Asian countries. The fact that Berdymukhammedov reciprocated Gül’s December 2007 visit to Turkmenistan within the short space of three months was highly welcomed by Ankara, with a senior Turkish official describing this situation as indicative of “Turkmenistan’s will to improve relations with Ankara.”

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