President Ashraf Ghani’s Keynote Speech at the Inauguration Ceremony of Joint Afghanistan-Turkmenistan Regional Connectivity Projects
Afghanistan – Turkmenistan
January 14, 2021
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
My brother, H.E. President Qurbanquli Berdimuhamedov, President of Turkmenistan;
Excellency Mohammad Sarwar Danish, Second-Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan;
Esteemed members of the Turkmen Cabinet;
Esteemed members of the Afghan Cabinet;
Esteemed Lower House and Upper House representatives;
Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps;
Members of civil society;
Sisters and brothers;
I am extremely pleased that today the relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have expanded and are at a higher level. On behalf of the great nation of Afghanistan, I extend my sincere appreciation to His Excellency the President Berdimuhamedov for expressing the gesture of goodwill to Afghanistan. The inauguration of the Aqeena-Andkhoy railway and other infrastructural projects between the two countries are significant steps towards further deepening these relations and translating an important part of our regional connectivity vision into reality.
It is a matter of immense pride that Afghanistan is renewing its long-standing relations with Central Asian countries after more than 100 years of isolation. The bonds of friendship forged between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan are valuable for the two governments and nations.
Seven years ago, when I ran for presidency, I was asked where I was going to begin my foreign policy from. I said, “From Turkmenistan”. This statement surprised many politicians inside and outside my country. Today I am confident that they got their answer, seeing the extended relations between the two brotherly and neighboring countries.
Excellency President Berdimuhamedov;
As you and your great nation know, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan enjoy deep-rooted relations that have been success story throughout history. The golden age of the Abbasid Empire was ushered in Merv, Herat, Balkh and Badghis. Abdallah al-Mamun, the seventh Abbasid caliph, who founded Dar-ul-Hikmah (House of Knowledge) in Baghdad for translation and writing, was nurtured in the arms of his Badghisi mother. The caliph managed to conquer Baghdad and Dar-ul Khilafa (The Main Caliphal Palace at Samarra) with the endeavors of Tahir ibn Husayn and Khurasani Army.
Our relationship that is based on the deep understanding of our national interests and common needs have sustained to this day, and God willing, we will be able to foresee a better future in the light of these relations.
Excellency President Berdimuhamedov;
Not only do we share a common culture and history, but further bolster our bilateral relations through planning economic projects and putting them into exploitation. Regional connectivity clusters and large-scale projects such as railway, TAPI gas pipeline, TAP power transmission line, fiber optics network that can link South Asia to the Europe by land and to the rest of the world will transform the living conditions of the Afghan people for the better and improve the situation in the entire region. Furthermore, these programs will create development and social corridors that will serve as a means of rapid growth of our country.
Afghanistan’s location as a roundabout that links Central Asia with South, East and West Asia as well as implementation of significant economic and infrastructural projects, more recently Khwaf-Herat railway, proves that our vision of connectivity is not an improbable dream but an undeniable reality. Successful expansion of cooperation between Afghanistan and Central Asian countries provides a better illustration for our neighbors and the entire region. Those who thought that building a network of railway in Afghanistan is impossible need to reconsider their perspective.
With consideration to the consolidated and good bilateral ties between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, we are willing to transform Afghanistan into a regional roundabout through launching shared projects that ensure the common interests of both countries. Undeniably, Turkmenistan with its immense successful experiences and as a good neighbor and strategic partner, can play a significant and constructive role in turning Afghanistan into the regional hub.
Under the leadership of His Excellency Qurbanquli Berdimuhamedov, Turkmenistan has not only become a regional point of connection but is also playing a fundamental role in linking the region with the rest of the world.
On behalf of the government and people of Afghanistan, I expressed gratitude to His Excellency President Qurbanquli Berdimuhamedov and the great nation of Turkmenistan for forging an enduring relationship and sustaining cooperation between the two countries by financing and implementation of large-scale projects and programs that will lead to prosperity in both countries and the entire region.
Excellency President Berdimuhamedov;
The government and people of Afghanistan are proud of being your neighbor and friend. We believe that this friendship of our nations will last and I am confident the coming generations of our countries will inherit this bond of friendship that is grounded on shared interests and history and common cultural values.
Today we witness the inauguration of Aqeena-Andkhoy railway subsequent to multiple national and international programs and regional connectivity projects such as TAPI, fiber optics as well as Atamurat-Aqeena and Khwaf-Herat railways. The honorable people of Afghanistan will also witness inauguration of other projects that transforms Afghanistan into the regional roundabout.
The agreement signed in February 2019 indicates that the relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have enhanced from an ordinary relationship between two neighbor countries into strategic partnership. However, 0ur relations with Turkmenistan was at an excellent level even before the agreement was signed, and the leaders of both countries have been highly keen to expand these relations.
We have held six rounds of political consultations so far as part of the political cooperation between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Furthermore, promotion of Turkmen Consulates to Consulate Generals in Herat and Mazar-e Sharif will further strengthen our relations.
Turkmenistan is willing to play a proper role in Afghanistan peace process and the country has been consistently offering to host one round of Afghanistan peace talks in Ashgabat since 2013.
Ulama – Islamic clerics – of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to convene a summit to provide support for the Afghan peace process. I believe that the Ulama of our two Islamic countries will strengthen our peace negotiations more than ever. I would like to extend gratitude to the honorable Ulama for expressing this gesture of goodwill.
My message to the Taliban is to take the pulse of the Afghan nation. Our nation has built consensus on peace and protraction of the ongoing violence runs counter to the Afghan nation’s consensus and will leave a trail of resentment toward the Taliban and make our people stand against them. Therefore, stop the war and bloodshed and embrace a ceasefire.
Since our regional cooperation with Turkmenistan is of paramount importance, Afghanistan’s cooperation with Turkmenistan falls into three circles; Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-U.S., Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Iran, and Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan. Also, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have expanded their cooperation in regional and international platforms and organizations.
Today we witness inauguration of three large regional connectivity projects:
- Karki-Andkhoy-Pul-e Khomri Power Transmission Project:
Completion of the Aqeena-Sheberghan 500Kv power transmission project and Sheberghan-Mazar-e Sharif 220Kv power transmission line is a significant step towards expansion of mutual economic ties and will lead to linking two countries with each other.
- Fiber optics project:
Construction phase of the project has been completed in Aqeena port. This is another significant project jointly undertaken by Afghanistan and Turkmenistan which upon completion can provide 2500 megabytes of internet to our compatriots in Herat and its surrounding provinces.
- Aqeena-Andkhoy Railway Project
In order to ensure the implementation of the agreement signed between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, the two countries signed the state-to-state construction and design contract of Aqeena-Andkhoy railway on September 4, 2019. The project comprises 30 Km railway – 24 Km of main railroad and 6 Km of branch line – in Andkhoy Station along with construction of small bridges, level crossings and a road parallel to the railroad. Through the railroad, Afghanistan can connect to many countries, which is a significant step towards turning Afghanistan into the Asian Roundabout.
The joint projects are crucial for enhancing Afghan-Turkmen mutual economic cooperation. Here I extend my gratitude to the government of Turkmenistan for reducing the price of 500Kv project from 6 cents/Kwh to 3.5 cents/Kwh.
We are prepared to inaugurate TAPI and TAP projects in August 2021 inside the Afghan territory and God willing, it will take place.
In addition, we are finalizing the cooperation roadmap between two countries and we are pleased for the expansion of economic ties between the two countries particularly in the area of electrical power transmission and railway. Strengthening customs cooperation between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan is an imperative and exchange of customs information and providing facilities including visa issuance for Afghan traders are extremely important issues.
It is key to ensure balanced trade relations between the two countries and I hope [the side of Turkmenistan] take practical steps for purchasing Afghanistan’s marble.
Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again emphasizes on state-to-state purchasing oil and gas from Turkmenistan. We also want the 8th Summit of the Commission on Economic Cooperation between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to be held in 2021 for which we have already share the summit protocol with the side of Turkmenistan.
Afghanistan is also eager to create sister city relationship between Herat and Merv cities. The town twinning will further foster cultural relations between our countries.
In conclusion, I once again extend gratitude to Turkmenistan for its cooperation on implementation of regional connectivity projects. I particularly thank my friend and brother President Qurbanquli Berdimuhamedov for his consistent attention for launching such programs.