President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedow proposed establishing a common Central Asian transport and logistics platform.
"We suggest considering the possibility of launching a Central Asian transport and logistics platform," Berdimuhamedow said while addressing the fifth consultative meeting of the Central Asian leaders on September 14, in Dushanbe, according to Turkmenistan Today.
He said that transport is a strategic part of discussions between the countries in the region and this is the time to expand cooperation in the area given the "favourable conditions" for freight and passenger traffic between Central Asian states.
"We propose to consider the possibility of establishing a Central Asian transport and logistics platform, the main task of which could be to consider the creation of transport hubs in the region, the formation of new and more efficient transit corridors, the optimisation and harmonisation of customs, migration and other procedures along international transport routes passing through the territories of our states," the Turkmen president added.
Berdimuhamedow also proposed closer energy cooperation between Central Asian countries while speaking at the summit.
"At present, the region is in the process of forming political, legal and economic conditions for sustainable energy partnership, oriented both to meet intra-regional demand and to access world markets through international transit corridors. Turkmenistan is ready to supply its natural gas and electricity to Central Asian countries and through their territories to foreign markets on mutually beneficial terms," Berdimuhamedow said.
The Turkmen president also urged his counterparts to consider the proposal as an effort to build long-term energy cooperation between the countries of the region.
"In this regard, it seems appropriate to create a new form of five-party cooperation—the Energy Dialogue of Central Asian countries," Berdimuhamedow said.
He also proposed including in the updated Central Asian Water Strategy the basic rules for cooperation on water issues in the region, taking into account the interests of all regional players.
The Turkmen president stressed that the Central Asian Water Strategy could become the basis for the Global Water Strategy.
The summit aimed to discuss expanding political cooperation between the five Central Asian countries to ensure stable economic development and better coordination in their response to regional security threats and environmental challenges.
The Central Asian region, with its limited reach to Western markets due to its geography, has been seeking economic diversification by throwing weight behind various ambitious projects such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). For regional states, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) route emerges as a logical continuation of the multi-billion-dollar BRI project to achieve a safe, cheaper and faster connection with Europe.
For Turkmenistan, the 829-kilometer-long BTK line is a highly efficient alternative route to reach the European marketplace. The BTK links Azerbaijan’s railway network to the railroad grid of Türkiye and enables an easier and faster rail connection between China, Central Asia, and Europe.
Sitting on huge reserves of fossil fuel, primarily natural gas, Ashgabat has been seeking more beneficial transport connections between the South Caucasus and Central Asia, which could bring access to the 760-million market of the continent. In this context, the BTK railway sits well in the plans of the Turkmen government to make further inroads into the overseas markets.
The establishment of logistics centers and free trade zones at the ports of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan will facilitate the development and deepening of Trans-Caspian cooperation, providing a boost to regional economies. By effectively leveraging the benefits of the Middle Corridor, the countries in the region can reap the rewards of increased trade and economic growth.
The Baku International Sea Trade Port (Azerbaijan), Aktau/Kuryk ports (Kazakhstan) and Turkmenbashi Port (Turkmenistan) are the main maritime points of the Middle Corridor, which promises even bigger benefits to the countries in the region.
Compared to the Northern Corridor, the Middle Corridor provides a more cost-effective and faster trade route, reducing travel distance by 2,000 kilometers. Additionally, it benefits from more favorable climate conditions and reduces travel time by 15 days compared to sea routes.
The Middle Corridor opens up immense opportunities for cargo traffic in Asia, enabling goods to reach the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region by integrating port connections in Türkiye. The strategic location of the Middle Corridor is expected to create significant economic opportunities, allowing South Caucasian and Central Asian countries to benefit from the $600 billion China-Europe trade annually.