Statement by foreign ministers of the Central Asian states and the Russian Federation on strategic areas of cooperation, October 15, 2020
We, the foreign ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, value the unique advantages of strategic partnership based on the agreements reached by the heads of our states and existing state-to-state treaties, in accordance with the traditions of age-old friendship, mutual respect and trust,
Determined to deepen the multidimensional interaction that makes our long-term cooperation sustainable in the face of any and all circumstances, including modern challenges stemming from infectious disease epidemics, pandemics and other health emergencies,
Declare that further proactive expansion of state-to-state relations seeking to improve security and stability in Central Asia and to turn it into an area of peace, prosperity, interethnic and inter-religious harmony, long-term and forward-looking cooperation, energy and transport-transit interaction of continental importance is in our national interests.
In this context, we will strengthen cooperation based on the principles of equality and mutual advantage, taking into account the constructive processes on the vast Eurasian continent and trends towards deepening economic interaction and expanding interregional cooperation.
We will focus our efforts on the following strategically important spheres.
Political and diplomatic sphere
Emphasising the high level of political relations between our countries, their effective cooperation in the international arena, we note the need to improve the forms of political and diplomatic interaction between us.
To this end, we will strive to establish regular and multi-tier consultations between the foreign ministries of our respective countries to discuss important items on the global and regional agendas.
We are confident that these joint activities will contribute to bringing the positions of our states closer on the most significant problems in the modern world and developing consolidated approaches to resolving them.
In view of the complex international situation and mounting challenges and threats to the international community, our cooperation is designed to prevent and counter potential risks and to adopt joint measures with other stakeholders, partners and international organisations with the UN playing the central role.
We welcome a broad-based international dialogue aimed at strengthening the system of security and trust between all states and preventing and eliminating threats to the peace. The actions of the states to ensure their own security should not lead to dividing lines, generate confrontation or be carried out at the expense of the security of others.
In a coordinated manner, we will continue to counter the use of information and communications technology for criminal purposes, including the spread of fake news, recruitment and training, as well as fundraising and cyber attacks. We will continue to develop bilateral and multilateral legal frameworks for ensuring international information security.
Expressing our concern about the high level of the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and the presence of international terrorist organisations in that country, we will continue to strengthen cooperation in order to advance the process of Afghan national reconciliation and reconstruction of the country. A comprehensive and sustainable peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through inclusive talks on a political settlement among the Afghans themselves.
Emphasising our concern about the threat of drug trafficking in the region and the smuggling of weapons and ammunition, we express our readiness to jointly oppose these negative developments, including with the participation of Afghanistan.
Trade and economy
We reaffirm the importance of investment cooperation between our countries as a key factor for achieving strategic development goals in the region, maintaining quality and sustainable growth of the national economies and promoting regional cooperation in manufacturing.
In 2019, our trade exceeded $30 billion. The share of manufacturing and agricultural goods, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals, automobile and engineering products in our trade flows is increasing. Direct region-to-region transactions account for most of our aggregate trade.
In view of the temporary restrictions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, we reaffirm the need to take coordinated measures to ensure the uninterrupted flow of essential goods, food, medical equipment and medicines within the region. We are interested in capacity building, stepping up trade and economic ties and promoting trade in goods (including by streamlining customs clearance and creating joint ventures) and services between our countries, and expanding business contacts. We intend to continue to develop regional industrial and agricultural value chains, as well as promote settlements in national currencies taking into consideration the interests of the parties. We are ready to take coordinated measures to counter unfair competition and other extra-market risks in order to enhance our economic cooperation.
Located at the crossroads connecting Europe and Asia, and building on the immense transport potential, we reaffirm that our countries are interested in a coordinated transport policy that would enable us to benefit from the region’s opportunities in transit and transport and to promote socioeconomic development in our countries. Russia and Central Asian countries are proactive in promoting connectivity between our passenger and freight transport systems along the east-west and north-south routes.
We note our readiness to work together on overcoming structural and institutional challenges the developing land-locked countries are facing with the view to reducing their transit and trade costs, enhancing their competitiveness and access to foreign markets.
Efforts by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to promote initiatives like the Trans-Asian Railway, Asian Highway and develop international transport and logistics hubs (“dry ports”) expand Central Asia’s transit potential. The SCO is working on expanding transportation by rail, roads and multimodal logistics within our shared space. By following single standards, we have been able to coordinate railway network management, avoid increases in costs or excess transport charges. We are interested in measures to create demand from shipping companies (flexible tariff policies, etc.).
The competitiveness of the cross-border routes crossing our countries largely depends on the accelerated introduction of digital solutions in the transport sector, promoting online data sharing in shipping and personnel training. To this end, we will step up cooperation and share best practices.
Environmental protection and climate change adaptation
We believe that environmental issues pose a serious challenge to sustainable development in our countries.
We note that our countries stand ready to make their contribution to ensuring the environmental wellness in Central Asia, in particular, to environmental protection and climate change adaptation, emergencies prevention and response based on a harmony of interests between all the parties involved in this cooperation.
We express our readiness to take joint action to reduce water and air pollution, land and glacier degradation, increase forest cover, mitigate natural disaster risks and ensure access to drinking water.
We will promote regular contacts between researchers, environmental protection experts, medical professionals and other specialists in order to rebalance climate and environmental conditions and improve the socioeconomic situation in the Aral Sea basin, including the Aral Sea region.
We support further efforts to expand mutually beneficial energy cooperation, which includes carrying out joint projects, sharing best practices and research data, streamlining extraction, processing and transit technology for the fuel and energy complex, and training personnel for the energy sector.
We attach great importance to introducing state-of-the-art technology when using both conventional and renewable energy sources.
There are broad opportunities for promoting cooperation in the power industry and cross-border power exports.
We will continue closely coordinating the positions of our delegations at the relevant international energy forums.
Sanitary and epidemiological safety
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it puts on the world’s healthcare system, trade, economic and financial relations, in light of the risk of new epidemics and to improve the sanitary and epidemiological safety of the people, we intend to continue implementing joint projects and share research data on preventing and fighting communicable diseases, expanding testing capacity and personnel training. We will further improve the collective system for monitoring and rapidly responding to emergencies.
We emphasise the coordinating role of the World Health Organisation in preventing sanitary and epidemiological threats. We note the need to improve International Health Regulations in order to enhance the WHO’s potential.
We are exploring avenues for increasing the number of tuition-free scholarships on sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing in Russian higher education institutions for representatives from partner countries. Russia will continue sharing research data and offering advice on monitoring the incidence of COVID-19, fighting epidemic outbreaks and prevention.
Expanding the capabilities of our countries in research on and production of pharmaceuticals in the context of fair competition and engaging in joint manufacturing of the needed medicines, vaccines and PPE is in our common interest.
To consolidate our efforts in fighting the spread of dangerous infections, we will promote joint efforts to study the origins of COVID-19 and the symptoms caused by this infection, and will develop treatments and preventive measures. We will continue working with the WHO along these lines.
We welcome the mutual support by our countries in providing humanitarian aid and facilitating the repatriation of citizens from nearby countries and beyond.
Matters related to labour migration remain high on the cooperation agenda for a number of Central Asian countries and Russia.
In this context, it is essential that specific steps are taken to offer the most favourable living and working conditions for labour migrants from certain Central Asian countries by improving the corresponding contractual legal framework, and offering vocational training to people who fall into this category. We note that the interested Central Asian countries will be involved in these processes.
Culture and education
We call for stepping up cooperation in education and emphasise the importance of sharing best practices and information on modernising national education systems.
We look forward to further expanding intercultural dialogue in the interests of the people living in Central Asian states and Russia. Acting in the spirit of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures proclaimed by the UN, we will continue our joint efforts to preserve and encourage cultural diversity, cooperate and provide mutual assistance in studying and protecting the region’s cultural and ethnographic heritage.
We will maintain our proactive contribution to international dialogue of cultures, and will promote partnerships in education, research, healthcare, migration, information, youth cooperation, physical fitness, sport and tourism.
We support preparations for the Soul of Eurasia International Cultural Festival, to be held annually and hosted by cities in the CIS member states on a rotational basis.
We oppose neo-Nazism, extremism and xenophobia, and stand for inter-ethnic, inter-cultural and inter-religious accord. All countries have the obligation to preserve memorials, monuments and cemeteries related to the service personnel who died during World War II.
We note the importance of establishing the CIS Commission of Historians and Archivists within the Association of the CIS History Research Institutions.
The foreign ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan will discuss their assessments of progress in the spheres mentioned above during regular meetings in the Central Asia + Russia format, and when needed on the sidelines of CIS, UN and OSCE events.
The relevant divisions within our respective foreign ministries shall be tasked with coordinating day-to-day operations and drafting the eventual proposals.
Depending on the sphere of cooperation, representatives from other agencies and organisations can be invited to take part in the Central Asia + Russia format meetings, including via videoconference, subject to reaching a mutual agreement on this matter.