Tajik Foreign Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: Gulf-Central Asian Road Map for the Next 5 Years

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As Dushanbe and Riyadh are seeking to enhance bilateral and multilateral relations, a high-level Tajik diplomat unveiled a joint action plan that would represent a road map between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Central Asian countries for 2023-2027, stressing that the geopolitical conditions have necessitated the establishment of a new formula for cooperation between the two regions.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, Sirojiddin Muhriddin, said that existing challenges and crises, such as the growth of terrorist and extremist groups, drug trafficking and climate change, constituted common threats that required the protection of security along the borders of the concerned countries.

“It is clear that the political, economic, social and military situations and developments, in addition to climate change in the region and throughout the world, have created common threats and dangers not only for our countries, but for the entire modern world,” he said.

He added that unrest and military conflicts in different parts of the world, including crises in the Middle East and the Asian region on the one hand, and threats related to water, sanitation, food shortages and climate change, on the other, called for the need to “engage in a common struggle in order to maintain international and regional peace and security and a peaceful life of the peoples of the world.”

“In this context, the Republic of Tajikistan welcomes the efforts of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to ensure the development of the countries of the Islamic world in the economic, social and humanitarian fields, which, from our point of view, is an effective way to combat modern security challenges,” Muhriddin said.

Asked about the Gulf-Asian summit, which kicked off on Wednesday in Jeddah, the Tajik diplomat said that the most important issues on the agenda revolved around the desire of the countries of the two regions to further strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in all vital sectors, including the political and security fields, in addition to economy, trade, investment, tourism, health, youth and sports.

“In view of the rapidly changing geopolitical situation today, and the political and economic developments in the region and the world, the emergence of this idea, i.e. establishing a new formula for cooperation, is an indication of the need for a new phase of relations between the countries of the two regions,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He continued: “We are certain that the main concern of the first summit of heads of state of the two regions will focus on these issues and on strengthening relations and cooperation between our peoples.”

Muhriddin expressed his sincere thanks and gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the General Secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council for organizing the historic summit.

He unveiled the approval of a joint action plan (road map) between the GCC and Central Asian countries for the years 2023-2027, which will be endorsed by Gulf and Asian leaders during the Jeddah Summit.

According to the Tajik minister, climate change constitutes an urgent threat to the countries of both regions and the world in general, pointing to the importance of cooperation between the countries, including Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia, to face these challenges.

He stressed that the global initiatives in the field of water, climate and the environment, including plans launched by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, and the environmental initiatives of Prince Mohammad bin Salman, including the Green Saudi and the Green Middle East initiatives, were all aimed at implementing the goals of sustainable development.

He added: “We are grateful to the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council for their continued support for the global initiatives of the Republic of Tajikistan in the areas of water, climate and regional security. We also appreciate the support of brotherly countries in the region for the fifth global initiative of the Republic of Tajikistan to proclaim 2025 the International Year for the Preservation of Glaciers.

Asked about the relations between Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan, Muhriddin said that those were based on common cultural values and historical ties.

“The Tajik and Saudi peoples combine high cultural and spiritual values and historical and cultural ties that extend back more than a thousand years,” he underlined.

The minister continued: “We believe that the great opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation have not yet been fully exploited. We look forward to further developing and expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which is important for both countries.”

According to the Tajik minister, trade and economic cooperation was one of the priorities of the bilateral relations, stressing the need to increase the volume of trade and to promote investments between the two sides.

In this regard, he pointed to the field of producing competitive export commodities, especially drinking water and environmentally friendly fruits and vegetables.

Referring to the establishment of a joint business council between Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan, Muhriddin said that economic forums and exhibitions of agricultural and industrial products and other joint events played an important role in fostering economic relations.

“There are favorable prospects to expand cooperation in the implementation of joint projects in the free economic zones of the Republic of Tajikistan; Therefore, I call on the investors in the sister Kingdom to take full advantage of these opportunities,” he emphasized.

The minister said that the government of Tajikistan has allowed citizens of Saudi Arabia to enter the country without a visa since the beginning of 2022. Meanwhile, in March 2023, the Tajik airline SOMON AIR launched direct flights on the Dushanbe-Jeddah-Dushanbe route, three times a week.

He noted that these steps were important for the development and strengthening of trade cooperation between the two countries.

“We are keen to align the activities of the Joint Commission with the noble goals of the strategic economic and trade partnership and the strategic goals of the national development of our countries for the year 2030,” Muhriddin told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Commenting on challenges of climate protection and digitization, the diplomat said that the unprecedented droughts and floods that occurred in recent years, including the Central Asian region, proved that climate change remained one of the world’s major problems.

He said that mountains covered 93 percent of his country’s territory, making it highly vulnerable to climate change, adding: “Natural disasters associated with this process cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our country’s economy each year, and in many cases, in loss of life.”

On the other hand, Muhriddin noted that the share of Tajikistan in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions was very small, as the country ranks 130th globally. He also said more than 98 percent of electricity in Tajikistan came from renewable sources, i.e. green energy, in particular hydropower.

“At the same time, we plan to increase our share in the implementation of the “zero waste” strategy by developing green energy by 2050,” the minister told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the government of Tajikistan has adopted the National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change 2030 and a number of other documents.

Water resources play a major role in adapting to climate change, as well as mitigating its consequences. The increase in water-related natural disasters highlights the inextricable link between water resources and climate change, according to Muhriddin.

“At the same time, the Kingdom is also implementing important programs and strategies towards combating climate challenges. These initiatives are appreciated by the entire international community,” he said, stressing that Tajikistan was ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia in the fields of climate and economic digitization.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat