Ashgabat summit of heads of government: discussing prospects of CIS

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Baku, 7 June 2019 –

The Turkmen capital of Ashgabat has hosted a meeting of the heads of government of the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The meeting discussed a wide range of very important issues. The discussions were fruitful and ended with the signing of nine documents. The documents put an emphasis on several aspects of cooperation among the CIS member countries. What draws particular interest among them is the expansion of transit capacity and protection of intellectual property. These issues are of pivotal importance to the world community and play a key role in developing relations among the member countries. The tone of the meeting was positive in general. This article will highlight several geopolitical aspects of the Ashgabat summit.

Reaching a new level of cooperation: a matter of topical interest for member states

The meeting of the heads of government of the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States proved quite fruitful. The countries reached consensus on all matters on the agenda. Azerbaijan was represented by a delegation led by Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov. The Azerbaijani delegation was actively engaged in the discussions. The delegation took the opportunity to advance Azerbaijan`s national interests. Experts say the CIS heads of government discussed matters of great importance to the future of the organization. They noted the necessity for the organization to ramp up its efforts to make its activity more flexible and comprehensive. If the CIS intends to cement its global standing, it should take into account modern requirements and challenges. The Turkmen President believes that in this context, the CIS should expand the transportation capacity in the North-South and East-West directions. In this regard, Azerbaijan`s initiatives that boost integrative processes on the Central Asia-Caspian Sea-Black Sea route should be supported. These initiatives can be instrumental in elevating Asia-Europe relations to a qualitatively new level. The CIS should support this initiative of Baku.

Another topical issue for the CIS from the points of view of geopolitics and foreign policy is coordination of the activities of its member states in international organizations. A special emphasis should be placed on collaboration in the United Nations and OSCE. In Dushanbe, the member states noted the importance of combining efforts in fighting against terrorism, extremism, illegal drug trafficking, cybercrime and ensuring information security. This aspect is of pivotal significance to Azerbaijan too.

But the problem is that ensuring coordinated activities within the CIS is impossible unless Armenia abandons its policy of aggression. How can one coordinate its foreign policy with that of the country that disregards the resolutions and documents of the UN and OSCE and that violated Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity? It is therefore more important to pave the way for the realization of what was said in Ashgabat. In this context, putting an end to Armenia`s policy of aggression and ensuring the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijan`s occupied territories could be a first step towards this goal. Unfortunately, this was not discussed at the Ashgabat Summit.

Of course, it is a positive fact that several important documents were adopted at the summit. These nine documents envisage the development of customs activities, expansion of transport capacity, structural changes at the anti-terror center, cooperation in museum management, cooperation in conducting fundamental researches, changes in customs and border control, improvement of customs control in the field of intellectual property, promotion of innovative cooperation, etc. Each of these areas is instrumental in developing the organization`s functional capacity. Experts say some of these areas are closely connected. For example, innovative cooperation and collaboration in fundamental researches. Both issues are closely linked to requirements of time.

Intellect and innovation: preserving two important factors

Experts believe the fact that the CIS member states embark on a program related to innovative development shows that pessimistic forecasts about the organizations are absolutely groundless. Recently some allegations emerged that the potential of the CIS was wearing out and that its future is in doubt.

Innovations are a crucial factor for modern societies. And innovative development is quite a new approach. It can be transformed into action through effective renewal in the activity of the CIS member states. In this context, paying attention to innovative development requires the creation of essential infrastructure, organizational, research and flexible working mechanisms and realization of comprehensive programs.

The expansion of cooperation in the field of fundamental researches is therefore pivotal. This, in fact, means the establishment of a joint mechanism of activity in the field of science in CIS. Of course, putting this idea into action is not an easy task. At the same time, it requires large investments. Time will show how much determined the member states will be in this endeavor.

Experts also note special importance of the protection of intellectual property. The heads of government discussed this issue from two perspectives. The first is directly linked to the protection of intellectual property. This issue is of great significance to the entire world. The protection of intellectual property of the CIS member states implies the protection of intellectual property rights of inventions and discoveries. This also paves the way for the introduction of the advanced technologies in this field.

In this context, the improvement of mechanisms for control over goods that fall under intellectual property category at customs checkpoints acquires enormous topicality. The Ashgabat summit saw the signing of a specific document on these two aspects and the member states are expected to take some measures in this regard.

The heads of government also discussed the opportunities to expand transportation and transit potential. Member states seem determined to play a greater role in a range of international projects. In particular, the "One Belt, One Road” initiative has a very close geographical linkage with the CIS countries. Several Commonwealth states are located along the road that stretches from China to Europe. Although the CIS countries are independently involved in the Chinese initiative, they need to coordinate certain efforts and regulate a legal framework of their activity as members of the organization.

The Ashgabat summit can therefore be considered successful. If the decisions adopted at the summit are transformed into action, the CIS could become a more powerful and functional organization. However, one should not forget that there are some essential points that are worth paying attention to. Conflicts among the CIS member states should be emphasized in this context. It is impossible for Armenia and Azerbaijan to maintain any cooperation as CIS member states unless the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is resolved. Azerbaijan has isolated Armenia from all regional projects because of its policy of aggression. And this will continue unless the Armenian armed forces withdraw from Azerbaijan`s occupied lands. Despite being important and promising, the documents adopted in Ashgabat are impossible to be realized until conflicts are settled.

This leads to a logical conclusion: the Ashgabat summit once again proved that conflicts in the CIS must immediately be solved. The CIS should ramp its efforts in this regard. The future of all the programs that the CIS plans to implement depends on the fate of conflicts. Although the Ashgabat summit did not adopt a relevant document, it cemented the status of this thesis as an unwritten law.

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