Heading a high-ranking delegation, Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov arrived in Tehran on June 14. Following his meetings with Iranian officials, new agreements were signed to expand cooperation between the two countries. During his talk with Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Berdimuhamedov assigned high priority to the cultivation of relations with Turkmenistan’s neighbors, stating that the cooperation documents signed during his trip will reinforce the already-cordial relationship between Iran and Turkmenistan in many areas, especially gas, power generation, and transport.
As Iran’s northeastern neighbor, Turkmenistan shares a 920-kilometer border with Iran. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the two countries have many historical and cultural commonalities. Moreover, economic considerations underlie a good share of mutual ties. Given their available facilities and warm political relations, the numerous common economic interests that Tehran and Ashgabat share can become even more active. Logically, these economic potentials may be realized following such diplomatic meetings so that both sides can benefit from the advantages of expanding relations.
Turkmenistan is Iran’s cultural and economic gateway to Central Asia. Similarly, Iran is the most affordable route for Turkmenistan to reach international waters, through which it can pursue trade with various parts of the world and the other way around.
Unfortunately, the previous administration’s approaches to foreign policy were such that scant attention was paid to extensive capacities available in the immediate vicinity of Iran, including those of Turkmenistan. As a result, the volume of trade and economic exchanges between Tehran and Ashgabat dropped significantly from $5 billion in the Iranian calendar year of 1392 (which ended March 2014) to below $200 million in the calendar year of 1399 (which ended March 2021).
Thankfully, in the wake of the new administration taking office and the serious attention that President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi paid to Iran’s neighbors in his foreign policy, these neglected capacities are gradually being utilized. The numerous reciprocal state visits between Iran and its neighbors indicate the special attention that the incumbent administration devotes to using the capacities of neighboring countries.
President Raeisi made a trip to Turkmenistan in November, 2021, where, in addition to delivering a speech at the 15th Summit of Heads of Member States of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO Summit), met with his Turkmen counterpart. One of the accomplishments of the trip was the conclusion of a deal wherein Iran swaps around 1.5-2 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year received from neighboring Turkmenistan with its own gas for delivery to Azerbaijan.
Consequently, the relations between the two countries have expanded over the last months. Iran-Turkmenistan trade volume showed 50 percent growth to $300 million in the second half of the last Iranian calendar year. It is predicted that this trend will grow exponentially in the current calendar year given the new agreements that are about to be signed between the two countries.
It seems that through the diplomatic trips and communications between Iran and Turkmenistan, available capacities in various economic, cultural, and political areas have been explored, and now, these capacities can flourish should the officials of the two countries show their resolve to make it happen.