The relations of Belarus and Tajikistan reach the level of strategic partnership. The statement was made during the talks between Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon at the Palace of Independence in Minsk on 28 June.
In line with the protocol, the talks were preceded by an official welcoming ceremony. Aleksandr Lukashenko greeted his Tajik counterpart in the courtyard of the Palace of Independence. The national anthem performance and the photo opportunity were followed by a one-on-one meeting. “I am very glad that you came to Belarus. You are true friend of mine and a true friend of Belarusian people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state remarked that the visit of the Tajikistan President coincides with the 2nd European Games in Minsk. Thousands of foreign tourists came to Minsk, many of them visit Belarus for the first time. “You have the right impression of Belarus, and I am very happy that you will also attend the closing ceremony of the European Games the day after tomorrow. But the main thing is our negotiations where we will take measures to intensify a roadmap of our relations, discuss closer cooperation between Tajikistan, Belarus and third countries, especially Afghanistan. You suggested that we engage Afghanistan in this cooperation,” the Belarusian leader said.
“There are a lot of issues we can discuss today. I think Vladimir Putin will join these talks. We can hold a joint meeting. I believe you will not be against it. We have matters for discussion within the CIS and the CSTO, our defense union,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that an initiative to lay out two gardens of friendship with Tajikistan is implemented in Belarus. “This is an attempt to find new cultures for growing new plants in Belarus. This is how we are also trying to cooperate with Uzbekistan, they have gourds. Their specialists visited Belarus just like yours. We have planted some crops this year, and Uzbekistani specialists praised our efforts. Specialists from Tajikistan have been trying to develop this field jointly with our specialists for a long time,” the President said.
He told the Tajik leader that Belarusian agrarians tried to grow new plants, especially in the changing climate. “We especially felt the need this year, in these hot conditions. Thank you. You brought good weather with some rains, especially in central Belarus. So, the year is not easy, but I think it will be better than the previous one, especially in agriculture and, of course, in agricultural processing and food production,” the head of state concluded.
Emomali Rahmon, in turn, said that Belarus and Tajikistan enjoy friendly relations which are gradually gaining momentum. “As for our agreements after your official visit to Dushanbe [the Belarusian President paid an official visit to Tajikistan in May 2018], they are being implemented. We are satisfied with the progress. However, there is still an untapped potential in the agrarian sector, especially in crop production and cattle breeding, and also in mechanical engineering. Our joint projects [joint assembly plants in Tajikistan] operate well. There are very good prospects for cooperation not only on the bilateral basis but also with the neighboring countries of the region such as Afghanistan,” the Tajik leader said.
After the one-onone meeting the two leaders sat down for broader negotiations that involved top officials from both sides. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the sides reaffirmed the similarity of approaches to the evaluation of the regional and global situation. He said that Minsk and Dushanbe traditionally support each other on the international arena, and will continue doing so in the future.
“We will sign a landmark document – an agreement on strategic partnership. It is a logical result of building friendly, truly constructive relations. Its fulfillment will give a boost to our efforts in all areas,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
The Belarusian President said that there are no closed topics for cooperation between countries, there is absolute understanding between him and his Tajik counterpart. “We fulfill all our agreements on time. It is confirmed by the initiative to lay out gardens of friendship with Tajikistan in Belarus,” he said.
The head of state said that Belarus is determined to maintain systemic and long-term cooperation in the economic sector. However, the $40 million trade posted by the two countries in 2018 lags behind their true potential. “We hope that the downside scenario will be over soon. The delegation members in attendance should rectify the situation. Having such good relations, it is a shame to let the bilateral trade take a turn down,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The President named the areas where Belarus and Tajikistan need to deepen their cooperation.
According to the Belarusian head of state, the development of the real production sector laid a foundation for cooperation in the manufacturing industry. The joint venture to assemble MTZ tractors has been operating in Hisor the second year already. Belarus is ready to go even further than that and suggests expanding the lineup of machinery at the assembly plant. This machinery will be adapted to the needs of Tajikistan’s agricultural industry. “The decision to exempt the joint products from VAT will be very helpful,” the President said.
Other promising areas of cooperation include the supply of Belarusian trucks, road construction machinery and passenger vehicles, and renovation of the rolling stock taking into consideration Tajikistan’s climatic conditions. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that Belarusian trolleybuses were to the liking of Dushanbe residents. However, the partners do not see eye to eye with each other on the price for vehicles. Tajikistan wants a discount, which will result in the loss of profit for the Belarusian producer. The President believes that the parties can reach a win-win solution. “It is very important; these are the first steps. 150 trolleybuses are a good volume. We need to find common ground and supply our products if they are in demand. This pertains, first of all, to trolleybuses for Dushanbe,” he said.
“Today’s external shocks have an impact on economic relations. Therefore, we need to look for new forms and methods of cooperation and take advantage of export promotion instruments that Belarus has,” Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined.
Apart from projects in the automotive industry, the two countries need to intensify cooperation in agriculture, which includes educational partnerships. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that Belarus and Tajikistan need to increase mutual trade in foodstuffs and light industry products and to build cooperation in livestock breeding.
“We welcome the launch of the joint dairy company in Dushanbe. Belarus’ expertise and knowledge in this field, as well as technology and raw materials, allow setting up production facilities Tajikistan has never had before. They will manufacture organic, high-quality products that might be exported to China, Afghanistan and other countries,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The President emphasized that over a short period of time, Belarus and Tajikistan have made considerable progress in science and technology. The joint working group on sci-tech cooperation gives an additional impetus to that. Cooperation in the humanitarian field is also gaining momentum. At present, over 500 nationals of Tajikistan study at Belarusian higher learning institutions. After the establishment of five joint faculties, students can get Belarusian education in Tajikistan.
At the same time, the government of Tajikistan wants to forge more educational partnerships. Tajikistan suggests opening branches of Belarusian universities, new joint faculties and even higher learning institutions in Tajikistan. “We need to help lay the foundation. As Emomali Rahmon said, we can start small and enroll some 1,000 or 1,500 students at the beginning. I believe we need to examine this matter and support our Tajik friends,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Belarus is also ready to share best practices in personnel training and in establishing a network of training centers. Belarus can also provide consultations with curricula updates.
Culture is very high on the agenda. “We are looking forward to welcoming people of culture and art in Belarus as part of the Tajikistani days of culture. This established tradition is an important factor in strengthening friendly relations between our nations,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also thanked the Tajik side for assistance in the organization of the 2nd business forum Belarus-Tajikistan-Afghanistan. The head of state hopes that such events will be held in the future and new interesting proposals on cooperation will emerge in the trilateral format.
“We should not neglect this format, we should expand it in spite of any difficulties,” the President said addressing Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei. “Afghanistan is a huge country and Emomali Sharipovich [Rahmon] says Afghanistan needs products that we can make in Dushanbe and other cities of Tajikistan and, perhaps, later in Afghanistan. Therefore, we need to develop this dimension.”
The leader of Tajikistan emphasized the importance of friendship and mutual support between the two countries. “We attach much importance to the development of multipronged cooperation with Belarus. We enjoy close relations of mutual respect, trust and support and we value them very much. Tajikistan confirms its readiness to further political dialogue, expand trade and economic cooperation, cultural and humanitarian relations between the two states. We will also assist the expansion of direct ties between the regions of our countries and economic entities,” he said.
After the talks the presidents signed an agreement on strategic partnership. “This is a historic moment. Speaking figuratively it is like going to space in the relations between the state,” the Belarusian President told reporters after the talks. “We have formalized the qualitatively new status of the bilateral relations and confirmed the intention to actively develop them in all areas of mutual interest. This is the natural result of a long journey which Belarus and Tajikistan undertook in building the interstate relations,” he added.
The heads of state also concluded the joint statement to confirm their interest to develop all-round cooperation in the long term and emphasized the need for deepening the interstate relations.
Aleksandr Lukashenko and Emomali Rahmon noted the similarity of the two countries' positions on key issues of international agenda and pledged to strengthen cooperation within the framework of international and regional organizations. They also stressed the need for further joint efforts in the fight against terrorism, extremism, illegal migration and other threats and challenges.
A number of important documents on cooperation in the information field, education, science and technology, law enforcement, finance, sport, agriculture was signed in the presence of the presidents of the two countries.
During the meeting with mass media representatives after the talks with the President of Tajikistan Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Tajikistan is a reliable friend and important partner of Belarus. The head of state stressed that there are no and will never be closed topics between the two countries.
The Belarusian leader thanked Emomali Rahmon for the visit to Belarus during the 2nd European Games. According to the head of state, it is also symbolic that the visit takes places ahead of the 75thanniversary of Belarus’ liberation from Nazi invaders. “We cherish the sacred memory of our liberators, and Tajikistan’s natives were among them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Development of effective trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Tajikistan remains one of the priorities. “I am convinced that, together, we can and should increase bilateral trade. It is in the interests of Belarus and Tajikistan,” the head of state emphasized.
Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that the joint facility assembling Belarusian farm machines has been successfully operating in Tajikistan for two years, expanding the product lineup. According to him, this project became the starting point for long-term mutually advantageous cooperation in other avenues. “Our first milk processing joint venture was set up in Dushanbe earlier this year. It will use both Belarusian raw materials and technologies. We are planning to build up cooperation in this area and also other agriculture areas,” the head of state noted. “Direct cooperation, joint production of quality competitive goods must become a driving force for further economic cooperation between our countries.”
He is convinced that the talks in Minsk will open new horizons for the development of all-round cooperation and the new documents signed during the visit will strengthen cooperation in various fields.
After the official talks at the Palace of Independence the two leaders exchanged presents. Aleksandr Lukashenko gave Emomali Rahmon a replica of a Slutsk belt which was made using an ancient technology and souvenirs of the 2ndEuropean Games – a bogwood panel with fastened medallions symbolizing 15 sports included in the program of the multi-sport forum, an exclusive chocolate collection and Lesik the Fox, the mascot of the European Games in Minsk.
Emomali Rahmon, in turn, presented a handmade Tajik dagger with an engraved handle made from elk bone. Another present is a painting of the Navruz Palace. This ethnic and cultural complex is one of the eight wonders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.