Tokyo : The tenth Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the ‘Central Asia plus Japan’ Dialogue was held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on the 24th of November this week. Toshihiro Aiki, Special Representative in charge of Central Asia (Ambassador), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated from Japan while vice-foreign minister-level officials participated from the Central Asian countries. At this SOM, the agenda floated around the follow-up of matters with respect to recent events like previous visit to Central Asia by Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, which took place last month, and – future plans, like – making preparations for the next Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the ‘Central Asia plus Japan,’ which is scheduled to be held in Turkmenistan in 2016.
The Central Asia plus Japan dialogue is a political initiative between Japan and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with the goal to create ‘a new framework for cooperation, thereby elevating relations between Japan and Central Asia to a new level’. The dialogue, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, is also meant to serve as a forum to promote inter-regional cooperation. Turkmenistan, maintaining its policy of neutrality, participates only as an observer.
In this tenth SOM, the participants exchanged views on three topics, namely — agricultural cooperation, transportation and logistics cooperation, and the way forward for the ‘Central Asia plus Japan’ Dialogue. In regard to agricultural cooperation, participants shared progress with cooperation since the previous SOM and the current situation, and a lively exchange of views took place on future cooperation. On the second focal point — transportation and logistics cooperation, the view was shared that the transportation and logistics field would be newly taken up as a priority area of practical cooperation at this dialogue. Thereby, each country’s interests and needs in this field were presented, and a lively exchange of views took place on the possibility of cooperation going forward.
On the third aspect — regarding the future meets of Central Asia plus Japan’ Dialogue, the view was shared that in the run-up to the next foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled to be held in 2016, going forward concrete preparations would proceed while utilizing strategies and conclusions of this session, and reference would be drawn from expert meetings — the ‘Tokyo Dialogue’ — with the sole purpose of strengthening participation of each of the six countries and extending opportunities for smooth coordination within the country participants.
The ‘Central Asia plus Japan’ Dialogue was established in August 2004 as a framework for dialogue and cooperation between Japan and the countries of Central Asia. Japan has been promoting regional cooperation in Central Asia through this Dialogue based on the belief that in order for Central Asia to develop as an open and stable region, it is essential for countries in the region to deal with common challenges together. Under the framework of this Dialogue, the foreign ministers’ meeting has been held five times, the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) has been held nine times, and the intellectual dialogue (Tokyo Dialogue) has been held six times.
Participants from the five Central Asian countriesincluded — Vepa Hajiyev , Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Turkmenistan (chair country); Bekturganov Yarkebulan, Minister-Counsellor to Turkmenistan, Republic of Kazakhstan; Dinara Kemelova, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kyrgyz Republic; Nizomiddin Zohidi, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Tajikistan and Gayrat Fazilov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Uzbekistan.