Tajik President Emomali Rahmon attended the third Consultative Meeting of Leaders of Central Asian Nations that took place in Turkmenistan on August 6.

The five Central Asian presidents gathered for their third consultative meeting that was held at the Awaza resort on the Caspian Sea with the spiral war of war in neighboring Afghanistan topping their agenda.  Three of the five Central Asia’s nations border Afghanistan – Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 

Central Asian leaders discussed issues related to ensuring stable and sustainable development in the region, facilitating trade and cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors as well as consolidating affects in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Speaking at the meeting, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon noted that Tajikistan is ready to expand cooperation with the Central Asian countries in the fields of trade, industry, digital economy, innovation and new technologies, tourism, food security providing, transportation and energy, according to the Tajik president’s official website.   

Tajik leader, in particular noted that today’s realities requires the countries of the region to establish emergency cooperation in combating terrorism, extremism, radicalism, drug trafficking, cybercrime and organized transnational crime. 

He also emphasized that the countries of the region need to take measures for rational use of water resources in Central Asia and coordination of the parties’ emergency response actions.  

The summit resulted in adoption of a Joint Statement.

The Tajik president’s official website says Emomali Rahmon was awarded the “Honorable Decoration of Heads of States of Central Asia” for outstanding services in the development of relations of friendship, good neighborliness, mutual understanding and cooperation between Central Asia’s nations, consolidation of peace and security in the region, and promoting common interests and initiatives of the countries of the region in the international arena.  

The idea that the Central Asian nations should have a mechanism to meet together without an external power managing the affair is not new.  Then-Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev reiterated calls for the integration of Central Asian countries as a way to jointly ensure the security and prosperity of the region on November 13, 2017, while answering questions at the 3rd session of the Astana Club, a Kazakhstani government-backed international forum aimed at discussing Eurasian issues.  He pointed to recent developments in Kazakhstan's relationship with Uzbekistan as an example of moving towards better regional integration.

Kazakhstan proposed hosting a Central Asian leaders' summit in Astana in October 2017.

In November 2017, during a regional security conference in Samarkand, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed holding regular regional summits among the five countries.

The first Central Asian leaders’ consultative summit took place in the Kazakh capital in March 2018.  Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov skipped the summit, instead making a state visit to Kuwait, followed by a visit to the United Arab Emirates. But then-Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev hosted the other three: Mirziyoyev, then-Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.  It was decided that a second meeting would be scheduled for March 2019 in Tashkent.

In November 2019, the Central Asian leaders held their second meeting, this time in Tashkent and immediately after a CSTO summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  This time, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who had come into power earlier that year following Nazarbayev’s resignation, had attended the CSTO summit in Bishkek but then returned to Kazakhstan.  Instead, Nursultan Nazarbayev, forever holding the title of Kazakhstan’s first president, attended the Tashkent meeting.  Jeenbekov and Rahmon attended, as did Berdimuhamedov.

The third summit was rumored originally for the spring of 2020 in Bishkek, and then scheduled for October 2020.  But in early October, Kyrgyzstan became consumed by domestic political troubles and the coronavirus pandemic continued to rage around the world.  In late October of last year, the third meeting was officially postponed to 2021 on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is to be noted that the annual consultative meeting of Central Asian leaders is a rare instance of the Central Asian states convening for talks without powers from outside the region, such as Russia, China or the United States.