A month after Turkmenistan inexplicably began denying Tajik trucks permission to pass through its territory, the long-distance haulers have been given the green light.
Around 100 trucks either from Tajikistan or heading there had been standing idle on northern and southern border entry points into Turkmenistan since the start of September.
But the head of Dushanbe-based trucking company, Khairullo Abidova, told Eurasianet on October 3 that the Turkmens have relented, although without giving any explanation for what had been the reason for the Tajik-directed embargo.
The denial of passage was lengthening time of travel for vehicles heading to Turkey, for instance, by anywhere between three and 10 days by forcing them to divert variously through Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Tajik officials have also been circumspect about this debacle, on the record at least.
A representative at the Transportation Ministry told Eurasianet that they received notification from Turkmenistan that trucks could resume transiting on October 3.
The conundrum remains about what precisely triggered this low-intensity and largely unacknowledged spat.
Another minor transportation drama played out against the backdrop of the truck embargo. On September 20, Tajikistan’s ambassador to Uzbekistan, Sodik Ashurboizoda, ruffled some feathers when he told Russian newspaper Kommersant that Dushanbe was pulling out of the project to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan, or TAT, railway. The three nations involved signed a memorandum of intent on the project in 2013.
That initiative had in any case been in doubt for some time before, but Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry nonetheless fired off a statement to register its bemusement at Tajikistan’s apparent sudden coolness on the railroad. What is particularly grating to Ashgabat is that they had put their section into commission in 2016.
But the fact is that things have changed, and in ways that threaten to make Turkmenistan even less regionally relevant. The TAT route only really made sense when Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were at loggerheads, but now that those two countries are enjoying something of a honeymoon, there are more obvious and direct outlets to Afghanistan and onward to the Persian Gulf available to Tajikistan.
Then again, Tajikistan has also contrived to foul up its relations with another potentially crucial Persian Gulf partner — Iran.
Indeed, officials in Dushanbe have told Eurasianet that they suspect that it may have been Iran that put Turkmenistan up to the blockade against Tajik trucks. What this whole debacle may illustrate is how short-sighted diplomacy by some Central Asian governments continues to cause unnecessary self-harm.