Israel inaugurates embassy in Turkmenistan’s capital

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has met Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedovand in Ashgabat and inaugurated a permanent embassy in the Central Asian nation.

“We talked about strengthening ties between the countries, and the president said he would consider opening an embassy in Israel,” Cohen said on Twitter on Thursday.

He added that Turkmenistan is an “energy powerhouse” and that strengthening of bilateral ties “will contribute to security, stability and the economy.”

"I came to open an Israeli embassy 17 kilometres from the border with Iran, and to hold a series of meetings with the president and other officials," Cohen said.

Thursday's visit established his country's closest diplomatic presence to arch-rival Iran.

Cohen also held a meeting with his Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov, in which they "discussed cooperation in the fields of security, energy, technology, agriculture and more," and the two later inaugurated the embassy in Ashgabat.

Neutrality policy

The parties also considered the possibilities of expanding trade and economic ties by establishing “direct contacts between the business communities of the two countries.”

The gas-rich desert nation of six million has an official neutrality policy, avoiding membership in any political or military blocs. Its main economic partner is China, which buys the bulk of Turkmen gas exports.

Turkmenistan's trade with neighbouring Iran is relatively small and the two countries had disputes about potentially large hydrocarbon deposits in the Caspian Sea.

Although all five Caspian littoral states signed a convention in 2018 settling such disputes, Tehran is yet to ratify the document - which also holds up Ashgabat's plans to build a pipeline across the sea to ship gas to Europe.