Minor mosque view. Tashkent, Azerbaijan
© Sputnik / Ramiz Bakhtiyarov
Minor mosque view. Tashkent, Azerbaijan.
Nine countries of Central and West Asia have signed a declaration on cooperation and reforms in the energy sector, signaling a new step towards creating a regional energy market.

The declaration was signed in Tashkent on Saturday by the energy ministers of the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries. CAREC includes nine Asian states - Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

"These countries signed a historic declaration that will accelerate cross-border cooperation on energy issues and bring the region one step closer to creating a regional energy market," Tatyana Evstifeeva, spokeswoman for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Dushanbe, said. ADB operates as the secretariat of the CAREC program. Evstifeeva noted that the declaration sets the region on a "faster path of reforms" which would lead to more liberal energy markets with greater private sector participation and investment.

The ministers also approved a new CAREC energy strategy for the next 10-year period, which will serve as a roadmap for achieving the region's goal of a secure energy future.

"The energy sector stimulates economic growth in the region, which is why this [declaration] is so important. Today they have strengthened their commitment to working together to ensure a reliable and affordable energy supply in the region, develop modern energy markets and use clean energy as a more efficient and sustainable source of energy," ADB Vice President Divakar Gupta said.

Some CAREC countries continue to face energy shortages. In order to ensure continued economic growth and to meet the growing demand for energy, the region needs to double its current energy system capacity by 2030. This will require significant investments, estimated at about US$400 billion.

Since its establishment in 2001, nearly 200 regional projects have been funded under the CAREC program, for a total of US$34.5 billion in the transport, energy, and trade sectors. More than a third of this amount was funded by the ADB.