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Turkmenistan: President Discusses Afghan Crisis, Economy, With Yeltsin

Moscow, 15 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin today met visiting Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss the conflict in Afganistan and economic ties, including oil deposits in the Caspian Sea.

Itar-Tass said the two presidents met at the Barvikha sanatorium outside Moscow where Yeltsin is preparing for heart surgery. Yeltsin later held a separate meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyridin, who was also present at talks with Niyazov.

No details of the meetings are yet available.

Following previous talks with Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Niyazov had said that fighting in Afghanistan is an internal matter.

Niyazov did not attend a recent summit of Central Asian and Russian leaders in Almaty. Summit participants warned Taliban Islamic forces against aggressive actions directed at Central Asia.

Niyazov yesterday said Commonwealth of Independent States members could hold "different points of view" on the same problem. He said Turkmenistan prefers to work out a position on Afghanistan with each of its regional neighbors and Russia. Russian officials said Ashgabat's and Moscow's positions on Afghanistan coincide on many points.

Russia's Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Niyazov also held talks yesterday on Russia's natural gas debt to Ashgabat. Itar-Tass news agency says Moscow owes Turkmenistan $500 million for gas, but that it is not a direct cash debt, as Russia partly owns the Turkmen company with sole rights to sell and distribute Turkmen gas.

Niyazov told Interfax news agency that one proposal under discussions is for Turkmenistan to supply Russia with 5,000 million cubic meters of gas, 20 percent of which Russia would pay for in hard currency and 80 percent in industrial goods. The development of resources related to the Caspian Sea was also discussed.

Russian TV also says Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov is in Moscow for a meeting with Yeltsin today.