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Turkmen Report: August 11, 2003

11 August 2003
Turkmenistan Celebrates Melon Day
10 August 2003

Turkmenistan celebrated Melon Day on 10 August, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. This holiday has been marked on the second Sunday of August since 1994.

President Saparmurat Niyazov congratulated peasants on the holiday. Watermelon and muskmelon plantations are an important industry for the country and have been were cultivated since ancient times. Archaeologists have even found melon seeds at excavations in the ancient town of Gyaur-Kala in Merv.

Medieval Arab and Persian sources also abound with information on numerous varieties of Turkmen melons, which won fame as the best delicacy of the Orient. (ITAR-TASS)

Overhaul Of Turkmenbashi Port Finished
9 August 2003

The five-year overhaul of the Turkmenbashi port on the Caspian has been completed, Interfax reported on 9 August. Out of the $40 million spent on reconstruction, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development provided $30 million, a source in the Turkmen shipping line said.

The Turkish company STFA won the international tender to become the general contractor for this project. Three cargo terminals have been overhauled. Vessels of all types can now dock at the port. Over 2 million tons of cargo were shipped via the cargo and ferry sections in the first seven months of the year, twice more than in 2001, the source noted. (Interfax)

Work On Caspian Legal Status Needs New Options
7 August 2003

Efforts to determine the legal status for the Caspian Sea require a constant search for new options, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister for Caspian Sea issues Viktor Kalyuzhnyi said, Interfax reported on 7 August.

At a news conference in Baku on 7 August, Kalyuzhnyi said: "The situation has recently changed dramatically. And those bilateral and trilateral treaties signed between Russia and Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and Russia and Kazakhstan call for a different approach to solving this problem. This is an urgent matter requiring options for positive work," he said.

"Some problems will only get worse if they are not solved. That is why, in any case, we have to search for a compromise, because the process of deciding on the Caspian's status has envisioned a compromise solution from the very beginning," Kalyuzhnyi said.

He added that "today's more vigorous dialogue between Iran and Azerbaijan and Iran and Turkmenistan on the Caspian's legal status has demonstrated Iran's commitment to the search for new options." He said that Russia respects any position voiced by the littoral nations. A special working group made up of representatives from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan is working on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. (Interfax)

Turkmen Opposition Leader Attacked In Moscow
5 August 2003

The leader of an exiled Turkmen opposition movement said he was attacked in Moscow, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported on 5 August. Avdy Kuliev, leader of the United Democratic Opposition of Turkmenistan, told RFE/RL that the same unknown assailant attacked him twice in Moscow on 5 August.

Kuliev said he was on his way to a meeting in the city center when a man attacked him, causing serious facial injuries. The same man later appeared at Kuliev's residence and beat him again, severely. Police said they will consider the attack a case of hooliganism if they do not find the attacker. Kuliev says he believes the attack was politically motivated. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)

NATO To Observe Military Exercises In Turkmenistan
4 August 2003

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson has accepted Turkmen President Niyazov's invitation for NATO observers to view military exercises in Turkmenistan on 16 August, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 August.

The exercises are being organized to coincide with the annual meeting of the Halk Maslakhaty (People's Assembly), Turkmenistan's rubber-stamp legislative body. The NATO observers will attend the exercises under the Partnership for Peace program, of which Turkmenistan is a member. Reportedly, all the branches of the Turkmen armed forces will take part, along with Interior Ministry troops and other law enforcement agencies. (RIA-Novosti)

New Russian Ambassador: 'No Problems' In Relations With Turkmenistan
4 August 2003

Andrei Molochkov, the new Russian ambassador to Ashgabat, has said that Moscow is satisfied with the Turkmen leadership's announcement that the rights of Russians living there are not being violated and will be fully observed, Interfax reported on 4 August.

"There are no problems in relations between Turkmenistan and Russia," he told reporters on 4 August after the credentials ceremony and a conversation with Turkmen President Niyazov. Molochkov said that satisfaction with the work of a joint commission on dual citizenship was expressed at the meeting.

The two sides noted that the Turkmen Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy are actively preparing for the second round of talks on dual citizenship that will be held in Moscow in autumn. "The meeting participants recognized that the treaty of friendship and cooperation signed by President Vladimir Putin and Niyazov last year brought bilateral relations to a new level," the ambassador said.

The parties also noted that the long-term agreement on natural gas, which was signed this year and runs until 2028, would also affect other fields of cooperation. They recognized that a great deal of work lies ahead to expand humanitarian ties between the two countries in culture, education, and science, Molochkov said. (Interfax)