2 April 2002
Aliyev To Attend Caspian States Summit
29 March 2002
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev has agreed to attend the summit of the Caspian states scheduled to take place in Ashgabat.
The agreement on Aliev's participation was reached during his phone conversation with President Niyazov, the Azerbaijani presidential press service told Interfax on 29 March.
During their talk, the presidents exchanged opinions on Azerbaijani-Turkmen relations and discussed issues relating to cooperation in the Caspian Sea. (Interfax)
Foreigners Wishing To Marry In Turkmenistan To Pay Insurance Fee
28 March 2002
Turkmenistan's parliament on Thursday unanimously approved an amendment to the Marriage and Family Code introducing a compulsory insurance fee of $50,000 for foreigners wishing to marry Turkmen citizens, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 March.
The amendment reads: "the insurance contribution to the amount of 50,000 U.S. dollars is placed on a clearing account of the republic's state-run insurance company as a guarantee for minors in case of divorce." It also stipulates that prior to marriage, foreigners must live in Turkmenistan at least a year and own living quarters.
Turkmen nationals marrying foreigners should be at least 18 years old. Marriages between Turkmens are allowed from the age of 16. (ITAR-TASS)
Iranian President To Meet Niyazov
28 March 2002
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Iranian Ambassador to Turkmenistan Said Deragisu have discussed issues related to the upcoming visit of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to Ashgabat.
The Iranian president's official visit to Ashgabat will take place at the same time as the summit of the five Caspian states, which is expected to touch upon issues related to the status of the Caspian Sea, a source in the Turkmen president's office told Interfax on 28 March. The summit is due to take place in late April.
The Turkmen president and the Iranian ambassador discussed "the state and prospects of economic cooperation between the countries, both in the bilateral and regional formats," the source said. During the visit, it is planned for a number of economic agreements to be signed, the source said. (Interfax)
Turkmenistan Cooperating In Afghan-Bound Aid Transit
27 March 2002
Over 165,000 tons of Afghanistan-bound humanitarian aid has been transported via the town of Turkmenabat (formerly Charjou) since October last year, turkmenistan.ru reported on 27 March citing the public relations service of the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat. As the diplomatic mission pointed out, 80 percent of the supplies have been sponsored by the U.S. government. Turkmenistan accounts for the transit of some 40 percent of all food products currently arriving in Afghanistan.
U.S. Ambassador Laura Kennedy has noted that the U.S. will continue its cooperation with Turkmenistan both in the sphere of humanitarian cargo supplies for the Afghan people and also "in the long-term operation to restore Afghanistan and to integrate it into regional and international structures." (Turkmenistan.ru)
Kuchma To Discuss Turkmen-Ukrainian Cooperation In Ashgabat
26 March 2002
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma will visit Turkmenistan on 30 April-1 May. An agreement to this effect was reached between Turkmen President Niyazov and his Ukrainian counterpart during a 25 March telephone conversation, a Turkmen presidential administration official told Interfax on 26 March.
The presidents also discussed bilateral relations and other topical issues of mutual interest, the official said.
During the visit the presidents are to focus on new joint economic projects and further prospects for the development of the Turkmen-Ukrainian dialogue.
Within the current bilateral agreement on long-term interaction, Kuchma and Niyazov are also expected to sign documents on further deepening and broadening of interstate cooperation for the latter to become more dynamic and constructive. (Interfax)
Central Asian Experts Discuss Regional Water Consumption
26 March 2002
Experts from Central Asian countries are discussing in Tashkent a strategy of regional water consumption, Interfax reported on 26 March.
Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek government experts and members of the Inter-State Coordinating Water Economy Commission are attending a conference on the use of water in Central Asia held in the framework of a Global Ecological Foundation project financed by the World Bank.
The countries of the region lose an estimated $1.4 billion annually, or 30 percent of the potential economic output, due to the improper use of water that results in salination of soils, to mismanagement and to a decaying infrastructure. Experts believe that all regional countries must join efforts if the problem is to be resolved. (Interfax)
Turkmenistan Reports Exports Of More Than 8 Billion Cubic Meters Of Gas In January-February
25 March 2002
Turkmenistan extracted 11.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the first two months of this year, of which it exported 8.3 billion, turkmenistan.ru reported from Ashgabat on 25 March citing the National Institute for State Statistics and Information.
According to information from the institute, in January and February Turkmen gas exports increased by 33 percent compared to the same period of the last year.
Of the total amount of gas exported, over 7 billion cubic meters went to the markets of Ukraine and other CIS countries, and over 1 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas to customers in northern Iran.
As in the past, the Neftegaz Ukrayiny (Oil and Gas of Ukraine) company remains the biggest purchaser of Turkmen gas in 2002, as it has concluded a contract for the purchase of 40 billion cubic meters of gas.
The Itera international group of companies, which acts as an operator for Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine, also purchases some 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan.
An Iranian oil company plans to purchase 6.5 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas this year. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Dragon Oil Submits Report On Cheleken Project To Government
26 March 2002
Hussein Sultan, head of Dragon Oil (United Arab Emirates) and executive director of the Emirates National Oil Company, has presented a report to Turkmen President Niyazov on progress in projects to drill new wells and increase production at the Cheleken contract zone.
Interfax reported on 26 March that the report was submitted on that day at a meeting with the Turkmen president, at which the sides discussed the pace of work at oil fields in the Caspian.
The Turkmen government and Dragon Oil, 70 percent of which is owned by Emirates National Oil Company, signed a production-sharing agreement for Cheleken, which is located in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian, in November 1999.
The contract zone contains the Jeitun (previously LAM) and Jigalybek (previously Zhdanova) fields. According to experts, reserves at the fields amount to 600 million barrels of oil and 65 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
Dragon Oil, which has been producing Turkmen oil offshore for about eight years, brought its first well on flow in August 2001. This year the company plans to drill three wells, with the last of these being launched in mid-2002. (Interfax)
Relatives Of Opposition Still Being Terrorized
23 March 2002
Amanmukhammed, brother of the oppositionist Nurmukhammed Khanamov, was severely beaten in his own apartment, our listener Nury Volmamedov wrote in a letter to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on 23 March. The sadists, torturing the victim with flasks full of water, achieved their goal: they injured his kidney and Amanmukhammed is now hospitalized in the urology department of an Ashgabat clinic.
The sister of Nurmukhammed, Gytcha Khanamova, a professor who headed the department of pediatrics of the Turkmen state medical institute, has been dismissed from duty. But the authorities were not satisfied and later sacked the wife of Amanmukhammed, Tajigul Annadurdievna Ovezklycheva-Khanamova, also a known specialist and professor, who was heading the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the medical institute.
The authorities placed two men with submachine guns in front of the house of Boris Shikhmuradov, which he built in area of an old botanic garden, and they patrol the area around the clock. Before the house was sealed up, in the presence of representatives of the authorities Constantin Shikhmuradov asked to take some business documents which he left in the house some time ago, but was not allowed to do so.
In their lackey eagerness, Niyazov's henchmen absurd heights. Some of Boris Shikhmuradov's neighbors saw one guard chasing a cat that approached the house. When tender-hearted people pointed out to him, why would he torture the poor animal, the security guard answered quite seriously: "It is ordered that even a mouse should not sneak through. And that's a whole cat!"
And one more bitter, but also comical case. Recently the dictator's gardeners, who speak anxiously of their desire to transform Ashgabat into a garden city, cut down two beautiful trees in front of Shikhmuradov's house, simply because they were planted by the former deputy premier and now an oppositionist and Niyazov's "worst enemy."
We know that at one time, Shikhmuradov -- a passionate nature lover -- turned his courtyard into a flower garden with his own hands. Now we don't know what the false guests on another's property have done to the house, as access to the house is strictly prohibited for everyone. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)
Turkmen President Implicated In Large-Scale Drug Trafficking
22 March 2002
According to a report by Eurasianet on 22 March, in a 21 March interview with Deutsche Welle that was reproduced both by dw-world.de and by the Turkmen opposition website gundogar.org, a former Turkmen political prisoner, who wished to remain unidentified, claimed that President Niyazov condones large-scale drug smuggling from Afghanistan via Ashgabat's international airport, part of which is organized by the Turkmen National Security Ministry.
Those accusations were based on information reportedly received from the former customs head at Ashgabat airport, Major Vitaly Usachev, who was arrested in early 1997 after he discovered hundreds of kilograms of heroin in a cargo container guarded by National Security Committee personnel. Usachev was subsequently framed on drug charges and executed. A Deutsche Welle correspondent also claimed that Niyazov established close ties with both the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, and that the money received from drug trafficking is laundered in the United Arab Emirates. (Eurasianet)
On-And-Off Summit Appears To Be On Again
26 March 2002
By Michael Lelyveld
A Caspian Sea summit, which has been repeatedly put off, has been put on again after Iranian President Mohammed Khatami agreed to attend a five-nation meeting in Ashgabat on 23 April.
The maneuvers around a summit date have been going on since last month, when Russia's Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhny declared that a working group of deputy foreign ministers "has reached the limit of its possibilities." Only the presidents of the Caspian nations can restore momentum to the talks on a legal division of resources, which have dragged on for over a decade, Kalyuzhny said.
The deadlock over how to divide the Caspian among the shoreline states has left Iran increasingly alone as a consensus has spread among the CIS nations of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan on Moscow's division formula. Iran has stalled a summit for over a year while insisting on its own approach and seeking support from Turkmenistan to avoid total isolation.
It might seem appropriate, then, that Iran announced Khatami's acceptance of a summit invitation from Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov first on 16 March, days before statements that any other leaders would attend. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his acceptance a week later on 23 March, the RIA-Novosti news agency said.
The process leading up to the summit has been curious, however. Iran's Caspian representative Mehdi Safari paved the way during meetings in Turkmenistan on 12 March. But the immediate announcement after Safari's talks was that Khatami would embark on a series of visits to Central Asian countries in April. It now seems that the two-day summit will be only one of his stops on a Central Asian tour.
Safari said Khatami plans to visit Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan "to seek ways of further strengthening and developing mutual relations with these countries," the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported. It is unclear whether the tour is meant to downplay Iran's concern with a Caspian solution as an issue critical to Tehran.
So far, Khatami's travel plan has attracted little attention in Kazakhstan, where media coverage has been negative since Iran objected to Astana's accord with Azerbaijan on the division formula at a CIS summit in Moscow last November. Iran called the agreement illegal and repeated its protest in a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Relations since then have seemed less than warm.
Last week, Kazakhstan commercial television suggested that the new government of Prime Minister Imangaliy Tasmaghambetov had taken offense at what it called an "unexpected congratulation" from Iran, more than two months after his inauguration.
The report transcribed by the BBC said, "The decision by Tehran to be the last to send congratulations, moreover, in 2 1/2 months, is regarded as another sign of a considerable complication in the relations between the two countries." It then noted the friction over the Caspian pact.
Iran's differences with the CIS countries have remained largely constant for the past year. Russia's formula calls for splitting the seabed into national sectors while keeping the waters in common. Kalyuzhny suggested recently that a 10-mile national coastal zone for fishing could be extended, if it did destroy the common-water principle.
Iran argues instead for either common control over the entire Caspian or a 20 percent share, which is more than the 13 percent covered by its coast. As recently as 14 March , the government-sponsored paper "Iran Daily" reported no change in the position.
The English-language daily quoted a member of a parliamentary energy commission as saying that Iran had already calculated its share of Caspian resources at 33 billion barrels of oil. The member, Hossein Afarideh, also urged the Oil Ministry to proceed with activities "even in some of the disputed areas."
The statement was a reminder of a dangerous incident last July, when an Iranian gunboat confronted two Azerbaijani research ships in disputed waters under contract to Britain's BP oil company.
The continuing rifts raise the question of what a summit, even after a year of delays, can accomplish. Kalyuzhny's hope is that it will at least produce a document setting out the various positions and "key principles of the sea's new status," Interfax reported last month. This may be expected to include a symbolic but unenforceable declaration that the Caspian is to be an area of peace and friendship. Much of the work on the document is reportedly done.
Kalyuzhny is also seeking a pact on protecting the Caspian's biological resources. Such non-controversial accords may be confidence-builders that will produce some positive coverage.
But the diplomatic niceties could also be seen as a step back toward irrelevance if they fail to address the real-world disputes on nearly all sides. Iran's tension with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan is matched by five years of discord between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over their overlapping oil-field claims.
In addition, Iran rarely acknowledges that its biggest difference is with Russia over the entire division formula, preferring instead to lodge proxy protests against neighbors like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Earlier this month, the Iranian paper "Entekhab" broached the subject, saying that Russia's position "is totally against the views of Iran and Turkmenistan" and "is pushing the region into further tension."
Unless the presidents can deal with such conflicts, their task next month may be to prove that summits matter at all. (RFE/RL)