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Turkmen Report: April 29, 2002

29 April 2002
Kuchma To Discuss Turkmen Gas Supply To Ukraine

29 April 2002

According to an Interfax report on 29 April, during a three-day visit to Turkmenistan, which started the day before, a Ukrainian delegation led by President Leonid Kuchma will discuss Turkmen gas shipments to Ukraine in 2003 and beyond, Ukrainian first Deputy Premier Oleh Dubyna told journalists in Kyiv.

He recalled that agreements bind Turkmenistan to supply 34 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine in 2003. However, he stressed that at the moment, specialists are still calculating the amount of gas Ukraine might need from Turkmenistan.

Dubyna confirmed that 1 July was fixed as the date for signing a long-term contract on gas deliveries until 2005. "We will tell you everything then," he said.

His press secretary Maria Shevchenko disclosed that during the visit, a bilateral agreement on further development of interstate relations is to be signed. This accord provides for comprehensive cooperation in the commercial, scientific, technical, cultural, educational, and other spheres. The sides are expected to meet regularly and hold consultations at an intergovernmental level on ways to carry out economic projects to mutual advantage.

Shevchenko said Ukraine is interested in promoting investment cooperation between the two countries, not only in the oil and gas sector, but also in the ore-mining, energy, transport, engineering, and pharmaceutical industries.

In Turkmenistan, Ukraine is busy with a number of big investment projects, including the construction of a tunnel at Ashgabat, engineering communications around Archabyl and Rakhabad, and a railway bridge across the Amu Darya. In addition, Ukraine has prepared and sent a proposal on participation in 58 feasible investment projects in Turkmenistan.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Ashgabat told Interfax that the delegation will be hosted at the city of Turkmenbashi (the former Krasnovodsk) on the Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea. The two presidents are scheduled to visit the Turkmenbashi oil refineries, where Kuchma will see new petrol processing facilities in operation. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Kuchma are also expected to go on a sea excursion on the presidential motorboat. (Interfax)

Pentagon Offers Turkmenistan Aid In Protecting Borders

28 April 2002 The Pentagon offered aid to Turkmenistan in ensuring security of borders and export control, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 April. President Saparmurat Niyazov and U.S. Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld examined on 28 April a program of technical assistance to Turkmenistan on these issues in the city of Turkmenbashi.

The Pentagon head also discussed at the meeting Turkmenistan's participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace program. According to Rumsfeld, cooperation between the two nations under this program has expanded considerably in the recent past.

The sides also discussed a program of international military financing, under which the U.S. Defense Department renders aid to foreign armed forces. The U.S. Coast Guard provided a patrol ship to the Turkmen border service in the Caspian under this program last year. The secretary noted that around 20 Turkmen army officers were sent for training to the United States over the past four years.

Rumsfeld thanked Niyazov for great assistance in rendering humanitarian aid to neighboring Afghanistan. He noted that Turkmenistan could play a positive role in restoring Afghanistan, which will need solid international cooperation. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenistan Ready For Bilateral Talks On Caspian Division

26 April 2002

Ashgabat has changed its position on talks related to the Caspian Sea's status and announced its readiness to conduct bilateral consultations, Interfax reported on 26 April.

"We have concluded that the Caspian states can determine coastal borders on a bilateral basis," President Niyazov told the Cabinet of Ministers on 26 April. "If all countries succeed in reaching agreements with neighbors and resolving all disputes, it will probably take a year to consider, summarize, and reconcile agreements and to conclude a comprehensive accord," Niyazov said.

At the 23 April summit in Ashgabat, the five Caspian countries, including Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Iran, failed to agree on a procedure for dividing the sea. (Interfax)

Caspian Summit Fails To Reach Agreement On Final Declaration

24 April 2002

The presidents of the five Caspian states have failed to agree on the text of a final declaration, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists "there are more problems than we expected."

Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran intended to agree on the Caspian Sea status at their summit in Ashgabat. The presidents decided to continue talks in order to solve this problem. They described the Caspian summit as successful despite the fact that the final declaration was not signed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the 24 April talks were exclusively open and constructive. "For the first time in the history of relations the Caspian heads of state discussed in detail all aspects of cooperation," the Russian president said.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami believes that the summit was a great success. He stressed the need to continue cooperation in order to settle all disagreements.

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said although the presidents did not sign the final declaration, they "worked hard on Caspian issues." The summit proves that the Caspian leaders agree to meet more often.

During bilateral meetings, the presidents directed much of their attention to bilateral relations. Aliyev said Russia and Azerbaijan maintained intensive cooperation, adding that Azerbaijan was pleased with such contacts. He expressed confidence that the two countries had possibilities to implement all agreements.

Turkmen President Niyazov said the major result of the Caspian summit was that the presidents had clearly stated their position on the Caspian status. "The exchange of views was the major goal of the summit and it was achieved," Niyazov said.

Commenting on the final declaration, which was not signed, Niyazov said: "We were let down by our habit of preparing documents beforehand. We discussed all aspects regarding the legal and normative base of our cooperation at sea and we made it clear that the draft Ashgabat declaration did not mirror the positions of our states."

"We agreed not to stir up disputes and conflicts at sea, but find solutions patiently by talks," the Turkmen president said.

Putin and Aliyev agreed that the Caspian summit yielded results. Putin outlined the three moments. Firstly, it is very important the presidents discussed the Caspian region problems and now "we cannot say the experts are doing something the heads of state fail to understand." Secondly, the presidents agreed to maintain regular contacts. And thirdly, the Caspian leaders agreed that "all problems can be solved only by multilateral talks." Aliyev shared the Russian president's view. (ITAR-TASS)

Putin, Niyazov Sign Russian-Turkmen Friendship Treaty

24 April 2002

According to Interfax on 24 April, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation between the two states in Ashgabat the day before.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Putin said the treaty is intended to lay "a solid foundation for the development of cooperation in the economic and humanitarian spheres." These principles were fundamental in the first treaty, which the current one logically continues, Putin said.

The treaty consists of 24 sections and contains a provision on consultations at various levels and the coordination of the two countries' activities in international organizations. Neither country will allow the use of its territory for the detriment of the other. The countries will guarantee the rights and basic freedoms of ethnic minorities. They also have committed themselves to facilitate the development and functioning of the commodities, services, capital, and manpower markets and pursue coordinated tax, monetary, currency, trade, and customs policies.

One of the provisions of the treaty is aimed at encouraging the study and spread of the Russian language in Turkmenistan and the Turkmen language in Russia. It envisions an agreement on establishing informational-cultural centers of the two states in their territories and the development of cooperation in the ecological security sphere, "on prevention of transborder pollution, and on the efficient use of their natural resources." The two countries will also expand cooperation in health care.

At the moment, Russia is Turkmenistan's strategic partner, but there are "some problems" between the two countries, which may be resolved with President Putin, Niyazov said at a 24 April press conference in Ashgabat. "Now there is a new Russia. It is difficult for us to evaluate this at the moment, but we understand that problems can now be resolved," he said.

Niyazov noted that after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan found itself in a difficult situation. He said that "when we were having trouble, Russia, which sold gas abroad at $120 per 1,000 cubic meters, bought it from us at $18. Later we barely managed to increase this to $26. This was robbery."

"We later refused to sell gas to Russia and began to search for other routes. Gas was partially replaced by the development of oil, more attention was paid to agriculture, and we created irrigated fields and weathered the crisis," Niyazov said.

Speaking about financial relations with Russia, Niyazov said that in the mid-1990s, Turkmenistan wrote off debts "that Russia itself acknowledged." "It is known that we keep reserve money in foreign banks."

"On the eve of the default, we received a proposal to transfer $70 million to Russia's Vneshtorgbank. Immediately after the default we were told that the money was lost. It seems to me that the default was a premeditated act," Niyazov said. Turkmenistan plans to build a gas pipeline to Pakistan and onwards to India to expand its gas sales market, Niyazov said. "We want to lay not only a pipeline, but also a railroad, and in the future there are plans to extend the pipeline to Delhi. Everybody has agreed that we need to decide that the gas pipeline will not be affected by political changes, to avoid cases where, we've had a little dispute, the pipe is closed. For this, we have proposed to the United Nations that it support this project and take it under its control," he said.

The president also noted that according to an agreement signed by Ashgabat and Kyiv, Turkmenistan would supply Ukraine with 50 billion cubic meters of gas by 2004 on conditions of monthly prepayment at the rate of $43 per 1,000 cubic meters. "Half of this will be paid in cash, the other half in goods," he added.

"We are receiving proposals to set up a gas alliance. We are not against this, but we consider that initially, we need to define the gas market and price, and we will sell at the border," Niyazov said.

Talking about Caspian problems, Niyazov emphasized that no other issues, including ecological ones, can be resolved until its legal status is defined. "Poaching is developing near the coasts of both states, and it is impossible to combat it without a legal basis," he said.

"We cannot struggle against poaching, or tackle disputes through international organizations and courts. About 350 pirate ships are sailing in the Caspian Sea under various flags. But none of them admits that they're violating the law," he said. "It is impossible to deal with environmental problems and to protect the stock of sturgeon, to say nothing of prospecting for oil, without defining the legal status of the Caspian Sea," Niyazov said.

He also believes the Caspian Sea cannot be made "a common sea." He therefore proposed reaching an agreement on establishing a 15-mile coastal zone with the status of a border zone, plus a 25-mile economic zone for fishing and other economic activities. Some states, including Russia, oppose this idea, said Niyazov.

For the moment, no method has been devised for drawing a median line in the Caspian Sea, he continued.

Niyazov believes some of the Caspian states are trying "to delay the definition of the status of the Caspian Sea." "They would like to make other states face an accomplished fact. They are active in individual zones and will declare that these zones belong to them, as they have made large investments in them," Niyazov said. (Interfax)

Turkmen Head Says He Is Upset By Too Much Praise

24 April 2002

According to report by RIA-Novosti on 24 April, President Niyazov does not consider himself a dictator and "is very much upset" by the praise, he told a news conference when asked by a foreign journalist to comment on accusations of a dictatorial attitude. Niyazov recommended the journalist "speak to the people, visit markets and jails."

Niyazov said that he does not jail anybody, and, moreover, an amnesty is being scheduled in the autumn. "They talk a lot about me. Judge by the city of Ashgabat, whether people have fear written over their faces. It is important for me to be appreciated by the people," he said.

Niyazov commented in the following way on his portraits displayed on every corner in Ashgabat: if the people enjoy free gas, electricity, public transport, and effectively rent, if I were them, "I would also say that there is no president better than mine." As for the portraits, "many of them do not look like me at all," Niyazov said.

"I feel frustrated," Niyazov told the news conference. With a sad smile, he said that he is not able to go freely to a restaurant, or even, as he put it, "to have a brief fling on the side." (RIA-Novosti)

Caspian Five Summit Fails To Deliver, Says Turkmen President

24 April 2002

According to ITAR-TASS on 24 April, "the final document of the Caspian summit seems to be empty for the time being," Saparmurat Niyazov said. "Each of its participants sees the sea problems in the light of its national interests only. Still, we have two hours left and we shall try to reach an agreement," he told a news conference.

RIA-Novosti quoted Niyazov as saying that "the legal status of the Caspian Sea has not been determined yet." However, there is no tragedy in it, Niyazov added, as "this is the first summit" of the "Caspian Five" leaders. (ITAR-TASS, RIA-Novosti)

President Khatami Satisfied With Caspian Sea Summit

24 April 2002

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said that the outcome of the Caspian Sea summit in Ashgabat has been positive in nature.

President Khatami said in an exclusive interview with IRNA on 24 April before his departure that the participants in the meeting had managed to get informed of one another's points of view. "Of course, one cannot expect the Caspian Sea problems to be solved at a single session." He expressed hope that the participants in expert sessions would reach solutions able to guarantee the interests of the Caspian Sea littoral states on a just basis.

The president said that Iran and all the Caspian Sea littoral states at the summit, insisted on the need to maintain peace and calm in the Caspian Sea and exchange views regularly on issues related to the Caspian Sea. He described Iran-Turkmenistan ties as "very good," with the hope that mutual relations would be upgraded in the future. He expressed confidence that his visit would open a new chapter in Tehran-Ashgabat ties.

Khatami said that during his stay in Ashgabat a number of agreements were reached between Iran and Turkmenistan, hoping the agreements would serve to expand mutual cooperation.

During his three-day stay in Turkmenistan, Khatami met with Turkmen officials and outlined Iran's views on the Caspian Sea legal regime. Agreement on holding meetings alternately in Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan had been the most important decision made by Caspian Sea heads of state. The presidents ended their meeting without any resolution. (IRNA)

Putin Proposes Holding Next Caspian Summit In Tehran

24 April 2002

Russian President Putin has proposed holding the next summit of heads of state of the Caspian Five in the Iranian capital Tehran, Turkmen President Niyazov told RIA-Novosti on 24 April.

Niyazov said that Kazakh President Nazarbaev has asked for the next summit to be held in Kazakhstan. (RIA-Novosti)

Caspian Leaders To Meet Again After Failing To Agree Joint Declaration

24 April 2002

The summit of the five Caspian littoral states concluded in Ashgabat without any documents being signed, Interfax reported on 24 April.

Kazakh President Nazarbaev commented that "when we went into the history of the Caspian question, we found that there were more problems that we expected."

For his part, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said that, although the presidents had held talks for more than four hours, they were unable to find a common viewpoint. "We agreed that we would meet again to discuss this issue," said Niyazov. He also noted that the parties felt that "if something is decided here, then this will have to be explained upon returning home, which will be more difficult" than reaching a decision. "That is why no one could take it upon themselves to sign any kind of document," the Turkmen leader said.

Iranian President Khatami commented that not all the issues concerning the Caspian Sea could be settled in 24 hours.

Russian President Putin stressed that the atmosphere at the summit had been "very constructive." "We are in no doubt that in the final analysis we will achieve a position which will suit everyone's interests," he said. (Interfax)

Ashgabat Summit Focuses On Definition Of Caspian Status

23 April 2002

Chiefs of Caspian states gathered in Ashgabat on 23 April for their first summit, which continued for two days, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Turkmen President Niyazov welcomed the leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Iran at the entry to Rukhyet Palace, the site of the summit.

The presidents gathered in order to discuss Caspian problems, the definition of its legal status, cooperation in energy, the environmental situation, and bioresources of the sea.

The Caspian Sea should remain a single whole undivided into five parts, President Putin said at the opening ceremony. "It is a mistake to divide the Caspian Sea into five parts," he stressed. Russia will do its best to strengthen the Caspian stability. "Mutual understanding and confidence between the five nations is a key to peace," Putin said.

It is very important for the five chiefs of state "to speak up with one accord" at the summit, he noted. The number of supporters for this idea is growing, he said. The problem of the Caspian legal status can be solved step by step. The summit is not an attempt of the five Caspian leaders "to isolate themselves from the rest of the world," Putin said. "We do not refuse cooperation with other countries or transnational businesses." The need for such a summit was clear long ago, so the Turkmen initiative was very important, Putin said.

Russia is ready for cooperation with Caspian nations in fuel and energy, Putin said. The Russian pipeline system is viable, and the Caspian Pipeline Consortium has started to function. Russia has its own interests and projects of fuel transportation but "it is not allergic to the concept of a multiple choice of pipelines," the president said.

The main wish of the five chiefs of state gathered in Ashgabat "is to cut the Caspian knot," Putin said. It would be correct to have regular summits in the future, he said. The leaders of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan discussed regular summits before the opening ceremony. The proposal was made by Turkmen President Niyazov, who hosts this summit, Putin said.

President Putin proposed to set up an intergovernmental center of Caspian environmental monitoring at the Ashgabat summit. The center "will provide for a more efficient use of funds" assigned by the regional countries for environmental protection," he noted. Some partakers in the Caspian negotiations have agreed with the need to have the center, and Putin called on others to join them. Urgent collective measures are necessary to solve environmental problems of the Caspian Sea, he said.

The fight against international terrorism is especially topical for the Caspian region, Putin said. He called on the Caspian nations to contribute to the fight. Russia is ready for close cooperation with the Caspian nations in that struggle, Putin said.

In his turn, President Niyazov proposed suspending the extraction of oil in all the disputed areas of the Caspian Sea. "Nothing will happen if we agree to suspend work on the disputed territories," he told Putin before the summit. "One cannot take control of a site before the border and the median line are drawn," he remarked.

Niyazov called for solving all problems of the Caspian Sea through common efforts at the Council of Caspian Presidents. The council could have annual meetings in capitals of the Caspian nations, Niyazov remarked. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmen, Iranian Leaders Agree To Expand Ties, Coordinate Aid To Afghans

23 April 2002

Turkmen President Niyazov and Iranian President Khatami have expressed their satisfaction with the process of the development of relations between the two countries, reported on 23 April. Speaking at a news conference on the results of the Iranian president's official visit to Turkmenistan, following the signing of a bilateral agreement on further expanding cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, the presidents noted progress in mutual partnership in various spheres.

The Turkmen leader stressed that the presidents had held 86 meetings over the past 10 years, while their countries had signed 115 documents. However, he said that the current trade turnover between the two countries showed that the countries were not using the present opportunities to the full.

Niyazov believes that the trade turnover can be increased from $430 million now to $1 billion in several years' time. Having agreed with this opinion, the Iranian president noted good prospects for cooperation in spheres such as the oil and gas industry, bilateral railway infrastructure, and trade. The presidents also agreed to coordinate their actions in providing assistance to Afghanistan for restoring its economy.

Turning to the problems of the Caspian, both presidents expressed their hopes that the summit of the Caspian littoral states, being held in Ashgabat, would bear positive results. Here Khatami emphasized that it was inadmissible for countries outside the Caspian region to interfere in the Caspian matter. (

Georgia Pays Part Of Turkmen Debt Repairing Fighter Jets

23 April 2002 The Tbilaviamsheni Ltd. aircraft assembly factory in Tbilisi has started the modernization and repair of two Turkmen SU-25 fighter jets. Prime-News was told at the Ministry of Economics, Industry, and Trade that two more aircraft of the same model will arrive for repairs from Turkmenistan by the end of the April.

This year Tbilaviamsheni will be paid an equivalent of $26 million in lari from the state budget for repairing the Turkmen aircraft as part of the settlement of Georgia's $324 million debt to Turkmenistan, Finance Minister Zurab Noghaideli told Prime-News on 23 April.

Minister of Economics, Industry and Trade Giorgi Gachechiladze told Prime-News that the contract is essential for the national economy. It costs $1 million to repair one SU-25 jet at Tbilaviamsheni. Last year 22 Turkmen aircraft were repaired. (Prime-News)

Turkmen Leader Promises Multiparty Democracy

23 April 2002

Turkmenistan will get a multiparty system and an opposition in time, President Niyazov has said, but it has had more important things to do since independence, such as ensuring that the people's living standards don't plummet, Turkmen TV reported on 22 April.

Niyazov has been running Turkmenistan since Soviet times; he was elected president of independent Turkmenistan in 1992 and has promised elections by 2010.

Speaking at a UN-sponsored conference in the Turkmen capital, Niyazov attacked the UN over what he described as declining attention to Afghanistan. He said that Turkmen had done a lot to restore power to Afghanistan, and was pushing ahead with plans for a trans-Afghan pipeline linking Turkmenistan and Pakistan. He said that he would be meeting the Pakistani and Afghan leaders in early May to discuss it.

Niyazov also praised Iran for being a friend to the Turkmens when the going got tough in the early days of independence. (Turkmen TV)

Three Leaders To Discuss Trans-Afghan Natural Gas Pipeline

22 April 2002

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are planning to hold a summit in mid-May to discuss the main points for a proposed agreement to lay a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 22 April.

The Turkmen and Pakistani presidents, Saparmurat Niyazov and Pervez Musharraf, reached an agreement on the meeting over the telephone on 22 April. The pipeline will be 1,500 kilometers long and have an annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters. Niyazov and Musharraf said their countries and the region as a whole badly need such a pipeline, the Turkmen leader's press service said.

On 19 April, the head of the Afghan interim government, Hamid Karzai, in a telephone call with Niyazov, showed interest in the project and expressed support for the proposed three-nation summit. The three leaders said the pipeline would provide a serious boost to their countries' economies. (Interfax)

Niyazov Asks UN, Russia To Support Trans-Afghan Gas Project

22 April 2002

Turkmenistan has invited the UN and Russia to support a trans-Afghan gas pipeline project, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April.

Turkmen President Niyazov made the offer at a UN roundtable in Ashgabat on 22 April. The forum was devoted to the transitional period and human security in Central Asia.

Niyazov stressed that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline and the construction of a power line and a road parallel to it will serve as guarantees of stability in Afghanistan and constructive employment of its population.

He said more than 740 kilometers of the gas pipeline will run through Afghanistan, while its overall length will be about 1,500 kilometers to the Pakistani city of Multan.

It is planned that the gas pipeline will transport 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually. Afghanistan's net profit from the project will be 12 percent of the cost of gas to be transported. The construction of the pipeline will employ about 15,000 people. (ITAR-TASS)

U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers Return To Turkmenistan

22 April 2002

A meeting was held at the U.S. Peace Corps office in Ashgabat with a group of volunteers who had been working in Turkmenistan prior to the tragic events of 11 September, GazetaSNG reported on 22 April, citing the Turkmen State News Service. Representatives of the country's Foreign Ministry, Health Ministry, Education Ministry, the U.S. Embassy and other international organizations accredited in Ashgabat attended the meeting.

The volunteers of different ages now have an opportunity to continue their service in the country during the next seven moths. Their work, as was noted at the meeting, helps to establish mutual understanding between the Turkmen and American sides, bringing their peoples and cultures closer. The meeting wished the volunteers success in their useful activities. Members of the Peace Corps will start their work in the Ahal, Mary, and Lebap regions on three main projects: teaching English, medical education, and development of small businesses. (Turkmen State News Service, GazetaSNG)

Outlook Not Hopeful On Dividing The Caspian

26 April 2002

By Michael Lelyveld

The first Caspian Sea summit came to an end but not a conclusion on Wednesday, as leaders of the five shoreline nations offered various versions of the disappointing results.

Analysts had not expected that the two-day presidential meeting in Ashgabat would yield an agreement on how to divide the Caspian and its resources. The solution has eluded Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan since the Soviet breakup.

But the summit was extraordinary for its inability to issue a joint declaration or a document of any kind, after months of diplomatic groundwork. Few high-level gatherings in the region have failed to produce at least a final communique.

The absence may be a measure of the gaps that separate the positions of the five neighbors on the division issue. The failure may have turned the summit into a significant setback rather than a step toward an accord.

Iranian President Khatami showed no flexibility in his country's demand for either common control or a 20 percent share of the Caspian. The stand is firmly opposed by Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

President Putin was equally adamant on Russia's plan for splitting only the seabed into sectors along a median line. The formula, which Moscow has pursued since 1998, would give Iran about 13 percent of the bottom while allowing Russia's navy to roam the waters at will.

Putin said at the summit's opening ceremony: "There are five of us here today, the heads of the five littoral states. However, the Caspian Sea itself was and remains a single one. I think it is a mistake, therefore, to divide the Caspian Sea into five parts."

Julia Nanay, director of Caspian services at Petroleum Finance Company, a Washington-based consulting firm, told RFE/RL that the impasse raises the chance that the Caspian area nations will pursue their own course and set boundaries for development of their offshore oil.

Nanay said: "I didn't expect them to reach an agreement with Iran, but I still think that the other countries plus Russia will agree to a solution among themselves, and perhaps Iran will be left out of that solution. However, it will have to be an unofficial solution, since the only way a final status agreement can be achieved that is official is to have Iran sign on."

In fact, the first signs after the meeting were that the three aligned countries would follow precisely that course. Russia's Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhnyi told the Interfax news agency that Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan were expected to sign a trilateral division treaty next month. The countries have already signed bilateral pacts, despite protests from Iran.

Russia's commitment to its strong military position was symbolized by Putin's postsummit visit to Astrakhan, which is a base for its Caspian fleet. Despite its dominance, Putin told commanders that "the fleet needs renewing" as he ordered naval exercises this summer, RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Putin called the forces "an essential factor in guaranteeing the economic and political interests of Russia." He told the officers, "You should develop your presence here." At a later press conference, he also voiced hope that progress could be made on division through bilateral agreements, if not through a five-nation deal.

Both the military moves and the trilateral treaty seem sure to rankle Iran, despite Khatami's statement on 24 April during a visit to Almaty that the summit had produced "major achievements." Analysts found it difficult to name even a minor one. Some questioned the rationale for holding the summit at all, given the low hope for progress.

Fiona Hill, a fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said, "If there was no expectation, why have the meeting?"

Turkmenistan President Niyazov, the summit host, said the presidents had verbally agreed "not to use force" in the Caspian. Such a promise could have been significant, if it had been clearly endorsed. But Iran has sworn to defend its claims, following an incident last July when an Iranian gunboat threatened two Azerbaijani research ships in disputed waters.

A weakly worded declaration was expected to at least affirm that the Caspian should be an area of "peace and friendship." But at the last minute, the presidents failed to put even this pledge on paper.

According to a report by RIA-Novosti, Niyazov blamed the problem on a behind-the-scenes switch. On 24 April, he complained that "everything the heads of the five countries agreed on the day before" had vanished from the final draft document, leaving it "unspecific, uncontrollable, and meaningless."

Afterwards, Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev said the reason for the reversal was "in particular, on disputed territories between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, and Iran's insistent position." Niyazov has been feuding with Azerbaijan President Heidar Aliyev over an oil field in the center of the Caspian for the past five years.

When asked about the disagreement after returning to Baku, Aliyev was quoted by Turan news agency as having said: "There is the internationally recognized principle of the median line, but Niyazov set this aside and defined the median line on his own terms. That is why things are like this."

The inability to achieve progress on any of the disputes raises the question of whether the Caspian will remain simply another diplomatic agenda item between the shoreline countries that allows other relations to proceed. The alternative is that it may erupt and disrupt the entire range of regional ties.

Fiona Hill at the Brookings Institution said that either way, the outlook is not hopeful. Stalemate may continue if the division question is seen as a marginal issue, while movement may only come with a crisis, like the confrontation between Iran and Azerbaijan last July. (RFE/RL)

Caspian Sea Leaders End Summit Without Agreement

24 April 2002

By Jean-Christophe Peuch

Turkmen President Niyazov told reporters in the Turkmen capital that no concrete result had been achieved at the summit. He said: "We, the five [Caspian] states, met willingly and freely exchanged our views. Yet, we have not made any decision. [We] still have a lot of work to perform on the Caspian issue." He said each country has committed itself not to use force to resolve the issue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev both described the summit as "fruitful" and "successful," but neither provided any details to sustain their assessment. Aliyev stressed it was the first time since 1991 that the presidents of all five states had met for an "overall discussion" on the Caspian.

The question of dividing the Caspian -- believed to contain the world's third-largest crude oil reserves -- has been contentious since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which resulted in the emergence of four new countries on its shores: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.

Talks among the five Caspian states have dragged on for years without a settlement, preventing the development of the sea's natural resources. The major stumbling block has been how to fairly apportion the rights to the seabed where the oil is located.

Iran, which has the smallest shoreline, is seeking joint control of the sea or a minimum of a 20 percent share of the seabed for itself.

Russia has argued for national sectors, but only on the seabed, leaving the waters for common use. That position, which is supported by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, would give Iran around 13 percent of the seabed.

Turkmenistan has not made a firm commitment on either side.

Last week (16 April), Iran's state-run IRNA news agency quoted Mehdi Safari, Iranian President Khatami's envoy to the Caspian, as saying he expected the Ashgabat summit to help the sides narrow their differences. But Safari had said he expected no agreement would be signed.

He also made it clear that Iran would oppose any bilateral agreement other countries might reach on the delineation of the Caspian borders. This was widely viewed as aimed at Russia, which has already signed separate accords with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Earlier this month (4-6 April), Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited Moscow and Baku to mend the rift over Caspian Sea borders. However, the Iranian envoy's talks with Russian and Azerbaijani officials produced no concrete results.

Addressing reporters at a separate press briefing held before the closure of the summit, Niyazov blamed his Caspian counterparts for the lack of progress on the Caspian issue. Niyazov said he is proposing that each of the five states' borders would extend for about 15 nautical miles into the sea. Each state would also have an approximately 25-nautical-mile zone meant for fishing and other activities to be carried out with the mutual consent of all Caspian states.

Niyazov said Putin had rejected the economic-zone idea. Niyazov defended his plan by saying the unclear border has led to a lot of illegal fishing: "Today, we have to agree about the [Caspian] littoral zone. There is a lot of illegal fishing going on along our coastline, including some private companies from your countries, from 300 to 350 small and big fishing boats. Nobody knows where the border lies."

Regarding the 15-nautical-mile zone, the Turkmen head of state said, "Yesterday we reached agreement, but today a number of [countries] are refusing this idea and now say [that experts] should work on this and determine the distance between the shore and the borders."

Niyazov blamed Aliyev for failing to compromise over disputed Caspian oil fields that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan claim. He accused Azerbaijan of illegally carrying out exploration work on these oil fields.

The possibility of holding similar such summits in the future is unclear. Niyazov rejected an idea by Putin and Kazakh President Nazarbaev to hold annual summits. Niyazov said instead a council should be created that would include the heads of all five states and that would meet regularly.

"I have proposed to establish a council of the presidents of Caspian countries that would convene once a year and would be chaired by one of the presidents on the principle of rotation. This is very important. One can smell blood behind the Caspian Sea, and every one of us must understand that it is not an easy problem to solve," said the Turkmen president.

Although Niyazov's proposal was not sustained, all participants agreed to meet again at a date that remains to be determined. (RFE/RL)