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Turkmen Report: July 8, 2001

8 July 2001
Reshuffle In Turkmen Parliament And Ministry Of Foreign Affairs

7 July 2001

On 7 July the regular session of the country's Medzhlis (parliament) was held in Ashgabat. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov took part in its work.

The deputies were considering an organizational issue. Niyazov nomination Rejepbay Arazov was elected the new Medzhlis chairman. Arazov had been working as a khyakim (the head of administration) of Balkan velayat (district). Earlier he headed the Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan.

The former chairman of parliament, Rashid Meredov, by the president's decree was appointed the minister of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan. Before being elected the chairman of Medzhlis in May 2001, Meredov had worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the republic as the first deputy minister.

Previous Minister for Foreign Affairs Batyr Berdyev was dismissed from the post for shortcomings in his work. (

Turkmen, Kazakh Presidents Sign Important Agreements, Propose Caspian Sea Summit

6 July 2001

A Turkmen delegation led by President Niyazov paid a two-day official visit to Kazakhstan on 5-6 July. A number of cooperation documents were signed in Astana on 5 July. Presidents Niyazov and Nursultan Nazarbayev signed agreements on delimitation and demarcation of the Kazakh-Turkmen border, the transfer of prisoners to serve sentences in their home countries, and cooperation in border protection.

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have no differences over the technique of calculating the charges for possible transportation of Kazakh oil to Iran across Turkmenistan, Niyazov also told the news conference.

The two presidents also discussed the potential for moving Turkmen gas to China across Kazakhstan, Niyazov said. At the moment, gas can be piped as far as Almaty, from where 300 kilometers of pipeline must be laid to the Chinese border, he said.

Kazakhstan would like to have its oil delivered to India and Pakistan across Turkmenistan, Nazarbayev said. A pipeline could be built across Afghanistan were it not for developments in that country, he said.

Niyazov and Nazarbayev voiced their hope for a peaceful solution to fighting in Afghanistan, saying it would clear the way for building energy export routes to the Indian Ocean.

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have an abundance of oil and natural gas but are reliant on Russian transportation routes for exporting to other countries. Nazarbayev said that if there were peace in Afghanistan, "we would surely send a pipeline south to Pakistan and India."

Niyazov agreed but also mentioned the route through Russia as having the potential to allow Turkmenistan to export more than 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually within the next 10 years.

As for the specific details of the international legal status of the Caspian, Niyazov emphasized that there was no disagreement between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on the issue. He also pointed out that Turkmenistan had no insurmountable disagreements with Russia either.

The Turkmen leader said that his country favored a plan for dividing the Caspian whereby "each littoral state would have a 12-mile zone plus a 35-mile economic interest zone." As a result, "each state will have a 47-mile interest zone, while the rest will be a common zone for shipping," Niyazov said. The sea's biological resources will be monitored only after the Caspian legal status is determined.

Speaking at a news conference, Niyazov said that he had invited the heads of the Caspian littoral states to Ashgabat on 26-27 October 2001 "to define the Caspian Sea's legal status once and for all." He also noted that, in accordance with a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the heads of the CIS's four Caspian littoral states would have "a preliminary conversation on the issue" at an informal meeting in Sochi [southern Russia] scheduled for 1-3 August. Iran will be briefed on the issues to be discussed in Sochi, Niyazov said. On 6 July Niyazov presented Nursultan Nazarbayev with a Turkmen racehorse of the famous Akhal-teke breed on his 61st birthday.

Niyazov also visited the Kazakh-Russian university where he was awarded another title -- the degree of professor. (RFE/RL,, Interfax, AFP, Reuters)

Turkmen Transport Executive Sacked For 'Serious Shortcomings'

5 July 2001

By presidential decree, Sapargeldy Perliyev was relieved of his post as executive director of the State Fund for Development of Transport and Communication of Turkmenistan for serious shortcomings in his work. (Turkmen TV)

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan Ready For Mediator

5 July 2001

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan support the need for peaceful talks of the opposing sides in Afghanistan, presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev and Saparmurat Niyazov told a news conference in Astana on 5 July.

Nazarbayev believes Turkmenistan can play an important role in organizing the process. It has always maintained positive neutrality and refrained from interfering in Afghanistan's affairs, not blaming any of the opposing sides. Therefore Turkmenistan suits both opposing sides in Afghanistan as a mediator.

Nazarbayev noted that Kazakhstan could act as a mediator in the negotiating process, if needed. The point of the matter is not the venue of the negotiations but achieving peace, he said.

Niyazov said that it is only when the opposing sides reach agreement that peace will be set in Afghanistan. (ITAR-TASS, RFE/RL)

Conscripted Baptist Refuses To Take Military Oath

4 July 2001

A young Baptist from the Turkmen capital Ashgabat forcibly drafted into the armed forces in May against his will has refused to take the military oath, Keston News Service reported. At a ceremony at his military unit in the town of Serdar (formerly Kyzyl-Arvat) on 1 July, Dmitri Melnichenko was called last of all the conscripts and, while senior officers and the deputy political officer of the unit looked on, repeated his earlier refusal to swear the compulsory oath. It is not clear what will happen to him now. (Keston News Service)

Turkmenistan To Have Largest Mosque In Central Asia

3 July 2001

During a meeting today with the regional director of the French Bouygues company, Pierre Bouachet, President Niyazov approved the design of a mosque which is to be the largest in Central Asia.

The 70-meter construction, designed to hold services for 10,000 people, will be built in Kipchak, the president's home village, not far from Ashgabat. (

Turkmen, Uzbek Leaders Discuss Border, Water Issues By Phone

3 July 2001

A telephone conversation took place today between presidents Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.

The two leaders discussed the situation on the Turkmen-Uzbek borders following the signing of a border delimitation agreement between the two countries.

The presidents assured each other that in line with the existing agreement, order and discipline would be stepped up in border areas in order to resolutely prevent any attempts to violate the state border and to disturb people's peaceful life in those areas.

Niyazov and Karimov also discussed the drought and measures to ensure rational use of common water resources. (Turkmen TV)

Turkmen Minister Loses Wage For Not Catching Thieves

3 July 2001

Interior Minister Poran Berdiyev paid the price on 3 July for allegedly failing to beat crime in Turkmenistan when the president docked him of his monthly wage.

Turkmen President Niyazov ordered that Berdiyev's July wage be withheld because he "failed to take enough measures to prevent crimes, " the "Neutralny Turkmenistan" newspaper reported.

Berdiyev's money will now be paid into the state budget, the newspaper continued. (AFP, RFE/RL Turkmen service)

Niyazov Criticized By U.S. Energy Department

2 July 2001

Niyazov "has strangled reforms" in Turkmenistan. This uncomplimentary evaluation of the investment climate in Turkmenistan was given by the U.S. Department of Energy. The department's review in particular noted: "Even if Turkmenistan achieves predicted real economic growth of 6 percent in 2001, the country's GDP still would be only 59 percent of 1990 levels. President Saparmurat Niyazov, a former communist who has ruled Turkmenistan since independence and was named president for life in 1999, has stifled political and economic reform.."

"The country is burdened by having to service $2.1 billion in foreign debt, most of it short-term, but thus far Turkmenistan has shunned assistance from the International Monetary Fund. Privatization goals remain limited, with President Niyazov ruling out privatization of the oil and gas sector until 2015 at the earliest. Foreign direct investment, over 90 percent of which flows into the country's oil and natural gas sectors, has slowed over the past few years, owing to the restrictive conditions that Turkmenistan attaches to foreign investment, " the review says. (RRE/RL,

Turkmen Head Talks To Putin Over Phone

30 June 2001

A telephone conversation took place on 29 June between Turkmen President Niyazov and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.

The sides agreed that a group of Turkmen experts would visit Moscow in the nearest future to prepare draft agreements on long-term Turkmen-Russian cooperation on an equal basis.

Touching upon the subject of the Caspian Sea, the two presidents said that their views coincided on most of the problems relating to it. The two heads of state also noted the positive developments of the negotiating process to determine the legal status of the sea. (Turkmen TV)

Turkey Praises Rukhnama And Niyazov

By Nadir Devlet

6 July 2001

Before asking the question why Turkey praises the so-called "holy book" Rukhnama and its author, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, we should first analyze the relations between Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan has better relations with Turkey than with other Central Asian republics. Currently some 10,000 Turkish businessmen, workers, teachers, and students live in Turkmenistan, especially in the capital of Ashgabat. Today some 300 small and large Turkish companies are doing business in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan's export to Turkey in 1992 was $17.9 million; by 1999 it had grown to $67 million. Also Turkish export to Turkmenistan in 1992 was $17.3 million, which has grown to $106.6 million. Turkey gave Turkmenistan $163 million of Turkish Eximbanks credit in order to promote economic relations.

Turkey has also established very close official and non-official cultural relations with Turkmenistan. There are 18 private Turkish schools, which are sponsored and coordinated by a Turkish NGO, Bashkent Education Corp. These schools are also known as Fethullah Gulen schools. Gulen is well known as a religious leader in Turkey, and Turkish authorities claim that he is trying to change the secular system of the country. The International Turkmen-Turkish University, which was opened in 1994, has approximately 700 students and is also sponsored by the Bashkent Education Corp. There is a newspaper called "Zaman" (Time), which is believed to also have close ties with Fethullah Gulen, who is now living in the U.S. This newspaper has a circulation of some 10,000 and is printed in Turkmen and Turkish. Moreover, the Turkish government also opened a high school and a language center in Ashgabat. Ever year, Turkey selects some 150 Turkmen undergraduate students and gives them scholarships to study in Turkish universities. Today the number of Turkmen students in Turkey is more than 1,000. Turkey is also involved in the restoration of the Sultan Sandjar's Tomb historical monument in Mary.

In other words, these facts show that Turkey considers Turkmenistan an important political, economic, and cultural partner. We could say that Turkey has established with Turkmenistan as good relations as with Azerbaijan or much better. Which Turkish interest -- political, economic, or cultural -- is more important is not easy to say. But business relations could be judged as the most important. The Turkish dream of receiving natural gas from Turkmenistan could also be one reason for that, even though in the short term there is no such possibility.

Turkish officials and private persons have a very difficult task when they deal with Turkmen officials, who are under heavy pressure from President Saparmurat Niyazov. They know that without praising Turkmenbashi, the head of Turkmens, their wishes will not be fulfilled. Therefore it's sometimes possible to see on Turkish TV broadcasts or in magazines or special pamphlets many compliments, ovations, and glorifying comments about Niyazov and Turkmenistan. These are mainly private initiatives and are organized by businessmen who have economic connections or interests in Turkmenistan. But the last such appraisal, in the supplement to the magazine "Yeni Avrasya" in last March's issue, could seem very strange:

"Rukhnama (spiritual work by Niyazov) is a shining path for catching civilization. Rukhnama is a synthesis of truth, which doesn't accept any wrong saying or lie. Rukhnama is a teaching, which shows how to judge the realities of today. Rukhnama is the soul of the Turkmens. Rukhnama has two main pillars, people and country. For every Turkmen citizen to know Rukhnama is a must. Turkmenbashi himself is a symbol. He is the reflection of the Turkmen soul. Rukhnama should be immediately translated into different foreign languages, so that humanity can learn that the Turkmen renaissance has started." These are the words of the director of the Turkish World Institute of Aegean University professor Fikret Turkmen.

According to another author, Namik Kemal Zeybek, former minister of culture and president of Akhmet Yasavi Kazakh-Turkish University Foundation, faith has given to Turkmenistan the right leader, namely Niyazov, at the right time. Zeybek wrote that Turkmens needed a fundamental work and they received it. Rukhnama will influence not just Turkmenistan, but will cross the borders and reach 200 million Turkmens and the rest of humanity.

According to another author, Oner Kabasakal, the director of the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency of the prime ministry, "today the Turkmen people are happy and look to the future with hope, because they have their own Rukhnama. This work shows the right rules, which were adopted to change the sinful Soviet rules. Principals of Rukhnama consist of values, which encircle human beings, society, state, and humanity. The origin of Turkmen democracy is in this document."

So, what else can we add to these statements? As leading personalities they must know what they are saying. According to a Turkish saying, prominent people know everything much better. Maybe we shouldn't be so sarcastic, because the authors could be right. So let's wait and see. (RFE/RL)

BP Denies Seeking To Exclude Competition In Oil Pipeline

4 July 2001

By Michael Lelyveld

The biggest foreign oil company in Azerbaijan has denied a report that it would keep other countries and competitors from gaining access to the projected Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. The report last week by "The Wall Street Journal" said that Britain's BP oil company would limit the use of the planned pipeline to Turkey by excluding oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan until 2012.

The report was based on an interview with BP's chairman, Sir John Browne. He was quoted as saying that the pipeline could be filled to capacity from two Azerbaijan projects in which his company holds the largest stakes.

The first is the huge offshore oil project of the Azerbaijan International Operating Consortium. The second is Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas field, which contains petroleum liquids that can be added to the line.

According to the report, the result would be no available export capacity for other companies like U.S.-based Chevron and Italy's ENI for the next 10 years. Construction of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is expected to start next year and be finished in 2004. But after inquiries from many other news organizations, BP officials have denied the report. In a message to RFE/RL, BP spokesman Mike Bilbo in Ankara said: "Basically, the assertion that BP can unilaterally choke off new Caspian oil is preposterous. [We] are not trying to exclude anyone from the line."

The company notes the U.S.-backed pipeline project had previously been warned that it could not get enough oil from the Caspian to reach its design capacity of one million barrels per day. Now, in a turnaround that BP calls "an amazing transition," the pipeline is subject to criticism it will not carry enough oil to meet the demand.

BP says that if necessary, there are ways to push more oil through the $3 billion pipeline. Azerbaijan also has alternate pipeline routes. BP says the only real question about the Baku-Ceyhan line is when each oil company will want to use it. Two months ago, BP officials said the flow from the two Azerbaijani projects would peak at 1 million barrels per day in 2008.

BP says several oil companies have voiced interest in joining the sponsor group for the pipeline. But until they commit oil, it says, it makes no sense to add more capacity.

While the entire controversy seems to have grown out of readings -- or misreadings -- of a single statement, it may be a measure of how far the Baku-Ceyhan project has come.

During the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, oil companies questioned the commercial viability of the plan and criticized officials for pushing it as a political initiative. Since then, BP has become the biggest proponent of Baku-Ceyhan.

The company has also turned increasingly optimistic about the amount of oil that can be found in the Caspian to fill the pipeline. Several months ago, U.S. officials argued that early oil from Kazakhstan's giant Kashagan oil field in the Caspian might supplement oil from Azerbaijan. But in the past month, new assessments now say that only Azerbaijani oil will be needed.

These new forecasts may reflect the advanced stage of planning for the pipeline and the failure of Kazakhstan to make a firm commitment of oil to the route. Since 1999, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has made many verbal pledges to ship oil through the line. At one time, the statements led supporters to rename it the Aktau-Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project, using the name of Kazakhstan's Caspian port.

But Nazarbayev now says only oil companies can actually commit oil to the Baku-Ceyhan line, and his government has been negotiating a long-term transit pact with Russia. The country is also interested in a feasibility study for another oil route to Iran.

As the starting date nears for building the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, it becomes harder to base plans on the possibility of Kazakh oil. The BP message may be that if the project cannot rely on Kazakhstan's commitment, then Kazakhstan cannot depend on the pipeline's availability, either. (RFE/RL)