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Turkmen Report: August 12, 2001

12 August 2001
Visiting Iranian Official Discusses Caspian Dispute With Turkmen President

10 August 2001

President Saparmurat Niyazov held talks on 10 August with visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani about the disputed resources of the oil-rich Caspian Sea.

Use of the Caspian's resources was previously governed by treaties between Iran and the Soviet Union. However, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, three newly independent states have joined Russia and Iran on the sea's shores. No new agreements have been signed.

During their talks, Niyazov and Ahani stressed that exploration should be halted in all disputed zones until an agreement on apportioning the Caspian is reached, Turkmen television reported. (RFE/RL, AP, Turkmen TV)

Russian Envoy: Caspian Presidents To Hold Summit In Fall

10 August 2001

A senior Russian government official told ITAR-TASS on 10 August that the presidents of the five nations bordering the Caspian Sea will hold their first ever summit this fall in the Turkmen Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi.

Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny, Russia's official for the Caspian, said the summit should produce a declaration on the status of the sea and that the five countries had moved closer to a sea-sharing agreement. (ITAR-TASS, RFE/RL)

Niyazov To Announce 10-Day Holiday To Mark Independence Decade

9 August 2001

During a visit to Gavers District, a major grain-growing area in central Turkmenistan, President Niyazov said on 9 August he would announce additional days off in the run-up the country's independence anniversary.

Niyazov said, "I am going to announce tomorrow that the period between 20 October and 30 October will be days off to mark the 10th anniversary of our independence." The Turkmen anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union falls on 27 October.

Niyazov also announced that the next session of the Elders' Congress would be on 19 October to approve the final version of the "Book of Ruhnama," the moral code of the Turkmen people written by Niyazov. (RFE/RL, Turkmen TV)

Iran Calls Caspian-Status Consultations With Russia 'Useful'

9 August 2001

Iranian sources in Moscow have described the two-day consultations on the status of the Caspian Sea "as constructive and useful."

The sources said Iran's presidential envoy Ali Ahani, who ended the talks in the Russian capital on 9 August, discussed the problem with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev.

The parties raised the issue of the upcoming meeting in the town of Turkmenbashi this autumn between the heads of the five Caspian states. Earlier, Ali Ahani told reporters that Tehran regards this format optimal for discussing the Caspian subject and that it is ready to participate in such talks.

On 8 August the Iranian diplomat held talks with Russian presidential envoy Viktor Kaluzhny. "Both sides," Ahani said after the meeting, "agree that the Caspian Sea should be a sea of friendship and mutual understanding, and that this can be achieved through peaceful talks and consultations."

Ahani said he had not discussed with Kaluzhny the principles of dividing the Caspian Sea. However, he noted that if all five states adopt a uniform formula, they can "agree on creating a 25-mile zone to which each country will have a sovereign right." (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenistan Rejects Ukraine's Gas Debt Rescheduling Proposal

8 August 2001

The Turkmen government rejected Ukraine's proposal that the issue of debts for the Turkmen natural gas supplied during 1993-1994 should be resolved in accordance with the conditions set by the Paris Club of creditors, Turkmenistan.RU's Ashgabat correspondent reported.

According to information obtained from the office of Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Gurbanmuradov, who was instructed by the president to hold talks with Volodymyr Vysotskiy, the head of a department at Ukraine's Finance Ministry, Kyiv was told that "Turkmenistan is not a member of the Paris Club of creditors, and it views as inadmissible its terms for rescheduling Ukraine's external debts as regards part of a debt that has been rescheduled once already."

Ashgabat, therefore, insists that Kyiv should repay the remainder of the debt, amounting to $281.7 million, not during the next 12 years starting in 2002, but within 3 1/2 years starting in the current year, 2001.

"Turkmenistan has already accommodated Ukraine and arranged to reschedule the debt," Gurbanmuradov said. "So we hope now to have an open dialogue on a bilateral basis, necessarily taking into account the mutual benefits to be derived from the proposals. Any other approach will doom the talks to failure."

It will be recalled that the issue of Ukraine's debts to Turkmenistan was also discussed during the recent telephone conversation between Presidents Niyazov and Leonid Kuchma. (Turkmenistan.RU, RFE/RL)

Turkmens Warn Azerbaijanis Over Disputed Caspian Oil

8 August 2001

A Turkmen deputy prime minister issued a stark warning to Caspian neighbour Azerbaijan on 8 August that an offshore oil field which the Azerbaijani state oil company seeks to develop has nothing to do with Azerbaijan.

"The opening by specialists from (Azerbaijani state oil company) SOCAR of the so-called prospective Geigel structure, situated according to Baku in the southern Kyapaz field, is not a matter for discussion and has nothing whatsoever to do with Azerbaijan," Yelly Gurbanmuradov told Reuters in an interview.

"The area is just 100 km (62 miles) from Turkmenistan's Caspian coast, and is 210 km from Azerbaijan," he said.

The Turkmens call the field Serdar instead of Kyapaz and, Gurbanmuradov said, "beyond the slightest doubt it is Turkmen." (Reuters)

Azerbaijanis Don't Fear Turkmen 'Threats' Over Debts, Deputy Premier Says

8 August 2001

Turkmenistan's threats will not frighten Azerbaijan as official Baku is acting in line with the norms of international law, Azerbaijani First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov said on 8 August.

According to Abbas Abbasov, the state has expressed its definitive stance on the issue of Azerbaijan's debt to Turkmenistan. Official Baku's debt to Ashgabat is $18.7 million, and the debt of its economic entities is around $8 million. They are trying to extract more money from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan does not intend to pay Turkmenistan the $59 million that official Ashgabat claims, Abbas Abbasov said. At the same time, he believes that Turkmenistan's threats that it will take Azerbaijan to the international court of arbitration are absurd as they have no documents.

Azerbaijan has enough grounds to dispute its stance. The first deputy prime minister noted that Ashgabat even refused to recognize official messages from the Turkmen president to Heidar Aliev. According to him, Turkmenistan was interested from the very beginning in breaking off the talks, otherwise it would have gone for certain compromises. Baku proposed to Ashgabat that they agree to the payment by Azerbaijan of the amount indicated in the documents, that is $18.7 million, and leave other disputed issues for later. However, Turkmenistan's officials did not agree with this proposal from the Azerbaijani side. Abbasov did not rule out that talks with Turkmenistan would be continued, but he said that he did not have information about when exactly they would take place. (ANS TV -- Baku)

Another Turkmen Official Fined Month's Wage

7 August 2001

At a government meeting on 6 August Saparmurat Niyazov harshly criticized Central Bank head Seitbai Kandimov for failing to prevent embezzlement of state funds and for using his position to promote people without merit. He had fined the Central Bank chief for nepotism. Niyazov told the meeting that Seitbai Kandimov, "doing a favor" for Deputy Prime Minister Berdimyrat Rejepov, had promoted the latter's brother

Kandymov, who is also a deputy prime minister, will be deprived of his August salary.

"We should stop the existing violations in this sphere. Let us stop doing favors for our relatives because people are becoming more and more corrupt," Niyazov said. (RFE/RL, AFP, Reuters, Turkmen TV)

Turkmenistan Makes Dispositions For Conference Of The National Revival

6 August 2001

The organizational group on the preparation and realization of the conference of the Milli galkynysh (National Revival) movement has started its activity in Ashgabat.

Regular conference of the national revival movement is planned to be held on the eve of celebration of the 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence, marked on 27 October 2001. (Turkmenistan.RU)

Moscow Hopes To Conduct Summit On Caspian Issues This Fall

3 August 2001

Russia is calling for a summit of the Caspian littoral states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran) to be conducted as early as possible, diplomatic sources in Moscow told Interfax.

"The earlier the 'Caspian Five' leaders meet, the better, because as the development of events shows, tension over the status of the Caspian Sea is increasing, and is already causing conflicts between the littoral states," the sources said.

Commenting on information suggesting the Caspian Five summit will take place on 26-27 October, diplomatic sources noted that these dates "have so far been featured only in Turkmen representatives' statements."

The sources said that the idea of timing the Caspian summit to the 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence (which will be celebrated in October) is "not very good." A meeting of the leaders of the littoral states is "in itself a significant event, which is somewhat different from anniversary celebrations in its nature and objectives," the sources said.

At the same time, the sources said that preparations for the Caspian Five summit are in a full swing and the final declaration has been agreed upon by more than half the states.

To continue work on this document, it is planned to conduct a meeting of the working group on Caspian issues at the level of foreign ministers in Astana in September, the sources said. (Interfax, RFE/RL)

Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, And Turkmenistan Have Divided The Caspian Sea

2 August 2001

On 2 August, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan reached a principled agreement on division of the Caspian Sea by the sea bottom.

According to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, during the meeting of the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan which took place on 2 August, the common opinion about the possibility of the Caspian Sea division "by it's midline", which should pass on the sea floor, was expressed.

Nazarbaev has not eliminated the possibility of considering the proposal of Saparmurat Niyazov about introducing a 12-mile border zone, RIA-Novosti reported.

Speaking about the position of Iran, which is demanding the sea be divided into sectors, Nazarbaev said that the CIS states are the inheritors of the Soviet Union and recognize all borders, including external. As he said, as the borders between the Soviet Union and Iran were determined, any attempts at their revision will entail negative consequences for the stability of the whole region. (

Azerbaijan To File Protests With Iran And Turkmenistan

2 August 2001

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry intends to send a protest note to Iran, whose plane has flown over Azerbaijani territorial waters in the Caspian Sea, a diplomatic source told Interfax on 2 August.

The ministry may also file a protest with Turkmenistan, which accuses Azerbaijan of developing Caspian oil fields allegedly owned by Turkmenistan, he said. (Interfax)

Deputy Foreign Minister Fired

1 August 2001

President Niyazov dismissed Yelbars Kepbanov as deputy foreign minister and director of the National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights for "serious shortcomings in his work," sources in the president's office told Interfax on 1 August.

The institute is a body directly accountable to the president. Kepbanov was replaced by Batyr Khudaikuliyev, a former Turkmen consul in Meshed, Iran.

Early in July, Niyazov dismissed Batyr Berdiyev as foreign minister, blasting the ministry's performance, especially those aspects run by Kepbanov. (RFE/RL, Turkmen TV)

Turkmenistan Delivers 2.2 Billion Cubic Meters Of Gas To Iran In First Half Of 2001

1 August 2001

Turkmenistan pumped 2.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Iran in the first half of the year, a source in the Turkmen Oil and Gas Ministry told Interfax on 1 August, adding that this is double last year's amount for the same period.

About 6 billion cubic meters of natural gas will be supplied to Iran through the Korpedzhe-Kurt-Kui pipeline in 2001. Since its commissioning on 29 December 1997, nearly 9 billion cubic meters of gas have been delivered to Iran.

The contract on the pipeline construction was signed in July 1995, the National Iranian Construction Company of the Oil Ministry acting as the chief contractor. The construction costs of the 200-kilometer pipeline with a capacity of up to 13 billion cubic meters a year was estimated at $195 million. (Interfax)

Jehovah's Witness Family Lodges Last-Ditch Eviction Appeal

1 August 2001

A Jehovah's Witness family in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, threatened with eviction from their rented home after using it for religious meetings, has lodged a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court. The Segzekov family's earlier appeal against a district court ruling that they be deprived of their home "without provision of another place of residence" was rejected by the Ashgabat city court. No date has yet been set for the Supreme Court hearing. The decision is part of a wider campaign to evict believers of a variety of faiths who use their homes for religious meetings. (Keston New Service)

Foreign Minister Appointed Director Of Human Rights Institute

1 August 2001

By presidential decree, Rashid Meredov was appointed director of the National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights under the president of Turkmenistan. (Turkmen TV)

Turkmenistan Opposes Drilling On Disputed Caspian Shelf Fields Until Sea Status Is Settled

31 July 2001

Turkmenistan is flatly opposed to any activity on the disputed oil and gas fields of the Caspian shelf before the status of the Caspian Sea has been defined, Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Gurbanmuradov said in the course of Turkmen-Azerbaijani talks held in Ashgabat from 27 to 29 July.

Turkmen Foreign Ministry sources have told Interfax that the Turkmen side urged Baku to halt all work on the disputed oil fields. To make this position clear, Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister K. Nazarov said Azerbaijan is illegally conducting work in the disputed Osman (Chirag), Khazar (Azeri), and Altyn Asyr (Sharg) oil fields in defiance of the existing cartographic and legal regulations.

The minister said Ashgabat "will not allow" any side to "unilaterally" develop the deposits located in the Turkmen national sector and will use "all legitimate means," including an international arbitration inquiry, to protect its interests. (Interfax)

Armed Incident On The Turkmen-Uzbek Border

31 July 2001

According to unofficial data, as a result of firing on a border post on the main road linking Tashauz [now Dashoguz, in northern Turkmenistan] and Urgench [in northwestern Uzbekistan], two civilians were killed and one was wounded. A source in Tashauz maintains that all of them belonged to the Uzbek Islamic opposition.

A month ago, Turkmen frontier guards shot two Uzbek citizens who were engaging in petrol smuggling and attempting to cross the border illegally on a motorcycle.

The Turkmen and Uzbek media have not reported these incidents. But, according to TDH (Turkmen state news agency), Islam Karimov and Saparmurat Niyazov had a telephone conversation on 3 July 2001, during which the presidents assured each other that "along the line of the border...the necessary order and discipline will be strengthened, every attempt to cross the state border illegally, to affect the peaceful...lives of people living on both sides of the border will be stopped."

The states worry not about smugglers, but about members of the Islamic opposition of Uzbekistan. It is considered that they in particular were responsible for the first armed clash on the border in December 1998, in the course of which three workers of the Turkmen law enforcement body died.

In September 1999, during the detention of a group of Islamicists, Uzbek citizens, in Tashauz, one of them blew himself up with a shell in the center of town. Further incidents took place in 2000-2001, as a result of which 11 new frontier outposts were opened and the creation of border installations at the border in Dashoguz Region was begun.

From 1 September 2000, the town of Dashoguz was included in a zone adjacent to the border, to which entry is allowed only by a special permit, issued by the police. The Turkmen authorities adopted other measures, limiting mutual tours by Turkmen and Uzbek citizens. (Kazakh Eurasia website, Memorial)

New Deputy Foreign Minister Appointed

31 July 2001

According to presidential decree, Batyr Hudayguliev was appointed to the position of deputy foreign minister, with a six-month probation period. In the event of his failure to carry out his official duties, he is to be relieved of the post without the offer of another post. (Turkmen TV)

Long Live Independence!

10 August 2001

Independent sources report that the possibility to exchange Turkmen manat into hard currency within the last six months has further diminished in Turkmenistan due to the unconvertible nature of the Turkmen currency. Consequently, the amount of medicine in the drug stores has been substantially decreased. Many vital medical items are missing now. Turkmenistan purchases medical items from countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and India with hard currency.

The price of butter has reached 70,000 manats per kilogram, a 800-gram smoked sausage costs 90,000 manats at the shops. At the same time the average monthly salary of a Turkmen citizen equals 300-500,000 manats. The lowest monthly pension in the country is 100,000 manats, the highest pension does not exceed 800,000 manats. A peasant's salary is not higher than 200,000 manats per month (the official exchange rate is 5,200 manats per one U.S. dollar).

Nevertheless, in spite of extremely low income and the difficult financial situation of most ordinary people, the system of bribes is widespread. To get a job as a nurse in the Dashoguz region one must pay a bribe worth $100.

This summer each peasant in a "peasants' union" (former "collective farm", or "kolkhoz") had to pay a "fee" of 150,000 manats to the authorities of the union for "fulfilment of the agricultural plan" in wheat harvesting and silk production. Those peasants who do not fulfil the plan are not paid back by the state 50 per cent of their expenses on land rent, fertilizers, water, technical equipment. Another payment in the same amount is to be executed by all "united" peasants for cotton harvesting this fall. Similar amounts are to be paid for agricultural machinery repair work.

There is almost nothing left for the people for their families after all those expenses.

Have A Nice Holiday!

9 August 2001

To meet "solemnly and accordingly" the 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence, Turkmenbashi (President Niyazov) has issued a special decree, which obliges Turkmen state employees "to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, starting from 29 July 2001 till 20 October 2001," an independent source in Turkmenistan reports.

Many people have already been called back from their vacations with no optional vacation or money refunded.

Share Your Fruit

8 August 2001

One listener from Turkmenistan, who did not want his name to be disclosed, writes that he witnessed on 4 August 2001 how a peasant was selling melons and watermelons on Professor Kosaev Street in Ashgabat.

Suddenly a few policemen appeared and took 30 watermelons and 25 melons without paying for them.

Similar cases, the author stresses, happen often recently in the Turkmen capital. If you watch the commercial tents carefully for a few hours, you might be able to witness how KNB and police officers take "for free" food products or other goods from helpless tradesmen. So far no action has been taken to stop these illegal acts, the listener writes.