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Turkmen Report: April 1, 2000

1 April 2000
Torture and Executions Spotlighted in Rights Report
March 26, 2000

Torture in Russia, police maltreatment of foreigners in Austria and Belgium and record numbers of executions in the U.S. sometimes under questionable circumstances came under fire.

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said torture, ill treatment and police misconduct were the most widespread abuses in the countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The investigation was carried out in 1999 and early 2000 into 33 countries in the Vienna-based OSCE. The resulting human rights report criticizes police behavior in nearly all 33 countries, including the US, Austria, Belgium, and Russian.

In Turkmenistan, the report says numerous detainees were beaten to death or committed suicide. (RFE/RL NCA - AFP)

Opposition Leader Nurmamedov Repents in a TV Address
March 27, 2000

Nurberdy Nurmamedov, one of the Turkmen opposition leaders sentenced to 5 years in prison, admitted his guilt and repented in an address shown on Turkmen national television.

In his address, Nurmamedov said: "On February 25, 2000, I, Nurberdy Nurmamedov, was sentenced by the Annau regional court in accordance with Articles 279 (part 2) and 196 of the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan to 5 years in prison. I agree with the court's decision. I admit my guilt and I am ready to serve the punishment for it. I hope that the President and the people will pardon me and I am ready to redeem myself through labor. Every year our president issues an amnesty, thereby freeing several thousand prisoners. This amnesty serves as a great spiritual support for the prisoners. If our President would pardon me, I would look into my family's problems."

Asked if he repents, Nurmamedov said, "Yes, I repent." (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)

Energy Secretary: Caspian Region Key to Energy Security
March 31, 2000

U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson today pointed to the Caspian Sea region as an important source of energy security for the United States, as it looks to broaden its search for oil and gas resources.

Richardson said the countries involved in the Baku-Ceyhan and Trans-Caspian pipelines are showing the will to move forward with projects that will provide crucial sources of energy for the world. He also said the people in this region now have freedom and security they lacked for many years.

In a question-and-answer period following his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, a prominent U.S. think tank, Richardson was asked about doing business with countries with poor human rights records.

U.S. government officials in the past have spoken of the need for constructive engagement with countries in the region.

Richardson reaffirmed this view. He said that as commercial ties with Western nations increase, the countries of the region will begin to enact meaningful political reforms. (RFE/RL NCA)

Niyazov Rejects OSCE Initiative, Opts for Bilateral Water Talks
March 31, 2000

Turkmen TV reports that President Niyazov of Turkmenistan today received an OSCE delegation headed by the UK representative at the OSCE, John De Fonblanque.

The guests presented Niyazov with their proposals for holding an international conference on water resources, initiated by British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, who earlier sent a message on this issue to the Turkmen president.

According to the report, "President Saparmurat Turkmenbashy of Turkmenistan invited the meeting participants to an open dialogue. In particular, the head of the state called them to take a careful approach to the peculiarities of regional relations, especially in the sphere of water use."

In the course of the meeting, the report says, "Saparmurat Turkmenbashy also expressed his view that in order to resolve the emerging problems, the regional states should first of all rely on their own potential and in this respect, Turkmenistan has every necessary opportunity. The Turkmen leader also emphasized that in resolving such problems, Turkmenistan prefers bilateral cooperation because multilateral discussions make it difficult to arrive at a consensus." (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen Television Channel 1)

Turkmenistan to Lay 600-km Road
March 31, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has taken part in a ceremony to start laying a road to link Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabat, with the central and eastern parts of the country.

The six-lane high-speed Ashgabat-Mary-Turkmenabad road will be 24.5 meters wide and 600 kilometers long.

The road, whose construction starts on Saturday and is to be completed by 2006, will be built by a joint venture which includes state company Turkmen Motor Roads, the Turkmen railways administration and the Mansell firm. The Turkmen stake in the venture is 51%.

Funding remains an unsolved problem, Turkmen Motor Roads told Interfax.

Each kilometer will cost an estimated $1.2 million to lay. Turkmenistan plans to take all the money from its own reserves.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was to be the main investor but stepped out completely after the Turkmen government rejected a demand to raise gasoline prices, which are less than 8 cents per liter. (Interfax)

Turkmenistan Starts Construction of Ashgabat-Dashoguz Railroad
March 30, 2000

The construction of a railroad from Ashgabat to Dashoguz, the central town of northern Turkmenistan, began on Thursday in the presence of President Saparmurat Niyazov.

The railroad will be 530 kilometers long and have 20 stations on which towns will be centered, Niyazov said.

The construction of the railroad and its infrastructure will be over by late 2006. A highway, an optic-fiber communication line, a power line and a water pipeline will be built along the railroad in the future. The overall cost of the project is about $1 billion, and the construction will be fully financed by Turkmen money, the President said.

The new railroad will cut in half distance that travelers from Ashgabat had to cover in order to reach Dashoguz. It will also allow for a direct connection between the two cities, whereas now northern Turkmenistan can be reached only by transit via Uzbekistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service - Interfax)

Azeri Oil Boss Says Turkmenistan Hasn't Replied to Proposals on Gas Pipeline
March 30, 2000

Azerbaijani news agency Sharg reports that according to the SOCAR [State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic] chairman Natig Aliyev, an agreement on the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline will not be signed at the summit of Turkic countries.

Aliyev told journalists that negotiations on the project are still going on and will continue till the end of April.

Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov confirmed Aliev's words, mentioning that Turkmenistan has not replied to Azerbaijan's proposals and remarks on the conditions of the agreement on the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline's construction. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Sharg news agency)

Foreign Investment to Reach $8 Billion in 2000 - Niyazov
March 29, 2000

Foreign investment in the Turkmen economy will reach $8 billion in 2000, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said at a press conference in Ashgabat on Wednesday.

Foreign investment will increase to $80 billion by 2010, he added.

A considerable chunk of these resources will be spent on developing the Turkmen textile industry, Niyazov said. Production of raw cotton in the republic will increase to 3 million tons per year in the near future, which entails putting new textile capacities into operation, the president said. In 2000 alone, Turkmenistan plans to begin construction on four enterprises in this field. In the future, 4 or 5 textile factories are expected to be built annually, which will make it possible to increase cotton fiber processing by 100,000-120,000 tons per year.

Thus, Turkmenistan plans to process up to 50% of the cotton fiber produced in the country at its own factories in the near future, compared to 35% currently. (Interfax)

Niyazov Optimistic About Gas Relations With Russia
March 29, 2000

Mutual interest of Turkmenistan and Russia in gas sale-purchase is no deterrent to the Trans-Caspian gas project, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said at a news conference on Wednesday.

He said Russia knows of great export potential of Turkmenistan, and the application of Russia's Gazprom company for importing an annual 50 billion cubic meters of gas is well acceptable for Turkmenistan. (Itar-Tass)

Turkey's Demirel in Turkmenistan to Discuss Gas Pipeline Project
March 28, 2000

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has arrived in Turkmenistan for talks on a planned pipeline across the Caspian Sea to export natural gas to Turkey and on to other European markets.

Demirel's visit follows resolution by Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan of a dispute that threatened to derail the plans.

Developers expect the pipeline to carry 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. (RFE/RL NCA - AP)

Niyazov Says Talks with Russia, Iran Not Harm Trans-Caspian Pipeline
March 28, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has said that talks with Russia and Iran on gas exports will not harm the Trans-Caspian pipeline project for exporting gas to Europe.

At a meeting with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in the Turkmen capital, Niyazov also said he had agreed to sell gas to Turkey at 45 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters instead of the 53 dollars Demirel had asked for.

Replying to Niyazov's speech, Demirel called the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline "an important and bright sign" of future relations between Turkey and Turkmenistan and congratulated the Turkmen leader "for his farsightedness and wisdom towards this project." (BBC Central Asia Monitoring)

Demirel: Turkmenistan's Interests Paramount in Trans-Caspian Project
March 29, 2000

Ankara will give Turkmen interests primary consideration when building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which will transport Turkmen gas across the Caspian and through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey.

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said Turkey would help Turkmenistan "settle political questions with Azerbaijan and Georgia."

"So far nothing has changed with plans to implement the Trans-Caspian project and Turkmen gas will begin arriving in Turkey at the end of 2002," Demirel said, speaking at a joint news conference with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on Wednesday.

The pipeline will have an initial capacity to transport 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year, and not 16 billion cubic meters as earlier planned. The pipeline will cost $3 billion. Demirel said Turkmenistan would receive 25 billion cubic meters of capacity and Azerbaijan 5 billion cubic meters.

Niyazov indicated that the project timetable might be modified, but did not specify the possible completion date. "I will tell you honestly, in working on the Trans-Caspian project we are colliding with the interests of Iran, Russia and the U.S., but we are trying to resolve those issues through political compromise," he said.

The project's financial package will be prepared by the end of the year. But, he said, preliminary financing, which involves payment of $500 million to Turkmenistan by the project sponsors, "is not a principle issue for Ashgabat." More important is how shares in the project are divided up. Turkmenistan's position is that the sponsors should receive no more than 15%. The companies concerned, Royal Dutch/Shell and America's PSG, want 21%.

Turkmenistan is continuing talks with Russia on increased gas exports in 2001. However, the question is currently "stuck on the question of price." However, if agreement is reached, Turkmenistan is ready to export up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia. It is contracted to export 20 billion cubic meters this year. (Interfax)

Demirel Says Turkey, Turkmenistan Agree on Gas Pipeline
March 29, 2000

Turkish President Suleyman Demirel says Turkey and Turkmenistan have reached new agreements on a planned pipeline to transport Turkmen natural gas to Western markets via Turkey.

Demirel, returning from a two-day visit to Turkmenistan, told reporters at Ankara airport that he and Turkmen leaders agreed to revise the project and to speed it up.

The planned 2,000-km, 200,000-million-dollar pipeline is to pass through the Caucasus republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Demirel's visit to Turkmenistan follows a compromise earlier this month between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over how to divide capacity on the pipeline.

The pipeline is expected to become operational in 2002. (RFE/RL NCA - AFP)

Turkmen President Given Estate in Turkey
March 29, 2000

Turkmen State News Service reports that the Republic of Turkey has presented Turkmen President Niyazov with an estate in picturesque Goraburun, in Antalya [southwestern Turkey].

The report says "this remarkable gift is further evidence of the high appreciation for Saparmurat Turkmenbashy's great contribution to strengthening the many-faceted Turkmen-Turkish relations and to developing friendly and fraternal relations between the two peoples who are united in blood and have much common in their history, culture and ethnic heritage." (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen State News Service)

Turkmen State Company Seeks to Develop Oil Field
March 28, 2000

The Turkmen state company Turkmenneft plans to become operator for a project to develop the Eastern Cheleken oil field in Western Turkmenistan.

Turkmenneft is holding talks to form a joint venture with the Panamanian company Pado Oil, the Turkmen oil ministry told Interfax on Tuesday.

It is expected that the venture will be set up in May. After that the group would start negotiating a production sharing agreement with the Turkmen government.

Eastern Cheleken is due to come into full-scale industrial use this year.

In a preliminary deal, Pado Oil offered to undertake all the funding. The money would be returned as revenue from oil sales. (Interfax)

Turkmenistan to Reconstruct Caspian Port in 2000
March 28, 2000

Turkmenistan plans to begin the reconstruction of the Caspian port of Turkmen-Bashi in the summer of 2000.

Six companies from Britain, Germany, China, Turkey and Russia will compete to become the general contractor of the project, which is estimated at $40 million.

A tender was announced in November 1998 jointly with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Twelve companies took part in its first stage, the Turkmen Sea Shipping Department told Interfax on Tuesday.

The EBRD has allocated $30 million to the project and the Turkmen side will provide $10 million.

The companies that make it to the final round will have to present their proposals to the tender commission by May 10. The general contractor will be announced in the summer of 2000. (Interfax)

Turkmen President Gets Tough on Tax-Dodging Officials
March 28, 2000

Turkmen television reports on the speech of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov at a cabinet meeting: "There is no plan. Give farmers land and start sowing. There is enough water and rain. Nobody has to complain about a shortage of bread then. I am not going to hurry you up any more in future. We have to create the conditions. We have to harvest 3m tones of grain in 2005."

"Now for taxation issues. [...] Nobody is interested in complying with taxation. Second, there is the money which is transferred to the [state] budget and taxes which are paid to the budget. If these two items are not complied with then, under the law, I will make top officials pay them out of their own pockets. Penalties should not be paid at the state's expense. Officials have to pay penalties out of their own pockets. An official should be dismissed shamefully from his post after he has paid penalties three times." (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen Television Channel 1)

Putin Pleased With Russian-Turkmen Relations
March 25, 2000

Russian acting President Vladimir Putin said in his letter to Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov that he was satisfied with recent positive developments in bilateral relations.

The letter, which came on March 23, was published by Niyazov's press service on Saturday.

Putin said he was satisfied with a "positive change in key directions of the Russian-Turkmen cooperation".

"Mutually acceptable solutions have been found to the issue of large-scale deliveries of the Turkmen gas to Russia, their amounts and main cost indices have been agreed upon," Putin said in his letter. He said this accord would open a new stage of cooperation between the two states, and this process would be irreversible.

A Turkmen government spokesman told Itar-Tass that the accord is discussed in talks on Turkmenistan's annual gas deliveries of up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia during 30 years.

"It is no secret that far from all like the dynamic progress of the development of relations between Russia and Turkmenistan - too serious interests have been put at stake," Putin said in the letter.

He said in this situation, he counted on state wisdom and experience of Turkenistan's leader. (Itar-Tass)

Russia, Turkmenistan Open Gas Talks
March 27, 2000

Russia and Turkmenistan today opened in Ashgabat the second round of talks on Turkmen gas supplies to Russia. The two sides are negotiating a 30-year agreement of the delivery of 50,000 million cubic meters of natural gas supplies. (RFE/RL NCA - Itar-Tass)

Turkmenistan Expects Putin in Early April
March 27, 2000

A high-ranking Turkmen government official said on Monday that Ashgabat is expecting Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin to pay a visit to Turkmenistan in early April.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Putin are likely to sign a 30-year intergovernmental agreement on Turkmen gas deliveries to Russia providing 50 billion cubic meters of gas a year.

On Sunday, Turkmen representatives met with Russian delegation headed by Alexander Pushkin, the deputy chairman of the Gazprom board, and Igor Makarov, the president of the International energy company Itera.

The Ashgabat round of talks addressed contract terms and prices, a source in the Turkmen Oil Ministry has told Interfax.

According to earlier reports, Turkmenistan had asked $42 per 1,000 cubic meters on the Turkmen-Uzbek border, while Gazprom is ready to pay $32, as its head Rem Vyakhirev said in Ashgabat in February.

There was no immediate information about whether the sides have reached common ground in Ashgabat on the price issue. (Interfax)

Turkmen President Against Politicization of Aral Sea Issue
March 31, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has rejected British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's proposal on the republic's participation in an international conference on saving the Aral Sea.

Niyazov believes the politicization of this issue may cause serious difficulties in relations between the five CIS countries regarding the distribution of water resources, the presidential press service has told Interfax.

The most important matter regarding the Aral Sea is not its salvation, which Niyazov thinks is unrealistic, but the setting up an efficient system for the use of water resources in the region, which is suffering from a serious shortage of such resources, he said. It is here that foreign donors' assistance may prove to be efficient and useful, he added. As an example, he referred to the urgent need to introduce drop irrigation in the region and arrange for the delivery of equipment for water resources management. (Interfax)

German Doctor Says Turkmen President in Perfect Shape
March 31, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has undergone a routine examination at a medical center in Ashgabat and his German doctor has pronounced him in excellent condition.

Hans Meisner, the German professor who performed a heart bypass operation on Niyazov at a Munich clinic in September 1997, conducted the examination, the Turkmen presidential press service said.

The condition of Niyazov's cardiovascular system was examined with comprehensive tests, including x-ray, cardioechography and blood tests.

According to the press service source, Meisner was satisfied with the results of the tests and examinations on the president. "The heart surgeon stated that Niyazov is in excellent physical shape, "the press service said. (Interfax)

Exact Frontier to Be Drawn Between Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
March 31, 2000

The presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Saparmurat Niyazov and Islam Karimov, made an agreement to draw an exact border between the two states in a telephone call on Friday, Niyazov's press service has said.

The two leaders have said the Turkmen-Uzbek border is under police, customs and sanitary control today but that the system needs to be brought into line with international standards. (Interfax)

Swiss Envoy Presents Credentials in Turkmen Capital
March 29, 2000

Turkmen TV reports that on 28th March Swiss Ambassador Walter Fetscherin presented his credentials to the Chairman of Mejlis [parliament] of Turkmenistan S. [Sakhat] Myradov and took up his duties in Turkmenistan.

The report says it was underlined during the meeting that both Turkmenistan and Switzerland have an enormous potential for partnership expansion within the framework of international organizations, as members of structures such as the UN and OSCE.

At present expert groups are preparing drafts of intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic cooperation, on the mutual protection and encouragement of investments and also on abolishing double taxation. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen Television Channel 1)

Turkmen President Congratulates Putin on Victory
March 27, 2000

Turkmen TV reported that President Niyazov of Turkmenistan has congratulated Vladimir Putin on his election to the highest post as leader of Russia.

Wishing the Russian leader good health and success in his arduous work for the prosperity of the Russian people, the Turkmen president stressed that the dialogue between the two countries had acquired the nature of confidential relations which serve the mutual interests of Turkmenistan and Russia. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen TV Channel 1)