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Turkmen Report: May 27, 2000

27 May 2000
Turkmenistan Revokes Licenses Of All Private Internet Providers
May 27, 2000

The Turkmen Ministry of Communication will revoke on May 29 licenses of all private Internet and electronic mail providers in the country.

According to an official statement, documents of the companies that applied for extension of their licenses had numerous faults.

The government's action leaves Turkmentelekom, a company under the Ministry of Communication, as the only Internet provider in Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL - Interfax)

Turkmenistan Deports Last Russian Baptist Missionary
May 25, 2000

Turkmen security police have located Vitalii Tereshin, the last remaining Russian Baptist missionary in Turkmenistan, and deported him to Russia, Keston News Service reported on 23 May. Tereshin is the sixth Baptist missionary to be forced to leave Turkmenistan, along with his family, since the beginning of this year. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen News Agency Structure Changed
May 24, 2000

The Turkmen newspaper "Neytralnyi Turkmenistan" (Neutral Turkmenistan) published the following report:

"Considering it as a task of utmost importance, a true reflection of the achievements of the Turkmen people and an economic, political and cultural progress of our neutral country, the Turkmen president [Saparmurat Niyazov] has adopted a resolution to provide wider information on all important events in the press, distribute through international channels true information on the changes in Turkmenistan, and raise the role of objective, rapid and true information and of daily periodicals and other media in the daily life of our compatriots. In line with this, the Turkmen Press state news agency has been renamed Turkmen Dowlet Khabarlar Gullugy [Turkmen State News Service].

The Turkmen State News Service has been commissioned to collect, process and distribute rapid, reliable and comprehensive information about the changes taking place in the country within the framework of President Saparmurat Turkmenbashy's program of making the 21st century the golden age for the Turkmen people." (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - "Neytralnyi Turkmenistan")

Chinese President Postpones Visit To Turkmenistan
May 22, 2000

Chinese President Jiang Zemin postponed his visit to Turkmenistan till July, the Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass on Monday.

The visit was slated for May 22-23 due to Jiang's visit to Dushanbe to attend the Shanghai Five meeting. The Shanghai Five, which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) should gather at the end May.

The Chinese president cancelled his visit to Turkmenistan because the meeting was postponed. (Itar-Tass)

Azerbaijan Ratifies Baku-Ceyhan Deals
May 26, 2000

The Azerbaijani parliament, after a lively debate on Friday, ratified a package of agreements on the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main oil export pipeline by 93 votes against none and with three abstentions.

With the approval of the package Azerbaijan is becoming a key Caspian nation and can guarantee its own energy security, President of the State Oil Company Natik Aliyev told parliament.

The package consists of an agreement between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey on the transportation of crude oil across their territories and May 9 amendments to it, and the November 18, 1999 Istanbul declaration signed by the presidents of the three countries plus Kazakhstan and the United States.

On May 29 the package is expected to be presented to oil companies at a ceremony attended by Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. Invitations have been sent to all companies operating in Azerbaijan and also developing oilfields in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Georgia. The meeting will deal with the participation of oil companies in financing the pipeline construction and the main provisions of the package. (Interfax)

Former Russian Fuel Minister To Be Special Envoy To Caspian Region
May 25, 2000

Former fuel and energy minister Viktor Kalyuzhny will become Russia's special envoy to the Caspian Sea region, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko has announced at the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry presentation.

"Kalyuzhny's official status will be announced within hours," Khristenko said, adding that the Caspian region is of special geopolitical importance to Russia. (Interfax)

"High-Quality" Oil Deposit Found In Turkmen South
May 24, 2000

The Turkmen newspaper "Neytralnyi Turkmenistan" (Neutral Turkmenistan) published the following report:

"The staff of the Imambaba oil and gas exploration team of the [Turkmen Oil] State Corporation have commissioned a large oil deposit in the area of Tere-Shikh [Mary Region of southern Turkmenistan].

The new oil well yields 150 tons of high quality crude oil a day. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - "Neytralnyi Turkmenistan")

Turkmen Foreign Trade Turnover Up In First Quarter, Agency Reports
May 24, 2000

Turkmenistan's foreign trade turnover amounted to 939 million dollars in the first quarter of 2000, 44 per cent up on the same period last year, the Turkmen State News Service agency reported on May 23, quoting the National Institute of State Statistics and Information of Turkmenistan.

The report said Turkmenistan had a trade surplus of 155 million dollars in the first quarter, that exports were up by 49 per cent and imports were up by 37 per cent. Natural gas accounted for half of the exports, oil refining products for a fifth and crude oil for nearly a tenth of the exports, it said. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen State News Service)

Niyazov Calls For Project To Raise Oil Production From Several Field
May 24, 2000

Presentation and workshop on new information about oil deposits in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea, originally to be held in Ashgabat on May 30, has been pushed back until June 28 by a presidential decree signed by president Saparmurat Niyazov on Tuesday.

No explanation of the postponement has been provided so far.

Meanwhile, another presidential decree announced allocation of some $10 million for projects that include electrical drilling of inclined and horizontal wells and are meant to raise oil production, the government owned company Turkmenneft has told Interfax. (Interfax)

Turkmen Gas Deliveries To Russia Resumed On The Eve Of Putin Visit
May 23, 2000

The Turkmen State News Service reported on May 23 that Turkmen gas deliveries to Russia from the Turkmen western oil and eastern gas fields resumed on the eve of the Russian president's visit to Turkmenistan.

The western section of the gas pipeline Central Asia - Center (CAC III), going from the fields in Turkmenistan's southwest down the Caspian coast towards the border of Kazakhstan, were in operation after rehabilitation work. During the first day the pipeline transported four million cubic meters of gas, which adds to the total flow of Turkmen gas to Russia, going from Turkmenistan's eastern fields. The flow is served by another line of the inter-state pipeline, CAC IV (Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan - Kazakhstan - Russia), with a capacity of 90 billion cubic meters. Russian has been receiving 75-80 million cubic meters every day since the beginning of 2000, the Turkmen State News Service said.

The gas flow to Russia can reach a capacity of 100 million cubic meters per day after the commissioning of the CAC III line, Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan said.

Turkmen State News Service reports that projects to build up the capacity of the gas line CAC IV are also under way. The cost of the project will exceed 300 million dollars. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen State News Service)

U.S. Reiterates Support For Multiple Pipelines
May 22, 2000

The United States today reiterated its support for multiple projects to transport oil and natural gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher, asked whether the Baku-Ceyhan deal in particular was at a dead-end, said otherwise. He said the U.S. had participated in a series of events of various kinds to help put the pipeline in place and that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had discussed it quite a bit while recently in Central Asia.

"Having the energy supplies of the Central Asian region available for sale on world markets is very important to us. It's very important to Russia and others, to have these supplies available. And given the prospects in the region, we think it's important that multiple pipeline routes be available," Boucher told RFE/RL.

Boucher said he did not see any contradictions in the policy and that Russia, in his view, should not see U.S. support for multiple pipelines as a, quote, "challenge." (RFE/RL)

Tehran Expects Caspian Working Group To Convene This Summer
May 22, 2000

Iranian ambassador in MoscowMehdi Safari said he believes the next session of the five-party group working on the legal status of the Caspian will be held in Tehran this summer.

Safari reminded his listeners at a Monday meeting with the Russian press and public that unlike other parties to the talks - Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - Iran favors the "condominium principle," which implies joint ownership over the natural resources of the Caspian by its coastal countries.

Safari said his country takes the view that "if the Caspian should be divided, everything should be divided in equal proportions - the sea floor and the water above it." (Interfax)

Amnesty International Condemns Russian Threats
May 26, 2000

Amnesty International has released a public statement concerning Russia's threats to use preventive air strikes against Afghanistan, whose Taliban regime, as the Kremlin has said, provides the training ground for the Chechen fighters.

Amnesty International suggested that "the warning evokes memories of massive human rights violations during the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 which resulted in the deaths of thousands of defenseless women, men and children and an exodus of one fifth of the population. Russia's aerial bombing of Chechnya, which included the targeting of civilian convoys marked with white flags, demonstrates a continuing disregard for civilian life."

In its statement, the international human rights organization said it is "also concerned that the Russian threats might give further excuses to some of the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to engage in human rights violations under the pretext of national security." Amnesty International especially mentions Uzbekistan in this respect.

Amnesty International urges the Russian authorities "to refrain from any military activity that could result - as has done in the past - in the indiscriminate killing of non-combatants and other human rights violations."

Amnesty International further alerts that "such statements by Russian authorities should be a warning to the international community that Russian military action of the type which was carried out in Chechnya and which resulted in massive human rights violations there could be repeated elsewhere. It is therefore imperative that the international community - members of the United Nations and the Council of Europe - remind the Russian authorities of their responsibilities not to engage in any military activity that would cause human rights violations. (Amnesty International)

Taliban Urge Opposition to Unite Against Russia, Threaten Neighbors
May 26, 2000

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has called for the country's warring factions to unite against Russia.

The Taliban foreign ministry issued the statement yesterday, following threats from Moscow of possible military action against Afghanistan for allegedly aiding Chechen rebels.

The Taliban statement also warned neighboring countries they would be considered enemies if they help Russia carry out any air strikes. Taliban said it will hold Uzbekistan and Tajikistan "responsible" for any Russian attacks on its training camps.

Taliban's response follows the May 23 statement by the Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, who said the Taliban is providing training bases to Chechen fighters and their Islamic allies and that Russia may launch preventive air strikes on suspected Chechen guerrilla training camps in Afghanistan.

According to Yastrzhembsky, representatives of Aslan Maskhadov met with a number of internationally known terrorists, Osama bin Laden among them, in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan about a week ago.

Maskhadov dispatched his messengers to leaders of the Taliban movement in early May bearing a written request for emergency assistance for the rebels in Chechnya, Yastrzhembsky said. Maskhadov requested that about 70 mercenaries enter Chechnya via Azerbaijan and signed a protocol concerning assistance to the Chechen rebels, Yastrzhembsky noted.

The Taliban says it offers only political and moral support to the Chechens.

Meanwhile Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf said today that his country has a security interest in Afghanistan and any Russian strike there would have "very serious repercussions." (RFE/RL)

Customs Union Leaders Want International Status For Union
May 24, 2000

The summit of the Customs Union that unites Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan has reached the decision to turn the Union into an economic organization with international status.

All participants in the meeting want to see the Union become a more credible organization, Russian President Vladimir Putin after the summit ended on May 23.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a final news conference that the main topics at the Minsk summit were the formation of a free trade zone and tariff regulation throughout the Union.

Lukashenko admitted that the Union faces a number of problems, Kyrgyzstan's membership in the World Trade Organization, for example.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told journalists in turn that charter documents and proposals on the formation of an international economic organization of the Customs Union should be drafted by a working group before September 1. This organization should have functions related to admission to the WTO, the formation of external customs borders, and the development of a common economic policy, tariffs, prices, and other components of a common market. (RFE/RL)

Kyrgyz Opposition Refuses To Join Government At "Round Table"
May 23, 2000

The Kyrgyz opposition party "Arnamys" has refused to enter into dialogue at the "round table" with President Askar Akayev and other opposition organizations.

In a statement released in Bishkek on Tuesday, the party explained that this refusal stems from the party's rejection of current government policy. Party leader Felix Kulov has been kept under watch at the Security Ministry prison since the end of March on charges of abuse of power while he was the Kyrgyz Republic's security minister.

The statement stresses that the party will stay away from the "round table" for as long as its leader is in prison. (Interfax)

Tajikistan Denies Embassy Staff In Kazakhstan Dealt Drugs
May 25, 2000

Tajikistan today denied that employees of its embassy in Kazakhstan were involved in drug trafficking.

Tajik Foreign Ministry official Igor Sattarov blames a weekend drug case on a Tajik trade representative and former embassy driver, who did not have diplomatic status.

Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) said yesterday that it arrested the trade representative in Almaty after 62 kg of heroin was found in his car on Sunday. The KNB also found 54,000 dollars in cash and a bank check for nearly 1.8 million dollars in the car parked in his garage. The trade representative was not named.

The KNB said the find is a major step towards busting a drug smuggling ring, which allegedly uses cars with diplomatic plates to cross international borders. (RFE/RL)

Kazakhstan Probes For Causes Of Mass Deaths Of Caspian Seals
May 23, 2000

Kazakhstan is continuing to look into the causes of the mass deaths of Caspian seals.

Soil and water samples taken from areas where seals have been dying have been studied in laboratories, but showed no "add mixtures capable of poisoning animals," Kazakhstan's Chief Sanitation Doctor Yerken Durumbetov told Interfax on Tuesday.

All necessary steps are being taken to prevent the spread of a possible infection, he said. Sanitation doctors are educating the population in coastal regions on how to behave in this situation.

Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Murat Musatayev said at a news conference in Aktau the country is taking every effort to find out the cause of the mass deaths. A special commission "is examining a wide range of possible causes, including technogenic poisoning," he said.

Kazakh scientists have requested assistance from colleagues in Russia, where seals at Lake Baikal died about two years ago, he said.

Head of the regional administration Lyazzat Kiinov appealed to the public at a news conference to refrain from swimming in the Caspian until the causes of the seals' deaths have been identified.

The Kazakh government has assigned 10 million tenge (142.4 tenge/$1) to investigate the causes and removal of the consequences. The Natural Resources Ministry regards the death of Caspian seals as an environmental disaster. (Interfax)