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Turkmen Report: June 3, 2000

3 June 2000
Mosque Inaugurated In Turkmen South, To Be Named After President
June 1, 2000

Turkmen State News Service reports that President Saparmurat Niyazov is on a working tour of the country's grain-cultivating areas, arriving in Mary Region [southern Turkmenistan] from Lebap Region [eastern Turkmenistan] today.

Turkmen president inaugurated the start of construction of Mary-Oguzkhan-Tedzhen-Ashkhabad motorway, which is expected to become an important sector of the Ashkhabad-Mary-Turkmenabat highway, Turkmen State News Service says.

Niyazov also attended a ceremony of laying the foundation stone of a mosque which will become the regional center's major decoration. Its dome will look over the town at a height of 63 meters, symbolizing the unity of the people with God. Turkmen State News Service reports that the residents, religious leaders, and the elders in Mary proposed naming the mosque after the leader of the nation, Saparmurat Niyazov, who returned the faith to the people, news service says. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen State News Service)

President Niyazov: Turkmen Women Bear Eve's Guilt
June 1, 2000

While visiting the Mary Region in southern Turkmenistan, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov distributed certificates of ownership on land and noted that most of land owners in the region are women. "What, they don't trust their husband?" Turkmen president asked.

Niyazov then added, "The first sin was committed by a woman. She forced Adam to eat the apple. God forgave Adam, because he just followed Eve. But God told Eve that she must bear at least four children in order to be redeemed of her sin. Our Turkmen women are descendents of Eve," Niyazov laughed.

"What I told you just now is not of my own invention. I get my information from scientific sources," the Turkmen president concluded to a thunderous applause. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen Internet Firm Says It Will Fight For License
May 30, 2000

Turkmenistan's leading private telecommunications firm Ariana said today it would not shut down Internet access to its subscribers, despite a government decision to revoke private Internet providers' licenses.

The company, along with several others, had its license revoked by the communications ministry, in a move which left state-owned Turkmentelekom as the monopoly provider of Internet services in the gas-rich ex-Soviet state of five million people.

The decree took effect on Monday but companies said the legality of the decision was questionable.

"This decision is legally baseless so in order not to lose our clients, we are not switching off net access," Ariana Technical Director Vagif Zeinallov told Reuters.

Zeinallov said Ariana had sent a request to the communications ministry and hoped for a positive outcome.

Ariana's license was formally revoked by means of a letter signed by Communications Minister Rovshan Kerkavov. It said the company's license application had contained "incorrect and distorted information" regarding transmission and equipment.

The ministry also said that the company had failed to prove in time that its systems were adequately defended from hackers.

Officials at other private Internet providers said they had received similar letters. The decree signed last week asked the companies to return their licenses within three days.

The communications ministry and Turkmentelekom could not immediately be reached for comment. But one private firm Sibis, affiliated to Turkmentelekom, has kept its license. (Reuters)

OSCE Disappointed At Turkmen President's Stand
May 29, 2000

Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has declined to take any immediate action to release four political prisoners as requested by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

The OSCE chairwoman, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, appealed on their behalf at a meeting in Ashgabat today with the President.

She said later she was deeply disappointed at his unwillingness to act. She said respect for human rights was one of the commitments Turkmenistan made when it joined the OSCE.

The four men include Mukhametkuli Aymuradov, who was sentenced to 15 years jail in 1995 for what were described as "activities aimed at overthrowing the constitutional order". In 1998, he was given an additional sentence of 18 years.

The OSCE also appealed on behalf of Shagildy Atakov, who was convicted last year on a charge of swindling. OSCE says it believes the charge is a fabrication brought to punish him for his involvement in a Baptist congregation.

The third person is Pirkuly Tanrykuliev, who was sentenced to eight years last year for theft of state property. The OSCE says the conviction is believed to have been politically motivated, because of his critical speeches.

The other person for whom the OSCE appealed is Nurberdy Nurmamedov, who was sentenced to five years jail In February on a charge of aggravated hooliganism. The OSCE says the charges probably arose from his critical comments on government policy. (RFE/RL)

Oil Deposits Found North of Caspian Sea Equal Russia's Annual Output
June 2, 2000

The petroleum reserves in the northern shelf of the Caspian Sea recently prospected by the Lukoil company are equal to Russia's total annual output of oil, Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov announced today at a press conference in Astrakhan.

He said the deposits contained not less than 300 million tons of equivalent fuel. This is the first time in ten years that Russia has increased its fuel reserves so much, he stressed. The deposits were assessed tentatively, judging by one well, so the figure is the minimal forecast. The data will be specified after further drilling. The proportion of oil and gas can be already estimated as 60:40.

The total investments in the Severny (North) block are to reach from $3 billion to $5 billion. By now over $200 million have been invested in the project. The block has five structures including Khvalynskaya where the first well was sunk. Nowwe are drilling in the Shirotnaya structure, said Alekperov.

Alekperov mentioned two possible transport routes of the oil from the north Caspian: by tanker from Makhachkala and further through pipelines or the Caspian Pipeline Consortium.

The extracted gas will be split into fractions for processing at the petrochemical plant in Budyonnovsk and concentrated gas will be transported through the Gazprom system.

Alekperov did not rule out inviting other companies to share in the Severny oil deposit if the project proves to be above Lukoil 's financial resources. (Interfax)

April Consumer Prices Fall By 0.4% In Turkmenistan
May 31, 2000

April consumer prices in Turkmenistan slipped downward by 0.4% from their March level, whereas last year they increased by 3% for the same month, a National State Statistics and Information report says.

Inflation totaled 1.1% in the first four months of the year: 0.8% in January, 0.4% in February and 0.3% in March. It soared by 13.1% during the same period last year. (Interfax)

Putin Appoints Kalyuzhny Deputy Foreign Minister In Charge Of Caspian
May 31, 2000

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree appointing former Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny Deputy Foreign Minister, the presidential press service told Interfax on Wednesday.

Putin also made Kalyuzhny his special representative for resolving the status of the Caspian Sea. (Interfax)

Georgian Parliament Ratifies Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Agreements
May 31, 2000

The Georgian parliament Wednesday ratified the package of agreements on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline with a unanimous vote.

The package includes an agreement to transport crude oil across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, signed by the presidents of the three countries on November 18 last year, and an agreement between potential investors and the countries across which the pipeline will travel, initialed in Washington on April 28 this year.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, also known as the Main Export Pipeline, should operate for 40 years and pump up to 50 million tones of crude per year. Georgia would earn $2.5 billion, or $62.5 million per year, from transiting crude. Another $515 million in direct investments would enter the country for the pipeline's construction, increasing to $1.5 billion as infrastructure like transport, ports and communications are put in place.

Some 60% of the materials and equipment for the pipeline construction will be shipped across Georgia. The project will create between 40,000 and 60,000 new jobs in the country, 80% of which will be taken by local specialists and unskilled workers. (Interfax)

Azerbaijan To Speed Up Formation Of Baku-Ceyhan Sponsor Group
May 30, 2000

The main purpose of May 29 presentation of the Main Export Pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan via Tbilisi to potential foreign investors in Baku was to get a project sponsor group formed as quickly as possible.

The sponsor group would lay the groundwork for studies into the routing of the pipeline, present its findings to international financial organizations and start talks on the financing terms, Valekh Aleskerov, head of foreign investments at the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR), told today at a press conference in the Azerbaijani capital.

The presentation was attended by representatives of 32 companies from 12 countries, among them Russia and Kazakhstan. Only oil companies delivering projects in the Caspian basin were invited, Aleskerov said.

A document of confidentiality was signed with all companies, and SOCAR sent then an e-version of the package of agreements on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, including maps and preliminary route details.

The Azerbaijani parliament ratified the package last Friday. (Interfax)

Niyazov Opens Iran's Trading Complex In Ashgabat
May 30, 2000

Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov and Iran's Minister of Industry Qolam Reza Shafei have opened an industrial and trading exhibition center and an Iran-Khodro automobile filling and service station in an eastern suburb of the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.

During Tuesday's opening ceremony the Turkmen leader announced that on the morning of that day an agreement had been reached with the Iranian minister on currently signing a contract with Iran-Khodro for the import of 220 vehicles including three double-decker buses and 100 Peugeot cars assembled in Iran.

Niyazov expressed the opinion that the opening of the trading center in Ashgabat bears witness to the strengthening bilateral trade and economic ties between Iran and Turkmenistan. (Interfax)

Russian Energy Minister Favors Gradual Transition To Market
May 30, 2000

The Russian energy sector should begin a gradual, scientifically-based transition to a market with a regulating function of the government, new Energy Minister Alexander Gavrin has said.

Export control over oil is an element of government regulation, he said. "Its cancellation may cause a serious shortage of energy resources on the domestic market and this should not be done now," he said in an interview with Vedomosti newspaper published on Tuesday.

Gazprom gas monopoly and Russian national grid operator Unified Energy Systems should be restructured stage-by-stage considering the specifics of the companies, Gavrin said. He stressed his respectful attitude toward their heads Rem Vyakhirev and Anatoly Chubais.

Gavrin said he supports the unification of the energy industries of several former Soviet republics. The most favorable conditions should be created for attracting energy resources from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to Russia, he said. This applies to transit flows and deliveries for domestic consumption, he added. (Interfax)

Turkmenistan To Make Desert Into A Lake In Karakumy
May 29, 2000

Turkmenistan intends to create an artificial lake in Karakumy Desert within 20 years. The project is valued at $4.5 billion.

A government source has told Interfax that a gigantic 132 cubic meter deep and 3,460 square kilometer large lake will be built in Karakumy's north. Created at the site of the natural Karashor valley, it will prevent the 4,060 square kilometer large lowlands from being flooded, and return them to use for crop growing.

In addition, it would stop the lands from being desalinized and turned into swaps and would hike cotton yields by 450,000-470,000 tons a year, grain yields by 300,000 tones a year, would boost the harvest of vegetables and melons. The Karakumy Lake would give a great impetus to the development of fisheries in the country, the source said. (Interfax)

OSCE Calls For Political Resolution Of Afghanistan's Problems
June 1, 2000

The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, says Afghanistan, the drug trade and competition for water are most likely to threaten security in Central Asia.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Almaty that the OSCE is concerned about Central Asia's security. She said the drug trade and terrorism are interconnected. She added that her main concern is the security threat from Afghanistan, and that, in her view, a dialogue should be started in the Central Asian region with Afghanistan's participation in order to reach a political solution to the problem.

Ferrero-Waldner made the remarks after meeting with Kazakhstan's President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in Almaty. She said they discussed security, regional cooperation and democratization.

The OSCE plans to host a conference in Tashkent in October to draw attention to Central Asia's security problems. (RFE/RL, Interfax)

OSCE Asks Kyrgyzstan To Release Opposition Leaders
May 31, 2000

The OSCE today appealed to Kyrgyzstan to release two prominent political leaders and open a dialogue with the opposition.

The appeal was made by the OSCE chairwoman, Austrian foreign minister Benita Fererro-Waldner, at a meeting in Bishkek today with President Askar Akayev. She said later the president had said he would review their cases but gave no commitment that the men would be released.

The opposition leaders are Feliks Kulov, the chairman of the Ar-Namys party, and his deputy, Emil Aliev.

The party told OSCE today it would boycott this weekend's talks between the government and opposition parties if the men are not freed.

At a meeting with the OSCE chairwoman today, other opposition groups accused the government of failing to honor promises to allow more democracy in Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL)

Council Of The Economic Union Of Central Asia To Meet In Dushanbe
May 30, 2000

The next session of the Interstate council of the Economic Union of Central Asia is scheduled to take place on June 14 in Dushanbe.

All heads of the governments of the countries which are members of the economic union - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - have agreed to participate in the work of the summit, representatives of President Emomali Rakhmonov told Interfax Tuesday.

The Executive Committee of the Interstate union is now "developing a wide range of issues relating to the interaction and further cooperation of the countries of the Economic Union of Central Asia," representatives of Tajikistan's president said. (Interfax)

Russian Language Gets Official Status In Kyrgyzstan
May 29, 2000

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev signed into law a bill giving the Russian language official status on Monday.

Presidential press secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov stressed that the Kyrgyz Republic will not be renamed into Kyrgyzia, despite information broadcast by the ORT Russian television channel and a number of other media outlets. (Interfax)

Heads Of CIS Countries To Discuss Seven Issues At Moscow CIS Summit
May 29, 2000

Seven issues will be discussed at the summit of the heads of the CIS countries which will take place on June 21 in Moscow. Among them are creation of free trade zone within the CIS, ratification of the Anti-terrorist center clause, and a plan for fighting international terrorism, Yuri Yarov, CIS executive secretary and chairman of the Executive Committee, said today after his meeting with Ukrainian prime-minister Victor Yushchenko in Kiev.

Heads of the CIS countries will also look to ratify a plan covering further development of the CIS until 2005 and the clause about the CIS executive committee.

According to the executive secretary, CIS foreign affairs ministers will meet on June 20 in Moscow and will discuss approximately twice as many problems as at the summit of the heads of the state. (Interfax)

Massive Die Off Of Caspian Sea Seals Apparently Over
May 29, 2000

The massive deaths of seals in the Caspian Sea has all but ended, Murat Musatayev, deputy minister of natural resources and the environment, announced today at a news conference in Astana.

3,646 dead seals had been retrieved and incinerated by May 28.

Scientists in the Caspian Fishery Research Institute based in Astrakhan, Russia, have ascribed the seals' deaths to cumulative poisoning. Experts must now discover what triggered the poisoning, Musatayev said,

The seal population in the Caspian has dropped by 20% to around 420,000 as a result of a reproductive crisis, the ministry said. (Interfax)

Congress of Central Asian and Russian Peoples Calls To Remove Barriers
May 28, 2000

Participants in the first congress of Central Asian and Russian peoples adopted on Sunday a joint address, calling on the public of their countries for unification.

The document says that forum participants - delegations of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Russia - claimed that all differences, including territorial disputes, should be settled only peacefully at the negotiating table.

They called "for preventing restrictions in human rights due to nationalities or religious affiliations, as well as for "removing all barriers, preventing contacts between citizens of various states".

Deputy to the Russian State Duma Yegor Ligachev who chairs the congress taking place in Bishkek, said that to achieve this task, it is necessary to give support for the Russian language, as an instrument of contacts between peoples, "to adopt laws on lending the Russian language an equal status with the language of the main nation." (Itar-Tass)