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Turkmen Report: July 29, 2000

29 July 2000
Turkmen President Sacks Veteran Foreign Minister Shikhmuradov
July 28, 2000

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov sacked his veteran foreign minister today and replaced him with the minister's first deputy.

Decrees issued after a cabinet meeting gave no reason for the dismissal of Boris Shikhmuradov, but the president criticized him last week for his poor knowledge of the Turkmen language and last year demoted him from a deputy premiership.

Batyr Berdyev, Shikhmuradov's first deputy and a career diplomat by training, took over as minister.

While announcing the new appointments, Niyazov mentioned rumors of Berdyev's heavy drinking and association with women and warned the new Foreign Minister against any further misconduct.

The presidential decrees said Shikhmuradov was named as head of the Turkmen Institute for Sport and Tourism and ambassador-at-large reporting to the president.

Shikhmuradov, an urbane English speaker who is half Armenian, had been foreign minister since 1993. His removal is likely to be seen as a setback in the West, where Shikhmuradov has won praise for trying to broker peace between the Taliban militia and opposition in neighboring Afghanistan and for understanding Western frustration at Turkmenistan's policies.

The United States wants the former Soviet republic of five million people to export gas resources through a new pipeline to Turkey across the Caspian Sea.

But Niyazov remains cool to the proposal, leaving his country reliant on Russia as the main transport route for gas.

Foreign companies are wary of investing in Turkmenistan, where they say Niyazov's control over major economic and political decisions make the financial climate unstable.

The Central Asian state badly needs a new source of revenue, economic analysts say, to alleviate foreign debt arrears and widespread poverty. (RFE/RL, Reuters)

Turkmenistan Included In Amnesty International's "Concerns In Europe" List
July 26, 2000

International human rights group Amnesty International has published its "Concerns In Europe" list for January-June 2000.

Turkmenistan is among several other countries mentioned in the report.

Amnesty International points to numerous violations of human rights in Turkmenistan and to the persecution of political opponents of the President Niyazov's regime. Among them are prisoners of conscience Nurberdy Nurmamedov and his son Murad, as well as religious believers - Jehovah�s Witnesses Nuryagdy Gairov and Igor Nazarov, and Baptist believers Shageldy Atakov and his family. AI also mentions cases of deportation of religious believers and internal exile of Khodzha Akhmed Orazgylich. (Amnesty International)

Turkmen Women Extend Personality Cult To President's Mother
July 25, 2000

Turkmen women called today for President Saparmurat Niyazov's mother to be named a national heroine, a move extending the personality cult surrounding the Soviet-style leader to his parents.

The initiative to award Gurbansoltan Niyazov the title "National Mother and Heroine of Turkmenistan" was pushed by a Turkmen women's union during a conference on women and society shown today on state television.

The women's union said in their appeal that Gurbansoltan had become "a symbol of the independence, the neutrality of the Turkmen state and a guarantee of a happy life for Turkmen citizens."

"We, the happy representatives of the Saparmurat Turkmenbashi epoch [...], believe that Gurbansoltan should be designated the National Mother and Heroine of Turkmenistan and ask you to support our proposal," participants urged Niyazov.

The appeal follows the designation of Niyazov's father Atamurat as a "Hero of Turkmenistan" in May, when a state-owned newspaper printed numerous appeals from the public pledging their support for the move.

Niyazov, who was orphaned at the age of eight when his mother died in a 1948 Ashgabat earthquake and after his father's death during World War II, has been designated "Hero of Turkmenistan" three times. (AFP)

Baptist Prisoner Reportedly Holding Firm
July 25, 2000

Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is reportedly holding firm in Turkmenistan, according to information received indirectly by a Keston News Service representative who visited Ashgabat, Turkmenistan's capital, in mid-July. A Protestant source said that he had heard from an ex-convict recently released from the same labor camp that Atakov's overall situation had not worsened and that he had won the respect of other prisoners.

This report confirms information received earlier by the Friedensstimme mission in Germany in the wake of a labor camp visit by Atakov's wife Artygul on 30 May. It seems fears that Atakov would again face a term in the camp's punishment cell have not materialized.

Atakov is serving a sentence in a labor camp in Seydy, near Turkmenistan's north-eastern border with Uzbekistan, for his involvement in an unregistered Baptist congregation in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi. (Keston News Service)

Islamic Scholar Appeals For International Help
July 23, 2000

Muvlamy Abdurahman Kuraishi, an Islamic scholar of Turkmen origin living in Afghanistan, has appealed to the United Nations for help in bringing his family from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.

In 1981, during the Afghani civil war, Kuraishi fled Afghanistan and settled in Iran. In 1993, he and his family asked asylum in Turkmenistan and were allowed to settle in a town of Seidi among other seven hundred Iranian Turkmen refugees.

At the end of 1999, Kuraishi was taken away by the Turkmen authorities, blindfolded, and dropped off in Afghanistan near the Turkmen-Afghani border. All of his attempts to be reunited with his family in Turkmenistan have failed, and so did his attempts to bring his family to Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)

Ukrainian President Condemns Turkmen Gas Delivery Deal
July 27, 2000

Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma today criticized a proposed 315 million dollar deal renewing gas deliveries from Turkmenistan to Ukraine.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signed a protocol with Turkmen officials earlier this week. Under the new agreement, Ukraine would purchase 50 billion cubic meters of Turkmen natural gas a year for the next 10 years.

Kuchma told the press in Simferopol today that he "forbade the signing of any documents" in Ashgabat, noting that "such fundamental agreements should be signed at the presidential level, and Turkmen President Niyazov had proposed exactly the same."

"And yet, documents were signed there, which just left us in a strange situation," Kuchma said.

"This is natural deceit," the Ukrainian president stated. He pointed to the fact that a thousand cubic meters of Turkmen gas costs $42 at the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but taking into account the costs of transporting gas through Uzbek, Kazakh and Russian pipelines, the price for a thousand cubic meters of gas at the Ukrainian border will reach $90.

Furthermore, the price of gas could increase by another $15 in Ukraine itself, Kuchma noted. "You can calculate whether any enterprise could stand such a price for gas," the president said.

Russian newspaper Vedomosti mentioned unconfirmed reports today that Kuchma lashed out against the deal with Turkmenistan after a late-night telephone conversation with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Following Kuchma's comments, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko told the press in Kiev that the Deputy Prime Minister Tymoshenko only "initiated the document" on Turkmen gas deliveries to Ukraine, which does not imply that the agreement will immediately come into force.

In her turn, Tymoshenko said she "completely" agreed with the President that prices for natural gas imports from Turkmenistan could be lower.

Speaking today at a news conference in Kiev, Tymoshenko said she fully supported the idea of reviewing the prices at an upcoming meeting of the two presidents.

"If Ukraine is able to get the price down another $2 -3 per 1,000 cubic meters or even more, it will be a substantial victory," she said.

"That is something we must strive for," she said, adding that President Kuchma "is entirely correct" concerning the price.

Regardless of the price, the decision on whether to sign the deal rests with the president, the prime minister and the government, she said. Nonetheless, a 10-year deal on delivery of gas at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters would benefit Ukraine, she said. Moreover, the deal would generate over $1 billion in business for the Ukrainian firms supplying the goods and services under the contract.

Tymoshenko said the main goal of her trip to Ashgabat was to reach a settlement on Ukraine's debt for Turkmen gas and remove the obstacles to a resumption of deliveries. (RFE/RL, Interfax, Vedomosti)

Turkmenistan, Ukraine Sign New Gas Deal
July 26, 2000

Turkmenistan will renew exports of natural gas to Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov announced today after Tymoshenko's one-day visit in Ashgabat.

The deal to export 20,000 million cubic meters of gas this year was signed after the two sides worked out a plan for Ukraine to pay part of its 211 million dollar debt to Turkmenistan. The debt led to a suspension of gas exports last year. Ukraine will make monthly payments worth 5.4 million dollars to Turkmenistan, part in hard currency, part in goods, until 2002.

The new agreement for gas shipments to Ukraine envisions an increase to 50,000 annually by the year 2010.

Turkmen President said Ukraine will pay 42 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. Turkmenistan is also trying to agree to terms with Russia for exporting gas.

The deal will be finalized in an accord to be signed by the presidents of the two countries at a later date, Turkmen Foreign ministry said today.

In contrast to previous gas purchase contracts, the new protocol calls on Turkmenistan to transport the gas to its border with Uzbekistan, leaving it to Ukraine to organize and finance shipment of the gas through Uzbekistan and Russia to its own users, the Foreign ministry statement said.

Ukrainian embassy in Ashgabat has been quoted saying that members of the Ukrainian delegation remained behind after Tymoshenko left Turkmenistan early today to continue the talks. According to the embassy spokesman, the two sides still disagree on the terms of Turkmen gas exports to Ukraine.

Niyazov was quoted by the Neitralny Turkmenistan newspaper today as saying those issues, including the price for the gas, remained in dispute.

"The question of the price for the gas demands work, and should be decided in the interests of both sides," Niyazov told the newspaper.

"An important condition for Turkmenistan is the observation of obligations concerning the timely payment for goods," he added.

Ukraine has been trying to ensure it has enough gas supplies to see it through the autumn harvest season and the winter.

Kiev this month failed to conclude an agreement on the payment of its 1.4 billion dollars gas debt to Russia, on whom it depends for 50 to 80 billion cubic meters of gas for its domestic use each year. Gazprom officials are threatening to reroute their westward gas deliveries around Ukraine.

Turkmenistan, which has some of the world's largest gas reserves, lacks access to world markets to which it could sell its natural resource. (RFE/RL, AP)

No Agreement With Russian On More Gas Supplies Yet - Niyazov
July 26, 2000

"Russia has asked for the additional delivery of 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas, but we have failed to agree on the price so far," Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said last evening at the meeting with Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Under the December 1999 agreement between Turkmenistan and the Russian gas company Gazprom, the Turkmen side is to deliver 20 billion cubic meters of gas at $36 per 1,000 cubic meters this year with 40% of the payments made in hard currency and 60% returned in food and commodities.

Niyazov told the press that deliveries have progressed ahead of schedule and that 15 billion cubic meters of gas have already been pumped to Russia.

Niyazov expressed confidence that Turkmenistan and Russia will reach an agreement on gas prices and delivery of additional 10 billion cubic meters during his meetings with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in August-September. (Interfax)

Iran's Supreme Leader Promises to Defend Caspian Border
July 25, 2000

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni said during a visit to the country's Caspian Sea region today that Tehran does not have expansionist aspirations, but will defend all of its borders against foreign aggressors.

Khameni singled out the Caspian Sea coast as an area to be defended. His statement follows remarks made last month by reformist President Mohammad Khatami that Iran is ready to share the sea's resources equitably. (RFE/RL)

Turkmenistan To Discuss Caspian Status Only If Iran Is Included
July 24, 2000

Turkmenistan will not take part in discussions of Caspian Sea issues if Iran is not included in the talks, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov has said.

"We must simply forget about any possibility of maintaining discriminatory Caspian jurisdiction in relation to Iran based on the platform of former Soviet republics," Shikhmuradov said yesterday evening. Agreement and cooperation on the Caspian is only possible if the interests of all countries bordering the sea are taken into account, he said. According to Shikhmuradov, sides must use the Caspian on equal terms, including the size of national sectors.

Shikhmuradov said all of the proposals of Russian Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhny to sign an agreement on commercial shipping, use of biological resources, environmental protection, creation of a unified center for managing the Caspian, and keeping Iran in the zone of former Soviet-Iranian jurisdiction, all of this before settling the status of the sea, "were directly rejected in Ashgabat."

He also said Turkmenistan has proposed not to discuss the Caspian issue at the summit of CIS heads of states in Minsk. "The Caspian is too big an issue" to be discussed at such a general gathering, he said.

Shikhmuradov said Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has called for a special summit of the Caspian states in order to determine "the principle issues regarding the new fate of the sea and give corresponding guidelines to the experts to develop coordinated decisions." Without such a summit, any meeting of experts or an attempt to sign commercial agreements are doomed to fail, he said. (Interfax)

Iran's Interests In Determining Caspian's Status Should Be Considered - Kalyuzhny
July 28, 2000

Russian presidential envoy to the Caspian and Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny has said he is convinced that "it is important to not infringe on Teheran's interests" while solving the issue of the Caspian Sea's status.

"Nothing should be taken away from Iran, but nothing should probably be added either, at least not until this issue has been decided by the chiefs of the Caspian states," he said in an interview published in today's edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Kalyuzhny, who is going to Teheran for a working visit on July 31, called Iran's position on the Caspian's status the most complicated today. "The problem is that Iran did not have a resource base in the Caspian even during the Communist times and now it wants to have one and, naturally, has laid a claim on the 'equality' scheme," he said.

"If Turkmenistan agrees to share in a unilateral order with Iran, it is fully up to Ashgabat to decide, but this matter should be discussed at the session of the chiefs of the states, and the sooner the better," Kalyuzhny said.

Working groups are scheduled to meet in Moscow after Kalyuzhny visits Iran and Iran's position is cleared up, he said. "After that the Caspian's status will probably be offered up to the chiefs of the Caspian states for discussion," the envoy said. (Interfax)

BP Amoco To Push Azerbaijan-Turkey Gas Pipeline Project
July 25, 2000

BP Amoco does not see any serious problem with the project to transport gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia, president of Georgia International Oil Corporation (GIOC) Alexei Gotsiridze said following talks with BP Amoco officials in London last week.

BP Amoco, the operator of the Shah-Deniz project in Azerbaijan's Caspian sector, believes implementation of the $1.5 billion project could begin in the near future.

The sides also discussed construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. Despite disagreements among potential project participants, the project remains on the agenda, Gotsiridze said. (Interfax)

Lukoil, Yukos, Gazprom Form Caspian Oil Company
July 25, 2000

Russia's Lukoil, Yukos and Gazprom have created a new company to engage in exploration and development of oil fields in the northern portion of the Caspian.

The charter documents for the new Caspian Oil Company were signed today in Moscow by Lukoil First Vice President Ravil Maganov, Yukos EP head Yuri Beilin, and Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Valery Remizov.

Each of the founders will have a one-third interest in the new company.

Caspian Oil Company will be managed by a general director and a supervisory board. Alexander Porokhin, previously an official at Lukoil-Astrakhanmorneft, will serve a two-year term as general director. The three founding companies will each receive two seats on the supervisory board. Yukos EP Vice President Alexander Afanasenkov will chair the board.

The new company will be headquartered in Astrakhan.

The company plans to receive licenses to explore sections in the shallow-water portion of the northern Caspian. It has already drawn up a plan of action, including seismic surveying to commence before the end of the year.

"The united efforts of Russia's three leading companies will not only foster economic growth, it will help bolster Russia's position in the Caspian region," Lukoil's Maganov said.

The Caspian Oil Company has already received an invitation from Iran to study the shallow-water portion of Iran's Caspian shelf, Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Valery Remizov told reporters today. (Interfax)

Exploration Company Hits Oil On Kazakhstan's Caspian Shelf
July 24, 2000

The Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC) has made its first discovery of oil on Kazakhstan's shelf in the northeast Caspian Sea.

The announcement was made in London today by OKIOC General Manager Keith Dallard. He said the company is "encouraged" by the initial find in the Kashagan field.

Dallard said OKIOC hopes that continued exploration will yield more discoveries.

OKIOC is conducting an exploration program in the northeast Caspian Sea on behalf of a consortium of nine international shareholders. They are BG International, BP Amoco, subsidiaries of ENI group, ExxonMobil, Inpex, Phillips Petroleum, Shell, Statoil and TotalFinaElf. (RFE/RL)

China Pledges Security, Economic Cooperation With Central Asian States July 28, 2000

Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao says his country is ready to join Central Asian states in a fight against terrorism.

Hu made the statement in the Kazakh capital, Astana, after meeting Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev.

Leaders of Central Asian countries are increasingly concerned about the threat of violence and religious extremism spreading north from war-torn Afghanistan.

Chinese officials this week accused Afghanistan of training Moslem rebels fighting for a separate state in the restive Western Chinese province of Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan. China has cracked down on the Turkic-speaking Uighurs in Xinjiang province.

Following the meeting with Hu, Tokayev said that cooperation with China is "extremely important" to Kazakhstan and to the republic's security.

Tokayev also said the two sides agreed to activate the work of the joint Kazakh-Chinese committee for trade and economic cooperation.

As a result of negotiations, the Chinese government granted Kazakhstan free aid worth 10 million yuan ($1=8.1 yuan), while the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev reaffirmed political support for a project to export oil from West Kazakhstan to China.

With a length of about 3,000 kilometers, the oil pipeline's construction is estimated at $3-3.5 billion, and its guaranteed minimum passage capacity is to be 20 million tons of crude oil a year.

In 1997, Kazakhstan and China signed a package of oil agreements totaling $9.5 billion to give the Uzen oil field a new lease of life and lay oil pipelines from Kazakhstan to western China and towards Iran. In addition, CNPC has acquired 60% of the Aktobemunaigaz shares for $325 million and has pledged to invest $4 billion in the oil company's development over 20 years. (RFE/RL)

Uzbeks Battling Large Fire At Gas Reservoir
July 28, 2000

Emergency workers in Uzbekistan are battling a large fire at a gas reservoir in the southern town of Karshi.

Itar-Tass reports a storage tank holding several thousand tons of condensed gas exploded late yesterday. There were no details of casualties.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry says it is sending equipment to help contain the blaze following an urgent request by the Uzbek government. (RFE/RL)

Akayev Praises Kyrgyz Military Cooperation With Russia
July 28, 2000

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev today praised his country's military cooperation with Russia, saying it is "developing dynamically."

Akayev met today with Russian military and law enforcement officials to discuss security in Central Asia. He said a summit of signatories to the CIS Collective Security Treaty is scheduled to be held in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in October.

Yesterday, Akayev and the Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a 10-year economic treaty after talks in Moscow.

The treaty includes provisions for economic cooperation between the two countries. Correspondents say the treaty underlines a shared interest in Russian influence in Central Asia.

Akayev said he believes the signing of the treaty should considerably ease the problem of the departure of the Russian-speaking population from the republic. He named three basic factors causing the Russian-speaking population to leave Kyrgyzstan: the linguistic-cultural factor, the so-called feeling of discomfort, and the difficult socio-economic situation, which he considers to be the main reason why people leave.

"Today, the linguistic-cultural factor has been fully eliminated," the president said, pointing to the fact that the Russian language, along with the Kyrgyz language, is an official tongue in Kyrgyzstan. The feeling of discomfort has also been minimized recently, he said. As for the socioeconomic situation, the president has high hopes for the expansion of cooperation with Russia under the economic cooperation program.

The president gave the following figures: In 1989, 915,000 Russians lived in Kyrgyzstan. According to the latest information, there are now only 615,000 Russians left. "To our great regret, 300,000 people have left," he said.

Akayev and Putin also discussed ways to stop the spread of Islamic extremism and separatism and trafficking of illegal drugs, immigrants and weapons.

The Kyrgyz president praised cooperation with Russia, saying there is absolutely no reason to speak of any Russian expansion. "Russia has always been a guarantor of stability in Central Asia and the world," Akayev said.

Kyrgyzstan welcomes the deepening of relations between Russia and the People's Republic of China, Akayev also said, adding that such cooperation "has always been a reliable bulwark of peace and stability in our part of the world."

Speaking about the situation in Kyrgyzstan as a whole, Akayev emphasized that his country has always been and will remain an open democratic state. "We will continue to pursue the course of democracy," he stressed. Akayev said that there was some criticism from the OSCE in connection with certain violations that occurred during the last parliamentary elections and that "the Kyrgyz administration agrees with such criticism and is prepared to learn from its own mistakes." (RFE/RL)

UN Envoy Arrives In Afghanistan
July 27, 2000

The UN Secretary General's personal representative to Afghanistan arrived today in Kabul as part of his peace-seeking efforts.

Francesc Vendrell said he wanted to meet Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel during his one day visit.

The Taliban militia, which controls most of Afghanistan, is battling opponents in the northeastern provinces.

Vendrell, who is representing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said he planned also to meet the military commander of the opposition, Akhmad Shah Massod, in the opposition's stronghold in the Badakhshan region.

On July 28, Vendrell plans to travel to neighboring Tajikistan to meet with President Emomali Rakhmonov, and later will visit Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL)

OSCE Disturbed By Events In Kyrgyzstan
July 27, 2000

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it is worried at reports on the harassment of human rights activists in Kyrgyzstan.

In a statement issued in Vienna today, the OSCE chairwoman, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she was particularly disturbed about recent action against the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights. Last week the committee's offices in Bishkek were temporarily sealed by police who also issued a warrant for the arrest of the committee's director, Ramazan Dyryldayev.

At a press conference in Vienna earlier this week, Dyryldayev accused the Kyrgyz authorities of trying to silence his organization in the run-up to the October 29 presidential poll.

The OSCE Chairwoman said that as a member of the organization, Kyrgyzstan has committed itself to respect of human rights. She said Kyrgyzstan should adhere to the course of democratic reform, in particular with regard to the upcoming presidential elections. (RFE/RL)

Half Of Tajikistan's Population Faces Hunger
July 26, 2000

Two United Nations agencies say that an estimated three million people in Tajikistan are threatened with hunger and undernourishment due to drought and the socio-economic conditions there.

The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program issued a joint report today. The report said continuing economic problems combined with lack of grain, lack of rain, decaying irrigation systems and farm equipment could leave half of Tajikistan's population unable to meet their basic minimum nutrition requirements.

The two organizations estimate Tajikistan will need to import 787,000 tons of cereals to meet needs for 2000-2001. Commercial imports should supply 400,000 tons and food aid another 74,000 tons, leaving Tajikistan short of basic requirements by more than 300,000 tons.

High unemployment will also make it difficult for many to afford basic foods. (RFE/RL)

Taliban Increases Strength Of Broadcasts To Neighboring States
July 26, 2000

RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty say the strength of Taliban short wave radio broadcasts into neighboring Central Asia states appears to have been increased yesterday.

The Russian-language programs out of Kabul were clearly heard in Almaty last night for the first time since the Taliban started the broadcasts two months ago. The mostly religious programs advocate the Taliban's strict interpretation of Sharia law. The programs also can be heard in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and western China.

A publishing house at Herat, in southwestern Afghanistan, also is publishing pro-Taliban literature in six Central Asian languages. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have banned fundamentalist religious literature.

Leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States met in Moscow earlier this month for talks that focused on stopping the spread of religious fundamentalism. (RFE/RL)

Helsinki Federation Director Says Kyrgyz Authorities Are Confused
July 25, 2000

The executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Aaron Rhodes, says Kyrgyz authorities are making a mistake by targeting a human rights organization for an investigation.

On July 20, police in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek sealed off access to the offices of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights. Police put out a warrant for the arrest of the committee's director, Ramazan Dyryldayev, and detained his son.

Rhodes said in Vienna today there was no reason for sealing off the committee's building:

"These groups are not part of the political opposition. The independent media in Kyrgyzstan is not part of the political opposition. They're simply trying to do their jobs as professionals, analyzing the situation as it should be done in a democratic context."

Dyryldayev said at the press conference today in Vienna that police removed the seal they placed around the building. He said an employee who was trapped in the building was allowed to leave. Dyryldayev said the Kyrgyz authorities' move to close down the human rights organization is harassment and that they are trying to silence the committee before presidential elections later this year. (RFE/RL)

Prosecutor Demands 8 Year Prison Term For Kyrgyz Opposition Leader
July 25, 2000

The prosecution has demanded that Felix Kulov, one of the opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan, be sentenced to a prison term of eight years and deprived of his rank of lieutenant general in the police force, sources in law enforcement agencies told Interfax today.

Kulov is charged with abuse of authority during his service as a security minister.

The prosecutor's demand suggests that the authorities are doing their utmost not to allow Kulov, the leader of the Dignity party, to run for president in the October 29 elections, the party's governing body said today.

Kulov is being tried by a military court in closed sessions. (Interfax)

Three Drug Smugglers Killed On Tajik-Afghan border
July 24, 2000

Russian border guards say they killed three drug smugglers today who were trying to cross the Afghan-Tajik border into Tajikistan.

The guards' press service says more than 140 kilograms of heroin was confiscated.

It said the guards detected a group of five smugglers who had crossed the Pyandzh River, which forms the border, and tried to detain them. But the smugglers' accomplices on the Afghan side opened fire, and three of the infiltrators were killed in the firefight. Two fled back into Afghanistan.

Yesterday, the border guards said they killed an armed Afghan opium smuggler who illegally crossed into Tajikistan. (RFE/RL)

Turkmenistan: The New Hermit Kingdom
Summary The leader of a key former Soviet republic, Turkmenistan, has isolated his country from the international community more than the deserts of Central Asia. In addition to his adoption of the title "Turkmenbashi" - "Father of All Turkmen," President Saparmurat Niyazov has recently instituted a series of new laws on banking and education that will dramatically increase the seclusion of this state, important for its vast supplies of natural gas. Iran as a result, will gain in political and economic power in the region.


Turkmenistan has always been Central Asia's odd man out. This year, President Saparmurat Niyazov's cult of personality has only served to deepen Turkmenistan's isolation. It began on December 28, 1999 when Niyazov proclaimed himself president for life. Niyazov's cult of personality has become even more encompassing - and stifling - when both of his long-dead parents were made national heroes. Completing the isolation, on June 21 Turkmenistan began registering and monitoring all foreigners.

On the economic front, the president has moved to isolate his country of 5 million people as well. On June 21, Turkmen citizens were barred from holding foreign bank accounts, and the last Internet provider was forced to close on June 30. On June 20, Niyazov announced a new policy: all potential university students would be screened back three generations to filter out all but "the most worthy" applicants. Students previously approved to study in the United States have been barred from leaving Turkmenistan.

All told, these measures efficiently prevent most legitimate cross-border contact, discourage investment and torpedo economic development. Consequently, the West will not have much to do with such an introverted regime. Already, two Western firms interested in Turkmenistan's 4 trillion cubic meter natural gas deposits, General Electric and Bechtel, have withdrawn their participation from the U.S-backed trans-Caspian pipeline project; now only Royal Dutch Shell remains.

The question now becomes who else wants a take on the Turkmenbashi's Turkmenistan? One possibility is the old imperial master - Russia. Russia and Turkmenistan recently renewed a deal in which Turkmenistan will supply Russia with gas. But in the long run, Moscow is more interested in developing its own Arctic gas deposits than paying high prices for unpredictable supplies of Turkmen gas. Turkmenistan is cool on close relations as well. It is the only Central Asian state not participating in the Russia-led security structures in the region. Ashgabat has even refused to join the rest of the regional powers in opposing the Taliban.

Kazakhstan would like to use Turkmenistan as a transit state for oil and gas exports to either the Persian Gulf or Turkey. But both deals depend first upon the support of Tehran. Iran is Turkmenistan's natural associate, if not partner, for a number of reasons. Nearly all of Turkmenistan's population lies along its border with Iran. Even under sanctions, Iran can provide Turkmenistan with what few consumer goods the Turkmenbashi deems appropriate.

More importantly, Iran is the natural choice for export routes for Turkmen petroleum. Already one small pipeline, Korpedje-Kurt-Kui, brings Turkmen natural gas to Iranian markets. Larger potential projects include liquefying Turkmen gas for re-export via the Persian Gulf and a large pipeline to supply Turkey directly via Iran.

The price for this cooperation is clear - and seems one that Turkmenbashi is willing to pay. Turkmenistan is to side with Iran on Caspian issues. After all, the Caspian Sea holds one of the world's largest concentrations of petroleum deposits, yet a decade after the Soviet breakup, the legal status of the Caspian Sea is still unresolved.

On July 25, Turkmenistan's foreign minister, Boris Shikhmuradov, stated that Turkmenistan would never negotiate the status of the Caspian unless Iran takes part. Previously, Russia had attempted to band the former Soviet states together to defeat against Iran's claims to a greater share of the sea. Also, since Turkmenistan is still on speaking terms with the Taliban, Ashgabat has the potential to be a valuable contact for Tehran on Afghan issues.

Turkmenistan has efficiently severed its contacts to the outside world. What few links remain go to Russia and Iran, and only Iran seems to have any interest in or capability to establish more. It is Iran, therefore, that will have the most influence over this remote - but valuable - corner of Central Asia. ('s Global Intelligence Update)