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Turkmen Report: October 14, 2000


14 October 2000
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL NEWS
Niyazov : The Country Is Not Ripe Yet For Democracy
October 14, 2000

Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov once again repeated his view that the country is not ripe yet for democracy and multi-party system. In his concluding speech to the conference on Friday in Ashgabat which was held on the issue of the study of Turkmen cultural heritage, Niyazov defended his position that democracy and human rights cannot be achieved in a short period of time.

The Turkmen President, absolute ruler and notorious for not tolerating dissenting views and crushing the opposition by use of force and severely punishing its members in an atmosphere of intimidation said :" I'm ruling this country since 1985. I did n-o-t order to arrest anyone for his/her differing views. N-o-one has been arrested for political reasons. Let them tell me a single example. There isn't a single one. But in the West, they are talking of dozens of opponents. We do not forcefully impose any morale, view or ideology on our people."

Niyazov's moves against his opponents were carried out in secrecy. Today, Niyazov's political opponents are either in prison or were forced into exiled. The local media has been subjected to his total control. Currently it is serving as a tool for praising the personality and rule of Saparmurat Niyazov. Two prominent proponents of democracy, the co-founder of the Agzybirlik (Unity) Popular Movement Nurberdi Nurmamedov and former Parliamentarian Pirimguly Tangryguliev are currently serving long-term prison sentences. They were not pardoned in the general amnesty that was declared by Niyazov in January . Even though Niyazov denied that there are political prisoners in Turkmenistan he signaled that he would not allow to break his party's monopoly. Disapproving the idea of establishment of a multi-party system in Turkmenistan which he in his past speeches has attributed to anarchy, violence and bloodshed, Niyazov said :"If we allow all those people in disagreement with the government to create a party of their own, if we register their party, if we provide them with a tribune and a press,then it would mean that we are creating a party by applying artificial means. There's no need for setting up parties just to show-off or to pretent to be a democrat.", Niyazov said. According to him, for the establishment of a multi-party system, the society has to mature. ( RFE/RL )

Turkish President Will Arrive In Ashgabat
October 14, 2000

Turkish President Akhmet Necdet Sezer will arrive in Turkmenistan on October 17 for his first official visit to the country.

The Turkish leader is planned to have two rounds of talks with his Turkmen counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss bilateral as well as regional cooperation. The main subject on the agenda is a project for Turkmen gas supplies to Turkey, Turkmen Foreign Ministry officials told Itar-Tass on Saturday. The two-day visit will be of an "acquainting character," and no signing of any interstate documents is planned. According to the Turkmen Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Ties, Turkey is the second after Russia among Turkmenistan's foreign trade partners, judging by the results for the past nine months. However, Turkey is the first for the presence of its capital and entrepreneurship in the country in recent years.

There are 448 Turkish companies registered in Turkmenistan. They have assisted in the construction of 107 objects, the total cost of which is 1.4 billion U.S. dollars. Turkish businessmen actively participated in the formation of Turkmen light industry.

The Turkish president is planned to visit the Ashgabad textile enterprise, the biggest in Central Asia. (Itar-Tass)

Putin, Niyazov Conversation On The Caspian Sea
October 14, 2000

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation on the status of the Caspian Sea with his Turkmen counterpart Saparmurat Niyazov late on Friday, Turkmenistan's news service reported. The two leaders discussed preparations for the forthcoming Caspian summit, the news service said. The time and place of the summit will be defined later. Putin and Niyazov also outlined measures for implementation of earlier achieved agreements on settlement of mutual debts and discussed the possibility of Turkmen gas supplies to Russia, the report said. (Itar-Tass)

Turkmenistan Will Not Privatize The Oil And Gas Industry
October 13, 2000

Turkmenistan will not privatize the oil and gas industry at least for the next ten-fifteen years, President Saparmurat Niyazov told foreign scientists, members of the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Peoples of Turkmenistan, Central Asia and the East, on Friday.

The president expects the oil and gas industry to remain a key unit of economics and to bring funds for the social policy.

The current income per capita in Turkmenistan is 2,500-2,800 dollars, and the income will increase to 12,000-13,000 dollars by 2010, the president said. Up to 7 billion dollars have been invested in the social infrastructure over the independence years. The president said that the crime rate was on decline and noted that annual amnesties had contributed to that. About 70,000 convicts have been amnestied over the past three years.

The president noted a close connection between the socio-economic development and the spiritual needs of society, in particular the knowledge of the national history, traditions and culture. (Itar-Tass)

Russian Scholar Appointed Advisor To President Niyazov
October 10, 2000

An international scientific conference devoted to the Turkmen people's heritage has opened today in Ashgabat's Rukhyyet (Spirituality)

More than 130 scientists from 40 countries came to the Turkmen capital to attend the conference.

Addressing the conference in his speech delivered in Russian ,Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov has announced he has selected Vadim Masson, member of the Russian and Turkmen Academies of Natural Sciences, as his advisor on science and culture. By Niyazov's resolution, Masson also received the $5000 Makhtumkuli prize for his studies of ancient history of Turkmenistan. The Russian scholar, who last October received Turkmen citizenship, is known for his discovery of the bronze age city of Altyn Depe (third millennium BC)

Niyazov also announced the foundation of a research institute under the president for studying the cultural heritage of Turkmenistan and other countries of Central Asia and the Orient. This institute is expected to promote historical research in the republic and to assess the place and role of the Turkmen people in the system of modern civilization.

Masson will chair the international scholarly council of the institute and Annakurban Ashirov, head of the Turkmen Institute of Manuscripts, will be its director.

In his speech Niyazov also said that 55 million out of the 60-million-people population of Turkey are Turkmens and that Turkey and Turkmenistan are two states of the same nation. About neighboring Iran he said that even though Iranians speak a different language, they still are of the same origin.

Niyazov also announced that the President of Turkey will come to Ashgabat for official visit on October 17-18 and the Armenian President will visit Ashgabat in the end of October.

Also, on the instruction of Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Aleksiy II (of Moscow and all Russia), Archbishop of Ashgabat and Central Asia, Vladimir conferred the order of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Knyaz (Prince) Daniel of the first degree to Saparmyrad Turkmenbashy for his contribution to the development of spiritual culture and for his active peace-making efforts.

According to the Statistical Committee of CIS ( CIS newspaper on-line October 11,) the amount of scientists in research in 1999 in comparison with 1995 diminished by half. In the countries of CIS it diminished by 25%..

The conference will last until October 13.(RFE/RL, Interfax, Itar-Tass, BBC m.)

Turkmen Leader Calls For More Mosques To Be Built
October 7, 2000

[Presenter] Dear people, today is our national day of mourning. May Almighty God accept the sacrificial meals you are giving today in memory of those who perished on that terrible autumn day of [6th October] of 1948 as well as of your other relatives.

[passage omitted: despite the day of mourning, President Saparmyrad Niyazov held a meeting with the regional governors today to discuss slow progress in cotton harvest and grain sowing; Niyazov then laid wreathes at the memorial to the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake victims; a sacrifice meal was given then in Niyazov's home village of Gypjak, near Ashgabat]

[Niyazov's voice] Dear people, young and old, welcome to you. I am glad to see you here attending this sacrificial meal. Please take your seats. Fifty-two years ago a terrible earthquake shook Ashgabat and an immense number of innocent people fell victim to it and many were injured. The population of Ashgabat and Turkmenistan as a whole were faced with a tragic disaster. God bless the souls of the dead, and may those who survived enjoy a long life and happiness and a good family life.

[passage omitted: disasters are sent to test the people's spirit; break in reception; a new mosque to be built in Ashgabat soon; the chief mufti performs prayers; Niyazov says there are no exact figures for 1948 Ashgabat earthquake victims, now estimated at about 160,000; more research work on Turkmen history is needed]

[Niyazov] Governors of the Regions, it is compulsory to have a main mosque in the center of each Region. [Chief mufti] Nasrullah [Ibn Ibadullah] told me that the construction of such mosque was due to start in Dashoguz [northern Turkmenistan] soon. Ashgabat already has one and in a nearby area we will build another. We will order the builders who built the Rukhyyet palace [in Ashgabat]to build it. The new mosque will be given official status.

[passage omitted: Regional governors are responsible for building mosques]

People should not forget their religion, nor their language, for these are sacred things. If we want to be a nation, we have to preserve them. Religion and language are two things which unite our nation. If we offend against them then we can easily lose our national identity.

[passage omitted: memorials and prayers should be held at the main mosques; repeats mosques should be built in every regional center]

Turkmens were always free people, and their attitude to religion was also liberal. They pray to one God and perform their religious duties. It is good enough for them to pray to God and to be honest. However, God willing we will never mix religion with politics. Am I right, people? [voices shouting approval]

[passage omitted: repeats people must be honest; Turkmenistan is to bring in 1.3 million tons of raw cotton by 25th October; Niyazov cites figures for the first 10 months of the current year, as heard; the chief mufti performs prayer; foreign diplomats express their condolences to Niyazov over the earthquake]

[presenter] Similar sacrificial meals were given today all over Turkmenistan.

[Funereal music plays to end of program] (BBC Monitoring/ Turkmen Radio Channel 1).

Kuchma Invites Niyazov To Ukraine In May 2001
October 7, 2000

At the end of his working visit to Ashgabat on October 5, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma invited his Turkmen counterpart Saparmurad Niyazov to pay an official visit to Kiev in May of next year.

Kuchma told the press he had invited Niyazov "in order to continue the dialogue and map out concrete cooperation programs," noting that the Turkmen leader had accepted his invitation.

Kuchma said that during these upcoming talks the two sides plan to sign a five-year contract for Turkmenistan to ship gas to Ukraine, as well as a long-term cooperation program.(RFE/RL, Interfax)

ECONOMIC NEWS
Turkmenistan Ends September 2000 With Budget Surplus Of 0.02% Of GDP
October 10, 2000

Turkmenistan rounded out the first nine months of the year with a budget surplus of 3 billion manats, equivalent to 0.02% of GDP, the Turkmen government has announced.

Revenues were 4.1 trillion manats or 98% of what had been targeted. The oil and gas industry accounted for 38% and consumer goods for 13% of tax revenues.

Expenditures were 4.97 trillion manats (85% of the budgeted amount), 3.11 trillion manats (75.9%) of the total being used for wages, pensions and various welfare allowances, the Economics and Finance Ministry has told Interfax. GDP was 17 trillion manats at the end of September.

The official Tuesday exchange rate was 5,200 manats/$1. (Interfax)

Turkmen-Iran Gas Pipeline Acceptance Commission Set Up
October 10, 2000

Following completion of the construction of the Turkmenistan-Iran [Korpedzhe-Kord-Kuy] main gas pipeline and of an integrated gas treatment plant at the Korpedzhe deposit [in the west of the Turkmenistan], the president of Turkmenistan [Saparmyrad Niyazov] has signed a resolution approving the composition of the state commission for acceptance and operation of the pipeline.

The Turkmenneft state concern has been instructed to put the pipeline, the gas treatment plant at the Korpedzhe deposit and a measuring unit near Chaloyuk [on the Turkmen-Iranian border] on its books.(BBC Monitoring, Turkmen State News Service news agency)

Uzbekistan, Ukraine Object To New Trade Pact
October 10, 2000

The presidents of Uzbekistan and Ukraine dismissed on Thursday the formation of a new trade bloc by Russia and four other former Soviet states and predicted it would be of no more benefit than the moribund group it replaced.

Islam Karimov and Leonid Kuchma said the Eurasian Economic Union, founded at a meeting in Kazakhstan this week, amounted to a sly attempt to bypass other ex-Soviet republics within the 12-nation Commonwealth of Independent States.

"I believe this is an organization built on illusory projects," he told a news conference attended by both leaders.

"In practical terms, if the customs union resolved nothing, this new group will not resolve anything either."

The new union brings together Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan with the aim of harmonizing tax and customs laws and other administrative tasks. It replaces a post-Soviet customs union which had only a minimal impact on trade despite attempts at rejuvenation since its 1995 founding.

Karimov suggested the new union would even hurt the interests of the CIS, the group founded in the aftermath of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but often dismissed by some members as playing little useful purpose.

Both presidents said the new grouping would have no affect on another body grouping their two countries, plus Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. The group, known as GUUAM, decided last month to hold more frequent formal meetings.

As reported earlier, on October 4 Ukrainian and Turkmen Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Saparmurad Niyazov signed an agreement in Ashgabat on supplies to Ukraine of 35 billion cubic meters of gas in 2000-2001, with 5 billion cubic meters being supplied by the end of this year at the price of $38 per 1,000 cubic meters.

According to their agreement, 40% of the value of the gas will be paid for in convertible currency and 60% - with goods and investment projects.

Turkmenistan will supply Ukraine 30 billion cubic meters of gas in 2001 at a price of $40 per 1,000 cubic meters, to be paid for 50% in hard currency and 50% in goods and services.

Earlier Turkmenistan supplied gas to Ukraine at the price of $36 per 1,000 cubic meters on the Turkmen-Uzbek border. With transit charges included the price of the gas on the Russian-Ukrainian border fluctuated between $68 and $72 per 1,000 cubic meters. (Reuters , Interfax)

Putin And Nazarbayev Confirm United Position On Caspian Sea
October 10, 2000

Kazakh and Russian Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev and Vladimir Putin confirmed that they are united on their position regarding the legal status Caspian Sea at talks in Astana.

This was reflected in a bilateral declaration of cooperation between the two states in the Caspian Sea, which was prepared for signing.

The declaration states in particular that a draft Russian-Kazakh convention on the legal status of the sea will be proposed to other Caspian littoral states.

The draft will include compromises, taking the interests of all the participants in the negotiation process into consideration.

At the talks Nazarbayev noted the necessity of activating work on agreeing transportation tariffs and called for the "maximum use of joint transit potential," which is in the interest of both states.

In connection with this, the two presidents spoke in favor of further development of the Northern Corridor of the Trans-Asia railway and also of Kazakhstan joining the agreement on the North-South international transport corridor, in which India, Iran, Oman and Russia participate. (Interfax).

REGIONAL NEWS
Uzbekistan, Afghan Taliban Meet
October 14 , 2000

The Uzbek ambassador to Pakistan met today in Peshawar with his Taliban counterpart.

The Uzbek ambassador Shukhrat Kobilov said he and Mulla Abdul Salam Zaeef expressed satisfaction with the situation on their common borders. Kobilov said Uzbekistan believes the Taliban is not interfering in the internal affairs of other states.

In the past, Uzbek President Islam Karimov has accused the Taliban of supporting Islamic rebels plotting to overthrow his government. But earlier this week he said the Taliban's position must be taken into account to preserve peace in Central Asia.

Karimov's statement comes after Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan earlier this week signed security documents and blamed the Taliban for most of the unrest in Central Asia. (RFE/RL dpa)

Uzbek Leader Stresses Need To Deal With Taleban
October 13, 2000

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) - In a sharp break from its neighbors' United opposition to the Taliban, Uzbekistan is considering recognizing the radical Islamic government in Afghanistan - a move that would make it only the fourth country to do so. Uzbek President Islam Karimov, in another indication of his softening stance on Afghanistan's ruling militia has said the Taleban's position must be taken into account to preserve peace in Central Asia. President Islam Karimov said that the Taliban control 95 percent of Afghanistan's territory and are accepted by the country's people. Uzbekistan is willing to go along with their choice, Karimov said.

"Tashkent officialdom is ready to recognize any government in Afghanistan, even if it is the Taliban government," Karimov told Reporters on Thursday. "It doesn't matter whether we like that Government or not. The main criterion is whether the people of Afghanistan trust it."

Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates Recognize the Taliban government, which has imposed a rigid form of Islamic law.

Uzbekistan's fellow ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia are wary of the spread of militant Islam, and their armies have squared off against guerrillas reportedly supplied from Afghanistan. A Statement this week by the presidents of six former Soviet Republics in a collective security organization - including Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - described Afghanistan as a "center of international terrorism and drug-trafficking."

But Uzbekistan, which has also battled Islamic insurgents, has shunned the collective security pact. It apparently fears that the pact would restore Russia's Soviet-era clout in the region.

Although Karimov insists on strictly secular government in Uzbekistan and has repressed some fervently Islamic movements, his government has been in informal talks with Taliban representatives recently. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov has said that the sides had discussed "noninterference" in each other's affairs.

Meanwhile, a top security official in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan said Friday that the fighting in Afghanistan poses a major threat to his country - but that Kyrgyzstan may eventually recognize the Taliban government.

"The threat comes from Afghanistan, and it will exist as long as that country does not have peace," the head of the Kyrgyz Security Council, Bolot Dhzanuzakov, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency. But "if the people of Afghanistan says: This is our new government, we will recognize it," Dhanuzakov said. ( RFE/RL, AP, RTR, Itar-Tass)

Russia And Ex-Soviet States Sign Collective Security Agreement
October 11, 2000

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of five ex-Soviet states agreed a long-term mutual security plan Wednesday, bolstering the fight against Islamic fundamentalism in the volatile region.

Putin and the leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also issued a statement urging a special session of the UN Security Council devoted to the civil war in Afghanistan.

"We call on the international community to step up measures to regulate the situation in Afghanistan. Without peace in this country there will not be peace in nearby regions," the statement reads.

The presidents also called for an Islamic conference to be held by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in a bid to coordinate efforts to end the Afghan conflict.

The countries also held talks on closer military and political integration and the formation of regional armed forces, a Kyrgyz presidential spokesman said.

Russia in particular expressed its concerns about a possible spillover into ex-Soviet territories of the Afghan civil war.

"During the Bishkek meeting, we will objectively assess the situation in Afghanistan and will attempt to predict its development," said Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.

Afghanistan's ruling Islamist militia are suspected by Moscow of training rebels to fight against Russian forces in the separatist republic of Chechnya.

Ex-Soviet states share fears that the conflict in Afghanistan could spread into Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, which are considered the most volatile Central Asian nations.

Russia keeps 11,000 border guards in Tajikistan as well as the 201st Russian army division, which should act as a stabilizing factor and a deterrent to any possible Taliban attacks, Sergeyev told Interfax.

The security talks are taking place in Kyrgyzstan, which for the second year running has been the target of attack by Islamic rebels, allegedly trained in Afghanistan.

The insurgents apparently wish to carve out an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley, which straddles Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Attacks by the Muslim insurgents were also launched for the first time this summer on Uzbekistan, which pulled out of the Collective Security Agreement in February 1999 in a bid to assert its independence from Russia.

Uzbekistan has since accused Moscow of using publicity over the rebel assaults to force Tashkent into joining a regional security pact that would include Russia.

Uzbekistan is considered the main military power in the Central Asian region and a system of regional security would make little sense without its participation, observers say.(AFP)

The Creation Of Eurasian Economic Community
October 10, 2000

The CIS Customs Union today announced its transformation into the Eurasian Economic Community.

The leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and Belarus Held a summit meeting in Astana. In a declaration following their meeting, they said the new Eurasian Economic Community is testimony to their "unity of will" to "more decisively advance toward multi-faceted cooperation and real integration."

The leaders promised to establish economic security at their borders, combat smuggling, take a common position in dealing with international economic organizations, establish a common payment system and provide equal access of foreign investment for the members' markets.

The group says it now has international standing due to this transformation. However, it remains unclear how the renaming of the Customs Union affects the international status of the group.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, chairman of the Interstate Council of the Customs Union, will temporarily head the Eurasian Economic Community.

Nazarbayev is expected to occupy this position until the first session of the Eurasian Economic Community heads of state, slated to take place in Minsk on September 1, 2001. (RFE/RL, Interfax-Kazakhstan)

Putin Accuses Taliban Of Terrorism
October 9, 2000

Russian President Vladimir Putin today accused Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militias of terrorism and drug trafficking.

Putin, on a visit to Kazakhstan, made the comments as clashes between Taliban militias and opposition forces drew close to the Tajik border. The UN today said no Afghan refugees have fled to neighboring Tajikistan despite the fighting. However, a UN report said a large number of people are currently camped near The Afghan-Tajik border.

Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said they also discussed future cooperation in developing oil and natural gas in the Caspian region. They signed a declaration on cooperation in the Caspian Sea, where Kazakh officials said they recently discovered an offshore oil field which could contain 50,000 million barrels.

Tomorrow in the Kazakh capital, Putin and the presidents of four other Former Soviet republics -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Tajikistan -- will Sign an agreement for a customs union.(RFE/RL, AFP)

OSCE Confirms It Will Monitor Kyrgyz Presidential Election
October 9, 2000

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said today it will send observers to Kyrgyzstan's October 29 presidential elections.

A press release from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said more than 100 OSCE monitors will be in Kyrgyzstan on Election day. The OSCE already said it was concerned about the elections noting the process of candidate registration has unfairly limited the possibilities for full participation in elections. Incumbent President Askar Akayev is a favorite to win re-election.

Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary elections earlier this year were heavily criticized by the OSCE. (RFE/RL, Reuters)

Opposition Parties Reinstated For Azeri Election
October 8, 2000

Election officials in Azerbaijan say they will allow larger opposition parties to contest a November 5 parliamentary election following a request by President Aliyev.

The Central Election Commission had previously barred nine opposition parties from the poll, drawing sharp criticism from the West.

Among those banned were two of the biggest parties -- Musavat and the Azerbaijan Democratic Party -- disqualified on grounds that signatures on registration papers were forged.

Commission head, Mazakhir Panakhov, quoted by his spokesman, said today Aliyev's appeal could be met by the commission without any conditions.

He said the commission had ruled today that eight of nine suspended Parties could now join five already cleared for the poll. But he said irregularities in the papers of one minor party are too serious to be overlooked. (RFE/RL, Reuters)

RFE/RL ANALYSIS
Another Trouble Spot � Central Asia
By Prof.Dr. Nadir DEVLET

12 October 2000

Even the World attention is concentrated on Middle East, there is more serious developments in Central Asia. According to ITAR-TASS some 200,000 Afghan refugees are gathered on the border of Tajikistan because of ongoing fighting in northern Afghanistan. At the same time the fighting between Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Kyrgyz forces are continuing. In other words three countries namely Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are directly influenced from Afghanistan events. In Turkmenistan which has also a common border with Afghanistan had until today luckily no such causalities reported.

The secretary of the Tajik Security Council, Amirkul Azimov, said in Moscow on 29 September that a humanitarian catastrophe in the area is inevitable. The head of the Russian Security Council, Sergei Ivanov, responded with a plea to the United Nations to assess the situation around Afghanistan immediately and provide financial aid to accommodate the refugees in Tajikistan. The UN also called on the Taliban and its rivals to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians displaced by fighting in northeast Afghanistan as clashes continue in the area. Ministry for Emergency Situations official Yurii Brazhnikov told Interfax that his ministry has already sent one plane load of humanitarian aid to Dushanbe. He said also that a maximum of 150,000 Afghans will be allowed to enter Tajikistan. UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell met in Dushanbe on 6 October with Ahmed Shah Massoud, who commands the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance Forces.

At the same time USA and Russian Federation are having contacts on this and other issues. At the meeting in Washington on 29 September with Abdur Rahman Zahid, deputy foreign minister in the Taliban government, the Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering brought up Washington's standard complaints that the Taliban shelter bin Laden, violate the rights of women and girls, tolerate the production and trading of opium and refuse to share power with their opponents. On the other hand Pickering also had talks with a delegation from United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, formerly known as the Northern Alliance. Russia does not have official contacts with the Taliban movement but the Western media reported earlier that a high ranking emissary of the Taliban government has recently visited Ashgabat Turkmenistan and met with Russian official representatives there.

Certainly the ongoing fighting and infiltration of Islamic militants is directly challenging the Central Asian leadership. Insurgency and instability are two words increasingly associated with Central Asia. And once again in August fighting broke out in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Islamic insurgents operating from bases in Tajikistan staged several attacks into a remote mountainous region straddling Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The attacks are deepening concerns among Central Asian states that a concerted effort is underway to destabilize the region. When on 25 September U.S. Central Command Commander-in-Chief General Tommy Franks met in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister General Esen Topoev, said that Washington is concerned about the incursions and U.S. will continue to provide Bishkek with unspecified military hardware. According to Reuters and Interfax General Bolot Djanuzakov, who is secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, said in Bishkek on 9 October that a total of 30 Kyrgyz troops were killed during the fighting against militants from the banned IMU in August-September. He estimated the Islamists loose at 120 dead and 200 injured.

Another development in the region was when Uzbek President Islam Kerimov visited Bishkek on 27 September. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan signed an accord on military cooperation in response to what they say is an extremist and terrorist threat. In the scene except U.S., China and Russia also Turkey is trying to take a part, when on 18 September Sadettin Tantan, Interior Minister of Turkey visited Tashkent and promised to give security assistance to Uzbekistan. Such kind of aid was also given to Kyrgyzstan several months ago when Abdulhaluk Cay, Minister of State visited Bishkek. But there are concerns among oppositions groups in thesecountries. For example Muhammed Salih, the leader of Erk party, which is banned in Uzbekistan, told to the correspondent of Turkish "Akit" newspaper on 8 October that he has concerns about Turkey's aids to Kerimov regime. He said, "we are afraid that Kerimov is going to use the weapons given by Turkey against opposition". According to Salih even youngsters who attend to prayers in the mosques or persons who possess the Holy Book of Kuran in their homes were put into jail. There are some 80 thousand people in jail and half of them are political or religious prisoner. Therefor he asks from Turkish authorities to influence Kerimov for respecting human rights when they deal with him. In other words Muhammet Salih points that Karimov's regime does not make any distinction between radical forces that use Islam as their excuse and peaceful believers. And this is the danger, because even peaceful believers could start to sympathize with militant Islamist. In Kyrgyzstan among some intellectuals there is belief that the government are using such terror activities as a pretext to force their will on citizens. According to their argumentation the number of militants is too low and in reality they couldn't harm the security of the country seriously. But still nobody can be sure how the fighting in Afghanistan, refugees and insurgents altogethers are going to affect Central Asian states.

Agreement And Fragmentation
By Paul Goble, RFE/RL

October 11, 2000

Agreements this week between five former Soviet republics to create a Eurasian Economic Community and among six of them to a five-year regional Security arrangement highlight the continuing decline of the Commonwealth of Independent States as the preeminent organization of the 12 post-Soviet States.

And that development in turn simultaneously gives the Russian Federation Greater opportunities to expand its influence over these countries by playing One of them off against another, and provides yet another opening for those Countries which hope to expand their ties to countries beyond the borders of What was the Soviet Union?

The presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan on Tuesday signed an accord in Astana setting up a Eurasian Economic Community that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said would "Probably be like the European Union."

Constructed on the basis of a largely stillborn customs union among these Countries, the new organization is to work towards the establishment of common Customs, fiscal, monetary, and employment policies. To the extent it does, the New body will represent a realization of the goals of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has pushed for tighter integration among the Post-Soviet states.

Nazarbayev has long argued that the creation of a common economic space Would benefit all the parties by allowing for an expansion of trade among Them. And at the same time, he has suggested that each of them is more likely to cooperate with the others if all have to follow the same rules, arguments that Many non-Russian governments have accepted but that Moscow in the past has Viewed as restricting its freedom of action.

But commentators in several of the capitals of countries involved have Been extremely skeptical as to whether this new Eurasian Community can in fact be Any more effective than its predecessors. In addition, they have pointed out that three of the economies involved -- Belarus, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan -- are currently in such difficulty that broader cooperation may prove impossible.

And today (October 11), the presidents of this group of five plus Armenia are scheduled to meet in Bishkek to draw up a five-year regional security plan. These signatories of the CIS Collective Security Agreement are to discuss increasing their military and political integration up to and including the possible formation of regional armed forces.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev on Tuesday provided a clear indication on the specific direction the talks are likely to take. He said the five presidents would discuss Afghanistan and the best way to deter the Taliban from crossing the Tajik frontier, a border now guarded by the 201st Russian Motorized Division and 11,000 Russian and Tajik border guards.

But past efforts at cooperation among these countries have often fallen short of expectations, with one or another leader suggesting that calls for collective security often mask an effort by one or another state to project its power more broadly.

Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov in particular has made this point in recent weeks, arguing on a variety of occasions that Moscow is pumping up the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in order to force his country and its neighbors to again turn to the Russian Federation for security. Such a shift, Karimov has insisted, would do less to guarantee the security of the Central Asian states than that of Russia itself.

The record of cooperation among these countries in both the economic and security spheres does not inspire con The record of cooperation among these countries in both the economic and security spheres does not inspire confidence in any of the declarations issued in either Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan this week. Indeed, the remarks reported so far recall many earlier meetings whose declarative language seldom was implemented.

As a result, the more important dimension of these two meetings, one of five post-Soviet states and the other of six, is what they indicate about the future of the CIS now that Vladimir Putin is president of its largest and most important member. That body, which united 12 former Soviet republics and in which so many had placed so many hopes or fears, is made even less relevant by sessions which fail to attract even a majority of its members.

On the one hand, the declining importance of the CIS as an institution effectively frees Moscow's hands to play one of its members or one group of its members off against another in order to regain or expand Russian influence in this region. And on the other hand, this trend appears likely to lead some CIS states, including those in the GUUAM states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) to adopt an even more independent line.

These two trends could easily put some of these countries on a collision course, one likely to pose new foreign policy challenges not only for them but also for outside powers as well.

Change In CIS Customs Union Mostly In Name
By Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL

October 10, 2000

The CIS Customs Union changed its name today. The presidents of the group's five member nations -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus -- signed documents in the Kazakh capital Astana that turned their four-year-old union into the more imposing-sounding Eurasian Economic Community.

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev called the change "a major event.": "We have created a new international organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, and ratified a document on its creation. I consider this a major event."

Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka compared the new organization to the 15-nation European Union: "It's possibly something that looks similar to the European Union, which has functioned for a long time with all the same consequences."

Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to boost the new grouping as qualitatively different from its predecessor: "We are talking here about a qualitatively new instrument for decision-making, and we very much hope that the quality of these decisions will make the process viable."

The members of the Eurasian Economic Community pledged to form a common foreign-trade border, create a unified foreign economic policy and collectively regulate export-import tariffs and prices. Clearly, a major goal is to get all its member states into international trade organizations.

This would seem to be the task of Kyrgyzstan, the only nation in the community -- or in the CIS -- that is a member of the World Trade Organization, or WTO. The community's other member are undoubtedly hoping that Kyrgyzstan can use what influence it has to help all gain entry into the WTO.

The only important substantive change among the group's five members is that more weight has been given to Russia. In principle, the members of the CIS Customs Union had equal voices in the management of the group's affairs. But now, in making collective decisions, Russia will have four votes, Kazakhstan and Belarus two votes each, while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will have one vote.

When the CIS Customs Union was established in March 1996, there was vague talk about deepening economic and humanitarian ties among the four founding countries. The same promises were repeated when Tajikistan joined last year. But even simple problems such as unifying railway tariffs have seemed beyond the custom union's capacity.

Geographically, the new group qualifies as a Eurasian Economic Community, since some members are in Asia and others are all or partly in Europe. But so far there seems to be little to distinguish the new group from the old -- except its name.

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