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Turkmen Report: January 21, 2004

21 January 2004
Russian Passport Holders Allowed To Leave Turkmenistan Without Exit Visas
Residents of Turkmenistan holding both Turkmen and Russian passports may now buy air tickets to Russia without showing a stamp giving them permission to leave the country, "Vremya novostei" reported on 16 January. The new rule went into effect the previous day. President Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree in April 2003, stipulating that holders of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship had two months to decide which passport they wanted to keep. Thereafter, holding both passports was technically illegal, but the Russian Embassy in Ashgabat reported that none of the approximately 100,000 persons with dual citizenship had turned in his Russian passport. Travel restrictions on Russian citizens in Turkmenistan have caused friction between the two countries, but they could also damage Turkmen trade with the United States if a waiver of the Jackson-Vanick requirements on free emigration is revoked. The U.S. authorities are expected to review the Turkmen waiver soon. (Vremya novostei)

OSCE Pressing For Democracy In Turkmenistan, Belarus
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 15 January said it is continuing to try to improve democracy in Turkmenistan and Belarus despite resistance by the governments of those countries, RFE/RL reported the same day. Speaking in Vienna, the OSCE's new chairman, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, said it is essential that these countries should not be isolated, despite their failures to respect some of the commitments to democracy they made when joining the OSCE. Regarding Belarus, Passy said there are continuing problems between the OSCE and its activities in Minsk and the Belarusian authorities. Passy said Turkmenistan frequently criticizes OSCE efforts to promote democracy in that country. (RFE/RL)

Turkmen President Proposes Oil Pipeline Across Iran
President Niyazov has proposed to Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who was visiting Ashgabat, to consider constructing a pipeline to transport Turkmen oil across Iran to the Persian Gulf for export, reported on 15 January. Kharrazi told journalists after his meeting with Niyazov that Iran would like to increase the amount of oil transited from Turkmenistan, and also would like to double its annual trade turnover with Turkmenistan to $1 billion. Niyazov also tried to interest Kharrazi in helping to develop Turkmenistan's petrochemical industry, particularly plastics production. (

Turkmenistan, Iran To Hold Consultations On Caspian Status
Turkmenistan and Iran will hold consultations with a view to bringing closer their positions on the Caspian status, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 January. The arrangement to this effect was reached when Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met the same day. The parties "stressed the importance of joint decision on this intricate question that requires a balanced approach and consideration for the interests of all the five Caspian countries," the press service of the Turkmen government reports. This is precisely "the purpose of the interstate consultations that should be continued to bring closer the positions and viewpoints on the future of the unique reservoir that is to serve as a most important factor of peace and cooperation in the region," says the report on the meeting in the presidential palace. Kharrazi told reporters, "The Caspian resources should be accessible on the basis of fair division." The Caspian status is presently based on the 1921 and 1940 Soviet-Iranian treaties that do not regulate the procedure of the use of mineral wealth. Kharrazi also said that any legal arrangement for the Caspian must be worked out on the basis of accord of all the five Caspian states. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenistan Spent $200 Million On Arms In 2003
Turkmenistan spent $200 million on purchases of arms and military hardware in 2003, President Niyazov announced on national TV on 12 January, Interfax reported the next day. "The state should have at its disposal the latest weaponry, aircraft and helicopters, and therefore we will give full support to the willingness of military leaders to enhance the combat potential of the armed forces," he said. Last year, Turkmenistan imported two Kolchuga passive target detection radars, one of which was demonstrated at a military parade in Ashgabat in October 2003. The delivery of Kalkan-M patrol boats began in May 2002. Ten Grif-T multi-purpose launchers are also expected to be delivered. All of them will be used in the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is also upgrading its air defense system and repairing aircraft in Georgia and Ukraine. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan inherited over 300 warplanes, including 24 MiG-29s, 46 Su-25s, and 172 MiG-23s, some 600 T-72 tanks, and 1,500 combat vehicles. The policy of strengthening the country's defense potential by acquiring new weapons will continue this year. About $80 million has been assigned for this purpose. (Interfax)