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Turkmen Report: April 9, 2004

9 April 2004
Turkmenistan Celebrates Water Day
4 April 2004

Turkmenistan, 80 percent of which is desert, marked Water Day on 4 April, ITAR-TASS reported the same day.

"We must treat water as national wealth, cherish water and try to keep it pure," said a congratulatory message of President Saparmurat Niyazov.

The Karakum channel, built in the 1960s, brought water to Turkmenistan from the Amu Darya River, which irrigates Turkmenistan's central and southwestern areas. The channel is 1,000 kilometers long at present. The holiday celebrations centered on the channel banks and the irrigation facilities under construction -- the Druzhba dam and the Karakum reservoir.

Turkmenistan and Iran are building the dam on the border river. The dam will help to irrigate 20,000 hectares of land on each side of the border. The 132,000-cubic-meter reservoir will be built in the center of the Karakum desert in the future. It will help to irrigate the areas where grain and cotton are grown.

Turkmenistan has been celebrating Water Day on the first Sunday of April since 1995. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenistan Signs Antidrug Cooperation Agreement
1 April 2004

At an international donors conference in Berlin to raise money for Afghanistan's reconstruction, representatives of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan signed a regional cooperation agreement on 1 April to step up the fight against narcotics, dpa and AFP reported the same day.

The accord envisages tighter border controls and information exchange to help fight the cultivation, production, and trafficking of drugs. (dpa, AFP)

Bulgarian FM To Visit Five Central Asian Republics As OSCE Chairman
1 April 2004

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, who is also chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is due to visit Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan on 4-9 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 April, citing the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry press office.

Pasi is expected to meet the top officials of these five Central Asian republics. Discussion will focus on the further development of democratic processes in the region and the OSCE activity in expanding and boosting its relations with those countries. (ITAR-TASS)

Azerbaijan Ready To Acknowledge Only One-Third Of Debt To Turkmenistan
1 April 2004 The government of Azerbaijan is ready to acknowledge it owes Turkmenistan $18 million, Interfax and reported on 1 April, citing Azerbaijani Finance Minister Avaz Alekperov.

"We have held a number of consultations with the Turkmen side on the issue of foreign-debt settlement, including with the participation of representatives of the [International Monetary Fund], both in Baku and Ashgabat, yet, without result. On our part, we are ready to acknowledge a debt amounting to $18 million," he said.

In the Turkmen government's opinion, Azerbaijan owes it $56 million. The debt was incurred in the early 1990s as a result of Turkmen gas purchases. Alekperov pointed out that Turkmenistan did not take into account the partial payment for gas Azerbaijan made in goods. "We have all the documents in support of these facts," he said. (Interfax,

Niyazov Wants Greater Cooperation With NATO
30 March 2004

The Turkmen government is in favor of intensifying cooperation with NATO, Interfax reported on 30 March, citing sources in Turkmen defense agencies.

"From now on, we will begin close cooperation with NATO," President Niyazov said at the signing ceremony for a resolution on an individual partnership program for 2004-05 as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program.

According to the sources, the priorities of the cooperation program are personnel training, the upgrading of the armed forces, budget planning, and dealing with emergencies.

The sources said that participation in the program does not impose strict obligations on Turkmenistan but implies government guarantees fight terrorism, settle conflicts by peaceful means, observe human rights, and advance democracy.

Turkmenistan was the first CIS country in Central Asia to sign an agreement on participation in the Partnership for Peace program at the beginning of 1995. (Interfax)

Zarit To Sign Caspian Oil Agreement With Turkmenistan In June
29 March 2004

The Russian company Zarit plans to sign an agreement with Turkmenistan at the start of June for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea (Blocks 29, 30, and 31), Interfax reported on 29 March. Zarit, which was set up by Rosneft, Itera, and Zarubezhneft, is expected to start work on developing the three blocks immediately after the document is signed, a source in the Turkmen presidential press service said, referring to the results of a meeting held at the end of last week between Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and the heads of the companies behind Zarit.

Last week, Itera Director Igor Makarov, Zarubezhneft General Director Nikolai Tokarev, and Rosneft Vice President Aleksei Kuznetsov met with Niyazov to inform him about work on the agreement. (Interfax)