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Turkmen Report: August 18, 2003

18 August 2003
NATO Seeks To Step Up Partnership With Turkmenistan
16 August 2003

A representative of NATO's Military Committee said the alliance is seeking to step up partnership with Turkmenistan as part of the Partnership for Peace program, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 August. The NATO Military Committee official arrived in Turkmenistan on 16 August to take part in military maneuvers on the Caspian Sea coast.

The political goal of the visit is to discuss bilateral interaction, the official said, adding that he wants Turkmen leaders to comment on the situation in Afghanistan and in the whole region. In his view, there are no obstacles to prevent NATO and Turkmenistan from continuing further cooperation. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenistan Holds Military Exercises On Caspian Coast
16 August 2003

Turkmenistan on 16 August held major military exercises on its Caspian coast, where air-force and army troops practiced repelling terrorist attacks, AFP and AP reported the same day.

The exercises involving 2,500 servicemen were reported to be the largest since the country gained independence more than a decade ago. NATO, Russian, and Iranian military observers were present.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, also present at the exercises, said Turkmenistan does not intend to participate in any actual military operations, citing its policy of neutrality. But he said the exercises show that the country is prepared to defend itself against the threat of terrorism. (AFP, AP)

Turkmen People's Council Becomes Highest Legislative Body
15 August 2003

President Niyazov has declared that the Halk Maslakhaty (People's Council) is the country's highest legislative body, displacing the parliament, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. Niyazov on 15 August told a meeting of the People's Council in Turkmenbashi City that from now on, the body would decide the fate of Turkmenistan and solve issues of security and statehood.

The 2,500-member People's Council's members are a combination of appointed and elected officials and tribal elders. The 50-member Turkmen parliament, the National Assembly, remains, but its powers will be reduced.

Also on 15 August, members of the People's Council called for giving Niyazov the title of field marshal of the armed forces and creating an institute devoted to studying Niyazov and his spiritual guidebook "Rukhnama." The first secretary of the political council for the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, Onzhuk Musaev, delivered high praise for Niyazov: "Dear people, let us always say 'Great Allah' and let us always says 'the Eternal, Great Turkmenbashi.' I beg you people, say 'Great Allah' and let's say 'Eternal, Great Turkmenbashi.'"

Niyazov signed a proposal from the People's Council giving the people of Turkmenistan electricity, gas, water, and table salt free until 2020. All are currently rationed and often unavailable. (ITAR-TASS, AP)

Niyazov Suggests Presidential Elections
14 August 2003

President Niyazov, who was once declared president for life by parliament, said the country could hold presidential elections in the coming years, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, ITAR-TASS, and AP reported.

Niyazov on 14 August told a meeting of the People's Council that he wanted the assembly to discuss in 2005 and 2006 holding a presidential election in 2006 or 2007. "We will also hold presidential elections. In 2005-06, this issue will be discussed in the People's Council. Nothing is forever. A president also has to be changed," Niyazov said.

The parliament on 14 August passed a law stipulating that Turkmenistan's president must be between 40 and 70 years of age. Niyazov is now 63. Niyazov, who has led Turkmenistan since 1985, was declared president for life by the parliament In 1999. But in 2001 Niyazov rejected the idea. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, ITAR-TASS, AP)

Larissa Shikhmuradova Concerned About Brother's Health
13 August 2003

The sister of prominent Turkmen opposition figure Boris Shikhmuradov, Larissa Shikhmuradova, is deeply concerned about the people jailed on charges of attempting to assassinate Niyazov, Interfax reported on 13 August.

"To my knowledge, everyone arrested on charges of making an attempt on Niyazov's life is in critical condition. This includes my two unlawfully sentenced brothers Boris and Konstantin Shikhmuradov," says a statement from Larissa Shikhmuradova issued in Moscow on 13 August. "I badly fear that their lives are in danger. Their health is deteriorating with every passing day. They are not getting any medical assistance," the statement says. (Interfax)

Turkmen Embassy In Moscow Denies Opposition Leader's Charges
11 August 2003

The Turkmen Embassy in Moscow has denied as "absurd and absolutely lacking in logic" assertions by exiled Turkmen opposition leader Avdy Kuliev and his wife that Turkmen security services were involved in the beatings Kuliev suffered in the Moscow suburb of Khimki on 6 August, reported on 11 August, citing Interfax.

Kuliev, a former Turkmen foreign minister, has lived in Khimki for almost 10 years. An unidentified source at the Turkmen Embassy was quoted as pointing out that Kuliev did not report the assaults to the local police. The source suggested that another faction of the divided Turkmen opposition in exile might have carried out the attacks or that Kuliev might have been injured in a domestic accident. He added that Kuliev was taking advantage of the incident to draw attention to himself. (, Interfax)

Turkmenistan May Face U.S. Trade Sanctions Over Emigration Curbs
9 August 2003

U.S. President George W. Bush has informed Congress that Turkmenistan no longer observes international rules as concerns the freedom of emigration, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August.

In his letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Bush said that Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan are complying with those rules. That is why his request in January to suspend for another year the Jackson-Vanick Amendment remains in force.

However, Turkmenistan is an exception, Bush said. Passed at the climax of the Cold War in 1974, the amendment imposes restrictions on U.S. trade with nonmarket economies. Aimed at the former Soviet Union, the amendment continued to be applied to the newly created independent states. (ITAR-TASS)