3 June 2002
Rights Group Says Central Asians Lack Basic Human Rights
31 May 2002
An international monitoring group says people across Central Asia still lack basic rights, AP reported on 31 May.
Aaron Rhodes, the executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), said the worsening human rights situation increases the threat of terrorism emerging in the region.
In its annual report released on 31 May, the IHF said numerous human rights defenders were unjustly detained, beaten, and tortured in Central Asian nations over the past year. It also reported that authoritarian governments continue to limit religious freedoms, while journalists have faced threats and censorship, especially in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The report said law enforcement officers are guilty of violence, torture, and ill treatment throughout the region, but those in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are the worst offenders.
The group said some 70 political prisoners have died as a result of police violence in Central Asian countries over the past two years. (AP)
Turkmen, Afghan, Pakistan Leaders Sign Pipeline Agreement
30 May 2002
The leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan on 30 May signed an agreement aimed at moving the three countries toward the construction of pipelines that would enable the export of Turkmen natural gas and oil, AFP and turkmenistan.ru reported.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Afghan interim government leader Hamid Karzai, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, meeting in Islamabad, agreed to launch a feasibility study on the construction and financing of proposed pipelines that would enable Turkmenistan to ship gas and oil to Pakistan via Afghanistan. The cost of the 1,460-kilometer pipeline is estimated at between $2 billion and $3.5 billion.
Preliminary talks in 1995-98 between the Turkmen government and two successive Western oil companies on building such a pipeline collapsed in 1998 after the Taliban took control of most of Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan, which possesses large reserves of natural gas, was anxiously looking for alternative routes to international markets. Ashgabat currently has only one major export route through Russia, but also exports small volumes of gas to neighboring Iran. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, AFP, Turkmenistan.ru)
Turkmen Opposition Seeks Niyazov's Resignation
30 May 2002
According to the leader of the opposition People's Democratic Movement, Boris Shikhmuradov, the Turkmen opposition will seek the resignation of the country's president and the conducting of nationwide elections under international monitoring, Interfax reported on 30 May.
The former deputy prime minister and foreign minister said in an interview with Russia's "Novaya gazeta" newspaper that "Niyazov does not have any legitimate grounds for keeping his presidential post," and "he should exercise his political wisdom and resign." "We have embarked on the path of struggle and will seek nationwide elections. I am not interested in power. The top priority is to hold fair elections under international monitoring. We plan to hold them in 18 months after the president's resignation," Shikhmuradov said.
Shikhmuradov said he will work with everyone who is against the current Turkmen regime. "We are working with Avdy Kuliev, a veteran of the opposition struggle," he said. (Interfax)
Ashgabat Roundtable Devoted To Introduction Of Modern Technologies In Oil And Gas Complex
30 May 2002
The three-day roundtable "Oil and Gas: Opportunities for Business Cooperation in the Field of Modern Technologies, Equipment, and Services" wrapped up in Ashgabat on 30 May, turkmenistan.ru reported the same day. During the last day of the forum participants continued discussing perspectives and opportunities of cooperation in the energy sphere in Turkmenistan.
European and Asian oil and gas industry representatives, heads of national energy corporations, and Turkmen firms negotiated with the guests of the forum for determining the criteria and parameters of durable partnership.
About 200 representatives of 100 foreign companies from 22 countries, as well as from state and financial institutions in Germany, Great Britain, the United States, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Iran, and other states participated in the forum. Among the foreign visitors there were many partners of oil and gas enterprises of Turkmenistan. Representatives of the Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources, as well as state-owned companies Turkmenoil, Turkmengas, Turkmenoilandgasstroy, Turkmengeology, and Turkmenneftegas State Trading Corporation also took part in the forum. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Niyazov Seeks UN Support For Trans-Afghan Pipeline Project
29 May 2002
The UN could act as a political co-sponsor in implementing the trans-Afghan gas pipeline, Turkmen President Niyazov told the Pakistan Press Network news agency on the eve of his departure to Islamabad, where he participated in a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, turkmenistan.ru reported on 29 May.
According to Niyazov, the trans-Afghan pipeline is beneficial not only for Turkmenistan, "which will get additional access to vast international markets"; Afghanistan, "via the territory of which it will run and quite naturally promote the development of the economic and social infrastructures"; and Pakistan, "whose economy needs fuel." The Turkmen leader sees the project as "beneficial for customers on the international market who are seeking ways of securing for themselves alternative sources of energy raw materials for the future."
Due to the fact that "the pipeline is capable of promoting the genuine socioeconomic revival of Afghanistan," the Turkmen president believes that "the UN could act as a political co-sponsor of the project by using its international authority to provide worldwide support for the project's implementation."
"The goals pursued by the pipeline construction meet the goals of the UN, first of all from the point of view of the social revival of the countries in the region, the creation of new jobs and combating poverty, or in short, what is today called the human dimension," Niyazov pointed out, adding: "Huge resources are currently being channeled to resolving these issues, and dozens of international bodies and special UN agencies are working on them. The construction of the gas pipeline will inevitably find a more efficient resolution for these tasks." (Turkmenistan.ru)
Ukraine Owes Turkmenistan $46 Million For 2002 Gas Supplies
27 May 2002
Ukraine owes Turkmenistan $46 million for gas supplied this year, Niyazov said in a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 27 May, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported the same day. The Turkmen presidential press service said Niyazov expressed concern over low investment project implementation rates shown by Ukrainian contractors working in Turkmenistan in payment for gas supplies.
To settle gas debts Ukraine is building a drainage and communication tunnel in Ashgabat, a railway bridge across the Amu Darya River, and compressors on a trunk gas pipeline.
Kuchma responded by saying that he would do his best to speed up the work in investment projects and to have Ukraine's $46 million debt repaid to Turkmenistan.
The presidents discussed bilateral relations, in particular, the realization of agreements signed during Kuchma's recent visit to Turkmenistan.
The oil and gas company Neftegaz Ukrainy this year plans to import 40 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas at $42 per 1,000 cubic meters. By the end of the fourth month 12.5 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas had been supplied to the Ukrainian market. Under a bilateral agreement Ukraine is to pay for half of the gas to be imported with hard currency, the other half will be paid with investments in construction projects in Turkmenistan. (ITAR-TASS, Interfax)
Central Asia May Expect Good Grain Harvest
27 May 2002
In 2002 Central Asia may be looking forward to a good grain harvest, uzreport.com reported on 27 May, citing the Russian "Krestyanskie vedomosti" newspaper.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, after three years of drought, the former Soviet republics in the region may now have an opportunity not only to receive enough wheat, but also to increase their water reserves in reservoirs, due to the large amount of precipitation in the region since November 2001. According to estimates, this year Uzbekistan could harvest 3.6 million tons of wheat, Kyrgyzstan 1.3 million tons, Turkmenistan 1.2 million tons, and Tajikistan 300,000 tons.
Last year the figures were respectively 3.4 million in Uzbekistan, 1.25 million in Kyrgyzstan, 1.2 million in Turkmenistan, and 200,000 tons in Tajikistan.
Wheat amounts to 90 percent of all grain sown in Central Asia. ("Krestyanskie vedomosti," Uzreport.com)
Turkmen, Afghan, Pakistani Leaders Seek Revival Of Pipeline Project
30 May 2002
By Bruce Pannier
The leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan gathered in Islamabad today where they agreed to consider reviving an old plan for constructing a natural-gas pipeline through their three countries.
The project potentially offers huge profits for all concerned and has only been neglected because of the previously unstable situation in Afghanistan, through which the pipeline must pass.
The will to see the project through is strong, but the amount of money required to fund it is not small: $2 billion to $3.5 billion for the gas pipeline alone. And the company that was initially selected to take charge of the project, America's Unocal, has shown no interest in participating this time.
The host of today's meeting, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, discussed with Afghan interim government leader Hamid Karzai and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov the possibilities of reviving the gas-pipeline project and building an oil pipeline.
The gas project would require construction of a 1,460-kilometer pipeline stretching from Turkmenistan's western Dauletabad field to the Pakistani city of Multan. The proposed oil pipeline would run from Turkmenistan to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea coast.
Niyazov, the only leader of the three in power when the gas pipeline was first proposed, reminded reporters today that the plan is not new. "The project was basically started five years ago, when the American company Unocal, with several other companies, examined the route and the sources of gas in Turkmenistan and the final destination point in Pakistan and made a technical and economic assessment of the project," Niyazov said.
The three agreed to a feasibility study to seek financing for the project.
The potential gain for all three is undeniable. Turkmenistan has long wanted to export its hydrocarbon resources but is hampered by a lack of export routes. Afghanistan, as the transit country, would profit from the pipeline traveling through its territory. Pakistan would gain an additional source of energy and could also possibly export any surplus to East Asia.
Musharraf spoke about that at the press conference today, saying the pipeline could bring Central Asia's hydrocarbon resources to the Far East, Japan, and the West.
Turkmenistan reportedly could ship about 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, which could later be increased to 20 billion to 30 billion cubic meters. The country generally asks for $40-$42 per 1,000 cubic meters of its gas, and prevailing world prices are higher.
If past experience is any example, selecting who would head efforts to construct the project may be more difficult than agreeing on the need for the pipeline.
The first company to propose the idea was Argentina's Bridas. Niyazov later had second thoughts about Bridas and signed deals with Unocal and a Saudi Arabian company, Delta. A bitter battle erupted in international court between the two, with Unocal emerging victorious.
It was a short-lived victory. Following the U.S. cruise-missile attack on terrorist camps in Afghanistan in 1998, Unocal announced it was pulling out of the deal. The chaos in Afghanistan since 1998 effectively ended any hope of realizing the project.
With at least a semblance of stability present in Afghanistan and hopes for an improvement in the political situation, the project appears to be back on track. While Unocal is out of the running, Bridas and Russia's Gazprom and Itera are said to be interested. (RFE/RL)