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Turkmen Report: November 12, 2002

12 November 2002
Germany Funds UN Project To Prevent Spread Of HIV In Central Asia

10 November 2002

In 2002, the German government allocated $204,000 for the project "Treatment of HIV-positive people and drug addicts," which is being carried out in the Central Asian countries by the UN Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP) program, reported on 10 November, citing Asia-Plus.

The German Embassy told Asia-Plus that the aim of the project was to prevent the spread of HIV in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan and to create more favorable conditions for treating drug addicts in special centers. The money will also be used to organize seminars to train and exchange experience on the regional and national levels. This will help with rehabilitating and treating drug addicts. The embassy said the German government would continue its involvement in carrying out the UN project next year. (Asia-Plus)

Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan Discuss Water Supply, Oil, Gas

9 November 2002

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan held talks on 6-8 November to discuss a water-supply system, oil and gas dealings, railway transport, and the mutual financial commitments of Turkmen and Uzbek firms, Interfax reported on 9 November.

Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Rejep Saparov and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Yunusov led their countries' delegations to the talks, held in Ashgabat.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry told Interfax the talks had been held in a constructive and businesslike atmosphere and that the delegations had expressed readiness to tackle all problems on the basis of equality, good-neighborliness, and mutual respect, and in the spirit of "traditional friendly relations" between the two countries. (Interfax)

Turkmenistan Extends License For Petronas In Caspian

6 November 2002

Malaysia's Petronas Charigali has extended its license to explore and produce hydrocarbons in Block-1 in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian Sea for three years until 8 November 2005, Interfax reported on 6 November, citing a company source.

Petronas Charigali is developing Caspian fields under a production-sharing agreement signed with the Turkmen government in 1996. The company drilled the first three exploration wells in 1998-2000 in the Barintsov, Gubkin, and Livanov fields that are part of the Block-1 contract zone. If Petronas confirms commercial reserves in the block, the wells will be used as production wells.

A fourth well drilled at Magtymguly-2A (Eastern Livanov) produced flows of 1,937 tons of oil and 539,000 cubic meters of gas a day. (Interfax)

Moscow Conference Dedicated To Human Rights And Security Problems In Turkmenistan

4 November 2002

A conference organized by International Helsinki Federation together with the Memorial human rights center and supported by the Soros Foundation was held in Moscow on 3-4 November, RFE/RL reported on 4 November. Representatives of the Turkmen opposition living both in exile and in Turkmenistan, representatives of international human rights organizations, political scientists, and journalists participated in the conference dedicated to human rights and security problems in Turkmenistan. The leader of Provisional Executive Council of the People's Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan, Boris Shikhmuradov, did not attend the conference. The strategy of improving the human rights situation in Turkmenistan by means of international organizations was the main topic of the conference discussions.

Currently Turkmenistan does not have any officially registered human rights organizations, but according to one of the conference participants, a human rights society was established in Ashgabat on 5 August of this year. Conference participants discussed the possibility of members of the Turkmen opposition returning home, voiced the necessity of creating a Turkmen opposition coordination center in Moscow, and suggested holding a roundtable with Turkmen opposition groups in Sweden in the second half of November.

An address to the people of Turkmenistan made on behalf of the united Turkmen opposition spoke of the readiness to conduct negotiations with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and beginning actions to facilitate the opposition's return to the country. Members of the opposition declared their commitment to a peaceful solution of the problem.

At the end of the two-day conference, Helsinki Federation Executive Director Aaron Rhodes declared the decision to establish the Turkmen Helsinki group in exile. A proposal on creating such a group was voiced during the Vienna conference held in July of this year. Chairman of the Russian community in Turkmenistan Anatolii Fomin was announced the leader of the Provisional Coordination Council of the Turkmen Helsinki Group. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)

Turkmen President Angry Over Poor Cotton Harvest

4 November 2002

Saparmurat Niyazov has expressed his extreme disappointment with this year's cotton harvest at a meeting of cabinet ministers, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported.

Niyazov told the cabinet session late on 4 November that the 500,000 tons of cotton gathered this year was "a clear disaster for the cotton [-gathering] campaign." Niyazov said the effort and bank credit that went to this year's cotton harvest were "wasted." The target figure for this year's cotton harvest was 2 million tons. Niyazov blamed local administrative heads and the Agricultural Ministry for the failure as well as the lack of "real farmers" who could work without needing "directions from the top."

Turkmenistan had been reporting record cotton harvests for the last few years, though the government's figures were never verified independently. (ITAR-TASS, Interfax)

Cotton Harvest Low Due To Drought

4 November 2002

So far about 500,000 tons of cotton have been gathered in the country, which amounts to just a quarter of the set government target, reported on 4 November.

There was no rainfall in September and October in Turkmenistan. This enabled cotton farmers to partly make up for the loss caused by the poor climate this year. But the November rains have started and are a reminder that the campaign is coming to an end even though in a number of districts the cotton-harvesting campaign is continuing despite the rain. According to an official report, there will be no radical change in the situation. (

Turkmen President, Russian Diplomat Discuss Cooperation

4 November 2002

President Niyazov received Russian temporary charge d'affaires Andrei Molochkov on 4 November to discuss bilateral cooperation, Interfax reported the same day, citing a representative of the Turkmen president's staff. "The president of Turkmenistan focused on oil and gas cooperation with Russia," the representative said.

The meeting at Ashgabat Palace lasted for more than 1 1/2 hours. The Russian-Turkmen Economic Cooperation Commission held its first session in Ashgabat in the middle of September, the official said. "It was announced back then that Russia would buy 10 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas a year starting from 2005, and the amount would be enlarged to 20 billion starting from 2008," he said.

In addition, Russian companies Rosneft, Zarubezhneft, and Itera have set up a joint venture to prospect and develop several fields on the Turkmen Caspian shelf, he said. (Interfax)

Russian, Central Asian Gas Alliance Could Serve Europe

5 November 2002

By Michael Lelyveld

Officials say a gas alliance of Russia and Central Asian nations could supply Europe with a new pipeline through Ukraine.

Platts Global Energy news service reports that the cooperation of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan comes nearly two years after President Vladimir Putin proposed the idea of a gas counterpart to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Last month, Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said Moscow plans to sign a gas-alliance agreement with the three Central Asian nations by the end of this year. The statement at a 23 October meeting of CIS energy ministers is the firmest indication yet that Putin's initiative will be implemented in some form.

The impact of the alliance remains open to question since it is highly unlikely to turn into the kind of powerful group that could influence the world price of gas, as OPEC does for oil. Russia already effectively controls nearly all the gas exported from Central Asia, because the former Soviet pipeline system runs through its territory.

The difference is that an alliance could aid in allocation of the region's resources, since gas from producers like Turkmenistan has been barred from reaching Europe since Soviet times. Decrepit pipelines, limited capacity, and Russia's monopoly over export outlets have made an alliance seem pointless, until now.

But Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom is rapidly running out of cheap resources on its own territory to exploit. Last week, at an industry forum in Moscow, a Gazprom official warned that the company's mainstay Siberian fields are fading fast. Even the new Zapolyarnoe field, which opened last year and reversed Gazprom's output declines, will reach peak production in 2006, said Vladimir Vovk, head of the company's offshore development.

Gazprom plans substantial investment in new Arctic fields to help fulfill Russia's plan of doubling energy exports to Europe by 2020. But in the meantime, Central Asia may represent a ready supply of fuel. If Russia cannot meet the needs for exports and its own domestic demands, it can at least hope to manage the rapidly growing gas output of countries like Kazakhstan. For the Central Asian nations, cooperation may mean a chance to gain access to the European market for the first time.

Russian companies have already formed joint ventures with all three of the Central Asian producers to develop either oil or gas. But the biggest limitation for exports is the deteriorating state of the Central Asia-Center pipeline system that carries gas to the West.

Last January, Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov estimated that the network's capacity had dropped from 100 billion cubic meters to between 70 billion and 75 billion per year. But analysts have put the real figure at 40 billion to 50 billion, which is less than Niyazov claimed that Turkmenistan would export this year.

Kazakhstan has started work on restoring the capacity. State-owned KazTransGaz spent $150 million in 2001 and plans to spend $95 million this year on modernizing the lines, Interfax reported.

But last week at a conference in Kyiv, Ukraine advanced a plan to increase the capacity further with a new pipeline. Yuriy Boyko, chairman of the state-owned petroleum company Naftohaz Ukrayiny, said the line would run along an existing route from the Kazakhstan border with Russia at Aleksandrov Gai to Novopskov in the north of Lugansk Oblast in Ukraine.

Boyko said: "With 28 billion cubic meters capacity, this gas pipeline could serve as a link in the system transporting gas from Central Asia to Europe. It could be built and operated on a multilateral basis, which would ensure independent and, therefore, secure deliveries of natural gas to Europe." The distance is some 800 kilometers. Boyko gave no estimate of the cost or sources of funding.

Ukraine's plan is to re-export Turkmen gas to Europe. But the entire alliance depends on agreements that have yet to be reached.

Although Russia announced a 15-year gas pact with Turkmenistan in September, the term does not begin until 2005, and the two countries have yet to agree on the price for the gas. Turkmenistan's existing exports to Ukraine may take up most of the pipeline capacity until then.

Last week, Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrayiny signed incorporation papers for a consortium to manage Ukraine's pipelines following an agreement between Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma last June. But Ukraine continues to insist that it will keep control of its transit lines to Europe, posing a sticking point for implementation of the deal.

Russia has apparently not given up on the idea of bypassing Ukraine with new pipelines if Ukraine proves uncooperative. Last week in Moscow, Gazprom chief executive Aleksei Miller met with the head of Gasunie of the Netherlands to discuss building a North European Gas Pipeline project to Europe through Finland across the Baltic Sea, RBC News said.

All the interests of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, and Europe could come together in a gas alliance if all of the problems are solved. But the sweeping plans are likely to be costly, and any one of the parties could slow the alliance the down. (RFE/RL)