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Turkmen Report: March 18, 2001

18 March 2001
New RFE/RL Turkmen Service Broadcast Timetable Starts on 25 March 2001

18 March 2001

The RFE/RL Turkmen Service launches a new broadcast timetable, effective from 25 March 2001, in the Turkmen language: Frequency 7295, 41 meters -- 0400 � 0500 CET / 0200 � 0300 UTC; Frequency 9555, 31 meters -- 0400 � 0500 CET / 0200 � 0300 UTC; Frequency 15295, 19 meters -- 0400 � 0500 CET / 0200 � 0300 UTC; Frequency 13680, 22 meters -- 1700 � 2000 CET / 1500 - 1800 UTC; Frequency 15160, 19 meters -- 1700 � 2000 CET / 1500 - 1800 UTC; Frequency 17885, 16 meters -- 1700 � 2000 CET / 1500 - 1800 UTC. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)

Turkmen National Referendum on the Future of the USSR 10 Years Ago

17 March 2001

On 17 March 1991, Niyazov called for a Turkmen national referendum on the future of the USSR.

Nurberdy Nurmamedov, leader of the Turkmen opposition movement speaking in March 1991 before the referendum in Turkmenistan on the future of the USSR, said �We don�t know what the new union will look like. Nobody knows that. It will be a new creation, but on the old foundation. Yet, I think it�s not too difficult to imagine free, independent Turkmenistan. Independence is a matter of pride for any people. Perhaps, we shall vote for independence. May God be with you, Turkmens.�

In 1989, Nurmammedov founded Agzybirlik, which was briefly registered by the Academy of Sciences in the then-Soviet republic of Turkmenistan.

Niyazov favored remaining in the Soviet Union, but Nurmammedov openly called for independence. (RFE/RL archive)

The Italians Will Help to Improve the Work of Ashgabat Hotel

17 March 2001

Yesterday during the conference held for the president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov has invited the Italian company � Maple Consalte ltd.� to head the board of administration of Ashgabat hotels.

This decision the chief of state has accepted after the serious violations made in organization of metropolitan hotels activity were disclosed. � We created modern hotels in order to, - said the chief of state, - ensure the world grade of service for our visitors, and in the architectural - engineering aspect this purpose is reached. However, dishonesty and irresponsibility of the particular officers are bringing to nothing the efforts of hundreds of other people. Thereby damaging not only the city prestige, but also the state as a whole. Magnificent inns and hotels, where they have forgotten about interests of the guests, became a place for satisfaction of personal greed, shameless abuse of service �.

The particular critical remarks of the Turkmen leader were addressed to the chief of economic board of the president�s staff Hidir Amangeldiyev. He was not only ready for flagrant violation, but also involved his close relatives in a circle of the mercenary interests, the chief of state has marked. As he said, for the chief of the economic board � the formulation � release from the position �is too soft, wherefore such workers, from a permission to say, are ruthlessly expelled �

Having informed about Hidir Amangeldiyev�s release from a post, the president has also strictly pointed to absence of the subordinates� activity control to direct chiefs of the �gone too far officer�. Because of this, the money deficit at a rate of the salary is imposed to the presidential staff manager Rejep Saparov, and on his assistant Alexandr Jadan � at a rate of half of the monthly wage. The chief of state has demanded of them to establish the faultless order in one of the major branches of municipal economy in the shortest terms. It is necessary to clearly perceive, the president has continued, that in such a difficult business it�s not possible to manage without real professionals. Saparmurat Turkmenbashi has entrusted the chief of well-know Italian firm, engaged in conference, to create and to head the inter-administrative hotel council invoked to coordinate the activity of hotels on maintenance of grade of service worthy of metropolitan city. (

Turkmenistan�s Head Get in Touch with Presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan

16 March 2001

Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan had a Friday phone conversation during which they confirmed that they have the same view on the division of the floor of the Caspian Sea based on the median-line principle, the Kazakh president�s press service has told Interfax.

In addition, the two presidents said they favor the joint use of the Caspian�s biological resources and coastal waters by its littoral states, as well as the joint resolution of problems relating to the ecological situation obtaining in the Sea.

The two leaders agreed to speed up the marking off of the border between their countries and formalize a definitive Kazakh-Turkmen border by treaty to be signed during Niyazov�s planned visit to Almaty Kazakhstan, in May, the press service said.

Nazarbayev and Niyazov also discussed transport of oil and natural gas and economic relations between their two countries.

A telephone conversation took place on 16 March between President Niyazov of Turkmenistan and President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.

In the course of the telephone conversation, Niyazov and Karimov reaffirmed their adherence to all the agreements reached before, including the one on the delimitation and demarcation of the borders between the two countries.

The Uzbek president repeated his earlier invitation for the Turkmen leader to pay an official visit to Tashkent at his convenience. Saparmurat Niyazov accepted the invitation. The date of the visit will be set through diplomatic channels. (RFE/RL / Interfax / Turkmen TV)

Turkmen President Says War on Drugs Must be Stepped Up

16 March 2001

Saparmurat Niyazov today chaired a meeting of the presidential staff.

We have to resolve other, even more important problems, Saparmurat Turkmenbashi pointed out. Addressing representatives of the law-enforcement bodies, he demanded a ruthless war against drug trafficking. Every inch of the ground should burn under the feet of the criminals. It is vital to create an environment of intolerance around drugs because this is an enemy, which ruins the country�s future -- young people. Therefore, it is necessary to expand the nationwide campaign with the involvement of elders and public bodies as well. (Turkmen TV)

Turkmen Deputy Environment Minister Fired for Poor Work

16 March 2001

Under a decree issued by Niyazov, Jumageldi Amansahedov has been relieved of the post of Deputy Minister of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan for failing in his official duties. (Turkmen TV)

Committee to Protect Journalists Report on Attacks on the Press in 2000

16 March 2001

Appointed president for life in December 1999, Turkmenistan�s President Saparmurat Niyazov heads an increasingly authoritarian and isolationist regime. Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi, or �father of all Turkmen people,� ordered the burning of new history textbooks last year for not sufficiently emphasizing the Turkmen people�s historic role in the development of Central Asia and Europe.

Meanwhile, state television launched a new serial on August 7. Entitled �Turkmenbashi�s Epoch,� the program devotes five hours a day to glorifying Niyazov�s deeds. At the same time, persecution of political and religious dissidents, including imprisonment and torture, were accompanied by increasing restrictions on freedom of expression last year.

On May 29, the government moved to regulate the Internet, as the Ministry of Communications rescinded the licenses of the country�s five private Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This action gave Turkmentelecom and other state communication entities an information monopoly in the country, since the state already controlled all publishing and broadcast licenses.

The ISP takeover destroyed successful competitors to a state-run service that had attracted less business than the better-run private ISPs, whose clients included embassies, the Central Bank, international non-governmental organizations, trade representatives, and local information services. Given Turkmenistan�s dismal economic straits, few journalists were in a position to take advantage of the Internet, but after the ministry�s ruling, independent access to the outside world was further diminished.

One of the private ISPs, Ariana, launched in 1995 with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development, protested the ministry�s move. Ariana founder Vagif Zeynalov appealed to the international community for support, but despite his best efforts, authorities closed down the company on 30 June.

On 15 June, Niyazov approved the creation of a Council for the Supervision of Foreigners, jointly run by the National Security Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This council institutionalizes the already strict surveillance of the activities of all foreign nationals visiting or residing in Turkmenistan, including journalists.

On August 17, Turkmen officials ordered Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent Saparmurat Ovezberdiev to stop working. The authorities claimed he lacked accreditation, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had granted permission for RFE/RL journalists to work in the country. Ovezberdiev�s activities had been closely monitored for some time before the ban was imposed. (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Iran President Visits Tatarstan

15 March 2001

An Iranian delegation headed by President Mohammad Khatami visited Kazan on 15 March, Tatar-inform reported. On his arrival in the Kazan airport, Khatami said that �the visit to Kazan is a part of my visit to Russia. We hope to develop cooperation with Russia including Tatarstan. Tatarstan being a Muslim republic, naturally, attracts our attention. I came to Kazan so that to meet my brother Shaimiev, the President of Tatarstan and I hope that we shall agree on economic cooperation.� He said that good relations between Iran and Russia apply to all federation subjects. Later Khatami and Shaimiev held official negotiations in the Kazan Kremlin. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said that the revival of old historical relations between Tatarstan and Iran opens big prospects. (Tatar-inform)

Turkmen President Proposes Dividing Caspian Sea into National Sectors

15 March 2001

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has said that the Caspian waters and seabed should be divided into national sectors in conformity with the UN�s maritime regulations.

A 20-mile zone could be opened in the middle of the sea for free navigation, Niyazov said on a national television program.

There are different ideas about defining the Caspian Sea�s status, Niyazov remarked. �Russia and Kazakhstan have signed a bilateral agreement on the division of the Caspian interstate shelf. They drew the division line on the seabed at an equal distance from their coasts and agreed on a common use of the sea surface. Azerbaijan agreed to that at first and started to hesitate later. Iran would like the Caspian Sea to be divided into equal sectors between the five countries,� Niyazov said.

Meanwhile Russian special presidential envoy and Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny said that Caspian states should submit their proposals on settling the Caspian division problem by April 15.

Russia is not going to be a �locomotive� in the Caspian talks and wants all states in the region to have equal rights in solving problems, Kalyuzhny told a press conference in the Kazakh capital.

�Russia has not abandoned and will not abandon the principles worded in the agreements� Moscow signed with Astana and Baku.

Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to divide the Caspian floor on the median line principle.

Kalyuzhny yet again confirmed that Russia�s position on all issues concerning the Caspian region, including ecological aspects, the construction of pipelines, and the presence of non-Caspian states� armed forces on the sea, remains unchanged.

The Russian envoy admitted that the Caspian states still have disagreements on the division of the sea.

The problem concerning the division of the Caspian, especially with Iran�s and Turkmenistan�s positions taken into account, contains �considerable disagreements� and remains �rather complex,� Kalyuzhny said. (Interfax/ RFE/RL)

Turkey Increases Visa Fee for CIS Citizens
14 March 2001 According to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, the Turkish Tourism ministry has increased a visa fee by 100 % for all CIS citizens, as well as for the Russian Federation citizens. The visa fee will now be $20 per person. The last year�s total annual number of visitors, coming from the CIS, was 1 million 376 thousand people, the second place after the German tourists and visitors. This decision was strongly criticized by Detur Turizm travel agency�s manager Firuz Baglikaya as �unacceptable and injust�, because visitors from the said CIS countries spend much more money in Turkey than Germans, who �count every penny�. (�Hurriyet�)

Russian Position on Division of Caspian Sea Remains Unchanged

14 March 2001

Russian special presidential representative on the Caspian and Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Kalyuzhny denied that Russia has reneged on previous agreements with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on borders in the Caspian Sea, in Astana on Wednesday.

�Russia has not departed and will not depart from the principles set down in the agreement� signed by Moscow, Astana and Baku, he said after a meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev.

He stressed that Russia�s position on all Caspian issues, including ecological issues, pipeline construction and also military presence in the Caspian by non-Caspian states, remained unchanged.

At the same time Kalyuzhny noted that the issue of dividing the Caspian, especially given the position of Iran and Turkmenistan, contains �significant disagreements� and remains �relatively complicated.�

Speaking about Russia�s position regarding the construction of oil and gas pipelines along the Caspian seabed, he said that in a recent joint declaration, Russia and Iran spoke out against the construction of pipelines that would pose a threat to the ecology and bio-resources of the Caspian. Kalyuzhny noted that this position absolutely does not affect technical pipelines that will connect deposits in the Caspian.

The deputy minister said that reports in the press to this effect were unfounded and an inaccurate interpretation of Russia�s position.

He also announced that Russia is not and will not be against the construction of pipelines, including the Baku-Ceyhan project, if they are economically viable.

Russian will not restrain anybody from participating in the Baku-Ceyhan project, he said, adding that multiple routes for the transportation of Kazakh oil will force Transneft to be more flexible in setting transportation tariffs. (Interfax/ RFE/RL correspondent Dubnov)

Astana Criticizes Russian-Iranian Declaration on Caspian

14 March 2001

Kazakhstan considers that a Russian-Iranian declaration on the Caspian Sea goes against previous agreements between Moscow and Astana and does not rule out the possibility of laying a pipeline along the seabed, Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev said Wednesday.

During a meeting with Russian special presidential representative for the Caspian Victor Kalyuzhny he noted that he would like to discuss the document on the status of the Caspian signed in Moscow by the Russian and Iranian presidents separately.

Speaking in general about cooperation in the Caspian region, Tokayev noted that Kazakhstan bases its position on a Russian-Kazakh agreement from 1998, which deals with the division of the Caspian seabed using the principle of a meridian line.

In turn, Kalyuzhny noted that Russia considers Kazakhstan to be �a defining point for movement forward� in the development of a new legal status for the Caspian Sea.

Therefore, Kalyuzhny noted that it is not by accident that he arrived in Kazakhstan immediately after the meeting between the presidents of Russia and Iran in Moscow.

The meeting continued behind closed doors.

During the meeting on Monday between the Russian and Iranian presidents the sides agreed that until the legal status of the Caspian agreed, they �do not officially recognize any borders in that sea.� This was noted in the joint declaration. The same document noted the inadmissibility of laying a pipeline along the Caspian seabed. (Interfax)

Turkmen President Appoints Heads of Economy, Transport institutes

14 March 2001

By the Turkmen president�s decree, a deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Communications Rovshan Kerkavov has been appointed rector of the Turkmen State Transport and Communications Institute.

Under the Turkmen president�s decree, Mukhammetberdi Mammedov has been appointed rector of the Turkmen National Economy Institute. (Turkmen TV)

Niyazov Slams Education System, Reiterates Caspian Status Position

14 March 2001

Saparmurat Niyazov has harshly criticized the country�s higher education system for poor professional standards and widespread bribery.

Speaking at a meeting with teachers and students of the National Economy Institute in Ashgabat on 14 March, as broadcast by Turkmen TV the same day, Niyazov said:

�You, our scholars, yourselves do nor not realize the potential of our national economy. Here I mean our national currency, its circulation in Turkmenistan and its position against other currencies. You have not carried out any serious research work or developed any theories in this field. All your present books are copied from Soviet-era articles. I myself sometimes read your articles, but they do not suit us. You are still using Soviet-era textbooks and lecture notes because you yourselves have been trained in this way.�

Niyazov demanded that new Turkmen-language textbooks on history and economy be published within a year.

�We will buy for you computers and textbooks, but we have to start publishing Turkmen national textbooks no later than at the end of this year, and there should be textbooks on history and on economy. Therefore you have to set up a special group to translate them from Russian and from other European languages. There are a lot of books on economy for the young people and all of them should be translated into Turkmen.�

�We must translate into Turkmen economic terminology and textbooks on economy. I am giving you 12 months to do that so let us set up a commission and start translation. But please do not expect any privileges or reward for this work and noone should expect to be recognized the sole author of a textbook. All textbooks should be drafted by a group of authors,� Niyazov added.

Niyazov also said proper education could be a way to fight corruption. �I have come here and demand that you train good students. So far anyone I appoint to any post, immediately starts to seek personal benefits. Such habits as stealing are usually transferred to the next generation. It always happens so that if the father is a thief, his son surely becomes the same [laughter in the hall]. This cannot be seen immediately but in the long run, bad habits are always inherited,� Niyazov said.

He also warned against bribery at higher education institutions. �Bribery is said to be practiced here: if one wants to be enrolled at an institute he must pay, to pass exams one must pay too. Do not work in such a way, you must feel your responsibility and remember that you are living at the government�s expense,� he told students.

Asked by a student about the continuing talks on the status of the Caspian Sea, Niyazov gave background to the dispute and repeated that Turkmenistan�s position was in line with the UN maritime regulations.

�There are still different attitudes towards the issue of the Caspian Sea status. Russia and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement on the division of the Caspian shelf. They drew a division line on the seabed at an equal distance from their coasts and agreed to common use of the sea surface. Azerbaijan had agreed to that at first and later started to hesitate.

�Iran would like the Caspian Sea to be divided into equal sectors between the five countries. In this case Iran obtains about 18 per cent of the sea instead of the 13 per cent it has now.

�Turkmenistan�s position is to divide both the seabed and surface into national sectors at equal distances from the coast. Under the UN maritime regulations, any sea should be divided into sectors at equal distances from the coastal line. And we suggest to leave a 20-mile zone in the middle of the sea for free navigation,� he said.

Niyazov also warned that no country could start developing Caspian oil deposits before the status of the sea had been finally defined. �We have some disputes with Azerbaijan over the ownership of two offshore fields, both situated in our sector. They [Azerbaijan] give interviews every week saying that they are going to develop these disputed fields. But we have warned all the countries who have shown interest in working in these areas not to start any work until the legal status of these areas has been finally determined. Therefore we will work in this direction despite some attempts to create tension, we just do not pay any attention to that,� he said. (Turkmen TV)

New Copper Deposits Found

13 March 2001

The participants of Koitendag geological prospecting expedition have confirmed the forecasts of the experts concerning availability of additional non-ferrous metals reserves in a subsoil of the southeast part of Turkmenistan. One of these days they discovered new deposits of copper.

As a whole the Gaurdag-Koitendag geological locale disposes an enormous raw stock. In its subsoil more than 30 kinds of mining-mineral rocks are revealed. So, Karluk and Karabil deposits disposing of 4 billion tons of rock salts are largest in the world. The large economic interest is invoked by deposits of copper, lead, zinc, marble, black and color limestone, natural gas deposits, unique in CIS deposit of celestine, which light-blue dice are used at production of kinescopes of color television sets and in an iron and steel industry.

For years of independence of Turkmenistan the Koitendag geologists have brought on a geological map of locale the number of new high-prospective discovering titles. Among them -- Hodjakiyam deposit of rock salt, new areas of brimstone in Gaurdak and Koitendag, deposits of valuable limestone, bentonite, large deposits of raw material for cement production. Today expedition retrieves the new areas of mining-mineral resources.

In the near prospect in the southeast of Turkmenistan the construction of the industrial complex on production of cement, gypsum, caustic soda, facing slabs and other products is stipulated. (

Laureates of the �Golden Age� Honors Will Receive the Premium and Pay Rise

11 March 2001

As the Ashgabat correspondent of �� informs, the citizens of Turkmenistan will receive the new award -- the �Golden Age� order of three degrees -- for the special merits in labor and professional work. The rewarding will be made sequentially from third to the first degree. Thus the decoration by the higher scale order is made not earlier than in 5 years after decoration by order of the previous degree.

The law provides, that the decoration by the new order will be made once in a year and will be coordinated with the Day of independence of Turkmenistan, marked on October 27.

Except for the order itself and certificate to it, cavaliers of the �Golden Age� will receive the one-time premium in the sum equivalent to 1000 US dollars. Monthly increments to the received salary, official rate of pay, pension or scholarship in the following rates are also established: recipients of the first-degree award -- 30 %, second -- 20 % and third -- 10 %. (

Putin Thinks Russian-Iranian Relations Are Developing Positively

12 March 2001

Putin believes that Russian-Iranian relations �have been developing positively and contacts at all levels have been intensified.� He said this while opening a Russian-Iranian meeting in the Kremlin on 12 March.

President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Sayed Mohammad Khatami signed a treaty on the fundamentals of bilateral relations and cooperation principles in Moscow on 12 March 2001.

Each of the sides assumes the obligation not to use force or threaten with force in bilateral relations, as well as not to allot its territory for �an aggression, subversive or separatist acts against the other.�

If any side experiences an aggression from a third party, the other side must not render military or other assistance to the aggressor, but promote the settlement of the differences on the basis of the UN Charter and international legal norms, the treaty says.

The sides have agreed to settle any disputes between them peacefully. The Iranian president opposes foreign presence in Central Asia and the Caspian region.

He said that might break the balance of peace and stability. There is no need for any foreign presence to achieve peace and stability in the region, Khatami emphasized.

Russia and Iran, until the perfection of the legal regime for the Caspian Sea, do not officially recognize any borders in that sea. This statement was made in a joint declaration by Russia and Iran on the legal status of the Caspian, made after a meeting between the presidents from both countries in Moscow on 12 March. Taking this into consideration, both sides are developing cooperation on the Caspian Sea in various areas by developing the necessary legal mechanisms, the document said.

The declaration also noted that all decisions and agreements on the legal status of the Caspian will only come into force if they are passed with the general agreement of the five Caspian states. Moscow and Teheran openly announce their opposition to the laying of any ecologically unsound Trans-Caspian oil or gas pipelines, the document stated. The document also noted the inadmissibility of non-Caspian states having a military presence in the Caspian.

Perfecting the legal regime for the use of the Caspian is the affair of the Caspian states and interference by third counties in this process is inadmissible, the document said.

Iranian President Khatami agreed with Putin�s praise of the bilateral cooperation. He noted that regional countries should govern their region and any external dictate is unacceptable.

The main result of the Moscow negotiations with Putin is the agreement to expand comprehensive cooperation, Khatami said. Putin said they had discussed a joint struggle against narcotics and terrorism and the state of affairs in Afghanistan.

He said he regretted �the spread of terrorism and narcotics and intolerance to cultural values of the pre-Islamic period [in Afghanistan].� The joint statement mirrors the results of the debates on the Caspian Sea issue. Putin said they had called for a meeting of experts before the Caspian summit. (Interfax/ RFE/RL)

Shikhmuradov Appointed as Turkmen Ambassador to China
11 March 2001

Boris Shikhmuradov, former foreign minister of Turkmenistan, has been appointed as the Turkmen ambassador to China, the Turkmen news service reports. Bearing in mind the new appointment, Shikhmuradov is relieved of duties of the special envoy of the Turkmen president for the Caspian region and the rector of the Turkmen national institute of sports and tourism. Shikhmuradov had been the foreign minister of Turkmenistan for more than eight years. (Itar-Tass)

Russia-Iran Declaration on Caspian Draws Objections

17 March 2001

By Michael Lelyveld

A Caspian agreement with Iran backfired badly on Russia last week after both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan raised strong objections to the deal. Russia�s Caspian envoy, Viktor Kalyuzhny, bore the brunt of the complaints. During a visit to Kazakhstan, he was called upon to explain the declaration made last Monday by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Mohammed Khatami in Moscow.

Speaking to reporters in Astana, Kalyuzhny could do little more than admit to what he called �a certain coolness in relations between Russia and Kazakhstan� as a result of the accord with Iran and to offer a series of contradictions aimed at calming tempers down.

The incident is the latest chapter in the decade-long search for a formula to divide the oil-rich waterway among the five shoreline states. Top officials in Kazakhstan were clearly angered by the Russian agreement with Iran, stating that �Until the legal regime of the Caspian Sea is finalized, the parties do not officially acknowledge any boundaries on this sea.�

Russia and Iran also said that �The parties openly declare their disagreement to laying any trans-Caspian oil and natural gas pipeline on the sea bed. That would be dangerous in the environmental sense in conditions of extreme geodesic activity.�

In addition, the two countries stated that �Any decision and agreements referring to the legal status and use of the Caspian Sea will only have force if they are approved on general consent of the five littoral states.� In other words, no oil contracts or bilateral pacts would be considered valid until they were approved by Russia and Iran.

Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev said the statement went against his country�s 1998 agreement with Russia on dividing the seabed in the northern Caspian. Tokayev also refused to rule out Kazakhstan�s participation in a trans-Caspian line.

On Tuesday, an unnamed senior diplomatic source in Azerbaijan raised similar objections, telling Russia�s Interfax news agency that Moscow�s Iranian pact was inconsistent with its recent Caspian agreement with Baku. The official charged that the challenge to Caspian pipelines was intended only to force oil transit routes to run through Russian or Iranian territory.

Kalyuzhny was at pains to explain that the agreement with Iran would not exclude Caspian pipelines from its neighbors� offshore oilfields, saying, �Russia has not been nor will be against any pipelines, including the Baku-Ceyhan project, if they are economically profitable.�

The comment was Kalyuzhny�s latest reversal on Baku-Ceyhan. In an interview last month, he indicated that Russia would accept the U.S.-backed oil line because it was no longer seen as competing with Russian interests. Then, earlier this month, he demanded an explanation when Kazakhstan said it would support the project by shipping oil through the line.

Following the embarrassment over the joint declaration with Iran, Kalyuzhny changed course again, saying, �Russia will not try to keep anyone from entering the Baku-Ceyhan project.�

President Khatami�s historic visit to Russia turned into a fiasco for Moscow on the Caspian issue after the two sides failed to agree on a division formula in time for the trip. Diplomats apparently felt pressured to make some sort of statement on common principles anyway, but found the task difficult because Russia and Iran remain so far apart.

Putin�s government spent months trying to marshal support for its plan to divide only the seabed into national sectors while keeping the water and the surface in common. Iran has held out for 20 percent of the entire Caspian, far more than it could get from the area covered by its shore. Russia had succeeded into winning over Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and there were recent signs that Turkmenistan might be leaning its way.

Iran�s persistence forced postponement of a Caspian summit this month amid predictions that a breakthrough would be made in Moscow first. But the breakthrough never came, and the badly worded joint statement only succeeded in offending the two countries with which Moscow had already reached accords -- Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

After months of playing offense, Russia has now been put on the defensive over its Caspian policy, whether by accident or Iranian design. Before Khatami�s visit, Moscow seemed to be gradually isolating Iran on the Caspian issue, but its strategy now lies in tatters. Kalyuzhny has been left to make the case that it was all a big misunderstanding. Russia�s neighbors on the Caspian seem likely to agree. (RFE/RL)

Expert Fears Central Asian HIV Epidemic

March 15 2001

By K.P. Foley

An international advocate for aggressive efforts to stem the spread of the infection that leads to the deadly disease called AIDS says Central Asia is at risk for �an explosive HIV crisis.�

HIV is the acronym for Human Immune Deficiency Virus, an infection whose end result is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a condition for which there is no known cure.

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch is the director of the International Harm Reduction Program of the Open Society Program, one of the institutions established by the non-profit Soros Foundation. She believes that HIV follows the same route as the drug trade and says �Central Asia is a critical drug trafficking route.�

In an interview with RFE/RL she said her conclusions are based on the history of the HIV epidemic. HIV can be passed from person to person through sexual contact, but United Nations and other experts say that increasingly, HIV and AIDS are being spread by users of illegal drugs who share contaminated needles. Malinowska-Sempruch says this is the path HIV followed in Asia, where an estimated 7.2 million HIV infections were reported by the end of last year. �If one looks at Asia today and looks, for example at Thailand and just generally trafficking routes outside of Burma, it�s quite clear that HIV follows drug trafficking routes and I think this is why Central Asia is going to experience exactly the same phenomenon if something doesn�t get done and if something doesn�t get done immediately.�

Reports from the U.S. State Department and the United Nations say that Afghanistan has emerged as one of the leading suppliers of illegal drugs, chiefly heroin. Malinowska-Sempruch says these drugs flow through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan into other Central Asian nations and into Russia and Ukraine. She says it is �only natural and logical that HIV will follow.�

She says that while the estimates of injecting drug users in Central Asia are not very high right now, the same was true for Russia and Ukraine a decade or so ago.

�My concern is not that there is an HIV epidemic that is occurring in Central Asia now. My concern is that HIV epidemic is fast approaching and if something doesn�t get done we�re going to experience the same disaster.�

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on Tuesday that drug addiction in Russia has increased 20 times over the past 10 years. The United Nations AIDS Programme (UNAIDS) reports that the number of HIV infections in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union rose from 420,000 at the end of 1999 to more than 700,000 at the end of last year.

At an Open Society forum earlier this month on HIV/AIDS in Central Asia, Malinowska-Sempruch called on Central Asian governments to re-examine drug policies and practices. She urged nations to reform policies that, she said, �dogmatically marginalize people who are at risk for HIV.� She told RFE/RL that there is a great fear and shame associated with drug use in the Central Asian countries.

�People are dying of overdose in their own homes because there is such incredible shame and stigma in admitting that you have a husband or a son who is drug user.� She said this shame, and a fear of the authorities, hinders access to drug treatment.

�If we send out a message and even if they believe us that HIV epidemic and Hepatitis C are diseases that are going to affect them, if there is such an intense amount of fear against establishment, whatever they are, then they simply will not come and access services.�

However, she also said there are positive signs that governments in the region recognize that there is a problem. She said the fact that needle exchange programs, where addicts can turn in dirty drug paraphernalia for sterile materials, �is a great sign.� She also said there are national AIDS programs in the countries and a visible presence by UNAIDS.

She added though, that these are just �pilot programs,� and that a massive effort is what�s needed.

�My only concern is that whatever small steps are taken to move forward they�re just not large enough to in fact stop the HIV epidemic.� In a related story, a new report by UNAIDS suggests that migrants and refugees may be more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than stable populations.

In its February update, �Population Mobility and AIDS,� researchers for UNAIDS estimate that some 150 million migrants live and often work outside their country of citizenship. The agency describes migrants as people who take up residence or who remain for an extended stay in a foreign country.

In addition, UNAIDS says there are about 15 million refugees and people seeking asylum. The report also notes that some 20 million to 30 million people around the world are displaced within their own countries because of wars, ethnic tensions and human rights abuses.

UNAIDS says studies shows that travel or migration are factors in the spread of an infection. The UN says that in many countries, regions reporting higher seasonal and long-term mobility also have higher rates of HIV infection. UNAIDS says higher infection rates can also be found along transport routes and in border regions.

The agency makes a number of recommendations for protecting mobile populations. These include a call for including migrants and refugees in national and local AIDS plans; targeting education programs specifically to mobile populations; implementing cross-border international programs, and improving the legal status, working conditions and health care for migrants. (RFE/RL)

Central Asian Art Attracting Increasing U.S. Interest

14 March 2001

By Nikola Krastev

Central Asia is still not treated in cover stories in U.S. art magazines. But a number of exhibitions, folk-art festivals, and textile, craft and jewelry sales reflect an increasing awareness in the United States of a cultural world previously known only to a small group of scholars.

Major museums in the states of New York, California, Georgia and Pennsylvania have in recent years organized large-scale exhibitions related to Central Asia�s vast cultural heritage. Some art experts in the United States say this is a direct result of the Soviet Union�s dissolution 10 years ago, which eased the strict regulations imposed by the state on even the temporary export of art objects deemed to be national treasures.

At the same time, Western experts have gained access to previously unapproachable Central Asian archaeological sites. They now are also allowed to view collections once kept virtually in secrecy behind the gates of museums� stockrooms in newly independent Central Asian states.

Uli Schamiloglu, a professor of Turkic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, tells RFE/RL that great museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York appear to be benefiting from the gradual opening up of the post-communist states.

�They [U.S. museums] seem to have much more access now to various regions within Russia and to various individual collections or to areas where they may have not had access before.�

But few ordinary Americans seem to be acquainted with the art or even the geography of Central Asia. Elena Sullivan (eds: a woman), an art historian in Boston, tells our correspondent:

�They don�t have enough knowledge, and sometimes people don�t really know what are we talking about, geographically, what is a Turkmenistan, what is a Tajikistan. It�s my observation [that] not so many people [are] familiar with these countries. Maybe [it�s] because [the] media is not giving enough information. Maybe [it�s] because people [do] not travel so much in those countries, compared to the countries [in Asia to which] they [do] travel, like China, Indonesia or whatever -- Malaysia.�

Late last year, New York�s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum of Art opened exhibits focusing on the nomadic peoples known as Scythians and Sarmatians. Gold and other objects found in their burial mounds in Ukraine and Russia are considered to have established important connections among various cultures in Central Asia. The museums� curators said the exhibits generated strong public interest.

On an equally large scale, the De Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco held an exhibition in 1999 and 2000 called �Between the Black Desert and the Red.� The show featured an important collection of Central Asian carpets and textiles donated to the museum [by Wolfgang and Gisela Wiedersperg] that consisted of 82 Turkmen rugs, bags and decorative hangings. They included outstanding examples by major Turkmen rug-producing tribes as well as many rare samples -- some of which are considered the finest of their kind -- of the country�s weaving tradition.

In 1998, the Georgia Museum of Art -- located in Athens, Georgia -- organized a large exhibition of textiles titled �Arts of the People of Central Asia.� It consisted of more than 100 artifacts from the major Central Asian ethnic groups, including Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Tajiks. Many of the show�s items, which date from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries, have rarely, if ever, been exhibited publicly.

Another show of traditional Turkmen art on a similar scale was organized in 1996 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

An usual example of art exchange was the creation of a traditional Tajik teahouse in the city of Boulder, Colorado, the fruit of a sister-city relationship with the Tajik capital Dushanbe. The teahouse opened in 1998 and has quickly become a popular site. It was built by some 40 Tajik artisans and its decorative elements include the hand-carved and hand-painted ceiling, tables, stools and columns, exterior ceramic panels and cast-bronze statues.

As is the case with fine arts from other parts of Asia, the interest among U.S. collectors is greater for traditional art-forms from Central Asia than for contemporary work.

There have been relatively few U.S. exhibitions of contemporary Central Asian paintings. The most recent is probably one now being held in New York, showing the latest work of two Turkmen painters -- Atta Akief and Allamurat Muhammadov. At the opening last month, Jaffer Longer, a New Yorker, told RFE/RL about what the work evoked in her.

�What it reminds me of are, from a North American prospective -- and I hope it�s not insulting -- but the 1950s paintings which I really like of the exotic places and, you know, represents almost a fantasy world compared to the American world we live in.�

Some experts say that among the reasons for the rare exhibition of contemporary Central Asian art in the United States is the absence of promoters and managers who are able to bring the artists to a U.S. show. Alma Kunanbay, a Central Asian scholar now teaching at the University of California in Berkeley, says the relatively low number of immigrants from Central Asia has served to reduce the area�s cultural impact on the United States.

�It is very unfortunate that in regard to Central Asian matters and activities in the United States -- in terms of a social status corresponding to their market value -- there are very few immigrants here from those countries. No one is leaving Turkmenistan. Only Bukhara�s Jews are leaving Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan? Forget about it.

Most of the arrivals from Kazakhstan are those who are getting married to U.S. citizens and are trying as fast as they can to become Americanized. There�s only a small minority from Uzbekistan attempting to preserve their community, their customs, to maintain internal marriages. But this is a very small percentage.�

In addition to museums and -- to a lesser extent � private galleries, two large non-profit organizations also substantially contribute to the promotion of Central Asia�s cultural heritage in he United States. They are the Silk road Foundation and the Asia Society. (RFE/RL)

Iran, Russia Seen in Discord on Division of Caspian Sea

13 March 2001

By Michael Lelyveld

Iran and Russia were supposed to agree this week on how to divide the Caspian Sea. Instead, they acknowledged that the question would continue to divide them indefinitely.

The discord over the Caspian was hard to hide Monday at the start of President Mohammed Khatami�s three-day visit to Moscow. Emerging from talks with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Khatami declared that his visit would usher in a �new spring� in Iran�s relations with Russia.

But a joint statement made clear that the winter has been a cold one, as far as the Caspian issue is concerned. The statement, which took the place of a hoped-for agreement that was publicized for weeks, suggested that no progress has been made. In fact, the terms may be a setback for all five of the shoreline states. The document stated that �Until the legal regime of the Caspian Sea is finalized, the parties do not officially acknowledge any boundaries on this sea.� It continued, saying, �Any decision and agreements referring to the legal status and use of the Caspian Sea will only have force if they are approved on general consent of the five littoral states.�

If taken literally, the language could mean that any one of the five littoral states could veto an oil project undertaken by any other. And no bilateral agreement on Caspian borders would be considered to have the force of law.

Those terms largely repeat statements that have been made previously in the past decade since the Soviet breakup. But even the repetition may be damaging in light of the goals of a Caspian summit, which was put off from last week until April pending Khatami�s visit to Moscow. The refusal to allow for bilateral agreements also calls into question much of the diplomacy that has already taken place.

While the Caspian nations hoped for a breakthrough, it is now clear how little Russia and Iran have in common on the legal problem. They agreed only to oppose any trans-Caspian pipelines on environmental grounds and to hold several meetings of experts before a Caspian summit. That requirement makes it unlikely that the summit will take place in Ashgabat early next month as planned. Khatami�s appearance with Putin highlighted areas of cooperation, such as on arms sales, drugs and Afghanistan. But the outlines of the Caspian dispute remained the same as they have been for months, dashing an accord that was to have been a centerpiece of Khatami�s trip.

Russia has sought to split the Caspian seabed into national sectors along a modified median line, while keeping the waters and surface in common. Iran has insisted on 20 percent of the entire Caspian, which is more than its share of the shore. The statement in Moscow showed no sign of compromise on either side. Oil companies have been waiting for a settlement before signing contracts for any oilfields that might be disputed. The impasse has already stalled development on the Turkmen-Azeri border for several years.

But in their statement, Russia and Iran were unable to settle even on an approach for advancing toward agreement, such as dealing first with the seabed or bilateral lines.

The language of the statement also seems to serve both parties poorly. Since no boundaries will be recognized officially until a final settlement, Russia may keep its right to send naval vessels wherever it wants, a key security concern for Iran. Although Russia and Iran have agreed that trans-Caspian pipelines should be banned, they have also said that all decisions on the Caspian�s use must be by consensus. In other words, the ban on pipelines could also require unanimous consent. Even raising such questions makes the division issue harder to solve.

Tehran has already effectively ignored the consensus agreement on Caspian use within the past week by signing a deal with a Swedish firm to build an oilrig for exploring the sector it claims for itself.

The lack of progress was underscored by two other events. First, Russia�s Caspian envoy, Viktor Kalyuzhny, was dispatched to Kazakhstan without explanation for talks starting Tuesday. The move at the start of Khatami�s visit with the Iranian delegation seemed to signal that no further Caspian discussions would take place during the trip.

On 12 March, Turkmenistan also announced that the unpredictable President Saparmurat Niyazov had dismissed that country�s Caspian representative, Boris Shikhmuradov. The former foreign minister has long been regarded as one of Turkmenistan�s most able officials. But Shikhmuradov has now been named ambassador to China, leaving Caspian negotiations up in the air. It is unclear whether Niyazov has reacted in anger to the problems facing his planned Caspian summit in Ashgabat. But prospects for a settlement may be even worse than before Khatami�s meeting in Moscow. (RFE/RL)

Afghans Shaken by Taliban Acts of Vandalism

16 March 2001

By Zahid Hussain

The dilapidated two-story gray building of Kabul Museum in Darul Aman district, once famous for its rare collection of ancient relics, is now a hollow ruin, its crumbling walls and roof blasted away by the civil war in Afghanistan. The heads of two ancient lion statues outside the locked entrance hall were smashed long ago. The few remaining artifacts that survived the plundering of Mujahidin soldiers from various warring factions were wrecked last week by Taliban zealots on the order of their supreme leader, who declared that all images reviled Islam.

The 2000-year-old clay statue of Bodhi Sattva (Sitting Buddha), once a showpiece of the museum, is now rubble. �Islam does not allow sculptures, and being Muslims we oppose idolatry,� a Taliban official said.

Most Afghans do not agree with the edict of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed reclusive fundamentalist leader. �They were part of our heritage and their destruction makes us sad,� a taxi driver from Bamiyan, the province that had the world�s two tallest statues of standing Buddha, said yesterday. The sculptures, hewn from mountain cliff faces, were blown up last week. Witnesses said the Taliban drilled holes in the rocks and filled them with explosives. �It was a professional job,� an aid official said. �There are only heaps of rock on the site of one of the most magnificent works of art.�

The area is out of bounds for foreign journalists who have descended on the city. Taliban officials said they would allow visits to the site soon, but it is not clear when. The secretiveness is remarkable for the conservative Islamic movement, which has been in the habit of publicizing its acts of punishment or destruction of televisions and music instruments.

The fundamentalist Islamic movement that swept the Afghan capital five years ago has enraged foreign countries with its extremism. Women have been barred from working, girls� schools have been closed, men are forced to grow long beards and all forms of entertainment, including singing and dancing, have been banned. The latest vandalism of historic relics has shaken the Afghans more than any other fanatical act of the past. An aid worker said: �The destruction of Buddhas was an expression of rage by the extremists against the international community.� The decision to destroy the ancient artifacts was apparently taken by hard-line mullahs who have pushed aside the moderate elements in the Taliban movement. Many Taliban officials privately express their disapproval of the destruction, which has widened divisions within the ranks.

Yesterday the Taliban ordered the slaughter of 100 cows to atone for its �delay� in destroying the historic statues. The Voice of Shariat radio said that Mullah Omar had ordered the action.

Millions of Afghans are facing starvation because of war and severe drought. Almost a quarter of Kabul�s population survives on a daily supply of bread from international agencies. It is a city in which more than 40,000 street children compete with dogs for food from rubbish dumps.

While more than 170,000 Afghans have fled to neighboring Pakistan in the past four months, another 500,000 refugees live in desperate conditions in scores of camps set up across Afghanistan.

According to aid officials, thousands of Afghans, most of them children, have died of hunger and cold. Most observers agree that the destruction of relics will only further isolate the Taliban and worsen Afghans� misery. (Times)

Russian Reportedly Seeks Kazakh Explanation on Pipeline

13 March 2001

By Michael Lelyveld

Russia�s Caspian envoy Viktor Kalyuzhny appears to have reversed course on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline in less than two weeks, declaring that he opposes Kazakhstan�s plan to use the line for its oil exports.

Speaking last week (Tuesday), Kalyuzhny said he disapproves of Kazakhstan�s moves to support the U.S.-backed pipeline project from Azerbaijan to Turkey�s Mediterranean coast, Russia�s RIA Novosti reported. Kalyuzhny spoke after Astana signed a protocol five days earlier with Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia for transporting its oil through the pipeline.

In words with ominous implications, Kalyuzhny said Kazakhstan should explain to Russia why it is considering taking part in the Baku-Ceyhan project. Instead, Astana should pursue a policy to create an �energy balance� with Russia and cooperate on oil transit, he said.

The statement followed an interview with Kalyuzhny published by Vremya Novostei on 23 February in which the deputy foreign minister downplayed any conflict with Baku-Ceyhan by saying it would not affect Russian interests. The comment was seen as a sign that Russia might be coming to accept the project, which has recently made progress amid reports that even Russian oil companies might want to use the line for exports.

Kalyuzhny�s tougher tone against Kazakhstan may have resulted from a backlash against his earlier statement, or it may simply have been another instance of his unpredictable diplomacy. Kalyuzhny�s performance has been under scrutiny since he was named as Caspian envoy after his dismissal as Russia�s fuel and energy minister last May.

His handling of relations with Iran on the Caspian has also had mixed results. Although he had previously accused the Iranians of stalling negotiations on the Caspian division issue, Kalyuzhny received a public welcome during a meeting in Tehran last month.

But the remarks about Kazakhstan may have added significance because of the country�s heavy dependence on Russia for its export routes. Russia has steadily raised Kazakhstan�s quota for oil exports through its pipelines. Kalyuzhny�s demand for an explanation seems to be intended as a reminder of Moscow�s power and control.

Although reports differ on the importance of Kazakh oil to the Baku-Ceyhan project, it is generally seen as needed to make the project a commercial success.

Despite Kalyuzhny�s warning, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev said last Tuesday on local television that his country would take �a purely pragmatic approach� to export routes, including both Baku-Ceyhan and a possible pipeline through Iran.

But prospects for Baku-Ceyhan have gotten a boost as a series of Western oil companies have voiced interest in joining a sponsor group. The recent naming of Italy�s Agip to develop Kazakhstan�s giant Kashagan oilfield in the Caspian also seems to be a step forward for the westward pipeline.

Nazarbaev has suggested that �early oil� from Kashagan could flow through Baku-Ceyhan. Agip�s parent company, ENI of Italy, also favors the pipeline, according to the FSU Monitor of Petroleum Argus, a London-based newsletter on the oil industry. Last week, the publication quoted an ENI official as denying interest in a pipeline through Iran, saying, �I expect Baku-Ceyhan conditions to be more favorable in both fiscal and political terms, if the project goes ahead.

Petroleum Argus also reported that Russia�s Lukoil might want to use Baku-Ceyhan. The newsletter quoted unnamed sources at the company as suggesting that it could consider the line for exporting its share of oil from Azerbaijan�s �deal of the century� Caspian offshore fields.

Such a sentiment from a Russian company would come as a blow to opponents of Baku-Ceyhan, even if Moscow succeeds in blocking its use of the line. Supporters have continually argued that the western route from the Caspian is needed. Kalyuzhny�s attempt to intimidate Kazakhstan may only help to make the case. (RFE/RL)