30 April 2001
NATIONAL AND REGIONAL NEWS
Turkmen Opposition Holds Conference In Sweden
28 April 2001
The Turkmen organization Mertebe ("Dignity") convened an opposition conference in the northeastern Swedish town of Boden to discuss ways to build democracy in Turkmenistan.
Delegates at the two-day meeting on 26-27 April discussed the possibilities to provide moral and financial support to democratic groups in Turkmenistan.
Many Turkmen living in Western Europe and Russia attended the conference. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)
Summit Meeting of Turkic Countries In Istanbul
28 April 2001
The seventh summit meeting of the leaders of the Turkish speaking countries opened in Istanbul on 26 April with a speech by Turkey's reformist President Ahmet Necdet Sezer calling for a widening and diversification of economic and cultural relations between the six countries that enjoy "problem-free, exemplary ties."
The two-day summit meeting was hosted by Sezer. President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, President Heidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbek parliament speaker Erkin Halilov participated in the summit.
Speaking on the first day of the summit meeting, Niyazov stressed his support for the "unity of Turkish states" and underlined his conviction that "in order to attain a union of Turkish states, we should be supportive of these summit meetings."
The Turkmen president, however, did not elaborate on what he meant by "union of Turkish states."
Niyazov said the Turkish-speaking countries have a common language, history, culture, and ethnic roots, and underlined his call for consolidation of the summit meetings of Turkish-speaking countries.
"With these ideas in mind, I offer to host the next summit meeting of Turkish speaking countries in Ashgabat," he said.
Kazakhstan President Nazarbaev was the guest of honor on 25 April at a dinner hosted by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen (TUSIAD). The dinner was closed to the press. Talking to reporters about the dinner the next day, TUSIAD Chairman Tuncay Ozilhan said Nazarbaev had asked Turks to consider an Ahdo-Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline.
The agenda of the summit was dominated by the quest for regional peace, stability, and security.
Opening the two-day meeting, Turkish President Sezer underlined that the seventh summit of the leaders of Turkish speaking countries coincided with the 10th anniversary of the independence of the Turkic states of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Sezer stressed that although 10 years have passed since the Turkic states regained their independence, it could not be said that regional security and stability problems were resolved.
"Therefore, our cooperation against problems that pose a threat to regional peace and stability is of great importance and should be continued and accelerated," he said.
He said the region was not only under the threat of international terrorism, but was as well threatened by fundamentalist and separatist movements.
Niyazov told Turkish Minister of State Abdulhalik Cay at the Istanbul airport: "These meetings of the Turkic nations are not yielding any effective results. So far this body has had no impact on the world community or on interstate relations between the Turkish-speaking countries. We have had six meetings already, this will be the seventh in line but nobody has yet come away from these meetings satisfied."
Sezer urged Turkey to buy Turkmen gas via Iran, which he said would work out cheaper than buying from Russia.
Niyazov recommended that Turkey purchase Turkmen gas via Iran: "No particular wisdom is needed to understand this simple truth: currently you are purchasing 5 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia at $115 per 1,000 cubic meters. But the price will be only $75 if you purchase Turkmen gas directly via Iran." He also said that Turkmenistan could offer Turkey 60-70 billion cubic meters of gas annually.
On domestic policy, Niyazov said that there had been no political persecution in Turkmenistan during the years of independence. "We are building our own specific type of democracy but some people do not understand us. Let me say this: such things cannot be achieved in just 10 years. At the same time, not a single person has been persecuted or arrested during these 10 years for political motives or for having different views. Nobody has been oppressed for supporting democracy."
It was agreed that the next Summit of Turkic Countries will be held in Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Turkmen Television)
Turkmen, Azerbaijani Presidents Aim To Resolve Caspian Sea Problems By October
27 April 2001
At a meeting between the presidents of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, Saparmurat Niyazov and Heidar Aliev, on 26 April in Istanbul, problems connected to the definition of the new international legal status of the Caspian Sea were discussed.
As the correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru has been told by a source in the Turkmen delegation participating in the Turkic-speaking states summit, the presidents of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have agreed on the creation of expert groups to resolve the dispute over the delimitation on the Caspian Sea between the two countries. On 1 May these groups are to meet in Ashgabat to study particular problems and coordinate positions.
The result of a meeting of expert groups should help ready an intergovernmental agreement, which the two presidents plan to sign before a top-level autumn meeting on the Caspian Sea. According to information from the previously mentioned sources, the Caspian summit could be held in the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi in October. Most likely, the "accord and satisfaction" between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea, if it becomes a reality, will be signed during a visit by the Turkmen leader to Baku. On 26 April, Aliyev invited Niyazov to visit the western Caspian coast. Details of the visit are to be specified later. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Turkmenistan To Export Natural Gas To Ukraine
27 April 2001
Turkmenistan plans to export 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Ukraine annually for five years, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said.
An agreement to that effect will be signed in Kyiv between 13-15 May, Niyazov told a news conference in Istanbul shown by Azerbaijani state television.
Earlier reports said Turkmenistan would supply Ukraine with 30 billion cubic meters of gas this year.
Niyazov said Turkmenistan has no great problems with gas exports.
The country was ready to provide "any amount" of gas to Turkey, but lately Turkish gas imports had become more of a political than an economic issue, he said.
Turkey will not be charged more than $75 per 1,000 cubic meters of Turkmen gas, Niyazov said.
But the Turkish government, he said, had opted for the Blue Stream project to buy Russian gas, whose cost he put at about $120 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Under the Blue Stream project, a maximum of 16 billion cubic meters of gas will be delivered to Turkey yearly through a pipeline comprising a 370-kilometer section on land that would connect the Russian towns of Izobilnoye and Dzhubga and a 400-kilometer section on the floor of the Black Sea that would link Dzhubga to Samsun on the Turkish coast. (Interfax)
Niyazov Discusses Turkmenistan�Iran�Turkey Gas Pipeline
26 April 2001
The president of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov, who had arrived on 25 April to Istanbul for participation in summit of the Turkic states, met Turkish state minister Abdulhaluk Chai and noted during the conversation with him that the Turkish side shows "the certain passivity" in the promotion of the project of a Turkmenistan�Iran-Turkey gas pipeline. The correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru has been informed about it in the press service of the Turkmen leader.
Saparmurat Niyazov, according to the same source, has especially emphasized value of this route for economy of all three countries and has informed the minister that negotiations with Turkish enterprises, which are going to invest the project of a lining of the pipeline for deliveries of Turkmen gas to Turkey through Iran in the near future, are held now.
According to the opinion of Turkmenbashi, it is necessary to render the state support to the companies and the firms expressing desire to invest one of the most perspective regional projects.
The idea of realization of the project of a gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Iran-Turkey was discussed and during conversation with the vice-premier of Turkish government Dovlet Bagdzhali, who is the Turkmen on a nationality. Dovlet Bagdzhali has arranged for the Turkmen leader a business supper on a yacht during the ride in the Bosphorus strait. The parties have discussed also a number of other questions of dynamically developing partnership between the two countries. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Two-Month Prison 'Quarantine' For Atakov
25 April 2001
Ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov, who was transferred to an Interior Ministry prison in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) on 23 March, was placed in a two-month "quarantine" within days of his arrival, Keston News Service has learned. The German-based Friedensstimme mission told Keston that Atakov was placed in isolation on 28 March, where he will be denied all mail and parcels for two whole months. "This has cut him off from all contact with the outside world," mission director Klaus Karsten told Keston on 23 April. There is no news on Atakov's current state of health.
Keston has been unable to obtain the telephone number of Lieutenant Colonel T. B. Meretklychev, commander of the prison where Atakov is being held, to find out why he has been put in isolation.
Atakov -- a member of a congregation of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists -- is serving a four-year sentence on charges fellow Baptists believe were fabricated to punish him for his activity in the Baptist church in Turkmenbashi, where he was arrested in December 1998.
In early February he was transferred to a prison hospital in the town of Mary after widespread concern about his rapidly deteriorating health, then on 1 March he was transferred back to a labor camp in Seydy before being transferred to the Turkmenbashi prison three weeks later.
From early March Atakov's wife Artygyul and their five children have been under intense pressure in internal exile in the town of Kaakhka. Artygyul has been pressured by the local mullah, administration officials, and officers of the political police the KNB (former KGB) to convert to Islam.
Administrative officials invited Artygyul to attend a committee hearing on 2 April to determine whether her children's refusal to participate in the school ceremony (reading the oath of allegiance to President Saparmurat Niyazov and kissing the flag) is due to their personal conviction or whether they are being influenced by Artygyul. If the latter were proved true, the authorities threatened to deprive her of her parental rights. It is not yet known what decisions were taken at the hearing.
From his prison cell, Atakov asked his wife and relatives to have his children brought up as Christians. He and his wife believe that teaching children in school to bow down in reverence to the president's portrait is a form of idolatry, which violates basic Christian beliefs. "All that the Atakovs are asking is for the right for their family to practice their Christian faith and to abstain from practices that violate their beliefs," an official of the U.S.-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries told Keston in early April. (Keston News Service)
City Renamed Yet Again
26 April 2001
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov is continuing on his "delete-the-past" and "build-the-future-my-way" policy. He renamed the Charjew sub-region into Serdarabat, which means "the city of the leader." In other words, it is one of his official pseudonyms.
It is the third change in the name of the eastern region. The name of the region, sub-region, and main city there was Charjew. Then, the region was renamed Lebap, which meant "at the water," as the Amu-Darya River runs through it. The city was then renamed Turkmenabat, which means "the city of the Turkmen," last year. The justification for the change was that its old name sounded like a Chinese city. The truth was that the current city was a fortress called Amul in the past, and it was situated on one of the routes of the Silk Road. Thus the name came from the word "Chahar-Juy," which means "four sides."
The renaming of different administrative regions, on the one hand, is a political move on the side of the government "to get rid of the past." But on the other hand, it seems like a whim of the authoritarian ruler, as almost everything is titled with his name, official nicknames, or by his parents' and brothers' names. A third reason for such an action in the Lebap region -- which is politically incorrect to talk about -- is the language and cultural division in the country. People who come from that area speak an unofficial dialect that is a mixture of the Turkmen, Uzbek, and Tajik languages. It is not regarded as a separate language and subsequently discredited. This kind of "peculiarity" exists in all parts of the country, but it is very vivid in the east, as it borders with Uzbekistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)
Niyazov Makes Further Cuts In Education
25 April 2001
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has recently made further cuts in education. He announced that Turkmenistan would not recognize any part-time studying and set a backdated limit on recognizing such credits to 1993. Thus, if a student's diploma was received before that year, it is considered valid in the country.
The amount of part-time graduates has increased in Turkmenistan, since the president commenced his educational reforms. The decreasing number of institutes and universities has forced students into part-time courses, which were considered the equivalent of a university degree course. Moreover, the price of such courses is also lower.
After this type of education was discouraged in Turkmenistan, many students turned their attention to neighboring countries like Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus. Another attraction to studying abroad lay in the double exchange rate of the Turkmen manat. If one program was outside the country, it was possible to change manats into dollars four times cheaper. In other words, $50 could be converted into $200 to pay tuition.
But the new government policy repeals such money transactions as well. Now, all students who were in the process of such studies after 1993 will not be able to get a job in the country with their diplomas, even if they pay for the education themselves by the real black-market rate of the dollar.
The overall consequence of this policy will be a decrease in the number of Turkmen "students" both inside and outside the country. The latter effect of the policy is favorable to the regime as it poses more control on the people's ability to study. To show the extremely low number of students in the country, it is possible to roughly compare Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyzstan there are some 120,000 students; in Turkmenistan there are about 20,000. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)
International Student Conference To Be Held In Ashgabat
25 April 2001
The international student conference on the subject of "The Cultural Heritage of Central Asia and Eurasia" will take place on 17-18 May in the capital of Turkmenistan, a correspondent for Turkmenistan.ru was told by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is acting as organizer of the forum together with Ashgabat's recently built Institute of Culture of the Peoples of Turkmenistan, Central Asia, and the East.
The realization of the conference, in which the participation of representatives from many countries is planned, coincides with the Day of Unity and Revival marked on 18 May in Turkmenistan. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Expert Warns Turkmenistan On Water Usage
24 April 2001
Turkmenistan will face severe shortages of irrigation water in the nearest future unless appropriate measures are taken, Allamurat Ataev, a senior lecturer at Ashgabat's agriculture university, said in an interview to Turkmen television on 24 April. The country, therefore, needs to build powerful facilities for recycling waste water and stricter control over the reasonable use of existing water resources is needed, Ataev said.
He added that "Turkmenistan's water resources are very limited, and at present we just have some 25-27 billion cubic meters of water. We are already using some 21-23 billion cubic meters of this, so it is quite possible that a shortage of water for irrigation will emerge in the nearest future."
He said that President Saparmurat Niyazov's idea of creating a giant artificial lake in the center of the country is well-grounded and timely. The construction of the lake, with a capacity of 140 billion cubic meters, is already under way and will be completed by 2010. It will be fed by seven drainage water collectors with a total length of 1,750 km.
Apart from accumulating waste water from all over the country, the lake will help to provide water for livestock on pastures and farmlands. "Creating the Turkmen lake will make it possible to irrigate about 5 million hectares of land," Ataev said, adding that the country's economy cannot progress without enough water. The use of recycled waste water makes it possible to increase the area of irrigated land by 2.2 million hectares. Presently, Turkmenistan has 1.2 million hectares of farmland in use and most of this land needs reclamation. (Turkmen TV)
Niyazov's Visit To UAE Postponed
24 April 2001
The visit by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was scheduled for April, has been postponed, a source in Niyazov's administration told Interfax.
A delegation headed by Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Gurbanmuradov returned from the UAE on 23 April, the source said. The Turkmen delegation had negotiations with UAE Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ubayd Saif Nasiri, the management of UAE's foreign investment committee, the Abu Dhabi Fund, and the Adu Dhabi National Oil Company.
In the course of these meetings, agreements were reached on the supply of two drilling rigs to Turkmenistan, which will make it possible to extract more oil and gas. In addition, the UAE expressed an interest in developing the hydrogen resources of the sea areas of the Turkmen section of the Caspian shelf. It is planned to conduct negotiations on this topic in the near future.
In addition, the Turkmen government asked the Adu Dhabi Fund for a long-term stabilization credit in the amount of $200 million.
At the moment, Adu Dhabi and the UAE investment authority are providing financial assistance for the construction of a new building at an airport in Turkmenistan, the reconstruction of a runway at the Mara airport, and the construction of a nephrological center in Ashgabat. (Interfax)
Seminar On OSCE In Ashgabat
24 April 2001
A two-day seminar under the name "What is the OSCE?" took place in the Turkmen capital on 24 April. The National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights, the president of Turkmenistan, and the OSCE Center in Ashgabat were the seminar's organizers.
Before opening the seminar, a presentation of the updated national information/consultation center on human rights was held, at which each interested person can receive information and consultation from leading experts and lawyers.
During the seminar, participants heard reports devoted to the establishment of the OSCE, on the organization's purpose, the problems it seeks to resolve, and also to the principles that guide the OSCE's activities. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Russian Protestant Freed After Four Days
23 April 2001
A Russian Pentecostal Christian has been freed after being held in detention for four days in the eastern town of Turkmenabat (formerly Charjew), sources told the Keston News Service. Yevgenii Samsonov, a member of the Word of Life Pentecostal Church, who is originally from the Russian city of Novosibirsk, was reportedly mistreated while in the hands of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former KGB), who tried to force him to sign documents incriminating himself. "Although he was tortured and beaten, he did not sign any documents that the KNB was pressuring him to sign," one source told Keston on 17 April.
Although Samsonov left Turkmenistan for Russia soon after his release, Keston has been unable to reach him by telephone thus far.
The U.S.-based news service Compass Direct reported on 12 April that the KNB arrested the 26-year-old Samsonov at his flat in Turkmenabat on 9 April, using his neighbor's balcony to gain access. They claimed he had never obtained the required visa to live in the country (citizens of the Russian Federation require visas and residence permits to live in Turkmenistan).
"He was tortured several times during the last two days," a local source told Compass on 11 April, adding that the authorities were believed to be trying to force Samsonov to sign a document incriminating himself as "a person who acts against President [Saparmurat] Niyazov of Turkmenistan."
It is not clear whether Samsonov left Turkmenistan voluntarily or whether he was expelled. Many foreign citizens the government accused of being involved in religious activity, including dozens of Protestants and hundreds of Muslims, have been expelled in the past few years.
Meanwhile, Compass also reported that four Turkmen Protestants from the capital of Ashgabat, all converts from Islam to Christianity who were arrested, tortured, and evicted from their homes by the KNB last November and December, have fled the country with their families. The four -- Shokhrat Piriyev, Batyr Nurov, Umit Kochkarov, and Babamurat Goiymov -- had been implicated in the use of "contraband" Christian videos in the Turkmen language. The Turkmen authorities had launched a national manhunt in a bid to arrest them again.
Turkmenistan has the harshest policy towards religious minorities of all the former Soviet republics. Only communities of the state-sponsored Muslim Board and the Russian Orthodox Church have registration. All other faiths are treated as illegal. (Keston Institute)
Turkmenbashi Allows Purchase Of 100 American-Made Harvesters
21 April 2001
Concerned about the upcoming corn and grain harvest, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov instructed the cabinet of ministers to look into purchasing 100 combine harvesters produced by the U.S.-based Case corporation.
As the correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru was told, it is expected that a contract with Case, worth $14.5 million, will be signed and the first harvesters delivered on 20 May.
The payment of the contract will be made from the profits of the sale of cotton products by the state concern Turkmenpagta (Turkmen cotton). (Turkmenistan.ru)
Oil And Gas Reserves of Turkmen Sector of Caspian Sea Estimated
20 April 2001
The Oil and Gas Industry and Natural Resources Ministry of Turkmenistan reported that oil and gas reserves of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea were estimated at 11 billion tons and 5.5 trillion cubic meters respectively, taking into account newly discovered geological structures.
Over the last few years the American company Western Geophysical has conducted a large-scale geophysical survey in the sea and discovered new geological structures. These news structures attracted the attention of potential investors, who started active negotiations on several blocks of land. The overall value of expected contracts totals about $10 billion. According to the ministry, the yield of the fields included in these blocks is expected to reach approximately 450 million tons of oil.
Turkmenistan also approved a list of 109 oil and gas fields and geological structures located in the Caspian Sea. (Rusenergy.com, WPS)
Turkmen Defense Chief To Head Olympic Body
20 April 2001
Turkmenistan's National Olympic Committee has elected the country's defense minister, Batyr Sarjaev, as its chairman, the Turkmen State News Service reported on 20 April. The report said that at a meeting the previous day Sarjaev had been "unanimously elected" to head the committee in place of the former foreign minister, Boris Shikhmuradov, who is currently Turkmen ambassador to China. The following is the text of the report:
"The General Assembly of the National Olympic Committee of Turkmenistan held a regular meeting in Ashgabat on 19 April. The meeting discussed the major tasks of developing the Olympic movement in the country in light of Turkmen President Saparmurat Turkmenbashi Niyazov's demands to bring up a physically and mentally healthy young generation. The meeting outlined measures to implement consistently the head of state's instructions to improve standards in physical culture and sport and achieve good results in the international arena.
The meeting also discussed personnel issues. In order to raise the standard of management of Turkmenistan's national Olympic movement, Turkmenistan's ambassador...in the People's Republic of China, Boris Shikhmuradov, was relieved of his duties as chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Turkmenistan. The deputy chairman of the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers, Turkmen Defense Minister Batyr Sarjaev, was unanimously elected to this post." (Turkmen State News Service)
Turkmenistan Whitewashes Taiwan 5-0 In World Cup Qualifying
27 April 2001
Kakha Gogoladze scored two goals as Turkmenistan whipped Taiwan 5-0 in an Asian Group 7 World Cup qualifier.
With the victory, Turkmenistan has six points in three games (a team receives three points for each win) and is temporarily tied with Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan beat Turkmenistan 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier on 25 April and two days earlier, Turkmenistan beat Jordan 2-0.
FEATURES AND ANALYSIS
Turkmenistan Shows No Sign Of Welcoming Kinsmen In Afghanistan
26 April 2001
By Charles Recknagel
For half of the several kilometers' distance between the main road and the mud-walled village known as Babu camp, a small water pipe runs alongside the dirt track.
Then, the pipe suddenly stops -- as if there were not enough money for it to continue. The rest of the way, the water flows along a ditch, slowing as much of it is lost to the ground. By the time it reaches the village, it has become a thin steam which just meets the needs of the 50,000 people who live there.
The people in Babu, near the city of Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan, are all ethnic Turkmen who fled Afghanistan after the 27 April 1978 Communist Revolution in Kabul and, later, the 1979 Soviet invasion. Now, more than two decades later, they are still refugees and say they are left entirely to their own devices to survive.
The land they live on is courtesy of the Pakistani government and years ago they received some international assistance to build their homes. But they pay for their water supply as well as for the few electric lines, which reach the village. And though the village is surrounded by farmland, none of the refugees can afford to rent fields to grow crops.
To survive the refugees weave carpets. Not just the women as is the Turkmen tradition but men and often children too. They work on consignment for Pakistani wholesalers who provide the patterns and pay from 2,000 to 3,000 rupees (or from $33 to $50) per square meter. The money comes half in advance -- to buy wool from the same wholesaler -- and half on completion. By working each day from early in the morning until late in the evening, one person can usually produce a square meter in a month.
In the eyes of many, that makes Babu a giant sweatshop -- a view shared by UN officials in Islamabad and the villagers themselves.
But the villagers say that without outside assistance to create other jobs, they are forced to keep weaving around the clock. And they take pride in the fact that, though they cannot escape their subsistence lifestyle, they have at least been able to sustain their community.
One sign of that success is the village's sole school. It is a madrassah (eds: religious school) which provides free education to many of the local children and even some from surrounding areas.
The school's director, Mullah Seyid Khan, says some 300 elementary pupils, both boys and girls, study here. They learn to write and to recite the Koran. Another 80 older boys pursue more advanced religious studies.
Seyid Khan says the village's families provide donations which enable the school to buy teaching materials. And he says families also support the teachers and several dozen boarding students by inviting them to their homes for meals. Seyid Khan:
"The camp residents invite the teachers and (the boarding) students to their homes twice a day for lunch and dinner. We don't receive any money from any sources outside of the camp. We survive with religious donations from the camp residents and this is enough for books and school materials."
The Turkmen in this and other camps say they are better off than most of their more than a million fellow Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan. Whereas many refugees have little hope but to seek occasional work as day laborers, the Turkmen have been able to use their carpet-weaving skills -- which go back to their people's nomadic roots -- to provide for themselves through some highly uncertain times.
The ethnic Turkmen in Pakistan are now in a generations-old migration which first saw hundreds of thousands flee from the Soviet Union into Afghanistan after the Bolshevik Revolution. Those who fled were seeking refuge after fighting unsuccessfully for independence from Moscow during the Russian civil war, only to become the targets of a fierce crackdown after the Reds' victory.
Generations later many of the same Turkmen families again fled from Moscow's reach, this time after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They escaped to Pakistan, which backed the Islamic mujaheddin resistance, which ousted the Soviet troops 10 years later.
Since the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, most of the 7 million people who fled at its height to Pakistan, Iran and other countries have returned. But some 2.5 million remain in neighboring countries, discouraged from going back by continuing factional fighting. In recent months, that fighting has combined with a prolonged drought to internally displace some half a million people inside Afghanistan and send 200,000 more into Pakistan, despite Islamabad's refusal to accept any additional Afghan refugees.
Today, the Turkmen refugees in Pakistan say they would return to Afghanistan if there was a lasting peace there. And many say they are equally ready to return to Turkmenistan, which became independent with the breakup of the Soviet Union 10 years ago.
Mullah Seyid Khan says the people in Babu camp consider Turkmenistan their homeland and have made contacts with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi (eds: leader of the Turkmen), to learn if they can return. Seyid Khan:
"Thanks be to God, our fatherland is free now and we are proud and happy Turkmenistan is independent. And we wish night and day to go to our fatherland. Now we live in a foreign country like a cup without a saucer (eds: incompletely). Thanks be to God, in Pakistan we have to the opportunity to study and have a school and to live here. But if Turkmenbashi decided to bring all the Turkmen who left long ago back home again, we are ready to go. We are ready to work for our fatherland."
But so far, the Turkmen president has done little to indicate he wants his kin in Pakistan to return, despite some early encouragement to them to do so.
When Turkmenistan became independent, Niyazov made several speeches stressing Turkmenistan as the homeland of all Turkmen both inside and outside the country. There are an estimated 4 million people in Turkmenistan and again that many ethnic Turkmen in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Speaking in 1992 with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service shortly after the country's independence, Niyazov encouraged all Turkmen to contribute to building their country. He said:
"We will give land to our brothers living in Iran and Afghanistan. In the next one or two months we are opening the embassy of Turkmenistan in Pakistan. Once it is opened we will gather through our embassy all of the people to be moved from there and we will bring them here on a legal basis. Among our countrymen (there) are those who very well understand the mechanisms of the market economy. In Turkmenistan, for many years, we were not able to set up a market economy, we did not have private property. Now, we invite our Turkmen countrymen to Turkmenistan to build a new society. They should come."
Yet since then, Niyazov has shown little enthusiasm for repatriation. Six months ago, the Turkmen president said he does not want to interfere with refugees in other countries, ending any hopes that Ashgabat might undertake programs to shelter them.
M. Zarif Nazar, the head of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, says Niyazov is unlikely to accept Turkmen refugees for two reasons.
One is the possibility that refugees who twice fled the Soviet system, first in Central Asia and then in Afghanistan, will not adapt well to Niyazov's own system of highly centralized rule. Nazar added that "The Turkmen who have been very long outside of the country have gotten a taste of freedom. They have fought against Stalin, against Communism, and gotten a taste of the market economy. So, they might not be happy with Turkmenbashi's Soviet-style rule."
Niyazov has maintained a strict control over all aspects of Turkmenistan's political and economic life by creating a personality cult around his own leadership. The Turkmen president, whose parliament has made him ruler for life, said two months ago that he would not step down before 2010.
Nazar says the second reason Niyazov hesitates to receive Turkmen refugees is that many are from a different kinship group then his own Teke tribe. Many of those in Afghanistan and Pakistan are from the Arsari tribe, while those in Iran are mostly from the Yamut.
Nazar says that means readmitting millions of new Turkmen into the country now could risk changing Turkmenistan's tribal balance. And that, like anything else that might diminish Niyazov's power base, is not something the Turkmen president seems ready to do. (RFE/RL)
Seventh Summit Of Turkic-Speaking Countries
27 April 2001
By Nadir Devlet
On 26-27 April the "Seventh Turkic Speaking Countries Summit" was held in Istanbul. Presidents of four Turkic republics and one parliament speaker were present: President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey, Azerbaijan President Heidar Aliev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, and Uzbekistan's parliament speaker, Erkin Khalilov, attended to this summit. Two presidents, namely Niyazov and Karimov, were absent at the last summit (2000) in Baku. Karimov, for the second time, had been missing at a high-level gathering.
After the dissolution of the USSR, Turkey was able to conduct a more active policy towards its neighboring countries. In this new policy, security and economic interests played an important role. Turkey, which is situated between three rather unstable regions, namely the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, had to adopt policies accordingly. Certainly relations were influenced also in some point by historical and ethnic factors. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Turkey saw a new possibility to change the political and economic situation in its favor, especially in the Caucasus region.
After the collapse of the USSR, Turkey showed a great interest in the newly founded CIS countries. If one of the reasons was the necessity to adopt a new foreign policy towards global political developments, the other reason was almost an emotional one. After the USSR fell, Turkey reacted to the unexpected political developments very rapidly and Ankara recognized the new independent republics immediately. Almost at the same time, Turkey granted a total of $1 billion in aid and trade credits to the Central Asian republics. If we categorize the relations of Turkey with the Turkic states and peoples, we must consider political, economical, cultural (scientific and educational), and even religious categories. And all these relations were conducted in an official, semi-official or non-official manner. Between the five Turkic republics and Turkey the first high-level meeting took place on 30-31 October 1992 in Ankara; the second in Istanbul on 18-19 October 1994. The third took place on 28 August 1995 in Bishkek and the fourth on 21 October 1996 in Tashkent. The fifth summit took place in Astana in 1998 and the sixth one in Baku in 2000, creating a tradition. When the presidents of the six Turkic republics (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan) met in such summits they stress their common historical, linguistic, and cultural ties; they declare that the brother states are sharing the ideas of contemporary values like democracy, respecting human rights, secularism, social justice, a free-market economy, and respecting territorial integration. In other words, such summit meetings could be analyzed as a tool for introducing understanding between Turkic states.
In the last decade (in 1986 and in 1989), more than 500 bilateral and about 50 multilateral agreements have been signed between Turkey and the Turkic republics. We know that Turkish businessmen were involved mainly in construction, food, and textile trade in these republics. But all these economical, political, and cultural relations didn't fulfill the expectation of all sides. Also, from Turkic summits nothing important has emerged. This was maybe the main reason that the Turkish press didn�t give much coverage to this seventh summit.
Turkish President Sezer, said in his opening address that in the territory where our countries are situated, we can't argue that the threat to peace and stability is gone. Therefore, the necessity of bilateral and multilateral cooperation is very important. Our summit will contribute to the development of our equal and brotherly cooperation, which will also contribute to peace and stability in our region. Turkmen President Niyazov suggested, in turn, to allow the Turkic Speaking Counties Organization to develop more and proposed that the next summit be held in Ashgabat. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said that this summit would help to give the people of the region prosperity, peace, and security. According to Kazakh President Nazarbaev, the summit is very important because of its discussions on security and regional cooperation. Kyrgyz President Akaev stated that Turkey, as a country on the way towards joining the EU, is a very important country, and it is an example to the other Turkic republics. The parliament speaker of Uzbekistan, Erkin Khalilov, said that this summit will lead in the future to multilateral relations.
According to these official statements, it could be argued that the leaders of Turkic states are much more concerned with security and stability issues. In that respect, their concerns are righteous because except Turkey -- which has a powerful army -- all the rest of them must rely on their powerful neighbors, like Russia and China, in security matters. Even an insurgency from Afghanistan could destabilize the Central Asian republics, or an ethnic war in the Caucasus could destabilize Azerbaijan. Even Turkey -- in a such a dangerous development -- would only be able to help its Turkic brothers in a very limited way. The involvement of the Turkish army in to Caucasus is easier to justify, but to send forces to the Central Asian republics would be judged only as an adventure.
In short, the Seventh Turkic Speaking Countries Summit, which was held in Istanbul on 26-27 April, has helped only to reassure that the up-and-down relations between Turkic republics continue to exist. (RFE/RL)
Niyazov: Blue Stream Is Expensive Investment
27 April 2001
By Yusuf Kanli
The summit meeting of the Turkish-speaking countries ended in Istanbul today following the declaration of a final communique.
Making closing remarks was Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who said that the rich natural resources of Turkish-speaking countries should be used for the welfare and economic developments of the relevant countries.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said that his country was ready to pump whatever amount of natural gas to Turkey that it wants. Stressing that Blue Stream is a very expensive investment, as it has required the construction of a deep-sea pipeline through the Black Sea, he claimed that the cost of one cubic meter of Turkmen gas to Turkey would be $75 Turkey while same amount of Russian gas through the Blue Stream would be $120. "It is up to Turkey to choose from which country it will buy the natural gas it needs," he said.
Sezer, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, and Uzbek parliamentary speaker Erkin Halilov all signed the final declaration.
In the Istanbul declaration, which was composed of 19 articles, participant countries agreed to respect each other's sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity, and said they would not interfere in each other's internal affairs and refrain from resorting to force in solving problems.
They also agreed to hold the eight summit meeting in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat next year.
"For the past two days, we held a very efficient meeting with the leaders of our sister [countries]. We once again reiterated our determination to further our 'perfect' relations in cultural, economic, and social fields," Sezer said.
Stressing that Turkey is placing special importance on the Aktau-Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the Turkish president said the leaders renewed their support of this project.
The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project, which will transport Azerbaijani oil to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, and the trans-Caspian pipeline project, which will transport Turkmen natural gas to Turkey and the European market, the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the status of the Caspian Sea, cooperation in fighting organized crime and terrorism, a revitalization of the historic Silk Road, and the development of cultural cooperation among civilian organizations were the dominant subjects discussed by the leaders at the two-day summit.
The leaders also underlined the need for a joint struggle and increased cooperation between their countries to eliminate "certain elements" -- meaning Islamist fundamentalist and secessionist groups -- that have been a constant source of instability in the Turkish world.
The summit has been held on a regular basis since late Turkish President Turgut Ozal launched the first one with a landmark meeting in Ankara in 1992. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)
EBRD Vows To Raise Democratic Standards Among Client States
By Stefan Wagstyl
24 April 2001
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the multilateral bank for eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, on 24 April pledged to increase efforts to raise standards of democracy in its client countries.
It hinted that states that failed to meet its criteria could face penalties, including possible suspension from the EBRD.
After sending a warning this week to Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian president of Belarus, the bank disclosed that it would review its relations with Turkmenistan because of concern about undemocratic aspects of the rule of President Saparmurat Niyazov.
Speaking at the close of the bank's annual meeting in London, Jean Lemierre, the president, said democracy was very important to the bank. "This is the most important lesson I draw from the last 10 years."
The bank is unusual among multilateral agencies in that a commitment to fostering democracy is enshrined in its founding articles. Until a few years ago, the bank had put less emphasis on this principle than on its other fundamental aim of encouraging market-oriented economics.
But since the 1998 Russian financial crisis, officials have paid more attention to the close link between the success of economic reform and high standards of democracy. They have contrasted the success of reform in the democratic states of Central Europe with the slowness of change in some parts of the former Soviet Union.
Bosse Ringholm, the Swedish chairman of the bank's governing board, told the annual meeting: "Many governors noted with concern the lack of progress in some countries in moving toward the establishment of truly democratic forms of government. Developments in every part of the world show that in an increasingly interdependent world, it is impossible to build a strong economy without building the institutions of a democratic and effective modern state.
"Lack of democracy, corruption, monopoly, and the absence of the rule of law go hand in hand with poverty and economic hardship."
In its letter to Lukashenka, the EBRD said it was reviewing its operations in Belarus in light of its failure to embrace democratic change or market reform. It said it would regard the presidential election this autumn as a key test. If there is no improvement in the country's democratic record, the bank will consider asking its board to "make decisions regarding the bank's operations in Belarus." Though not stated, the options could include suspension of membership.
In Turkmenistan, the bank suspended public sector loans last year in protest at Niyazov's politics, including the development of a full-blown personality cult for the man who calls himself Turkmenbashi, or father of the Turkmen people. Lemierre said the bank would review the situation and take a decision. He declined to comment on other countries.
The emphasis on democratic standards has the support of western governments, including the U.S., whose representative at the EBRD, William Schuerch, the deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, said: "I don't think this institution can credibly avoid facing this issue." (Financial Times)