26 August 2001
Turkmen, Uzbek Leaders Seek To Boost Cooperation, Moot Aral Sea Conference
24 August 2001
A telephone conversation took place on 24 August between Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.
The presidents pointed to a number of new areas of cooperation. They expressed the view that the potential for expanding cooperation was not being used in full. Niyazov and Karimov agreed to convene a meeting of their foreign ministers in the near future to draft specific proposals.
While discussing regional issues, the two presidents focused special attention on coordinating their actions in resolving Aral Sea-related matters. In this respect, Niyazov proposed to hold a summit of the leaders of the five Aral Sea littoral states in Ashgabat in January-February 2002, within the framework of the International Fund to Save the Aral Sea. The proposal was supported by Karimov. The relevant invitations will be dispatched to the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, Niyazov said. (Turkmen TV, RFE/RL)
Turkmenistan, Iran Want Suspension Of Caspian Oil Development
24 August 2001
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Turkmenistan President Niyazov have called for the suspension of oil-field development in the Caspian Sea's disputed waters.
The two presidents had a telephone conversation on 23 August. The report says they agreed the fields should not be developed until the Caspian Sea is amicably divided.
Niyazov confirmed his earlier invitation to Khatami to pay an official visit to Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan supplied to Iran nearly 300,000 tons of oil products and nearly 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2001. Turkmenistan should export a total of 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Iran in 2001.
The presidents of the Caspian Sea's five littoral states are scheduled to discuss the demarcation of zones and the attribution of the sea's mineral resources at a summit in October. (Interfax, AFP, RFE/RL)
Niyazov Approves National Plan On Oil-Spill Prevention, Liquidation
24 August 2001
According to the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru, President Niyazov has signed an order approving the National Plan on Prevention and Liquidation of Oil Spills. This plan was developed in accordance with current environmental-protection legislation in Turkmenistan and takes into account the regulations of hydrocarbon-deposit development introduced in the country. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Meeting On Caspian Legal Status In Astana Set For 18-20 September
24 August 2001
The upcoming fifth meeting of the special workgroup to prepare the convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be held in Astana on 18-20 September, instead of 7-9 September, as was previously stated, according to a competent source in the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The meeting will be held at the level of deputy ministers of foreign affairs of the Caspian littoral states -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Russia. They will discuss the declaration, which is to be accepted by the presidents of these countries in October at a summit in Turkmenistan, as well as some problems of the sea's legal status. The first part of the document on the sea's status was discussed by the countries' representatives on 15 June this year in Baku.
The special workgroup on the Caspian Sea's status was formed by the five foreign ministers in 1996 for preparation of a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Russia has signed bilateral agreements with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan about sector division of the sea bottom and cooperative usage of its surface and waters. Turkmenistan wants division of the bottom, waters, and surface of the sea. Iran's position is for common usage of natural resources of the sea by every country of the region, or division of the Caspian Sea into five equal parts. (GazetaSNG.ru, citing CNA)
Powerful Mayor Of Turkmen Capital Demoted
22 August 2001
President Niyazov dismissed Ashgabat Mayor Ashiberdy Cherkezov from his position on 21 August. According to Western diplomats in Ashgabat, Cherkezov was regarded as the third most powerful official in Turkmenistan, after the president and Committee for State Security Chairman General Mukhammed Nazarov.
Cherkezov has been sacked "for flaws in performing his duties," and appointed a deputy head of the Ashgabat administration with a 6-month probation period, a source with the presidential office told Interfax. "If he performs his duties improperly, he will be dismissed from his office without being given a new job," the source said.
Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister in charge of transportation and communication issues Berdymurat Redzhepov has been tapped to head the Ashgabat administration. Niyazov also appointed Allaguly Hojagulyyev as deputy minister of the Ministry of Construction Materials' Industry. (Interfax)
Turkmen President To Visit UAE In Beginning Of Next Year
22 August 2001
President Niyazov is expected to visit the United Arab Emirates in the beginning of next year, the presidential press service reported.
This date was determined during a meeting between Niyazov and the UAE Crown Prince's adviser, Mohammad Ali Isa al-Behesh, in Ashgabat on 22 August.
The sides discussed the development of bilateral cooperation and agreed to step it up in the future. UAE companies carried out several investment projects in Turkmenistan, including in the oil and gas sector. The company Dragon Oil, the controlling interest of which belongs to the United Arab Emirates, extracts oil in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian Sea under a production-sharing agreement.
Arab companies are participating in the construction of an airport and the reconstruction of a runway in the city of Mary, a museum in Archabil (an Ashgabat suburb), and the resort in Archman. (ITAR-TASS, Turkmen TV, RFE/RL)
Expert Body To Boost 'Fame' Of Turkmen Carpets Set Up
22 August 2001
President Niyazov passed a decree on setting up the World Association of Experts of Turkmen Handmade Carpets in the Turkmen capital on 21 August.
The decree, which was published in "Neytralny Turkmenistan" on 22 August, says that the aim of the association is "the revival, preservation, and creative development for world heritage of one of the oldest traditions of the art of Turkmen carpet-making as one of the best examples of applied folk art , and to increase the fame of Turkmen handmade carpet goods."
The decree said the association's headquarters would be in Ashgabat "the historical homeland and cradle of Turkmen carpet-making." ("Neytralny Turkmenistan")
Turkmen President Fires Policeman for Poor Job Raising Children
21 August 2001
Saparmurat Niyazov signed a decree stripping a police colonel of his rank and of all material and other benefits for failure to properly raise his children.
The man, named as Kakabai Seyidov, was stripped of his rank of colonel in the country's Interior Ministry. The official reason was "not paying the necessary attention to the upbringing of his children."
Seyidov's son and his wife were caught with 3.1 grams of heroin recently. Another of Seyidov's sons was caught and sentenced for robbery in February. (ITAR-TASS, RFE/RL, Interfax)
Ukraine Becomes Largest Importer Of Turkmen Goods
21 August 2001
Ukraine accounts for 47 percent of the whole of Turkmen export. This is according to a report of the National Institute of Statistics and Information of Turkmenistan for the first 6 months of 2001. Natural gas is the main Turkmen export.
Italy follows in second place among Turkmen export destinations with 18 percent. Further follows Iran, at 12 percent, and Russia.
But Russia has become the largest provider of Turkmenistan's imports, with 15 percent of the whole volume, putting Ukraine down to second place with 13 percent. After these countries follow the U.S. (11 percent), Germany (9 percent), and Japan (9 percent).
Compared to the first half of 2000, the most significant increases in export volume were in electric power (by 2 times), crude oil (40 percent), natural gas (24 percent), and oil products (21 percent).
The total value of exports for the six months was $1.284 billion, which exceeds the same period of 2000 by 14 percent. Compared to the same period of 2000, the value of import increased by 39 percent, to $1 .25 billion. The majority of imports (79 percent) consisted of industrial and technological production. (GazetaSNG.ru)
Turkmen Head Sacks Officials, Slams Slow Rate Of Construction Work
21 August 2001
Speaking at a meeting with the Turkmen capital's administration on 21 August, the president of Turkmenistan criticized the slow pace of construction of new buildings, roads, and gardens in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the country's independence. He said, "All top officials will give a report on preparations for the holiday at a meeting in October."
Analyzing the state of construction work, the president demanded that the Keymir [in western Turkmenistan] Central Asia pipeline should be commissioned by the holiday.
He said that new houses had been built but were not occupied yet: "New dwellings have been empty for six months after commissioning. Give them to people."
In his 65-minute remarks at the meeting, broadcast by the Turkmen TV channel "Altyn asyr" (Golden age) on 21 August, the president said that schools were not ready for the school year.
Speaking about education, the president criticized the way pupils' knowledge was tested and said: "Educational bodies cannot assess pupils' knowledge. You say that foreigners hold a test. Hold a test also. You carry out a conversation [traditional way of holding entrance examination to institutes] in a day. Knowledge is not assessed in a day." (Turkmen TV)
Niyazov Meets With Acting U.S. Charge D'Affaires, Signs Document On Fight Against Drug Trafficking
20 August 2001
On 20 August Saparmurat Niyazov received in Ashgabat the acting U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Turkmenistan, Eric Schultz.
According to Internet newspaper Turkmenistan.ru, during the conversation, the Turkmen leader and American diplomat discussed problems of bilateral cooperation, and also some regional problems.
In particular, they exchanged opinions on the problem of defining the new international legal status of the Caspian Sea. They also agreed that it is necessary to solve the complex issues connected to usage of mineral resources of the sea only by negotiations. In this context, Niyazov expressed confidence that the forthcoming summit of the five littoral states, which will be held in Turkmenistan, will bring new changes to the process of development of the sea's status.
Drug trafficking was also the focus of talks between Turkmen President Niyazov and U.S. Charge d'Affaires Eric Schultz, the press service said.
The sides discussed the signing of a bilateral agreement on the fight against drug trafficking. Niyazov stressed several times that this issue is rather topical for Turkmenistan.
The Turkmen president said that his country praises the U.S. initiatives on the solution of this problem, in particular the expansion of educational programs among young people.
Schultz told the press after the talks that the United States is ready to exert comprehensive support to Turkmenistan. At present, both sides continue implementing many projects pertained to strengthening a political dialogue, cultural contacts, and economic partnership. (ITAR-TASS, Turkmenistan.ru, Turkmen TV, RFE/RL)
Niyazov Sacks District Officials For 'Shortcomings'
20 August 2001
Turkmen President Niyazov has issued a series of decrees sacking two deputy governors of a district in the northern Turkmen Dashoguz region, and the deputy governors of two other districts in the same region, all for shortcomings in their work. Three of the dismissed deputy governors are women, one of whom was sacked not only for failing in her duties but also for corruption.
In accordance with a decree by the Turkmen president, Bayramgeldi Altyyev was relieved of the position of deputy governor of the Akdepe district of the Dashoguz region [northern Turkmenistan] for grave shortcomings in his work.
Akjagul Gurbanova was relieved of the position of deputy governor of the Akdepe district of Dashoguz region for grave shortcomings and failings in her work.
Shirin Sahetgulyyeva was relieved of the position of deputy governor of Yylanly district of Dashoguz region for grave shortcomings in her work and for using her position in her own self-interest.
Annageldi Mukhammetdurdyyev was relieved of the position of deputy governor of Tedzhen district and town in the Akhal region [central Turkmenistan] for failing in his duties.
Yazbibi Ovezova was relieved of the position of deputy governor of the Gubadag district of the Dashoguz region for grave shortcomings and failings in her work. (Turkmen TV)
Baku Rejects Turkmen Criticism Of Caspian Oil Work
18 August 2001
Azerbaijan hit back at Caspian neighbor Turkmenistan on 19 August rejecting a warning that its oil exploration in a disputed part of the Caspian Sea was illegal.
Ashgabat last month told Baku to stop work on two contested oil fields or "be answerable for the consequences."
The war of words between the two ex-Soviet states comes amid rising tension over the status of the sea, which contains huge reserves of oil and gas. Last month, Iran ordered two Baku-licensed ships out of what it said were Iranian waters.
In an open diplomatic note sent to Ashgabat, Baku said it would not accept "any claims aimed at thwarting the realization of its sovereign rights in a sector of the Caspian Sea which belongs to Azerbaijan."
"No claims on specific fields can be considered until the coordinates of a median line between all the Caspian littoral states is defined," the note said.
Baku said it was ready to push ahead with talks on how potentially huge energy deposits in the inland sea should be divided between the five states surrounding it -- Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.
The current status of the sea is governed by agreements between Iran and the Soviet Union, when there were only two Caspian neighbors.
While the five new neighbors disagree on who owns which part of the Caspian, this has not stopped them offering exploration and production blocks to foreign oil companies in what they consider their territorial waters.("Turkish Daily News")
'Turkish Stars' Acrobatics Squadron In Baku (Trouble In Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkmenistan Triangle?)
23 August 2001
By Nadir Devlet
The visit of the head of Turkish General Staff, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, to Azerbaijan and scheduled participation of a squadron of Turkish warplanes in parades in Baku on 24-25 August caused concerns in Iran and neighboring countries. General Kivrikoglu visited Baku for the graduation ceremony of the Azerbaijani Military Academy. This military school was established several years ago with Turkish aid in order to prepare new generations of Azerbaijani army officers, and the school was graduating its first class of students.
For this graduation ceremony Turkey also sent 10 F-5 fighters, which are known as the "Turkish Stars" acrobatics squadron. But the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kamal Kharazzi, promptly declared his concern to the newspaper "Iran News." Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Turan Morali rejected reports that the Turkish warplanes were going to participate in a military exercise in Baku as incorrect, and said the visit of the head of the Turkish General Staff could not be analyzed as a move against Iran. The Turkish Foreign Ministry also stated, after friction between Iran and Azerbaijan on the status of Caspian Sea, that presenting the Kivrikoglu's visit to Baku as a show of strength was annoying. Azerbaijani officials also rejected the accusations in the same manner.
Certainly these are diplomatic statements. The Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" published an article with the title "Threat to Iran" and another Turkish newspaper, "Radikal," published an article with entitled "Landing In Baku" in their 22 August issues.
According to some Turkish journalists, the Turkish goal is not to provoke Russia but to give a message to Armenia, which has occupied 20 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan. But according to some other journalists, after the friction between Azerbaijan and Iran, which threatened Baku over Caspian Sea energy sources two weeks ago, following its diplomatic warnings Turkey is also trying to find appropriate possibilities of military warnings.
Retired General Veli Kucuk, who gave an interview to a Azerbaijani newspaper recently, said that Azerbaijan and Turkey will continue to be close allies, and "we are the same nation with two seperate states." He further added that Azerbaijan's sufferings are affecting Turkey, and therefore Turks should cease this suffering of their brethren. Certainly this is not an official statement, but still it is a glimpse into how Turkish officers think.
The status of the Caspian Sea has not yet been resolved. Turkey, which is suffering from energy shortages, is first very interested about fulfillment of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline project. Second, Ankara is also waiting for the solution of the Caspian's status. Because according to some projects or theories, through the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline or another gas pipeline which could be built parallel to it on the same route, Kazakh oil and Turkmen gas could flow to Turkey. But a solution is still far off for the time being.
Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia have discovered rich reserves in their offshore regions. But Iran in that respect was not so lucky. Therefore, for Iran and -- if we take into consideration other objectives such as economic or strategic -- as well as for Russia, no solution could be a good solution. Iran suggested dividing the Caspian equally between the five littoral states.
On 23 August Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had a phone conversation with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Hatami told Niyazov that peace in the Caspian could be achieved only with the cooperation of all five countries. He said also that the Caspian belongs to the five states and energy resources on the sea floor should be divided equally. This statement implies that Iran will be against any kind of solution, if Teheran doesn't get equal shares from the rest of the countries.
On the other hand, we know that Ashgabat and Baku have serious controversial claims on the issue. Turkey in its turn is continuing the discussions with its "brethren states" of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan separately, and hinting to share its experience on Aegean Sea conflict with Greece.
But at the same time Ankara is not eager to take the role of a mediator, because Ankara doesn't want to annoy any of the parties by taking the side of one of the Turkic republics. Ankara knows very well that the Aegean conflict has lasted a long time without any solution, and there is no chance of a future solution which could satisfy both sides. In other words, if a conflict situation lasts a very long period, then finding an appropriate solution is almost impossible. Therefore Turkey can suggest to its "brethren" only not to prolong this problem for longer than necessary.
Whether Turkish General Staff head Kivrikoglu's visit to Azerbaijan will contribute to resolving the Caspian status question, we are not sure. But at least Azerbaijan will have a much stronger hand in its diplomatic, and even strategic, relations with Iran, Armenia, or other neighbors. In other words, Turkey has also shown that it is not indifferent to the developments of the region and will try to protect its interests. (RFE/RL)