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Turkmen Report: September 16, 2001

16 September 2001
Turkmenistan Will Support Anti-Terrorist Coalition

14 September 2001

Eric Schultz, the Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, briefed the president of Turkmenistan on possible retaliation for the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 14 September.

A U.S. envoy expressed gratitude for the condolences and flowers that had been heaped on the mission in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

"I came today to brief the president on the status of the investigation and what the American response will be to the terrorist attacks...and also to ask him for Turkmenistan's support for a coalition the United States is assembling to fight the war against terrorism," Schultz told reporters after meeting with President Saparmurat Niyazov.

"The president pledged his support for such a coalition and condemned in no uncertain terms the attacks, and said he would fully support the U.S. in its war against terrorism."

Schultz said it was too early to say who would be targeted, but he repeated U.S. President George W. Bush's pledge that not only those who had carried out the attacks but also those who gave the terrorists refuge would be punished.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the main suspect in the attacks is Osama bin Laden, raising the possibility of a military strike in Afghanistan, where he is based.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan, members of the Shanghai Six regional security organization promised to aid efforts to fight terrorism. Along with Kazakhstan, the group includes Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The latter two countries share borders with Afghanistan.

"We are prepared for close coordination with all states and international organizations to take effective measures in the uncompromising struggle to uproot the global danger coming from terrorism," the Shanghai Six prime ministers said in a statement.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said he could neither confirm nor deny media reports alleging that Washington was talking to Moscow about possibly staging strikes on Afghanistan from the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

"I don't have such information," Kasyanov said in Almaty, according to the Interfax news agency.

Tajikistan's prime minister, Akil Akilov, wouldn't say whether his country would give the United States an air corridor to Afghanistan. If Washington requests it, Tajikistan would consult Russia, Interfax quoted Akilov as saying.

Akilov voiced concern about a potential flood of refugees into impoverished Tajikistan if the United States launches strikes on neighboring Afghanistan. Russia has 25,000 troops protecting the volatile Tajik-Afghan border. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, AP, Interfax,, Itar-tass)

Book About Niyazov Published In Turkmenistan

12 September 2001

A two-volume novel entitled "The Righteous Way" about Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has been published.

The authors of the novel are presidential press secretary Kakamurat Ballyev and editor in chief of the Turkmen World newspaper Osman Odaev, the Rukh publishing house, which has released the book, told Interfax on 12 September.

The book is based on diaries Niyazov kept in the 1980s, when the future Turkmen president became first secretary of the Turkmen Communist Party. (Interfax)

Niyazov Has Expressed Condolences To U.S. President

12 September 2001

Turkmen President Niyazov sent condolences to U.S. President George W. Bush on the occasion of the tragedy which took place on 11 September and which claimed many human lives.

The disaster, which has overcome the people of United States, the message says, had a painful effect in the hearts of Turkmen citizens, which with sincere sympathy receive news coming from America.

In his letter, Niyazov also sends words of support and deep compassion to relatives of the victims. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service,

Turkmenistan To Publish So-called Spiritual Code Written By Niyazov

10 September 2001

President Niyazov has completed his work on a so-called spiritual code of Turkmen citizens, called "Rukhnama."

Niyazov finished writing the last chapter of the book at the end of last week, a source in the Turkmen president's staff told Interfax. The book will be sent to press on 11 September, the source said.

The president put forward the idea of writing a code in 1998. "It should be a charter of human conduct, a code of canons and principles of Turkmen society," he said. The main goal of "Rukhnama" is "to reconstruct forgotten customs and traditions, and thus to revive the spirit of the people," he added. (Interfax)

Only 1,500 Hooked Up To Internet In Turkmenistan

11 September 2001

A deputy head of Turkmentelekom told a television audience that only "about 1,500 people now use the Internet in Turkmenistan, and 40 percent of them are private users" on the program "Ak yollaryng aydymy" ("A song of white roads"), broadcast by Turkmen TV on 11 September. The state official presented the figure as an achievement. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Turkmen TV)

Turkmengaz Discovers Significant Gas Reserves At Tarygaya Deposit

10 September 2001

The Turkmen state concern Turkmengaz has discovered significant reserves at the country's Tarymgaya gas deposit, a source in the company told Interfax.

Yields from a well drilled at the deposit amounted to 550,000 cubic meters. The well was drilled to a depth of 3,657 meters. According to the source, the proximity of the deposit to main export pipelines and to pumping stations will result in savings in the cost of gas transport.

In 10 years of drilling, Turkmenistan has discovered 17 new gas deposits in the Lebap, Mary, and Dashoguz regions. Growth in explored reserves of natural gas amounted to about 150 billion cubic meters. The majority of the beds discovered are on the right bank of the Amurdari basin. According to experts, in the future this region will become a large suppler of fuel to the world market.

There are currently 90 operational wells at Turkmengaz deposits, which daily produce tens of millions of cubic meters of gas, the source said.

On 8 September Turkmen President Niyazov, who is famous for his public criticism of officials, had nothing but praise for the head of the Turkmen Oil state concern, Saparmammet Valiev, for discovering the new oil deposit of Nebitlije in western Turkmenistan.

"If all you agree, I am going to award Saparmammet the title of national hero of Turkmenistan on 19 February [2002], at the session of the People�s Council," Niyazov said, prompting VAliyev to bow and kiss Niyazov's hand. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Interfax, Turkmen TV)

Afghan Opposition Spokesman Confirms Massoud's Death

15 September 2001

An official spokesman for forces opposing Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, has confirmed to RFE/RL Turkmen Service that opposition military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud died from wounds suffered in a suicide bomb attack on 9 September.

Baryalei, speaking by satellite telephone from the opposition capital Faizabad, said Massoud died overnight in a hospital in northern Afghanistan.

Ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani described Massoud as a "national hero" and blamed his death on Pakistan, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, and alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Massoud was critically injured in an assassination bid by two Arabs posing as journalists in northern Takhar province on 9 September.

The Afghan Islamic Press reports that the anti-Taliban military leader was buried in his stronghold in northern Afghanistan.

Leaders of the Afghan Northern Alliance met a secret location in northeastern Afghanistan on 15 September to discuss the situation after Massoud's death and in light of possible U.S. military reprisals for terror attacks on 11 September in the United States. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, AFP, DPA)

Substation On Turkmen-Uzbek Border Ready For Opening

10 September 2001

The Seydi-500 electricity substation with a power of 500 kV in eastern Turkmenistan is ready for commissioning. At the heart of the substation there are four transformers delivered from Zaporizhzhya in Ukraine. Three of them, with a total power 500 MW, will operate round-the-clock with one being a backup.

The construction of two power-transmission lines -- output and input �- has also been completed. The 500 kV current from the Mary power station in southern Turkmenistan will be reduced to 220 kV at the substation.

People and industry in Lebap and Dashoguz will have an uninterrupted power supply when the station opens. It is expected that the economic impact of the station will be 3bn manats (official rate is 5,200 manats to one U.S. dollar) annually. (Turkmen State News Service)

Governmental Delegation Of Turkmenistan Negotiates In Iran

12 September 2001

A Turkmen governmental delegation formed by Vice-Premier Elly Gurbanmuradov, supervising problems of the oil-and-gas complex, Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashid Meredov, and a commission of experts, has arrived in Teheran to carry out negotiations with Iran on a wide spectrum of questions related to the further development in the Turkmen-Iranian partnership.

According to our sources, an overall objective of bilateral consultations is the preparation of a bilateral agreement between Turkmenistan and Iran on cooperation in the economic sphere that could be signed by leaders of the neighboring states during IRI President Seyid Mohammad Khatami's visit to Ashgabat, planned for this autumn.

In addition, the sides will discuss participation by Iranian specialists and companies in the implementation of projects in Turkmenistan.

This year about 300,000 tons of oil products were transported from Turkmenistan to Iran, and about 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas were transported through the Korpeje gas pipeline. (, Interfax, CNA)

Turkmenistan And Iran To Sign Long-Term Agreement On Economic Cooperation

11 September 2001

Long-lasting Turkmen-Iranian intergovernmental agreement on developing the main directions of cooperation in the economic sphere will be signed during the visit to Turkmenistan of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. A source in the presidential administration informed CNA that a Turkmen governmental delegation has left for Teheran to prepare the agreement.

A wide range of questions, including the deliveries of Turkmen natural gas to Armenia via Iran and participation of major Iranian companies in implementation of some investment projects in Turkmenistan, will be discussed during the visit to Kurt-Kui in Iran. (CNA)

'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' Evaluates Multivector 'Gas' Policy Of Turkmenbashi

14 September 2001

The Russian publication "Nezavisimaya gazeta" draws attention to the fact that Turkmen officials in practice confirm the adherence to pragmatic principles in international cooperation, in the 14 September publication of "Ashgabat Is Open To Everybody." That conclusion is illustrated by the policy of Ashgabat toward the export of Turkmen gas. The newspaper writes: "It would seem, absolutely recently, that Ashgabat has completed long-term agreement on deliveries of Turkmen gas to Ukraine in a volume of 250 billion cubic meters for the next five years, and some observers have hurried to draw the conclusion that Kyiv is becoming the main economic partner of Turkmenistan in the near future. However, already after some months, the perspective of signing similar contracts with two other buyers of Turkmen natural gas -- Russia and Iran -- is becoming a reality."

In judgment of "Nezavisimaya Gazeta," Turkmenbashi has unambiguously demonstrated that all buyers of Turkmen gas "are put on the same level." None of them will be preferred in price-setting. After Ukraine agreed to buy Turkmen fuel at the price of $42 for each thousand cubic meters in the coming year, which is stated in the contract, Iran and Russia have no chance of getting different conditions. On the other hand, both Moscow and Teheran can hardly find arguments against the rules of an open game on the "gas field" offered by Ashgabat and the absence of political or ideological preferences selected by it." (

Russia's Gazprom To Become Major Buyer Of Turkmen Gas

12 September 2001

Russia�s gas giant Gazprom and Turkmenistan's state corporation Turkmenneftegaz will sign an agreement on Turkmen gas deliveries to Russia before the end of this year. This agreement was reached at talks that ended on 13 September in the Turkmen capital.

Sources in the national Ministry for the Petroleum Industry said a relevant inter-governmental agreement and contract for the period until 2011 will be signed simultaneously.

Russia�s bid to buy Turkmen gas on long-term basis is "a natural step toward the broadening of bilateral cooperation of countries possessing world resources of natural gas," the sources said. Prices and volumes of gas deliveries will be defined later, they said. (Itar-tass)

Turkmen-Russian Working Group Set Up For Gas Issues

10 September 2001

Turkmen-Russian talks were held in the Turkmen capital on 10 September on preparing a draft project on the supply and transportation of Turkmen gas.

In line with a recent agreement, a Russian delegation arrived in Ashgabat, led by Russia�s deputy energy minister, Piotr Nidzelskiy.

The sides discussed a wide range of issues relating to the fuel and energy sector, focusing a great deal of attention on the strategy of long-term supply of Turkmen gas and the further supply of Turkmen fossil fuels to world markets. In line with the existing contracts on the supply of gas to Russia, the sides set up a joint working group comprised of oil and gas experts from the two countries. (Neitralny Turkmenistan)

Kazakhstan To Tighten Its Southern Borders

15 September 2001

A top Kazakh official says his country will tighten security on its southern borders with Central Asian states next to Afghanistan.

Reuters quotes Kazakh National Security Adviser Altymbek Sarsenbaev making the remark on 14 September in Washington following talks with U.S. officials.

They met after the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The main suspect in the attacks is Osama bin Laden, believed to be based in Afghanistan.

Sarsenbaev said he and U.S. officials discussed regional security, in particular "strengthening the southern borders of Kazakhstan." He also said the United States would help by speeding up and increasing funding to a program already in place. The program is designed to boost security in the region and stem the flow of drugs out of Afghanistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, Reuters)

As U.S. Focuses On Osama Bin Laden, Central Asia Faces New Concerns

14 September 2001

By Jeremy Bransten

The chorus of official support for the United States coming from Central Asia masks unease among the region�s leaders and people about the consequences of possible military action against Afghanistan.

Three Central Asian states -- Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- share borders with Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan, which does not, has periodically battled fundamentalist rebels who used Taliban-sponsored training bases in Afghanistan.

The United States, which is trying to assemble a coalition of partners should it go into battle with the Taliban, is urging Central Asian governments to fall into line with Washington.

Immediately after 11 September's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan John Herbst made the following statement:

"At this time, it is very important for all civilized people to stick together to destroy the threat of terrorism and vanquish those who committed these acts."

U.S. emissaries made similar appeals in all the Central Asian capitals. Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Yerlan Idrisov, speaking today in Almaty at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- said the organization's members had issued a statement pledging support for possible U.S. military retaliation:

"This statement implies that the support will be given to a rightful retaliation against the groups which support, sponsor, and carry out terrorist acts throughout the world."

Ahmed Rashid is a leading expert on the Taliban and a Pakistan-based correspondent for "The Far Eastern Economic Review." He tells RFE/RL that the Central Asian leaders have little choice:

"First of all, all the Central Asian states are members of the Partnership for Peace with NATO. Under that treaty obligation and the fact that there are already U.S. officers and troops training Central Asian armies -- which has nothing to do with this incident but is related to the threat they face from the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, the IMU -- the Central Asian states are certain to be major operational bases for any kind of American military campaign against the Taliban."

Russia, too, which has 25,000 border troops in Tajikistan alone, can be expected to offer its assistance, although the extent of what help Moscow would be prepared to give has yet to be determined. But in exchange, Rashid says, America will be expected to do more than just pursue bin Laden.

"Now clearly, the Russians and the Uzbeks are going to be telling the Americans: 'If you want our military cooperation, we also want you to target the IMU bases -- that is, that you take out not just bin Laden's camps but also IMU camps and you try and strangle the IMU as well.' And I see no reason why the Americans wouldn't go along with that because the Americans have already termed the IMU as a terrorist organization with links to bin Laden. But the danger is: What will be the IMU's reaction? Is there the possibility of them launching guerrilla raids into Central Asia, creating a military situation in Central Asia?"

And the IMU is not the only terrorist organization that the Taliban is sheltering. The United States, if it moves against Afghanistan, could soon find itself chasing down half a dozen other groups, which could, in turn, seek revenge on Central Asia.

"The problem in Afghanistan is that the Taliban have given sanctuary to dozens of foreign groups, of which of course the biggest is bin Laden's. The second biggest are probably some of the Pakistani groups, Kashmiri groups. And the third is the IMU. But there are also lots of other smaller groups. Most of these neighboring [states] are probably going to encourage the U.S. to take out all these groups in a military way. Now that is going to create a hornet's nest. It's going to create a hornet's nest in Pakistan, domestically. It could in Central Asia. And it could escalate terrorist attacks in all these neighboring countries also by these extremists."

This possibility has prompted some opposition politicians in the region to warn against drawing hasty conclusions about the perpetrators of the U.S. attacks. Muhitdin Kabiri, deputy chairman of the Tajikistan Islamic Revival Party, offered this warning:

"For Tajikistan, which is directly in the path of the sources of such actions, this is a very important issue, and because of that our party has expressed deep concerns and asked for further investigation about the action itself and who is responsible. The guilty must be brought to justice."

Those words were echoed today by Bolot Kudaibergenov, deputy speaker of the lower house of Kyrgyzstan's parliament:

"If the situation is to be understood correctly, as long as no guilty politician or leader [behind the terrorist acts] has been found, no measures can be taken."

As the United States weighs the consequences of its possible military actions, Rashid says, it must remember that behind the facade of unity, regional leaders will be pursuing their own aims. The Russian military may have doubts about using Central Asia as a possible springboard for attacking Afghanistan. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said today he sees "no basis" for such action. But Russia's political leadership is seeking justification for its policy line that it has always fought the "good fight" against Islamic terrorism, both in Chechnya and elsewhere. Rashid says:

"It needs a kind of legitimacy. It doesn't want to have a repeat of the Chechen operation where Russia went in alone against the Chechens and what it said were Islamic extremists and then got castigated by the Western world. If it can rope in NATO, Partnership for Peace, the Americans, the Europeans, into suppressing Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia, then Russian actions get a kind of legitimacy, a global legitimacy."

Central Asia's more authoritarian leaders are likely to seize the chance for U.S. military and political support to consolidate their own power. But this, Rashid predicts, will lead to greater oppression of the local population -- which could paradoxically create more fertile ground for future terrorists.

On the sidelines, for the moment, is perhaps the region's most authoritarian leader. Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, has reacted coolly to U.S. calls for a war on terrorism. In his initial condolence message to U.S. President George W. Bush on 12 September, Niyazov expressed sorrow for the enormous loss of life but made no mention of the terrorist perpetrators.

Turkmenistan, which is officially neutral, has supplied the Taliban with both natural gas and electricity. In a speech to foreign diplomats earlier this year, Niyazov said it was time the world changed its policies toward the Taliban.

"They are being beaten, sanctions [are imposed]. Listen, give them a chance to create a state, to create the structures of state governance, a united power, a structure of parliament."

But Rashid predicts Turkmenistan will now be squeezed by both Washington and Moscow to radically alter its policies.

"Turkmenistan will have no choice but to fall in line with the Americans and the Russians because it's in a precarious situation. It has a lot of pressures, domestic and foreign, and I don�t think it can buck the international community. And the Americans -- [U.S. Secretary of State] Colin Powell and Bush -- have made it very clear that either you're for us or against us. There's no question of neutrality. And that message will be delivered very strongly by the Americans and the Russians to President Niyazov. There's no question of Turkmenistan, I think, being allowed to maintain a kind of neutral stance, when it borders Afghanistan, when bases in Turkmenistan will be required."

For the more than 1 million ethnic Turkmen currently living in Afghanistan, a change in Ashgabat's political stance could have unforeseeable consequences. The geopolitical map could be about to change and Central Asia will bear the brunt of those changes. (RFE/RL)

Freedom To Aimuradov!

12 September 2001

Our listener from Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) Novruzov, impressed by the amnesty declared by the Kyrgyz President Akayev, has sent the following letter.

So far there is a political prisoner in Turkmenistan. His name is Mukhammed Aimuradov.

Aimuradov and Khoshali Garaev were detained in Tashkent in 1994 and brought to Ashgabat handcuffed. They were accused of an attempt to assassinate Turkmen President Niyazov.

Aimuradov was first sentenced to 15 years; Garaev got a 12-year sentence. In 1998 their cases were reinvestigated, and they got new sentences of 18 years each.

On 9 September 1999, Garaev was "found" hanging in his cell.

The Turkmen service of RFE/RK, Novruzov writes, seldom mentions the name of Aimuradov in its reports and programs. Neither do other human rights and humanitarian organizations.

Novruzov suggests that Niyazov should free Aimuradov as a sign of good will for the forthcoming 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence. To make Niyazov do this, the UN, OSCE, and embassies of democratic states in Turkmenistan have to put pressure on Niyazov. We all must let Aimuradov avoid the destiny of Garaev, the letter's author writes. (Novruzov, Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan)

Why Did Former Ashgabat Teacher Hang Herself?

11 September 2001

A teacher at one Ashgabat higher institute of learning, who preferred to remain anonymous, has asked this question. She also provided the following answer:

The news of But's suicide shocked everybody who knew her. Miss But was a kind, openhearted woman, an experienced lawyer, and a great teacher. She used to teach law at the Ashgabat State University. As a high-level expert, she was promoted to the newly opened Police Academy, established after the closure of Turkmenistan's Academy of Sciences.

But the real matter is as follows: Miss But was considered loyal toward the current Niyazov regime. This why she was allowed to join the Police Academy, where candidates are checked up to three generations back, and not everyone is then allowed to work there, as Niyazov personally said.

Miss But hanged herself after she was ordered to leave the flat she was living in, because the flat was supposed to be destroyed soon. She knew an equivalent flat would not be granted to her, but had applied anyways to the different state authorities with a request to get a more-or-less similar flat.

Her request was neither satisfied, nor even answered. And the woman did not find any other way out of the situation than hanging herself in her own flat.

Before her death, she had written a letter with the title "I protest!" So, the reason of her suicide is quite clear. (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan)