9 December 2001
OSCE: No Freedom Of Press In Turkmenistan
10 December 2001
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will continue to actively work for the freedom of the media in Central Asia and will defend journalists suffering persecution, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve said at the third Central Asian conference on media freedom during the antiterrorist campaign, which opened in Almaty on 9 December.
Duve noted that the antiterrorist activities in the region complicate the free operation of the media, and in these conditions some states have proclaimed the priority of national security over human rights.
The OSCE plans for supporting the freedom of the media in the region concern Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and exclude Turkmenistan, where no manifestations of freedom of the press are visible, Duve said.
Nevertheless, the OSCE office in Turkmenistan will try to improve its work in 2002 and plans to release a special report on the state of the media in that country, he said.
Another participant in the conference, OSCE Kazakhstan mission head Heinrich Haupt, noted that courts push the media into self-censorship by imposing excessive fines on them.
In addition, the authorities ban certain opposition publications and limit access to unwanted websites on the pretext of protecting national security during the antiterrorist campaign in the region, he said.
Haupt recommended that journalists from the Central Asian countries draw up a code of journalist ethics, which would enable them to provide more objective news coverage and oblige them to bear responsibility for informational accuracy.
Taking part in the work of the two-day conference were journalists from Central Asian countries, human rights advocates, political analysts, and representatives from international organizations and diplomatic missions. (Interfax-Kazakhstan)
President Accused Of Ordering Assassinations, Corruption
8 December 2001
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov ordered the killing of political prisoners between 1993 and 1997, fixed elections, and siphoned off huge sums of money from the coffers of his Central Asian nation, former Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said.
Shikhmuradov made the new accusations in an interview on 7 December. He said Niyazov had ordered the politically motivated killings of both Turkmen and foreign prisoners held in the country's jails.
The autocratic president had also illegally used or stolen a total of some $1.2 billion in funds, some of it in foreign exchange held by Turkmenistan, the former official alleged. Niyazov had also presided over "religious and ethnic persecution," he added.
Shikhmuradov, who made similar accusations in November, added that a file on the alleged crimes had been drawn up for the OSCE.
Following his initial accusations last month, Shikhmuradov was charged with misuse of public funds and smuggling by a Turkmen court. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, "Vremya novostei")
Iran's Deputy FM Meets With Turkmen President
6 December 2001
Iran's President Mohammad Khatami intends to visit Turkmenistan in March 2002, announced Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari on 6 December after talks in Ashgabat with Turkmen President Niyazov.
Turkmenistan's official news agency quoted Safari as saying that Khatami's visit will help deepen political dialogue between the two countries as well as strengthen and broaden regional cooperation. No specific date for the visit was announced.
The agency said Niyazov and Safari, who head's the Iranian ministry's Caspian department, also discussed possible resolutions in the sharing of the Caspian Sea's energy and oil resources.
Turkmenistan and Iran are proposing the division of the Caspian into five equal shares. But Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan want the sea to be divided according to the length of each country's shoreline.
Safari is next scheduled to visit Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan during his tour of Caspian states. (RFE/RL, AFP, ITAR-TASS)
15th Session Of Commission On Caspian Bioresources To Take Place In Astrakhan
6 December 2001
On 6-7 December the 15th session of the Commission on Water Bioresources of the Caspian Sea will take place in Astrakhan. According to the press release from the State Fisheries Committee of the Russian Federation, the heads of fish industry departments from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and also representatives of Iran will take part in the session.
Participants of the session are to hear information from the parties on the development of limits, protection, and reproduction of water bioresources of the Caspian Sea, and discuss the condition of their reserves. This question has drawn particular attention now in connection with the crisis situation of the sturgeon population, as well as the spread of ctenophora. Ctenophora is a kind of jellyfish brought to the Caspian along with the ballast waters of vessels from the Azov Sea which destroys the basic feed of sprat, which has caused a sharp reduction in their population. The parties are also expected to discuss questions connected to the Agreement on the Preservation and Use of Bioresources of the Caspian Sea. (GazetaSNG.ru)
Turkmen Prisoner Amnesty Starts
5 December 2001
Turkmen authorities have started releasing some of the 9,000 prisoners amnestied by President Niyazov in conjunction with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
It was the third time Niyazov has amnestied prisoners on the occasion of Ramadan. Most of the 9,000 to be freed will leave prison later this month, closer to the end of the holy month. Turkmen authorities say that 9,000 is half the number of prisoners currently held in Turkmen jails.
The state news agency Turkmendovlethabarlary says those amnestied are expected to attend festivities in honor of the end of Ramadan where they will swear never to commit crimes again.
In the last three years, more than 100,000 prisoners have been either pardoned or received amnesties in Turkmenistan. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, AFP)
Reprisals Against Protestants Begin Again
5 December 2001
After a week when the authorities were easing their punitive measures against those who took part in a service of the Protestant Word of Life church raided by police and the security police in Ashgabat on 15 November, Keston News Service has learned that the authorities in a small village have taken revenge on three villagers who had traveled to Ashgabat for the service. Sources in Turkmenistan told Keston on 5 December that one of those summoned by the local police was sentenced to 15 days in prison, while the other two were threatened and then released.
They added that the Ashgabat authorities probably telephoned the authorities in the village of Deinau 35 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of the town of Turkmenabat (former Charjew) to inform them that the three had participated in an "illegal" religious meeting.(Keston News Service)
Turkmen Embassy Quits Moldovan Capital, Heads for Romania
5 December 2001
According to reliable sources in Ashgabat, in the near future the staff of the Turkmen embassy are to be transferred from the Moldovan capital Chisinau to the Romanian capital Bucharest. The Romanian capital has been chosen for the location of the Turkmen embassy, which from now on will represent official Ashgabat both in Romania and Moldova.
It is worth recalling that at a recent meeting with Turkmen envoys serving in foreign countries, Niyazov announced his decision to move the diplomats from Chisinau to the Romanian capital. The main reason for this move, as the president noted, was the lack of any serious economic cooperation between Turkmenistan and Moldova.
According to Turkmenistan.ru, yesterday Niyazov issued a decree detailing the staff number and official light cars to be provided for the embassy as well as the maintenance expenditure necessary for the embassy in December 2001. (Turkmenistan.ru)
RFE/RL Expands Broadcasts To Central Asia
3 December 2001
Contributing to the war against terrorism, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty expanded broadcasts to Central Asia from 3 December.
"As part of RFE/RL's contribution to the war on terrorism, today we have increased by two hours the amount of broadcasting in Turkmen, added one and a half hours to our Azerbaijani-language broadcast, and an additional hour to our Farsi broadcast," RFE/RL's President Thomas Dine said in a statement.
RFE/RL's spokeswoman, Sonia Winter, said that broadcasts in five other languages would also be increased.
"Over the next two months, RFE/RL will gradually expand its broadcast in the Azerbaijani, Farsi, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, and Arabic languages to 20 hours a day," she said.
At present RFE/RL broadcasts to 25 countries in 27 languages for more than 1,000 hours a week. (RFE/RL)
Turkmenistan Obtains First Oil Tanker
2 December 2001
Turkmenistan has obtained its first oil tanker. The tanker moored in the port of its registration, Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk), on 2 December.
The river-to-sea oil tanker with a capacity of 5,000 tons was built in Turkey. The Islamic Development Bank had given Turkmenistan an $11 million loan for the project.
The vessel will transport exported oil from Turkmenistan. Turkmen and foreign oil companies yearly transport over 2 million tons of oil and approximately the same amount of fuel oil on chartered tankers.
At present Turkmenistan has four dry cargo vessels. (ITAR-TASS)
NEWS FROM THE NEIGHBORS
Osama Bin Laden Reportedly Encircled In Eastern Afghanistan
9 December 2001
Military Attache to the Afghan Embassy in Tajikistan Vadoud Kudusi has stated that according to unconfirmed preliminary reports, Osama bin Laden has been encircled in eastern Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden, "with a thousand armed supporters and foreign mercenaries, has been encircled several kilometers from the Taliban fortress of Tora Bora near Mount Spingar," Kudusi told Interfax on 9 December.
Fierce fighting is currently under way there, he said.
Northern Alliance leaders do not rule out that reports about bin Laden's whereabouts may have been circulated by the Taliban in order to distract attention from the place where he is actually hiding, Kudusi said. (Interfax)
Kandahar In Chaos, Say Military Sources
9 December 2001
Rifts over spheres of influence between the local Pashtun leaders have caused military-political chaos and a wave of crime in Kandahar, a southeastern Afghan city abandoned by the Taliban a few days ago, a source in the Tajik law-enforcement agencies told Interfax on 9 December.
The chaos is being aggravated by the fact that some of the Talibs did not leave the city when their regular units retreated southwards to Paktia province.
The Talibs have merged with local civilians and at night provoke skirmishes and carry out armed raids against civilians in order to raise a wave of discontent against the new authorities, the source said.
He said that Pashtun Hamid Karzai, head of Afghanistan's interim government and supported by some of the Kandahar Pashtun field commanders, has not been recognized by individual leaders of the armed self-defense detachments, as he is a supporter of Afghanistan's former King Zahir Shah. (Interfax)
U.S. To Triple Assistance To Uzbekistan
10 December 2001
The U.S. assistance to political and economic reforms in Uzbekistan will be tripled, says a message from President George W. Bush to Uzbek leader Islam Karimov, which was delivered by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to Tashkent on 8 December.
The message says that the United States will give comprehensive support to Uzbek economic reforms, which will help Uzbekistan to lay a solid economic foundation and to open the way for sizable assistance of international financial organizations.
Bush said he valued highly the personal efforts of Islam Karimov on the involvement of Uzbekistan in the international antiterrorist coalition. The decision of Karimov to accept American military units has contributed a lot to the U.S. efforts, the message says. The goal is not easy, but it will be achieved through common efforts, it notes.
Bush said he is adherent to the long-term partnership with Uzbekistan despite the attention now concentrated on the joint antiterrorist fight. The U.S. will support every effort of Uzbekistan to provide for large political and economic freedoms for the Uzbek people, Bush said.
He said he was interested in deeper cooperation in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and lauded the opening of the Druzhba (Friendship) Bridge in Termez.
Bush said he hoped to meet with Karimov in the United States. (Interfax)
FEATURES AND ANALYSIS
Address To Radio Liberty By U.S. Ambassador To Turkmenistan Laura Kennedy
6 December 2001
Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. It's a pleasure to appear on Radio Liberty. I spent a number of years working in the Soviet Union and I know what a difference this station made. I am Laura Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan. I have asked to speak about terrorism and the U.S. government's response to the hideous attacks in America by the Al-Qaeda network on 11 September. This is one of the defining issues of our day. We will soon mark the third month anniversary of the attacks in which citizens of more than 80 nations died.
The international coalition against terrorism includes our military forces, those of many other nations, and all Afghans seeking a better future. Together we are liberating Afghanistan from oppression and terror. The Afghan people are celebrating. The Taliban and the terrorists are on the run. The coalition is dismantling the terrorist network in Afghanistan, piece by piece.
We seek to defeat the Taliban because we seek to defeat terrorism itself. We will pursue that goal through all means possible: military, diplomatic, financial, and intelligence. As President Bush has said, we will not distinguish between those nations who harbor terrorists and terrorists themselves.
Our enemies -- terrorist networks -- are devious and ruthless. They have no conscience, no true religious faith, and no mercy. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have profaned the great religion of Islam by seeking to claim Allah's blessing for their evil.
As for Afghanistan: the Taliban squeezed the life out of the country -- no music, no soccer, no education or jobs for women. They gave total support to Osama bin Laden and his gang of Al-Qaeda murderers. Now, in recent days, as the curtain has been lifted, we have seen on television the joyous pictures of liberated Afghans, of women coming out of the shadows, of children happily flying kites.
The Taliban were clearly more interested in protecting the Al-Qaeda terrorist network than feeding the starving innocent people of Afghanistan.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is dire. Twenty years of war, compounded by the cruel and selfish rule of the Taliban and the worst drought in living memory, have brought tragic results.
The Al-Qaeda and Taliban deliberately and systematically disrupted the efforts of international relief agencies to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies to the Afghan people. Among other things, the Taliban have seized and looted humanitarian supplies for themselves, and have harassed and beaten Afghan and international aid workers.
For years the U.S. has been the largest humanitarian aid donor to the people of Afghanistan and has pledged hundreds of millions more in the last several months. We fund 80 percent of all the food aid going to Afghanistan. The U.S. and its coalition allies are working around the clock to help get food, blankets, medicine, and other important humanitarian aid to the Afghan people before their harsh winter sets in. Turkmenistan is a major transit corridor for aid into Afghanistan, particularly the northwest which is one of the worst-off areas.
But short-term relief is not enough. So we are working with the international community and the Afghan people to help them rebuild their country. We are also working with the United Nations to help the Afghans form a new government, one that represents all ethnic backgrounds and that includes women and that will allow the refugees to return home.
The Afghan delegations working under the leadership of the UN's Lakhdar Brahimi have just agreed on an interim authority for the country. This is excellent news, although we all recognize there is hard work ahead for the new Afghan authorities.
Let me now quote U.S. Secretary of State Powell. He said: "While we are fighting this campaign, while we are watching the battles day by day on our television sets, we and our colleagues in the State Department, President Bush and his assistants in the White House, every single day we take a look at the future, beyond the military campaign. We take a look at what the needs of Afghanistan will be."
The permanent structure of post-Taliban Afghanistan will be for the Afghan people to determine. But we will provide strong diplomatic and economic support to the aspirations of Afghan parties committed to an inclusive, democratic political structure, committed to the welfare of all Afghan men and women. This is a structure in which all Afghan ethnic groups can participate and find their rightful place.
As the roadmap for the new government for Afghanistan is charted, the international community will work closely with these new authorities in Afghanistan on the vital task of the country's reconstruction after over 20 years of instability and war.
Thank you. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service)