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Turkmen Report: April 29, 2000

29 April 2000
Kyiv To Determine Advance Payment For Turkmen Gas
April 29, 2000

Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yushchenko says his government will determine by May 9 the amount of advance payments to be made to Turkmenistan for natural gas supplies.

Leaders from Turkmenistan and Ukraine recently agreed that Ukraine would supply goods for some of the gas and would agree to invest in Turkmenistan for other gas supplies.

Yushchenko is quoted today as saying the question of payments will be worked out so that the countries can start talks on further debt servicing. He did not say how big the payment will be. (RFE/RL - Itar-Tass)

Turkmen Ships May Soon Travel Through Russian Inland Waterways
April 29, 2000

Turkmen TV reported that Russia is currently developing regulations that will enable Turkmen ships to travel through Russia's inland waterways, carrying their cargoes directly to and from any port in the Black and Mediterranean Seas.

The use of Russia's inland waterways will allow Turkmen seamen to abandon the costly services of foreign maritime companies.

The report said that while Russia will provide Turkmen ships with full service, the Turkmen side will have to pay for it, as well as for fuel, water, food, registration, and communication services, at the tariffs applicable in the Russian Federation. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen TV Channel 1)

U.S. Gives Over $1 Million In Medical Aid to Turkmenistan
April 28, 2000

A large consignment of medicines and medical equipment totaling more than $1 million was flown from the United States to the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on Friday on a special flight.

The consignment, weighing 11 tons, includes equipment for diagnosing tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, the Turkmen health ministry has told Interfax.

The equipment will be placed in the central tuberculosis hospital and the national laboratory for diagnosing hepatitis shortly. (Interfax)

First Oil Field Found In Southeastern Turkmenistan
April 27, 2000

Turkmen TV reports that a new oil deposit has been discovered in the Toreshykh area in the southeast of Mary Region in the south of Turkmenistan. The deposit is 2,000 meters deep and can provide 140-150 tons of oil daily.

This is the first ever oil deposit discovered in the southeast of the country. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen TV Channel 1)

Turkmen Capital To Upgrade Energy System
April 24, 2000

According to the Turkmen State News Service, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has allotted additional funds to the Trade and Foreign Economic Relations Ministry to purchase equipment for upgrading the energy system in the capitol city of Ashgabat. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen State News Service)

Armenia Owes Turkmenistan 16 Million Dollars In Gas Bills
April 20, 2000

Armenian news agency Snark reports from Yerevan that according to the Turkmen ambassador to Armenia Toyli Kurbanov, a survey carried out in December last year has revealed that Armenia owes Turkmenistan 15 to 16 million dollars for natural gas supplies.

Kurbanov said at a news conference today that at present various countries owe Turkmenistan more than 1 billion dollars. These debts mainly concern payments for Turkmen natural gas.

Kurbanov said that Armenia is among the countries that are paying off their debts regularly, which makes it one of Turkmenistan's most trusted trade partners. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Snark News Agency)

New TV Program To Be Launched In Turkmenistan
April 27, 2000

Turkmen TV reported that a new program, "In Turkmenbashy's country," is to go on air on Turkmen TV. It will be broadcast for the first time at 21:20 on Saturday, April 29.

"In Turkmenbashy's country" is being prepared jointly by the National TV and Radio Company of Turkmenistan and the Turkmen State News Service. Program hopes to familiarize the country's population with latest events in Turkmenistan. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen Press news agency)

UN Pays Medical Expenses of Self-Immolation Survivor in Turkmenistan
April 26, 2000

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today it will pay the medical expenses of a woman who tried to commit suicide in front of the UN mission building in Ashgabat yesterday.

The 45-year-old woman tried to light herself on fire to protest the UNHCR decision not to grant them refugee status. She is in a hospital with burns over 60 percent of her body.

The woman and her husband are ethnic Turkmen who fled Iraq in 1998. The couple claimed they were victims of ethnic persecution in Iraq. The UNHCR originally rejected their application because their reasons were not sufficient to qualify them as refugees. The couple filed a new application last month and were registered as potential refugees. The couple's Turkmen visas expire June 30, 2000. (RFE/RL - Interfax)

Turkmen Head Says Another 11 Years Needed To Complete Reforms
April 26, 2000

The Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov said the country needs another 11 years to complete economic and political reforms started in 1991.

Speaking at a scientific conference in Ashgabat on April 26, Saparmurat Niyazov said the country would not "work under someone else's instructions" and would not listen to those advising to speed up the reforms.

"Some people keep telling me to step up reforms in the economy, in politics, and to throw away the old stereotypes and erect new ones. But no-one can do this instantly, for this requires radical changes within society itself. We will not even try to do this, for we are serving the interests of our own people and we will not work under someone else's instructions. There are a lot of advisors saying that our economic reforms are slow, and the political reforms are slow too. Some are even trying to get us involved in conflicts and disputes. But the Turkmen people, given their mentality inherited from their forefathers, will not accept such things. From our ancestors we have honesty, purity and accord in our blood. The democratic principles are also in our blood," Niyazov said.

Niyazov also said he knows that rights of "ordinary people" were abused in the country and assured that "measures" would be taken in this connection. The President added that all textbooks used in higher educational establishments should be in Turkmen. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen TV Channel 1)

Turkmen President's Program For Legal Reform Endorsed
April 24, 2000

The Turkmen Parliament, Mejlis, has endorsed reforms recently proposed by President Saparmurat Niyazov.

According to the report of Turkmen State News Service, the new legislature provides major guarantees for investors and an effective mechanism for attracting capital, supports market economy and entrepreneurship, and seeks to give juridical support to processes of financial stabilization.

Turkmen State News Service says the government will continue developing legal regulations for Turkmenistan's economy and social sphere in order to guarantee social and economic interests of Turkmen citizens and their constitutional rights to labor, rest, health, maternity, and childhood.

New legislature also seeks to strengthen law and order in Turkmenistan and to address the most pressing issues of domestic and foreign policy. (BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen Press news agency)

Clashes Reported At Baku Opposition Rally
April 29, 2000

Opposition protestors and police have clashed in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.

Security forces beat and detained several people after protesters tried to break through a police barricade around a central square where the rally was to begin. Two opposition leaders, Musavat's Arif Hadzhiyev and People's Party's Panakh Huseinov, were arrested.

Several thousand people showed up for the rally, which was organized by opposition groups to demand fair parliamentary elections this autumn. Organizers included the People's Front, the Musavat Party, the Civil Solidarity Party and the Ohrar party.

The opposition groups are urging the government to listen to their proposals for drafting a new electoral law and commission.

Yesterday, police warned television viewers not to attend the demonstrations. (RFE/RL - AFP)

United States Support Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Project
April 29, 2000

U.S. President Bill Clinton has hailed yesterday's talks between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey on legal aspects of oil pipeline construction projects.

Clinton said he is expecting that at next stage of negotiations American, West European, and Russian companies would work together with Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to move the legal accords into a commercial plane.

The American leader reaffirmed U.S. commitments to the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project. (Itar-Tass)

Kazakh President Rejects U.S. Criticism, Calls For Economic Cooperation In Central Asia, Caucasus
April 28, 2000

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze speaking at the Eurasian economic summit in Almaty on April 27 expressed concern about "the inadequate involvement" of international organizations in eliminating Afghani and Abkhazian-Georgian conflicts.

Responding to U.S. criticism of Central Asia's reforms, Nazarbayev said the region does not want to imitate American democracy and Kazakhstan does not accept any criticism of its democratic record or its domestic policies.

Nazarbayev also said the construction of a pipeline for pumping Caspian oil to Baku and Ceyhan is up to the interested countries in the Caspian region, rather than the United States.

Nazarbayev urged the states of Caucasus and Central Asia to form a united front to boost foreign investment in the region. He said the economic cooperation will also strengthen security for the republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, all of which attended the summit.

Addressing the issue of regional cooperation, Kazakh President said Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Tajikistan, the Customs Union member states, plan to approve on May 23 a single tariff-forming procedure.

Nazarbayev also held talks with leaders of Georgia, Iran, and Kyrgyzstan and met with U.N. and World Bank officials.

Yerlan Upushev, vice-president of KazTransOil national oil transportation company, told the summit that Kazakhstan is conducting a detailed study of all possible oil export routes in the region and has already completed a preliminary study of a pipeline which would connect the western region of the country with the area on the border with China.

According to Upushev, Kazakhstan is studying the trans-Caspian route, which is to be commissioned in 2004, and discussing the export route via Turkmenistan and Iran with numerous, chiefly French, companies. One of them, Total Fina, has already shown interest in studying this route. (RFE/RL - RTR - AP - Interfax - AFP)

Iran Advocates Oil Transport Via Iran, Warns Against Competition for Influence in Central Asia
April 28, 2000

Iranian Vice President Hassan Habibi told the first Eurasian Summit in Almaty today that transporting Caspian oil via Iran is the shortest and cheapest route.

According to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Hussein Adeli, Iran is preparing several pipeline construction projects that will handle 1.8 million barrels a day and will cost a total of $1.5 billion.

The Iranian official projected on the construction of a nearly 1,500 kilometer pipeline from Kazakhstan via Turkmenistan to Iran. The pipeline will be able to transport 1 million barrels of oil a day. Its construction cost will total $1.2 billion.

Iranian Vice President Hassan Habibi also warned yesterday that competition among Central Asia's neighbors and "big powers" for influence in the region could lead to instability and insecurity.

Habibi said the issue of transportation of oil and natural gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus should be free from political pressure. Many of the proposed export projects for the oil and gas are backed by U.S. companies which are prohibited from doing business with Iran.

Habibi also repeated Iran's position that the legal status of the Caspian Sea must be defined by the littoral states - Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. (Interfax - RFE/RL - AFP)

Russia Wants Role in Central Asia Infrastructure Developments
April 26, 2000

A Kremlin official today told Central Asian leaders that Russia must be involved in infrastructure projects aimed at tapping the region's natural resources.

Speaking at a regional economic summit in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said infrastructure projects for oil and gas in the region should not be planned without Russia's participation.

"We are certainly interested in expanding those capabilities not only on the Atyrau-Samara pipeline, but on the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline and in other directions, including through the Baltic," Khristenko said.

Russia's Gazprom has opportunities to operate on the Kazakh market, Khristenko told reporters following a meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev.

"The Caspian will to a significant degree become a very serious center for uniting the interests of Russia and Kazakhstan," Khristenko said, adding that the two sides had discussed the line dividing the subsurface resources of the Caspian.

Khristenko said the northern portion of the Caspian remained largely unexplored. That gives Russia and Kazakhstan "the opportunity to define mutual interests and the form of cooperation."

Moscow hopes to revive its declining influence in and around the Caspian Sea. U.S. multinationals lead some of the largest oil and gas projects in the region. The U.S. government has been lobbying for the construction of pipelines that by-pass Russia and Iran. (Interfax - RFE/RL - RTR - AFP)

Russia Says Caspian Problem Can Be Solved Without Outside Help
April 27, 2000

Russia must "calmly come to terms with Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan and find a compromise solution," Yegor Stroyev, Speaker of the Russian parliament's upper house, said upon arrival in Astrakhan, referring to the issue of Caspian Sea status.

Stroyev pointed out that the Caspian problem "is an internal affair of CIS countries and Iran." He said that the issue has been "too politicized" and that there are "too many advisers from foreign countries."

Stroyev is in Astrakhan to take part in the Federation Council Days festival. (Itar-Tass)

CIS To Hold Summit In Moscow On June 21
April 27, 2000

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will hold a summit in Moscow on June 21, CIS Executive Secretary Yuri Yarov said after the meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Almaty on Thursday.

Yarov said he informed Nazarbayev about the work done by the CIS Executive Committee since the January summit and the fulfillment of summit resolutions, including the document on forming a CIS anti-terrorist center in Moscow.

The upcoming summit is also expected to consider a program of CIS development until 2005, regulation of the CIS executive committee, issues of security, and joint anti-crime measures, he said. (Interfax)

Famine In Afghanistan Forces Refugees To Leave For Pakistan
April 27, 2000

Entire villages in southern Afghanistan are leaving the drought-ravaged area for neighboring Pakistan, a World Food Program official said Thursday.

Situation in the country is desperate, says Khalid Mansour, a World Food Program information officer in neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan's nomads have lost up to 80 percent of their cattle because of a severe water shortage. Irrigation systems built to collect rainwater have dried up and apricot and almond trees have withered.

The WFP has been feeding up to 300,000 people in the region since February. Mansour said that number will increase next month when it adds another 10,000 families to its feeding program.

Correspondent of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports from Pakistan that the famine in Afghanistan has forced many Uzbek and Turkmen refugees to leave the country for Pakistan. Refugees have been traveling with their cattle and other possessions. They complain that Pakistani soldiers at the border with Afghanistan have been demanding money and jewelry in return for safe passage. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service - AP)

Babitsky Awarded OSCE Prize
April 27, 2000

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is awarding its prestigious annual Prize for Journalism and Democracy to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky.

The OSCE's parliamentary assembly made the announcement in Copenhagen today. It praised Babitsky for his reporting on the Chechnya conflict, saying the 36-year-old Russian native did the job with complete disregard for his personal safety.

The citation says Babitsky has been one of the very few critical voices covering the war in the breakaway republic.

RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine said the award "is a great honor for Andrei personally, and an even greater honor for RFE/RL and the principles of freedom of speech and the press."

The 20,000-dollar prize is to be presented to Babitsky on July 6.

Babitsky was arrested in January for allegedly failing to have proper accreditation. Then, Russian authorities announced they had traded him to Chechen fighters in exchange for captive Russian soldiers.

In late February, Babitsky resurfaced in the neighboring republic of Dagestan and was flown to Moscow. (RFE/RL)