10 June 2000
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL NEWS
Save Internet In Turkmenistan!June 8, 2000
Journalists' Trade Union (JuHI) has released a statement seeking international support for Internet freedom in Turkmenistan. It is followed by a press release which includes a description of the current situation and an appeal for assistance. The statement says:
"Journalists' Trade Union (JuHI) in Azerbaijan is deeply concerned by the revocation of licenses of independent Internet service providers by the Turkmen government and support their efforts to continue the work. We are protesting this decision and calling on international community to help our friends in Turkmenistan to work in an appropriate environment. As a member of the International Freedom of Expression exchange (IFEX) community, JuHI is asking all international freedom of expression groups to support independent ISPs in Turkmenistan, especially Ariana Ltd.
JuHI thinks that the decision of Turkmenistan government to revoke the licenses of Ariana and other ISPs is the violation of basic human rights and contradicts international norms to which Turkmenistan is a part. We call upon all progressively thinking people of the globe to raise the voice for existence of independent ISPs in Turkmenistan."
JuHI statement follows the June 5 press release of Socio-Ecological Union, Catena Ecological Club, and Law and Environment Eurasia Partnership, posted on the Web at www.ecostan.org:
"In late May the Turkmenistan Ministry of Communication unexpectedly revoked the licenses of all private Internet providers. The official reason given for the revocation of licenses was that providers had falsified information in mandatory reports to the ministry about the technical and structural details of their services. In reality, the ministry did not conduct any sort of verification or investigation of these reports, and the revocation is merely an arbitrary action by a state agency intended to destroy overly successful competitors to the lagging state Internet provider.
Moreover, the Ministry of Communication appears to have no regard for the personal and business losses incurred by the now-closed private Internet providers and their clients, which include foreign embassies, the Central Bank, information agencies, NGOs, and trade representatives.
The majority of Internet providers obediently suspended service to their clients and are now calculating their losses. However, the largest provider, Ariana, Ltd., is still struggling for justice. Ariana decided not only not to abandon its clients, but also announced free Internet service until a final decision on its license is made. Yet, Ariana cannot continue indefinitely to pursue such a policy, and if a resolution is not engineered by June 9 it will begin to close the accounts of its users.
Ariana is more than the largest and most dynamic Internet company in Turkmenistan. It arose out of a 1995 project to provide e-mail to Turkmenistan NGOs; the project was a joint effort of the local Catena Ecological Club and the American NGO Sacred Earth Network, funded by USAID. Thanks to this project, any environmental group with access to a telephone received free e-mail. What's more, Ariana remained true to the spirit of its founding. While now a commercial company, Ariana retains a deep commitment to social justice and building civil society in Turkmenistan; it still provides free e-mail and Internet access to NGOs. Likewise, on the commercial side, Ariana's clients eagerly extol the company's user-friendliness and technical sophistication, qualities that set it apart from the state Internet provider, Turkmen Telecom.
We are continuing our fight to save Ariana and other private Internet providers, but we need support from outside Turkmenistan.
Please find a few minutes to send a letter or fax of support to Ariana or a letter of protest to the Ministry of Communication or the President of Turkmenistan. These can be sent to Ariana at email@example.com or faxed to Ariana at (99312) 456512.
We retain hope that reason will prevail, but we also know that in this case we have no guarantees. It is possible to save a shell of Ariana dedicated to continuing the non-commercial NGO support mission of the original 1995 project. To do that, we need funds to cover the fees of the satellite company DataSat, roughly $10,000 to cover June fees and $3000 per month to cover the lower amount of traffic beyond June. Ariana staff would continue to act as volunteers, and all funds would go merely to cover fees of third parties.
Since few or no foundations can react on such short notice, we are appealing primarily to private donors and businesses to save Internet in Turkmenistan! vHelp us prevent the appearance of a new Iron Curtain in our country!" (RFE/RL)
Turkmen President Names Women's Magazine After His MotherJune 7, 2000
President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, has issued a decree renaming the country's only women's magazine "Ovadan" (Beautiful). The new name will be "Gurbansoltan Edzhe," which is the name of the President's mother.
Turkmen TV said the magazine was renamed in response to the readers' request and "in order to improve the reflection in art of the sacred achievements of great independent Turkmenistan," as well as to improve the reflection in the magazine of women's virtues.
The volume of the monthly magazine is to be increased by six pages, Turkmen TV said.
The magazine was called "Women of Soviet Turkmenistan" during Soviet rule and was renamed "The Hard Working Woman" and then "Beautiful" after Turkmenistan's independence. (RFE/RL - BBC Central Asia Monitoring - Turkmen TV Channel 1)
Turkmen Deputy Premier SackedJune 6, 2000
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov sacked a senior member of his government on Tuesday, state television said.
A news report said that Niyazov had signed a decree ordering the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Serdar Babayev, who also held the title of minister of agriculture and water, for shortcomings in his performance. It gave no further explanation.
The report did not say who would replace Babayev in the cabinet. (Reuters)
UAE Crown Prince To Visit Turkmenistan In OctoberJune 5, 2000
The crown prince and deputy commander-in-chief of the United Arab Emirates, sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan will make an official visit to Turkmenistan in October 2000, his adviser Muhammad Ali Al Behesh said.
The adviser, who arrived in Ashgabat on Sunday, met Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on Monday to discuss the preparation of the visit.
During the meeting, they discussed the program of the visit and the questions to be raised. One of them is the opening of embassies in the capitals of the two countries. Which is considered as an important step towards strengthening friendly relations.
The crown prince visit Turkmenistan in 1997 and 1999. In 1998, Niyazov made his first official visit to Abu Dhabi. (Itar-Tass)
ECONOMIC NEWS25% Of Grain Harvested In Turkmenistan June 7, 2000
450,000 tons of grain have been delivered to Turkmen storage houses since the beginning of the harvest.
"This is much more than last year," the Turkmen national institute of state statistics and information told Interfax today. Almost one third of the total amount of grain stipulated in contracts with farmers has been sold. Some 200,000 hectares have been harvested, which is 25% of all crops.
Last week, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov paid working visits to all the country's grain-harvesting regions. (Interfax)
Turkmen President Approves $55.7 Million Investment ProjectJune 6, 2000
President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov approved today an investment project for state corporation Turkmengeologiya to develop new oil and gas fields in the east of the country.
In order to speed up the project, which will cost $55.68 million, Turkmengeologiya will implement it in stages. First stage will involve searching for and studying oil and gas deposits in Tagtabazar and developing them in 2000-2001.
State concern Turkmenneftegazstroi will be responsible for facilities at the Tagtabazar fields, forming infrastructure and supplying gas to Serzhetabad (former Kushka) and Tagtabar by October 15.
Turkmengeologiya will be allocated a crude oil and petroleum product quota worth $8 million this year to acquire the necessary resources for the first stage of the project.
Turkmenneftegaz state trade corporation will ensure the sale of the quota and $41.1 million worth of production, including $8 million in the second-third quarter of 2000. The state development fund for the oil and gas industry and mineral resources will finance the project by opening a special account in the state bank for foreign economic transactions.
Organizations participating in the project do not have to pay taxes, excises, stock exchange and customs duties, mandatory deductions to the interbank currency exchange fund or Turkmen currency reserves on earnings from the sale of the oil quota. (Interfax)
Dragon Oil To Invest $35 Million In Turkmen Off-Shore FieldsJune 5, 2000
Dragon Oil corporation, 70% of which is controlled by the National Oil Company of the United Arab Emirates, will invest about $35 million this year in the development of oil extraction on the Turkmen shelf of the Caspian Sea.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov discussed today the progress of operations on offshore fields with Dragon Oil President Hussein Sultan and Executive Director Ian Baron, the presidential press service has said.
Preparations are nearing completion for drilling a new well from a reconstructed sea platform on Lam oilfield with a daily yield of 1,000 tons of oil, Sultan said.
Dragon Oil will also modernize the seaport to develop services for sea drilling and well maintenance.
Niyazov showed interest in the proposal and advised the company leadership to submit a detailed plan to the Turkmen government for consideration, the press service said.
The Turkmen government and Dragon Oil signed a production sharing agreement in November 1999. (Interfax)
Iran Prepared To Share Caspian Sea, Khatami Tells ECO ParticipantsJune 10, 2000
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami today told a summit of regional leaders that Tehran was prepared to share the natural resources of the Caspian Sea in an equitable manner.
Opening the discussions at the summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization, Khatami said that the Caspian Cooperation Organization, formed when the Soviet Union broke apart, be reactivated to work out how a share system could operate.
Previously, Iran had only called for setting up a collective legal framework to determine the distribution of the resources of the Caspian Sea that is rich in oil and gas reserves.
Iran, Turkey and Pakistan founded the group in 1985 to promote regional economic cooperation. The ECO accepted Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as new members in 1992 and Afghanistan in 1993.
The current ECO summit is also expected to address the question of peace in Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)
Four CAS States Plan To Boost IntegrationJune 8, 2000
The prime ministers of four Central Asian states drew up plans today to improve regional integration and form a single economic zone.
Speaking at a meeting of the Central Asian Economic Council, Kyrgyz prime minister Amangeldy Muraliyev said that the economies of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have steadily become more separated in recent years.
He said the trend is out of line with agreements between the four countries, which had hoped to increase mutual trade by coordinating customs and transport duties.
Economists recently warned the Central Asian states that unless they integrate, they will lag behind in the global economy. (RFE/RL)
Russia Reiterates Interest In The Caspian RegionJune 8, 2000
International terrorism and religious extremism represent a serious threat to cooperation in the Caspian, Andrei Urnov, director of a Russian Foreign Ministry working group on the Caspian, said today in Baku at the seventh international exhibition and conference "Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemicals Caspian-2000."
According to Urnov, coordination of forces in the fight against terrorism is a necessity. "This is the basis for the setting up of a unified anti-terrorist center in the CIS. We are also open towards other forms of collective anti-terrorist action," he said.
Urnov added that the decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to set up the post of special presidential representative in the Caspian region (former Energy Minister Victor Kalyuzhny has been appointed to this position) indicates the significance the Russian government places on the region.
"I would like to underline that this does not, as some would have us think, involve any imperial pretensions or a declaration of a Russian version of the Monroe doctrines for the Caspian. Russia is not aiming for a dominant role in the region and does not want confrontations. All we are saying is that Russia has its legitimate interests in the Caspian, which nobody will be allowed to infringe upon," Urnov said.
Urnov said that Moscow is proposing a compromise in defining the status of the Caspian. He reminded the audience that the status of the Caspian is currently regulated by Soviet-Iranian agreements of 1921 and 1940.
Russia is proposing an interim solution as a compromise - to divide the floor of the Caspian Sea among the littoral states for the purpose of sub-soil development and leave the body of water in general use for free shipping, agreed fishing norms and environmental protection, Urnov said.
The diplomat said it was necessary to sign agreements on ways to preserve Caspian biological reserves. (Interfax)
Putin Welcomes Partnership Between Italy's ENI Concern And GazpromJune 6, 2000
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he welcomes the partnership between Italian energy national company ENI and Russia's Gazprom.
Opening a meeting with ENI managing director Vittorio Mincato in Milan, Putin announced that ENI, which covers 30% of the total trade turnover between Russia and Italy, is one of Russia's main partners. A joint project of ENI and Gazprom costs $2 billion, the president said, adding that at the moment, ENI is working with Lukoil to jointly develop the Caspian hydrocarbon deposits. (Interfax)
U.S. Envoy Welcomes Kalyuzhny's New Appointment In The CaspianJune 6, 2000
Special presidential representative and U.S. State Secretary on issues regarding the development of energy resources in the Caspian John Wolf has welcomed the appointment of ex-Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Victor Kalyuzhny as the Russian special presidential envoy in the Caspian region.
"We welcome the participation of Russian companies or their desire to participate in projects to develop carbon resources in the Caspian," Wolf said today at a press conference in Baku. He stressed that the U.S. is only against transport communications in the region falling into the hands of one operator.
"Currently operating and future pipelines should serve to strengthen economic ties between countries and not become a point of contention," the U.S. diplomat said.
As an example of development of cooperation in the region, Wolf named the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, which caused Georgia and Azerbaijan to draw closer.
Wolf also announced that after the recent presentation of the Baku-Ceyhan project in the Azeri capital, a number of companies have already announced plans to participate on financing the engineering work on the pipeline. However, the diplomat did not name these companies. (Interfax)
Aliyev Rejects Statements Of Insufficient Energy ResourcesJune 6, 2000
The Caspian Sea area is gradually becoming one of the world's main oil-extracting regions, President Heydar Aliyev said at the ceremony dedicated to the opening of the traditional international exhibition "Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemicals Caspian-2000."
Aliyev rejected statements suggesting that Caspian Sea area does not have enough oil to fill the Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline. He noted that estimates of Azerbaijani specialists show that Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea alone has 4.5-5 billion tons of oil and no less than 4 trillion cubic meters of gas. "Azerbaijan is rich in natural resources, and in the coming 30-40 years we will need not only the Baku-Ceyhan, but other routes for transporting raw materials as well," he said.
Aliyev also said Azerbaijan is ready to discuss the problem of the legal status of the Caspian Sea area, which has gone unresolved for several years.
Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani government has decided to import at least 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually.
Azerbaijan has received offers from Iran and Russian companies, vice president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev told the press in Baku on today. "Preference will be given to the side that offers the lowest price and the most reliable transportation option," he said.
Gas deliveries are expected to begin in October.
The gas bills will be paid by returns from the sale of crude oil, Aliyev said, noting that this decision is unrelated to the energy crisis his country experienced last winter, and adding that the government intends to switch electricity companies over to gas - a cheaper fuel and less harmful to the environment.
Currently, 92% of Azerbaijan's electricity is generated by thermal plants and 8% at hydroelectric power stations. The country burned 3.9 million tons of fuel oil to generate electricity last year.
Azerbaijan's gas extraction weighs in at 6 billion cubic meters annually, while its need is 14 billion. In Soviet times, gas supplies were guaranteed to 86% of Azerbaijani territory, but now this indicator has plunged to 15%. (Interfax)
Georgian President Announces Large Oil Find In RepublicJune 6, 2000
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze announced discovery a large oil find in the republic. In an interview on national radio, Shevardnadze announced that the Taribana deposit, being developed in Eastern Georgia by U.S.-Georgian Frontera Eastern Georgia, is producing 100-120 tons of oil per day.
According to specialists, the Taribana deposit could begin producing about 400 tons per day in the near future, the president said. As a result of new discovery, country may begin producing about 1 million tons of oil as early as 2001, which is 10 times more than in 1999, he said. According to Shevardnadze, agreement has already been reached to increase processing at the U.S.-Georgian oil refinery in Sartichala from the current 100,000 tons to 400,000 tons per annum.
In addition, the president said Georgia is in search of investment for the reconstruction of Batumi Oil Refinery, which would allow for the processing of 1.5-3 million tons of oil per annum. The president also announced that a large petrochemical complex will be build in Supsa to process oil, transported along the Baku-Supsa pipeline.
Shevardnadze said as well that U.S. Anadarco is ready to participate in developing oil and gas deposits on the Black Sea. According to the president, in its scale and in terms of the amount of investment, this project is equal to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project. (Interfax)
Conspirators Convicted In Kazakhstan For Coup AttemptJune 8, 2000
The court in eastern Kazakhstan convicted a group of conspirators for attempting a coup-d'etat in that region.
The court sentenced the conspirators' leader Victor Kazimirchuk to 18 years restricted freedom, confiscation of property, and a fine of 362,000 tenge ($1=142.45 tenge). The first five years are to be served in prison.
The other accused were sentenced to terms from three to 17 years, some of them had their sentences suspended.
The court passed a special decision in censure of Russia's consul in Kazakhstan Vladimir Nestoyanov for his "demonstrative contempt of court and demands for special treatment." (Interfax)
Roundtable Talks In Bishkek Held Without Opposition; Kyrgyz President Promises Better Elections at Year's EndJune 8, 2000
A conciliation conference of Kyrgyz government officials, opposition leaders, and non-government organization representatives opens today in Bishkek.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis agreed last March to organize the conference as a way to lower tensions between the government and opposition after parliamentary elections. The conference was initially planned for April under OSCE guidance.
Both the OSCE and Kyrgyzstan's main opposition parties now say they will not participate, principally because a revised format relaxes safeguards against government control of the meeting.
Kyrgyz President spoke at the roundtable today, promising presidential elections scheduled for later this year to be fair, open and democratic. Akayev said there were mistakes during parliamentary elections earlier this year and promised improvements will be made.
Due to Akayev's trip to Iran later this week, the conference opens today and will then resume on Monday. (RFE/RL)
Helsinki Commissioners Accuse Kyrgyz Of Rights ViolationsJune 5, 2000
Members of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe say Kyrgyzstan should not attend an international meeting on democracy this month because of a recent series of what they called anti-democratic actions.
U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Congressman Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) and Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) are urging Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to rescind the invitation to Kyrgyzstan to attend a Community of Democracies Ministerial Meeting in Warsaw from June 25 - 27.
The event is jointly sponsored by the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic, Chile, the Republic of Korea, India, Mali and the United States. Its purpose is to bring together representatives of many countries to discuss ways of expanding international cooperation to strengthen democratic governance.
Hoyer and Smith say it would be inappropriate for Kyrgyzstan to attend. They cited alleged manipulation of the February-March paliamentary elections by Kyrgyz authorities as reason enough to exclude Kyrgyzstan. They added that the arrest of opposition figure Felix Kulov marked a serious step towards authoritarianism and a stifling of hopes for democracy. (RFE/RL)
U.N. Appeals For Afghanistan AidJune 6, 2000
The United Nations appealed today for 67 million dollars for relief operations in drought areas of Afghanistan. This sum is in addition to 220 million dollars already sought by the world body for Afghanistan. (RFE/RL - DPA)
Afghan Taliban Puts Forces On Alert At Uzbek BorderJune 5, 2000
Taliban says that its fighters have been put on alert along the border with Uzbekistan, after Uzbek warplanes allegedly last week violated Afghan air space.
Speaking today in Kabul, Taliban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal denied however that reinforcements were sent to the border with Uzbekistan.
The Taliban said last week that it had complained to the United Nations over the alleged violations of its air space.
The Uzbek Foreign Ministry last week (June 1) denied that Uzbek planes violated Afghan air space. The ministry said such claims were intended to misinform public opinion.
Relations between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan - never cordial - have deteriorated since Russia said last month that it could consider preventive strikes against alleged training bases for Chechen fighters and Islamic activists in Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)
Albright Visits RFE/RL Moscow BureauJune 5, 2000
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Moscow Bureau yesterday. She spent more than an hour discussing recent developments on the Russian media scene with the staff of the bureau, including Andrei Babitsky, the RFE/RL correspondent who remains under investigation by the Russian authorities for his broadcasts from Chechnya.
RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine said today that Secretary Albright's visit was another indication of the support the U.S. government has always given to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the development of a free media in Russia and other post-communist countries.
"We welcome her visit," Dine said in Prague. "Secretary Albright has been a true friend of our radio station and its mission."
Dr. Albright was in Moscow for the summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (RFE/RL)