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Annexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1925. It achieved its independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in
1991. President NIYAZOV retains absolute control over the country and opposition is not tolerated. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a
boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects can be worked out.
Update No: 259 - (25/07/02)
The Turkmen republic is the odd man out in Central Asia. It is the only one of the five states there not to have tried to benefit from the
campaign against terrorism. In fact it has by far the longest border with Afghanistan. But its assistance was either not sought or not deemed advisable by
Washington, although it did permit over-fly rights.
US planners must have been aware that the regime in Ashkhabad had been collaborating with the Taleban, allowing them facilities of recuperation for resting
tired troops, as well as training camps. The Tajik, Uzbek and Kyrgyz regimes are all sworn enemies of al-Qaeda, the Taleban and the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan. Cooperation with them was the logical course.
Today, President Saparmurat Niyazov must be regretting his absence from the coalition against terrorism. His Uzbek counterpart and neighbour, Islam Karimov,
is stealing the show, the new US's main ally for the region. The scale of the personality cult of Niyazov puts foreigners off. Karimov is every bit as
dictatorial, but one can do business with him. With Niyazov experience indicates that one cannot.
Niyazov has privately explained the cult of his personality as a way of welding together an artificial nation a communist creation made up of five regional
tribes, to whose chiefs people immemorially owed allegiance. The cult of Turkmenbashi transcends that loyalty, but has to outshine regional distinctions and
appear larger even than that of a mere state.
Niyazov is facing problems right now. Dissent is simmering within the elite itself, as also almost certainly among the population. People are not wholly
impressed with the nauseating personality cult, reminiscent of the Stalin cult or the Ceaucescu cult. Somehow even remote Turkmens feel that the day for that
sort of thing is past. The tribal loyalties are not so strong any more and the need to eclipse them not so relevant.
Turkmen dissidents held a meeting in Vienna recently at which they revealed human rights abuses and detailed ways to combat them.
It is noteworthy that this meeting was sponsored by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, in cooperation with Moscow's Memorial Human Rights
Centre. Representatives of these groups and staff from Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group and the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe joined human rights activists from other central Asian states to hear for themselves about the cures that Turkmen exiles propose for
their country. "The government of President Niyazov has obliterated any space for civil society," said Helsinki Foundation Executive Director, Aaron Rhodes,
in a statement. "This is why we had to hold this meeting in Vienna and not in Ashkhabad. In today's Turkmenistan it simply could not happen."
According to reports cited by eurasianet.org, the Austrian location did not lift all fears whilst earlier incidents of Niyazov's officers kidnapping or
beating opposition members, led to some conference participants hiding their identities. Under this arrangement, participants flatly accused Niyazov, who
renamed himself Tukmenbashi the Great (father of all Turkmen), of violating citizens' most elementary rights. "The cult of personality around him has reached
grotesque proportions," said the meeting's declaration. Members catalogue the ways in which Turkmenistan does not tolerate dissidence in any form.
Nyazov cracks down
Niyazov's reaction to dissent is simple, more repression. He has conducted a purge of the security forces and border guards.
Key figures in the central security apparatus have been sacked, including the key figure, Mukhammed Nazarov, in March in charge of coordinating law
enforcement and the military.
It is not just government corruption, which after all is endemic in Central Asia, to which one can find objection, but also its incompetence. This is what is
tipping things against Niyazov and might just topple him.
Energy deals awry
What all these figures feel is that Niyazov has bungled in a colossal way in his negotiations with Western energy firms. Instead of making sure that an
alternative route to Western markets than the Russian one was opened up via the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus and beyond, he insisted on unrealistic conditions
and the deal fell through. Turkmenistan consequently remains totally in the Russian domain as regards its energy.
Turkmen wheat harvest reaches 2m tonne target
The Turkmen State News Service recently reported that the country's farmers had harvested two million tonnes of grain. "Two million tonnes of wheat have been
delivered to the country's storage depots since the beginning of the harvest. So, just a few days separate us from the main target - to harvest 2,300,000
tonnes of grain in the third year of the country's Golden Age. This target was set by Saparmyrat Niyazov, the Turkmen president," the official document
AKFED set to subsidise Pomir development projects
A recent regular session of the Majlisi Namorandagon (lower chamber of Tajik parliament) was held in the capital, Asia plus reported. By a majority vote the
deputies of the Majlisi Namoyandagon confirmed an Agreement between the government of Tajikistan and Pomir energy firm.
Under this document, the firm will be financed during 25 years at the Aga Khan Foundation's (AKFED) expense. Speaking at the session Chairman of the Majlisi
Namoyandagon Committee on International Affairs, Public Associations and Information Affairs, Asomiddin Saidov, noted that the agreement provided for
completion of the construction of the PAMIR-1 power plant, Yashilkul irrigation system, reconstruction of Khorog, Vanj and Namatgut hydroelectric power
stations, carrying out of repairs works at some units of the energy sector, and laying of 35-kW electricity transmission line from the Khorog hydroelectric
All these measures will allow increased production of electricity meeting the population's requirements. The realisation of all these works will cost
US$26,487m. It is hoped that US$8.2m of this amount will be allocated in a form of investments by the AKFED and US$8m will be allocated by international
In addition, the international firm Rushd plans to allocate to the Tajik government a loan of US$10m on a 40-year term Over a period of 10 years the country
will clear the credit on preferential terms.
The government will give this amount to Pomir for 20 years with a 5.5% rate of interest. Out of all the funds it is planned that US$22m to be used for
completion of the above-mentioned constructions. It will free the Barqi Tojik state company (Tajik Electric System) from subsidising the electric system of
the Gorno Badakhshan.
Russia, Turkmenistan preparing long-term gas contract
Russia and Turkmenistan are preparing a contract on selling and buying Turkmen gas. Talks between the Russian Gazprom company and the state trading
corporation, Turkmenneftegaz [Turkmen oil and gas] focused on drafting the contract, ITAR-TASS News Agency has reported.
The Gazprom delegation was led by deputy chairmen Yuriy Komarov and Aleksandr Ryazanov. They had talks with Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Yolly Gurbanmyradow,
Turkmen Minister of Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources Gurbannazar Nazarow and the state trading corporation chairman, Ilyas Charyyew.
There are plans to transport the Turkmen gas bought by Gazprom both to CIS markets and Europe, a Turkmen government spokesman has said. According to the two
sides, the contract will be a long-term one, lasting at least 10 years, and payments will be made in hard currency only. The amount of the purchased gas and
prices are still negotiable.
Cooperation in the gas industry is traditional for Russian-Turkmen relations. The sides have been preparing a draft intergovernmental agreement on cooperation
in the gas industry. The Russian version of the draft agreement confirms an offer to buy up to 30bn cubic metres of the Turkmen gas a year. It is also planned
to set up a Russian-Turkmen company which is to deal with transporting the gas as far as the Ukrainian border.
The Turkmen draft of the agreement shows interest in receiving guarantees for transporting the Turkmen gas to Ukraine with which Turkmenistan concluded (in
May last year) a five-year agreement for delivering 250bn cubic metres of gas.
It was decided to continue the talks on the contract details on the level of a working group. The first sitting of the intergovernmental Russian-Turkmen
commission for economic cooperation is scheduled for September in Ashgabat.
Turkmenistan reports strong economic growth and oil and gas production rise this year
The government of resource-rich Turkmenistan has reported impressive 18 per cent economic growth for the first half of this year and an 11 per cent rise in
oil production and a 22 per cent rise in its number of sheep.
President Saparmurat Niyazov announced the growth in gross domestic product at a televised Cabinet meeting, saying the biggest growth was in manufacturing and
Production of gas, the ex-Soviet republic's main resource, rose 5 percent compared to the first half of 2001 to 27.9 billion cubic metres (976 billion cubic
feet), the State Statistics and Information Institute announced. Oil production grew 11 per cent to 4.3 million metric tons over the period (175,000 barrels a
Gas exports were up 11 per cent in the first half of the year to 20.4bn cubic metres (714bn cubic feet), the statistics agency said.
In agriculture, the country saw its number of sheep grow 22 per cent compared to 2001 to 15m, and a 14 per cent increase in its number of cattle to more than
2m, the president said.
Carpet weaving, another major industry in this Central Asian nation, was the only industry to show no growth this year, Niyazov said.
He also expressed pride that Turkmenistan had accepted no foreign loans this year or last.
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