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turkmenistan

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  TURKMENISTAN

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
488,100

Population
4,483,300

Principal
ethnic groups

Turkmens 77%
Uzbeks 9.2%
Russians 6.7%

Capital
Ashkhabad

Currency
Turkman Manat

President
Saparmurat Niyazov

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Background:
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: 253

The Turkmen republic is the quiet one in the current crisis as regards Central Asia. The other four Kazakstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have thrown in their lot with the US. Not the Turkmens.
On September 12th-14th Putin was frantically ringing up the Central Asia leaders to dissuade them from allowing the US to deploy their troops on their territory. Only the Turkmen leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, was amenable. Nevertheless, he insisted that the US was to be permitted to use Turkmen air space, with overflying rights.
The regime had an understanding with the Taleban, allowing them to recompose their forces on their soil in the anxious years of the late 1990s. Few of course expected the huge eventuality of 9:11 or the impact on Central Asia.
President Saparmurat Niyazov has been receiving quite a deal of diplomatic attention. The crown prince of the Abu Dhabi has paid a visit. Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, has written a letter. Powell is keen for Turkmenistan to be in the broad coalition against terrorism he has been constructing.
In his letter, Powell thanks the republic for its support to the current war against terrorism. He went on to refer to Turkmenistan's development in the last decade. "We have been considering Turkmenistan as a country with huge potential. Since the very beginning the United States has been ready to assist Turkmenistan in its transition to democracy and a market economy and to develop its rich natural resources and create a just, stable and prospering society. 
"It is also a good time for us, including myself, to take care of Turkmenistan's future and to evaluate the path left behind. Turkmenistan has made progress in various areas by reforming its economy and society. In particular, proceeding from its rich past, Turkmenistan has developed a sense of pride for its language, culture and history. And acting in line with the spirit of partnership, your country is participating in such key international organisations as the United Nations and the organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe," the Secretary added. He must have had to choose his words carefully when referring to 'democracy,' not a feature of this country.
The Turkmen are poised to benefit if Afghanistan is pacified and a stable government takes root. For them the option of building oil and gas pipelines via Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea ports of Pakistan could resurface. Unocal conceived the idea in the 1990s and negotiated a deal with the Taleban that would have seen 15 cents paid to them for every 1000 cubic feet of gas. But it fell through when it became clear that they were harbouring terrorists in 1998 and could not guarantee safe passage in the north.
Turkmenistan desperately needs an alternative route to world markets than that via Russia. The end of the diplomatic isolation of Iran, due to current developments, could help too. An Iranian option has been considered before, as indeed a trans-Caspian and trans-Caucasus route, but Niyazov has a habit of bungling the deals. In the new conjuncture he may be given a fresh chance.

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AVIATION

Mary airport meets international standards


Mary airport in southern Turkmenistan will be able to receive large aircraft in any weather conditions effective from January 2002. Based on BBC reports, the airport's landing and takeoff strip is being currently upgraded. Meanwhile, specialists of the Egyptian Alhuda company have built a four-kilometre concrete takeoff strip and lighting installations are being currently undertaken. As planned, the new strip meets the international flight standards.

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ENERGY

Turkmenistan to reconstruct export gas pipeline


Turkmenistan will begin reconstruction of an over-age export gas pipeline that is to build up exports of natural gas from the fields in its western areas, ITAR-TASS News Agency reported recently.
Turkmen President, Saparmyrat Nyyazow, signed a decree on reconstructing the Belek compressor plant and building a section of the pipeline across the Strait of Karabogaz.
The pipeline, built in 1974, was previously called Central Asia-Centre. It carried Turkmen natural gas to the junctions with Russian and Ukrainian pipelines via the territory of Kazakstan.
Unlike another branch of the Central Asia-Centre system that takes gas from the fields in Turkmenistan's east and accounts for 90 per cent of the country's export gas, the western branch is in a critical technical condition.
The Ukrainian company, Ukrgazprombud, has been chosen to do all the projection and construction works. It is expected to sign an agreement totalling US$16m with the national gas seller Turkmenneftegaz.
Turkmenistan will offset the works by supplying 383m cubic metres of natural gas in the years 2002 and 2003 at US$42 per 1,000 cubic metres, the price which the Ukrainian national oil and gas company Naftohaz Ukrayiny is supposed to pay per 1,000 cubic metres of gas under a contract with Turkmenneftegaz next year.
Ukraine has a contract for about 40bn cubic metres of Turkmen gas.

Power transmission line under construction near Turkmen-Afghan border

The construction of another major power facility has started in Lebap Region [eastern Turkmenistan], the Turkmen State News Service News Agency has reported.
Specialists from the PMK-4 of the Turkmenenergogurlushyk [Turkmen Power Construction] state concern have started to install a LEP-220 [power transmission line] linking Turkmenabat with Atamyrat [eastern Turkmenistan, close to Turkmen-Afghan border]. The new 217km power-bridge project was drawn up by the Turkmenenergoproyekt [Turkmen power design] institute...
Once the LEP-220 has been put into operation, the electricity supply will significantly improve in southeastern areas of Lebap Region, expanding prospects for its further social and economic development. A powerful industrial complex will be built on the basis of local resources in the southeastern part of the region under the economic strategy for the period up to 2010. Electricity demand is also growing in connection with the development of the great virgin lands here.
Apart from ensuring a stable and uninterrupted power supply to meet the increasing internal electricity demand, the new Turkmenabat-Atamyrat power transmission line is to play a significant role in increasing Turkmen electricity exports.

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FOREIGN LOANS

China gives interest-free credit to Turkmenistan


The Chinese government has issued an interest-free credit worth 20m yuans to Turkmenistan, Turkmen State News Service Agency has reported.
The intergovernmental agreement to this effect was signed recently by the deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and the minister of textile industry of Turkmenistan, Jamal Goklenowa, and the Chinese ambassador to Turkmenistan, Gao Yusheng.
The credit will be used within the next five years exclusively on technical and economic cooperation projects, the ambassador said. The credit will be paid off either in hard currency or in Turkmen goods over 10 years, between 1st January 2012 and 31st December 2021...

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TRANSPORT

Reconstruction of Turkmen road to speed up traffic to Afghanistan


The laying of the subfoundation has been started in the last 30-km section of the Atamyrat-Imamnazar road [eastern Turkmenistan, on the Turkmen-Afghan border], the Turkmen State News Service News Agency has reported.
The road, which runs to the Imamnazar frontier post, is of international significance as the shortest export route to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some of the humanitarian aid sent by the UN to Afghanistan via Turkmenistan is transported by this road.
Reconstruction of the road will increase its capacity and speed up the traffic of large-capacity and other vehicles.

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