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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: 254
There has been a breaking of the ranks among the top elite in Turkmenistan, an unprecedented event.
The regime of President Saparmurat Niyazov is as tight as could be, the most repressive dictatorship in the FSU. Its only rival is that of Islam Karimov in
Uzbekistan. But Karimov at least disdains to have a cult of his own person. Niyazov exults in having his portraits everywhere, in having towns, schools,
hospitals, etc named after him as "Turkmenbashi" (leader of the Turkmen) and so on.
This last self-appointed title has always caused offence in Turkey, where it has been reserved for the esteemed figure, Ataturk, ruler and moderniser of the
country in the 1922-38 period. Indeed, the Turks roundly despise Niyazov as a jumped - up mountebank. It is not surprising if any Turkmen ambassador to
Ankara a key posting, picks up on this widespread contempt and even comes to share it. This has now happened.
In mid-February Niyazov dismissed the Turkmen ambassador to Turkey, Nurmukhammet Khanamov. The provisional executive council of the opposition People's
Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan had earlier stated that Khanamov had resigned in protest against the "harmful policy of the Turkmen president." In his
statement published on the People's Democratic Movement website, Khanamov explained his decision to become an opposition activist. It is "a deeply - thought
out step, taken after long years of hopes and efforts aimed at strengthening the country, forming its foreign policy as a condition for ensuring the
effectiveness of internal reforms."
He added: "I state that the programme of democratic reforms developed by the provisional executive council of the People's Democratic Movement of
Turkmenistan is good and practical, and I an openly saying that I will work hard and use my experience of working in Turkmenistan, my diplomatic practice and
my international contacts to bring democratic order to Turkmenistan as soon as possible."
That Khanamov was out of the country and with his family at the time of his rebellion is highly suggestive. Only an ambassador could engage in such a high
profile act. There is now at last a serious opposition in Turkmenistan, although clandestine within the country.
The event could not have taken place but for a massive blunder made by Niyazov two years ago when he scuppered a project, the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, to
take Turkmen gas to Turkey across the Caspian Sea by bungling the negotiations with US and UK majors. Turkmenistan still remains wholly dependant on Russia
for the export of its gas with baleful consequences.
Had the pipeline project gone ahead the Turkmen ambassador would for patriotic reasons had to keep his mouth shut. Not so now. Even dictators pay for their
blunders eventually. It will be worth observing future developments.
Niyazov had to bite another bullet recently too, again a fall-out from his mishandling of the pipeline project. He has had to go along with an idea put to
him by Putin on January 21st in Moscow, namely to become part of an Eurasian gas alliance, that will be dominated by Russia. It in effect locks Turkmenistan
into a neo-imperial Russian energy network for the duration.
Only thereby can Turkmenistan hope to restore its old levels of gas export to 90 billion cubic metres annually. At present it exports barely half that and
to late payers in the CIS. The new 'gas OPEC' with Russia, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan at least gives it the chance to sell more gas and eventually to lucrative
Western European markets. That is if the scheme gets off the ground.
Turkmens to have more Belarus-made farming machinery
A contract has been drawn up between the government of Turkmenistan and the Minsk tractor plant of the Republic of Belarus on the purchase of 1,000 tractors.
The documents says that 500 of them will arrive in Turkmenistan by 15th March 2002 and the rest by mid-May, the Turkmen State News Service Agency has
The Belarus-made tractors are familiar to Turkmen farmers. Between 1999-2000 the Minsk plant supplied Turkmenistan with 3,000 tractors in accordance with an
As the villagers themselves admit, these tractors, produced under a special order, are now in effective use in sowing, cultivating and harvesting cotton. In
addition, the repair facilities of the Turkmenobahyzmat [Turkmen rural service] association have already set up repair services for the Belarussian
Turkmen leader orders more US-made farm machinery
Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy gave his consent for a contract to be drawn up between the Turkmen government and the Case corporation on the purchase of 100 four-row
cotton harvesters, 40 scrapers, 90 grain harvesters and eight rice harvesters, Turkmen TV first channel has reported.
Concerning the terms of the contract, the president proposed that the scrapers be delivered by 19th February, the State Flag holiday. It is also sensible
that the delivery of grain harvesters be scheduled for the start of the grain harvest campaign and the cotton harvesters for 1st August, the start of the
"white campaign" [cotton-picking].
Case will also service some 300 harvesters and other machinery currently in use. Turkmenistan will purchase more machinery in the future.
Turkmenistan buys British-made aircraft refuellers
Turkmenistan has bought British-made aircraft refuellers for the airport in its capital, Asgabat, Turkmen TV reported on 30th January.
"All efforts are being made to provide the air fleet with high-quality services. To this end, all the necessary equipment is being purchased from foreign
countries. Another consignment of such equipment has now arrived.
"These are aircraft refuellers. These machines brought from Britain have a capacity of up to 40,000 litres of fuel," the TV said.
Turkmenistan takes up slack in Russian oil pipeline
Turkmenistan is to export about 1m tonnes of oil through the Makhachkala-Novorossiysk pipeline in 2002, Transneft Vice-President Sergey Grigoryev told
Interfax News Agency.
The vice-president said that Transneft has already transported 40,000 tonnes of Turkmen oil and from February plans to increase this volume to 70,000-80,000
tonnes per month. According to information from the Energy Ministry, Turkmenistan only transited 4,500 tonnes of oil through Russia last year, from a planned
volume of 450,000 tonnes.
Grigoryev noted that Turkmen oil, the quality of which will be improved beforehand, is needed to achieve maximum capacity utilisation on the Baku-Novorossiysk
pipeline. Azerbaijan transported 2.3m tonnes of oil along this route last year instead of a planned 2.8m tonnes. However, Transneft may increase the capacity
of the pipeline from 5m to 18m tonnes if suppliers guarantee volumes, he said.
According to a number of experts, the commission's decision has been met with dissatisfaction at Russian oil companies, who consider that Kazakstan and
Turkmenistan are taking "their place in the pipe"...
USA to support Turkmen export gas pipeline via Afghanistan
The USA considers the TransAfghan gas pipeline project promising, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Elizabeth Jones,
said in Asgabat, Turkmen capital, Turkmenistan.RU Internet newspaper web site has reported.
After talks with the Turkmen president, Saparmyrat Nyyazow, the American diplomat told journalists that the USA would support any project to build oil and gas
pipelines from Turkmenistan, provided they are commercially beneficial.
The USA itself will not invest in the construction of such pipelines, she said. This should be done by private companies, but the US government will support
them. In particular, the government is ready to hold talks with governments on the creation of favourable tax conditions for the construction of export
pipelines and on strict fulfilment of contract terms.
Concerning the possibility of building a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and further to Pakistan and India, Elizabeth Jones said, that, taking into
account the fact that the region's demand in energy is quite high, the project would be profitable.
Turkmenistan to develop gas fields near Afghan border
Drilling of exploratory boreholes has started in the Gulzar-baba settlement, near Serhetabat close to Turkmen-Afghan border, Turkmen State News Service
Agency has reported.
A prospecting team has already concluded that the field contains enough gas for industrial extraction. The next step is to determine the size of the gas
reserves discovered near the Tore syh and Tek-tek areas.
A total of eight prospecting boreholes are being drilled in the country's southernmost gas fields. The drilling of the first one is due to be completed in the
Berdyklych [Berdigylyc] area in the first days of February.
Eastern Turkmen gas pipeline to be commissioned in February
The technological testing of the Certek-Malay main gas pipeline in eastern Turkmenistan has begun. The 29-km pipeline will connect two gas fields [Certek and
Malay] in the Lebap Region. Gas from the Certek field will be sent to the Malay main facility, Turkmen TV first channel has reported.
The gas pipeline is to be commissioned on the Turkmen State Flag holiday.
CNPC to repair Turkmenneft oil wells
China National Petroleum Corporation will repair 60 oil wells belonging to the state-owned Turkmenneft at the Kumdag oil field in western Turkmenistan,
Turkmenneft sources said, New Europe has reported.
This is expected to increase the productivity of the Kundag oil field, whose residual recoverable reserves exceed two million tones. CNPC has extended
Turkmenneft US$46m worth of services and repaired more than 180 wells at the Koturdepe oil field in western Turkmenistan since 1997.
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