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: 271 - (24/07/03)
A bungled gas deal
In May the Turkmen dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, signed away, to all intents and purposes, the rights on exportation of gas westwards to the European market to Russia - for twenty-five years no less. The terms are extremely onerous with Turkmenistan receiving only US$22 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas exports, plus an equivalent amount's worth in Russian goods. This compares with global prices of US$80 per 1,000 cu.m or more.
He had little choice, having bungled negotiations earlier with Western majors to construct an alternative pipeline to that via Russia, going across the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea and beyond. Russia remained the only route with an up-and-running pipeline. Turkmen gas exports may eventually reach the target figure of 90bn cubic metres per annum but all sold at one quarter or less of world prices. A poor deal for Turkmenistan, but one that gives the Russians a vested interest in Niyazov's continuation in office.
The Turkmen dictator asserts himself against Moscow
Niyazov faced muted criticism at home for having sold out his republic's interests. As if to compensate and show that he is not just a tool of Moscow, he is now insisting on annulling dual citizenship for ethnic Russians living in Turkmenistan. This affects 100,000 or so people, who provide the management in many Turkmen enterprises.
This involves a unilateral renunciation of a bilateral agreement on dual citizenship, whose annulment came into force on June 22nd.
The very timing of the annulment is a slap in the face for the Russians, a date every Russian remembers, that of both Napoleon's invasion of Tsarist Russia and Hitler's of the Soviet Union. It is as if Niyazov is saying: "we can hit you Russians hard too."
Niyazov is an eccentric figure, the weirdest of the Central Asian dictators. Claiming to be a religious prophet on a par with Christ or Mohammed, he has issued a work that he compares with the Bible or the Koran.
He has issued another bizarre volume, a collection of verses on the vices of his countrymen, of which there are singled out for special attention: satiety, bragging and internal disputes.
One thing is for sure he himself is never sated by hearing his own praises, which since they emanate from his entourage amounts to bragging. As for internal disputes, he is genuinely down on them, having only just survived an assassination attempt on his cavalcade on November 25th.
Niyazov's collection of verses has been published by the state's publishing service. The president read his verses for the first time at a cabinet session, during which Col.Gen. Serdar Charyyarov was dismissed from the post of commander in chief of the Armed Forces' General Staff.
"The meaning of these verses concerns you. If you military commanders manage to avoid these three vices, our country will be prosperous. This is the reason why I have read my verses to you," Niyazov was quoted as saying. Turkmen press reports said that "the president urges his fellow citizen to be vigilant, to overcome these vices and not to allow scoundrels to destroy what it has taken over centuries to create."
Turkmenistan offers Ukraine 700,000 tonnes of grain
Turkmenistan can sell up to 700,000 tonnes of its surplus grain to Ukraine, Turkmen President Saparmyrat said at a meeting with the Ukrainian national oil and gas company, Naftohaz Ukrayiny executives in Turkmenbashi on 11th July, Interfax-Ukraine News Agency has reported.
Nyyazow said that he had made this proposal in a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Naftohaz Ukrayiny's press service told Interfax-Ukraine.
According to the Ukrainian government's estimates, Ukraine will have to import around 2m tonnes of food grain in 2003-04.
Russia, Turkmenistan draw up oil transit agreement
Russia has drawn up a draft intergovernmental agreement with Turkmenistan that stipulates the terms and conditions on transit of Turkmen oil via Russian territory, Deputy prime Minister, Viktor Khristenko, said, New Europe reported.
"We can talk about the transit of Turkmen oil in the amount of one million tonnes a year, because the capacity of the Makhachkala reception terminal is limited," Khristenko said. The current transit of Turkmen oil does not run counter to any Russian laws, he said. The government commission on the use of trunk pipelines confirmed the schedule for Turkmen oil transit in the third quarter of 2003 at 500,000 tonnes. A total of one million tonnes of Turkmen oil is to be transited through Russia this year.
Turkmenistan-Ukraine 2004 gas accord signing on the cards
The Turkmenistan government and Naftogaz of Ukraine may soon sign a contract for Turkmen gas supplies to Ukraine in 2004. Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, and Naftogaz of Ukraine head, Yuri Noiko, reached a pertinent agreement at a recent meeting, a presidential administration source said.
In the framework of a five-year agreement for 2002-2006, Ukraine this year will purchase 36bn cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan at a price of US$44 per 1,000 cubic metres. The source declined to specify the amount of gas and the prices for next year.
Other topics for discussion included preparation of a 25-year agreement to be implemented from 2007. Niyazov tasked the Turkmen government with drafting the agreement in keeping with demand on the Ukrainian gas market and the long-term accord signed with Russia's Gazprom in April 2003. "Turkmenistan intends to actively increase the export of its energy sources," Niyazov noted at the meeting.
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