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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: 268 - (25/04/03)
Standing fast in the redoubt of Central Asia
Turkmenistan is a curiosity largely consisting of desert, it is a vast land, populated by only four million people. Yet it has the world's fourth largest gas reserves. That is the prop of the regime.
There is no doubt that the president Saparmurat Niyazov, is widely detested by the population. There have been attempts on his life of late; the latest was on November 25th. His self proclaimed title "Turkmenbashi," Father of the Turkmen, was a matter of derision in Turkey proper, who in Ataturk had a genuine 'father' of their nation.
The fall of Saddam cannot be cheering news for Niyazov. It just might be that the days of dictators world-wide are coming to an end. That is what he has to fear.
Actually, Washington has not put him even on its auxiliary list of 'axis of evil' powers, Syria, Libya, Cuba, which are deemed almost as obnoxious as the three prime targets Saddam's Iraq, Iran and North Korea. For Niyazov has never engaged in adventurism abroad, although he did allow the Taleban training facilities and recreation in Turkmenistan for tactical reasons. But that is only adventurism by proxy.
Overweening cult of personality
The cult of Niyazov's personality has reached utterly ridiculous proportions. He has clearly gone batty, as can easily happen to those with unchallenged supreme power. The humble loaf of bread has been renamed after his mother. He is introducing a new calendar of eight months, each of forty-five or six days. He has meanwhile redefined the ages of mankind, youth lasting until sixty, the age of inspiration' (which he entered himself several years ago) lasting from sixty to eighty-five, and old age commencing only then. This gives him nearly another quarter of a century at the helm.
But there are clearly plenty of people who want him out a lot sooner than that. Hence the attempt at assassination. What is likely to count eventually is if there is change in Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. So long as the two giants of Central Asia are ruled by dictators themselves, Niyazov is probably secure. A change in neighbouring Iran would also be a challenge, but less so, as the Soviet-era restrictions on travel and the flow of information are still in place. The Turkmen will likely have to put up with Niyazov's 'inspiration' for some time yet.
Russia's Gazprom set to buy 10bn cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan
Gazprom Chief, Aleksey Miller, and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyyazow met in Turkmenistan on 1st April and agreed to sign a long-term contract on the purchase of Turkmen gas by Gazprom, Interfax News Agency has reported.
The contract was signed simultaneously with the long-term interstate agreement on cooperation in the gas sector between Russia and Turkmenistan, reads a Gazprom press release.
It is planned that Russia will import 10bn cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan beginning in 2005. The contract for the supply of Turkmen gas to Russia is expected to cover a period of 25 years. The documents were signed during President Niyazov's visit to Moscow, which is due to take place in April, a source in the presidential administration told Interfax.
Ukrainian, Turkmen presidents discuss gas
Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, met with Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, in the Turkmen port city of Turkmenbashi on 11th of April to discuss the future of Turkmen gas sales to Ukraine, Interfax News Agency and turkmenistan.ru reported on 12th and 13th April, respectively. Kuchma was concluding a tour of the Central Asian countries, while Niyazov was returning from a visit to Moscow during which he signed a 25-year contract with Russia on the delivery of Turkmen gas. The terms of the Russian contract appeared to indicate that when the current gas-sales contract between Turkmenistan and Ukraine expires in 2006, it might be impossible to renew it unless pipeline capacity can be greatly increased. Ukraine is one of Turkmenistan's major gas customers and depends heavily on Turkmen supplies.
According to an unnamed Turkmen government official quoted by Interfax, the talks between Kuchma and Niyazov were "fruitful, but difficult." One topic discussed was the construction of a new pipeline on the basis of the existing line, as envisaged in the present Ukraine-Turkmenistan gas contract. According to turkmenistan.ru, Russia is also supposed to take part in the construction project.
Azeri-Turkmen undersea telecom link to cost US$18m
The turn-key construction of the underwater Baku-Turkmenbasy segment of the Trans-Asia-Europe fibre-optic link will cost US$18m, the Baku Baltimore OmniTel [BBOT] company's data show, Trend News Agency has reported.
The company together with Tayca International, are interested in the construction of this telecommunication link and have already obtained the go-ahead from the Azerbaijani government, the company's president Sadiq Humbatov has said. The BBOT is conducting negotiations with the Turkmen Communications Ministry on the issue. The launch of the project is being delayed over some aspects in the construction that have not been coordinated with the Turkmen side, Humbatov said.
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