Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 318 - (28/06/07)
Under President Saparmurat Niyazov Tukmenistan was a pariah
state, certainly as regards the West. Six months after his death in December,
the new president has been invited to go to Brussels, an unthinkable invitation
to his predecessor.
President of Turkmenistan to visit Brussels
The president of Turkmenistan has expressed gratitude to the EU for seeking
positive cooperation with Turkmenistan. On June 8th, the EU special
representative for Central Asia, Pier Morrel arrived in Ashgabat. He took active
part in the organization of the meeting, "Turkmenistan and EU - sustainable
development," that is under way in Ashgabat.
At the talks with Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov the new president, Pier Morrel
noted that European countries see Turkmenistan as a promising partner, as well
they might, with the fourth largest gas reserves in the world. According to him,
the EU is preparing a number of programmes that will become part of the European
Union strategy of cooperation with Turkmenistan. He also aired the EU initiative
to open the information centre "The European House" in Ashgabat.
Turkmenistan's initiatives on bringing its energy resources to the world markets
were paid particular attention.
"Discussing the future plans of cooperation, the sides looked into the
issue of preparation for Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov's visit to Brussels. They
noted that this visit would become a good ground for development of new
relations in the fuel-energy sector, agriculture and education," the State
News Service of Turkmenistan (TDH) reports.
Making up for the lotus years
There is, indeed, much to do in these and other areas. Niyazov neglected them
almost entirely, while focusing on grandiose projects that fed his unquenchable
megalomania. He built international hotels galore for foreign visitors who never
came, countless palaces for himself, a gigantic ice-house in the desert and a
60-metre high revolving statue of himself in the capital, that in daytime always
faced the sun, a new Sun-King, indeed, in a desert land.
The cult of his personality continues with the intonement of his tome, the
Rukhnama, being the staple fare of the school curriculum, ahead of the study of
the sciences, agronomy and engineering.
Clearly, there is going to have to be a reckoning - a 1956-style Khrushchev
'secret' speech. It will surely come - but only when the new regime feels more
surely in the saddle. The metaphor is highly appropriate in Turkmenistan; it has
magnificent horses and horsemen, indeed horsewomen. When Niyazov was trying to
ingratiate himself with UK premier John Major, he sent him a splendid steed as a
present. This was handed on to Princess Anne.
Central Asia's Dutch Disease
The International Crisis Group on June 11th distributed its new report on
stability risks in the Central Asian countries that are extracting hydrocarbons
- Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
ICG believes that the main problem for the Stans is "the Resource
Curse" - hydrocarbons can become a source of destabilization, if
petrodollars are spent inadequately by the authorities of these countries.
Experts say that Kazakhstan (occupying the 7th place in the world with its oil
reserves), handles its incomes better than its neighbours. But they also warn of
the future problems:
"More has been spent on Pharaoh-like projects such as the new capital,
Astana (for which read Niyazov's mad building schemes in the case of
Turkmenistan), than on healthcare or education. Growth has been impressive but
the wealth gap has widened faster. The economy remains undiversified,
manufacturing has been stunted by an over-valued currency and the whole country
will be subject to a shock if energy prices come down", the report reads.
ICG report also contains recommendations for the European Union, which will
adopt a new EU Strategy in Central Asia within the next few weeks. In this
Strategy, as expected, energy issues and "neutral" environmental and
educational topics will prevail over the problems of democracy.
"If the Western countries continue to turn a blind eye to the human rights
record of tyhe region, counting on short-term benefits, they risk greater
instability in Central Asia that will aggravate their energy and security
problems in the long run", ICG expert Charles Esser says.
Turkmenistan will reopen embassy in Azerbaijan amid improving relations
Turkmenistan will reopen its embassy in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, shut six
years ago during a dispute over Caspian Sea oil deposits, official media
reported on June 11th.
Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov and his Azerbaijani counterpart,
Ilham Aliev, reached the agreement at a weekend summit of leaders of ex-Soviet
republics in Russia, the newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan said.
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have conflicting claims to rich oil deposits beneath
the Caspian, a long-standing dispute stemming from the deadlock in talks between
the energy-rich inland sea's five-shoreline nations on its legal status.
Azerbaijan is on the western shore, Turkmenistan on the eastern shore.
The Turkmen government closed its Baku embassy in 2001 amid an escalation of the
dispute over several oil fields, citing financial difficulties in maintaining a
diplomatic presence there.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have shown signs of
improvement since the December death of Turkmenistan's long-ruling President
The issue of the division of the Caspian arose in 1991 with the collapse of the
Soviet Union, which increased the number of shoreline nations from two to five.
Iran, on the southern shore, has insisted that each country get an equal portion
of the seabed, while others want the division to be based on the length of their
The Caspian, which is believed to hold the world's third-largest oil reserves,
has acquired strategic importance as the United States and other Western nations
seek alternatives to Persian Gulf oil.
Nazarbayev has the new idea here
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has proposed that there should
be a canal constructed between the Caspian and the Black Sea (see Kazakstan).
The details are still to be worked out. But, if the idea gets off the ground, or
rather between the ground to be exact, it would change everything for
Turkmenistan as well as the other 'stans.' Hence another reason for the
gratifying rapprochement with Baku.
This is a story that deserves to run. It has a majestic sweep about it, as did
the construction of the Suez and Panama canals in their day. It would transform
the economies of Central Asia, notably that of Turkmenistan.
Shell believes Caspian pipeline to benefit EU
Shell favours the agreement between Kazakstan, Russia and Turkmenistan on
construction of Caspian gas pipelineInterfax News Agency reported.
"Today we see the start of a new scenario in Central Asian gas. This will
have a positive impact on the gas supply situation in Kazakstan, Russia, and I
would hope Europe also," said Martin Ferstl, Managing Director of Shell
Kazakstan Development BV (a subsidiary of Shell).
"The decision on construction of the Caspian gas pipeline means that the
three presidents of the countries (Nursultan Nazarbaev, Vladimir Putin and
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov) confirmed a common position on the issue of
transportation of their own gas to the world markets," Interfax quoted
Ferstl as saying.
In regard to the agreement on construction of the other gas pipeline from
Turkmenistan to China, Ferstl said: "Turkmenistan has huge gas reserves.
And the country itself can transport the gas, both to the West via Russia and to
the East - to China. Western Europe and China are two enormous markets.
Turkmenistan is located just in the centre of these two markets."
Speaking about the construction of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline Ferstl said:
"In regard to the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, I would like to state that
this is both a strategically important project for Turkey and Europe as well as
a challenging one. Its implementation will depend on the support of the five
Caspian countries, their expert commissions, and a great number of international
agreements will be required to make the project a reality."
"Such issues can't be solved quickly and take a large amount of expertise
and compromise before they can be implemented," Ferstl added.
The presidents of Russian, Kazakstan and Turkmenistan reached an agreement in
Turkmenbashi on May 12 to construct a Caspian gas pipeline.
The presidents instructed their governments to draw up and sign an agreement on
cooperation for construction of the gas pipeline by September 1, 2007.
According to Russian Industry and Energy Minister Victor Khristenko, the first
stage of the reconstruction of the Caspian gas pipeline in 2009-2010 could
increase its throughput capacity to 10 billion cubic metres of gas a year.
After 2010, he thinks, the further increase in the gas pipeline's capacity
accordingly with the exploration and development of new assets in Turkmenistan
may reach 30 billion cubic metres a year.
According to Khristenko, at the second stage of the project, which could take
five to seven years, the gas pipeline system's capacity could be increased by 20
billion cubic metres of gas.
The interested parties suggest that the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline has the
following route: Aktau (Kazakstan) - Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) - Baku
(Azerbaijan) and then hook up with the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (Turkey) pipeline.
Kazakstan earlier said it was looking into the possibility of participating in
the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline. However, the officials believe
that the project may not be implemented unless approved by all the Caspian
Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan sign long-term agreement
Turkmen President, Gurnbanguly Berdimuhammedov, and his Kazak counterpart signed
a package of bilateral agreements on May 28th-29th in Astana, which aim to
deepen Turkmen-Kazak interaction. Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, said about
it at the Cabinet of Ministers meeting, Turkmenistan.ru reported.
It was predicted that a long-term treaty on cooperation in the trade and
economic sphere until 2020 as well as a number of intergovernmental and
interdepartmental documents would be signed in Astana. Agreements reached during
the summit in Turkmenbashi regarding, first of all, laying of the East-Caspian
gas pipeline and new North-South transport corridor will be furthered.
Ashgabat, Baku to set up joint commission
Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mamedyarov, recently visited Turkmenistan.
He was received by Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov. During the
meeting, the sides exchanged views on a wide range of issues regarding expansion
of the bilateral partnership, first of all, in transport, which, given the
geographic proximity of the two countries, is the most important factor of
interaction, New Europe reported.
The talks concluded in a decision to set up a joint intergovernmental commission
in order "to provide proper organisational level for the start of a new
stage in the history of Turkmen-Azeri relations. I had a very warm and
productive meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov," said
Mamedyarov after the meeting. He added that Turkmenistan accepted with great
satisfaction the Turkmen president's proposals on scientific exchanges and
conducting cultural festivals in the two countries. Azerbaijan stands ready to
further deepen our contacts."
FREE ECONOMIC ZONE
Free economic zone on Caspian coast endorsed
Turkmenistan's President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has endorsed the project
for the development of the national tourist zone, Avaza, near the Caspian port
Turkmenbashi and for the creation of a free economic zone there, Turkmenistan.ru
quoted the government's press service as saying.
Berdymukhammedov suggested the formation of the free economic zone on the
Caspian coast when addressing the trilateral summit in Turkmenbashi on May 11th.
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Kazak counterpart Nursultan
Nazarbayev accepted the proposal of Berdymukhammedov for their participation in
the construction of the contemporary tourist infrastructure on the Turkmen
coast. The creation of the free economic zone envisages an easier visa regime
for foreign tourists wishing to vacation on the Caspian coast in accordance with
the normative legal concept of the use of the country's huge tourist potential.
Foreign investors will be granted tax benefits, the right for a long-term lease
of land to build social and economic facilities, water mains and gas pipelines,
electric transmission lines and other engineering structures. There will be
benefits also in the areas of services, communications and transportation,
including the construction of highways and forming special air routes. The plan
envisages full or partial exemption from tax on equipment and goods for national
tourist zones beings brought into Turkmenistan. The inter-branch working group
at the state committee for tourism and sports will consider investment projects.
The group comprises representatives of the justice ministry, ministries of
economics and finance, Central Bank, the Main Tax Service, ministry of
construction and mayor's office of the city of Turkmenbashi.
Turkmenistan to buy 200,000 SIM cards
The Ministry of Communications of Turkmenistan was authorised to make a contract
with French company Axalto S.A. for the supply of 200,000 SIM cards worth
US$200,000. Turkmen President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov, signed a special
resolution to this effect, Turkmenistan.ru quoted the ministry of communications
The French company won the international tender that was conducted as part of
development of the national cellular network. It should be noted that
Turkmenistan owns Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) operator of cellular communications of
GSM standard which is a business unit of the state telecommunications company
Turkmentelekom. In August 2004, Altyn Asyr joined the world association of GSM
standard cellular communications operators headquartered in Dublin (Ireland).
Turkmenistan registered its national cellular network as TM-Cell. Apart from
Altyn Asyr, Turkmenistan has the Russian MTS provider of cellular communications
services of GSM standard. MTS is undisputable leader of cellular communications
services in Turkmenistan.