President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is scheduled to travel to Moscow on December 23 to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH) reported. His trip will follow an informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) December 19-20 which he won't be attending, sending instead Turkmen Vice Premier Nazarguly Shagulyyev.
Turkmenistan will chair the CIS next year, where it only has “associate member” status in keeping with its stated policy of neutrality, yet it is not clear whether Ashgabat will join the free-trade agreement that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has pushed in conjunction with the Eurasian Economic Union of former Soviet states, already joined by Kazakhstan and Belarus (with possibly Kyrgyzstan in the future). Shagulyyev is the same official who attended an October meeting about the economic union in Moscow, who said then that only the president could sign documents.
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Catherine A. Fitzpatrick compiles the Turkmenistan weekly roundup for EurasiaNet. She is also editor of EurasiaNet's Sifting the Karakum blog.