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Turkmenistan Weekly News Analysis

The congratulations on Turkmenistan’s 21 Anniversary of Independence continued to flow from heads of states making overtures to the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, coming from the likes of the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston; Israeli President, Shimon Peres; Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee; and French President, Francois Hollande. All came with intentions to “solidify partnership” and “expand cooperation,” bringing to the fore each country’s primarily commercial interests in Turkmenistan’s energy wealth and the infrastructure that is under development in Turkmenistan as a result of it. France has been particularly active with Bouygues, which has actively been engaged in construction in Turkmenistan, has recently completed projects in the country that according to some estimates total over $2 billion in value. France’s VINCI received a large contract in 2011 to build a government complex in Ashgabat; France’s Schneider Electric, in a consortium with the Belgian Enex, signed an agreement with the Turkmen government to ensure Ashgabat’s energy supply; and Thales Alenia Space launched construction of Turkmen's first national satellite, scheduled for launch in 2014. France’s Total is interested in developing Turkmenistan’s hydrocarbon resources in the Caspian, and transporting Turkmen gas to Europe, and Gas de France has also expressed interest in working in Turkmenistan’s energy sector.

Turkmenistan’s growing engagement in the world commercially seems on the rise, and its role in the Central Asian region does also, though it is more fraught. On the one hand, it has taken on some international responsibilities for the development of its Southern neighbor, Afghanistan. This week a UN delegation headed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, came to Turkmenistan to discussed steps for strengthening security and promoting the sustainable development of Afghanistan. But there are rifts with its northern neighbors. There have been issues with its Uzbekistan border in the past, but in recent days, increased issues with its Kazakhstan border, that have led to some diplomatic wrangling. On October 19, the border guard unit of the Garabogaz border post detained seven Kazakhstan’s citizens, including Kazakh police and immigration officers, for illegally crossing the state border and entering three kilometers into the territory of Turkmenistan. According to a statement from the Turkmenistan authorities, the detainees were armed. Representatives from the Kazakh Foreign Ministry met with Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister, Rashid Meredov, to try to obtain the permission to meet with the detainees on October 23, however, according to Kazakh media, they were unable to obtain permission. This comes at the same time that Kazakhstan was embroiled in a dispute with Turkmenistan on territories in the Caspian Sea, according to the Head of Kazakhstan Agency for Managing Land Resources, Kadirkhan Otarov.

According to the Turkmenistan Initiative for Human Rights, a rare, small protest took place in Lebap region, in East of Turkmenistan on November 1, when bazaar vendors refused to limit their working hours at the orders of the local administration during the cotton harvest. Regional officials had prematurely announced that quotas for the cotton harvest were met, and traders themselves decided to resume working full time, breaking the lock that the administration had put on the bazaar’s gate, and ushering in the vendors and customers. They continued to work in accordance with the regular regime on November 2, working from 9am until 10pm, even though police patrolling the bazaar warned vendors and customers that they would be fined for breaking the orders. The threats do not seem to be enforced, and would have a severe impact on the economic well-being of the population of the region, which has a high level of unemployment, and for many of the vendors, trading at the market is the only means of survival and subsistence.

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Turkmenistan Weekly News Analysis

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