Issue 19 (2012)
May 17 – 23, 2012
*For Breaking News See Our Blog Sifting the Karakum*
Turkmenistan, which has sought to keep all options open for transporting its energy, has finally committed to a pipeline deal and fulfilled its promises to diversify its gas export routes. On May 23, Turkmenistan signed an agreement for the sale and purchase of natural gas as part of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project. The buyers include State Gas Systems of Pakistan and India's GAIL Ltd., with Afghanistan represented by its Ministry of Mines. The agreement is the result of 20 years of challenging negotiations between all parties and the 1735 kilometer pipeline, which runs an estimated US$7.6 billion, of which one-third will be financed by the Asian Development Bank, is slated for completion in 2018 and will transport 90 million cubic meters of gas per day.
The signing ceremony took place at the Avaza resort on the Caspian Sea coast right before the opening of an international gas congress organized by the Turkmengaz State Concern, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan, and the Summit Trade Events company (London). The congress convened executives from Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector, diplomats, and representatives of national and foreign mass media, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the US Department of State, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation, China’s National Petroleum Corporation, and other foreign companies to discuss the development of the gas industry of Turkmenistan and investment opportunities in this sector.
Turkmenistan hosted an international conference on the development of transport and transit traffic in the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea, organized by the Turkmen government jointly with the International Road Transport Union, with the support of specialized institutions and agencies of the UN, OSCE, and the Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor (TRACECA) Intergovernmental Commission. President Berdymukhamedov announced that the construction of the Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran railway is proceeding at full speed and called this transcontinental railway a bridge connecting Asia with Europe.
President Berdymukhamedov participated in the informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which convened the presidents of the 11 CIS countries and was held on May 15 in Moscow. Themeeting of the leaders of the CIS states, presided over by Turkmenistan this year, was meant to provide an opportunity to coordinate and clarify the countries’ positions on issues including greater integration. Speaking at the summit, President Berdymukhamedov said that Turkmenistan sees the CIS as an effective mechanism for multilateral cooperation between member countries which share views on world peace, security, and sustainable development. President Berdymukhamedov invited the Prime Ministers of the CIS countries to take part in the Council of the Heads of CIS governments which will take place in Ashgabat on May 30. On the margins of the summit the newly elected President Putin held bilateral meetings with a number of leaders of the CIS, but not with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
Rather than meeting with Putin, Berdymukhamedov followed up his trip to the Moscow summit with meetings with Tatarstan’s President Rustam Minnikhanov, following a tradition of Turkmenistan’s sometimes frosty relations with Moscow, but with closer ties with objects of the Russian Federation. In Tatarstan, Berdymukhamedov signed a Program on Trade, Economic, Cultural, and Humanitarian Cooperation for 2012-2014 and noted that the expansion of trade and economic ties with Russia and its regions is one of the priorities of Turkmenistan’s National Program for industrialization of the country for 2012-2016. While in Tatarstan, President Berdymukhamedov called Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss preparations for the Council of the CIS meeting and to schedule bilateral talks for the end of May.
In Tatarstan, Berdymukhamedov received a new addition to his collection of titles and awards. The Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council, Farit Mukhametshin, presented Berdymukhamedov with Russia’s football championship medal. Earlier the Turkmen President received a sixth rank black belt in karate and a seventh rank black belt in Tae Kwon Do. In the beginning of April Berdymukhamedov was hailed as a champion of sports car racing. He also holds titles as an honored professor of Turkmen and Belarusian universities.
Berdymukhamedov vision and megalomania, much like that of his predecessor, past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, is embodied by his commissioning of architectural monstrosities most noted for their size. . Four of them are included in the Guinness Book of World Records for their ostentatious size, including the Oguzkhan fountain complex; the flagpole in front of the Main National Museum, the Oguz Khan star on the new Turkmenistan Broadcasting Center; and most recently, an indoor Ferris wheel, which is 57 meters in diameter.
And despite the grandiose construction, most of the population of the country suffers from extreme poverty, high unemployment, and widespread drug abuse. An article on gundogar.org, citing sources in Turkmenistan’s State Border Service, says that over 52 percent of army conscripts are involved in the theft and resale of military equipment, as well as drug smuggling across the border. Turkmenistan has specialized hospital units for military servicemen suffering from drug addiction, which may indicate the extent of a much larger epidemic of drug abuse in the country as a whole.
Turkmenistan signs major agreement with TAPI gas buyers
On May 23, Turkmenistan signed an agreement for the sale and purchase of natural gas as part of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project. Buyers are gas companies State Gas Systems of Pakistan and India's GAIL ltd. The Afghan side, through which it is planned to carry out the transit of raw materials, is represented by its branch ministry. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Kabul. Representatives of the Asian Development Bank participated in preparation of the agreement. The signing ceremony took place in the Caspian Sea resort of Avaza prior to the opening of an international gas congress on Wednesday.
The 1,735 kilometer pipeline would run from southeastern Turkmenistan into Afghanistan, then parallel to the highway from Herat to Kandahar and finally via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan to the town of Fazilka in India. It’s slated for completion in 2018 and will transport 90 million cubic meters per day. The cost of construction has been estimated at US$7.6 billion, of which one-third would be financed by the Asian Development Bank.
Turkmenistan Holds Third International Gas Congress on Caspian Sea coast
On May 23, the Third International Gas Congress of Turkmenistan (TGC-2012) has started its work at the Avaza tourist center on the Caspian Sea coast. The Congress is organized by the Turkmengaz State Concern, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan, and the Summit Trade Events company (London). According to the organizing committee, some 500 delegates from 150 companies and organizations from 32 countries are attending the Congress. They include executives and experts from Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sector, diplomats, and representatives of national and foreign mass media, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the US Department of State, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation, China’s National Petroleum Corporation, and other foreign companies. The Congress will discuss issues relating to development of the gas industry of Turkmenistan and investment opportunities in this sector.
Berdymukhamedov Participates in CIS Informal Summit in Moscow
On May 15, Russia hosted the jubilee summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which convened the presidents of the 11 CIS countries. Participants discussed issues of integration and opportunities to expand cooperation in various fields, from security to transportation to the environment. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who was in Russia on an official visit May 15 - 16, spoke at the Council of Heads of CIS countries, as Turkmenistan is chairing the CIS this year. Whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin held bilateral meetings with President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev, he did not meet with Berdymukhamedov.
Berdymukhamedov Spoke on Phone With Russian Prime Minister Medvedev
During his working visit to the Republic of Tatarstan of the Russian Federation, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov spoke on the phone with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss Turkmenistan’s chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 2012 and preparations for the Council of CIS meeting to be held in Ashgabat at the end of May. “The sides expressed their support for aspirations of businessmen from various regions of Russia to expand their presence in the Turkmen market, where a number of well-known Russian companies are already operating,” said the press-service of Turkmenistan’s President. Berdymukhamedov and Medvedev agreed to hold bilateral talks after the Council.
US Helsinki Commission Holds Briefing on Political Prisoners in Central Asia
On May 15, in Washington, the US Helsinki Committee held a briefing on political prisoners in Central Asia. Participants examined the conditions of political prisoners in all five post-Soviet countries of the region and noted that Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have the largest number prisoners of conscience.
First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan attends NATO meeting on Afghanistan
Turkmenistan’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vepa Hajiyev, participated in the meeting of the NATO summit in Chicago. More than 50 world leaders attended the summit, which focused on the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan.
Ashgabat Holds Transport Forum on Caspian And Central Asian Region
An international conference on the development of transport and transit traffic in the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea opened in Ashgabat on May 16. The event was organized by the Turkmen government jointly with the International Road Transport Union, and with the support of specialized institutions and agencies of the UN, OSCE and the Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor (TRACECA) Intergovernmental Commission. Representatives of 20 countries and 15 international organizations took part in the conference.
In his address to the participants of the conference, President Berdymukhamedov said, “the construction of the Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran railway is going at full speed. “This transcontinental railway will be a bridge connecting Asia with Europe,” he added. Kazakhstan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have agreed to set up a tripartite railway committee.
President Berdymukhamedov Received Turkish MP
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov received Turkish Member of Parliament Ayse Turkmenoglu. Turkmenistan exports textiles, energy, chemicals and agricultural products to Turkey and imports metal, household goods, hardware, building materials, food, vehicles, medicines, and electrical, chemical and light industry products, among others from Turkey. Turkish companies have over 1270 investment projects worth billions of dollars Ankara expressed interest in the delivery of Caspian energy to Europe through the Caspian Sea and Turkey.
Berdymukhamedov Receives Russia’s Football Champion Medal
The Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council, Farit Mukhametshin, presented President Berdymukhamedov with Russia’s football championship medal. Earlier the Turkmen President received a sixth rank black belt in karate and a seventh rank black belt in Tae Kwon Do for his achievements in sports. In the beginning of April Berdymukhamedov was hailed as a racing champion
Turkmen Ferris Wheel Gets into Guinness Book of Records
A Ferris wheel 57 meters in diameter has been installed at the new Alem entertainment center in Ashgabat, and was recognized as the world’s largest Ferris wheel in an enclosed-space. During the opening ceremony of the Alem center, the official representative of Guinness Book of World Records, Amanda Mohan, handed a certificate to the head of the Ashgabat city administration, Shamukhammet Durdylyev, recognizing the Ferris wheel. Six months ago the Oguz Khan star on the new Turkmenistan Broadcasting Center was recognized by Guinness Book of World Records for its size. Earlier, the Oguzkhan fountain complex and the flagpole in front of the Main National Museum of the country were noted in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Lukashenka Bought “Boeing” of Late Turkmenbashi
Belarus’ Belavia and Turkmenistan Airlines signed a contract to purchase a second-hand Boeing-767-300ER aircraft. The expensive purchase was financed from the Belarusian state budget. Previously, the aircraft served as the executive transport for Turkmenistan’s past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov. The transaction amount has been kept in the strictest confidence. However, it is known that the price of the Boeing-767-300ER on the international market ranges from 124 to 160 million dollars depending on the model. Given that the Niyazov’s Boeing was an exclusive VIP model (the interior was made of leather and fine wood, and plumbing in the shower and toilets was made using precious metals and stones) and has special equipment, the cost of the airliner may be two to three times higher.
Employees of Turkmenistan’s Circus Not Permitted to Talk to Russian Colleagues
During the April tour of the Great Moscow State Circus in Turkmenistan, employees of Turkmenistan’s Circus were not even allowed to approach their Russian colleagues. Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Culture warned the circus administration that their employees are forbidden to communicate with Russian artists under threat of dismissal.
Turkmen President Signs Pardon Decree
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed a decree "On pardoning convicted persons in honor of the Day of Revival, Unity and Poetry of Makhtymguly Fragi." According to the decree, pardoned individuals will be released. There are 987 Turkmen citizens and 35 foreign nationals among the pardoned.
Turkmen Army In a Deplorable State
An article published on gundogar.org describes the dire situation of the Turkmen army including widespread corruption, theft, hazing, drug addiction, and drug trafficking. According to sources in Turkmenistan’s State Border Service, over 52 percent of conscripts are involved in the theft and resale of military equipment, as well as drug smuggling across the border. Turkmenistan has specialized hospital units for military servicemen suffering from drug addiction, which indirectly indicates the threatening extent of drug addiction in the army.
Turkmenistan Rreceives WHO’s International Certificate on Elimination of Measles and Rubella
Turkmenistan received a World Health Organization (WHO) International Certificate for the elimination of measles and rubella. WHO recommended that the experience of Turkmen doctors be replicated in CIS countries and in the WHO’s European region.
President Berdymukhamedov Supports Idea of Independent Sports Newspaper Creation
During a governmental meeting, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov supported the idea of creating an independent self-financing newspaper Turkmen Sports, to be published in three languages. According to the President, “the new periodical is a clear evidence of the triumph of democracy and press freedom in the country.” The new paper should be staffed by, “professional journalists who can adequately cover the development of the national sports sector and success of the Turkmen sportsmen in the world," stressed Berdymukhamedov.
Russian Official Says 40 Percent of Central Asia's GDP Based On Crime
On May 15, at a meeting of the Russian government's commission on the development and implementation of counter-narcotics programs, the head of Russia's federal drug service, Viktor Ivanov, said that up to 40 percent of the GDP in Central Asia comes from criminal activities, particularly from drug trafficking.
Turkmen Commodity Exchange registered 33 transactions in excess of U.S. $ 64 million
Last week, the State Commodity and Raw Materials Exchange of Turkmenistan registered 33 transactions totaling 64,154,000 US dollars. Businessmen from Russia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and the Virgin Islands purchased products mainly from Turkmenistan’s oil refineries. Businessmen from the US, the UK, Russia, the UAE, Turkey, Hong Kong, India, and Ukraine purchased cotton and textile products.
Turkmenistan and Tatarstan sign program on economic and cultural cooperation until 2014
On May 17 Turkmenistan and the Republic of Tatarstan of the Russian Federation signed a Program on Trade, Economic, Cultural, and Humanitarian Cooperation for 2012-2014. According to the President of Tatarstan, the document provides for cooperation in the oil and petrochemical industries, as well as mechanical engineering. Leading companies such as KAMAZ, Tatneft, and Kazan Helicopters have established direct links with Turkmenistan. Zelenodolsk Shipyard is ready to supply passenger vessels. “Tatarstan can serve as a platform to expand Turkmenistan’s presence in the Russian market,” stressed the President of Tatarstan. Berdymukhamedov noted that expansion of trade and economic ties with Russia and its regions is one of the priorities of Turkmenistan’s National Program for industrialization of the country for 2012-2016.
“Russian Railways Logistics” begins multimodal transportation of goods from Russia to Turkmenistan
Russian Railways Logistics has launched a multi-modal cargo transportation service along the North – South transport corridor (the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between South Asia and Europe through Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Russia) According to the press service of the company, the first wagons of lumber were sent from the Kirov region (Strizhi railway station, Gorky Railway) and shipped to the port of Turkmenbashi via the port of Astrakhan (Kutum railway station, Volga Railway). Transportation to Turkmenistan took 45 days, the report said.
MTS plans to resume work in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan’s branch of OJSC Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) received all the required permits to resume working in the country following a suspension of activities in December 2010. It will re-launch its operations in three-four months, Invest Café agency said, citing the main owner of JSFC Sistema, Vladimir Yevtushenko.
Unless otherwise indicated, all translations have been prepared by OSI’s Turkmenistan Project.
About the Turkmenistan Project
The Turkmenistan Project is a division of the Open Society Institute’s Central Eurasia Project. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of OSI. For more information about the Open Society Institute, visit our website at http://www.soros.org. For more information about the Central Eurasia Project, visit EurasiaNet at http://www.eurasianet.org. For more on the work of the Turkmenistan Project, visit us at http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/turkmenistan/index.shtml
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