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Cablegate: Media Coverage of Deputy Assistant Secretary Mann's

VZCZCXRO7582
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0302/01 0751236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161236Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8549
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000302

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, IIP/T, IIP/G/NEA-SA, SA
SCA/CEN, SCA/PAB, SCA/INS, SCA/RA, SCA/PPD, DRL
CENTCOM PUBLIC AFFAIRS-MAJ.BALDWIN/SGT. BAKER
USCINCPAC FOR POLAD R. HUSO
SECDEF FOR PA


SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR KPAO OIIP PREL PGOV AF TX
SUBJECT: MEDIA COVERAGE OF DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY MANN'S
MEETING WITH TURKMENISTAN'S PRESIDENT[B1] MOSTLY POSITIVE
[B2]

Summary
-------

1. (U) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Steven Mann's March 3-6
visit to Turkmenistan received wide and generally positive coverage
in state media. State media only gave coverage of Mann's March 5
meeting with President Berdimuhammedov and omitted his meetings with
other government officials. State media inaccurately covered Mann's
congratulations to President Berdimuhammedov on the latter's
election. Inaccuracy and some Russian-origin "black propaganda" of
Mann's meeting with the president followed the visit. End Summary.

Inaccuracy and Omission of State Media Coverage[B3]
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) Following his March 5 meeting with President
Berdimuhammedov, Mann gave a lobby statement wherein he noted he had
congratulated the president on "assuming the duty of president."
Instead, sameday state Watan TV (Turkmen) reported that Mann
congratulated the president with his "election" to the position.
(Comment: The USG has issued no official statement on the
presidential elections on Turkmenistan. End Comment.) The
following day, state dailies "Neutral[B4] Turkmenistan" (Russian,
circ. 34,701) and Turkmenistan (Turkmen, circ. 28,091) gave
front-page treatment to an article about the meeting. The same day,
government website "Turkmenistan-Golden Age"
(www.turkmenistan.gov.tm) (Russian) carried the same article. On
subsequent days the weeklies "Ashgabat" (Turkmen, circ.16,561),
"Watan" (Turkmen, circ. 26,091), "Ahal Durmushy" (Turkmen, circ.
35,391), "Maru-Shahu-Jahan" (Turkmen, circ. 36,252), "Balkan"
(Turkmen, circ.24,631), "Dashoguz Habarlary" (Turkmen, circ. 27,183)
and "Nesli" (Turkmen, 22,311) gave front-page treatment to the
article. (Comment: All state coverage included the same inaccuracy
mentioned above. End Comment.) The meeting also received coverage
on the government website TURKMENISTAN.RU (English, Russian) on
March 6.

3. (U) State media omitted Mann's meetings with other high-ranking
government officials. However, BBC Monitoring (English) and Dow
Jones Commodities Service (English) carried excerpts from the
embassy press release on March 5, which mentioned the meetings.
(Comment: Both newswires, based on the embassy press release,
accurately quoted Mann's statement on energy sector development,
which appears in para. 4. End Comment.)

Inaccuracy and Russian Black Propaganda
---------------------------------------

4. (U) Following his meeting with President Berdimuhammedov, Mann
expressed U.S. support and hope that Turkmenistan would "fully make
use of its potential in developing the energy sector." ITAR-TASS
(March 5, English) and Today.Az (March 6, English) misleadingly
reported that Mann stressed the United States was ready to render
"all necessary assistance in developing Turkmenistan's fuel and
energy sector."

5. (U) Russian news agencies ITAR-TASS, WPS-Central Asia News
(March 7, English, Russian) and newspaper "Nezavisimaya Gazeta"
(March 12, Russian) ran speculative "black propaganda" articles
about Mann's visit, asserting that the United States was determined
to revive the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project, specifically to
bypass Russia. WPS-Central Asia News explained Azarbaijan's attempt
to restore relations with Turkmenistan as an "indicator" of
Washington's plans regarding Turkmenistan. Newspaper "Nezavisimaya
Gazeta" explained that the warmer relationship between Ashgabat and
Washington was due to U.S. strategic interests in the region and
rising world gas prices. The newspaper printed Russian Strategic
Studies Institute analyst Ashdar Kurtov's analysis about the visit.
Kurtov explained the improvement of U.S.-Turkmenistan relations as a
plan to complete the encirclement of Iran in preparation for
military operations against that country, because Turkmenistan was
the only bordering country with no U.S. Forces. Newswire Global
Insight Daily Analysis (March 8, English) supported the idea of U.S.
attempts to realize the Trans-Caspian pipeline, but explained Mann's
visit as demonstrating a U.S. intention to "ensure sufficient
political headaches" for other competitors for influence in the
country.

COMMENT
-------

10. (U) Mann's visit received positive coverage on state media.
Despite the inaccuracy over Mann's greeting to the president, state
media accurately delivered the U.S. intention to open a new chapter

ASHGABAT 00000302 002 OF 002


in the bilateral relationship and expand cooperation. However,
Russian "black media" attempted to place misleading emphasis on U.S.
intentions and thus perpetuate a "great game" vision of relations in
Turkmenistan and Central Asia.

11. (U) Post notes that its general lack of access to Russian media
representatives from Ashgabat makes countering "great game" claims
about U.S. policy difficult. Russian TV broadcasts are widely seen
by citizens of Turkmenistan and almost certainly influence the
country's largely unmeasured, unpolled public opinion about the
United States. Increased state media coverage of international --
and particularly embassy -- events and programs (septel) offers hope
that, for this month at least, the positive will help to overshadow
the Russian black media's more negative spin. End Comment.

BRUSH

Drafted: IMA MHummedov
03/12/2007
Q:\Media Assistant\Media Reactions\Cables\2007\March 2007 PDAS
Mann's Visit\20070313 PDAS Mann visit.doc
Cleared:
CHG
ADCM
PAO

[B1]I always want for there to be a message in the subject line
[B2]A PRESS RELEASE IS NOT A REFTEL
[B3]Watch for the spacing and formatting, leave a space between the
header and the text.
[B4]I prefer using the english translation of neytralniy spelling of
a cognate always bothered me. the next guy may tell you the
opposite.

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