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Cablegate: Centcom Admiral Fallon's Visit Receives Broad Coverage On

VZCZCXRO3720
RR RUEHAST RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHMRE RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR
RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0662/01 1861305
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051305Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8957
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0389
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0411
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2099
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0848
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0195
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0896
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0108
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 0157
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0079
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 0093
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0118
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 0431
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DHO-2/REA/NMJIC-J2//
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J5/RUE//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 000662

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SCA/CEN (SNELSIRE); SCA/PPD (KAMP)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG PINR PREL PGOV TX US AF
SUBJECT: CENTCOM ADMIRAL FALLON'S VISIT RECEIVES BROAD COVERAGE ON
TURKMENISTAN'S STATE AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIA

ASHGABAT 00000662 001.2 OF 003


SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Media coverage of U.S. CENTCOM Commander Admiral William
Fallon's June 20 meeting with Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly
Berdimuhamedov fell into two distinct trends, with international
sources focusing on American competition with Russia for gas
resources while state media concentrated on Turkmenistan's security
partnership with the United States and Turkmenistan's support for
Afghanistan. International media framed the meeting in the context
of Russian and U.S. competition for pipeline construction while
minimally discussing the security relationship. The exception to
this was a New York Times article by C.J. Chivers that presented
numerous security details. The state media praised the security
relationship in the context of issues important to the general
population: counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and border
security. As could be expected, state media also continuously
emphasized Fallon's compliments, Turkmenistan's aid to Afghanistan,
and continued peaceful relations with their neighbors. End
Summary.

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA: MORE OF THE UNIMAGINATIVE GREAT GAME
-------------------

2. (U) Thorough and accurate coverage of the visit came from New
York Times reporter C.J. Chivers in a June 21 article that refrained
from directly criticizing the current regime. The article
highlighted the U.S. and Turkmenistani governments' positive view of
the meeting, but dedicated most of its content to background
information on the country, regime, gas pipelines, and the security
relationship with the United States. The article directly attacked
Niyazov's policies while neutrally describing the current president,
noting announced reforms and citing all criticisms of Berdimuhamedov
back to human rights groups and opposition members. Chivers used
quotes by Admiral Fallon to show U.S. eagerness to engage with
Turkmenistan, while the final quote illustrated U.S. sensitivity in
pressing human rights issues. An abstract of this article contained
the same tone. The International Herald Tribune published a
shortened version of this article that cut out most of the details
of U.S.-Turkmenistan security relationship but still carried the
emphasis on the possible development of a Trans-Caspian pipeline.

3. (U) A June 21 Associated Press article by Alexander Vershinin
focused on how Fallon's visit was part of a competition between
Russia and the U.S. for influence in Turkmenistan. The article drew
most of its information on the actual meeting from positive
quotations in Turkmenistan state media sources. Vershinin also
cited the New York Times article's mention of Fallon pushing a
Trans-Caspian pipeline and the president's hesitation on the issue.
Vershinin added that the state media did not mention this portion of
the meeting. The article continued to emphasize the vast energy
wealth of the region as the prize in a new 'Great Game,' but also
noted the positive role Turkmenistan played in stabilizing
Afghanistan as another reason for U.S. interest in the country.

4. (U) A brief piece by Radio Free Europe stated that
Berdimuhamedov supported the stabilization of Afghanistan, a
Trans-Caspian pipeline, and expanding relations with the United
States government and businesses during his meeting with Fallon.
News Central Asia published a piece (also carried by The Journal of
Turkish weekly) that drew heavily on state media sources to give
another positive assessment of the growing cooperation between the
two countries. The article ended with incorrect speculation that
Admiral Fallon would be returning in a week for more meetings.
(Note: The positive tone of the News Central Asia article was out
of character, as this source typically carries an anti-western
slant. However, it did maintain its pro-Government of Turkmenistan
perspective. End Note.)

ASHGABAT 00000662 002.2 OF 003

5. (U) Russian Itar-Tass News agency (Russian) on June 20 and
Xinhua News Agency (Chinese-origin/Russian-language) on June 21,
based on news reports from Turkmenistan's state media, reported on
Admiral Fallon's visit with similar content to the State Watan TV
News broadcast. Both news agencies reported that Fallon praised
Turkmenistan's role in the peaceful development of Afghanistan, with
exports of electricity and natural gas.

STATE MEDIA: TURKMENISTAN, SAVIOR OF AFGHANISTAN
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (U) The state Watan TV News program's June 20 news-broadcast
highlighted Fallon's positive comments on the regime and the
benefits of the U.S.-Turkmenistan security relationship, and carried
most of his interview with reporters. The broadcast stated that
Fallon had congratulated the president on his election and expressed
confidence in the president's ability to develop the country
rapidly. The interlocutors had discussed many issues but security
had been the chief topic. Fallon and the president had focused the
security discussion on cooperation in fighting terrorism, protecting
borders, and preventing narcotics trafficking, as these phenomena
would quickly destabilize the country. President Berdimuhamedov had
emphasized the importance of political neutrality, especially in
regards to remaining on good terms with its neighbors. Fallon had
praised Turkmenistan's role in developing peace in Afghanistan while
President Berdimuhamedov had noted the gas and supplies they had
given to their neighbor. Fallon had said that he was satisfied with
the meeting and overall with the country of Turkmenistan. Watan
then broadcasted most of Fallon's interview that emphasized the
benefits of security and his compliments of the country, its people,
and president. The broadcast ended with a reaffirmation of the
president's policy of neutrality and peaceful cooperation with all
of its neighbors. (Comment: The interview appears edited for
brevity, not to censor sensitive content. End Comment.)

7. (U) Russia-based pro-Turkmenistan news website Turkmenistan.ru
published a short piece focusing on how the meeting will strengthen
the positive security relationship between the two countries. The
article carried a quote by Fallon emphasizing how the cooperation
will assist both countries in combating terrorism, stopping drug
trafficking, and securing borders. The article noted Turkmenistan's
role in promoting peace in Afghanistan and supplying them with gas
and electricity.

8. (U) On June 21, state dailies "Neutral Turkmenistan" (Russian,
circ. 35,141) and "Turkmenistan" (Turkmen, circ. 28,091) gave a
front page treatment to an article with a similar content to the
Watan TV News broadcast. In subsequent days, state weeklies "Watan"
(Turkmen, circ. 26,091), "Nesli" (Turkmen, circ. 22,311), "Ashgabat"
(Turkmen, circ. 16,171), "Balkan" (Turkmen, circ. 24,630), "Ahal
Durmushy" (Turkmen, circ. 35,391), "Maru-Shahu Jahan" (Turkmen,
circ. 36,220), "Turkmen Gundogary" (Turkmen, circ. 44,160),
"Dashoguz Habarlary" (Turkmen, circ. 27,070) and "Habarlar"
(Turkmen, circ. 3,596) also gave front page treatment to the same
article from the dailies.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Admiral Fallon's meeting with Turkmenistan's President
received positive coverage in state media sources and generally
neutral, pipeline-centered coverage in international media. While
the Turkmenistan state media praised this partnership, they also
carefully and continuously defined the limited nature of the
relationship and the importance of maintaining permanent neutrality.
This indicates a positive governmental view of the United States,
while exposing Turkmenistan's desire to maintain a balancing act

ASHGABAT 00000662 003.2 OF 003


amongst regional powers.

9. (SBU) In contrast to press following a visit by CENTCOM
commander Abizaid two years ago, post was surprised that Russian
media outlets did not use the Fallon visit as an opportunity to
speculate about sinister U.S. military motives in the region. It is
unclear whether this was the result of an improved
Turkmenistan-Russia relationship or because Russian news media was
occupied with other news stories. End Comment.

BRUSH

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