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Cablegate: Pipelines Dominate Feigenbaum Press Coverage

VZCZCXRO1935
RR RUEHAST RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHMRE RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR
RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0697/01 1941148
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131148Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9000
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0411
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0433
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2121
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0870
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0203
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0918
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0119
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 0168
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0090
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 0104
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0129
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 0442
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 04 ASHGABAT 000697

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: PIPELINES DOMINATE FEIGENBAUM PRESS COVERAGE

ASHGABAT 00000697 001.2 OF 004


SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Despite Deputy Assistant Secretary Evan A. Feigenbaum's
emphasis on developing a multidimensional relationship with
Turkmenistan, media mostly focused on the single dimension of gas
pipelines. Most media headlines, including pro-Government of
Turkmenistan sites, contained the words "Trans-Caspian" and drew
from the same state media sources but provided different
interpretations of Turkmenistan's interest in the project. Emphasis
on 'Great Game' politics overshadowed brief descriptions of other
areas of cooperation. Ironically, the state Watan television
channel gave the most accurate and fullest coverage of the visit's
true purpose as well as other events. End Summary.

WATAN AND NCA ACCURATE FOR ONCE
-------------------------------

2. (U) The June 25 Watan TV News broadcast thoroughly covered the
range of topics discussed by President Berdimuhammedov and
Feigenbaum. The story stated that Feigenbaum was a high-ranking
U.S. diplomat and that he had sought to improve the already positive
and growing U.S.-Turkmenistan relationship. Berdimuhammedov had
cited that they had accomplished a great deal already and he looked
forward to continued cooperation on an "equal and mutually
beneficial basis." Feigenbaum had noted the five previous
delegations, the proposals for cooperation that they had submitted
to the Government of Turkmenistan, and new ideas for expanding
business and cultural cooperation such as renewing the
Ashgabat-Albuquerque sister-city status. Berdimuhammedov had
thanked Peace Corps for their service, favored expanding exchanges
in higher education, and emphasized Turkmenistan's policy of
supporting multiple gas transport routes.

3. (U) The story continued that Berdimuhammedov had wished to
develop multi-facted relationships with numerous countries but that
the "superpower" role of the United States "provides conditions for
more comprehensive and equal-footed collaboration on the whole range
of cooperation." Thus, he was ready to increase cooperation in
economic and humanitarian areas. The broadcast then carried
Feigenbaum's full interview where he emphasized the long
U.S.-Turkmenistan relationship and U.S. desire to expand relations
in security, economy, trade, energy, democracy and human rights.
(Note: The broadcast did not mention the Trans-Caspian pipeline or
any other specific route at any time. End Note.) The following
day, state dailies "Neutral Turkmenistan" (Russian, circ. 35,141)
and "Turkmenistan" (Turkmen, circ. 28,091) gave front-page treatment
to an article with similar content to Watan TV News. In subsequent
days, state weeklies "Watan" (Turkmen, circ. 26,091), "Turkmen
Gundogary" (Turkmen, circ. 44,160), "Dashoguz Habarlary" (Turkmen,
circ. 27,070) also gave front-page treatment to the same article
from the dailies. The weeklies "Balkan" (Turkmen, circ. 24,630) and
"Ahal Durmushy" (Turkmen, circ. 35,391) reprinted the article.

4. (U) News Central Asia (NCA) posted an article on June 26 that
emphasized the multidimensional topics in Feigenbaum's meetings.
The unnamed author stated that Feigenbaum visited Turkmenistan "fast
on the heels of" Fallon and that "the sides appeared to be making
some headway in several areas." Berdimuhammedov had wanted multiple
pipelines and the Trans-Caspian was a possible option. Overall, the
article was a summary of the Watan news broadcast with the specific
mention of the Trans-Caspian being the only difference. (Note: The
weaker English and positive tone of the article implies that the
author is different from a separate anti-American NCA piece on
Feigenbaum. See below. End Note.)

STATE MEDIA COVERS ANTI-DRUG EVENT
----------------------------------


ASHGABAT 00000697 002.2 OF 004


5. (U) On June 26, Watan TV News (Turkmen) aired an interview with
Feigenbaum during a drug burn to highlight Turkmenistan's
counter-narcotics efforts. Feigenbaum expressed satisfaction with
the improved relations between the United States and Turkmenistan.
He noted that counter-narcotics was a good example of positive
cooperation since no single country could fight this problem on
their own. He added that it was unfortunate that humanity dealt
with narcotics addiction and trafficking in the modern era.
Finalizing his remarks, Feigenbaum thanked Turkmenistan's government
for the opportunities to exchange experiences, develop united
approaches, discuss results and review potential for future
cooperation. The following day, state dailies "Neutral
Turkmenistan" (Russian, circ. 35,141) and "Turkmenistan" (Turkmen,
circ. 28,091) published Feigenbaum's remarks, along with his
picture, from the counter-narcotics event with similar content to
Watan TV News. In subsequent days, state weeklies "Nesli" (Turkmen,
circ. 22,311), "Balkan" (Turkmen, circ. 24,630) reprinted the same
article from the dailies.

TRANS-CASPIAN: YES, NO, MAYBE-SO
--------------------------------

6. (U) The June 26 Associated Press newswire article by Alexander
Vishinin focused exclusively on President Berdimuhammedov's
tentative backing of the Trans-Caspian pipeline based on state media
articles. The rest of the article gave background on the
significance of this decision in the context of a continued
competition between the United States and Russia for influence in
Turkmenistan. The author also cited the visit of Admiral Fallon in
the previous week as another U.S. effort for influence. The article
also cited the agreement between Russia, Kazakhstan, and
Turkmenistan to build a gas pipeline on the Caspian Sea's eastern
shore as a major victory for Russia in this back-and-forth struggle.
The article contained Feigenbaum quotes taken during the drug burn
but did not provide any detail or explanation of this event. The
final sentence mentioned the overflight agreement between the United
States and Turkmenistan for planes bound for Afghanistan. The
"Moscow Times" carried a shortened version of this article that
focused purely on the gas pipeline and emphasized how Turkmenistan
is "cautious" in supporting this project.

7. (U) The June 26 posting on Turkmenistan.ru headlined with the
Trans-Caspian as a "possible" option even though discussion of the
pipeline only appeared in the last paragraph. The article detailed
the high level of this and previous visits and that the U.S. sought
to increase bilateral relations in the areas of culture and
business. The author added a quotation by President Berdimuhammedov
that directly supported the expansion of U.S. scholars visiting
Turkmenistan. The AKIpress also carried a short article emphasizing
that President Berdimuhammedov considered the Trans-Caspian a
"possible" route. After dedicating most of the article to details
and quotes about gas, the article mentioned that Feigenbaum and the
president had talked about a wide range of issues and that five U.S.
delegations had visited Turkmenistan since January.

8. (U) ITAR-TASS' June 25 article stated that Turkmenistan
"supports" a Trans-Caspian pipeline project. The article used
quotes and statements from both the president and Feigenbaum with
optimistic assessments of implementing the project. The end of the
article briefly mentioned the desire for both parties to expand
business and cultural cooperation. The author used the
Turkmensitan.ru quotation by Berdimuhammedov that supported the
expansion of U.S. scholars visiting Turkmenistan. The World Press
Service posted a similar article on June 27 that cited international
and state media with Turkmenistan "backing" a Trans-Caspian pipeline
in its headline. The article repeated mentions of expanded business
and cultural cooperation with the United States. The same
Berdimuhammedov quote calling for more U.S. scholars also appeared
here. The final paragraph detailed competition between the United

ASHGABAT 00000697 003.2 OF 004


States and Russia over Turkmenistan's gas reserves by supporting
different gas pipelines.

9. (U) The Journal of Turkish Weekly carried an article on June 27
from News Central Asia that the United States believes Turkmenistan
"supports" a Trans-Caspian pipeline. This thesis based its logic on
several quotes from Feigenbaum about his meeting with the president.
The article also described Feigenbaum's comments on U.S. regional
energy policy as "the rut that is called U.S. foreign policy."
(Note: News Central Asia frequently reveals an anti-western bias
through similar comments. End Note.)

RUSSIAN LANGUAGE COVERAGE POSITIVE
----------------------------------

10. (U) From June 25-27, newswires and news agencies, such as RIA
Novosti, ITAR-TASS, WPS Sentralno-aziatskiye novosti, Ferghana.ru,
Yezhednevniye novosti himicheskih predpriyatiy SNG, Xinhua News
Agency and Georgian Business Consulting gave coverage on
Feigenbaum's visit to Turkmenistan in Russian. The coverage,
referring to Turkmenistan's state media, was generally accurate and
had similar content to other foreign articles. However, all
headlines reflected Turkmenistan's support for a Trans-Caspian
pipeline, backed by the United States.

IWPR ARTICLE BOTCHES THE FACTS
------------------------------

11. (U) An article posted on the US-supported Institute for War and
Peace's website (English and Russian) interpreted Berdimuhamedov's
statement from Feigenbaum's meeting, "Turkmen-American relations
should not be politicized," as a sign he will not embark on
democratic reforms. The article cited a News Briefing Central Asia
(NBCA) analyst's comment that the remark displayed Turkmenistan's
wariness of the United States demanding democratic reforms. The
article quoted Vyasheslav Mamedov, leader of emigre group, the Civil
Democratic Union of Turkmenistan, that Berdimuhamedov's statement
meant "there would be no political reforms in the near future." He
stated that "politics", referred to international pressure to
democratize Turkmenistan. Mamedov added that the United States
would probably agree to keep "politics" off the agenda to gain
influence in Central Asia and thus weaken the region's dependence on
Russia. The United States would focus on education and cultural
projects instead. The article reported that an NBCA observer based
in Ashgabat agreed because the president feared that the people
might become infected with the "spirit of freedom." The observer
incorrectly added that the state media constantly promoted the idea
that "Western" democracy was alien to its people. (Note: This is
hardly a ?constant? message. End note.)

12. (U) The article noted that diplomatic dialogue between the
United States and Turkmenistan had become much more active this
year. But it incorrectly cited Berdimuhamedov's meetings with
Fallon in early June, Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher in April,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Steven Mann, and State
Department Spokesman Sean McCormack. (Comment: Fallon visited in
late June. Boucher has not returned to Turkmenistan since February.
The McCormack meeting never took place. End Comment.) It added
that the United States had been providing educational exchange
programs to Turkmenistan's military and police personnel and
incorrectly noted English courses at American colleges for small
groups of schoolchildren. (Note: Post has no such program for
children. End Note.)

COMMENT
-------

13. (SBU) Despite most of the same source material, many outlets
came up with a wide range of conclusions and most focused on the

ASHGABAT 00000697 004.2 OF 004


possibility of building a Trans-Caspian pipeline. Focus on this
issue illustrates the dominance of energy and ?great game?
worldviews in the international press -- even though these were
merely secondary issues for Feigenbaum's visit. The Institute for
War and Peace Reporting's poor mastery of easily verifiable facts
and its spin, showed that international newsmedia can be too reliant
on opposition exiles whose information is exaggerated or
out-of-touch with reality in Turkmensitan. Whereas Turkmenistan
state media and Feigenbaum emphasized multiple dimensions of the
bilateral relationship. Surprisingly Turkmen State News Media and
News Central Asia, neither of which is known for its journalistic
credibility, had the stories which best reflected Feigenbaum's
visit. End Comment.

HOAGLAND

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