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Cablegate: Turkmenistan: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Seeks To

VZCZCXRO6436
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #1186/01 3061144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021144Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9640
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 2930
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0750
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0626
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 1203
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 1861
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 001186

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EUR/UMB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD SCUL UP TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEEKS TO
REVIVE THE OLD RELATIONSHIP


1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Yatsenyuk's
late-October visit to Ashgabat is part of an effort to
re-establish a normal relationship between the two countries,
after years of commercial disputes and changes in leadership
on both sides. Numerous areas of cooperation, including
planning for the upcoming CIS heads of government meeting on
22 November and President Berdimuhamedov's official visit to
Ukraine early next year, suggest the two countries are
interested in reviving the relationship, but outstanding
disputes will have to be resolved. END SUMMARY.

3. (SBU) PolOff met with Ukrainian Embassy political
officer Igor Roman for a read-out of Foreign Minister
Yatsenyuk's visit to Ashgabat on 25-26 October. The
Ukrainian delegation arrived during Turkmenistan's
Independence Week, perhaps the most significant and frenetic
holiday period of the year. Roman noted Yatsenyuk came with
a small delegation that also included former Deputy Foreign
Minister Oleksandr Chalyy. Their goals were simple, and
focused primarily on issues relating to repairing the
bilateral relationship, which has suffered from a number of
commercial problems over the last 10 years. The Ukrainian
government, however, had decided that delving into the
details of those problems was inappropriate on the eve of a
major holiday, so Yatsenyuk focused on underscoring the
positive elements of the new relationship. Roman said the
foreign minister spent 40 minutes with President
Berdimuhamedov, and then met for more than two hours with
Deputy Cabinet Chairman/Foreign Minister Meredov. The
delegation had requested a meeting with Deputy Chairman for
Oil and Gas Tagiyev, but Tagiyev was unavailable. Ukraine's
deputy prime minister for energy may head its TIOGE
conference delegation November 13-15, however, and he may try
to meet with Tagiyev then.

4. (SBU) Ukraine has a long history of strong ties with
Turkmenistan in energy, military cooperation, and education.
The longtime commercial relationship between the two states,
however, has suffered deeply because of several unresolved
contract disputes and a scandal surrounding a Ukrainian
company railroad bridge project. Several years ago, a serious
contract dispute arose when Ukrainian contractors sought to
re-negotiate the terms of a major underground infrastructure
project contract that the Ukrainian state company
Interbudmontazh had been overseeing. When the cost of
construction materials skyrocketed, the company sought to
renegotiate that portion of the contract, but the Turkmen
side insisted that either the company or the government of
Ukraine absorb any added costs themselves. The dispute was
never settled, and work on the project came to a halt.

5. (SBU) Another contract dispute that descended into
criminal scandal also worsened the bilateral relationship.
UkrTransBud had signed a deal to build a railway bridge over
the Amu Darya River, and the Turkmen government had agreed to
pay for the bridge with delivery of natural gas. Somehow,
the gas delivery "went missing," Ukrainian press reported
that two Ukrainian businessmen were arrested, and the bridge
has not been built.

6. (SBU) Yatsenyuk's priority topics for discussion
included President Berdimuhamedov's official visit to Ukraine
early next year. Berdimuhamedov had accepted President
Yuschenko's invitation to visit Ukraine earlier this year,
but the two sides had some difficulty agreeing on a time.
Earlier in the year had not been possible because
Berdimuhamedov had just taken office, and now Ukraine wanted
to wait for its new government to be in place before hosting
the visit. The Turkmen side, however, noted Berdimuhamedov's
busy schedule at the end of this year, and said it would
consider a visit no earlier than February 2008.


ASHGABAT 00001186 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) With the CIS heads of government meeting taking
place in Ashgabat on 22 November under Ukraine's
chairmanship, it was a perfect opportunity for the two states
to consult on the planning for the meeting. Roman agreed
that it was interesting that Turkmenistan had offered to host
the meeting, since its status as a non-member in the CIS has
still not been legally defined. He said the Turkmen and CIS
legal authorities had been in negotiations for several years
to create a definition for "associate" or "observer" member
that both parties could live with, but there is still no
agreement. He thought the primary reason Ashgabat was
offered up as a host city was to provide some international
media attention for Turkmenistan, not to mention filling up
the usually vacant hotels here with CIS visitors and media.
Berdimuhamedov, he said, was planning to give a keynote
speech.

8. (SBU) Ukraine has had a very successful cooperative
education program with Turkmenistan for many years, and is
currently engaged in discussions with the Turkmen government
to expand it further. This year, some 500 students were able
to go to Ukrainian universities and technical institutes,
although at personal expense, and a total of about 1,500
Turkmenistani students are currently in Ukraine. The
government of Ukraine sponsors an additional 33 student
scholarships per year, but the program requires that the
students speak Ukrainian. (NOTE: The Ukrainian Embassy is
the only place in Turkmenistan where Ukrainian language is
taught. It is offered in classes on Sunday afternoons, and
ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars in particular have filled them
up. The classes are oversized, but Turkmen authorities have
been unwilling to allow the embassy to rent space elsewhere
for these classes. END NOTE.)

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Ukrainian efforts to engage the Turkmen
on such a wide variety of issues, including commerce,
diplomacy, regional cooperation and education might pay off
in the longer term. The Turkmen are certainly aware of the
benefits a close relationship could offer, in construction
expertise and energy partnerships alone. Berdimuhamedov
would be smart to direct his government to resolve the old
disputes and move into new potential areas of cooperation.
It is certain, however, that Berdimuhamedov will want to
review carefully the old disputes before entering into new
agreements, but both sides are likely interested in finding
closure. On the Turkmen view of CIS, the Ukrainians have it
right. Berdimuhamedov is interested in an association with
the CIS structure only as a vehicle for raising
Turkmenistan's international profile, and to give Turkmen
officials a single location where they can regularly manage
their CIS bilateral relationships on a budget. END COMMENT.
HOAGLAND

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