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Cablegate: Turkmenistan: Berdimuhamedov Prioritizes

VZCZCXRO8508
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0280/01 0581244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271244Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0340
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 3432
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 1250
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1117
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 1686
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2264
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 000280

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN
ENERGY FOR EKIMOFF/THOMPSON
COMMERCE FOR HEUPER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EPET ETRD RS TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: BERDIMUHAMEDOV PRIORITIZES
BILATERAL ISSUES AT MULTILATERAL CIS SUMMIT


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

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: President Berdimuhamedov was in Moscow
February 22 for the CIS Informal Summit, where Putin said
goodbye, the Turkmen president defined neutrality, and they
both watered and nourished the Russian-Turkmen economic
relationship. As an self-confirming "associated member,"
Berdimuhamedov appeared to play a role similar to that of the
regular members. Later, Putin invited him for a private
discussion, where the two reviewed progress on the Caspian
littoral pipeline, construction that will soon begin on the
Turkmenistan-China pipeline, and the planned refurbishment of
the Central Asia-Center pipeline. All indicators point to
Berdimuhamedov continuing to mold his country's role in the
CIS as he sees fit, but it is also clear that he views Russia
as an important trade and investment partner. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) President Berdimuhamedov flew to Moscow on February
22 to attend the CIS Informal Summit, where Putin bade
farewell to the gathering of CIS presidents and introduced
Russian presidential candidate and heir presumptive Dmitry
Medvedev to them. While at the summit, Berdimuhamedov took
special pains to underscore Turkmenistan's role in the CIS as
an "associated member" and noted that Turkmenistan views the
CIS as "a consultative body." He explained that this status
affords Turkmenistan special opportunities to advance
bilateral and multilateral partnerships.

4. (U) The state-controlled Turkmen press provided a primer
on how Turkmenistan can maintain its "permanent neutrality"
while enjoying the benefits of participation. While
acknowledging that Turkmenistan's participation in the CIS
has expanded in recent years, the press explained that it
also advances the president's foreign policy strategy, which
is "aimed at expanding international contacts for peace and
progress."

5. (U) When given his chance to address the other summit
attendees, Berdimuhamedov focused primarily on the bilateral
partnership, crediting Putin with deepening trade and the
economic relationship between Turkmenistan and Russia, and
said that his country had increased its trade turnover with
Russia in 2007 by nearly 30% compared to previous years. He
also expressed his general support for several transportation
projects discussed during the Dushanbe CIS meeting in late
2007, to include construction of a rail line from Kazakhstan
south through Iran and development of an international ferry
system on the Caspian Sea.

6. (SBU) Without going into detail, he also recommended
that the CIS consider revising its framework documentation to
enable member states to operate under the auspices of the
organization more easily without having to put sovereign
interests at risk for the benefit of the organization.
(NOTE: He may have been simply asking that the organization
provide more of a documentary fig leaf for Turkmenistan's
participation as a neutral state, if he foresees Turkmenistan
playing a more significant role in the group. END NOTE.)

7. (U) During a separate bilateral meeting between Putin
and Berdimuhamedov, the Turkmen press reported that they
discussed the Caspian littoral pipeline and refurbishment of
the existing gas pipeline "in the European direction,"
referring to the Central Asia-Center line. Berdimuhamedov
expressed his satisfaction with the increasing amount of
Russian business activity in Turkmenistan and the joint
ventures that are developing. He also highlighted
Turkmenistan's recent agreement with the Russian
Stroytransgaz Joint Stock Company, which will be doing some
of the construction on the future Turkmenistan-China gas

ASHGABAT 00000280 002 OF 002


pipeline. The initial contract for facilities that will
support the pipeline's operations was reportedly worth about
$590 million.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The Turkmen president's primary mission
appeared to be an effort to promote the further expansion of
Russian trade and investment in Turkmenistan. Despite
Berdimuhamedov having faithfully attended all of the CIS
summit events over the past year and becoming more of an
active participant, he still remains interested asserting and
strengthening Turkmenistan's neutrality stance. Apparently,
increased activity in regional groupings is a means to
promote trade or good will with a variety of partners and not
a signal that Turkmenistan wants to form alliances with any
other state. END COMMENT.
HOAGLAND

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