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Cablegate: Iranian Diplomat Publicly Harangues Turkmenistan for Poor

VZCZCXRO6372
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0509 1150358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240358Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0658
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 3670
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0309
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1488
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 0113
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1355
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1924
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2443

UNCLAS ASHGABAT 000509

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, INL/AAE, EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ETRD SNAR IR TX
SUBJECT: IRANIAN DIPLOMAT PUBLICLY HARANGUES TURKMENISTAN FOR POOR
CROSS-BORDER TRADE MANAGEMENT

REF: ASHGABAT 401

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

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: During an April 22 Trade Facilitation workshop
held in Ashgabat for Central Asian agencies involved in border
control and trade, an Iranian diplomat made a 5-minute harangue
criticizing the Government of Turkmenistan's handling of its trade
with Iran. He specifically referred to recent cases where Iranian
truck drivers were arrested for possession of opium for personal use
and actions by Turkmen authorities that led to huge losses for the
Iranian transportation company involved. The very public way the
diplomat raised his government's concerns were clearly directed
toward creating maximum embarrassment for Turkmenistan. This
strategy will do little to resolve the two countries' on-going
dispute over Iran's desire to continue paying rock-bottom prices for
Turkmenistan's natural gas. END SUMMARY.

WHY AN IRANIAN DIPLOMAT IS NOT HAPPY

2. (SBU) On April 21-22 the United Nations Economic Commission for
Europe, Czech Republic Technical Cooperation Project and EU-UNDP
Border Management and Drug Actions Programs in Central Asia
(BOMCA/CADAP) held a Trade Facilitation Workshop in Ashgabat. The
workshop included officials from Customs, Border Guards, Sanitary
Epidemiological and Veterinary agencies from throughout Central
Asia, as well as representatives from diplomatic missions and
international organizations in Ashgabat. In general, the atmosphere
of the workshop was friendly and positive -- until Iranian Embassy
Second Secretary Abulhassan Mobasher stood up and launched into a
5-minute tirade criticizing Turkmenistan for its actions related to
Iran-Turkmenistan cross-border trade.

3. (SBU) Specifically, Mobasher claimed Turkmen authorities had
jailed Iranian truck drivers who were in possession of 1.5 grams of
opium intended for their personal use. The authorities also seized
their cargo. The diplomat complained that Turkmenistan authorities
confiscated commodities without notifying the drivers where and how
long they were going to hold them. As a result, Mobasher said, the
Iranian transportation company suffered huge losses and had to pay
large demurrage fees. Mobasher referred to the Turkmenistan-Iranian
commission on border issues established in August 2007, stating that
it would be more efficient if the commission could deal with such
cases. While none of the Turkmenistan officials attending the
workshop responded to these comments, they looked visibly
embarrassed by the public nature of Mobasher's outburst.

IRAN WANTS TO PLAY A BIGGER ROLE IN THE REGION

4. (U) Mobasher complained that BOMCA didn't invite Iranian
officials to the meeting, despite Iran's important role in regional
trade. A BOMCA representative responded that the current BOMCA
program is designed only for Central Asian countries but they will
consider Iranian participation in future meetings.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: We applaud the fact that Turkmenistan's
officials are interdicting and holding individuals -- including
Iranian truck drivers -- carrying small amounts of opium. The fact
that the Iranian diplomat made his accusations in an open forum in
front of government representatives from other Central Asian
countries will not help a bilateral relationship already strained by
on-going arguments over Turkmenistan's efforts to renegotiate the
rock-bottom price it receives from Iran for its natural gas.
However, Mobasher's outburst does seem to be consistent, with other,
similar efforts by the Iranian embassy in Ashgabat recently to
embarrass the host government (see reftel). END COMMENT.

CURRAN

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