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Cablegate: After Threats to Cancel, Turkmenistan Hosts Regional Trade

VZCZCXRO9633
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0529/01 1191135
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281135Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0686
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 3693
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1511
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1378
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1947
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 2460

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000529

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, INL/AAE, EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ETRD SNAR IR TX
SUBJECT: AFTER THREATS TO CANCEL, TURKMENISTAN HOSTS REGIONAL TRADE
CONFERENCE -- BUT DOES NOT PARTICIPATE

REF: ASHGABAT 401

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

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Turkmenistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
neglected to follow up appropriately during the process of
organizing the EU-UNDP Border Management and Drug Actions Programs
in Central Asia (BOMCA/CADAP) workshop on Trade Facilitation. The
lack of MFA follow-through was so severe that MFA officials
attempted on April 19 to cancel the workshop scheduled to take place
on April 21-22. In the end, the workshop took place, but without
the active participation of Turkmen officials, making the utility of
this workshop marginal at best. The problems that beset this
workshop highlight the lack of coordination between Turkmenistan's
ministries and MFA's serious human resource problem. END SUMMARY.

POOR COORDINATION AND BUREACRACY

2. (SBU) The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the
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 on April 21-22 for
officials from customs, border patrol, sanitary epidemiological and
veterinary agencies throughout Central Asia, and representatives
from diplomatic missions and international organizations in
Ashgabat. The official opening of the conference was delayed
because no Government of Turkmenistan officials showed up for the
ceremony, and the Government of Turkmenistan neither participated
nor made any presentations. BOMCA Country Manager Batyr Kurbanov
(please strictly protect throughout) said that representatives from
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) called him on Saturday, April
19, to say that they would have to cancel the conference because
they were not ready, but Kurbanov was able to talk them out of
taking this drastic step.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY AT MFA

3. (SBU) Kurbanov said that MFA did not provide for adequate
participation of Turkmen officials and that international
participants noticed the lack of government presentations at the
workshop. Kurbanov said that MFA is overwhelmed with the high
volume of tasks its small staff is asked to handle and cannot keep
up with all requests effectively and in a timely manner. In
addition, MFA is not effectively coordinating activities on an
interagency level. For example, Kurbanov and his staff were under
the impression that the State Counternarcotics Commission -- with
which BOMCA implements all its projects -- would ensure
Turkmenistan's participation. However, it did not do so because the
subject of the workshop fell under the responsibilities of the
Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations. Neither the State
Counternarcotics Commission nor the Ministry of Trade took any
action, and therefore no representative from either organization
attended or prepared a presentation. In an attempt to save face,
the MFA attempted to delay or cancel the event -- a difficult
situation for BOMCA as all other delegations had already arrived in
Turkmenistan.

USEFUL TOPICS...BUT NO RESULTS

4. (SBU) The workshop covered topics which Turkmenistan needs to be
aware of as it increases openness to the outside world, including
integrated approaches to trade facilitation, experiences of other
countries in trade facilitation, trade and transit corridor
approaches in Central Asia, and international standards for trade
information exchange. However, the overall workshop was
unproductive due to Turkmenistan's lack of participation. While
regional representatives were eager to learn more about
Turkmenistan's experience, Turkmen attendees did not participate in
any discussions and did not make presentations on issues related to
Turkmenistan's procedures and experience in trade and transport
facilitation. Turkmen officials also refrained from engaging in
discussions related to the adoption of recommendations on countries'
needs and priorities in trade facilitation. International

ASHGABAT 00000529 002 OF 002


participants appeared uncomfortable because of the unwillingness of
Turkmen participants to engage.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Post is not the only foreign mission that has
noticed that the MFA lacks the proper resources (human and
otherwise) needed to complete their tasks in an effective manner.
While it is positive that Turkmenistan wants to host high-profile
regional and international meetings, the lack of active
participation from Turkmenistan and poor government coordination in
hosting the event brings little utility in the end. END COMMENT.

CURRAN

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