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Cablegate: Success of Turkmen President's Visit To

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0656/01 1431235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221235Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0849
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 3793
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 1611
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1478
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 2047
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2537
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 000656

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EUR/CARC, EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EPET ETRD RS AJ TX
SUBJECT: SUCCESS OF TURKMEN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO
AZERBAIJAN LIKELY TO ECHO AROUND THE CASPIAN

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

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: President Berdimuhamedov was in Baku May
19 and 20 for the first visit by a Turkmen president to
Azerbaijan in 12 years, and appears to have closed the door
on seven years of sour diplomatic relations between the two
states. The visit was focused on signing a number of
bilateral economic agreements that will play a role in
solidifying the new relationship, but the highest priority
topic for discussion was likely bilateral Caspian
delimitation and development of a strategy to resolve their
dispute over the Serdar/Kapaz offshore field (septel). As
the bilateral relationship improves and develops, the
surrounding region stands to benefit in the longer term. The
visit also demonstrated Berdimuhamedov's intention to improve
Turkmenistan's relations in the region and standing in the
world. END SUMMARY.

NEW RELATIONSHIP FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE

3. (SBU) Azerbaijani President Aliyev called
Berdimuhamedov's visit a historic event that successfully
raised the bilateral relationship to a "qualitatively new
stage." In addition to a joint communique, the two
delegations signed six other documents, including
intergovernmental agreements on foreign ministry protocols,
financial nvestment protection, international and roadway
transportation, and bilateral trade. One element of the
transport agreement related to making Azerbaijan a partner
and beneficiary of the North-South transportation project
currently underway in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. The
two presidents also discussed inter-parliamentary cooperation
and agreed to continue bilateral border delimitation
negotiations. During the visit, President Berdimuhamedov
also announced that Baku would host a joint conference on
Turkmen and Azeri oil and gas issues in September 2008.

4. (SBU) Although Caspian energy issues certainly topped
the agenda, the two presidents were careful in describing the
nature of their discussions. Although they publicly stated
that they had been in agreement on a number of issues they
discussed privately, including Caspian delimitation and
energy security, they still expressed their commitment to the
development of a Convention on the Legal Status of the
Caspian Sea, along with the other littoral states. The
international transportation agreement that they signed
reportedly included provisions for facilitating significantly
increased trans-Caspian transport of international cargo.

PRESS REACTIONS VARIED

5. (SBU) Western press speculated that the two states would
focus on resolving issues related to the potential
construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline, and underscored the
value of an improved bilateral relationship between
Azerbaijan, with its developed energy sector and transport
infrastructure, and Turkmenistan, with its hydrocarbon export
potential and desire for pipeline diversification. Russian
press, on the other hand, speculated with concern that the
two states would soon resolve their old disputes and move
closer to a bilateral delimitation agreement that would open
the door to a trans-Caspian pipeline, leaving Russian energy
interests out in the cold. "Kommersant" fretted over Western
efforts to influence events in the Caspian, and noted U.S.
government financing of a pipeline feasibility study in 2007
and the increase in high-level EU delegation visits to both
states over the past year seeking to diversify European
energy supplies.

6. (SBU) Turkmen press provided wide and favorable coverage
of the president's visit to Baku. On May 20, a lengthy
article provided the text of almost every public statement
the two presidents made during the first day of meetings. On

ASHGABAT 00000656 002 OF 002


May 21, under the headline "Sunny Baku welcomes Gurbanguly
Berdimuhamedov" were photos of Turkmenistan's president
during the ceremony at Baku State University where he
received an honorary doctorate. Covering the rest of the
page was another lengthy article that again included all
public statements and details about Berdimuhamedov's official
activities in Baku.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: On a public diplomatic level, the visit
solidified the rapidly-warming relationship that Turkmenistan
and Azerbaijan apparently want. On a commercial level, both
states understand that the speedy resolution of old disputes
will clear the way for developing a multi-vectored,
mutually-profitable energy, trade and transport relationship
that would also yield benefits for other states in the region
in the longer term. The visit also demonstrated
Berdimuhamedov's intention to improve Turkmenistan's
relations in the region and standing in the world. END
COMMENT.
HOAGLAND

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