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Cablegate: Iran/Turkmenistan: Ahmadinejad to Visit

VZCZCXRO0169
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHAH #0006 0041238
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041238Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4001
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 6073
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0001
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 4315
RHMCSUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS ASHGABAT 000006

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/IR AND SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: IR PGOV PREL TX
SUBJECT: IRAN/TURKMENISTAN: AHMADINEJAD TO VISIT
TURKMENISTAN ON 5-6 JANUARY

1. (SBU) Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit
Turkmenistan on January 5-6, and will be the guest of honor
at the official opening of the joint 65-kilometer
Dowletabat-Serahs-Khangiran gas pipeline. His last visit to
Turkmenistan was in July 2006, when he met with former
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

2. (SBU) The Turkmen press has not offered many details about
Ahmadinejad's schedule, however Iranian news sources indicate
that in addition to the pipeline inauguration, the Iranian
president will attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the
Atrak-Gorgan railway project -- reportly being carried out by
a number of Iranian contractors -- and will also meet with
businessmen and other members of the Iranian expatriate
community in Turkmenistan. The two presidents will reportedly
also enter into a series of MOUs relating to expanded
cultural, technical and economic cooperation.

3. (SBU) COMMENT: From most accounts, Ahmadinejad and Niyazov
had a "friendly" relationship, notwithstanding the Iranian
president's reportedly disparaging remarks about his
impression of Ashgabat when he visited in 2006. At the time,
he apparently characterized it to Niyazov as, "still looking
very much like a village, despite your obvious efforts to
make it beautiful." In recent years, the relationship between
the two countries has had its ups and downs, including during
the winter of 2008, when Turkmenistan stopped gas exports to
Iran for three months, citing "technical reasons," as well as
an incident two years ago when Iranian patrol boats shot and
killed an ethnic Turkmen fisherman in the Caspian Sea, which
sparked violent protests in the Turkmen community in Iran and
the arrest of about 300 demonstrators. Given the premium
that Berdimuhamdov places on high-level visits -- the Chinese
and Russian presidents have each visited multiple times
during the past year and a half -- Ahmadinejad's visit cannot
help but improve Iran's standing with the Turkmen leadership.
END COMMENT.
CURRAN

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