The President of the republic of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, visited Russia on January 21. In spite of the fact that Niyazov spent only one day in Moscow, his visit may determine Russia's position in the Central Asia for the coming years.
Turkmenistan kept aloof of the events occuring on the territory of the former USSR for a long time. The neutrality that was proclaimed by the republic at the beginning of the 1990s is still in effect. It is enough to recollect that Turkmenistan was almost the only country of Central Asia that refused to render its airbases to the Americans and their allies. Of course, Moscow noticed and estimated that.
However, the major aspect of the bilateral relations is economic cooperation. There are a lot of rich gas deposits in Turkmenistan, and the issue regarding cooperation in the gas field became the key subject during the course of negotiations.
Apparently, Moscow and the Turkmenistan capital, Ashkhabad, managed to create a plan of cooperation, which will be good to everyone. At any rate, President Niyazov did not mention the Russian debt to the republic of the sum of $100 million for past deliveries of the Turkmen gas to Russia. On the contrary, Ashkhabad is ready to increase deliveries up to 80 billion cubic meters of gas within ten years. The Russian president in his turn offered to set up a Eurasian Gas Alliance, which Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan could join. If this idea comes true, then it will be much easier for Moscow to preserve its position in the region (and even to strengthen it), which cracked after the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan.
There is a very good chance of the idea becoming reality. At any rate, the attempt to start the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline avoiding Russia’s territory has not been realized due to the extremely high cost of the project. It is much cheaper and easier to use the existing and operating pipelines.
Therefore, the gains of the bilateral cooperation between Russia and Turkmenistan are clear. The presidents of both countries discussed the issue about the status of the Caspian Sea, although there was nothing definite said on the subject. It was only said that the parties had drawn their approaches to the issue closer. It is at the summit of the Caspian countries where the problem is supposed to be dealt with and solved. The summit is to take place this year.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
On the photo: The President of the republic of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/22/35845.html