Turkmen President Saparmurat Niazov completed on April 25 his first-ever official visit to Washington as part of a week-long trip to the United States. U.S. President Bill Clinton and Niazov signed a joint statement emphasizing “rapid development” of Caspian energy sources, of export pipelines to international markets and of the planned transit corridor from Central Asia to Europe. They also welcomed the start of peace negotiations in Afghanistan, which opens prospects for construction of trans-Afghan pipelines. The statement expressed strong U.S. support for the independence and neutrality of Turkmenistan and highlighted the importance of economic and political reforms for the country’s future.
The presidents agreed to broaden security cooperation between the U.S. and Turkmenistan, discussed a more active participation by Turkmenistan in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program and in the Euroatlantic Cooperation Council, and scheduled for the coming summer a U.S.-Turkmen dialogue on security issues.
The sides discussed the plan to lay parallel oil and gas pipelines on the Caspian seabed from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and further to Turkey as an optimal route to international markets. The U.S. government agreed to finance the feasibility study of the trans-Caspian gas pipeline, whose construction is expected to cost nearly $3 billion. A memorandum of understanding on energy development, signed by Niazov and U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Pena, envisages at least four achievements: improvement of the legal and regulatory framework for energy development in Turkmenistan; ecological protection measures; training of Turkmen technical specialists and managers in the oil and gas industry; and support for the division of the Caspian Sea in national sectors, with free transportation of energy resources across the sea. Niazov indicated in an address at Johns Hopkins University that Turkmenistan continues giving consideration to an export route for its natural gas via Iran, in addition to the Azerbaijani and Afghan routes.
The visit produced three agreements with major U.S. energy companies. Mobil Oil, the state company Turkmen Oil and the British company Monument Oil agreed to form a consortium for developing “Zone 1” onshore oil deposits in western Turkmenistan. The U.S. company Exxon agreed with the Turkmen side on prospecting and developing gas deposits on the right bank of Amu-Daria river in eastern Turkmenistan. The Halliburton company and the Turkmen side agreed on the provision of services and equipment to maximize the effectiveness of drilling operations in Turkmenistan’s existing and prospective oilfields.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank agreed to continue crediting Turkmen purchases of U.S. agricultural equipment. Eximbank has already financed the purchase of tractors and of cotton and grain harvesters from the John Deere and Case companies; and Ashgabat has expressed an interest in additional purchases of such equipment. (M2 communications, Turan, international agencies, April 20 through 26) — VS
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