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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ASHGABAT904
2006-08-24 12:45:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

TURKMENISTAN MEDIA COVERAGE OF DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY

Tags:   KMDR  KPAO  OIIP  PREL  PGOV  AF  TX 
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VZCZCXRO9764
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0904/01 2361245
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241245Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7722
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000904 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, IIP/T, IIP/G/NEA-SA, SA
SCA/CEN, SCA/PAB, SCA/INS, SCA/RA, SCA/PPD, DRL
CENTCOM PUBLIC AFFAIRS-MAJ.BALDWIN/SGT. BAKER
USCINCPAC FOR POLAD R. HUSO
SECDEF FOR PA

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR KPAO OIIP PREL PGOV AF TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN MEDIA COVERAGE OF DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY
MANN VISIT

REF: Ashgabat 884

SUMMARY
-------



1. (U) Turkmenistan's state media coverage of the August 13-15
visit to Turkmenistan of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State Steven R. Mann included misinformation about the content of
his meeting with President Niyazov and downplayed Mann's emphasis on
the need for transparency and competition in the energy market.
State print media included the false claim that the main goal of the
visit was to endorse the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan
Pipeline (TAP) and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan to China; state
media representatives did not attend Mann's August 15 press
conference in which Mann rebutted these claims, and in which he
spoke about the United State's support for democratic reform and
human rights in Turkmenistan. (Note: Mann's meeting with Niyazov
was the only official meeting of the visit. The government did not
permit him to meet with either the Foreign or Oil and Gas Ministers,
see reftel. End Note.) Russian news sources editorialized that
Mann's visit was part of a U.S. effort to weaken Russian influence
in Central Asia and boost Ukraine's interests in the energy sector.
End Summary.

Inaccurate Local Coverage


--------------------------





2. (U) On August 14, state TV's "Watan" News program provided
long-winded but largely accurate -- albeit slanted -- coverage of
Mann's meeting with Niyazov that included Mann's full post-meeting
floor statement. (Note: Mann gave his floor statement in Russian.
End Note.) The "Watan" newscaster narrated that the meeting
included discussion of regional security and energy diversification,
and claimed that the goal of the Mann visit had been to express USG
support for new gas pipeline construction projects via Afghanistan
and to China.

Print Media Edit Mann's Lobby Statement


--------------------------





3. (U) On August 15, state dailies "Neytralniy Turkmenistan"
(Russian, circ. 32,931) and "Turkmenistan" (Turkmen, circ. 28,161)
printed top-of-the-fold front-page articles that duplicated the
"Watan" coverage, except that they omitted most of Mann's floor
statement and embellished the rest of it, stressing instead PDAS
Mann's "endorsement" of the TAP and of pipelines to China. The
omitted portions of Mann's statement had included statements in
support of Caspian region energy development and U.S. opposition to
monopolistic behavior in the energy sector. Mann had emphasized
that competition and a strong private sector would enable the
Caspian region - and states "that have considerable reserves of
natural gas and oil... to attract the highest level of environmental
protection and the most advanced technology." Further, state print

media expanded upon Mann's comments about local hospitality. On
subsequent days the weeklies "Watan" (Turkmen, circ. 25,419),
"Mugallymlar Gazeti" (Turkmen, circ. 76,291), "Ahal Durmushy"
(Turkmen, circ. 35,391), "Turkmen Gundogary" (Turkmen, circ.
42,982), "Nesli" (Turkmen, circ. 21,691) and "Adalat" (Turkmen,
circ. 104,211) gave this article front-page treatment.

Russian Black Propoganda


--------------------------





4. (U) Mann's visit received negative coverage from Russia's print
outlet "Nezavisimaya Gazeta." The newspaper's August 16 article on
the visit editorialized that Washington was increasing its efforts
to weaken Russia's presence in Central Asia. The article cited
Mann's positive statements about the construction of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline as "proof" of the claim that Mann
is an active lobbyist for anti-Russian projects in Central Asia and
the Trans-Caucasus regions.



5. (U) On August 22, Russian newswire "Vremya Novostey" claimed
that Mann's meeting with Niyazov focused on furthering Ukraine's gas
interests and convincing the president to hold gas prices stable at
a rate of $65 per thousand cubic meters (tcm). According to the
report Mann stated: "The United States supports the direct and
transparent mechanisms of gas supply [to Ukraine] that existed in
2005." Contradicting the line taken by local media, however, the
report concluded that U.S. support of gas transit routes to China
was only a diplomatic curtesy to please the president. (Comment:
The author, Arkadi Dubnov, claimed that his information came from
informed sources close to the government of Turkmenistan. Dubnov
has a proven track record of penning Russian black propaganda

ASHGABAT 00000904 002 OF 002


vis-`-vis Turkmenistan. Dubnov also was the source of the "United
States seeking basing rights in Turkmenistan," flap following
CENTCOM Commander Abizaid's visit in 2005. End Comment.)

Embassy Press Conference


--------------------------





6. (U) Post hosted a press conference on August 15 attended by
stringers from the wire services Agence France Presse and Times
Central Asia. Later the same day, international news wires Dow
Jones Commodities Service, Agence France Presse, BBC Monitoring
Central Asia, Energy and Commodities Digest and Interfax provided
coverage of Mann's visit that was based both on state and Russian
media coverage. The Agence France Presse and Times Central Asia
coverage focused exclusively on energy development issues, despite
the fact that these stringers asked questions about U.S. support for
human rights in Turkmenistan. Mann stated at the conference:
"During the course of my visit also I want to stress the desire of
President Bush and of Secretary Rice to promote democracy and rule
of law. United States' policy towards Turkmenistan will always be
and must be multifaceted.... It includes permitting religious and
civil society groups to work and to express their opinions. And it
includes the right of individuals to travel freely into and out of
their country."



7. (SBU) Agence France Presse positively, but inaccurately covered
those aspects of Mann's press conference statement dealing with
energy issues. The report correctly summarized Mann's statements
that the private sector - rather than government - was responsible
for the construction of pipelines, and that competition and a strong
private sector were key to the development of viable pipelines.
(Comment: The latter statement responded to host government
assumptions that the USG should have a more direct role in
supporting pipeline construction in the region. End Comment.)
However, the Agence France Presse report suggested that Washington
was pushing for pipeline construction to Pakistan to counter a rival
pipeline from Iran, when in fact Mann stated: "We are firmly opposed
to pipelines through Iran because this is a matter of U.S. law and
U.S. policy. But we support a variety of other pipelines coming out
of Central Asia."



8. (SBU) The Russia-based Interfax newswire reported on August 15
that Mann had expressed U.S. support for gas pipelines from
Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and to China, and moreover falsely
claimed that the Interfax coverage was based on an official
statement from the embassy. (Note: Because the host government
manipulated Mann's visit until the last possible moment, holding out
the possibility that he would meet with the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, the embassy withheld its press release until later on
August 15 - after the release of the Interfax article. End Note.)

Comment


--------------------------





9. (U) Mann's meeting with Niyazov received extensive but
inaccurate coverage in both local and foreign media outlets. The
inaccuracies focused on host government claims that the goal of the
visit was to show U.S. support for construction of pipelines through
Afghanistan and to China and downplayed Mann's emphasis on the
benefits of free and open competition in the energy sector. Russian
media built upon these inaccuracies with anti-U.S. rhetoric about
the power structure in Central Asia. Neither state nor
international media gave play to Mann's reiteration of U.S. support
for human rights - including freedom of movement - and a strong
private sector. End Comment.

BRUSH