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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ASHGABAT1246
2007-11-19 11:33:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

TURKMENISTAN: A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN

Tags:   PGOV  PINR  TX 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 001246 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN

REF: ASHGABAT 1239

Classified By: CHARGE RICHARD E. HOAGLAND FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D).



1. (C) Turkmenistan has one of the most opaque political
systems in the world. The decision-making process and
relationships among the various elites are difficult for
outside observers to ascertain. However, European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) country director Tony
Myron (strictly protect) has spent four years in Turkmenistan
and developed a wide range of contacts in the country's
polical/economic circles, which has allowed him to peek
behind this opaque curtain. For example, Myron is able to
pick up the phone and talk to Central Bank Chief Geldimurat
Abylov. In fact, according to Myron, the evening following
the recent sudden drop in the unofficial dollar exchange rate
(reftel), Myron sat down with Abylov and Abylov's deputy to
discuss what it all means. On November 17, Myron shared with
us some of what he has learned about Turkmenistan's
leadership.

WHY BERDIMUHAMEDOV?



2. (C) According to Myron's sources, elites chose President
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to succeed former president
Niyazov, because the constitutional successor, Mejlis
(Parliament) Speaker Ovezgeldi Atayev, quickly showed he
would be a danger to them. Reportedly, later on the day of
Niyazov's death, several of the deputy chairmen of the
Cabinet of Minsters and some ministers gathered together to
discuss next steps. Atayev, who as Speaker of the
Parliament, should have been the acting president, came to
the meeting dead drunk. (NOTE: It is unclear if Atayev had
been drinking because he heard the news or was summoned to
the meeting while he had been drinking. END NOTE.)
Thinking that his position was secure, Atayev started to
berate those assembled and told them he was going to get his
revenge for how he had been treated during Niyazov's rule.
He started pointing at the various attendees and screaming
that he would arrest each one. Led by Minister of Defense
Agageldi Mammetgeldiyev, who was one of those singled out by
Atayev for punishment, the group decided that Atayev had to
go. Myron said Berdimuhamedov was chosen because he was
viewed as someone who would want a departure from Niyazov's
methods. While Berdimuhamedov had avoided arrest or public
censure during Niyazov's rule, his day was rapidly coming.
He was under pressure from the old regime and his deputy had
been tortured. In addition, relatives had also suffered
under Niyazov's rule.

FAMILY TIES



3. (C) Myron said that the wife of Vneshekonombank Chairman
Guvanch Goklenov is the sister of Berdimuhamedov's wife.
Myron said Goklenov will likely replace Abylov as head of the
Central Bank, if heads roll over the recent exchange rate
problem. Goklenov is also the nephew of Minister of Textiles
Jemal Goklenova. Myron offered that one reason Chalik
Holdings Chairman Ahmet Chalik's fortunes have dipped under
this new regime is because Berdimuhamedov believes that
Chalik, who at one point had been vice minister in charge of
textile imports while Goklenova was Deputy Chairman of the
Cabinet of Ministers for textiles, was responsible for her
imprisonment. According to rumor, Goklenova had wanted to
see more authority for textile export decisions given to a
Turkmen citizen, which would have greatly decreased Chalik's
authority. Chalik went to Niyazov and, only a few weeks
later, Goklenova was first demoted, then imprisoned by the
former president.

PRESIDENTIAL CHICKENS



4. (C) Myron is not the only European in Ashgabat with ties

ASHGABAT 00001246 002 OF 002


to the leadership. Myron said Luigi Fontana-bona, General
Director for the Nissa and President Hotels, had close ties
to Niyazov and maintains those ties to Berdimuhamedov.
Fontana-bona and cohorts from his town in Italy are involved
with a number of the hotels in Ashgabat. One also serves as
the president's personal chef and another is in charge of the
president's chicken farm. Roberto Pizzotti, the former
General Manager of the President Hotel, used to be in charge
of the president's chicken farm, but was fired recently from
that position and his job at the hotel over some
(unspecified) issue involving the farm.



5. (C) COMMENT: Myron's sources are as good as anyone's, and
his information about the family relationships is probably
unimpeachable. What is clear is that relationships play an
enormous role in who is allowed to have power here. END
COMMENT.
HOAGLAND