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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ASHGABAT137
2007-02-02 13:55:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

EUR/ACE COORDINATOR ADAMS MEETS WITH

Tags:   MARR  OSCE  PGOV  PHUM  PINR  PREL  TX  US 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 ASHGABAT 000137 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN (PERRY)
NSC FOR DEHART

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2017
TAGS: MARR OSCE PGOV PHUM PINR PREL TX US
SUBJECT: EUR/ACE COORDINATOR ADAMS MEETS WITH
TURKMENISTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER MEREDOV

REF: ASHGABAT 44

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Jennifer L. Brush for reasons 1.4 (B)
and (D).

Summary
-------



1. (C) Turkmenistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashit
Meredov on January 31 provided EUR/ACE Adams a well-targetted
series of requests for expanded cooperation in the fields of
education, health, economic reforms and security. Meredov
acknowledged Adams's caveat that the U.S. Congress was
unlikely to approve expanded cooperation without rule of law,
democratic reform and significant improvement in
Turkmenistan's human rights record. Meredov also promised to
work with Charge to lessen bureaucracy and harassment
connected with USG programs. Meredov's message to Adams
clearly was that Turkmenistan wanted to "turn a page" in its
relationship with the United States. Given Turkmenistan's
abysmal track record with following through on its
commitments, the USG needs to continue to calibrate its
response to actual actions the government takes to reform the
wreck of a country deceased President Niyazov left behind.
There remains considerable cause for optimism, however, and
Adams' delegation's working level meetings with a dozen
ministries (septels) were far more constructive than
expected. As embassy's local translator told Charge
following the Meredov meeting, "maybe we should start to
believe." End Summary.

Meredov - Turkmenistan Ready to Turn the Page


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





2. (C) Notwithstanding the complexity of the 13-person Adams
delegation's schedule, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
provided uncharacteristic cooperation in organizing this
meeting, as well as the the delegation's 9 other January 31
sessions with 11 ministers, the Speaker of the Parliament and
the Head of the Electoral Commission (septels). In the
meeting, Meredov was focused and intent on getting his
message across to his U.S. visitors that Turkmenistan wanted
to enhance and increase cooperation.

Adams - Many Obstacles


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





3. (C) Adams responded that Washington, too, was interested
in increasing cooperation and helping Turkmenistan with the
challenges it faced. While there were profound differences
in policy between the two governments, the United States
wanted to work on resolving those differences. Washington
had been encouraged by statements by Turkmenistan's
presidential candidates promising reforms in education,
health and other areas. The USG was willing to help
Turkmenistan in promoting reform, but bureaucratic procedures
within the Turkmenistan government had become an obstacle to
increased assistance.

Evolutionary Change


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





5. (C) Adams stressed that, contrary to claims by some

countries, U.S. assistance was not directed toward
revolutionary change. The United States believed stable,
peaceful evolutionary change was best for all. That said,
the U.S. Government wanted to help Turkmenistan meet
international standards, including on democracy and human
rights. Claiming that Turkmenistan had followed a path of
evolutionary, gradual reform since becoming independent in
1991, Meredov nonetheless was willing to listen to the
delegation's proposals.

Meredov Proposes Areas for Cooperation

ASHGABAT 00000137 002 OF 005




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





6. (C) Claiming that ACCELS, IREX, Peace Corps and USAID had
"quite good experience" working with Turkmenistan, Meredov
suggested that their work could be used as a framework for
new joint programs, including:

-- Economic sector: There had been a good USAID program
carried out in coordination with the Ministry of Economy and
Finance (MOEF) to introduce international standards of
accounting. The United States could discuss new projects or
reactivate previous proposals in this area. In addition,
U.S. agencies could assist Turkmenistan to improve its
investment, budget and entrepreneur legislation and
implementation of that legislation through joint meetings and
education programs.

-- Energy: In the past there had been helpful (Department of
Commerce) Sabit exchange programs to train energy, oil and
gas professionals. Although specialists had received
training for the General Electric-supplied equipment in
Turkmenistan's power stations, the government welcomed
additional practical exchanges of experience in the
electricity field, as well as in the gas and oil sector.

-- Education: FLEX, Fulbright, Muskie, and the Teaching
Excellence and Achievement (TEA) program had provided a
number of exchange opportunities at the secondary school,
university, graduate and professorial levels. Meredov noted
that, in presenting their platforms, presidential candidates
had all paid substantial attention to education and had
discussed increasing secondary education to 10 years and
higher education to 5 years. In response to Charge's
question, Meredov would not commit to starting the new
program in the 2007-2008 school year, but said the government
already was working on an implementation plan.

-- Healthcare: Meredov expressed his appreciation for the
already good cooperation between the Ministry of Health and
USAID and said the government would welcome additional
proposals.

-- Defense, security and counter-narcotics cooperation:
Meredov also noted significant cooperation in these areas,
including providing training, equipment including radiation
portal monitors and forensic laboratory equipment, and the
two USG-funded border stations on Turkmenistan's borders with
Iran and Afghanistan. Meredov welcomed additional
cooperation in all these areas.

-- Other areas: Turkmenistan had already started working
with other governments in other areas, including agriculture
and pension reform. In that context, Meredov had personally
asked the United States and the Europeans for assistance in
sending Turkmenistan agricultural specialists overseas for
training and foreign specialists to Turkmenistan. The
European countries had already started responding: TACIS had
arranged for Turkmenistan experts to go to Cordoba University
in Spain, and the Ministry of Agriculture had signed a
protocol with Germany on development of long-term training
courses at Turkmenistan's Agricultural University and an
agricultural exchange program. This had been done within the
past two weeks.

U.S. Proposals: Education, Internet, Health...and More


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



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





7. (C) Adams noted that all countries of the former Soviet
Union had hit bumps in the road in making the transition to
free markets and democracy. The United States wanted
Turkmenistan to be a model, but there was much work ahead.
He was encouraged to hear that Turkmenistan was returning to
10 years of mandatory education. The United States was
interested in helping Turkmenistan to prepare a modern

ASHGABAT 00000137 003 OF 005


curriculum; indeed, USAID Regional Director Chris Crowley had
identified funding for that purpose which would be available
quickly -- but which would need to be used elsewhere if the
two governments could not agree on a program soon. The
delegation would discuss the proposal in its meeting with the
Minister of Education.



8. (C) The United States had also been encouraged to hear
that Turkmenistan would work toward greater Internet
connectivity and was interested in helping increase Internet
penetration in Turkmenistan. In fact, the United States
already had established programs in Turkmenistan such as IATP
and Global Connections, but implementation had been slow
because of bureaucratic obstacles.



9. (C) Adams said the United States was willing to deepen
its already significant cooperation in health fields --
including in addressing HIV/AIDS -- as well as in the
economic, agricultural, security and law enforcement sectors.
However, there were two restraints on increasing cooperation:

-- The excessive bureaucratic obstacles presented by the
Government of Turkmenistan in approving and implementing
projects; and

-- The U.S. Congress would demand to see democratic reform
before it would provide additional funding. Adams noted,
however, that Turkmenistan's overall assistance budget
already was too low and that his office had successfully
lobbied to get Turkmenistan an increase in the FY 2008
budget, the only country in Central Asia to receive an
increase. Adams told Meredov he was glad to hear that,
whatever the outcome of the presidential election, the
Government of Turkmenistan was committed to move forward in a
number of areas.

Work with OSCE Sends a Good Signal


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





10. (C) Noting that the Adams delegation had arrived
together with the election support team from the OSCE's
Office of Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights (ODIHR),
Adams saluted the decision to welcome the team to
Turkmenistan. He urged Meredov to work constructively with
the OSCE team to improve the election process and noted that
USAID also had programs to assist in election reform.

U.S. Not Promoting an Orange Revolution


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





11. (C) Adams stressed that the United States wanted to be
helpful in order to improve the democratic process in
Turkmenistan. In contrast to the misinformation circulated
about U.S. democracy assistance, the United States focused
elections assistance only on projects such as training poll
watchers and assisting with improving election laws. The
United States did not pick winners or losers -- that was for
the people of Turkmenistan to do. He noted that he was
making this point because "others" had accused the United
States of undermining the democratic processes in their
countries. This was not true and, in fact, such activities
would be illegal under U.S. law. The United States was not
interested in creating an Orange Revolution in Turkmenistan,
Adams said.

Easier Contacts and Border Travel


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





12. (C) Adams also stated that the United States wanted to
continue working with Turkmenistan and the UNODC to fight the
flow of narcotics from Afghanistan. Meredov responded that,
notwithstanding media reports in neighboring countries
claiming that Turkmenistan was complicit in trafficking, his
government was working very hard, both domestically and

ASHGABAT 00000137 004 OF 005


internationally, to stem the flow. Meredov claimed that
ethnic Turkmen in northern Afghanistan who felt a "spirit of
solidarity" with their motherland were helping to interdict
narcotics shipments and arrest traffickers. Adams suggested
that Turkmenistan's reputation in this area suffered because
the government did not share statistics on drug interdictions
and drug use within the country. He encouraged Meredov to
assist in establishing working level contacts between the
U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat and relevant counter-narcotics
bodies. He also urged Meredov to grant blanket clearance to
U.S. Embassy officers involved with border security projects.




13. (C) Adams stated that cooperation was a two-way street.
Just as the United States benefited by sending Americans to
Turkmenistan to learn more about the country's rich history
and culture, Turkmenistan benefited from sending its citizens
to the United States. He repeated that there was a
willingness among the international community to assist
Turkmenistan, but time was money. Eliminating bureaucratic
obstacles to cooperation was essential.

Menarchik Reaffirms USAID Commitment to Cooperation


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



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





14. (C) Delegation member USAID Acting Assitant Administrator
Douglas Menarchik noted that the USAID presence in
Turkmenistan was relatively small. Programs were sprinkled
across a variety of development sectors, but it would be
possible to thicken those programs quickly if Turkmenistan
agreed. However, programs would be most effective if there
were memoranda of understanding (MOUs) for their
implementation. He promised that he and USAID Regional
Director Crowley would develop concrete proposals where USAID
could increase its programs. He reinforced Adams by
insisting there also needed to be close cooperation at the
working level in order to break through bureaucratic
obstacles to USAID's work.

Hope to Expand IMET


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





15. (C) Noting that there had not been much discussion of
security assistance in the meeting, delegation member DOD
Office of the Secretary of Defense Central Asia Policy
Officer Clark Adams thanked Meredov for Turkmenistan's
assistance in the war on terrorism, and in fighting narcotics
trafficking and combating WMD proliferation. He said he
hoped it would be possible to increase cooperation in
International Military Education and Training (IMET) and
other programs.

Meredov Promises to Discuss Bureaucratic Problems


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



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





16. (C) In response to Adams's request for less bureaucracy
and more direct working level contact, Meredov agreed on the
need to re-examine procedures and said he would discuss
possible improvements with the Charge.

Comment


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





17. (C) Meredov is continuing to be less "lawerly" and much
statesmanlike during his meetings with the USG. Other
long-time observers in town agree that Meredov has been
liberated from his previous subservience to Niyazov and is
becoming not only an independent decision-maker, but clearly
one of the most important men in the new Turkmenistan. In
addition to the very upbeat meeting with Meredov, his staff
organized a truly responsive first class reception for the
delegation, both scheduling a full day of simultaneous
meetings, but also organizing three simultaneous visits to
the provinces on February 2. Circumstances since Niyazov's

ASHGABAT 00000137 005 OF 005


death are clearly changed, though any significant changes in
the USG's bilateral relationship with Turkmenistan remain at
the discussion stage. Embassy will follow up on the
minister's proposals, as well as proposals floated during
meetings at other ministries and will continue to welcome
delegations who can reinforce the USG's interest in slow but
sure change for the better in this critical part of the
world. End Comment.

BRUSH