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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07ASHGABAT285 2007-03-14 13:54:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

TURKMENISTANI AND AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TALK FOR

Tags:   AJ EPET GG PREL RS TX 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000285 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2017
TAGS: AJ EPET GG PREL RS TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTANI AND AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TALK FOR
THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2001

Classified By: Classified by Charge d'Affaires a.i. Jennifer L. Brush f
or reasons 1.4(B) and (D).

Summary
-------



1. (C) Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov
called Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev March 13, and,
according to Foreign Affairs Deputy Chairman/Minister Rashit
Meredov, had a "very productive" conversation and agreed to
exchange visits. Ashgabat-based diplomats from FSU missions
and the Turkish embassy, hoping to facilitate construction of
a Trans-Caspian pipeline, confirmed that they had been
encouraging both leaders for some time to take this step.
This conversation, and the pressure from neighboring
countries leading up to it, is a positive signal that the
newly independent states are beginning to stand up for their
own interests, even it that means taking on Russia. End
Summary.

Berdimuhammedov to Aliyev: Let's Talk


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





2. (U) State-run Turkmenistan media reported March 14 that
Berdimuhammedov and Aliyev talked by phone on March 13.
Berdimuhammedov thanked Aliyev for his congratulatory letter
on Berdimuhammedov's election as president, and the two
agreed to promote a more active bilateral relationship. The
two also agreed to create bilateral commissions on
cooperation issues in various sectors -- and to exchange
visits.

Phone Conversation "Very Productive;" Regional Neighbors
Pleased


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



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





3. (C) Turkmenistan's Foreign Affairs Deputy
Chairman/Minister Rashit Meredov told the Charge that
Berdimuhammedov initiated the call and that the discussion
had been "very productive." The Deputy Chief of Mission at
the Azerbaijani Embassy confirmed to A/DCM that the
atmosphere between the two leaders was "very good." The call
had come as a surprise, at least to working-level personnel
at the embassy. Turkish Ambassador Akil predictably took the
credit for Berdimuhammedov's initiative, saying that,
although all missions in the region had been urging the two
leaders to reestablish communications, it was Turkey that
succeeded in persuading Turkmenistan's new president to take
this significant first step. Georgian Ambassador
Petriashvili confirmed that Georgian diplomats had been
working both in Baku and in Ashgabat to encourage the two
sides to talk. He said that Georgian President Saakashvili
had urged Berdimuhammedov to improve relations with
Azerbaijan during their February 14 meeting on the occasion
of Berdimuhammedov's inauguration. Joining in the diplomatic
corps' new guessing game of where in the world
Berdimuhammedov will go first, Petriashvili said he thought
it likely that the president would go to Moscow first, if
only to counter all the attention USG bilateral relations
with Turkmenistan were receiving, and now the Azerbaijan
initiative.

Ongoing Tension


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





4. (SBU) The last time that the two countries' leaders spoke
was in Isbanbul in 2001 at a Turkic-speaking countries
summit. Late Presidents Heydar Aliyev's and Niyazov's mutual
antipathy was legendary and Niyazov carried this over to his
feelings for Aliyev Jr. The roiling dispute over oil fields
in the Caspian Sea -- and a still-outstanding Azeri gas debt
to Turkmenistan (the exact size of the debt remains under
dispute, with the Azeris claiming a debt of $18-23 million

ASHGABAT 00000285 002 OF 002


and Turkmenistan seeking $33-50 million) -- remained
unresolved, despite formation of a joint task force in 1998
and periodic meetings of working groups since that time to
delimit the Caspian border. Ongoing concerns over
discrimination faced by the small Azeri ethnic minority
community based largely in Turkmenbashy -- mostly Shi'a
Muslims -- in Sunni Muslim Turkmenistan also fueled the
bilateral enmity.

Comment


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





5. (C) Most here agree that the bad feelings mostly were
personal and counter-productive. Plenty of Azeris lead fully
integrated lives in Turkmenistan and even Meredov himself is
half Azeri. With the main protagonists out of the way,
relations between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have the real
potential to improve. More significantly, the constructive
role played be countries in the region, particularly by
Georgia, show an increased willingness on the part of the
not-so-newly independent states to stand up for their own
interests, even if it means taking on Russia. Local Former
Soviet Union ambassadors have frequently told Charge over the
years that Russia was fanning the discord between Azerbaijan
and Turkmenistan, if only to throw obstacles in the way of a
Trans-Caspian Pipeline. Berdimuhammedov may very well make
his first international stop Moscow after the Azerbaijani
initiative, if only to try to convince the Russians that
existing contracts will be honored and that pipeline
diversification does not have to hurt Russian interests.
BRUSH