Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ASHGABAT619
2007-06-26 15:16:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

FOREIGN MINISTER MEREDOV TELLS DAS FEIGENBAUM

Tags:  PREL PGOV PHUM ASEC ENRG AF TX 
pdf how-to read a cable
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8907
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RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0366
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RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DHO-2/REA/NMJIC-J2//
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J5/RUE//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 ASHGABAT 000619 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (SNELSIRE)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ASEC ENRG AF TX
SUBJECT: FOREIGN MINISTER MEREDOV TELLS DAS FEIGENBAUM
TURKMENISTAN IS SERIOUS ABOUT INCREASED COOPERATION

ASHGABAT 00000619 001.2 OF 005


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i. Jennifer L. Brush for reasons
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 ASHGABAT 000619

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (SNELSIRE)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ASEC ENRG AF TX
SUBJECT: FOREIGN MINISTER MEREDOV TELLS DAS FEIGENBAUM
TURKMENISTAN IS SERIOUS ABOUT INCREASED COOPERATION

ASHGABAT 00000619 001.2 OF 005


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i. Jennifer L. Brush for reasons 1.
4 (B) and (D).

SUMMARY
--------------


1. (C) Deputy Assistant Secretary Evan Feigenbaum's two and
a half hour meeting with Foreign Affairs Deputy Chairman
Rashit Meredov covered a wide range of issues in a friendly
and cooperative atmosphere. At times, Meredov added humor to
the discussion. Meredov responded favorably to the
invitation to visit the United States and spoke openly about
cooperation in a range of areas, including democracy and
human rights. Although short on details, Meredov's
discussion was sincere and at times enthusiastic, with the
exception of a stern and lengthy lecture regarding the
suspension of the embassy's Surveillance Detection program.
Repeatedly, Meredov emphasized that President Berdimuhammedov
should be clearly understood -- he wanted to cooperate with
the United States. END SUMMARY

TURNING THE PAGE AFTER SIX MONTHS
--------------


2. (SBU) At the start of the June 25 meeting between SCA
Deputy Assistant Secretary Evan Feigenbaum and Foreign
Affairs Deputy Chairman Rashit Meredov, both participants
spoke beyond the usual pleasantries. Meeting at the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA) a few hours after a presidential
meeting (septel),Meredov pointed out President
Berdimuhammedov's and his own appreciation for recent U.S.
efforts to improve the relationship, and also noted his own
attempts to inform President Berdimuhammedov of the benefit
of U.S. Government programs, based in part on his own
personal experience in a 1995 law reform visit to the United
States.


3. (SBU) Both Feigenbaum and Meredov took turns summarizing
the past six months of delegations and steps in the
U.S.-Turkmenistan bilateral relationship. Meredov in
particular noted his appreciation of the U.S. approach of

using delegations focused on various subjects as a means to
make progress in all areas, and how he looked forward to
planning continued cooperation in the second half of 2007.

CONTINUED OPENESS ON PIPELINE DIVERSIFICATION
--------------


4. (C) Meredov mentioned each of the recent U.S.
delegations. Turning to energy, Meredov emphasized the value
of PDAS Steven Mann's recent visit, which included more
specific suggestions on the development of the energy sector
and the diversification of hydrocarbon resource exports. He
again noted that a Trans-Caspian Pipeline was ?still on the
table,? that Turkmenistan is willing to cooperate with the
United States and would welcome the involvement of U.S.
companies.

SUPPORT FOR EXCHANGES
--------------


5. (SBU) Meredov also noted his government's interest in
expanding the numbers of students and teachers who went to
the U.S. on exchanges. Following up on the president's
decision to make education a priority, Meredov said
Turkmenistan welcomed U.S. professors to give lectures in
Turkmenistan, a reference to recent embassy efforts to bring
Fulbright Specialists to the country.

AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION SUPPORT

ASHGABAT 00000619 002.2 OF 005


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


6. (C) Meredov also sought to impress Feigenbaum with
Turkmenistan's support for the ?rehabilitation? of
Afghanistan. Feigenbaum asked whether Turkmenistan's
interest in supplying electricity to Afghanistan might be
waning. Meredov insisted that there were only technical
details that needed clarification and that there was a need
for improved Afghan infrastructure to support electricity
supplied from Turkmenistan. He expressed hope that such
issues would again be addressed during President Karzai,s
July 5-6 visit to Ashgabat.

UNSTICKING ?STUCK? PROPOSALS
--------------


7. (SBU) Feigenbaum expressed his basic agreement on the
?list of cooperation.? The United States had offered many
ideas over the last six months; Turkmenistan had offered some
ideas as well. Feigenbaum recalled President
Berdimuhammedov's comment to him that the two sides now
needed to "make things real." In that spirit, said
Feigenbaum, we wished to move forward on the various U.S.
projects and proposals, some of which appeared to be stalled.
He offered three examples in three very different areas of
U.S. proposals that awaited a response:

-- In the energy area: USAID's Regional Energy Markets
Program,

-- In the education area: the education proposals generated
from the DAS Romanowski delegation and delivered to
Turkmenistan's government in a paper, and

-- In the political area: USAID,s local self-government
program.

Feigenbaum asked if the lack of response meant Turkmenistan
was uninterested in these specific ideas, or whether the
programs still were under consideration.


8. (SBU) Meredov expressed gratitude for the proposals and
offered his assurance that we would have heard if the
Government of Turkmenistan had turned down any of the
proposals. ?No answer does not mean no interest,? he said.
Meredov explained that his ministry could facilitate ?sitting
down? with the relevant technical ministries on any stalled
proposals and then pushing for agreement. He added that no
diplomatic note would be necessary, only a phone call to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs which would arrange and attend
any such meeting at which the two sides sought to reach
agreement. Meredov described his ministry's role as a
?bridge? to facilitate agreement between parts of his
government and the United States. Meredov (sincerely) added
that he was disappointed that many programs have been
stalled.


9. (SBU) Meredov offered to accept a list of stalled
programs and to work with the embassy and relevant ministries
to move them forward. He also welcomed contact without
dipnotes, but via MFA, to address the same issues.

INVITATIONS TO VISIT THE UNITED STATES
--------------


10. (C) Feigenbaum explained the Department's invitation to
Meredov, as well as the Ministers of Education, and Health,
the Mayor of Ashgabat (to visit sister city, Albuquerque),
and the Minister of Economy and Finance for the Trade and
Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting as a new phase

ASHGABAT 00000619 003.2 OF 005


for deepening the growing bilateral relationship. "Many
Americans came here in the first six months (of the
Berdimuhammedov administration)," he noted. "Our focus in the
next six months is to make this a two-way street by having
Turkmenistan officials in areas of potential visit the United
States." Meredov responded warmly to Feigenbaum's invitation
and asked that he pass his words of thanks to the Secretary
of State. He added that such visits were a logical step to
follow the wave of recent U.S. delegations to visit
Turkmenistan. He welcomed dates and specifics on the
proposed visits that he could present to President
Berdimuhammedov, promising to ?stress the relevance to the
President.?

AMERICAN CORNERS AND EXPANDED CULTURAL COOPERATION
-------------- --------------


11. (SBU) Feigenbaum stressed the need to find a suitable
location for the re-opening of the Turkmenbashy American
Corner. American Corners were important, he said, and the
U.S. would of course welcome a two-way cultural exchange and
hoped to see Turkmen artists or performers visit the United
States in the future. Meredov promised MFA support for the
embassy's cultural programs in general (while dodging the
issue of a venue for the Corner) and also welcomed the idea
of Turkmen performers visiting the United States.

SURVEILLANCE DETECTION: "WE HAVE NOTHING IN WRITING"
-------------- --------------


12. (C) Feigenbaum raised the recent closing of embassy,s
Surveillance Detection program, stressing the difference
between surveillance and surveillance detection (?detection
is the key word?),and the embassy's willingness to find
common ground that would allow the resumption of the program.
He also noted to Meredov the high importance both to the
White House and Congress of assuring the security of U.S.
embassies overseas.


13. (C) Meredov replied that he understood the intent of the
program, but talked sternly and at length about the fact that
there was no written agreement for conducting the program
with the host government. He spoke somewhat indignantly
about his government not knowing what security activities
were taking place on its territory. He defended
Turkmenistan's capacity and cooperation in providing security
for the embassy and the diplomatic community. Meredov
suggested, however, that the Ministry of National Security
should engage with the embassy on the issue. Agreeing to
disagree, Feigenbaum reiterated to Meredov the importance and
high-level Washington interest in maintaining the
Surveillance Detection program.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
--------------


14. (C) Turning to human rights, Feigenbaum thanked Meredov
for the initial steps taken to remove names from the ?black
list? of those prohibited from traveling abroad, and noted
that sustained implementation of greater freedom of movement
would be important. He recalled their lengthy discussion of
various areas of human rights in January. As he had in
January, he suggested cooperation with OSCE for future
elections monitoring, including upcoming provincial and
Mejlis (parliamentary) elections. Feigenbaum noted the
planned visit of the USG human rights and democracy
delegation. He noted concern in Washington about religious
freedom, including harassment of believers and the need for
registration. He noted that U.S. Commission on International
Religious Freedom planned to visit Turkmenistan in July.

ASHGABAT 00000619 004.2 OF 005




15. (C) Meredov spoke at length about Turkmenistan's efforts
to improve human rights and develop democracy, repeating that
the president had made it ?very clear? that he was ready to
cooperate with the United States on democracy and human
rights. Meredov emphasized the need to take a gradual
approach, noting Berdimuhammedov's statement that there are
various approaches to democratization, though the United
States and Turkmenistan shared the same goal. He also cited
recent steps that in his view have improved human rights in
Turkmenistan. He noted the return to ten years of compulsory
education, expanded Internet access, as well as greater
freedom of movement as signs of improving human rights.


16. (C) In particular he considered the freedom of movement
to be generally ?solved? and as something more than the
removal of a few names from the black list. Meredov noted
that Turkmenistan does not wish ?to publicize? this change.
Turkmenistan, he said, had taken significant steps in this
area in recent months. Failure to extend the Jackson-Vanik
waiver, following Turkmenistan's efforts on freedom of
movement, would be ?unfair? and would simply not be
understood by his government.


17. (C) Turning to religious freedom, Meredov argued that
registered religious groups no longer faced problems. He
proposed another government-sponsored roundtable as a proven
format for resolving misunderstandings between the government
and religious groups. Noting that he and Feigenbaum had
discussed the Catholic Church in January, Meredov said that
the Church had not been registered because Turkmenistan's law
required that a Turkmenistan citizen head the church within
the country. The Charge suggested that the Polish-citizen
priest and Vatican representative heading the church in
Ashgabat be made an honorary citizen. Meredov laughed, but
added that there should be some way to find a solution.


18. (C) Meredov talked generally about democratic
development and praised U.S. proposals of programs to address
reform. He stressed the vague, but strong, message that
Turkmenistan is ready to cooperate in this area, but
underlined that his country could not simply borrow a western
model.


19. (C) Feigenbaum noted that there were different models of
democracy and that no one seriously believed that
Turkmenistan should become a ?carbon copy? of the United
States. But Feigenbaum underlined U.S. interest and
encouragement for proceeding on the long path towards
democracy, not least through the areas he had mentioned.


20. (C) Meredov said that Turkmenistan was willing to
cooperate with the OSCE on election procedures for provincial
Halk Mashlahaty (People's Council) voting later this year and
the Mejlis (parliamentary) elections next year. He cited
President Berdimuhammedov, saying that it was time to go from
theory to practice in the area of democracy.

COMMENT
--------------


21. (C) Meredov again proved willing to discuss some of the
trickiest issues in the bilateral relationship. Although
vague on details, he made very clear Turkmenistan's
willingness to cooperate in all areas, including democracy
and human rights. His positive approach to U.S. efforts at
turning the page appears genuine. Yet it is clear that
Meredov's definitions and measures for success in reform
differ from our expectations. Given local sensibilities, the
country's past, and the government's perspective on threats

ASHGABAT 00000619 005.2 OF 005


to stability, post believes that Meredov's views and comments
represent, at worst, a pro-forma effort to meet legalistic
standards in areas such as human rights or election
procedures; but at best, his comments could reflect an
opportunity to meeting the spirit of greater freedoms and a
greater voice for Turkmenistan's citizens. Meredov's
prospective visit to Washington will offer an opportunity to
engage on these subjects with President Berdimuhammedov's
closest advisor -- and to better understand the pressures and
challenges facing the President and Turkmenistan. END COMMENT


22. DAS Feigenbaum has cleared this message.
BRUSH