Turkmenistan. According to Countryaah.com, Turkmenistan’s isolation increased during the year with conflicts over gas supplies. Due to unpaid bills, at the New Year, Turkmenistan ceased extensive gas exports to Iran. Russian Gazprom had stopped its imports of Turkmenistan gas the year before, and now the company declared that it would not return to import gas from Turkmenistan due to a price dispute. This, together with lower gas export prices, put severe pressure on the state budget. The economic crisis was very noticeable with commodity shortages and currency depreciation. President Gurbanguli Berdimuchammedov dismissed his Deputy Prime Minister, who was responsible for the energy crisis. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for frequently used acronyms and abbreviations related to as well as country profile of Turkmenistan.
In February, presidential elections were held. The authoritarian head of state and government Berdimuchammedov was re-elected with 97.7% of the vote, according to official data. The turnout was said to be over 97%. All opposition is forbidden and all candidates are loyal to the regime. The Constitution had been amended the previous year with an increased term of office to seven years and the upper age limit for the head of state was abolished.
As part of efforts to broaden the economy in addition to gas exports, a new large industry for the production of artificial fertilizers was inaugurated. The factory, built for about $ 1 billion, was the largest of its kind in Central Asia with plans to export to China and India.
President Berdimuchammedov was dissatisfied with the results in the fight against corruption within the police force and among lawyers, and in May the country’s prosecutor and a number of officials were fired. Later, a new anti-corruption authority was established.
The president said in June that Turkmenistan must cease to provide its residents with free electricity, gas and water, a subsidy that has become a heavy burden for the increasingly strained state budget. In October, the president signed a new law that would gradually replace subsidies with fees. The energy fees will contribute to financing seven years of investments, mainly in the energy sector, for the equivalent of approximately SEK 585 billion.
Faced with the Asian Games’ sports contests in Ashgabat, Human Rights Watch accused the Turkmen regime of forcing thousands of people away from homes demolished without reasonable compensation. According to the report, homeless people and beggars had also been removed from the streets, while the regime spent approximately SEK 40 billion on new construction before the competitions.
Although the authoritarian character of the regime of S. Niyazov, reconfirmed plebiscitantly in January 1994 as President of the Republic until 2002, was not attenuated, and there were not a few situations of danger present or gravitating to the area (above all the thrusts of Islamic fundamentalism coming from from Afghānistān), Turkmenistan (now Türkmenistan Respublikasi) seemed to be, among the independent republics that arose from the collapse of the USSR, one of those that had obtained the best results on the threshold of the new century. This was all the more surprising if we consider that Turkmenistan, with the population concentrated in a few cities surrounded by the desert, was, according to the 1995 data, one of the poorest countries in Central Asia.
The positive trend of the economy – which showed all the indices rising, except that of agriculture -, the lack of internal political and ethnic tensions and the recognized diplomatic skills of Niyazov allowed Turkmenistan to enter as co-star in the ‘great the game opened up between the powers and the oil companies for the exploitation, transport and sale of gas and crude oil in the Caspian Sea area. In doing so, Turkmenistan, whose neutrality was solemnly recognized by the UN in 1995, had greatly decreased its dependence on Russia, had gradually attenuated its commitments as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and, albeit in a climate of collaboration with the other former Soviet Central Asian republics – with respect to which (like Uzbekistan) had sometimes given the impression of wanting to take on the role of leading country – it had only partially taken over the integration projects at the regional level by several advanced parties. The decision taken in March 1999 to impose the requirement of a visa to enter the country for all CIS citizens (including those coming from Russia) can be considered indicative of Turkmenistan’s will not to favor integration policies.
With regard to the civil war in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan strove to operate as a neutral country and, using the relations he had maintained with the Tajik opposition forces, favored the search for negotiated political solutions. The same attitude of neutrality, non-interference and support of the initiatives aimed at promoting compromise solutions characterized the position of the Turkmenistan towards the conflict that broke out in Afghānistān after the offensive of the Ṭālibān, which pushed as far as its southern borders, albeit in a first phase Turkmenistan – evidently interested in the success of the projects aimed at favoring the Afghan-Pakistani route for the transport of crude oil, blocked by the Russians, compared to the others – had welcomed the successes of the Ṭālibān.
Determined to safeguard autonomy and independence, Turkmenistan was however aware of the role that Russia seemed destined to play in the area for a long time to come. Thus, if on the one hand the Turkmenistan participated, with the help of Iran, in the construction of the Turkmenistan-Iran-Turkey gas pipeline destined to reach Europe by cutting off Russia, on the other hand he declared himself in favor of supporting the projects advanced from Moscow. Furthermore, in August 1997 Niyazov signed a first agreement with the Russian leaders for the establishment of a joint Russian-Turkmen company, Turkmengogas, for the transport of Turkmen methane to the CIS countries. In November 1999Turkmenistan then reached an agreement with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey for the construction of another gas pipeline which should connect it to Turkey.
The ambitions of Niyazov – who in May 1999 canceled the border defense agreement signed with El´cin in 1993- thus went far beyond the normalization and development of relations with Russia. Using the great possibilities offered to him by the presidential constitution he imposed and by the great charismatic power he enjoyed, Niyazov seemed to point decisively towards a completely new international position of the Turkmenistan Proof of this were the initiatives, including legislative ones, taken to receive funding from other countries, the major works completed (luxury hotels, a new intercontinental airport and a new, monumental ‘government building’, etc.), which should be done. of Ašgabat, in the intentions of the president, the ideal venue for conferences, international meetings, negotiations on regional problems.