Turkmenistan. In April, local elections and elections were held for the People’s Council. The latter includes the 50 members of the country’s legislative assembly and another 50 elected and 10 elected members. The Council is chaired by the President.
According to Countryaah, the capital of Turkmenistan is Ashgabat. President Saparmurat Nijazov agreed in April to release a number of political prisoners. This happened after an appeal from the OSCE President (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the Polish Foreign Minister who visited Turkmenistan. But when opposition leader Abdy Kulijev returned from Moscow shortly afterwards, he was arrested. However, he was later released and sent back to Moscow.
In April, President Nijazov made his first official visit to the United States. received criticism for violations of human rights. But it turned out that the US’s main reason for the visit was that it wanted to influence Turkmen gas exports in a different direction than across Iranian territory. Turkmenistan has close relations with Iran, and a gas pipeline opened there in 1997. But in July, the Turkmen signed an agreement with the large US oil company Mobil, one of the largest energy contracts the country has so far concluded. Mobil is to exploit the Garasizizlik field for $ 100 million on land along the Caspian Sea coast.
One month later, the US company Unocal indefinitely postponed a planned giant project with a gas pipeline from eastern Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghan territory. The decision came after the United States bombed suspected terrorists in southern Afghanistan.
In December, the central bank imposed severe restrictions on trade with the Turkmen currency, manat. At that time, it had been sold illegally at half its official value. The background to the currency crisis was lower income from gas exports. For a year, Turkmenistan had failed to sell gas reserves as a result of a price conflict with Russia, which controls the main pipeline from Turkmenistan.
In December, it was stated that President Nijazov granted one of Russia’s largest oil companies, LUKoil, permission to operate in Turkmenistan.