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Turkmenistan: What’s up, Arkadag? | Eurasianet

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Turkmenistan now hosts many important regional guests. What’s up?

On April 29, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited Ashgabat for no obviously urgent reason. Uzbek governmentPress releaseThe visit mainly focused on informal niceties, as Mirziyoyev expressing his condolences on the recent passing of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s 89-year-old father, Malikguly.

The Uzbek leader went on to congratulate Berdymukhamedov on his recent installation as president of the newly formed Senate, a post that a president is not supposed to occupy. As usual for such visits, a large and fresh figure on bilateral trade was produced $ 530 million in 2021, according to the Uzbek presidential office.

Somehow, the most significant aspect of the trip was theextra-official rite. After escaping standard talks on economic cooperation, the two presidents visited the mausoleum complex housing the remains of the late Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Under a mosque dome inscribed sacrilegious inside with lines from Niyazov’s historico-mystical cod book, the Rukhnama, the rulers read suras from the Koran. This done, Mirziyoyev walked to the airport.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev could be next on the list for this routine. Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistanwere on the phone May 3, discuss some preliminaries prior to the visit. Once again, the agenda seems distinctly mundane.

At the end of last month, Berdymukhamedov had two other major international partners on the phone:Russian President Vladimir PutinandTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This oddly unfocused wave of diplomacy will do nothing to alleviate suspicions that Berdymukhamedov may be about to take a major step in the succession process. Not that there’s a way to find out, but if a transfer was planned, here’s what it might look like.

Berdymukhamedov aligned his son, Serdar, as his designated successor by appointing him, for a number of years, to ever more prominent roles. With the ascendant serdars to a role of deputy prime minister primus inter paresin February there is no prime minister in Turkmenistan, he no longer has obvious steps to climb.

The dolphin is already playing the role of proxy for this father. At the end of March, he headed to afour day long tripin Moscow. And he returned to Russia again on April 29 to attend a summit of heads of government of member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, or EAEU, as a guest.

Serdar even delivereda soporific speechon April 30, he spoke of the Ashgabat’s readiness to cooperate with organizations like the EAEU and launched his country’s logistical appeal. Making his trifle as a salesman, he explained how the port of Turkmenbashi, which opened in May 2018, is able to handle 25 million tons of cargo per year, fiber optic and high voltage lines that cross the country. and new Turkmenist highways and bridges. and interchanges. The listeners must have been captivated.

Serdar later met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustinas to insist that he was indeed serving as head of government.

In onerecent onsetOn the RFE / RL Majlis podcast, RuslanMyatiev, the editor of the Amsterdam-based website Turkmen.news, suggested another potential dynamic to the frenetic contact with regional leaders. He underlined thecurious requestChinese leader Xi Jinping in the second half of April to initiate a one-to-one telephone exchange with the Turkmen president. That conversation has yet to take place, and public statements are circumspect as to what exactly executives would focus their attention on. But the fact that the initiative for the appeal came from Beijing indicates that it could be an issue of considerable importance to Ashgabat.

For all this, it is no exaggeration to say that the one thing Berdymukhamedov seems ready to devote his full concentration to these days are the upcoming twin celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of independence and the 140th anniversary of the foundation of Ashgabat.

With this in mind, among presidentsweekly virtual meeting with regional leaders, including the mayor of the capital, the first item on the agenda was the finalization of the new buildings which were built in time for Ashgabat City Day on May 25. The party is going to be a blast. Berdymukhamedoveven suggestedearlier this year, that the first boy born on this date should be called Ashgabat, advice no parent can resist.

None of this joy is felt in particular by those who need it most, it should go without saying.

Turkmenistan Service RFE / RLs, Radio Azatlyk,reported on April 28, on how authorities in Lebap province began borrowing a sheet from the Ashgabats book by enlisting the police to ensure there are no unsightly and unsettling lines at the exterior of public grocery stores. People go to these stores because the products are affordable, although the basic items are generally rationed and in short supply. Azatlyk hadreported earlier, citing a source at the Commerce Ministry, that the instruction to clear the queues came from Serdar himself.

“Serdar Berdymukhamedov demanded from the Minister of Commerce that citizens do not gather around or in front of the shops, because crowds of people spoil the image of his father-president, the source reportedly said.

But it is useless. Turkmen.newsreportedon April 26, queues may actually increase and many people have gone to sleep outside stores for good measure.

The website reports that there has been a sharp spike in prices, even in public stores, for groceries since the start of 2021. Government stores are still largely preferable, as prices are between five and ten. times cheaper than in their shops. peers, Turkmen.news said.

Another, particularly cynical, anti-queue measure mentioned by Vienna-based Chronicles of Turkmenistanan article from May 3, is for government stores to simply charge private sector prices when they open in the morning. It quickly dulls the spirits.

It is evident that Berdymukhamedov is aware of some of these issues at some level because, for example, hetaken backa regular theme at the April 30 cabinet meeting when it called for greater efficiency in the production of meat, eggs, confectionery, vegetable oil, bread, vegetables, dairy and all kinds of other products in order to fully supply the domestic market with food. This peremptory method of boosting production is not known to have worked before, however, and why it should work better now.

Still, the president may soon have a new toy to distract him from, if reports are to be believed.

Eagle-eyed plane watchers from Turkmen.news noted that a Turkmenistan Airlines plane boarded on April 24 on a bizarre flight to and from the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. When the plane returned, it was not to the town of Turkmenabat, where most flights have been rerouted since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, but to the town of Turkmenbashi on the Caspian coast, just in up the road to the absurd white elephant seaside resort of Awaza.

So what was on the plane? Live sharks, according to two sources who spoke to Turkmen.news. The fish are intended for Berdymukhamedov’s private aquarium, it seems.

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