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Economic preferences of the official Ashgabat are very easy to "figure out" these days. One just has to look at the list of the guests of honor of Turkmenbashi that wished to congratulate the Turkmen leader in person on the next anniversary of neutrality and take part in festivities in the customary Oriental manner. Traditionally, heads of foreign companies that either enjoy the successful partnership relations with the government of Turkmenistan or actively prepare to start seriously working with this republic arrive in the Turkmen capital on the eve of the holiday.

So, whom did we see sitting this time at the splendid, laid for celebration, Turkmen dastarkhan (dining-table)? Of course, the first to come was the head of "Itera" group of companies, Igor Makarov. Born in Turkmenistan, he can be called old business partner of the republic. The company he heads is a successful trader of Turkmen gas in the markets of Ukraine, Russia, Caucuses states and other countries. Although "Itera" reduced this year's amount of gas purchases to several bln for objective reasons Ashgabat still views it as one of the most important partners. It is not by coincidence that "Itera" plays, in fact, a leading role in "Zarit" company, established recently in alliance with "Rosneft" and "Zarubejneft" companies from Russia, that is planning to participate in the development of oil and gas fields on the Caspian Turkmen shelf. It was clear after a meeting of Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov with Igor Makarov and director of "Zarubejneft" Nikolai Tokarev that the sides were interested in the soonest completion of the preliminary phase before getting down to the project's actual implementation that on the one hand will strengthen Russia's geopolitical position in the southern region of the Caspian Sea and, on the other hand, will allow Ashgabat to start more extensive development of a number of its sea deposits.

Heads of Ukrainian companies were also among those to be invited to participate in the development of the Turkmen oil and gas fields on the actual day of holiday. In particular, Saparmurat Niyazov not only made traditional compliments to the board chairman of "Neftegas of Ukraine" company, Yriy Boyko, who visits Ashgabat even more often than Moscow, expressing Turkmenistan's satisfaction with the progress of the equal and mutually beneficial partnership with Ukraine and readiness to supply to Ukrainian customers 36 bcm of gas in 2004 but also offered him specific forms of Ukrainian company's participation in the project of the Seiydi oil refinery reconstruction as well as the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves.

Ashgabat and Kiev have naturally passed over a purely raw materials-based phase of cooperation limited to just gas trading. Of course, Turkmen gas is, as usually, in the base of all projects but the sides have learnt to, lets say, effectively use Ukraine's capabilities to meet the needs of Turkmenistan. Niyazov's meeting with the leadership of "Interbudmontaj" company on the issues related to a series of projects is a colorful example of that. There are the construction of a drainage-communication tunnel under Ashgabat, sewerage-purification facilities in the capital and a cottage village in the Kopetdag mountain foothill.

Surely, one of the places of honor at the Turkmen festive dastarkhan is traditionally reserved for representatives of Turkey. According to official reports there were chiefs of two large Turkish companies "Zorlu holding company" and "Norsel" - Akhmet Zorlu and Ibrahim Koluk - that managed to personally congratulate the President and through him the entire population of Turkmenistan. Availing themselves of the opportunity, businessmen showed a graphic model of the future super-modern textile complex in Ashgabat considering corrections made earlier by the head of state. It is not surprising that implementation of this largest in the region project as regards textile industry was granted to Turkish companies. They have already commissioned dozen of processing plants, some of them successfully run by their managers.

Another important area of the Turkmen-Turkish cooperation is related to the supply of electricity from Turkmenistan. This topic was discussed on the day of celebration at the meeting of Saparmurat Niyazov with his envoy on marketing of Turkmen natural gas, oil, electricity and cotton on the Turkish markets Akhmet Chalyk. His company "Chalyk holding" has built tens of objects in Turkmenistan. At present, it is building such large complexes as paper plant, cement plant as well as fertilizer producing factory. Right on the eve of the national holiday Turkmenistan started exporting its electricity to Turkey through Iran. It is worth $10 mln so far, but considering possible re-export of gas to Europe the figures may increase significantly.

...Many other country's representatives were seen at the Turkmen dastarkhan in honor of Neutrality Day. The US's "Caterpillar", Iranian "Tavanir", French "Bouyegues" and a number of other European and Asian states had not only congratulated friends and partners on the national day but also reiterated their firm intention to strengthen and develop the mutually beneficial partnership with Turkmenistan. And this is if anything one of the important conclusions that could be drawn from the events of the holiday.

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Charygeldi AMANOV

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