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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 23, 1998
              Background on the Official Working Visit of
              President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan

                            April 23, 1998

Facts: Located on the Caspian's eastern shore, Turkmenistan possesses possibly the fourth largest gas reserves in the world and substantial oil deposits. Nearly half of Turkmenistan's 3.8. million people are employed in agriculture. Turkmenistan is a one-party state dominated by President Niyazov, President since independence in 1991.

Meetings: This is President Niyazov's first visit to Washington. In addition to President Clinton, he also met Vice President Gore, Secretary Albright, Secretary Pena, Secretary Glickman, Deputy Secretary Hamre and Director of Central Intelligence Tenet. President Clinton hosted a lunch that included Vice President Gore, Secretary Albright, Secretary Pena, National Security Advisor Berger, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, Turkmen Minister for Oil and Gas Botir Sarjayev and other senior officials. Vice President Gore witnessed the signing of a U.S. Trade and Development Agency agreement with Turkmenistan on a feasibility study for a trans-Caspian pipeline. President Niyazov also met with members of Congress, World Bank President Wolfensohn, IMF Managing Director Camdesus, and business and academic leaders.

Importance of Visit: President Clinton pressed President Niyazov to undertake substantial democratic and economic reforms, including greater respect for human rights and release of political prisoners. President Clinton underscored that the principles of democracy, human rights and market reform must underpin Turkmenistan's sovereignty and independence. The two presidents expressed their support for an EastWest transit corridor, including a trans-Caspian pipeline, to transport Caspian energy to international markets. President Clinton made clear continuing U.S. concern over Iranian behavior.

Signings: The following documents were signed: a feasibility study of a trans-Caspian pipeline (U.S. Trade and Development Agency); a bilateral energy dialogue (Department of Energy); a scientific and technical cooperation MOU (Department of Agriculture); a joint statement on security relations (Department of Defense); a financing framework agreement (EXIM); a joint technical exploration study (Exxon); a production sharing agreement (Mobil and Monument Oil); and a cooperation agreement on oil field services (Halliburton).