Turkmen leader offered greater Berlin cooperation
The Nabucco gas pipeline increases collaboration between Turkmenistan and Germany.
Berlin -- The authoritarian ruler of Turkmenistan met with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday in Berlin amid keen Western interest in the former Soviet republic's rich oil and gas resources.
"Cooperation between our two countries is far from complete," Merkel said after her meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, 51, who took over two years ago after the death of dictator Saparmurad Niyasov.
The single party state has been criticized by exiled dissidents and human rights groups.
Merkel stressed that she welcomed Berdymukhammedov's offer to cooperate with Germany on both human rights issues and liberalizing the Central Asian nation.
Berdymukhammedov said German companies had a good record in Turkmenistan and he hoped for more trade ties.
His delegation of 120 had arrived earlier in the German capital on four aircraft.
Turkmenistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and has a Caspian Sea shore, has a population of 6 million.
German exporters have been active in Turkmenistan, with Siemens Medical and Hospitalia International among the contractors helping to expand health care.
Human rights activists say Turkmenistan remains a repressive state, despite the re-introduction of mathematics and foreign language classes in schools after they were banned by the previous dictator.
Though elections are due on Dec. 14, the Vienna based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has faulted Turkmenistan as an undemocratic single party state.
It has no legal opposition and all media are state run.
European nations hope that the planned Nabucco gas pipeline via Azerbaijan will eventually deliver Turkmen natural gas westwards, easing European dependence on Russian gas.
Currently, two thirds of Turkmenistan's annual output of 70 billion cubic metres of gas is sold to Russia.
German diplomats said that cultivating Turkmenistan was a part of the broader European Union strategy in Central Asia.