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Turkmenistan Opens Up to Foreign Tourists

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmenistan, isolated from the rest of the world under its former leader, plans to open up its Caspian Sea coast to foreign tourists.

State television said the Central Asian country aimed to ease visa requirements for foreigners wanting to visit the Caspian city of Turkmenbashi, named after the late leader and which the government plans to turn into a resort area.

"The document includes measures aimed at developing rest and recreation activities and international tourism in the country, including simplifying visa requirements for foreign tourists wishing to rest on the Caspian Sea," said a news presenter.

The presenter did not say when that might happen. Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled Turkmenistan via a personality cult for 21 years, died in December. The new president has taken steps to soften some of Niyazov's harshest policies.

The new president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has shown signs that he might ease some of his predecessor's most unpopular measures and vowed to improve Internet and mobile phone access.

Turkmenistan has a law allowing it to deport foreigners for "immoral behavior" and bar its people from going abroad for "fears that citizens might fall victim to human trafficking and become a slave while abroad".

Turkmenistan is home to ancient sites dating back to Parthian kings and other tourist attractions.

On Tuesday, Interfax reported that the Turkmen state airline, Turkmenhovaellary, will resume weekly flights between Ashgabat and the Kazakh largest city, Almaty, from May 26.

The airline will use Boeing 737s for the flights, the agency reported. Ticket sales have not begun but the airline is already taking reservations, Interfax said.


(The Moscow Times 23.v.07)

 
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