This was his second trip to Turkmenistan. In October 2002, Mr Matsuura had been the first ever UNESCO Director-General to visit the Central Asian country.
Mr Matsuura had met Mr Berdymukhamedov during his 2002 visit, when the latter was deputy Prime Minister, and began by saying how pleased he was to see President again, warmly congratulating him on his new appointment. The Director-General praised President Berdymukhamedov for his efforts at economic and social reform, the effects of which Mr Matsuura said were most visible in the Turkmen capital, as well as his commitment to establishing closer and more dynamic interaction with the international community, including the United Nations system and regional organizations. Mr Matsuura drew particular attention to how successfully UNESCO’s cooperation with Turkmenistan had developed since 2002, noting that according to a recent UN survey the Organization was now the best-known UN agency within the country.
Speaking first of progress in the field of culture, the Director-General highlighted that whereas Turkmenistan only had one UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002 – the State Historical and Cultural Park of Ancient Merv (1999) –, the country now had three cultural properties inscribed on the prestigious List, with the inclusion of Kunya-Urgench in 2005and the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa in 2007. Mr Matsuura remarked that he had had the pleasure to visit Nisa during his trip in 2002.
The President expressed his determination to build on this progress, saying that Turkmenistan boasted many other strong candidates, notably in the Garagum Desert, which he said he hoped would become the first natural site on the World Heritage List. The Director-General explained the steps that the government should take to prepare the site’s candidature, noting that it was important to identify a section of the desert particularly rich in biodiversity. Mr Matsuura encouraged Turkmenistan to apply for financial support under the World Heritage Fund, saying that with such financing UNESCO could send an expert mission to help the country prepare its bid. President Berdymukhamedov also informed Mr Matsuura that recent excavations in the Garagum desert had brought to light the ruins of Margush, an ancient civilization dating back to before 2,000 BC. Mr Matsuura said that this presented another strong potential candidate for future inscription.
While speaking of collaboration in the area of cultural heritage, Mr Matsuura urged the President to ratify the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. He underscored that this would help Turkmenistan in preserving and promoting the country’s rich living cultural traditions.
Education was another major subject of discussion. The President outlined his initiatives to modernize the education system and up-grade schools, notably through the introduction of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). The Director-General presented a new series of science e-textbooks in the Turkmen language, which UNESCO’s cluster office in Tehran had helped to produce in support of this effort.
One final important subject raised was freshwater. Both agreed that the safe and sustainable management of water resources was a priority for Turkmenistan and the region as a whole, with the President underscoring the particular need for effective transboundary water management. Mr Matsuura explained UNESCO’s action in the field of freshwater, highlighting the Organization’s lead role within the framework of the UN system-wide World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), and presenting the President with a copy of the third edition of the triennial World Water Development Report.
President Berdymukhamedov and Mr Matsuura pledged to continue their efforts to reinforce collaboration, building on the solid progress made in recent years. The President paid special tribute to the support provided by the UNESCO cluster Office in Tehran, saying that this was enabling UNESCO to strengthen its action in Turkmenistan in a most effective and visible way.
Following his meeting with the President, Mr Matsuura met with the vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Meredov, and the vice Premier responsible for education, health and culture, Mr Saparliyev, to discuss concrete actions to follow up on these commitments. While in Ashgabat, Mr Matsuura also visited the Museum of Fine Arts, where he saw a collection of artefacts from the archaeological site of Margush.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 080-2009 - Publication Date: 12-05-2009