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Presidential Death

DW staff/AFP (jen)December 21, 2006

Foreign leaders Thursday called on officials in Turkmenistan to ensure stability in the gas-rich Central Asian country after the death of its authoritarian President Saparmurat Niyazov.

This golden bust of the President Niyazov was one of many in the countryImage: AP

The European Union urged Turkmenistan to manage the political

transition "in accordance with international standards" following

the long-time president's death.

"The presidency calls on the Turkmen authorities to make every

effort to ensure that the succession to President Niyazov proceeds

in accordance with international standards," the Finnish presidency

of the bloc said in a brief statement.

Turkmenischer Präsident Nijasov
Reports say the authoriarian leader died of a heart attackImage: AP

Germany, which takes over the rotating EU presidency in January,

called on Turkmenistan's political leaders to act "responsibly."

EU to observe developments

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the EU would be

watching developments in the strategically-located country closely.

Russia and the European Union have a very strong interest in the

stability of Central Asia and that it remains free of the instability of its southern neighbors," Steinmeier told reporters during a visit to Moscow.

Appeal to legal means

Speaking after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov,

Steinmeier said political leaders in the country must now act in the

interest of the entire region.

Lavrov called for power in Turkmenistan to be transferred "in

the framework of the law" to ensure stability across Central Asia.

Turkmenistan: Aschchabad - Palast des Präsidenten
Presidential palace in the capital, AshgabatImage: dpa

"We expect the transfer of power to be carried out in the

framework of the law for the good of Turkmen citizens... for the

good of relations with Russia and for the good of stability in

Central Asia," Lavrov told reporters.

Reaction from Turkey

Niyazov, who ruled the gas-rich Central Asian country for 20

years, died early Thursday, aged 66, apparently of heart failure.

Deputy Prime Minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was named interim president. The highest political body, the People's Council, is to meet Tuesday to discuss the succession following a funeral for Niyazov Sunday.

Russland Deutschland Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Moskau
Steinmeier called for an orderly change of powerImage: AP

Turkey -- which has close ethnic and political ties with the

Turkic-speaking countries of Central Asia -- underlined the need for maintaining stability.

"We are very sad. The entire Turkish world is very sad," Turkish

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters in Ankara. "He was a man who expended sincere efforts to take Turkmenistan

out of the Soviet era and enable it to stand on its own feet."

"It is very important for us that a country like Turkmenistan,

which attracts world attention with its rich natural resources,

maintains stability. It is very important that there is no vacuum,

uncertainty there. That would be harmful," he said.