ASHGABAT - A high-level Russian delegation arrived in the Turkmen capital Monday for talks aimed at diffusing a rare diplomatic dispute between the two former Soviet republics over elimination of a dual-citizenship agreement.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in April to dissolve a 1993 dual-citizenship treaty, but Niyazov shocked Russian officials by giving a two-month deadline for people to decide which passport they will keep. He also made his order retroactive, effectively stripping people of their second passport.
The dispute has prompted Russian politicians to raise increasing concerns about human rights in Turkmenistan, which has one of the most authoritarian regimes in the former Soviet Union.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Fedotov, head of the delegation, told reporters after arriving in Ashgabat that the talks would be aimed at "preserving relations between the two countries at a good level."
"Both states are equally interested in creating conditions for their further development," he said.
An earlier Russian delegation to Turkmenistan before the June 22 deadline for dual citizens to choose a passport failed to win any concessions.
Some 100,000 people with Russian citizenship live in this Central Asian nation, the Russian Embassy here has said. Since Niyazov's order, the number of people seeking immigrant status at Russian offices in Ashgabat has soared, flights to Moscow are packed and cargo containers are selling out.
The Turkmen government has denied that dual citizens will see any change in their situation.
Also Monday, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry issued the latest in a series of statements condemning Russian media reports on the deteriorating situation in Turkmenistan for dual citizens.