06ASTANA501, KAZAKHSTAN: ‘THE TENGIZ BRAWL’ HIGHLIGHTS UNDERLYING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ASTANA501 2006-11-08 02:20 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO2663
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0501/01 3120220
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080220Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7597
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1989
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 1036

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000501 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN - O'MARA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON ENRG ELAB PREL KZ TU
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: 'THE TENGIZ BRAWL' HIGHLIGHTS UNDERLYING 
PROBLEMS 
 
 
ASTANA 00000501  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  A recent fight between Turkish and Kazakhstani 
workers at the Tengiz oilfield involved over 400 people and has 
received widespread public attention.  Despite isolated press 
reports that as many as a dozen Turkish workers were killed during 
the fight, our TengizChevroil (TCO) contacts have assured us there 
were no fatalities or life-threatening injuries.  While reactions 
have varied widely, the incident has helped stir Kazakh nationalism 
and led many to pose questions about wage inequalities and possible 
discrimination against Kazakh laborers.  End summary. 
 
--------- 
The Fight 
--------- 
 
2.  (U) On Friday, October 20, a brawl broke out at the Tengiz oil 
field in Atyrau oblast between Kazakh and Turkish workers.  (Note: 
Kazakhstani workers at Tengiz tend to be ethnic Kazakhs.  The Tengiz 
oil field is operated by Tengizchevroil, a joint venture between 
Chevron (50%), ExxonMobil (25%), KazMunaiGaz (20%) and LukArco (5%). 
 Nearing the end of a labor-intensive expansion phase, the field 
currently employees 14,000 workers.  End note.)  The official 
investigation conducted by the procuracy and the National Security 
Committee ("KNB") determined that the brawl started with an argument 
between a Kazakh worker and two Turkish workers, when the latter 
refused to sign the former's work authorization form.  According to 
the investigation, a heated exchange followed, leading to the two 
Turkish workers striking their Kazakh counterpart.  Witnessed by a 
large number of employees - both Kazakh and Turkish - the incident 
quickly grew into a mass brawl.   Early reports of fatalities have 
been refuted. 
 
------------- 
The Aftermath 
------------- 
 
3. (SBU) TCO General Director Todd Levy announced on November 2 that 
196 individuals had been injured in the fight, including 193 Turks, 
two Kazakhs, and one Indian.  TCO's Government Relations Director, 
Antonio Palmeirim, told Econoff later the same day that the true 
number of Kazakhs injured in the melee was not known, as many had 
left the site with minor injuries and received treatment at home. 
Palmeirim reported that, contrary to the more lurid press reports, 
no one had been killed or received a life-threatening injury during 
the melee.  One Turkish worker, he said, had undergone minor surgery 
for a concussion. 
 
4. (SBU) Ted Etchison, Chevron's Deputy Managing Director for the 
company's Eurasia Business Unit, called Ambassador Ordway on October 
22, seeking an introduction to the Turkish Ambassador in order to 
solicit the latter's help in calming Turkish workers and averting a 
threatened walk-off of nearly 1000 Turkish contract employees.  (At 
that time, Etchison estimated that nearly 400 Turks had already left 
the field, mostly to seek medical attention.)  Etchison reported 
later that the Turkish employees, as well as the Turkish Ambassador, 
were demanding that security measures at Tengiz be bolstered in 
order to avoid similar incidents in the future.  Etchison told the 
Ambassador that TCO would make every effort to meet the demands. 
 
5. (SBU) Palmeirim reported on October 31 that TCO had successfully 
averted a massive walk-off, and that work activities at the field 
were gradually returning to normal. 
He later spelled out some of the specific security measures that 
were being put into place at the field, including the assignment of 
nearly 200 Kazakhstani police to the site, the installation of 
surveillance cameras and identification checks at working and 
accommodation sites, and the temporary segregation of employees in 
their living quarters.  Palmeirim noted that a new, global security 
plan, negotiated by TCO, its contractors, and Atyrau oblast 
officials, would soon be implemented. 
 
--------------- 
Public Reaction 
--------------- 
 
6. (U) While the Tengiz brawl is not unprecedented, its scale has 
attracted a great deal of attention from both politicians and the 
media.  The remarks of the Turkish Ambassador to Kazakhstan - that 
the Turkish workers are "guests" in Kazakhstan, and Kazakhstan, 
therefore, bears the responsibility - were perceived negatively by 
many Kazakhstani observers.  Mazhilis Deputy Nurpeis Makhashev, an 
Otan-affiliated representative of a district in the Atyrau oblast 
and former president of an oil company, was quoted in the 
pro-government "Megapolis" newspaper as blaming unspecified "forces 
in the world" that "do not want stability in Muslim countries."  The 
article goes on to conclude that "what is left to do is find an 
 
ASTANA 00000501  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
obvious American trace."  Opposition "Svoboda Slova", on the other 
hand, chose to search for causes of the Tengiz brawl deep within. 
The fight, it opined, represents a "revolt of national 
consciousness," "a splas
h of ancestral memory," and a "revival of 
the genetic code developed over several centuries" of "glorious 
battles defending the Kazakh steppes." 
 
7. (U) The reaction of the government and high-profile officials has 
been much more tempered.  A spokesman for the Kazakhstani MFA said 
in a news conference that the Tengiz incident "was caused by routine 
problems," will not harm Kazakhstani-Turkish ties, and "by no means 
reflects the spirit and content of the bilateral cooperation between 
the brotherly peoples of Kazakhstan and Turkey."  Dariga 
Nazarbayeva, leader of the Aimak faction in the Parliament, has 
called on the Foreign Investors' Council to "take measures for 
resolving conflicts at enterprises with foreign participation." 
(Note: The Foreign Investors' Council is an advisory body 
established in 1998 by Presidential order to promote dialogue 
between the GOK and foreign investors.  End note.)  Nazarbayeva 
remarked that the main causes behind the growing trend of conflicts 
at foreign-owned enterprises are violations of labor regulations and 
worker safety guidelines, lack of attention to social problems, and 
a discrepancy between wages of local and foreign workers.  She added 
that the government needs to pay more attention to preparing more 
skilled workers from the midst of the local population. 
 
8. (SBU) Comment:  Although the proximate cause of the 'Tengiz 
brawl' was a garden-variety fight, the incident highlights 
underlying issues.  One is Kazakhstan's lack of skilled workers, a 
deficit that commonly leads foreign investors to hire a volatile mix 
of higher-paid skilled foreigners alongside unskilled Kazakh 
laborers.  This contributes to a nationalist undercurrent, further 
fueled by simmering disaffection over the failure of Kazakhstan's 
economic boom to significantly improve the lot of much of its 
regional population.  The occasional result, as in the case of the 
Tengiz brawl, is an outpouring of moderate populist anger against 
foreigners perceived to benefit from Kazakhstan's natural riches at 
the Kazakhstanis' expense.  End comment. 
 
ORDWAY

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