Turkmenistan leader reappears in summit after death rumours

Avaza: Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov opened an economic forum on the Caspian Sea on Monday, marking his first diplomatic outing and verifiable public appearance since rumours of his death swirled last month.
Journalists gathered in the resort town of Avaza to witness live footage of Berdymukhamedov meeting the heads of government of Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan as well as Iran’s vice president.
The occasion is the highest level gathering of the five littoral states of the Caspian Sea since a landmark summit in Kazakhstan a year ago.
But media interest was trained on whether or not 62-year-old Turkmen strongman Berdymukhamedov would appear as scheduled, after over a month of speculation over his health and whereabouts.“Congratulations on the opening of the First Caspian Economic Forum,” Berdymukhamedov told his guests in footage broadcast for the media at the forum.
The rumour that Berdymukhamedov had died appeared to begin with a small foreign-based media outlet run by Turkmen regime opponents.
It then spread across Russian-language websites in former Soviet states. Berdymukhamedov’s most recent verifiable public appearance had been at a government meeting on July 5, unusual in a country with no free media where he is a mainstay of state television.
On July 24 he appeared in a televised meeting with the mayor of Ashgabat, but foreign media speculated that the footage may have been backdated. — Reuters