Turkmenistan insists gas exports to Europe "realistic"

By bne IntelliNews May 24, 2013

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Plans by Turkmenistan to launch gas exports to Europe via Azerbaijan are under "serious" discussion and remain realistic, a senior Turkmen official claimed on May 23, despite the lack of resolution over the major barrier to such exports, which is the status of the Caspian Sea shared by five littoral states.

Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov told reporters that officials from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and the EU are now in advanced talks on the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCP), which would ship the Central Asian country's output to Europe, by first crossing the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan on the opposite side. Discussions are currently focused on drafting a document on the main principles of gas supply from the Caspian region, according to reports in the Russian press.

"The reliability of supplies to Europe directly depends on how we form our partnership scheme," Meredov said.

Azeri Energy Minister Natig Aliyev said recently that the drafting of two documents under TCP is drawing to a close. According to Aliyev, the first document will feature declarations of support by the trio. "We have conducted several meetings in this regard and now one can say that the documents are ready," Aliyev said, adding that only a few issues are left to be clarified.

However, once finalized, the documents must be signed not only by Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan - which themselves have several disputes over the Caspian Sea outstanding - but also the European Commission and the governments of the three other littoral states.

The legal status of the inland sea has log-jammed Caspian gas exports for years, with Russia and Iran highly unlikely to offer their blessing to any project which would reduce their current control over Turkmen gas flows. Moscow clearly has little incentive to help the EU's push to find alternatives to Russian gas supplies.

Hence, the TCP has been under discussion for more than decade. The plan envisages a 300km pipeline running from Turkmenistan's Caspian coast to Baku, where it would link to the Southern Gas Corridor. Yet after more than ten years, there is still no concrete plan for a Caspian sub-sea pipeline along the route.

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