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Central Asia news

The European Union is seeking contracts with Saparmurat Niyazov

20.12.2006 11:42 msk

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Business Turkmenistan

The European Union has taken another attempt to do away with Russian monopoly in gas deliveries from Central Asia. On December 18, President Saparmurat Niyazov met with EU Envoy in Central Asia Pier Morel and German Charge d'Affaires Astrid Wolf. Turkmen media outlets report that Morel commented on "the colossal interest" of the European Union in Central Asia in general and Turkmenistan in particular. Morel said the EU wanted expansion and advancement of fully fledged cooperation with Turkmenistan, the country it perceived as a reliable and responsible partner. What the Europeans are really interested in are new sources of gas.

Niyazov and the Europeans discussed "potential routes of Turkmen gas export to the European market." Any specific accord are out of the question for the time being, but the EU and the president of Turkmenistan decided to have a bilateral accord drafted. The document will regulate "constructive interaction throughout the whole spectrum of relations."

It may be added here that Turkmenistan and the EU wish for more or less one thing. Turkmenistan regularly advances the necessity to diversify delivery routes, and Europe can only applaud this stand on the matter. On the other hand, the analysts Nezavisimaya Gazeta has approached for comments say that these plans may remain only on paper these next 3-4 years or even longer. Turkmenistan signed so many gas contracts over the years that experts question its ability to deliver, to say nothing of any new grandiose commitments. Turkmenistan is committed to delivering 30 billion cubic meters of gas to China every year for the next 30 years and 14 billion cubic meters to Iran in 2007. Fifty billion cubic meters of gas a year are promised Gazprom for the next three years, and so on... Speculations can be heard on construction of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, on a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan with the annual capacity of 33 billion cubic meters, and on the so called Nabukko - a project of the route from Central Asia to Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.

"All this construction is extremely expensive and time-consuming," Aleksei Kormschikov of Uralsib said. "Even is the investors are found who are ready to come up with $5-10 billion, construction of the new gas pipeline will take 2-3 years at best."

Valery Nesterov of Troika Dialog does not think that Gazprom will be always ready to help Turkmenistan with finding new gas transit routes even though the Russian company is fairly secure now and will be for several years longer. "All these speculations are so vague that they do not really mean anything," Nesterov said. "The Turkmen leadership boasts of how much gas it has but these estimates have never been confirmed by independent experts." According to Nesterov, construction of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline is problematic because of ecological factors. It is to be built across the Caspian seabed in a tectonically hazardous zone, the idea Iran and other countries are objecting to. Nabukko on the other hand is a project where problems may be encountered with sources of gas. "Just fancy Iran making a turn, becoming more democratic, and easing access to its resources," Nesterov said. "It will render any Turkmen project automatically unviable."

Sergei Kulikov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 20, 2006, p. 4

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru