Transcaspian pipeline alternative
Victoria Panfilova, a commentator for Nezavisimaya Gazeta, exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
“Neutral Turkmenistan will continue its participation in the development of mutually beneficial and balanced decisions on all problems connected with the Caspian Sea,” Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said at a weakly governmental session. The statement was made ahead of the upcoming summit of heads of Caspian states (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran) which will take place in Astrakhan in September. There is no hope for signing a convention on the Caspian status, as there are big disagreements between the sides.
“At the moment the following aspects are non-consensual: specification of a sovereign area of water surface, borders, fishing and scientific-research area, environmental, security issues, elimination of consequences of emergency situations, preservation and usage of biological resources. The issues could be coordinated by the Working Group,” the deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Khalaf Khalafov stated. Therefore, as a result a document regulating a size of the exclusive economic zone will be signed at the summit. The final statement of presidents in Baku mentioned 24-26 sea miles.
However, Ashkhabad wishes to settle the issue of construction of the Trancaspian pipeline. Last week Berdymukhamedov called the work on the project of the Transcaspian pipeline one of the most important goals. Earlier the topic was discussed in Baku during the meeting between the Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and his Azerbaijani colleague Elmar Mamedyarov. First of all, the EU is interested in fulfillment of the project, as it tries to diversify energy supplies. “We don’t want to depend on the only source of gas,” the head of the EU office in Azerbaijan, Malena Mard, stated. According to her, negotiations between Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and the European Commission are going on. “The South gas corridor which involves the Transcaspian project is a priority for Brussels.” The talks are very important. The EU intends to continue intensive work on the project, especially in case of successful fulfillment of Shah Deniz-2; first results will be reached in a few years, Mard said. “The EU members are working individually on fulfillment of the goal.”
She remained that the EU dreamt about shutting the Russian South Stream Project down. Recently José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, stated that the South Stream wouldn’t be a priority for the EU, even though Russia insisted on this. Europe is also concerned about the Transatolian pipeline which transports gas from Turkey to Greece, Albania and South Italy, and then to Western Europe. Brussels is worried about the situation in Turkey which has almost been involved into a regional conflict.
Doubts of experts about the implementation of the mentioned projects are connected with Turkmenistan’s gas resources: Ashkhabad boosted export volumes to China and Iran, 10 billion cubic meters of gas are annually sold to Russia; and now it begins the fulfillment of the project in the southern direction – through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India (TAPI). Are there resources left for Europe?
“Nothing prevents Turkmenistan from working in several directions, considering its huge gas resources,” Mikhail Krutikhin, RusEnergy Company’s partner and analyst, thinks. Moreover, Ashkhabad has to complete construction of the longest East-West pipeline of the country by 2015. “The pipe which is almost 1000 km long will unite all local gas nets and create a system of transporting Turkmen gas to international markets. The project opens two ways for gas: the East and Europe. At the moment Ashkhabad could export 20 billion cubic meters of gas to Iran annually. But it doesn’t use the opportunity in full extent. So, if TAPI is built, 15-20 billion cubic meters of gas could be exported through it annually. The same volume could be exported to Europe, if the Transcaspian pipeline is built. Ashkhabad has enough resources,” Krutikhin says.
Russia and Iran stand against construction of the pipeline on the Caspian Sea’s bottom, as the project cannot be fulfilled, considering the unsettled legal status of the Caspian Sea.
Baku and Ashkhabad reject objections by Russia and Iran, pointing out that the project touches on interests only two Caspian states and can be fulfilled on the bilateral basis. The EU agrees with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
The Western countries think the key role should be played by Ashkhabad. However, it doesn’t rush to construct the pipeline. The Turkmen authorities have several times suggested holding an environmental expertise with involvement of international experts.
Meanwhile, Ismail Agakishiyev, President of the union of companies Analysis, Consulting, PR, stated that “as the demand of gas in Europe and Turkey is growing and its insignificant export volumes in comparison with Russia, gas supplies through the Transcaspian pipeline cannot influence negatively Russian gas export. Otherwise, it will be an obstacle for expensive shale gas export from the USA to Europe, which could be a threat not only for Russia and other exporters from the post-Soviet space, but also for Iran which exports gas to Turkey.”
Nevertheless, the Transacaspian pipeline becomes more than real. Europe needs alternative sources of gas, as Ukraine becomes an unreliable partner. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently warned his European colleagues about reduction of gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe, if Kiev doesn’t pay off its debts.