Discussion of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project will be held in Baku
Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, especially for Vestnik Kavkaza
Tomorrow Baku will host a meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Caspian Sea. It did not gather after the Caspian summit in Astrakhan. Experts will have to develop a set of documents that will be submitted in a year and half at the summit in Astana. In the Azerbaijani capital, the working group, in addition to traditional issues related to the legal status of the Caspian Sea and economic cooperation, will consider the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who proposed the creation of a permanent Caspian Economic Forum. The Turkmen leader said that the establishment of such a structure will facilitate relations between the countries, and it will be easier to resolve problems.
It became known to Vestnik Kavkaza that the recently presented Energy Program of the European Union will be discussed at the meeting in Baku, which aims to reduce the EU's energy dependence on Russia. According to the vice-president of the European Commission's Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič, the EU is tired of "negotiating every summer on how to organize winter gas supplies. The world's largest economy should not have such problems in the twenty-first century." He stressed that Russia will remain "a very important energy supplier for the EU, but its influence should be reduced."
The European Union is staking a bet on alternative suppliers, including Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. If Baku has been working with the EU for a long time, then they still have to negotiate with Turkmenistan. The other day, Šefčovič discussed with the Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Belgium a preliminary agreement on the supply of Turkmen gas to Europe. In this regard, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan issued a statement that, given the significant natural gas reserves and export opportunities for the development of pipeline infrastructure, the country is quite able to provide the European market with the necessary volumes of fossil fuels. In particular, Turkmenistan intends to ensure that the European market is supplied with 10 to 30 billion cubic meters of gas.
As Doctor of History, Senior Researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Shohrat Kadyrov, told Vestnik Kavkaza that Turkmenistan has never refused to discuss a draft of their supply of hydrocarbons to Europe, much less reject the project. The expert recalled that in 2010 Ankara signed a memorandum on the start of construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline. It was planned that Turkmen gas "will join" with the Nabucco pipeline. "However, due to the high cost and complexity associated with the implementation of the project, the EU last year abandoned the project, replacing it with less expensive ones. Unresolved problems remain," Kadyrov said.
But the main problem is the delineation of the Caspian. If Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have already agreed on the basic issues, Turkmenistan and Iran have not decided yet. Ashgabat and Baku challenged a number of fields: Kapaz, Chirag and Azeri (Serdar Osman and Khazar - in the Turkmen toponymy, respectively). The dispute has been going on for 15 years, Ashgabat even intended to bring a third party into the problem - the International Court of Arbitration. According to Shohrat Kadyrov, the hope of eliminating contradictions still appears. "Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in recent years have improved significantly. At the same time, Turkmenistan had problems with gas supplies to Russia, which has reduced this year the volume of purchases of up to 4 billion cubic meters. Despite the previously-signed long term agreement. The crisis in Russia has had a negative impact on the domestic economic situation in Turkmenistan. The development of relations with China, which Ashgabat hoped for, has been stalled several times due to the fact that Russia will now deliver its gas to China. Hence the pressing issue of gas supply to Europe via Azerbaijan," Kadyrov noted.
Ashgabat is quite optimistic about the prospects for the implementation of the Trans-Caspian pipeline, noting that Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan today have every possibility of implementing the project within the framework of bilateral activities. The resource base for deliveries of Turkmen gas via the Trans-Caspian pipeline may become the largest field, 'Galkinish', in the south-east of the country, with estimated reserves of 26.2 trillion cubic meters. In accordance with the statements of the Turkmen side, the exploration which is continuing at this super-giant oil field only confirms the enormous reserves. "If Russia is structurally suited to the issue, it is theoretically possible that the gas agreements will be reviewed - and Turkmenistan to Russia, and Russia to Turkmenistan will supply their gas to receive dividends from the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. It is important to note that without Russia it is unlikely the draft can be implemented. The initiative's inclusion on the agenda comes from Europe, because of the difficulties in Ukraine. Both Russia and Europe are interested in solving this problem. Therefore, we should expect that Russia could become more compliant with the new conditions and agree to the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project. This will resume normal relations with Europe to strengthen ties with Turkmenistan, to stabilize the situation in the Caucasus as a whole, to mitigate the economic crisis," Kadyrov said.