Baku and Ashgabat clear last obstacle to Trans-Caspian pipeline
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding Thursday on joint exploration and development of hydrocarbon resources of the Dostlug (Friendship) field in the Caspian Sea (See New era of Caspian oil begins). The agreement on the joint exploration of the once-disputed section of the undersea hydrocarbons field was signed in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, between Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and his Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov, Daily Sabah writes in the article Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan to resolve disputes on Caspian oil field.
The agreement is expected to support progress on the Trans-Caspian pipeline, a multi-billion dollar plan to link Turkmenistan's giant gas fields to Europe via Azerbaijan. The link has been held up by geopolitics and a lack of commercial backing, although a landmark deal on the status of the Caspian Sea signed by Caspian littoral states that Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia in 2018 was viewed as a positive step.
Robert Cutler, director of the Energy Security program at the NATO Association of Canada, said the Dostlug agreement "clears the last obstacle" to the Trans-Caspian pipeline. "The gas exists, the valve is off, (Turkmenistan) is just waiting to turn the gas on," Cutler told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that the project did not require a "commercial champion" to build the pipeline.
Experts estimate that the Dostlug hydrocarbons field contains natural gas and 60-70 million tons of oil. Azerbaijan currently delivers natural gas to Turkish and European markets through the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and recently completed Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), together forming the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) to deliver natural gas to Europe.
During the meeting, the diplomats emphasized the high level of bilateral ties in political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian areas. It was noted that the visit of Bayramov to Ashgabat complements the "start of a new stage of energy cooperation" between the two neighboring countries. "In this regard, the significance of joint steps on resource use and collaboration on the Caspian Sea was highlighted," the Turkmen Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to AA. The top diplomats also highlighted the efficiency of political and diplomatic dialogue between the two states and discussed bilateral issues and the aspects of regional and international agendas. The ministers also underlined the importance of the collaboration of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in the framework of regional and international formats.
They also discussed the opportunities of holding joint events in 2021 and the issue of expanding cultural and humanitarian ties between the two states. The possibilities of expanding economic and investment cooperation, including through the use of the transport-transit potential of the two countries, which possess modern automobile, railway and sea infrastructures, were also discussed in the meeting.
Meanwhile, Bayramov and Meredov emphasized the importance of the Transit and Transport Cooperation Agreement between Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Afghanistan (Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement). Turkey's Foreign Ministry in a written statement welcomed the energy agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. "We wish that this agreement will further strengthen the friendship between the two countries, will be auspicious for the friendly and brotherly peoples of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan and contribute to the prosperity and stability of the region," it said. "We also wish that this agreement will pave the way for the projects to enhance the energy security of Turkey and the rest of Europe," the statement added.