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FM of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey to Meet for Gas Exports

Tuesday 18 July 2017

BAKU (News.Az) — The heads of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan are to hold a tripartite meeting in Baku. The Azerbaijan Ministry reports that the tripartite meeting will take place in Baku on 18-19 June. The first meeting of the FMs of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Turkmenistan was held in Baku on 26 May 2014.

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The Trans/Caspian gas pipeline would run under the Caspian Sea from Türkmenbaşy to the Sangachal Terminal, where it would connect with the existing pipeline to Erzurum in Turkey, which in turn would be connected to the Southern Gas Corridor, thus taking natural gas from Turkmenistan to Central Europe.
(Credit: Thomas Blomberg)

There are plans for the export of Turkmen natural gas via the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan to Turkey and on to Europe. The project is vitally important for Turkmenistan, which now has only two buyers for its natural gas — China and Iran.

Initially, the trilateral meeting on the development of cooperation in the sectors of energy and transport was planned for October 2016, but was postponed after the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.

The Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project is purposed to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to European Union member countries, circumventing both Russia and Iran. It is also considered as a natural eastward extension of Southern Gas Corridor. This project attracts significant interest since it will connect vast Turkmen gas resources to major consumer geographies as Turkey and Europe. Russia supplies more than a quarter of Europe’s gas needs; several Eastern European countries are almost completely dependent on Russia for natural gas.

In reaction to the 1999 plans for a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline Russia and Iran collaborated in calling for a Central Asian gas cartel in 2001 and 2002. There is also a concern in the West that closer collaboration between Georgia and Azerbaijan will isolate Armenia and tempt it to strengthen ties with Russia and Iran.

The project is heavily criticized by Russia and Iran, current transit countries for Turkmen gas. Alexander Golovin, special envoy on Caspian issues, has stated that a major gas pipeline would pose a serious, dangerous risk to the prosperity of the entire region. According to the Russian Natural Resources Ministry, any gas or oil pipelines across the floor of the Caspian Sea would be environmentally unacceptable. Russia has also taken the legal position that a potential pipeline project, regardless of the route it takes on the seabed, would require the consent of all five Caspian littoral states in order to proceed. Iran has pointed out that treaties signed by Iran and the Soviet Union in 1921 and 1940 are still in force and that any action taken without the consent of all the littoral states would be illegal. In regard of the decision taken by the EU on 12 September 2011, Russia expressed its “disappointment” as it “seems to have been adopted without taking into account the internationally accepted legal and geopolitical situation in the Caspian basin”, and as Caspian Sea littoral state, Russia could veto any international agreement allowing for the pipeline to be built.

Meantime, a trilateral meeting of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhammadov is scheduled for the end of this year in Turkmenistan. According to Sputnik, Ambassador of Turkey in Ashgabat Mustafa Kapuju said during the summit the sides will discuss plans for the export of Turkmen gas through the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan to Turkey and further, to Europe. “We planned this summit last year, but later it was postponed to this year. Prior to the summit, foreign ministers and energy ministers are to meet to conduct preparatory work”, he said.

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