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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Turkmenistan: a final warning for Russia’s Gazprom?

05-21-2009 - Eurasianet - Russian officials have sought recently to portray a gas transit dispute between Russia and Turkmenistan as close to resolution. But officials in Ashgabat apparently beg to differ. A commentary distributed by the Turkmen state news agency on May 21 suggests that if Moscow doesn’t address Turkmen concerns soon, Ashgabat will scrap its present energy export arrangement and embrace a US-backed alternative. The Turkmen commentary, appearing under the byline of Serdar Durdiev, head of the International Information Department at the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, could be seen as an effort by Ashgabat to pressure Moscow to resume importing Turkmen energy according to terms agreeable to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s administration. Turkmen natural gas has not been flowing to Russia since early April, when an explosion put a pipeline out of action. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. In an ominous reference to Turkmenistan’s 25-year export agreement with the Russian state-controlled conglomerate Gazprom, Durdiev’s commentary suggested that Ashgabat is souring on the idea of tying up its energy exports in bilateral deals. Durdiev complained that a "lack of reliable international guarantees of implementation makes them [bilateral agreements] extremely vulnerable and dependent on a variety of subjective factors. . . . This is particularly evident during complicated political periods." Unless Gazprom quickly modifies its current stance, Ashgabat indicated that it will make a firm commitment to participating in the long-planned Trans-Caspian Pipeline, a route that would circumvent Russia while transporting energy from the Caspian Basin to the European Union. "It is in this context," Durdiev continued, "[that] Turkmenistan’s commitment to the principle of diversifying energy flows, particularly the construction of export pipelines should be assessed," the commentary said.

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