9 May 2007 - 14:09
  • News Code: 104241
Russia, Turkmenistan To Discuss Gas Pipeline

MOSCOW - Russia hopes to negotiate construction of a new pipeline that would carry gas from Turkmenistan into Europe across its territory, a top energy official said Tuesday, a deal that would cement Moscow"s energy power and deal another blow to Washington"s attempts to circumvent it.

The prospective deal, which is expected to top the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin"s talks in Turkmenistan this week, would further boost Russia"s role as a major energy supplier to Europe and strengthen Western fears that Moscow could use its clout for political purposes.

 

Russia currently controls the only export routes for Turkmenistan"s massive gas resources.

 

Since the death last year of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov who signed deals to build export pipelines to China, foreign governments have courted his successor, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, in the hope of locking in strategic oil and gas deals in the biggest ex-Soviet energy producer outside Russia.

 

"Central Asia is one of the most important areas of Russian energy policy," Deputy Energy Einister Andrei Reus said at a news conference Tuesday.

 

Putin is due to meet with Berdymukhamedov for three-way talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Turkmenistan on Thursday and Friday. Putin will also visit Kazakhstan on Wednesday and Thursday and will return there from Turkmenistan for another trip on beginning Saturday - an unusually long visit.

 

"All sides are ready to discuss this question," Reus said of the project, which envisages a pipeline skirting the Caspian Sea coast from Turkmenistan up through Kazakhstan and into Russia.

 

"The fact that it can be considered a promising direction is not in doubt. And the Russian side is ready to actively discuss this question," Reus said. "As far as I understand, our partners are ready for such discussion themselves."

 

He said, however, that Turkmenistan could opt for other routes: "It has major resources and can choose various routes based primarily on their economic effectiveness."

 

Washington would like to see Turkmen gas delivered through a pipeline across the Caspian Sea to the west, tapping into the gas piplines that cross the South Caucasus and bypass Russia. That would meet a U.S. and European strategy of securing sources of crude and gas outside the Middle East, and drawing Caspian states away from Russia and closer to the West.

 

Russian state gas monopoly OAO Gazprom currently controls the only transit route for Turkmen gas exports. The company has a contract until 2009 to buy up to 50 billion of the 60 billion cubic meters that Turkmenistan produces annually, most of which it re-exports to Ukraine.

 

Moscow"s reputation as an energy supplier was tarnished after sudden oil and gas shutdowns at the start of 2006 and 2007 that came amid politically charged price fights with Russia"s ex-Soviet neighbors and lead to shortfalls in supplies to the European Union.

 

PIN/AP

News Code 104241

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