Realization of Iran Foreign Policy Goals Possible thru Energy: Expert

TEHRAN (Shana) -- Fereydoun Barkeshli, head of the Vienna Energy Studies Group, called signing of the three-way gas swap agreement between Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran the first strategic gas window for the latter to its neighbors.

The Turkmen gas swap agreement from Iran to Azerbaijan was signed on November 28 in the presence of the presidents of Iran and Azerbaijan, an agreement that provoked numerous reactions, some positive and some negative.

"The gas swap contract is a small step, but long distances are travelled with small steps," said Mr. Barkeshli.

"Swap alone is not the ultimate strategic goal of Iran," he said, believing that revenue from gas exports from Iran is an important source of revenue for Turkmenistan, thanks to good relations with the Islamic Republic. “This is only one path. Being limited by this policy alone is certainly not right, but it is a step towards becoming a major gas corridor.”

Shana had an exclusive interview with Mr. Barkeshli.

Shana: What is your assessment of the recent signing of the gas swap contract in the short life of the 13th administration?

Iran gas swap agreement from Turkmenistan to the Republic of Azerbaijan is one of the necessary and strategic measures that, if continued and there exists a principled roadmap, can be a prelude to the design and implementation of Iranian gas diplomacy in a region where challenges and opportunities are rapidly interchanging. Of course, Iran first implemented a gas purchase agreement with Turkmenistan in 1997, but this agreement is a swap, which means that Iran will become a gas transmission corridor between Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Turkmenistan and the then government of Afghanistan tried to remove Iran from the gas equations of the region once and for all by implementing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas transfer project. Now the situation has changed and the beneficiary governments have realized the fact that they have to wait a long time for TAPI to be realized. Heavy investment is also needed and now no investor is willing to step in given the uncertain conditions of the region. Anyhow, this is now Iran's first strategic gas window to its neighbors. It is a small step, but always long distances are taken in small steps.

Shana: How much can signing of this agreement change the view of the international community on Iran in the energy sector?

It is obvious that any cooperation in the field of energy in Iran quickly becomes the focus of international attention. The world is concerned about Iran's diplomatic energy movements. Achieving the foreign policy goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran goes through energy, but before I look at the world, I hope for a constructive exit from the shell of internal thinking in the energy sector. The Turkmenistan-Iran-Azerbaijan gas corridor project will start in January 2022, but there is no ceiling for its continuation and it can last for years. Another important point is that the contract does not define a time limit for the delivery of gas to the Republic of Azerbaijan, so Iran can consume gas in the winter and deliver the share of Azerbaijan in the summer.

Shana: What do you mean by internal thinking in the energy sector?

I mean, gas has more strategic capacity than oil. Gas capacity is high for establishing sustainable cooperation with neighbors. This capacity needs to be used to the maximum. Iran has an extensive infrastructure through which it can draw and operate its presence and gas lines.

Shana: Can it be claimed that the signing of this agreement is the beginning of Iran's return to the energy swap market?

The agreed gas volume in this swap deal is estimated at 1.5 to 2 billion cubic meters per year. Iran's share of this process is small compared to the amount of its huge reserves, production and domestic consumption, but this project should not be viewed only in terms of quantity. This is Iran's first presence in a tripartite project. Many opportunities have been missed. The project of transferring gas from Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan to Turkey and then to Europe is currently underway. The TANAP project, now called the Energy Silk Road, will transport 12 billion cubic meters of gas annually over 1,850 kilometers. Iran must pay attention to this principle and create the national will to transfer its gas. In the gas sector, profitability means long-term horizons and alignment with strategic goals and principles.

Over the past five years, the domestic gas consumption deficit has overshadowed our gas decisions and strategic principles. Iran's infrastructure, capacity, and superior energy geography, on the other hand, provide opportunities beyond seasonal deficits.

Shana: How much will the signing of this agreement revive the relations between Iran and Turkmenistan?

I think there is not a serious problem in the relations between Iran and Turkmenistan. The two countries have much stronger and more deep-rooted ties than minor differences like how gas prices are calculated over time. Iran and Turkmenistan share a thousand kilometers of border. The two countries are exchanging goods and trade at four border stations. The two presidents reached good agreements at the Shanghai Summit in Dushanbe in September and finalized barter agreements for goods and services. Also at a meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbors in Tehran in November, issues related to resolving differences over how to calculate the price of Turkmen gas supplied to Iran were concluded. Turkmenistan is facing a serious financial crisis, so it is desirable to understand their problems. Of course, the revenue from gas exports from Iran to Turkmenistan is an important source of revenue for Turkmenistan thanks to good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Shana: With which other countries is it possible to sign gas swap agreements?

Swap alone is not the ultimate strategic goal for Iran. This is only one path. Being restricted to only this policy is certainly not right, but it is a step towards becoming a major gas corridor. Now geo-strategic issues are turning from the Middle East to Central and Middle Asia. This region needs energy for decades. The definition of the energy transition era in this region is migration from coal to oil and gas, so Iran's gas diplomacy is still incipient. No significant profitability can be expected from it, so the policy of enhancing production capacity for exports needs to be at the forefront of the geoenergy goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

News Code 450272


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