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Will Turkmen gas flow to Russia?
Russian Gasprom has intensified negotiations with Turkmenistan on purchasing of Turkmen gas. It was just last week when a delegation from Gasprom visited Ashgabat as another one will come next week. Position of Russian gas giant leadership is understandable: it has to meet its obligations to local and foreign consumers by October which requires to store up in advance the needed bulk of fuel. In that sense Gasprom having bitter experience of the past years is firmly counting on the gas from Turkmenistan. As saying goes make your sledge ready for winter starting from summer even if it's as hot as Turkmen one.

The Turkmen side is showing its readiness but as mentioned before, having learned from bitter experience, although of different nature, is not going to play a role of firefighters. Ashgabat is interested in big contracts - to sell at least 30 bln cm of gas annually and on a long-term basis. Such a capacity of pipelines is envisaged already at the initial stage of projecting and, considering exactly these volumes, Turkmenistan signed all intergovernmental agreements on purchasing and selling of the natural gas. As of today the whole question rests on prices and volumes of the gas.

"We are ready to resume gas shipments to Russia. However, unsettled issue of the prices and uncertainty about the volumes of Turkmen natural gas to be purchased is delaying a positive decision. Besides the Russian side has to provide firm guaranties of gas transit to Ukraine as shipments of gas to Russia will be carried out in excess of the annually purchased volumes of gas by Ukraine, which was stipulated in the Agreement on the long-term deliveries of the Turkmen natural gas signed by President Niyazov and President Kuchma in 2001", - a high ranking Turkmenistan energy sector representative described a main point of disagreement adding that Russian rout remains to be a strategic one for Ashgabat.

Today major consumers of the Turkmen gas are Ukraine, importing 40 bln cm this year, and Iran - 6.5 bln.cm, with an increase of up to 8 bln.cm. Armenia, Byelorussia and Baltic states are taking their interest in buying Turkmen gas too. In general, the availability of vast hydrocarbon reserves and practically ready for exploitation fields allow Turkmenistan, if need be, to increase its export up to 100 bln cm per year providing by this a multiple scheme of deliveries.

The issue of transit is still to be resolved. At present Ashgabat sells gas at its border. That is why the idea of linking up of the transit countries to the polished by years scheme of work on a bilateral basis through an operator evokes a reserved reaction in Ashgabat.

"The attitude of Ashgabat towards the idea of creation of the so called "gas alliance" was and remains the same. We will engage in bilateral trade until the goals of the gas alliance are determined, and markets, prices and other parameters are agreed upon. It proved to be effective and we are not going to refuse it in favor of an unclear perspective", - said aforementioned source from Turkmen energy sector.

There are issues that have yet to be settled, and those issues will ultimately determine whether or not Turkmenistan will join an agreement on the "Gas OPEC". One of them is the status of countries producing and transporting natural gas. As a whole, at this stage Turkmenistan believes that producers must constitute the nucleus of the alliance, whose idea is to coordinate gas quotas, make decisions on the construction of pipelines, regulate transit tariffs and determine the price policy.

Commentary by "Turkmenistan.ru"

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