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28.06.06 16:10
What does Turkmenistan have to do with it...?
The recent aggravation of the situation as regards prospects of further supplies of natural gas to Ukraine highlighted a problem that Turkmen natural gas producers have regularly come across lately.

No sooner had Ashgabat announced its plans to increase the price of gas for Russia from US $ 65 to US $ 100 per 1000 cubic meters and engaged in negotiations with Gazprom, than numerous comments of Moscow mass media labeled Turkmenistan as the burier of ... Ukraine. They said Russian Gazprom takes Turkmen gas to Ukraine and that Ukraine's economy will not stand the increased cost of fuel. Pointing to the agreements reached by Moscow and Kiev this January, competent and incompetent experts argued in one voice that Ukraine customers have the price of US $ 95 per 1000 cubic meters only due to "mixing more expensive Russian gas with cheaper Turkmen gas". And if Turkmenbashy raises the price to US $ 100, Ukraine will not be in a position to pay for gas. Then, they paint even worse situation. Kiev will have to illegally collect gas from the pipeline and Europe risks to freeze next winter.

In response to these allegations a reasonable question arises: "What does Turkmenistan have to do with it?" It is true that Ashgabat sells its natural gas at its border. It sells gas to Russian Gazprom at the agreed price. There are contracts that say nothing about what Russian monopoly intends to do with Turkmen gas. Turkmenistan as the seller does not care as to who will be the final consumer of gas - intermediary company RosUkrEnergo, customers in Caucuses or in southern regions of Russia or in the West? Let us recall that official Turkmenistan made no comments on the intrigue extensively covered in the world mass media as regards identification of owners of the same RosUkrEnergo. The point is not just about strict adherence to the principles of neutrality. Ashgabat prefers not to interfere with internal affairs of other states and, moreover, speak out on the disputable interstate issues. In this situation, Turkmenistan adopted the position of pragmatism and commitment to its obligations as a trade partner. Saparmurat Niyazov made it clear that the price of gas at the border of Turkmenistan will be the same for all buyers of Turkmen gas and, today, both Russia and Iran pay US $ 65 for each 1000 cubic meters.

In this regard, the only thing that official Ashgabat is concerned of is fair and mutually advantageous partnership. That is why the situation when one of the buyers of Turkmen gas says that US $ 100 is the unrealistic price for gas and, at the same time, doubles Saparmurat Niyazov's price for its CIS trade partners raises bewilderment in Ashgabat. One can understand the straightforward statements by Mr Atayev, the oil and gas and mineral resources minister of Turkmenistan, who suggested that Gazprom make up its mind as regards further purchases of Turkmen gas.

"I think US $ 100-130 is quite reasonable price in present circumstances, one of the Moscow experts said in an interview with our web-newspaper. If Gazprom sells fuel to European consumers at as minimum as US $ 220-230 and the transit expenses of Turkmen gas shipment to Ukraine's border with European countries do not exceed US $ 30, then any school boy will tell you what profits the Russian monopolist make from Turkmen gas. The fact is that today Turkmenistan subsidizes the Russian and, to the great extent, the Ukrainian economies. However, if we look forward to the long-term and fair partnership with Ashgabat, we have to behave accordingly. And in no way should we come down to political blackmail like it was, unfortunately, in the past."

Igor SOLOVIYEV

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