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Gas without political games
About Turkmen energy strategyOn the eve of the late May tripartite Turkmen-Pakistani-Afghan top-level meeting in Islamabad the disputes on gas overflowed the print media. The meeting will be dedicated to the discussion of implementation of gas main from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via the Afghan territory. Such interest is grounded for the role of this project for the aforementioned states and the other states is significant. In case if the Trans-Afghan gas main project is implemented it would not only give a stimulus to the economic processes in the region, but also would change the relations among the states, envolved into the Central Asian problems. In fact the matter is in 1460 km gas main from Turkmen Dovlatabad field to Pakistani Multan via the Afghan Kandagar. The carrying capacity of the pipe is about 15 billion cubic meters annually with the further growing of this figure to 20 billion. The cost of the project is estimated at USD 2 billion, and 0.5 billion in case if the route is continued up to India. Who gains from implementation of the project? It is natural that Pakistan, which needs gas and counts on transit money of Afghanistan is the one which wants this project to be implemented, for Afghanistan gets an alternative market. The project isbacked by the US and the Special Envoy of the State Secretary Steven Mann hinted on this accord by the US during his recent visit to Ashkhabad. Meanwhile, the mass media has already put Russia into the list of losers for it lost its levers of political influence on Turkmenistan. While, Russia has been stating repeatedly that Moscow is realistic over Ashkhabad's aspiration to search for additional versions of export of its energy resources, and does not consider it as an obstacle for bilateral cooperation in gas sphere. Today, Turkmenistan, as well as other sides, is inclined to receiving commercial profits, and is not going to be engaged in unprofitable projects for the sake of mythical political dividends. The president Niyazov has been saying that he would not give a political shape to the energy projects with any state, no matter how close are bilateral relations. Therefore, restraint policy of Ashkhabad regarding so called "gas alliance" - states-producers, transit-states and states buying energy is justified: for more than several years Turkmenistan is selling its gas to Russia and Ukraine, while the issues of the further transit are being controlled by the buyers of Turkmen gas.
The Turkmen energy strategy was from the very beginning oriented on multi-version of the pipeline projects. Meanwhile, Ashkhabad invites any interested states and companies to take part in the project, including the Russian and Ukrainian. This invitations were confirmed during the recent meetings of Saparmurat Niyazov with Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma. While it is not likely that the pipeline routes are considered in a political for Ashkhabad aspect, supposing that the modern processes in the region dictate quite another approach.

GazetSNG online edition May 17, 2002

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