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To the sea through mountains
"Tribuna" daily about the TransAfghan gas main

At the end of last week leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed in Islamabad a tripartite agreement on projects of gas main from Turkmenistan through territory of Afghanistan in the Pakistani city of Multan and port Gvadar.

This project is not a new one. The project was initiated by the Unocal US company American in the middle of the 90th with participation of the Turkmen government and some other foreign companies. But for some reasons the laying of a 1.500 kilometer pipeline at USD 2 billion was postponed. First of all because of unstable situations in Afghanistan.

After implementation of antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan and establishment of a relative peace there the talks on implementation of this profitable project were resumed. According to one of the main participants of the talks, the Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, who has already undersigned the document, "the TransAfghan pipeline is profitable for Turkmenistan which will get additional access to the international markets. It is profitable for Afghanistan as well, for the pipeline will be laid on its and, naturally, will promote to the development of an economic and social infrastructure. It is profitable for Pakistan, whose economy needs fuel".

The Ambassador of Afghanistan in the Russian Federation Ahmad Zia Masud also appraises this project saying "laying of a gas main in itself can result in far going reforms in the economy of Afghanistan and serve both to our national interests and interests of development of cooperation of regional countries.

This project foresees construction of power transmission lines and settlements. All these constructions will open new jobs. The Pakiastani president Pervez Musharraf as well stated about the readiness of his state to cooperate within the project.

Under the terms of tripartite agreement a pre-feasibility study will be worked out, the first phase of which foresees laying of pipeline until Pakistan, while the second - construction of the pipeline to third countries. What does it mean for Russia which is today a transit state for transportation of Turkmen gas? Will this project affect a rather strong positions of Gasprom company as the main exporter of Turkmen gas to Europe? The Turkmen side assures that is won't.

For the Turkmen gas which is not used for today in Turkmenistan will be pumped in Afghani direction. Moreover, transit via the Russian territory is limited due to the capacity of the system. At the same time in Soviet times Turkmenistan was used to extract up to 90 billion cubic metres of gas annually. Now this parameter is twice lower. TransAfghan gas main will allow to restore former volumes and direct part of the gas to the south, having kept northern route via Russia. Thus, as president Saparmurat Nijazov has declared, the project is open for participation of the world companies in it, including Gazprom.

Will such alliance become reality, the time will show. Openness of the main initiator of the project - Turkmenistan, is obviously very important. However, some experts say that Gazprom is very cautious regarding the project. Experts of the company consider the degree of risk of this construction as very high. By the way, six more years back Gazprom was persistently invited to take part in Sentgas project with 15% shares terms. However, Russia has refrained from participation in that project.

Probably, the guarantees of the United Nations concerning the transnational project, for what Turkmenistan calls upon, will in the future reduce the problems. While, still the agreement stipulates creation of a consortium for construction and operation of a gas main.

"Tribuna daily". June 5, 2002.

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By Rustem Tell

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