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What is behind the "Arabian project"
At the beginning of last week some information agencies reported that Pakistan and Russian "Gasprom" reached an agreement on laying of a pipeline to deliver Iranian natural gas to Pakistan across the Arabian seabed. The day after day certain Russian mass media controlled by "Gasprom" expressed their delight over this occasion and at the same time read the burial service for the Trans-Afghan pipeline project running from Turkmenistan to Pakistan saying they had found a better one. It took us not long to learn that there was not an agreement but MOU signed which translating from protocol language into common one means, "of course, we could probably do it". Besides, as it turned out, the preliminary cost estimates of "underwater" pipeline are at least one and a half time higher than the cost of the Trans-Afghan pipeline and, as practice proves, first cost estimates of such a kind of construction usually tend to lower the real cost. However, it would be simply inappropriate to draw comparisons between the two pipelines when on one of them the respective Governments already initialed the Agreement on construction of Trans-Afghan pipeline and the consortium is being formed, and on the other one the sides have just reached a "mutual understanding". "Gasprom" is a serious market structure that will not headlong get involved in the next costly "contract of century". Nevertheless it is worth being present at the market till better times come, at least at the political level, due to a competition. By the way, it was exactly "Gasprom" who talked much about exploring a possibility of its participation as well in the Trans-Afghan project that, against a background of a recent rapid enhancement of cooperation between Turkmenistan and Russia, including in energy field, is not viewed just as a diplomatic politeness by organization half owned by the state. Apparently, the reason behind this noise in newspapers around "Arabian" project lies not in the "rival" Trans-Afghan pipeline. The target was put much higher, which is Turkey, namely its gas market that "Gasprom" does not want to lose.
The thing is that recent landslide elections victory of the Islamic oriented Party in Turkey and possible establishment of a single party Cabinet could lead to a serious changes in the whole scheme of relations of this country with the natural gas suppliers from abroad which are far from stable. And that is meant to reorient Turkish gas import from Russian to Iranian. "Gasprom" is reasonably worried that Iran could start lobbying an issue of a large-scale supply of its gas to Turkey with a help of a new Turkish Government instead of (or in addition to) Russian gas taking into account that the current supplier does not fulfill all its obligations before the Turks. It was no coincidence that right after the results of elections were known to a public, a number of engaged Russian mass media, as if by an order, got alarmed with a "possible cooling in relations" between Ankara and Moscow and even threatened the Turks with a decrease in the number of tourists in case Islamist authorities close Istanbul bars and resorts of Anatolia serving whisky and beer. Surely, the point is not in Islamists or alcohol preferences of visiting Russians. The main goal both of aforementioned MOU and following propaganda accompaniment is to direct Iranian suppliers to a different from Turkey side and, by doing so, to keep a major sector of the Turkish market for themselves, preferably for a long time. It is only in a song the words go that no one is looking at the "Turkish seaside". This is just not true. And the "Trans-Afghan" with its far-fetched "political risks" has nothing to do with it.

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By Sergey Krupnov

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