FORMER COMPETITORS AT "GAS" MARKET DEFINE COMMON GOALS
It would seem that it was just recently that Russian gas monopolist Gasporm under its old leadership viewed Turkmenistan as no less than a dangerous competitor at the world gas market. One may recall statements by ex-chief-executive of Gasprom Vyahirev and his efforts to isolate Turkmenistan from European consumers of hydrocarbons.
It was just a few years ago. However, judging from today's point of view, it looks, indeed, like an anachronism that Russians bargained every dollar in setting the price for Turkmen gas and disagreed over US$ 2-3 that nullified efforts by Turkmenistan's leadership to develop real and mutually advantageous cooperation with Russia in the gas field. Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov used to remind the former prime minister of Russia, Victor Chernomyrdin, on many occasions, "We should not be competitors but partners in Eurasia". These words, however, dissolved like water in the sand for the sake of certain corporative interests of the then bosses of Gasprom.
The situation changed with the ascent of Valdimir Putin to the White House and later to the Kremlin. It was exactly he who pressed Rem Vyahirev to renew negotiations with the leadership of Turkmenistan, uneasy for him in the moral sense, and appointed Alexander Miller as the new chief of Gasprom who pursued a policy of transparency towards Turkmenistan where interests of partners came first. The signing of a 25-year Turkmen-Russian agreement in April 2003 on cooperation in the gas field became a culmination of the spadework.
The implementation of this truly historic for the two states agreement began this January. The volume of gas Gasprom intends to purchase from Turkmenistan this year is not quite impressive - just 4,5 bcm of gas. But this is only the beginning. The volumes will rise to 70-80 bcm of gas in a couple of years. Moreover, Gasprom undertook to deliver Turkmen gas to Ukraine who will continue purchasing gas directly from Ashgabat up to 2007 under a 5-year contract.
The coming years will, thus, become a period of streamline progress in the partnership of Turkmenistan with Gasprom in the field of purchases and delivery of fuel from the Garagum desert to Russia and its transit through the Russian territory to consumers in Ukraine and other countries.
Getting ready for the period of gas shipments, the partners decided to check their positions on this and other issues of cooperation at an upcoming joint conference in Ashgabat on November 15.
As the Internet newspaper Turkmenistan.ru already reported, the 9th International exhibition and conference called "Oil and gas of Turkmenistan" will be held in the Turkmen capital on November 15-17 with participation of some 100 companies from 30 countries.
It was decided to discuss current state of affairs and prospects of cooperation between Turkmenistan and Gasporm in the gas field within the framework of this event. As deputy chairman of Gasprom's executive board Alexander Ryazanov emphasized in an interview to journalists during his recent visit to Ashgabat, the company is a long-standing partner of Turkmenistan as a purchaser and operator of Turkmen gas under the 25-year agreement on cooperation in the gas field.
And after the return of Alexander Ryazanov from the Turkmen capital, the company's board of directors discussed the issue of using gas from Middle and Central Asia in 2005-2010, including meeting needs of the Russian market, at its regular meeting.
As our sources informed, the focal point of discussion was prospects of Russian-Turkmen cooperation in view of the planned increase in purchases and transit of gas. According to the press department of Gasprom, the board of directors instructed the executive board to continue implementing investment projects on the development of natural gas transportation system "Central Asia - Center" (GTS CAC) to ensure transit of natural gas from Middle and Central Asia in the amount required by the long-term contractual obligations.
It is interesting that apart from partnership relations Gasprom is going to support Turkmen-Russian relations in the humanitarian field. According to Ryazanov, "a group of children, the winners of the competition called "What do I know about Turkmenistan", will visit Ashgabat this November. The Turkmen president also approved the proposal by the Russian company to sponsor the reconstruction of the only Turkmen-Russian school named after A.S.Pushkin in Turkmenistan.