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Turkmenistan Takes Sides in Pipeline Supply Competition

While Russia has stated that its state-owned gas giant Gazprom would participate in a trans-Afghan pipeline with Turkmenistan, Turkmen officials have denied the same. This comes after a rather disappointing meeting in Ashgabat between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, in which Moscow came away empty handed.

Analytical Note: Turkmenistan has played coy with Russia, with the Turkmen president issuing a very general and vague statement during Medvedev’s visit: “Russian and Turkmenistan have mutual interest in partnership development. Our relationship is noted for stability and mutual understanding on fundamental issues.”

That, however, does not mean a new deal with Gazprom, and responding to Russia’s statement to that effect, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry said: “Turkmenistan will continue to raise the significance of Europe-bound projects in its energy policy and will independently choose partners.” Furthermore, the statement read: “Turkmenistan views the published remarks as an attempt to interfere in the normal course of international energy relations.”

The misunderstanding revolves around two main competing pipelines: the European-backed Nabucco pipeline and the Russian-backed South Stream pipeline, both vying for Turkmen gas.

Recently, the Nabucco pipeline consortium announced that it would seek to be supplied by natural gas from Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, which would be transported through Turkey, bypassing Russia. Russian officials responded to this announcement by saying that Russia’s Nord Stream and South Stream pipelines would be operational before Nabucco, and hence particularly Azeri and Turkmen gas supplies would it first, rendering Nabucco redundant. 

"Given the estimates of the Turkmen side, as well as European and international experts, the current market situation on the gas track allows us to say - and I say so without sarcasm - that there are no prospects for Nabucco," Russia’s RIA Novosti quoted the Russian deputy prime minister as saying.

It appears, however, that Turkmenistan sees things differently, and the statement from its Foreign Ministry clearly backs supplying the Nabucco pipeline.


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