NIAZOV, AT EU AND NATO, CONFIDENT OF GAS EXPORT PROSPECTS.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 38

Turkmen President Saparmurad Niazov yesterday paid landmark visits to the headquarters of the European Union and of NATO in Brussels. Niazov reaffirmed his determination to proceed with the construction of the major gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via Iran and Turkey to Europe. He expects the pipeline by the year 2001 to reach the Turkish-Bulgarian border, thus linking up with the European distribution system. Niazov pointed out that the planned pipeline, bypassing Russia, would offer Europe a "more reliable and cheaper alternative" to Russian gas supplies.

While in Brussels, Niazov signed with the British-Dutch company Shell an agreement to finalize the technical and financial details of the project. Shell is the leader in a consortium currently being formed in order to lay the pipeline. Last December, the French consulting company Sofregaz had submitted to Ashgabat a feasibility study.

Niazov and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana scheduled a visit by Solana to Turkmenistan this coming autumn. Until now, Niazov had evidenced reservations about cooperation with NATO, citing his country’s status of permanent neutrality. (Western agencies, February 24)

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