Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 146

President Saparmurat Niazov and other Turkmen officials conferred on July 28 and 29 in Ashgabat with Richard Morningstar and Yaman Bashkut, special envoys of U.S. President Bill Clinton and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, respectively. The envoys carried presidential messages on the evolving plan to pipe Turkmen gas across the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to Turkey and further to European markets. The envoys reported that the U.S. and Turkish governments have decided to act jointly in supporting the project politically and financially. They will provide guarantees to private investors and will also offer government credits in the billion-dollar range.

Turkmenistan’s Competent Authority on Oil and Gas announced yesterday that the U.S. company Enron has won the tender for the feasibility study on the trans-Caspian pipeline. The study, funded by the U.S. government, is to be submitted by November 15–a term that indicates a sense of urgency behind the project.

All sides agree on the need to develop a non-Russian route for Turkmen gas. In addition, Turkey now publicly agrees with the U.S. on the desirability of avoiding an Iranian route. Ankara’s position, if final, would seem to spell the end of an ambitious plan by some West European companies to pipe Turkmen gas to Turkey overland via Iran. The U.S. presses for the trans-Caspian route which bypasses Iran as well as Russia.

Turkmen officials reaffirmed their full support to the plan, but suggested that the start of construction work may be linked to a resolution of Turkmen-Azerbaijani differences over the legal status of three oilfields in the Caspian Sea. The U.S. has offered its good offices. Washington and Ankara take the position that the start of pipeline construction work would increase the incentives to an amiable resolution of the oilfield dispute. (International agencies, July 28-30)

The U.S. companies Amoco, General Electric, and Bechtel recently announced the formation of a consortium to lay the gas pipeline from Satlyk and Turkmenbashi, on the Caspian sea floor, to Baku and via Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. The pipeline’s projected length is 1,700 kilometers; its estimated cost, at least $2.4 billion; and its planned throughput capacity 10 billion cubic meters annually in the first stage, to grow to 35 billion in the final stage. (Background in the Monitor, July 10) — VS