There are many choices on the menu, but is there food in the kitchen? Officials from the United States and Turkey met in Ashgabat with President Saparmurat Niazov to promote a pipeline to carry gas from Turkmenistan across the Caspian to Azerbaijan, and thence across Georgia to Turkey. President Niazov will travel to Ankara to discuss the issue further with his Turkish counterpart later this week. At the same time, Shell has already presented a feasibility study promoting a line to Turkey via Iran–a route that Shell argues is simpler, cheaper and safer. Commercial questions in the end may decide. To be profitable, the trans-Caspian route needs parallel oil and gas pipelines that can aggregate export volumes from several countries. With oil prices low and the politics of the Caucasus so unsettled, oil companies are having second thoughts at least about the timing of the project, once called “the deal of the century.”

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