Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 232

S and Turkish officials yesterday confirmed Ankara’s commitment to the planned trans-Caspian gas pipeline which would connect Turkmenistan with Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Turkey’s Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer and Energy Undersecretary Yurdakul Yigitguden, who directly handles Caspian energy issues, reaffirmed that the trans-Caspian gas pipeline is Turkey’s priority and that the country does not plan to purchase gas from or transport it via Iran. The visiting U.S. special envoy for Caspian oil and gas, Richard Morningstar, also stated yesterday in Ankara that the Turkish government has decided against any steps, such as turning to Iran, which would undermine a trans-Caspian line from Turkmenistan.

Such a line, bypassing Iran as well as Russia, is seen as optimal from both the Turkish and Turkmen standpoints. Last October, Presidents Suleyman Demirel of Turkey and Saparmurat Niazov of Turkmenistan signed an agreement on the trans-Caspian pipeline project. It envisages Turkmen gas deliveries to Turkey, starting at 15 billion cubic meters annually and growing to 30 billion in the second stage of a thirty-year period. Turkey undertook to buy 15 billion cubic meters annually for its own, growing consumption and to transit the balance to other consumer countries (see the Monitor, October 30).

This project has also become a key element in Washington’s Caspian policy, which seeks to add gas pipelines to oil pipelines in an East-West energy transport corridor. Aggregating gas and oil export volumes of both the eastern and the western shores of the Caspian Sea is considered the key to the commercial viability of the transport corridor during cyclical lows in oil prices.

A U.S. newspaper suggested that Ankara may have changed its mind about the trans-Caspian line, reporting that Turkey is building a gas pipeline stretch from its eastern border to Erzurum in order to import gas from Iran. Theoretically, such a line could be used for importing gas from Iran. However, Turkish officials describe this stretch as an internal supply pipeline designed for the future Turkmen gas (Washington Post, December 13; Dow-Jones Newswires, December 14, 15).

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