The California-based UNOCAL Corporation has withdrawn from projects, worth an estimated US$8 billion, to lay gas and oil pipelines from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistani ports on the Indian Ocean. The company also closed its offices in three out of four Caspian and Central Asian countries, thus becoming the first of the oil and gas giants to disengage from the region. Company officials, confirming these decisions, cited the decline of oil prices as their primary reason.
Politics in the region and in the United States also hamstrung the projects, however. Following the U.S. missile strikes last August against suspected camps of terrorist Osama bin Laden, UNOCAL suspended the trans-Afghan project and decided to wait until the United States recognizes the Afghan government. UNOCAL also came under fire from U.S. feminist groups and media figures, who objected to the company’s dealings with the Taliban authorities regarding rights of way and security guarantees for the pipelines. The Afghan clients of Iran had seemed poised to thwart the projects before the Taliban prevailed with Pakistani support. Yet the Talibs’ treatment of women came to overshadow all other considerations in U.S. public relations battles over the projects.
UNOCAL’s pullout would seem to doom the prospects of exporting Turkmen and Kazakh oil and gas to South Asian markets. It leaves Turkmenistan with one viable option–a trans-Caspian corridor for oil and gas pipelines that would branch into the Baku-Ceyhan Main Export Pipeline (Western agencies, December 5).
The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at [email protected], by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions