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Trans Caspian Pipeline project requires effective Russian diplomacy

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Date: 8 January 2016 18:17

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 8

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:

Trans Caspian Pipeline project requires an effective diplomatic approach to Russia that would encourage Moscow to acquiesce to the supply of Turkmen gas to Europe, Dr. Micha’el Tanchum, a non-resident senior fellow with the Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative and Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council believes.

Tanchum told Trend that with Turkmenistan possessing the fourth largest known natural gas reserves in the world, the export of large volumes of Turkmen natural gas to Europe in addition to Asia would be nothing short of a revolution in the natural gas flows in Eurasia.

Russia does not want to see such a threat to its market share in the EU and Turkey and in the current atmosphere of tense relations between Turkey and Russia as well as between Russia and the EU, Russia is likely to maintain its opposition to the Trans–Caspian Pipeline, he said.

“Moscow’s firing of a cruise missile into Syria from the Caspian Sea was a potent reminder that Russia possesses the most powerful naval assets in the Caspian and can disrupt the maritime security environment if it so chooses,” he said.

The proposal to construct only one string in the near future may be a clever attempt to make the pipeline less threatening to Russia, Tanchum believes.

“Would Russia want to further antagonize the EU and Turkey over 5 billion cubic meters per year? The answer to that question depends on Moscow but also on how much Brussels is willing to back up its desire for Turkmen gas with a strong political commitment,” Tanchum said.

He further said that in relation to the Trans Caspian Pipeline Project’s implementation, the four-way cooperation between Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and the EU is essential, especially to encourage international energy companies to join a consortium for the project.

He believes that in the case of the Trans Caspian Pipeline, the geopolitics are the main issue, not the economics.

Tanchum noted that Turkmenistan is already considering new gas markets and had already been working hard to diversify its export delivery routes and its export markets. Turkmenistan’s turnaround in attitude can be seen in the progress that has occurred with the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, he said.

Facing the impending prospect of competition from Iran’s unfettered participation in global natural gas markets as well as a dangerous dependency on China as its sole major export market, Turkmenistan adopted a new policy orientation to expedite TAPI’s construction, according to the expert.

Tanchum said that traditionally unwilling to do little more than deliver gas to its border, Ashgabat seems to have found sufficient motivation from Iranian competition and the loss of its Russian export market [previously Russia sharply reduced and in 2016 completely stopped gas import from Turkmenistan] to change course.

“Turkmenistan’s new willingness to become involved in external pipeline projects enabled construction on the TAPI pipeline to begin in December 2015,” Tanchum said.

Turkmenistan is already thinking seriously about EU markets, and some progress has been made in this issue, the expert said.

He noted that in the May 2015 Ashgabat hosted a quadrilateral Summit of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and EU aimed to advance the export of Turkmen natural gas via Azerbaijan to Turkey and the EU.

The Summit resulted in the Ashgabat Declaration outlining the parties’ next steps for bringing Turkmen gas to Europe, and the European Commission Vice President in charge of Energy Union Maros Sefcovic emerged from the quadrilateral summit asserting that “Europe expects supplies of Turkmen gas to begin by 2019”.

Edited by SI

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