Turkmenistan, EU to negotiate on Trans-Caspian pipeline construction

Turkmenistan and the European Union (EU) will hold negotiations on the implementation of the project on the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan by late 2013 or in early 2014.

A source close to the negotiations told Baku-based Trend news agency that with this purpose European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger plans to visit Ashgabat.

"Initially, the matter rests in the environmental impact assessment by independent international experts," the source said.

The Turkmen leadership has repeatedly stated its readiness to conduct the environmental impact assessment by attracting the international specialists.

Iran and Russia expressed their negative attitude towards the project. Tehran and Moscow think the pipeline construction may damage the Caspian Sea's ecology.

The Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline running around 300 kilometers will be laid from the Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, where it will be linked to the Southern Gas Corridor. The pipeline's capacity is 30-40 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Earlier in November, EU Charge d'Affaires ad interim in Turkmenistan Denis Daniilidis said that favorable conditions have been created for concluding an agreement on the construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline.

"The Trans-Caspian pipeline is important, and the EU believes that the most favorable conditions exist now for reaching agreements and beginning the construction," he said.

Both Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, two Caspian littoral countries, are interested in the use of alternative routes for the transportation of energy resources from the resource-rich Caspian region to European markets.

Talks on the construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline between Turkmenistan, the EU, and other countries have been held since late 1990s. The negotiation process intensified after the EU issued a mandate to start negotiations on the preparation of an agreement between the EU, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan on the Trans-Caspian project in September 2011.

Ashgabat believes that the agreement between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, the territories of which are covered by the project, is sufficient for laying a pipe under the Caspian Sea. Baku has expressed readiness to provide its territory, transit opportunities, and infrastructure for its implementation, as reported by representatives of Azerbaijan's state energy company SOCAR.

Azerbaijan will benefit from transportation of gas through the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline as the implementation of this project will make Azerbaijan not only a supplier of gas, but also a transit country.