Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 323 - (26/11/07)
The great Central Asian gas prize
Turkmenistan is reported to have the world's third, fourth or fifth highest
reserves of gas. It hardly seems to matter which. But of course it does to the
Competition between the West, China and Russia, even Pakistan and India, for
large quantities of Turkmen gas has intensified since the December death of
Turkmenistan's absolute ruler Saparmurat Niyazov, who showed little interest in
energy diplomacy during his 21-year rule.
The country currently exports most of its gas through Russia and is working on a
pipeline to China. It is also toying with a pipeline via the Caspian sea
(currently being blocked by Russia on so called environmental grounds ), to
Azerbaijan, independent of Russia to the West. There is even a project to supply
India and Pakistan, via a pipeline through Afghanistan. Some analysts have
questioned Turkmenistan's ability to go ahead with so many projects at the same
time. The country has yet to disclose an independent or authoritative audit of
its gas fields, and estimates vary wildly.
The Turkmens go back to the Russians- so it seems
Turkmenistan made a major decision in November. It will press ahead with a
planned gas pipeline through Russia despite reports the project has been put on
hold due to a pricing dispute, Turkmen officials said on November 20.
Speaking ahead of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov's visit to the country,
Turkmen leader Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov stressed his commitment to the
project. "Honouring its obligations, Turkmenistan will continue its efforts
to promote the Caspian Gas Pipeline project," he was quoted as saying by
the state media. But was he just playing the cards close to his chest?
After all until they have decided definitively otherwise, the wisest Turkmen
policy is to go along with the Russians, their mainstay hitherto. Another factor
is that there are suspicions that Berdymuykhamedov, who only came to power less
than a year ago may be 'Russia's man,' such were the curious conditions in which
he succeeded to power.
The Russia-backed Caspian Gas Pipeline is a rival project to the Nabucco
pipeline, proposed by the West, that would bypass Russia and create a direct
link to European markets.
Russia and Turkmenistan, Central Asia's top gas supplier, had been due to
finalise the deal in September, but have so far failed to agree on the price of
supplies. The proposed pipeline would have a capacity of 10 to 20 billion cubic
metres a year. A source close to the negotiations said that the pipeline issue
would dominate Berdymukhamedov's talks with Zubkov.
Turkmen media on quoted Berdymukhamedov and other officials as saying they
supported the Russian project. "The Turkmen side is fully complying with
all bilateral documents (regarding the project)," Deputy Prime Minister
Tachberdy Tagiyev said.
President of Turkmenistan to visit Belarus next year
It appears that for the present the Turkmen elite prefer to deal with FSU states
than Western ones. The legitimacy of their rule after all is still bound up with
the fact that they are all Soviet-trained apparatchiks. Any other world is
strange to them.
President Berdimuhamedov's next visit is to be to, of all adventurous places,
Belarus, with a regime even more of a caricature of a Soviet one than
Turkmenistan's. He received prime minister of the Republic of Belarus Sergey
Sidorsky who arrived in Ashgabat the day before a CIS heads of government
council meeting in late November.
The guest conveyed Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's greetings to
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and said that Minsk awaits the Turkmen president's
visit to Belarus. An exact date has yet to be set.
Berdimuhamedov said he would undoubtedly pay a visit to Belarus next year. There
is no doubt that Berdimuhamedov is Minsk-bound in the New Year as a top
The sides discussed priority areas of interstate cooperation at the meeting.
Agriculture was named one of such areas. As Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said, good
quality and reliable farm equipment produced in Belarus proved successful in the
soil-climatic conditions of Turkmenistan. Considering the fact that Belarusian
farm equipment makes up the bulk of Turkmenistan agricultural-industrial
complex's technical fleet, Berdimuhamedov proposed to set up after-sale services
of this equipment in Turkmenistan as well as to arrange training of specialists
in the premises of the agricultural institute being built in Dashoguz.
For his part, Sergey Sidorskiy confirmed Belarus's readiness to increase
supplies of equipment both for agriculture and road construction as well as
While discussing the cooperation in the fuel-energy sector, both sides looked
into Belarus's offer to provide oil well services and construct modern
processing plants, in particular a methanol plant.
According to interlocutors, there is also a wide range of opportunities for
cooperation in the field of city development. The Belarusian side expressed
readiness to share its experience in this field, including construction of
As Sergey Sidorsky noted, Belarusian specialists would also like to take an
active part in implementing the project on creating the free tourist zone Avaza
on the Caspian Sea coast by building a big international standard recreation
center there. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, in turn, invited Belarusian partners to
attend another presentation of projects on development of a tourist zone on the
Caspian Sea which is due on December 3.