Turkmenistan: Moscow Hopes to Make Offer Ashgabat Can’t Refuse
The Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) was the main topic of talks between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in Moscow, the Russian business daily Kommersant reported December 23.
According to Kommersant's source in the Russian government, Medvedev planned to offer an increase in gas purchases from Ashgabat, to deflect Turkmenistan's participation in the European-backed TCP. Berdymukhamedov will likely refuse the offer because the potential volume of gas would come with a lower price, Kommersant believes.
The two leaders haven't talked very frequently -- the last substantial meeting was in Turkmenbashi in October 2010, although there were a few conversations on the margins of multilateral meetings. Of all the Caspian leaders, Berdymukhamedov seems to be the least frequent guest in Moscow. No agreements were anticipated, but "during the [Turkmen president's] trip we are counting on getting a clear answer to the question of whether Turkmenistan will take part in the Trans-Caspian pipeline," Kommersant's source said.
In fact, it's an answer not even the European Union has been able to obtain definitively -- Ashgabat has put off the issue for development by a joint commission.
Russia was hoping to scuttle the TCP formally at the November 2010 summit of the littoral sites by signing a convention on the Caspian Sea's legal status to mandate equal participation of all the countries in every project. But the agreement never came together and now the next summit is not until later next year.
So now the Russian state monopoly Gazprom is reportedly putting the offer back on the table to buy 80-90 billion cubic meters (bcm), which was withdrawn after the April 2009 explosion. Russia bought only 10.5 bcm in 2010, although a bilateral agreement allows for as much as 30 bcm.
Moscow is also hoping that Baku and Ashgabat will fail to resolve their border dispute, which could also delay the TCP, or that China will buy up Turkmenistan's remaining gas, which will put an end to the TCP.
European demand continues to fall; under the Nord Stream agreement, Gazprom had the right to transport up to 55 bcm annually, but last year it only had orders for 22 bcm, Deutsche Welle reported.