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Thursday, October 11, 2007

EU goes wooing in Turkmenistan

turkmenistan09 October 2007 - Upstream OnLine - The European Union has started talks with Turkmenistan about the country supplying gas to the proposed Nabucco pipeline, which is designed to ease the bloc's dependence on Russian supplies, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said today. Solana, who is in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, said after meeting with Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov that the talks were "constructive". "We discussed the possibility of creating a trans-Caspian route to link (Caspian) gas to the West. That is part of Nabucco," Reuters quoted him as saying. "Talks have started in a constructive way. Today both sides see that as a positive step." The EU and the US have been wooing Turkmenistan in hopes of easing its reliance on Russia, which buys most of Turkmen gas at below market prices, and opening new export routes giving Western markets direct access to the country's energy resources. Other countries mentioned in the past as possible suppliers to the 3300 kilometre Nabucco pipeline - which will run through Turkey and the Balkans to Austria - are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Egypt and even Iraq. So far the five signatory countries to the €4.6 billion ($6.46 billion) pipeline - Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria - have not secured any gas and without supplies it would be difficult to raise funding, analysts claimed. Berdymukhamedov has vowed to open up his Caspian nation to foreign investment and liberalise the economy, so far run like a Soviet-style command system. He is due to visit Brussels from 5 November until 7 November and travelled to the US last month where he said that talks with Russia on energy were tense, and hinting he was ready to discuss new export routes. "We hope that the president's visit to Brussels will be well prepared and yield constructive results," said Solana, adding that a team of EU energy officials will visit Ashgabat later this year.

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