Doubts over Turkmen pipeline

Published September 6, 2006

ASHGABAT, Sept 5: Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said Tuesday he saw no immediate prospect for a gas pipeline to the West and cast doubt on another pipeline project across Afghanistan, saying that Russia and China were priority partners.

“Don’t ever think that Turkmenistan wants to put a squeeze on Russia and go in a different direction with its gas. We have a strategic agreement,” Niyazov said after talks with the chief executive of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller.

“We will first of all ensure the Russian route,” he said.

Regarding plans nurtured by the United States to build a pipeline across the Caspian Sea to Western markets, Niyazov was downbeat, saying that territorial disputes over the Caspian would have to be resolved first.

Niyazov also appeared pessimistic about plans for a pipeline from his natural gas-rich country across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, a project also backed by Washington.

“We are in talks on the trans-Afghan pipeline. Its volume would be 30 billion cubic metres (annually) but the price hasn’t been established and importantly a consortium hasn’t been created,” he said.—AFP

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