Turkey, Turkmenistan seal new energy deals

Mar 03, 2015 12:00 AM

Following a meeting with turkmen president Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will establish a trilateral mechanism on energy issues, with the first leaders' meeting to take place in Turkmenistan.

Berdimuhamedov and the delegation accompanying him arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for discussions focusing on economic relations and energy cooperation with their Turkish counterparts. The Turkmen president was welcomed at the presidential palace by Erdoğan with an official ceremony. The two leaders then conducted bilateral talks at the palace and later a meeting between the two delegations took place.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Erdoğan said that Turkey will continue to work with Turkmenistan to promote regional stability, prosperity and security. He added that Turkey will focus on boosting its relations with Turkmenistan on economy, agriculture, energy and transportation.

The Turkish president also stressed that Turkey-Turkmenistan relations are “strategic,” particularly due to the transportation and energy cooperation between the two countries. Mentioning that Turkmenistan plays a key role in connecting Central Asian gas with international markets, Erdoğan said he had exchanged views with Berdimuhamedov on transporting Turkmen gas to European markets via Turkey.

In January, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had a trilateral meeting in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat with his Azerbaijani and Turkmen counterparts to discuss energy cooperation. According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Çavuşoğlu stated that during the meetings the three ministers discussed how to safely deliver Azerbaijani and Turkmen gas from the Hazar Basin to European countries via Turkey.

In November last year, Turkmenistan and Turkey came to a framework agreement according to which Turkmenistan will supply gas for a new pipeline project -- called the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) -- that could help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian gas imports. When Erdoğan visited Ashgabat in November he underscored that Turkey attaches great importance to the delivery of Turkmenistan's natural gas to Europe via Turkey. “Europe's energy security is important for us,” Erdoğan said at the time.

In November Erdoğan and Berdimuhamedov also oversaw the signing of an agreement between Turkmen state-owned gas company Türkmengaz and private Turkish firm Atagas for the purchase and sale of Turkmen gas via TANAP. The two sides did not disclose the terms of the agreement.

TANAP envisages carrying 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field in the Caspian Sea, one of the world's largest gas fields and which is being developed by a BP-led consortium. TANAP's capacity is set to rise to 23 bcm by 2023 and to 31 bcm by 2026. However, to join the pipeline Turkmenistan will have to lay another pipeline across the Caspian Sea.

TANAP will be built from the Turkish-Georgian border to Turkey's frontier with Bulgaria and Greece. Its construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 in order to start deliveries of gas from Shah Deniz in 2019. The preliminary cost of the pipeline has been estimated at $20 billion.

Turkmenistan, a Central Asian nation of 5.5 million people, holds the world's fourth-largest reserves of natural gas. Since independence in 1991, the reclusive desert nation has sought to break its reliance on gas exports to former imperial master Russia.

Erdoğan later hosted a dinner for Berdimuhamedov. The Turkmen president is scheduled to attend a ceremony at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology on Wednesday and will receive an honorary doctorate from the university. Berdimuhamedov is also expected to attend the opening ceremony of the Turkmenistan International Investment Forum in İstanbul.

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