"Arctic Frosts" in Europe Turkmenbashi could rejoice like no other. The unprecedented failures of the Old World due to disagreements between Kiev and Moscow created a miracle: the West recalled less and less about human rights violations, spoke more and more about “interest” in diversifying its energy sources, including the Caspian region.
The last example. If the European Union’s Special Representative for Central Asia, Jan Kubiš, during his autumn visit to Ashgabat, even on the human factor, then in the winter touched upon only “issues that worry many today, in particular, energy security”. At least, Kubish publicly forgot to mention the dramatic fate of the Turkmen old men, many of whom have been deprived of even the “pension minimum” since January. Apparently, he has something to think about - about his old people, Slovakians, who nearly froze over this winter.
Official Ashgabat, while remaining a supporter of “multivariance”, does everything to make the southeastern variant, by the way, the most expensive, relevant. In the spring in Beijing, Saparmurat Niyazov himself is going to sign a contract on the supply of natural gas, even the price, volume, and time have been announced. So pompously, he was not preparing yet for any of his foreign tours and, judging by the tablets of the Turkmen press, he was given a “epochal” significance ... Perhaps the shoulder of the Chinese brother may be needed in case of aggravation of the situation around neighboring Iran.
"Orange" Kiev pulls the blanket over itself, claiming that in the near future, somewhere in April-May, Niyazov will definitely visit Ukraine to discuss a long-term contract for a period of 30 years. The confidence of the followers of Yushchenko remained even after the actual ultimatum of Ashgabat "first debts, and then a contract." “The non-constructive position (of the state-owned company) of Naftogaz of Ukraine complicates negotiations on the prospects for cooperation between Turkmenistan and Ukraine in the gas sector for 2007 and subsequent years,” the Foreign Ministry informed. Even during the last negotiations, the delegation of Naftogaz of Ukraine clearly did not express a desire to consider the specific issues raised by the Turkmen side. Instead, attempts were made to confuse the settlement of the debt for the supplied fuel, ”Turkmen Khabarlary reported (Turkmen News - ed.).
It is heard from Islamabad that the formation of an international consortium on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-India gas pipeline is not far off. In turn, the United States, which is “seriously and for a long time” stuck in the ethnic problems of Afghanistan, is more active in another direction - the Trans-Caspian (TAG) through Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Turkish Ministry of Energy has already repeatedly held talks in this connection in Baku, Washington, and Ashgabat.
Against this background, at the peak of the winter cold, Ashgabat announced the world the results of international certification with the participation of the American DeGolyer & MacNaughton and Gaffney and the British Cline & Associates Ltd.. The gas reserves of the Dovletabat field, previously attributed to one of the world's significant storage rooms, finally received confirmation of 4.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, which is one and a half, or even twice as much as forecasted. True, this has so far been stated by the Turkmen authorities, and not by invited independent auditors. So, the intrigue continues ... For Dovletabat, as you know, “weighty” geography - the field has been fueling Russia and Ukraine through the northern Central Asia-Center (SATS) pipeline for several years, and Ashgabat plans to connect the southern gas pipeline Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP), which has been on the agenda for more than ten years.
Experts believe that the “colossal” effect was largely intended for the general buyer - one of the largest gas companies in the world - Gazprom. It’s no joke, in Alexey Miller’s portfolio, a 25-year contract signed in 2003 with the prospect of increasing annual purchases to 80 billion cubic meters. It’s already possible to say “Soviet records.” At the same time, the price “news” comes up: communicating with the residents of the Dashoguz region Niyazov said, by the way, six months later, on the border with Uzbekistan, Turkmen gas would cost $ 100 instead of $ 65 per one thousand cubic meters. Delegations from Kiev and Moscow were not long in coming. The first received a thrashing for overdue debts, the second left with a mysterious "world".
And what, Transafgan? The last Ashgabat meeting in February of the so-called Steering Committee promised to move the situation from a standstill in the south.
According to Turkmen sources, significant resources of the Malay and the newly discovered Iolotan fields will be additionally tightened for Trans-Afghan communication, according to forecasts several times higher than Dovletabat. In addition, Islamabad has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on shipments with the Government of Turkmenistan for 30 years. And, finally, he added the “expediency” of the fact that India officially joined the project. Indian oil and gas minister Dinsha Javerbhai Patel, whose portfolio already has similar projects for transporting natural gas from Iran and Burma, after talks with Niyazov, called on the Trans-Afghan wire to “build as soon as possible.”
Few people are surprised by the fact that the Turkmen delegation turned out to be the least prepared: over the past six months, an all-out personnel horde was held in the oil and gas ministry - about a dozen officials were imprisoned. So recently, the director of an oil refining giant in the city of Turkmenbashi, like his predecessor, was arrested on charges of fraud. Until now, the factor of geopolitical risk, which at one time put an end to the project, has not disappeared. In Afghanistan, through which most of the transit has to go, the hotbeds of tension and the Taliban are still burning, and the Balochi in Pakistan are still afraid that they can organize large-scale diversions. The assurances of the Minister of Mines and Mining in Afghanistan, Mir Mohammad Sidik, about the ability of his government to mobilize special detachments to guard around the perimeter of the entire pipe - a poor consolation for potential investors.
Plus, it does not do without embarrassment, which once again confirms the “inconsistency” of the project development. Afghan President Hamid Karzai received Carlos Bulgeroni, Argentine President Bridas at the beginning of the year, to discuss the realities and perspectives of Transafgan. Apparently, his closest advisers did not have time to whisper that such a meeting in Ashgabat could cause, to put it mildly, strong irritation. As is known, in December 1995, as they wrote in one article, "Niyazov unilaterally broke all agreements and" drove the Argentinean out of his ancestral lands, what is called, backwards. At that time, Bridas lost not only all oil projects in Turkmenistan, but was squeezed out of the Trans-Afghan project, and all because the proposed deductions seemed to the President of Turkmenistan to be scanty. Leadership in TAP was transferred to the American Unocal, which finally agreed to allocate ten percent of Niyazov's personal shares in the consortium being created. True, this company has left the Turkmen market, but that’s another story. Bridas had no choice but to personally charge Niyazov a fine of $ 1 billion and apply to an international arbitration court.
At first glance, Turkmen gas is again "in the game." And hypothetically it can be taken even to the ends of the world - to China, Japan, Pakistan, India, Europe, Armenia, or even to Ukraine, bypassing Russia by two sea routes through the Caspian and Black. But does this need an authoritarian power in Ashgabat? All these new communications, obligations, and in general, adaptation to the world political economy. It is clear that without the participation of large construction companies and decent financial investments Turkmenistan will not be able to build any alternative pipe, and they, potential “players”, in turn, ask for a well-known arsenal - “transparency”, liberalization of economy, security guarantees, reduction of political risks. For the Central Asian "island", where the power of one person is absolutized, and all business models sign in secret, this is out of the question. So it remains for Turkmenbashi to appeal with astronomical figures and play his mysterious game in order to “stay in value”.