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MOSCOW, November 18 (Itar-Tass) —— The European Union has a better understanding of Russian concern about the trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told a Friday press conference.
“I can see that European partners have a better understanding of the Russian concerns, including those about international legal and environmental aspects of the project,” he said.
The Caspian Sea status has not been agreed upon, the diplomat said. “All countries of the Caspian region must settle arising problems with consensus. However, such issues are not an area of the EU, which makes EU negotiations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan a deviation from the principle,” he said.
Environmental factors and high seismic risks of the region must not be neglected either, he said. “Many wanted to check Nord Stream for environmental friendliness and the consortium responded to such concerns,” he said.
The trans-Caspian gas pipeline is bound to link Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, but the project pushed by the EU cannot be implemented so far because of the unsettled legal status of the Caspian Sea.
Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan think that consent of the countries, through which the pipeline will go, would be sufficient for starting the project. Russia and Iran agree on a decision made by consensus.
The trans-Caspian gas pipeline is supposed to become a part of the Nabucco pipeline, which will carry Turkmen gas to EU countries in evasion of Russia.
The European Union Council authorized the European Commission on September 12 to negotiate the construction of the trans-Caspian gas pipeline with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan within the southern corridor initiative.
“As far as we know, this is the first project of the sort for the European Union, and we are surprised with the decision to try it in the Caspian region, on which none of the EU member states borders,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich replied back then.
The trans-Caspian gas pipeline project may substantially change the ‘gas map’ of Europe, but the project has meager prospects so far, experts told Itar-Tass.
“On the whole, the reaction of the Russian Foreign Ministry is quite founded. The mounting desire to interfere in the affairs of the Caspian region causes concern. Against the backdrop of the regional instability, such actions look counterproductive, especially due to the rather harsh reaction of Iran. The latter sent troops to the area when an attempt to start developing a field in the so-called ‘gray zone’ was made in the late 1990s – early 2000s,” head of the oil and gas development sector of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Energy Research Institute Tatiana Mitrova said.
“There is a question whether the international community really needs to continue rocking the boat,” she wondered. Every time the subject is raised, “Russia reminds everyone that the Caspian Sea status has not been agreed upon and it is simply impossible to start any works there,” she said.
“I think our reaction must be very firm. Statements have been made that the EU and Washington must be involved in the solution of the Caspian problems together with the [Caspian] Five,” head of the National Energy Security Fund Konstantin Simonov said.
“Obviously, the trans-Caspian gas pipeline project does not meet our interests at all. By defending our point of view, we should not refer to the ecology of the Caspian Sea or a threat to the sturgeon species,” he said, stressing that Russia was right by legal parameters in the first turn.
The prospective gas pipeline has one big problem, that is the absence of real resources, he said. “There are sanctions on Iran; Egypt is witnessing a revolution and chaos; Iraq does not put gas fields on tender and uses casing head gas for domestic needs only. Besides, it is unclear how the internal political situation in Iraq will develop after the pullout of foreign forces,” the expert said. The 16 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas would not be enough for the future operation of the pipeline, he added.
Only Turkmenistan is left, he said. “The EU wants to involve Turkmenistan in the project at any cost. The question is whether Turkmenistan will be guaranteed from the Russian reaction,” he said. The region already has a gas pipeline infrastructure; pipes have been laid to the deposits in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and it is necessary to build only 100 kilometers of pipes to complete the network, he said.
“This project is extremely dangerous for us, because it will change the gas map [in the European space]. Why should we be passive observers?” he wondered. “Russia perfectly understands that the decision on the construction of undersea infrastructure must be made by the five Caspian states. There must be no countries, which have no access to the Caspian Sea, in the making of such decisions. That would be a flagrant violation of law,” the expert said.
If the negotiations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are successful, Europe will have as much gas as it needs and will be able to do without supplies from northern Iraq or other countries, German RWE AG’s Leonhard Birnbaum said on September 13 as quoted by the online German edition Boerse-go.de.
The EU negotiations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan about the trans-Caspian pipeline will boost the Nabucco project, Birnbaum said. He predicted the soonest change for the better in the Nabucco project and called substantial the fact that the EU would hold negotiations with third countries on behalf of all the 27 member states for the first time ever.
The Nabucco pipeline is a planned natural gas pipeline that will transport natural gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. It will run from Erzurum in Turkey to Baumgarten an der March, a major natural gas hub in Austria. The project is backed by the European Union and the United States. It may cost $10.7 billion.