DUSHANBE, December 31 (Itar-Tass) —— Uzbekistan has stopped natural gas supplies to Tajikistan on the grounds of the expiration of the relevant intergovernmental agreement, a source in Tajikistan’s state-run company Tajiktransgaz told Itar-Tass on Monday.
“Tashkent blocked the valve twelve hours ahead of the expiration time fixed in the contract, or midnight on December 31,” the source said. Uzbek suppliers have pumped to Tajikistan 132.4 million cubic meters of gas instead of 145 million stipulated by the contract, the source cited updated information.
After Uzbekistan’s gas company Uztransgaz issued a notification of the suspension of gas supplies, Tajik Prime Minister Akil Akilov sent an urgent telephone message to his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyayev on December 25 asking the latter to “clarify the situation and help sign a new document.” However, no reply followed, a source in the government told Itar-Tass.
Since the Soviet era, Uzbekistan has been a monopolist on Tajikistan’s gas market. Tajikistan’s own gas reserves can only meet a small percentage of its domestic demand of 1.2 billion cubic meters. “Trimmed” gas supplies from the neighboring country have been only used to maintain the operation of the Dushanbe heat power plant and utilities services. A minor portion has been supplied to the population. Meanwhile, Tajikistan’s biggest gas consumer, the aluminum company TALKO, had to look for alternative gas supplies sources. This year, two thirds of its demand have been met from alternative sources. “The company has installed equipment to process local coal into gas fuel, which is much cheaper, by the way,” said Igor Sattarov, head of the company’s press service.
The Tajik authorities pin great hopes on the development of a number of domestic facilities. Russia’s Gazprom is present at two of them.
The two former Soviet republic have had uneasy relations in the post-Soviet period. In 1992, air service between Tashkent and Dushanbe was suspended. In 1999, the Uzbek authorities planted mines along the border with Tajikistan on the pretext of “protection from international terrorists.” A visa regime has been in place between the two countries since 2000.