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MOSCOW, May 31 (Itar-Tass World Service)
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended on Wednesday the expanded meeting of the Council of CIS Prime Ministers in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat. National gas topped the agenda of the meeting, at Turkmen leader's initiative.
The Kommersant notes that "Ashgabat has never been particularly active in the CIS. This time, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov whose country holds the rotating CIS presidency this year, decided to change the old approach and host the premiers' meeting. He stated that of all fields of cooperation, he had personally singled out energy. This explains his decision. Berdymukhamedov underlined that the transportation of fuels was the key theme. "Turkmenistan offers to begin dialogue over the transportation of fuel, to work out precise and transparent terms of supplies," he said.
Berdymukhamedov therefore took advantage of the premiers' meeting to promote Turkmenistan's interests. The country has the world’s fourth largest reserves of gas and the world's second largest Yuzhny Iolotan gas field. It has no access to badly needed European markets.
At present, Turkmenistan exports some 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year, but it aims to boost exports to 180 billion cubic meters by 2030, which will make it Russia's rival in the world market.
Ashgabat has been actively looking for alternative transportation routes. At present, Turkmen gas is supplied to China. Last week, Turkmenistan signed an agreement on gas supplies to India and Pakistan through the TAPI /Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) pipeline, designed and supported by the USA. If the project is implemented, Ashgabat will be able to supply up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year through TAPI.
However, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov does not abandon the attempts to open other directions for Turkmen gas. The European one looks very attractive to Ashgabat. This explains the initiative he voiced on Wednesday towards setting up a CIS expert group on fuel supplies. Furthermore, he suggested promoting the idea at a higher level - the United Nations: "We regard it as a very important issue and therefore propose to set up an expert group for security of energy supplies under the UN aegis," he said.
The Kommersant learnt that Berdymukhamedov had had help in preparing his proposal. Ukraine, for which natural gas is vital, fully supports him. Kiev is looking for an alternative to the Russian gas, trying to reach an accord on supplies with Ashgabat. So far, it has not succeeded. It is clear that Russia is not too much inspired by these initiatives, the newspaper underlined. Russian Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said nothing to Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's proposal in a clear sign that the offer was not welcome.
Medvedev held three bilateral meetings in Ashgabat: with Berdymukhamedov, and the Ukrainian and Moldovan Prime Ministers, Nikolai Azarov and Vlad Filat. Energy issues prevailed at their talks, according to the Kommersant.
During the discussions with his colleagues from the neighbor states, Dmitry Medvedev urged them to make the CIS free trade zone agreement effective as quickly as possible, the Moskovsky Komsomolets underlined. One of the obstacles to the way towards "easy-term trade" is Ukraine: it has not yet ratified the document signed last year. At first, the Ukrainians, judging by prime Minister Nikolai Azarov's statements wish to play the gas trump card. In Ashgabat, Azarov stated his intention so secure Medvedev's consent to launch Turkmen gas for Ukraine through the Russian gas transportation system.
The newspaper believes there were no breakthroughs at the meeting. Deputy chief of the Russian government staff Sergei Prikhodko said Medvedev and Azarov had agreed to gather the Russian-Ukrainian economic cooperation commission in late June.