Caspian Economic Forum opens possibility of new gas route

The European Union “has resumed” negotiations with Turkmenistan to bring Turkmen gas to Europe through a proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline, Peter Burian, the EU’s special representative for Central Asia has told the Russian press at the first Caspian Economic Forum.

“[The EU] is trying to intensify negotiations on its possible participation in the construction of a gas pipeline through the Caspian,” Mr Burian said in Turkmenistan’s Avanza resort, not specifying further details.

The proposed pipeline, which was first suggested in 1996, would deliver Turkmen gas to Europe and Turkey through the Caspian Sea by connecting Turkmen supplies to the Southern Gas Corridor, an Azeri-Georgian-Turkish gas route to Europe, that would be operational from 2020.

At the same time, Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borissov, the only European leader to attend the forum, noted that the Trans-Caspian gas route was not an option due to environmental issues.

The Bulgarian media reported that Petya Avramova, the country’s regional development minister, confirmed that Bulgaria was in talks to purchase gas from Turkmenistan through swap transactions involving Russia.

The first Caspian Economic Forum was held in Turkmenistan to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, aimed at removing obstacles to regional cooperation.

While Azerbaijan has ratified the treaty, the country still has disputes with Iran and Russia regarding the status of underwater oil reserves. “It’s a very sensitive issue,” said Bahram Huseynov, the first vice president of Azerbaijan’s oil company SOCAR, adding that “no concrete steps have been made yet and it’s too early to discuss specifics.”