Turkey says Iranian gas exports delayed by technical snag
Turkey said on Monday, July 30, that it could not start the scheduled importation of natural gas from Iran under a 1996 deal due to a technical problem on the Iranian side, but Tehran denied the claim.
Turkish Energy Minister Zeki Cakan said in a written statement that a metering station in Iran was not ready for operation.
"Turkish authorities are waiting to receive a certificate of suitability regarding the metering station, which will be issued at the end of tests and examinations by Turkish and Iranian technical commissions," Cakan said.
Turkish experts have been in Iran for the tests since July 25. "The certificate has not reached Turkish authorities yet," he said.
But Tehran denied any obstacles on its side delaying the inauguration of the gas flow, which was scheduled to start on Monday via a pipeline from Tabriz in northwestern Iran to Ankara under a 1996 agreement.
"There is no fundamental technical, practical and legal difficulty on the Iranian side for the export of gas to Turkey," Iran's deputy oil minister for gas issues, Hamdollah Mohammad-Nejad, told the state IRNA news agency.
The official said Iran had "fulfilled" its side of the deal by preparing for the Turkish exports. "It has been two weeks now that gas has been injected to the station, and right now, 900 pounds per square inch (psi) of natural gas are currently behind the entrance taps to Turkey and ready to flow," he said.
Mohammad-Nejad, also the director-general of Iran's National Gas Company (INGC), added that Turkey had requested just two days ago that all the gas meters be "tested by the constructor and in their presence."
"Iran's National Gas Company, in order to express its goodwill, agreed to this request, and at the same time, officially requested that Turkey agree to receiving gas as of July 30," Mohammad-Nejad said.
In Ankara, Cakan maintained that Turkey had completed all necessary preparations on its side. Turkey would start purchasing Iranian gas once the required document was sent to Ankara and other related procedures were completed, he said. "Under these circumstances, the payment of compensation to Iran is out of the question," Cakan added.
The English-language Turkish Daily News quoted unnamed energy ministry officials on Monday as saying that the gas transfer would finally begin in mid August.
Turkey was originally supposed to start importing the gas early last year, but failed to complete its part of the pipeline in time.
In January 2000 the two sides agreed on a postponement, citing July 30 as the new inauguration date and extending the contract term from 22 to 25 years.
Under the deal Iran would initially supply three billion cubic meters (105 billion cubic feet) of gas a year and increase it gradually to 10 billion cubic meters (350 billion cubic feet) in 2007.
The accord was sealed during the term of Turkey's former prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, an Islamist veteran who is now out of politics under a constitutional court ruling against him for anti-secular activities.
The project has faced objections by the United States on the grounds that it was a rival to a multi-million-dollar pipeline project to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to western markets via Turkey.
To appease Washington, Ankara has repeatedly asserted that the trans-Caspian pipeline is a priority, maintaining that it needs both projects to meet a rapidly growing energy demand. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)