US consortium warns time is running out for Turkmen gas pipeline
A senior US executive warned on Wednesday that time was running out for Turkmenistan to decide whether to push ahead with a gas export pipeline to Turkey's lucrative, but competitive, gas market.
"Time is limited for Turkmenistan to make a decision on the Trans-Caspian pipeline project because the Turkish market will be supplied by others," said Stephen Tomczak, country general manager of the PSG consortium.
PSG, which comprises General Electric and Bechtel, and Shell are the consortium behind the Trans-Caspian pipeline project to take gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey.
The 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) link through Azerbaijan and Georgia at a cost of two billion dollars has been heavily backed by the United States as a way of lessening Turkmenistan's dependence on Iran and Russia.
But it has been subject to months of delay as Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov was apparently unhappy about the financial terms of the deal.
Tomczak made his comments after PSG announced it would close its Ashkhabad office due to uncertainty over the project.
"In the absence of a response by the government to our recent proposal we don't feel it justified to maintain a PSG office," said Tomczak."We are still waiting but it is hard to say how long we will wait," he added.
The Trans-Caspian project suffered a setback last year when Azerbaijan, which is closer to Turkey, discovered substantial deposits of gas at its Shah Deniz field.
Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan seem unable to formally agree on whether to share capacity in the pipeline as Baku also eyes the growing Turkish gas market. Turkey has also signed contracts with Russia and Iran over the supply of gas.
Turkmenistan has to make a decision on the Trans-Caspian project soon, observers warn, as there is only so much gas Turkey is going to need.
"Turkey has confirmed it is interested in buying the gas and honouring its agreement with Turkmenistan but they will not wait for ever," added Tomczak.
Shell, which has a 50-percent stake in the Trans-Caspian project said it was committed to the deal and would maintain its presence through an Ashkhabad office.The consortium would remain Shell and PSG, a Shell spokesman said.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)