Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer held talks with his Turkmen counterpart last week on a tour that is aimed at boosting relations with the resource-rich but volatile Central Asian states.
Sezer and Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov held one-on-one talks for two hours after which Sezer departed to lay flowers at a memorial to the victims of a devastating 1948 Ashkhabad earthquake.
The two leaders revealed little of their discussions, saying only that a document on economic cooperation until 2010 could be signed during a proposed visit by Niyazov to Turkey in April 2001. They also said an accord on the sale of some 300 million kilowatts of electric energy could be signed in Turkey next year.
The Neutralny Turkmenistan newspaper reported Wednesday that the two leaders would discuss measures to move forward the transportation of Turkmen gas to Turkey as the issue was key to both countries. The state newspaper reported the sale of gas would likely be determined by the fate of the US-backed Trans Caspian gas pipeline project.
However, the two-billion-dollar project to carry Turkmen gas to Turkey has suffered numerous setbacks, including the discovery of substantial gas deposits at Shah Deniz in Azerbaijan, which is closer to Turkey. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have been unable to agree on volumes of Azeri gas that could be transported via the pipeline.
Niyazov then appeared to agree to supply Russia with increasing amounts of natural gas, reaching over 50 billion cubic meters annually in five years in a move that could leave little gas for the Trans Caspian route. But the deal still seems far from certain and Turkmenistan and Russia were unable to agree on a price for the gas.
Sezer's visit also comes a month after the PSG consortium involved in the Trans Caspian project, consisting of Bechtel and GE Capital, closed its Ashkhbad offices citing uncertainty over the link. Turkey has close ethnic ties with some Central Asian republics and has launched a drive to bolster relations since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Turkish president began his tour of four Central Asian republics in Uzbekistan where cooperation against terrorism, organized crime and the trafficking of drugs dominated discussions. The struggle against Islamic extremism and regional security are also expected to feature when Sezer travels to Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday.
On Thursday the Turkish president will move on to Kazakhstan from where he will return to Turkey the following day.— (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )