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четверг, сентябрь 11, 2008

Turkmenistan seeking long-term co-op with Azerbaijan


Turkmenistan is seeking to establish long-term cooperation with Azerbaijan, a Turkmen energy executive said as officials of the two countries met in Baku to explore avenues for energy cooperation.

“There is a need to boost cooperation between the two countries in a number of fields,” chairman of the Turkmengaz state concern, Baymurad Khodjamukhamedov, told a joint oil and gas conference in Baku on Tuesday.

Khodjamukhamedov heads a delegation from the Central Asian state on its visit to the Azerbaijani capital.

Speaking at the conference, he particularly called for expanding Azeri-Turkmen cooperation in the energy sector, citing extensive potential in both countries for this.

He said over 850 oil and gas fields have been discovered in Turkmenistan to date. Revenues from tapping the deposits have exceeded $45 billion.

The two-day conference is attended by 420 representatives of 27 countries. Turkmenistan is represented at the event by a 58-people-strong delegation comprising government officials and heads of companies. Participants include US special envoy for Eurasian energy, Boyden Gray, Turkish and Georgian Energy Ministers Hilmi Guler and Aleksandr Khetaguri.

Attendees of the conference, which was held at the initiative of the Azerbaijani and Turkmen presidents, first toured an exhibition displaying the two countries’ achievements in the energy sector. Leading companies operating in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan participated at the show.

Azerbaijani First Deputy Prime Minister Yagub Eyyubov said in his remarks that the conference targeted deepening collaboration between the two countries. Bilateral trade turnover made up $53 million in 2007, but the two sides are looking to increase the figure.

“There are opportunities to deepen our relations by capitalizing on the geographic proximity of the two countries,” Eyyubov said.

The relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan soured in 1990s after Turkmenistan’s former leader Saparmurat Niyazov leveled claims to the Azeri oil field, which is part of Azerbaijan’s Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) block in the Caspian Sea and is being developed under the 1994 deal with major oil companies of the world called the Contract of the Century. Additionally, the two countries faced a dispute over the possession of the Kapaz field which holds estimated reserves of some 100 million tons of oil as well as Azerbaijan’s debt to the Central Asian state for gas. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan also adhere to contradicting positions on the legal status of the Caspian. However, after a new president was elected in Turkmenistan following the demise of the country’s long-standing ruler in 2006, a rapprochement discerned in Azeri-Turkmen relations. As a result of Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s policy aimed at normalizing ties with the South Caucasus republic, the relations between Baku and Ashgabat have been improving in the past two years. Azerbaijan repaid its debt to Turkmenistan, an inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation launched operation and Turkmenistan re-opened its embassy in Baku. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov paid a visit to Turkmenistan, while President Berdymukhamedov visited Azerbaijan. Moreover, the two countries continue talks on the Kapaz field and the Caspian status.*

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