Energy diplomacy marks Istanbul's Turkic summit
Energy diplomacy dominated proceedings at this week's meeting of Turkic-speaking countries in Istanbul, despite its declared purpose to foster solidarity in the Turkic world. The energy ministers of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey held three-way talks on Wednesday on the sidelines of the event about the Caspian region, natural gas pipelines, and energy projects, including the European Union-backed multinational Nabucco project to get Caspian or Middle Eastern gas to Europe. The status of the Caspian Sea is a bone of contention between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan which has prevented the Nabucco project from securing potential stocks of natural gas. The presidents of the two countries, however, gave peaceful messages during the press conference. "We have a common history and culture with Azerbaijan. Muslims always support their neighbors. We have no intention of spoiling our friendly relations with Azerbaijan," Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said. "It is clear that this issue will be discussed for decades. We want to solve this problem based on international agreements," he said, referring to a commission established to determine the status of the Caspian. "We have high-level relations with Turkmenistan," said Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. "We solve major disputes in cooperation. We are friends. We should share both the natural gas and the oil." Despite the positive steps with Azerbaijan, Berdimuhamedov refused to sign a document establishing a Turkic council, one of the major points of the summit. In addition to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan also chose not to join the council. Turkmenistan, which has not yet declared whether it will join Nabucco, gave positive signals yesterday but declined to commit to a specific amount of natural gas. "We're building an east-west pipeline that will reach the Caspian. Nabucco is about this," said Berdimuhamedov. "It is a reality that there is gas. We are pursuing an open policy about gas. Today we are supplying gas to Russia, China and Iran." A long-planned 1,043-mile east-west pipeline, named TAPI after the initials of the four participating countries – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – would move gas from the Turkmen Dauletabad gas field to consumers in Pakistan and India after transiting Afghanistan. The energy ministers of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will meet on Monday to discuss the pipeline, and the presidents will convene in December.