Moscow ‘regrets’ EU decision on trans-Caspian gas pipeline

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Moscow regrets the EU’s decision on Monday to open talks with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan aimed at agreeing shipment of Turkmen natural gas across the Caspian Sea to Europe.

The European Commission will lead negotiations on the proposed trans-Caspian pipeline, which is part of planned links known as the Southern Corridor, intended to reduce EU dependence on Russian gas imports.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation regrets the EU Council’s decision. By all appearances, it ignores the current international, legal and geopolitical situation in the Caspian basin,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry referred to a 2007 politically binding joint declaration of the heads of the five Caspian states, which said all important questions concerning the Caspian Sea would be resolved by the littoral states alone.

It also said that unlike existing pipelines, construction of the trans-Caspian pipeline, which would pass through an area with high seismic activity, could affect all the littoral states.

“As we know, this is a first experience for the European Union too, and we are surprised that it is in the Caspian Sea, which does not border any of the European Union members,” the statement quoted foreign ministry official representative Alexander Lukashevich as saying.

The ministry also said that all attempts to intervene in the Caspian deal could seriously complicate the situation in the region and negatively affect talks on the status of the Caspian Sea.

A number of projects aimed at providing Europe with an alternative to Russian gas have been proposed. The search for alternative delivery routes gained momentum after a row between Russia and transit nation Ukraine led to the cut-off of supplies to western Europe in 2009.

A new agreement between the EU, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan could be particularly beneficial to the proposed Nabucco pipeline, which is a rival to Russia’s South Stream project. Nabucco, which would ship gas through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary into Austria and western Europe, has struggled to find enough gas for its planned 31 billion cubic meter capacity.

South Stream will have capacity to deliver 63 bcm of Central Asian and Russian gas to Europe across the Black Sea.

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