Officials from Iran and Turkmenistan are hoping that the formation of a joint economic commission between the two Caspian region neighbors will lead to an increase in bilateral ties.
“The bilateral economic relations between the two countries are disproportional to the current level of our huge potential, and we hope that the Iran-Turkmenistan joint economic commission will be formed as soon as possible to boost bilateral trade ties,” the head of Iran-Turkmenistan Parliament Friendship Group, Kourosh Karampour Haghighi, said in a meeting with Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov on July 16, according to Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Karampour, who was leading an Iranian parliamentary delegation to Ashgabat, cited the energy and transportation sectors as being ripe for growth.
The chairperson of the Turkmen Parliament Gulshat Mamedova said in a meeting with Karampour that “foreign policy is an open door policy and, on this basis, Turkmenistan welcomes the development of relations with all countries, especially the neighboring countries, including Iran,” IRNA reported.
In May, Meredov told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that, “Turkmenistan has a high political will to expand all-out relations with Iran.”
Despite the diplomatic warmth in recent months, a gas purchasing dispute between Turkmenistan and Iran still lingers. Turkmenistan stopped gas supplies to Iran – rich in fossil fuel resources in the southwest but energy-starved in the northeast, where Iran shares a border with Turkmenistan – in January 2017, demanding that Tehran settle an outstanding debt.
Officials in Ashgabat claim Iran owes $1.8 billion from sales between 2007 and 2008, when freezing winters led to severe shortages across 20 Iranian provinces, forcing the country to raise gas imports from its northeastern neighbor. In August 2018, Turkmenistan’s state company Turkmengaz filed a lawsuit against National Iranian Gas Company with the International Court of Arbitration. Iran followed with a counterclaim the following October.
“With the daily production of 63 million cubic meters of natural gas and gas condensates from Gonbadli Gas Field, shared with Turkmenistan, as well as gas supply of the largest underground gas storage tank in eastern part of the country, Oil and Gas Operation Company plays a leading role in this respect,” the chief executive of Iranian Central Oilfields Company, Abolhassan Mohammadi, said on July 6.
The first Caspian Economic Forum will be held in Turkmenistan’s Awaza tourist area, on August 12, according to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry. The representatives from both countries are hoping it will lead to further dialogue and spur economic growth.