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Turkmenistan, Türkiye Sign Preliminary Documents on Gas Transfer

By Nigar Bayramli March 5, 2024

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The Turkmen and Turkish officials signed two preliminary agreements to supply gas to Türkiye and onward to Europe, on March 1, 2024. / Presidency of The Republic of Türkiye

Turkmenistan and Türkiye have signed two preliminary agreements for the Central Asian country to supply natural gas to Türkiye and onward to Europe.

“We signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will accelerate the two countries' cooperation in the field of natural gas and a declaration of intent that will form the basis of our partnerships in the field of hydrocarbons. With the signatures, we aim to transfer Turkmen gas first to Türkiye and then to global markets,” Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said in a post on X on 1 March.

The two countries signed a MoU on the development of cooperation in the field of natural gas, declaration of intent on cooperation in oil and natural gas, and MoU between Turkmenistan Airlines and the Turkish Aeronautical Association University.

The documents were signed following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chairman of Turkmenistan People's Council Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

The ongoing forum "Elevating diplomacy amidst crises" hosts representatives from 147 countries, addressing a range of topics, including global issues, climate change, migration, Islamophobia, trade wars, and artificial intelligence.

Berdimuhamedow said at the forum that Turkmenistan's Galkynysh field holds over 27,000 billion cubic meters of gas, "based on an international audit."

"We have a policy of diversifying routes" for exports.

Berdimuhamedow said gas from Turkmenistan can reach Türkiye and Europe either via the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan or through existing Iran pipeline infrastructure by having a gas swap deal.

Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most energy-rich nations, possesses substantial oil and natural gas reserves. It ranks fourth globally in terms of proven gas reserves, following Russia, Iran, and Qatar. Currently, Turkmenistan mainly exports gas to China and Russia.

A high-level Turkmen official who requested anonymity told Nikkei Asia that Turkmenistan has enough gas reserves to supply Türkiye and Europe while providing more gas to its main customer, China, at the same time.

Ankara already receives about 60-70 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran via pipelines as well as from several other countries as liquefied natural gas.

Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister affirmed in November 2022 that his country remains committed to the TransCaspian pipeline project, aiming to transport Turkmen gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. The project envisions supplying up to 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas annually through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Türkiye to the European market, with a duration of at least 30 years.

Türkiye’s pursuit of greater influence in this region has been encouraged by the diminishing dominance of Moscow, particularly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Ankara advances its ambitions of becoming a gas hub, and the EU gains more ammunition to end its dependence on Moscow, while Turkmenistan obtains more leverage against powerful neighbors Russia and China.

In the third quarter of 2021, Russia’s share of the European Union’s (EU) natural gas imports was 39%, but in the third quarter of 2023, it was just 12%.

The EU is scrambling to secure gas from alternative sources as the bloc tries to end its reliance on Russia as a natural gas supplier, while Russia opposes the planned construction of a new Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan pipeline via the Caspian Sea.

In July 2022, the EU and Azerbaijan signed a MoU on strategic partnership in the field of energy, which includes the commitment to double the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline to over 20 bcm a year to the EU by 2027. In the shorter term, Azerbaijan is already increasing its deliveries to the EU.