|06ASHGABAT108||2006-01-24 11:22:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Ashgabat|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L ASHGABAT 000108
1. (C)Turkish Ambassador Hakki Akil provided Ambassador a
readout of Turkish Energy Minister Mehmet Hilmi Guler 1/19
meeting with President Niyazov. Guler told Niyazov that
Turkey was ready to pursue seriously a Trans-Caspian Pipeline
(TCP), and that he himself was prepared to come to Ashgabat
every 15 to 30 days to advance the issue. Guler said that
the timing was now right for such a project: the Europeans
are more interested in diversification of gas supply, and the
United States is also ready to advance the project. Turkey
has companies prepared to participate in a consortium.
2. (C) According to Akil, Guler made clear to Niyazov that
Western companies and countries had previously believed that
Niyazov only discussed TCP in order to have an additional
bargaining chip in his gas price negotiations with Russia.
The West now needs a signal that Niyazov is serious. To this
end, it would be critical that Niyazov not sign a longer term
gas agreement, or one for more that 30 bcm, with Russia.
Niyazov had said previously that he wouldn't sell "more than
25%" of his gas to Russia, but then mentioned a figure of 50
bcm. Akil interjected that given Turkmen gas production and
export levels, a contract for 50 bcm would preclude further
discussions of a TPC. Guler also told Niyazov that an
intergovernmental agreement with Azerbaijan would be
necessary before proceeding further to line up a consortium
and get political support.
3. (C) Turkish Businessman (and potential TPC investor)
Ahmed Calik sat in on the meeting on the GOTX side. At
Niyazov's request, he stayed behind, and told Niyazov that he
thought Turkey was extremely serious about moving forward
with a TPC. Niyazov reportedly said he also believed this
"for the first time." Niyazov told Guler that he would "try
to avoid" signing a contract during his trip to Russia,
postponing a new agreement until "September or October."
4. (C) Akil believes (note: and we agree) that the next
order of business is to find out what Niyazov promised in
Moscow this week. After that, Akil wants to see a joint U.S.
-Turkish effort to help facilitate an intergovernmental
agreement with Azerbaijan, and then the building of a
consortium. He noted that involvement by the EU, even a
political signal from the Commission that it would support a
TCP project, would be helpful.
5. (C) Comment: What Niyazov did or did not promise in
Russia will be critical. He will certainly have to have
given Putin something -- he fears that failure to "cooperate"
sufficiently with Russia could be detrimental to his
regime/well being. But he also appears to be interested in
pursuing a TPC again, as he said during DAS Bryza's recent
visit. For the kremlinologically minded, we note that
Niyazov permitted his Minister for Gas and Oil and Minister
for Electricity to attend the official dinner at the Turkish
Ambassador's residence on Friday -- the only other time these
ministers have been permitted to "socialize" with foreigners
in recent memory was our own July 4 reception last year.