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Turkmen Leader to Discuss European Export Route for Gas

Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov is planning to visit Germany and Austria in the near future to discuss a major gas pipeline project that would bypass Russia.

The Nabucco pipeline project, which is favoured by western countries, would take gas from Azerbaijan via Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria, and possibly on to Germany.

A separate structure, the proposed Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, would route Turkmen gas under the sea to Azerbaijan. However, Russia, currently the main buyer of Turkmenistan’s gas, opposes this option.

European demand for gas is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, and Nabucco is seen as a way of accessing new sources and avoiding excessive reliance on Russia.

Work on Nabucco is expected to start late in 2010, with completion scheduled for 2013. Cost estimates range between 7.3 and 12 billion US dollars.

Turkmenistan entered into an active dialogue with Germany while the country held the rotating chair of the European Union in the first half of 2007.

President Berdymuhammedov subsequently began talking about diversifying his country’s energy export routes as part of what he called a “multi-vector” policy.

When he met Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer in September 2007, he discussed possible cooperation on energy matters. In October 2008, he met Austrian ambassador-at-large Reich-Rohrwig and Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, chief executive of the Austrian oil and gas concern OMV.

Ruttenstorfer told journalists that a set of proposals on the Nabucco project would be prepared ahead of Berdymuhammedov’s visit to Vienna.

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