Connect with us

News

Caspian agreement may trigger cascade of energy projects

The Azeri Times

Published

on

A convention on the Caspian Sea to be signed at an upcoming summit in Kazakhstan may serve as the starting pistol for a long-mulled natural gas pipeline joining Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan.

This route would, if completed, finally give Turkmenistan a direct entry point into European-bound gas transportation infrastructure through what is known as the Southern Gas Corridor. At a strategic level, there are even greater stakes in play. Success in making this pipeline a reality could trigger a cascade of undertakings to further bridge Central Asia and Western Europe.

“The Trans-Caspian Pipeline will be … a demonstration project for trans-Caspian energy transmission,” Robert M. Cutler, a senior researcher at Carleton University’s Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Eurasianet.

Much of Kazakhstan’s westward oil exports are now funneled either overland through Russia or in tankers across the Caspian, but the appearance of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, or TCP, could be succeeded by oil pipelines along the same seabed. That route would circumvent Russia.

Advance indications about the new draft convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which the five littoral nations are expected to sign at a summit in the coastal Kazakhstan city of Aktau on August 12, are positive.

Any kind of consensus would set aside a tussle that has been raging ever since the Cossacks serving the Russian Tsar set across the sea in the second half of the 17th century to lay waste to towns in northern Persia. After hundreds of years of conflict, Soviet-Persian treaties signed in 1921 and 1940, respectively, restored a semblance of accord that was again disrupted when the Soviet collapse led to the appearance of three new sovereign nations on the map.

This lack of clarity has held up initiatives like the TCP, which has faced stiff resistance from the likes of Russia and Iran. There appears to have been a change of mood in Moscow, however.

The upcoming convention will “solve many contentious and unclear issues about what the Caspian is and how Caspian states will in future address the exploitation of resources, the delimitation of marine space and so on,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin told the State Duma in Moscow in June.

While the diplomatic deadlock has been overcome, the financial logic underpinning the TCP is less certain.

“In my view, [demand for Turkmen gas] is not strong enough because of two main reasons,” Yusin Lee, a professor at South Korea’s Yeungnam University’s political science department, told Eurasianet in an email. “In the first place, the European gas demand is not likely to increase much in the near future. Moreover, Turkmenistan’s competitors such as Mediterranean countries (e.g. Egypt) and Romania have recently emerged.”

One back-of-a-napkin projection volunteered by Lee envisions a gas pipeline able to carry 10 billion cubic meters annually in its early stages. If the price of gas sold in those amounts roughly approximates what Russia’s Gazprom on average now charges Europe – some $231.5 per 1,000 cubic meters – this could earn Turkmenistan around $2 billion per year, he said.

That is a tidy sum, but who is actually going to build and pay for the pipeline? Lee said he believes the project is unlikely to begin taking shape until large international companies, such as Italy’s Eni, sit up and take an interest.

“Unfortunately, however, I don’t think that these companies will appear soon,” he said.

Cutler is more upbeat, arguing that the cost of constructing the TCP in the first place will be far lower than is sometimes suggested.

“The pipeline is going to cost max $2 billion, closer to $1.5 billion. That’s cheap,” he said. “Any figure larger than that is out of date.”

And the infrastructure already in place means that the volumes Turkmenistan can export will be substantial.

“Turkmenistan will be able to export considerably more than 10 billion cubic meters annually as soon as the TCP is ready,” Cutler said.

When a firmer project budget is established, everything else should flow from that.

“Once the cost of construction is known, the price of the transit tariffs can be fixed. Once the price of the transit tariffs are fixed, then the shippers can reach agreement with Turkmenistan for sales-purchase agreements for volumes at known costs,” Cutler said. “On the basis of that, the pipeline will be built.”

One strand of objections to Caspian subsea pipelines, however, has been advanced by people concerned by what impact they could have on the environment. Although assessments commissioned by the European Union and the World Bank have ostensibly minimized those anxieties, green activists warn that the cost of something going wrong would be grave.

“Environmental risks associated with laying a pipeline across the Caspian are numerous, ranging from risks in the event of a spill to flora and fauna, including numerous endemic species such as sturgeon and Caspian seals, and to migrating birds who stop along the way in their flyover migration routes,” said Kate Watters, head of Crude Accountability, a nongovernmental group that monitors ecological issues in the region.

Champions of the TCP insist that recent advances in pipeline technology make such dangers a vanishingly small improbability.

The bear in the room

The conundrum behind all this is why Russia – long an opponent of trans-Caspian energy routes – is backing down.

One theory advanced by analysts positing a geopolitical angle is that Moscow may be trying to mollify the EU, which has thrown obstacles in the way of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline, an in-development Baltic Sea route that is integral to Gazprom’s European ambitions.

And Azer Ahmadbayli, an energy expert who writes for Baku-based Trend news agency, has argued in a recent article that Russia is interested in diverting some of Turkmenistan’s gas away from the Chinese market, where almost all of it currently flows.

“Russia has found that the transformation of Turkmenistan – the world’s 4th natural gas reserves holder – into China’s raw material base could negatively affect the volume and price of future Russian gas supplies to China via the ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline,” Ahmadbayli wrote on July 17.

Cutler pointed out that the “people who make things happen don’t have the luxury of thinking in that way.”

“The people who have to negotiate on Nord Stream are concentrated on Nord Stream. People who have to negotiate Turkmenistan are attending to Turkmenistan,” he said.

Then again, there are those who believe Moscow stands a good chance of killing off the TCP at birth by simply resuming purchases of Turkmen gas — something it stopped doing in January 2016. Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky hinted in late July that his government may resume negotiations in the fall on buying gas from Ashgabat.

“Gazprom could offer either to buy the gas at the Turkmen border at a premium, or to transit it on terms favorable in comparison to the southern corridor,” Simon Pirani, a senior visiting research fellow, wrote in a survey paper in July. “While Gazprom would prefer not to encourage a direct competitor, it might prefer to profit from offering that competitor limited access to a route to Europe that it controls, rather than allowing a new route to be opened up.”

Peter Leonard is Eurasianet’s Central Asia editor.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

News

Revolutionaries in shorts

The Azeri Times

Published

on

People in Azerbaijan are often shamed for wearing “provocative clothes,” but each generation of young people becomes increasingly more free in their choice of style. Conservative Azeris have reconciled themselves to miniskirts and low necklines, but it seems that the custodians of tradition have a particular distaste for shorts. Meydan TV reports on the war over naked legs that started in Baku this summer…

A video went viral on Azerbaijani social media last month that showed a young man on a train on the Baku metro reprimanding a young woman for daring to wear shorts. The young woman was not easily intimidated and yelled in response. An elderly lady defended the young man and it all resulted in a brawl: enraged by the brazenness of the young woman wearing shorts, the elderly lady hit her. At last, other passengers, who had been silently watching, intervened, and the clash between generations ended in a tie.

The incident unexpectedly generated an intense public reaction and was discussed on social media for a month. Many were shocked, and not only because you could still get beaten up in Baku because of the clothes you wore. It turned out that many users were surprised that lots of people were ready to stand up for freedom of choice. Women, men, young people and adults – they all had arguments against the social conservatives.

Bold challenge
People have always worn “provocative clothes” in Azerbaijan. In the 1980s, mini-skirts were thought to belong to that category, while in the 1990s women’s pants challenged public morals. Owing to a certain degree of modernization, which started in Baku in the early 2000s, young people in the capital city were more courageous in adopting Western fashion, and people in the city quickly got used to seeing young women wearing short or form-fitting clothes.

Only shorts remain a stumbling block. However absurd it may sound, for a conservative Azerbaijani someone wearing shorts is a desecrating the traditional way of life and showing disrespect for their elders.

“Each time I wore shorts I could see hatred in the eyes of passersby,” says journalist Vafa Naghiyeva, 34, who now lives in Turkey. “Once, I was expelled from an English class for wearing shorts,” she recalls.

Seven years ago, Vafa was beaten up for wearing shorts. It happened in downtown Baku in front of witnesses. “Passersby didn’t try to defend me, the assailants ran away, and when I arrived at a police station, they pelted me with accusations – why do you walk around wearing shorts? – and demanded that I withdraw my complaint,” the journalist says.

Gender Balance
In their intolerance for this item of clothing, the guardians of morality maintain a certain gender balance – they are sometimes equally harsh toward men.

For example, several years ago, Azerbaijani politician Hafiz Hajiyev, who had run for president three times, first called on his compatriots to hiss at men in shorts in the street, and then even suggested that their legs be doused with acid “to teach them not do it again.”

Journalist Natig Javadli once told his followers on social media about a conversation he had with his male neighbors about his shorts – they strictly warned him not to wear “those obscene clothes in front of their mothers and sisters” ever again.

Who can do it
It’s true, the closer to downtown, the less stringent the taboo. In Baku’s main street, Torgovaya, if you wear shorts, you might get stared at or hear rude comments – but that’s all.

A possible explanation for this tolerance is that affluent people who live on Torgovaya are often well-connected. Who would risk assaulting officials’ or businessmen’s offspring?

People also often ignore athletically built men when they wear shorts. For example, Azerbaijani blogger Zaur Gurbanli is tall and broad-shouldered. He believes that it is for this reason that the defenders of tradition stay away from him: “I went to the beach by bus once. People stared at me the entire journey but they didn’t say anything. If I had looked weak, they would have definitely pestered me.”

Recently, another incident took place on the Baku metro: a passenger – a young man – loudly used bad language about some young women in short skirts who were sitting nearby. But this time, people who happened to be there put him in his place.

Perhaps, society got a glimpse of itself in this viral video and suddenly realized how absurd the taboo is?

Continue Reading

News

Robert Mueller wants to interrogate Emin Agalarov

The Azeri Times

Published

on

Special counsel Robert Mueller wants to interrogate Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, who helped set up the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Team Trump and Russians, including a Kremlin-connected lawyer who had offered dirt on Hillary Cllinton, reports New York Post.

“Conversations are ongoing” about a potential interview, Agalarov’s lawyer, Scott Balber, said in an email to NBC News. “Unclear how this will play out.”

Balber did not say whether Mueller’s investigators also wanted to question Agalarov’s father, Aras Agalarov, a billionaire with ties to Vladimir Putin.

The Agalarovs were partners when the Trump Organization hosted the 2013 Miss America pageant in Moscow, and they also played a key role in arranging the Trump Tower sitdown, which included: Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, ex-campaign chair Paul Manafort and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya and other Russians with connections to Putin.

Aras Agalarov had told a pal, the music producer Rob Goldstone, that Veselnitskaya had “information that would incriminate” Clinton, and Goldstone wrote in an email to Trump Jr. on June 3, 2016, requesting a meeting.

“I love it,” Trump Jr. said in his reply, and the meeting took place days later, on June 9.

Trump Jr. and Sr. have both minimized the meeting, saying nothing of substance came from it.

Balber added that his clients have no reason to believe Trump knew about the meeting with the Russian lawyer before it happened. Last week, sources told CNN that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen claims to have information about Trump being informed about the meeting and its purpose before it happened.

“The Agalarovs were not aware and had and have no reason to believe that the President knew the Trump Tower meeting was happening or that it happened before it was publicly disclosed,” Balber said.

Mueller has no authority to subpoena the Agalarovs, who do not live in the United States. The special counsel’s office interviewed several of attendees of the meeting in late 2017 or earlier this year.

NBC was first to report that the discussions with special counsel are continuing.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Typhoon Mangkhut: Deadly Storm Nears Hong Kong and China’s Coast
World4 weeks ago

Typhoon Mangkhut: Deadly Storm Nears Hong Kong and China’s Coast

Gunman opens fire, injuring three people before he’s shot by police at Middleton office building
Politics4 weeks ago

Gunman opens fire, injuring three people before he’s shot by police at Middleton office building

Trump Says Accusations Against Kavanaugh Are Unfair
Politics4 weeks ago

Trump Says Accusations Against Kavanaugh Are Unfair

Scientists Just Found the Guys Who Are Killing Africa’s Elephants
Science4 weeks ago

Scientists Just Found the Guys Who Are Killing Africa’s Elephants

Maine restaurant sedating lobsters with marijuana to ease the pain of cooking
Politics4 weeks ago

Maine restaurant sedating lobsters with marijuana to ease the pain of cooking

Video4 weeks ago

This Titans fake punt touchdown is a thing of beauty

Scientists Find Real-Life Version Of ‘Star Trek’ Planet Vulcan
Science4 weeks ago

Scientists Find Real-Life Version Of ‘Star Trek’ Planet Vulcan

Rivers keep rising in Carolinas as Trump tours Florence ‘nightmare’ aftermath
Politics4 weeks ago

Rivers keep rising in Carolinas as Trump tours Florence ‘nightmare’ aftermath

Azerbaijan4 weeks ago

Opposition activist sentenced to 6 years in Azerbaijan

Satellite uses giant net to practice capturing space junk
Science4 weeks ago

Satellite uses giant net to practice capturing space junk

Jimmy Butler Trade Rumors: T-Wolves Star Requests Deal, Gives Shortlist of Teams
Politics4 weeks ago

Jimmy Butler Trade Rumors: T-Wolves Star Requests Deal, Gives Shortlist of Teams

Texans coach Bill O’Brien rips superintendent for racist remark on QB Deshaun Watson
Sport4 weeks ago

Texans coach Bill O’Brien rips superintendent for racist remark on QB Deshaun Watson

People Got So Mad About This ‘Sexy’ Handmaid’s Tale Costume That the Company Is No Longer Selling It
Politics3 weeks ago

People Got So Mad About This ‘Sexy’ Handmaid’s Tale Costume That the Company Is No Longer Selling It

Doctor, Girlfriend Accused Of Drugging And Raping 2 Women — And Maybe Many More
Politics4 weeks ago

Doctor, Girlfriend Accused Of Drugging And Raping 2 Women — And Maybe Many More

UCF freshman linebacker suspended indefinitely following arrest on sexual battery charge
Sport4 weeks ago

UCF freshman linebacker suspended indefinitely following arrest on sexual battery charge

The Search for Icy Giants on a Dwarf Planet
Science4 weeks ago

The Search for Icy Giants on a Dwarf Planet

Five-Star Josiah James Picks Tennessee Over Duke, Clemson in Major Get for Rick Barnes
Sport4 weeks ago

Five-Star Josiah James Picks Tennessee Over Duke, Clemson in Major Get for Rick Barnes

NFL Rumors: Patriots Re-Sign Cyrus Jones Off Ravens’ Practice Squad
Sport4 weeks ago

NFL Rumors: Patriots Re-Sign Cyrus Jones Off Ravens’ Practice Squad

Trending

© Azeri Times - All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the site's materials is permitted only with a mandatory reference to www.azeritimes.com. Email: info@azeritimes.com