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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Caspian Gas Talks Loom

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Azeri Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov will visit Turkmenistan next week to discuss a $2 billion project to build a gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea, a Turkmen oil and gas ministry official said Monday.

The official said to Reuters that the meeting, set for Jan. 18, had been arranged after a telephone conversation between Turkmen head of state Saparmurat Niyazov and Azeri President Heidar Aliyev.

"The two sides will discuss the Trans-Caspian pipeline project, which will allow us to transport 16 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas a year via the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Turkey and possibly 14 bcm a year to Europe," the official said. He added that Aliyev had assured Niyazov of his support for the pipeline.

Turkmenistan's future prosperity depends on the completion of the project, which will allow it to ship its gas to Western Europe and end its current reliance on Russian pipelines.

But the project appeared to be in doubt last year when large gas reserves were found off the Azeri coast, much closer to Turkey. Analysts say Turkmenistan's only hope now is to move faster than its competitors.

The United States, which favors the Turkmen project over a similar project being developed by Gazprom, says the link could be used also to ship Azeri gas to the West.