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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Caspian Contracts Offered

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan is preparing to sign contracts worth $10 billion with companies from Europe and the United States to develop oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea, Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Gurbanmuradov said Friday.

The Caspian has immense hydrocarbon reserves, but so far other littoral states, especially Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, have been more successful than Turkmenistan in attracting the huge sums of foreign capital needed to produce oil there.

"At this moment a number of contracts with European and U.S. companies have been prepared for signature on the development and commercial exploitation of the Serdar field and other offshore blocks in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea," Gurbanmuradov said in an interview.

He gave no details of which companies were involved.

Azerbaijan also claims Serdar, which it calls Kyapaz, and the two countries have disputed its ownership since 1997.

Russian companies LUKoil and Rosneft and the Azeri state oil company Socar had signed a broad agreement on working on the field, but cancelled the agreement following Turkmen protests.

In September 1997 Turkmenistan included Serdar in a list of fields to be offered for tender, leading to Azeri protests. The ownership has not been raised at subsequent talks between the two governments.

But Gurbanmuradov was adamant Friday. "There is not the slightest doubt — this is a Turkmen field," he said.

He added that the overall value of the contracts he said were ready to be signed was $10 billion, and would lead to the production of over 80 million tons (nearly 600 million barrels) of crude.

Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are also in dispute over the Azeri and Chirag fields.

An international consortium headed by BP Amoco is already developing the two fields with Socar, but Turkmenistan says it owns the whole of Azeri and part of Chirag.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was due to host a summit in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi earlier this month with all the Caspian littoral states to resolve the complex issue of how to divide the sea among the surrounding states.

But the meeting was postponed at the request of Iran. Niyazov said at the time he hoped the meeting would be held in April, but no date has emerged.