Thursday, 3 February 2011

Caspian: TAPI gets Russian backing

Russia has given its backing to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that, despite massive political and security obstacles, is still very much on the Turkmen government's agenda. During talks in Moscow in late January, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai signed a joint statement stressing their support for a project that would cost more than $4 billion to build but will not interest any major international lenders such as the World Bank until there is a sharp improvement in the security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Most observers interpret Russia's public support for TAPI as a political tactic to improve relations with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. If so, this gambit has not been a resounding success; following a visit to Ashgabat in October, Russia's energy supremo Igor Sechin suggested to the Russian media that the Turkmen government has made an agreement for Russia to be involved in the project. His remarks prompted a swift rebuttal by the Turkmen foreign ministry, which denied there was any agreement “whatsoever” on TAPI and urged Russian officials to be “guided in the future by a sense of responsibility and reality”.

Tapi involves the construction of a 1,700km pipeline network, of which some 735km would cross Afghanistan, including the volatile regions around the city of Kandahar, and 800km across Pakistan. The Asian Development Bank has funded feasibility studies for the project, but is unlikely to offer more funds until security in Afghanistan and Pakistan improves.

For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region, please see Caspian Focus.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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