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Iran Welcomes Gas Swap Deals With Turkmenistan

Iran Welcomes Gas Swap Deals With TurkmenistanIran Welcomes Gas Swap Deals With Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is exploring options on gas swap deals with Iran to export its fuel to markets further afield, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reportedly said during a visit to Ashgabat on March 27.

Speaking to reporters after his encounter with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the Iranian leader expressed satisfaction with their exchange, CNBC reported.

Official Iranian media limited their reports to vague details about agreements on economic cooperation, but Russia’s RIA-Novosti news agency noted that discussions had dwelled on energy issues.

Rouhani was cited as saying that the two governments want to increase gas swap transactions and a broadened use of pipeline infrastructure to export Turkmen gas to third countries.

“Iran and Turkmenistan are very rich and powerful in the energy sphere, and so we agreed to undertake efforts to take our partnership in the sector to a higher level. We agreed in future to undertake wide-ranging talks on energy issues and I trust that during our future encounters, we will conclude major agreements,” Rouhani said.

Prior talks of such arrangements suggest Armenia and Azerbaijan would be the most likely recipients of Turkmen gas.

Because of economic challenges, Turkmenistan has been seeking to find more buyers for its natural gas riches other than China.

However, Ashgabat has since January 2017 been embroiled in a row with Iran over allegedly unpaid gas bills. In short, Turkmenistan claims Iran owes it around $1.5 billion for gas it delivered in previous years. Tehran has rejected the claim and insisted it wants to resolve the disagreement through international arbitration.

Iran has also often played good cop with Turkmenistan, however.

In November, Hamidreza Araqi, managing director of National Iranian Gas Company, told  ISNA he hopes outstanding differences could be papered over through dialogue.

“Iran still has time for taking legal action against Turkmenistan but any issue, in my opinion, can be settled through negotiations,” he said.

In another interview a few days later, Araqi suggested that a gas swap deal could be considered.

"We are averse to swapping Turkmen gas with Turkey and Iraq, but we have no problem with Azerbaijan and Armenia," Araqi told ISNA.

This is not a novel arrangement. Just as the gas debt dispute was first raging last year, an NIGC official told media that Turkmenistan was still hoping to strike more swap deals to supply Azerbaijan and Armenia with up to 15 million cubic meters of gas daily via Iranian pipelines.

“Turkmenistan is currently sending near 6 million cubic meters of gas to Azerbaijan through Iran,” the NIGC official said last January.

 

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