Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nabucco: on, or off?

Right after the South Ossetian conflict I wrote about articles foretelling the Nabucco gas pipeline's demise, and now I have some follow-up information. Radio Free Europe reports that there was a conference held in Baku where a few potential gas-producing/gas-transiting counties came together and pledged their support, but it included firm promises from only Azerbaijan and Turkey. And even then, Azerbaijan – the only committed country with natural gas supplies – admits that without others, it can't produce enough gas to fill the pipeline. And even Azerbaijan's commitment is not firm. The Moscow Times reports:

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has failed to win Azerbaijan's support for the construction of a new gas pipeline from the Caspian that would bypass Russia.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev indicated to Cheney during talks in Baku on Wednesday that he did not want to anger Russia in the wake of its invasion of neighboring Georgia, Kommersant reported, citing an official in Aliyev's administration. Cheney was so disappointed that he did not attend an official dinner in his honor, the report said.

Azerbaijan has also increased flows of oil through a pipeline to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, the newspaper reported, citing a Russian energy official.

Other than Azerbaijan, the only gas-producing countries that would possibly be in on the deal are Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan isn't certain, according to RFE:

Turkmen officials at the Baku conference have not yet said what level of participation, if any, Turkmenistan would have in Nabucco. Furthermore, Turkmenistan has committed itself to pumping more gas to Russia and China in recent weeks.

...and the RFE article doesn't mention anything about Kazakhstan's involvement in the conference, nor does it cite any Kazakh or other sources as to the possibility of Kazakh contributions to the pipeline. Kazakhstan's participation in another pipeline – the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline – has been uncertain, with officials supporting the project in public but ruling it out in private conversations. It's shown the same tendency with the Nabucco gas pipeline, supporting it in public but throwing its weight behind Russia when it comes to actually building pipelines.

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