The Blog

Energy and the Turkmen Executive

Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov has his work cut out for him.

12:00 AM, Mar 21, 2007 • By GERALD ROBBINS
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A Caspian Sea accord would increase the chances that the TCP will be constructed. (Sending Turkmen gas to Iran is another option, but the growing sanctions against Teheran's nuclear program dissuade any possible investment.) One indicator as to whether Berdimukhamedov will change Turkmenistan's outlook is his relationship with Azerbaijan. Relations between both nations have been tense throughout the post-Soviet era. Territorial differences over the Caspian have nullified projects and even caused diplomatic rows. With the BTC pipeline operable and the TCP under serious consideration, Azerbaijan wants to project itself as the energy hub between Europe and Central Asia. Convincing Berdimukhamedov to send Turkmenistan's gas towards Azerbaijani facilities would reflect a changed atmosphere within the Caspian Basin. Furthermore, it would bolster the Caspian's reputation as a substantive alternative to Russian and Persian Gulf markets for fuel production and delivery.

It's hard to predict what lies ahead for Turkmenistan. One regional analyst aptly said that assessing Mr. Berdimukhamedov's intentions is "like fortune telling with coffee grinds." Whatever the outcome, it is sure to reverberate throughout Central Asia and beyond.

Gerald Robbins is an associate scholar specializing in Turkish and Caspian affairs at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.