Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan to resolve Caspian energy dispute

Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have agreed to settle a long-running dispute over a hydrocarbons field in the Caspian Sea, the Turkmen foreign ministry said Thursday. 

A deal could lead to progress on a pipeline connecting huge reserves in Turkmenistan to European gas markets. 

A release circulated by the ministry said the two countries had signed a memorandum “on joint exploration, development and completion of the hydrocarbons field ‘Dostluk’ in the Caspian Sea”.

Dostluk means “friendship” in the Turkic languages of both countries. The hydrocarbons field was formerly known as Serdar to Turkmenistan and Kapaz to Azerbaijan.

The long-running dispute over the field was settled with “multiyear work”, the ministry statement said.

The agreement is expected to support progress on the Trans-Caspian pipeline, a multi-billion dollar plan to link Turkmenistan’s giant gas fields to Europe via Azerbaijan. 

The link has been held up by geopolitics and a lack of commercial backing, although a landmark deal on the status of the Caspian Sea signed by Caspian littoral states Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia in 2018 was viewed as a positive step. 

Robert Cutler, director of the Energy Security program at the NATO Association of Canada, said the Dostluk agreement “clears the last obstacle” to the Trans-Caspian pipeline.

“The gas exists, the valve is off, (Turkmenistan) is just waiting to turn the gas on,” Cutler told AFP, adding that the project did not require a “commercial champion” to build the pipeline.

Experts estimate that the Dostluk hydrocarbons field contains natural gas and 60-70 million tons of oil.