Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gas: Turkmenistan blames Gazprom for blast

Turkmenistan blamed Russia's state natural gas monopoly Friday for a pipeline blast that shut off shipments to Russia - an unusual show of tension that could help Western efforts to buy Turkmen gas directly, The Daily Yomiuri reports.

Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry said in a flurry of statements that Russia's Gazprom decided on short notice to reduce the amount of gas it takes from Turkmenistan. Gazprom's export division gave only one day's warning, which wasn't sufficient time for Turkmenistan to reduce its flow into the pipeline network, the ministry said.

The blast, which occurred late Wednesday, "was caused by a gross unilateral violation by Gazpromexport of the norms and rules of the natural gas sales agreement," the statement said. Another statement said Gazprom's actions were "rash and irresponsible" and put lives at risk.

Gazprom has not commented, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested Gazprom was not at fault. "This accident is purely technical," Lavrov said late Friday, according to Russian news agency RIA-Novosti. "I am counting on the fact that this will all be quickly settled."

But Turkmenistan's accusatory language - and putting the accusations at the diplomatic level - raise new questions about Turkmenistan's willingness to rely on Russia as the main purchaser of its gas.

Source: FOCUS Information Agency

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