The deputy prime minister spoke at the Oil and Gas Turkmenistan 2010 conference, the 15th such annual meeting and exposition, attended by 400 people from more than 160 companies and governments, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.
"There is no need for European countries to worry. We are building an infrastructure designed for 40 bcm of gas," Khodzhamukhamedov was quoted as saying, according to RIA Novosti. He said Turkmenistan is building the East-West pipeline across its territory now to hook up to lines supplying Nabucco.
The official Turkmen media has not yet covered this statement. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov himself did not mention the offer to supply Nabucco in his own welcoming address to the international expo, although he did mention the pipeline to China and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline and spoke of the more than $9 billion in investments made to tap the estimated 21 trillion cubic meters of gas in the fields of South Yolotan, implying that plenty of gas would be available for all prospective customers.
"In exporting natural gas to the Russian Federation, the Chinese People's Republic, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkmenistan does not lose sight of the issues of modernization of the pipelines. At the present time construction is under way at a high pace of the East-West pipeline which will link into one ring all the gas desposits of the country," President Berdymukhamedov said in a statement published by Turkmenistan Golden Age, the official government website. The only indication that Turkmenistan might go beyond these three main customers was the president's general nod in his speech to "an open-door policy".
Last month, the Turkmen leader indicated that Turkmenistan was interested in supplying gas to Europe.
Khodzhamukhamedov spoke of the route of the pipeline, which would have to go under the Caspian Sea and cross a disputed border between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan -- a conflict which has held up progress on Nabucco for years.
The Caspian littoral state leaders met in Baku this week to try to advance various agreements about the Caspian Sea, including border demarcation. Turkmenistan raised the issues of the unresolved border and reiterated the sort of vague demands it has made many times before -- that any solution "must be made on the basis of international legal standards and the principles of mutual respect and consideration of the interests of the partners", regnum.ru reported. There may not be an international law that can help two post-Soviet states settle their borders, and if both sides were capable of tolerantly taking into account each other's needs and interests, the dispute would be resolved by now.
In Baku, President Berdymukhamedov also put down a marker about Nabucco, saying that any pipeline across the Caspian can only be built with the consent of the parties whose territories it crosses -- and taking into account "international environmental standards". He also said that the Caspian had to be divided according to each country's territory as well as common international waters -- an implicit objection to Iran's insistence that the Caspian be divvied up into equal shares, and an implicit rejection of the interests of Russia and Kazakhstan as well, says regnum.ru.
President Berdymukhamedov said that the differences "should not be given a political coloration," regnum.ru quoted him as saying.
Negotiations by the Nabucco consortium of Western companies led by Austria's OMV and supported by Germany's gas giant RWE have been rocky, as Turkmenistan has blown hot and cold regarding its involvement. In recent months, the Nabucco consortium has even talked openly about making do with only gas from Azerbaijan and Iraq, and has indicated that Turkmenistan may not be forthcoming.
Meanwhile, President Berdymukhamedov has been described as increasingly in favor of the Western-backed Nabucco project, designed to decrease dependence on Russian-backed energy routes, although Turkmenistan has avoided making a formal and explicit commitment. In the coming weeks we will see whether the vice premier's pledge materializes into actual contracts.