Russia 'interfering' in Turkmenistan energy sphere: ministry
Turkmenistan on Friday accused Russia of interfering in its energy business by spreading false information, the latest sign of flaring tensions between the neighbours.
In a strongly worded statement the Turkmen Foreign Ministry slammed Moscow for attempting to spoil some of Ashgabat's ongoing projects while at the same time injecting itself without invitation into others.
The statement, which came just days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Turkmenistan on an official state visit, lashed out at reports in the Russian press about Turkmenistan's ability to meet European energy demands.
"In recent days reports have appeared in the Russian press that give an unreasonable interpretation of some aspects of energy policy in Turkmenistan, including those related to the implementation of projects on the delivery of Turkmen energy resources to international markets," it said.
"The statements... are regarded in Turkmenistan as an attempt to interfere with the normal course of international cooperation between our countries in energy and cast doubt on its obligation to its partners."
The ministry singled out Russian media reports that energy-giant Gazprom was in talks to join a project to build an export pipeline known as TAPI connecting Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and onward to Pakistan and India.
Deputy prime minister Igor Sechin, Russia's top energy official, told reporters last week that Gazprom was ready to participate in TAPI, which appears to have come as unexpected -- and unwelcome -- news to Ashgabat.
Relations between the two countries began to sour following a pipeline explosion in early 2009 that saw Turkmen exports to Russia -- their principal route to market -- almost entirely severed.
Following the incident Turkmenistan, an isolated state that holds the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas, has sought to diversify its export routes away from over reliance on Russia's Soviet-era pipelines.
Ashgabat is often mentioned as a possible supplier for Europe's trans-Caspian Nabucco pipeline intended to break the Kremlin's strangle-hold on Central Asian energy exports.
Turkmenistan-China energy cooperation has also soared in the past two years, with a number of pipeline and exploration projects under work.
© 2010 AFP