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September 12, 2011

Russia Slams EU Plan for Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline

Russia has criticized a European Union decision to open discussions with former Soviet states Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on a pipeline project that could deliver the Caspian region's vast natural gas reserves directly to Western Europe.

In a statement Tuesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said such an agreement would fail to take into account the international legal and geopolitical situation in the Caspian basin.  

He added that the issues concerning the natural gas should be decided only by the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea - Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iran.  He also said the five nations had signed a 2007 agreement that binds them to finding consensus on major issues such as the laying of international pipelines.

The EU on Monday agreed to propose a union-wide treaty supporting the completion of a Trans-Caspian pipeline that would connect Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan via the Caspian Sea.  Gas from that pipeline would be fed into the EU- and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline and transported to Western Europe on a route that bypasses Russia.

Russia is currently developing a South Stream pipeline in the same region, which rivals the Nabucco project.

None of the EU nations border the Caspian.  The EU buys about one-quarter of its natural gas from Russia and wants to diversify its purchases to become less dependent on Russia, which has periodically cut off the gas supply.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman also pointed out the possible dangers of building a pipeline in the Caspian, a landlocked body of water that has heightened seismic and elevated tectonic activity.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.