ARTICLE OF THE ISSUE
ENERGY SECURITY ARCHITECTURE
"We welcome the work on energy transit under the Chairmanship of Turkmenistan and will continue our work on transit issues with a view to supporting diversified energy sources and supply routes and secure reliable and sustainable energy transportation." This is an excerpt from the Ashgabat Declaration adopted by the International Energy Charter (EC) Conference at its 28th meeting held in the capital of Turkmenistan on 28-29 November 2017.
The signing of the Ashgabat Declaration was one of the important outcomes of the November meeting, as well as the International Energy Charter Forum entitled "Towards a Multilateral Framework Agreement on Transit of Energy Resources" that was held in Ashgabat on 30-31 May 2017 under Turkmenistan's Chairmanship in this organization in 2017.
According to the Ashgabat Declaration, "We recognize the role of the Energy Charter Process in enhancing regional and international energy cooperation, facilitating interconnectivity and promoting open and competitive energy markets in order to ensure universal access to sustainable energy sources, except for circumstances generating concerns for international and national security of the involved states, thus reinforcing energy security."
About 28 high-level representatives from 52 countries from different regions of the world and 10 international organizations took part in the work of the 28th meeting of the EC Conference.
In his speech, Chairman of the Energy Charter Conference Maksat Babayev emphasized that Turkmenistan's Chairmanship in such reputable organization was evidence of the successful implementation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's international initiatives in the field of energy security, in particular regarding reliable transit of energy resources.
It was also noted that during Turkmenistan's term as Chair of the Conference seven new countries joined the International Energy Charter. Speaking at the meeting, representatives of the newcomer countries, such as Gambia, Nigeria and the UAE, described this structure as a unique platform for cooperation and stressed its significant role in ensuring a more sustainable energy future.
Speaking at the Conference, Secretary General of the Energy Charter Conference Dr. Urban Rusnak noted that Turkmenistan with one of the world largest energy potentials pursues the establishment of the sustainable global energy security architecture guided by the principles of the balance of interests of both exporters, consumers and transit countries.
As was noted at the forum, Turkmenistan's energy policy aims to ensure the comprehensive development of the national fuel and energy sector and its dynamic integration into the global energy system. In accordance with the concept of its Chairmanship, Turkmenistan implemented a number of comprehensive measures in 2017 to speed up the process of development of a new international legal mechanism in the field of sustainable energy. In this context, it was noted that Turkmenistan confirms its support for the work of an international expert group for preparation of multilateral documents in the field of energy security and establishment of a stable international energy system.
Issues related to development of the global energy system and subsequent creation of a favorable investment climate for implementation of projects in such strategically important sector are closely linked to the problem of ensuring reliable and stable international energy supplies. Above all, it concerns the pipeline transportation of natural gas.
In this context, the meeting emphasized the constructive nature of Turkmenistan's initiatives aimed at creating a new global energy security architecture. The urgency of such initiatives is confirmed by the two UN General Assembly Resolutions entitled "Reliable and Stable Transit of Energy and its Role in Ensuring Sustainable Development and International Cooperation."
The importance of addressing the issues related to safe transit through transcontinental gas pipelines was emphasized at the meeting. According to the meeting participants, developing new mechanisms to achieve the agreed goals is an important task facing the international community. Addressing these issues is very important for Turkmenistan that seeks to diversify the natural gas export routes to the international markets.
In particular, Acting Chairman of Turkmengaz state-owned corporation Myrat Archayev announced Turkmenistan's willingness to supply natural gas to Europe and the CIS countries via the existing system of trunk gas pipelines to the north that was previously used to export gas to Russia and other CIS countries (Central Asia-Center gas pipeline system).
"If the fundamental principles of the Energy Charter Treaty are applied and certain agreements are reached with transit countries, this gas pipeline system can potentially be used to deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to the countries of Europe and the CIS," he said.
As is known, Russian "Gazprom", previously a traditional big importer of Turkmen natural gas, stopped buying it from 2016. So, there are natural opportunities to use the available capacities of the CAC system for the transit of Turkmen natural gas in the European direction.
At present, Turkmenistan is the biggest supplier of natural gas to China with exports to this country amounting to about 40 billion cubic meters per year. Turkmen gas exports to Iran fell sharply in 2017 because of the Iranian debts for natural gas supplied earlier.
Turkmenistan, rating fourth in the world in terms of natural gas reserves, is building the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) gas pipeline with the capacity of 33 billion cubic meters per year.
In addition, Ashgabat, Baku, Ankara, Georgia and Brussels discuss the possibility of building a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline as part of the Southern Gas Corridor, designed to establish long-term gas supplies from the Caspian region to the European Union countries.
At the November meeting, the results of Turkmenistan's Chairmanship in the Energy Charter Conference in 2017 were also summed up. As was noted, Ashgabat focused on practical implementation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's international initiatives in the field of ensuring global energy security as an integral factor of universal sustainable development.
In this regard, the International Energy Charter Forum entitled "Towards a Multilateral Framework Agreement on the Transit of Energy Resources" held in Ashgabat in May 2017 was a significant step. It was attended by the ministers, high-level officials and representatives of international organizations, energy companies and research institutions.
The Forum helped to identify a number of issues and problems related to international energy supplies and possible alternative solutions reflecting the needs of the Energy Charter member states. The event coincided with an international media forum organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. The outcome document of the Ashgabat Forum was circulated in the official UN languages as an official document of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly.
The Forum focused on the practical and legal aspects of natural gas transit via the Central Asia - China pipeline, as well as other gas transportation projects, including construction of the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) gas pipeline, prospects for global trade in LNG, role of the Caspian region and Central Asia in ensuring energy security of the European Union, opportunities for trade in electricity between Central and South Asia, diversification of routes for electricity transportation, establishment of a single Central Asian power system.
As Vice President of the European Commission (EC) Maros Shefovich said in his video message to the Forum participants, exports of the Caspian natural gas to the European market becomes a reality, as confirmed by the recent meeting of the Consultative Council held in Baku in February 2017.
He also noted that the Ashgabat Declaration on Energy Cooperation signed two years ago at the EU - Azerbaijan - Turkey - Turkmenistan quadripartite ministerial meeting was the basis for establishment of the relevant working group, and this successful cooperation would continue.
Noting that negotiations and efforts to ensure Turkmen gas supplies to the European markets are evidence of the lasting partnership, Marosh Shefovich expressed strong confidence that the Caspian Central Asian region and the European Union would develop mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy sector in the coming years.
The EC Vice-President also said that experience accumulated by Turkmenistan in the construction of East-West pipelines, TAPI and other similar large-scale projects can be useful for the diversification of supplies and routes to the European Union, in particular the South Gas Corridor and its possible extension to Central Asia through the Trans-Caspian pipeline.
Speaking at the Forum, Turkmenistan's representatives stressed that their country is ready to interact closely with the Energy Charter partners based on the clearly formulated principles, above all, the principle of freedom of transit. Turkmenistan, being an exporting country that occupies a key position in the Central Asian region and initiator of a number of major international and regional energy projects, sees the issue of energy security and stability of energy transit as a strategic one. The Ashgabat Energy Charter Forum was an important step towards creating a document facilitating the establishment of global partnership in the energy sector that governs the interests of producers, transit countries and consumers of energy resources.
In his speech at the Forum, Secretary General of the Energy Charter Conference Urban Rusnak supported Turkmenistan's proposal to develop a new system of energy supplies to the international markets that would take into account the interests of energy producing, consuming and transit countries.
According to Urban Rusnak, the Energy Charter Conference aims to ensure safe, continuous and unhindered transit with more efficient use of infrastructure. At the same time, Rusnak stressed the importance of developing clear rules to facilitate and ensure security of supplies, providing support to construction, expansion and modernization of infrastructure, as well as developing mechanisms for resolution of disputes and emergencies.
It is also important that in the outcome document adopted at the end of the Forum the participants called on the UN regional commissions, international energy and financial organizations to take active part in the practical work on drafting a Multilateral Framework Agreement on the transit of energy resources.
The main task for this year is to identify specific issues and problems related to the transit and to work out possible alternative solutions reflecting the needs of the Energy Charter Conference member states, the outcome document says.
It also says that the importance of transit in the context of global energy security has already been addressed in United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/263 entitled "Reliable and Stable Transit of Energy and its Role in Ensuring Sustainable Development and International Cooperation", which was developed at the initiative of Turkmenistan and adopted by consensus on 17 May 2013.
"Nevertheless, there is still a need to develop multilateral legal instruments providing for uniform principles and rules that govern relations among energy-producing, transit and consuming countries," the outcome document notes. It also stresses that the Government of Turkmenistan will submit a report to the UN General Assembly on the energy transit work undertaken jointly with the International Energy Charter pursuant to the General Assembly resolution 67/263.
"As the Chair of the Energy Charter Conference in 2017, Turkmenistan calls on the sponsors of this resolution to join the Energy Charter process by signing a political declaration, namely the International Energy Charter, with a view to fully participating in the development of uniform energy transit principles and rules," the outcome document says.
It also notes that "today the Energy Charter Treaty is a unique legally binding instrument regulating energy transit. Signing the International Energy Charter that currently unites over 80 countries worldwide is the first step towards the Treaty, which aims to strengthen legal norms in the energy sector by applying uniform and binding rules for all participants and minimizing the risks associated with investments and the energy trade."
At the November meeting of the International Energy Charter Conference, Urban Rusnak said that many countries are now reforming their energy policies. In this regard, he noted that the Energy Charter Treaty should be modernized, and there is a great potential for attracting investments in energy development.
Speaking at the meeting, OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger praised Turkmenistan's Chairmanship in the Energy Charter. He stressed that the country plays an important role in maintaining stability in the Central Asian region. Speaking about the fact that the OSCE has been dealing with energy security issues for several years now, Greminger noted that geopolitical competition also requires political cooperation in the issues related to energy security.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze noted at the meeting that joining the Southern Gas Corridor would allow Turkmenistan to transport its gas to Turkey and Europe. According to experts, Turkmen natural gas coming from the East-West gas pipeline can be exported through the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, which, in turn, will be connected to the Bulgaria - Romania - Hungary - Austria gas pipeline (BRUA), the construction of which will be completed by 2020.
"Turkmenistan is the only real candidate capable of contributing to the diversification of gas supplies to Europe, as it has huge deposits of natural gas and a huge export potential," Georgian Prime Minister's adviser Georgy Rashikamadze said.
However, it is necessary to build a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline from the Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea to Baku to transport Turkmen gas to the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline.
Other important discussions at the meeting covered the issues related to transition of the Energy Charter member states to the "green economy." It was noted that a well-functioning, transparent and competitive global gas market, including commercial liquefied natural gas hubs, would have a decisive influence on the development of the international energy system in the following few decades.