Iran Warns Turkmenistan on Gas Disruptions

A009017224.jpgTEHRAN (FNA) Iran on Monday warned Turkmenistan that it would not reconsider any pricing issue before Ashgabat restores gas exports.

Gas imports from Turkmenistan have been shut off for the past two weeks, compounding the effects of a consumption crunch in Iran that has caused major gas cuts in the north of the country during record low temperatures.

“Turkmenistan should first resume the halted gas supply, then we negotiate. Otherwise we will announce that we do not need Turkmenistan’s gas,” Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said.

In a sign of the gravity of the problem caused by the halt in Turkmenistan’s gas supplies to Iran, Ahmadinejad last week made a sudden unannounced visit to the northern Mazandaran province to pledge that gas would be restored in days.

To cope with the domestic shortages, Iran has completely cut its daily exports of 20 million cubic meters (706 million cubic feet) of gas to Turkey.

Turkey was on Monday still not being supplied with Iranian gas, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

The Iranian government has been pinning the blame on the domestic shortages on Turkmenistan, which halted its gas exports to Iran on December 30 allegedly for “technical reasons.”

Turkmenistan normally exports between 20 to 23 million cubic meters (700 million to 805 million cubic feet) of gas daily to Iran – amounting to around five percent of the Islamic republic’s total consumption.

Turkmenistan’s foreign ministry is reported to have said that necessary repairs to the pipeline were delayed as Iran had not been paying the bills for the gas on time.

Iran has rejected the claim.

While Turkmenistan’s economic officials insist that the country cut gas to Iran 12 days ago because of a technical fault with the export pipeline, Ashgabat’s political circles blame a failure by Iran to pay for supplies as a second cause of the disruption.

Turkmenistan’s gas export to Iran is not cut off. This was stated in the information furnished by the press service of the MFA of the Republic of Turkmenistan published at Turkmenistan.ru.

According to the press service, the information published in press about complete stoppage of gas export to Iran is not correct.

“It is about temporary stop of gas export to Iran happened because of technical problems. If talking more concrete, gas export was stopped because of the necessity to execute repair works and preventive measures connected to gas pipeline exploitation”, informed the Minister of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan, Baimyrat Khodzh Mukhammedov.

But certain media reports said that the Turkmen foreign ministry has mentioned that Tehran’s failure to make the payments had been “holding back the completion of repair and maintenance work”.

Iranian sources earlier told FNA that Turkmenistan had wanted to double the price for the gas it exports to Iran.

The cut has been blamed for serious gas shortages in northern and western Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that Turkmenistan had hampered Iran’s ability to cope with the recent severe cold and heavy snow that has caused at least 28 deaths, including eight from the cold.

In a statement, the Turkmen foreign ministry reiterated that natural gas shipments to Iran had been suspended since 1 January because of the need to perform repairs on the 200km (125 mile) export pipeline.

“Iran’s failure to fulfill its obligations on payments for the previous natural gas shipments from Turkmenistan is holding back the completion of repair and maintenance work,” it added.

A Press TV report confirmed FNA’s earlier news that Turkmenistan intends to increase prices by saying that Turkmenistan had proposed almost doubling the price agreed last year, from $75 (£38) per 1,000 cubic meters of gas to $140 (£71) per 1,000 cubic meters.

In November, the Russian state-run gas firm, Gazprom, agreed to pay Turkmenistan up to 50% more for its gas, increasing the price from $100 (£48) per 1,000 cubic meters to $150 (£77).

An Iranian oil ministry official told FNA earlier that Turkmenistan has violated a last year contract which required Ashgabat to double supplies to Iran following an increase in prices.

“Despite an understanding which was signed by the two sides last year and required Ashgabat to double exports to Iran in return for an increase in price, this country (Turkmenistan) has not only refrained from hiking exports to Iran but also called for a second raise in the price of gas supplies to Iran,” the informed source from the Iranian oil ministry told FNA.

“Last winter Turkmenistan reduced the volume of its gas supplies to Iran, which led to low pressures in certain Iranian cities. At that time Iran signed an understanding with that country on the basis of which the two sides agreed to increase the price of gas exports to Iran in return for doubling the volume of exports,” he said.

“It was mentioned in the same understanding that the price would not be increased for 3 years. But after only one year since the endorsement of the said understanding, Turkmenistan has halted its gas supplies to Iran in blatant violation of the two countries’ contract and the (supplementary) understanding,” the official continued.

He further complained that despite the extra payments made by Iran due to the increased price, Turkmenistan has not only refrained from increasing exports to Iran but also cut supplies to Iran completely.

Turkmenistan halted daily deliveries to Iran of up to 23 million cubic meters of gas, blaming the disruption on technical problems.

Iran, a small net importer despite its huge gas reserves, gets about 5 percent of its needs from its northern neighbor and the supply disruption has caused shortages in some areas as well as a reduction in Iran’s gas exports to Turkey.

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