Europe eyes Caspian energy, woos Turkmenistan

The European Union told Turkmenistan on Thursday it wanted to step up energy cooperation as senior EU officials sat down for talks with their Central Asian counterparts in the Caspian nation.

Europe eyes Caspian energy, woos Turkmenistan
Brussels sees Central Asia, lying on some of the world's biggest oil and gas reserves, as key to its ambitions to diversify energy supplies away from Russia which provides the bloc with a quarter of its gas needs.

The European Union is particularly keen to convince Turkmenistan to join the long-stalled Nabucco gas pipeline project designed to link up Caspian gas with European markets.

"Ways of strengthening the dialogue on Trans-Caspian energy corridors need to be discussed further including in the context of ongoing feasibility studies and the results of these," the EU said in a statement distributed to reporters on the closing day of EU-Central Asia discussions.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as well as the French and Slovenian foreign ministers gathered in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat this week for closed-door talks on issues ranging from energy security to democracy.

Turkmenistan, Central Asia's top gas producer, and oil-rich Kazakhstan are the main focus of EU interest in the strategic region where competition is already rough with Russia, the United States and China all vying for control.

Turkmenistan is trying to forge closer ties with the West while maintaining good relations with Russia.

Although the EU has confirmed its commitment to closer dialogue on human rights with Central Asia, rights groups have urged it not to put energy above democracy in its contacts with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

"While serious human rights violations in the region continue, both parties (EU and Central Asia) seem more interested in privileging economic relations rather than promoting and protecting human rights," Amnesty International said in a statement.

"Amnesty International calls on the EU to ensure the human rights provisions of (its) strategy are implemented fully and consistently."
Last Mod: 10 Nisan 2008, 14:31
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