nCa: How do you assess the prospects of development of relationship between Turkmenistan and Iran for the next three years (2011-2013) in key sectors – energy, trade, economy, transport and communications?
Golpaegani: The historical process of development of relations between two countries indicates the continuous growth since the past times till the present. In the coming years this process will be continued. In the energy sector – putting into exploitation the second trunk gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Iran, Iran became the major buyer of Turkmen natural gas and the best trade partner of Turkmenistan. Important energy projects, jointly planned by the two countries, will be implemented in the coming years. The regular meetings of joint Iranian-Turkmen commission on economic cooperation, considering the various aspects of bilateral trade-economic cooperation, is evidence of dynamics of development and expansion of bilateral economic ties. Moreover, both the countries have the unique transit location for linking of Persian Gulf and Central Asia. Realization of this idea will secure the interests of the regional countries. The first serious steps were taken in November 2010 in Tehran, when the meeting, known as quadrilateral meeting took place. In this context, we consider that in the forthcoming three years would be the period of flourishing of bilateral relations between the two countries. Putting into commission of Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway line, scheduled for the end of 2011, will be the positive step in Iran’s partnership with all the countries of the region.
nCa: Your opinion about the energy policy of Turkmenistan, and the role that Iran can play in the development of the hydrocarbon sector of Turkmenistan.
Golpaegani: The discovery of new hydrocarbon deposits will turn Turkmenistan into regional energy resource supplier. In this context Iran intends to play important role in three directions: firstly, as above mentioned, Iran is the major buyer of hydrocarbon resources from Turkmenistan; secondly, the century’s worth of experience in oil and gas industry development of Iran is the valuable guarantee of progress in this sphere. The sharing of experience and advanced technologies with the young energy sector of Turkmenistan is one of the directions of our cooperation. And we consider the development of this partnership will be beneficial for the security of regional interests. In the end, Iran is the reliable and shortest route for Turkmen energy sources supply to open sea. With this purpose for many years we are studying the potential possibilities and working out the related projects.
nCa: Considering that Iran is a major buyer of natural gas from Turkmenistan, do you think the materialization of Nabucco, Trans-Caspian or TAPI pipelines would have any effect on future prospects of Iran’s gas trade with Turkmenistan?
Golpaegani: The cooperation of Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkmenistan in energy sphere is based on long-term agreements, securing the national interests of both the countries. Fortunately, this relationship is so strong, that the third factors are unable to affect them. The desire of the national leaders of the two countries to develop the relations in all sectors is very solid. Both the countries have mutual understanding on top level. This fact proves the level of relationship between Turkmenistan and Iran. The construction and putting into commission of the second gas pipeline between two countries and launching ceremony of another gas pipeline on territory of Iran with participation of presidents of two countries testify that the cooperation is growing and Iran will keep the place of the best trade partner of Turkmenistan for the coming years. We are sure that we have huge potential for further expansion of cooperation, which should be boosted.
nCa: In general, do you think that Turkmenistan’s increasing energy cooperation with the western countries and China will cause any negative impact on Iran’s energy relations with Turkmenistan?
Golpaegani: Each state makes decisions on the basis of it own national interests, defines priorities in relationship with the external world and put them into action. Regarding the energy sector we are sure that the potential between two states is so wide that no other factors can affect them.
nCa: In your view, what are the chances of Naubcco and TAPI, two projects that depend on gas from Turkmenistan, becoming a reality?
Answer: Taking into account that these projects involve several countries, they are regional projects. Thus their practical implementation will depend on many factors. It is natural that without the estimation of these factors, it is impossible to expect full success of these projects.
nCa: What is the price or price formula for sale of Turkmen gas to Iran?
Answer: I am a diplomat and the technical aspects are discussed by the related agencies, gas departments. The diplomatic missions just play the role in creation of basis for development of relations and coordination of efforts. The technical details are defined by the related departments.
nCa: What are the volumes of gas that Iran will buy from Turkmenistan in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Which fields would these volumes come from?
Golpaegani: Fortunately, the past year’s efforts yielded good results. At present time the export of Turkmen natural gas to Iran has been increased to 30 bln cu m per annum. In spite of the fact that Iran is a major natural gas producer in the world, at the same time Iran is a good consumer market for Turkmen gas. Moreover, Iran possesses favorable transit possibilities. The volume of future export of Turkmen gas to Iran will be discussed by experts of both countries.
nCa: If at any stage Turkmenistan or Pakistan invite Iran to become a partner in TAPI, in any capacity such as buyer, partner, transit provider, builder or financier etc. what would be the reaction of Iran?
Golpaegani: As it was above mentioned, Iran is the most secure and efficient route for transportation and transit of energy sources at regional level. So, any proposals, relating to the transit or other aspects will be subject to negotiations.
nCa: Considering that Iran is a Caspian littoral state, what , in your view, could be the best solution for the Caspian question, especially its legal status and the division of the bed and waters?
Golpaegani: This issue is technical and can only be addressed by the experts. We hope that discussions on the legal status of Caspian Sea and division of the bottom and water area among the littoral states will lead to consensus in settlement of this problem.
nCa: What, in your view, are the prospects for political and economic growth (or decline) of Central Asia, includng Turkmenistan, over the next ten years (2011-2020). This question is relevant in the context of the capacity of Central Asia to remain a long term partner of Iran?
Golpaegani: The prospects of political and economic growth (or decline) depend on many factors. The political stability, growth of investments to infrastructure, development of regional cooperation, strengthening of transport infrastructure, including transit corridor Central Asia – Persian Gulf and Oman Gulf are factors, influencing the dynamics of development of the region. In my opinion, prospects of political and economic growth of the regional countries are positive and in the stage of growth. The Programs of Islamic Republic of Iran are projected taking into account the cooperation with countries of the region. Of course, taking into account our long-term strategic cooperation with the region, the planning is carried out carefully in accordance with the current trends.
nCa: In your view, what kind of role should Russia, China and the West be playing in the Central Asian region?
Golpaegani: Central Asia needs peace, order and creation of necessary conditions for development of infrastructure in all sectors. That’s why the players, present in the region, should play the positive role and contribute to the securing of needs. The interference of super powers to internal affairs of the regional countries is the serious obstacle for the comprehensive development. The region cannot be the place of confrontation and competition between other super powers. It is fraught with threat to the order, political and economic stability and even the culture of region.
nCa: As you know, the North-South railway line linking Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan will come into operation by the end of 2011. What will be the concrete benefits of this railway link?
Golpaegani: As you know, most of Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are landlocked. So they have the pressing problem in transportation sphere. The route of railway North–South, connecting Central Asia with the Persian Gulf is the most economical and cheapest route for export, import and transit of goods. The expanded railway can be connected to the railways of other countries, including Russia. The main purposes of the projects are the facilitation of export and import transportations between the countries by the route of this railway and development of transport potential between these countries.
nCa: There is also the iniaiative to create Central Asia – Middle East transportation and communications corridor (Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Qatar-Oman). What is the latest position on this initiative?
Golpaegani: Of course the creation of transport corridor will require not only the transport infrastructure, but also the agreements between the countries in other branches, in particular in customs and boundary sphere, and the issues of investment should be agreed as well. In the course of Tehran meeting, attended by the ministers of foreign affairs, ministers of transport and heads of railway departments of four countries – Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Oman, the sides agreed to create the expert groups on transport issues, on customs issues and on economic and investment issues.
nCa: As is known Turkmenistan has proposed the creation of UN Energy Council. What role can Iran play in implementation of this proposal?
Golpaegani: Fortunately, the relations between Iran and Turkmenistan are friendly in the regional and international arena. Both states have the common positions on regional international issues. The ideas, sounded by the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov in the course of UN General Assembly session will be attentively supported by Islamic Republic of Iran.