According to a new report published by Reuters, the European Union expects to begin receiving Turkmen natural gas as early as 2019. EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, a Russian-speaking career diplomat from Slovakia, recently held meetings in Ashgabat with the foreign ministers of Turkmenistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan, meetings that were also attended by senior Turkmen energy officials. The proposed means of supplying the European Union is via the trans-Caspian pipeline, and is heralded as a means by which both the European Union and Turkmenistan could reduce reliance on Russia in the EU’s case and on both Russian and China in the Turkmen case.
It remains to be seen whether or not the pipeline will be seen through to construction. The fact that the pipeline would run through the Caspian Sea, a geopolitically important body of water whose legal status remains largely undefined, could prove complicated if one or more of the littoral states raises objections. Indeed, Turkmenistan had previously raised objections to the pipeline’s construction, though with Ashgabat seemingly now on board, a deal may become more feasible. The new pipeline is tentatively sized at 300 kilometers in length, and would connect with TANAP, a pipeline currently linking Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II natural gas field to the Caspian Sea.
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- The Council on Foreign Relations has published an analysis of meetings between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar. The meetings were held in order to discuss the possibility of peace talks, although the Taliban have rejected that possibility due to the continuing presence of foreign troops in the country. The Taliban recently launched their spring offensive and were quickly countered by an Afghan military offensive which killed an estimated 200 Taliban. No timetable has been set for a new set of negotiations.
- Clashes in eastern Ukraine have again taken place despite the presence of a ceasefire. While the genesis of the new wave of violence is largely unclear, indications are that the one year anniversary of the killing of 40 pro-Russia rebels in Odessa could be the source. The Ukrainian military has renewed shelling of Donetsk, a central hub for separatists, and interchanges of fire are not uncommon.
- Radio Free Europe suggests that the Ukraine crisis could present an opportunity for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenko to gain leverage in his country’s relationship with Russia. Specifically, the article references Lukashenko’s expected absence from the May 9 Victor Day parade in Moscow, and the fact that Russia will no longer be able to buttress the Belarusian economy in the same way that it has previously due to its own economic woes. As a result, it appears likely that Lukashenko will attempt to gain some degree of support from the West, while ultimately maintaining Belarus firmly in Russia’s sphere of influence.
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