An international gas pipeline group is welcoming a European Union decision to allow the bloc's executive commission to negotiate an agreement with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan for a Trans-Caspian pipeline.
Officials with the Nabucco Gas Pipeline Consortium say the pipeline project will help ensure supplies to European markets and reduce dependence on other sources.
The EU on Monday agreed to propose a union-wide treaty supporting the completion of a Trans-Caspian pipeline that would connect Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan via the Caspian Sea. Gas from that pipeline would be fed into the EU- and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline and transported to western Europe on a route that bypasses Russia.
Russia has criticized the decision, saying the agreement fails to take into account the international legal and geopolitical situation in the Caspian basin.
In a statement Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said the issues concerning the natural gas should be decided only by the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea - Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iran. The ministry also said the five nations had signed a 2007 agreement that binds them to finding consensus on major issues such as the laying of international pipelines.
Russia is currently developing a South Stream pipeline in the same region, which rivals the Nabucco project.
None of the EU nations borders the Caspian. The EU buys about one-quarter of its natural gas from Russia and wants to diversify its purchases to become less dependent on Russia, which has periodically cut off supplies.
Russia's Foreign Ministry also pointed out the possible dangers of building a pipeline in the Caspian, a landlocked body of water that has heightened seismic and elevated tectonic activity.
Participants in the Nabucco project are Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Germany.
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