Vladimir Putin: We have already said everything, but if you still have questions, we are ready to give clarifications.
Question: How long did it take to prepare the agreements that were signed today?
Vladimir Putin: Theoretically, these agreements had already been discussed a long time ago, but during the President of Turkmenistan’s visit to Moscow our colleague suggested that we revive these contacts and eventually sign the agreements that were implemented today. This suggestion acted as a real stimulus for implementing these agreements.
And simultaneously with our gathering and meeting here, you will remember that our experts were also working in Uzbekistan where the President of Uzbekistan signed a document that stipulates that we will work together on expanding the Central Asia-Centre gas pipeline through Uzbekistan. Therefore, today’s agreements are comprehensive ones.
Question: When will all this actually take place, as opposed to just existing on paper?
Vladimir Putin: We agreed that our governments – and I misspoke when speaking before — will sign the intergovernmental agreements before September. And in the first half of next year, of 2008, we will begin practical work to reconstruct the existing trans-Caspian pipeline and to build new pipelines. But I shall repeat that at the initiative of Nursultan Abishevich today we talked a great deal about developing other transport systems, including railway links in the Caspian Sea area. Railways are very important in this respect. As you know, we have long discussed the South-North line, the South-North corridor. We could also give a very good, strong impetus towards developing cooperation in this field.
Question: Vladimir Vladimirovich! Is Russia ready to invest in these projects?
Vladimir Putin: Russia is absolutely ready to not only invest in the pipeline systems themselves, but also to invest in extraction. We discussed this yesterday in Turkmenistan’s capital. And quite a wide range of our companies were represented there. There already is an agreement between our energy companies. Turkmenistan welcomes such investments. As you heard today, Kazakhstan is also interested in this work. I have no doubts on this account whatsoever.
Question: And will other countries join this project?
Vladimir Putin: No, three countries is enough for now.
Question: Is the Trans-Caspian pipeline project still on the agenda?
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov: Diversification of gas distribution is taking place throughout the entire world, so this matter could still be examined.
Question: So this project is still on the agenda?
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov: It is.
Question: Will there be enough gas reserves to go round, given that a pipeline is also to be built to Iran, India and Afghanistan?
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov: Don’t worry, there will be enough gas.
Question: What will be the conditions for this pipeline’s construction?
Nursultan Nazarbayev: The three Presidents issued instructions to their governments today, that is, we have expressed our political support for the project and our governments now have until September 1 to sign the concrete agreements that will set out the specific conditions. But looking ahead, I personally think that we will build a pipeline crossing Kazakhstan’s territory, and crossing Turkmenistan too. This gas pipeline will then link in to the existing Central Asia-Centre or the Bukhara-Ural system. There are two gas pipelines there that converge and link up with the Russian gas transport system. The bilateral talks that we held on final delineation of our common borders were very important for Kazakhstan. Now we have signed the relevant agreements on the meeting points of the three countries and now it is the turn of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. We discussed all the issues regarding the status of the Caspian Sea in detail. We discussed our common approach on these issues and also examined the participation of Kazakh investors in developing offshore fields in the Caspian Sea.
Overall, adding to what my colleagues have said, I just want to say that giving each other access to our territory for transport routes is a normal and natural part of relations between integrated states. Europe is not just building oil and gas pipelines, but also developing rail and air links and so on. If anyone starts saying that we are trying to bypass the west or the east and so on, all I can say is that our approach — and that of Turkmenistan too — I see, is entirely pragmatic. Diversification of oil and gas routes that benefits our country is the main condition. This is not at all about politics. We will develop transport routes wherever we see a benefit to be gained. In other words, we need to get increasing amounts of oil and gas to outside markets, and since the market is there, that is the direction in which we will work. Have I answered your question?
Vladimir Putin: I can only add that we opened trans-Caspian route at Turkmenistan’s request. This is an old pipeline, it was inactive, and our colleagues in Turkmenistan asked us to begin using it again. And we are now pumping 4,2 billion cubic metres through the pipeline and will be able to pump 10,5 billion. We must rebuild it; we will do so as soon as possible and build a new branch. And therefore by 2012 there will be at least an additional 20 billion.