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Turkmen halt of Iran gas exports ‘illogical’

Hasheminezhad gas treatment plant in northeastern Iran from which gas supplies imported from Turkmenistan are pumped into the country’s northern provinces. (Photo by Shana)

Iran has described as “illogical” a move on Sunday by Turkmenistan to halt gas supplies to the country as a result of a row over outstanding debts. 

Turkmenistan’s move - that came despite reports of an agreement on Friday over the disputed arrears by the media in Tehran – led to a halt in the activities of several power plants in northern Iran that run on gas. 

Officials accordingly ordered a switch to liquid fuel in some of the power plants. Concerns emerged nonetheless that gas supplies in provinces such as Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan would not be enough to warm houses with winter already at doorsteps. 

At the heart of the dispute between the two countries is a claim by Turkmenistan that Iran owes it $1.8 billion from sales between 2007 and 2008 when freezing winters led to severe shortages across 20 Iranian provinces, forcing the country to raise gas imports from its northeastern neighbor.

At the time, Turkmenistan pounced on the occasion to demand a nine-fold hike which yanked the price up to $360 from $40 for every 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

According to Turkmen officials, the balance has built up to a debt of $1.8 billion which Iran is rejecting and has threatened to take the case to international arbitration.

On Friday, the media in Iran said the two sides had reached an agreement over the dispute.

Officials in Tehran said talks would continue between the two sides over the next few months until a final agreement would be reached. 

Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum in a statement on Monday strongly criticized Turkmenistan’s move to cut off supplies of gas to Iran that took place on Sunday morning.   

The Ministry described as “illogical” the move which it said was based on a claim that Iran should make a rapid payment of the disputed debt.

It added that Turkmenistan – which it said had also turned the taps on Iran over price disputes during several past winters - had acted against an agreement that had been reached between Tehran and Ashgabat.

The Ministry further called on the nation to reduce consumption to compensate for the loss that a halt in imports from Turkmenistan could create throughout the cold season. 

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