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By Marat Gurt
ASHGABAT, July 10 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan said on Friday it was ready to provide gas for the Nabucco pipeline, three months after Russia halted gas imports from the Central Asian state amid a row over shipments.
“Currently, Turkmenistan has excess gas for trade. We are ready to send it abroad to any customer. This includes Nabucco,” Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told a government meeting, broadcast late on Friday on state television.
Russia, the main buyer of Turkmen gas, halted its imports in April after a pipeline which carries more than half of its most valuable export exploded and analysts have said Turkmenistan is losing up to $1 billion every month in lost gas export revenues.
Central Asia’s biggest gas producer blamed Moscow for blowing up the pipeline, a charge Russia denies.
U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, in an interview with Turkmen state television also on Friday, said he had discussed energy cooperation with Berdymukhamedov during his tour in Central Asia.
A raft of transit agreements will be signed on Monday in Turkey by the architects of the EU and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline, which are expected to define where the pipeline will begin.
The pipeline group wants to pump 31 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe annually, meeting some 5 percent of gas needs, but a lack of supply agreements have hampered political will and financing, analysts say.
The Vienna-based project, due to come on stream by 2014, will bypass Russia, which currently supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas needs and whose spats with neighbouring transit countries in the past have halted supplies to the bloc.
Possible suppliers for the 7.9 billion euro ($11.01 billion) Nabucco project have included Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Azerbaijan and possibly Russia and Turkmenistan.
Some analysts say Nabucco has better prospects than Russia’s rival South Stream pipeline in the long run, though Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has fought hard to outpace it in the past year by signing up many East European countries.
Azerbaijan said on Friday that it has not given anyone — neither Gazprom nor Nabucco — priority for its gas coming from its Shakh Deniz fields. [ID:nLA459251]
Transit countries Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria will sign an accord on July 13 in Ankara. While it may help financing and reassure supplier countries, it will not be a big leap forward for a project already subject to delays.
$1=.7173 Euro Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman in Moscow; Editing by Christian Wiessner