Russia and Central Asia agree to energy cooperation

Mar 01, 2002 01:00 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Central Asian states had agreed to boost their energy cooperation with Moscow, as Russia attempts to counteract the creeping US presence in the region. Putin said that he had held talks with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and that "we agreed to cooperate in the energy sector, above all the gas sphere."

Putin in January called for the creation of an alliance of gas producers grouping Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to coordinate the volume and destination of gas exports from the region. "This issue is of unifying our efforts... especially as countries like Russia and Turkmenistan are large producers and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are prepared to offer their transport system," Putin told.
"This mutual cooperation will without a doubt be aimed at providing for the energy needs of all countries in the Commonwealth, European partners and partners in other markets including Asian markets," he added.

Central Asian leaders have as yet failed to react to the gas alliance proposal which will further increase their dependence on Moscow at a time when they are seeking to diversify their oil and gas export routes. Russia is already the biggest gas producer in the region and has a virtual monopoly over the energy transportation routes from landlocked Central Asia states, which rely on the former Soviet pipeline system.
Both Russia and the United States have long been embroiled in a bitter struggle to gain control over the transportation of Central Asia's energy resources and the battle has intensified following the increased US presence in the region. The United States has been allowed to deploy coalition troops at bases in three of the former Soviet Central Asian states, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Putin was speaking after a summit of presidents of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a loose grouping of former Soviet republics minus the Baltics), which has been dominated by the US presence in what Moscow considers its backyard.

Source: AFP
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