Turkmen leader vows to increase natural gas exports to Russia

Jun 30, 2007 02:00 AM

Turkmenistan's president has vowed to increase natural gas exports to Russia. Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov also said his country would develop a US-backed undersea Caspian pipeline along with a gas pipeline that runs along the seashore favoured by Moscow, signalling a desire to balance relations with key powers and maintain neutrality.
"We will increase exports of our gas through the Caspian shores to Russia," Berdymukhamedov said. Turkmenistan currently sells 50 bn cm (1.7 tcf) of gas to Russia per year.

Berdymukhamedov was referring to an agreement in May to build a Moscow-backed pipeline that would carry gas from Turkmenistan into Europe along the shores of the Caspian Sea.
But the Turkmen leader also said his nation would develop a US-favoured pipeline across the Caspian Sea to the west that would tap into the gas pipelines that cross the South Caucasus, bypassing Russia. Washington is intent on building the pipeline because it meets a US and European strategy of securing sources of crude and gas outside the Middle East, and drawing Caspian states away from Russia and closer to the West.

"Without joining any political alliances we will continue efforts to build pipelines to China, to Pakistan and India through Afghanistan, and to Europe through the Caspian," Berdymukhamedov said. "That way we will maintain mutually beneficial relations with Russia, the United States, with European countries and other neighbours."
The United States and Russia are jockeying for influence in Turkmenistan, which has the second-biggest gas reserves among all ex-Soviet republics after Russia, and whose resources are playing an increasingly important role in regional politics.

Source: The International Herald Tribune
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