Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Russia signs deal with Central Asian states on pipeline

LANDMARK DECISION The project would raise gas pipeline capacity along the Caspian Sea by at least 12 billion cubic meters per year by 2012

AFP , TURKMENBASHI, TURKMENISTAN

The presidents of Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan agreed to a landmark gas pipeline deal yesterday to increase energy exports from the region, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

"We will reconstruct the Caspian shore gas pipeline with a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters [per year] and build a parallel gas pipeline. The corresponding agreement will be signed before this July," Putin said.

Putin said that concrete work on the project would begin in the first half of next year and would increase capacity along the route by at least 12 billion cubic meters per year by 2012.

The existing pipeline -- which follows the Caspian Sea coast from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan, then on to Russia -- has a capacity of 5 billion cubic meters per year, down from its initial capacity of 10 billion.

The deal represented a major victory for Moscow, which has pushed the route over a rival US proposal that would cross the Caspian.

However, when asked about the trans-Caspian proposal, Turkmenistani President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said: "That project has not been canceled," Interfax reported.

Putin's three-way summit with Berdymukhammedov and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev came amid a week-long tour of Central Asia that was meant to counter US and European influence in the Caspian region.

In addition to the new gas pipeline deal, the three presidents issued a joint declaration with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov to rebuild existing pipelines and increasing gas transport capacity in Central Asia.

Berdymukhammedov said the new pipeline project "will bring obvious benefits for all sides."

"We guarantee the delivery of Turkmen gas at the volume to be set in our agreement," he said.

Alexei Miller, CEO of Russian state gas giant Gazprom, said that yesterday's agreement would allow Russia to raise its total imports of Turkmen gas "to 80 billion cubic meters per year, in agreement with the contract we have until 2028," Interfax reported.

Russia imported 41 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan last year, the Kremlin said.

The new pipeline will be the first to be built in Turkmenistan since the 1970s.

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