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Saturday, June 02, 2007

US urges Turkmen pipeline talks

usaturkmenistan01 June 2007 - Upstream OnLine - The US renewed its call to Turkmenistan today to revive talks on a new Caspian Sea gas pipeline that would link Central Asian deposits with Western markets, bypassing Russia. Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan agreed on 12 May to build a pipeline around the Caspian Sea, a move that boosted Moscow's dominance in the region but irritated Washington. Steven Mann, a senior US State Department official, said during a visit to the Central Asian state that Washington's position on the Trans-Caspian deal had not changed. "We believe it is enough to supply gas into Russia and to do the Trans-Caspian pipeline as well," he said. The pipeline deal with Russia hushed speculation that after the death in December of long-serving president Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan might open up to foreign trade with new gas export routes such as the US proposal or a Chinese deal. Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan, which is Central Asia's largest gas producer, pursued an increasingly isolationist policy and cut its contacts with other nations to a minimum, exporting almost all its gas via Russia's pipeline system. Despite the continued reliance on Russia, the new president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, is seeking to play a more active role in the region. "We look forward to the international private sector coming to Turkmenistan," said Mann, who served as US ambassador to Turkmenistan in 1998-2001. "Investment conditions in Turkmenistan have not been attractive for the private sector over previous years, so I am hopeful that President Berdymukhamedov and his administration are going to change these conditions," Reuters quoted him as saying. He said delegations from US corporations had recently visited the nation and a number of others planned to visit soon to discuss various projects, but gave no details.

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