Russian Leader Due in Turkmenistan

Russian Leader Due in Turkmenistan

Thursday, 17 December, 2009
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev will visit Turkmenistan on December 22 – officially, to attend the opening of a new Turkmen-Russian school in Ashgabat, although NBCentralAsia sources say he is likely to discuss arrangements for buying natural gas next year.

Russian gas company Gazprom scaled down purchases of Turkmen gas in April, citing a fall in global demand and sliding prices. Turkmen officials said the drop in throughput caused an accident on the Central Asia-Centre pipeline, at considerable cost to their government.

When the repairs were completed, Gazprom continued to take less gas than it had contracted to buy in 2009, despite an agreement under which it is supposed to buy about 50 billion cubic metres a year until 2025.

Russian media said a new agreement on gas supplies covering the period January-March 2010 when Medvedev was in Ashgabat in September and Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov visited Moscow in late November.

NBCentralAsia observers say Berdymuhammedov is likely to propose a new deal when he meets Medvedev, because Turkmenistan remains concerned about the volume of gas Russia plans to take.

“Although Gazprom has an interested in ensuring that Turkmen gas does not bypass Russia, it is not in a position to buy as much as before,” said Annadurdy Khajiev, an economic analyst based in Bulgaria. “But the Kremlin is going to have to come to some sort of terms; it has no other option if it is to retain its influence.”

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