Archive for Sunday, May 13, 2007

Countries strike crucial gas pipeline deal

May 13, 2007

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— Russia announced a deal Saturday to dramatically increase the amount of natural gas it moves from Central Asia to Europe, a key victory in a growing rivalry with the West for the region's vast energy resources.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the region's main energy producers, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, agreed to build a pipeline running from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan and into Russia's network of pipelines to Europe.

The three presidents also said that, with Uzbekistan, they would revamp the entire Soviet-built pipeline network that carries Central Asian gas to Russia.

Along with two oil deals, the new gas agreements are a blow to U.S. and European efforts to construct oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia that would cross under the Caspian Sea, avoiding Russia, and connect to Europe through Azerbaijan and Turkey.

They mean that Russia would control the bulk of Central Asian energy exports, boosting its role as a major supplier of oil and gas to Europe and strengthening Western fears that Moscow could use its energy clout for political purposes.

Russia supplies a quarter of Europe's gas and is its second-biggest supplier of oil.

European fears of excessive energy reliance grew after Moscow briefly halted gas supplies to several ex-Soviet neighbors.

The shutdowns in 2006 and 2007 took enough gas out of the pipeline network to reduce deliveries to the EU.

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