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Turkmenistan: Russia scores winner with gas

The latest chapter in the Great Game saga has been opened with a landmark agreement to build a gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan with Russia. The accord is widely seen as a blow to the interests of US and western Europe, which had hoped that Turkmen gas would be channelled through a western-backed trans-Caspian Sea pipeline that would bypass Russia.

The agreement was signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev and Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in mid-May in the port city of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan. Previously, Uzbek president Islam Karimov had signed off on the deal to build the pipeline, which will run from Turkmenistan to Russia, passing through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan en route.

Roland Nash, head of research at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, says: "This agreement definitely sends out the message that Russia is the dominant force in central Asia." He adds that while the agreement is a coup for Russia, it is not necessarily a blow to western interests. "Anything that helps to get oil and gas out of central Asia is positive for Europe and the US as it will help to push down global energy prices," he says.

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