Gas, regional security to dominate Russian, Uzbek leaders' talks
|The presidents of Russia and Uzbekistan will discuss joint natural gas projects and regional security at their talks in Moscow on 6 February, RIA Novosti reported quoting a senior Kremlin official. |
"The presidents will focus on efforts to carry out the May 2007 agreements between the leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on the development of the natural gas transportation infrastructure in the Central Asian region," the official said.
The presidents agreed in May to modernize the 1974 pipeline, which supplies Russia with natural gas from Central Asia running from Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and to raise its capacity by 20 billion cubic meters from the current 50 billion a day. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov earlier said the pipeline would eventually pump 230 million cubic meters of gas per day.
Moscow has stepped up energy projects in ex-Soviet Central Asia to maintain access to natural gas deposits and counter attempts by Washington and its allies to reroute some of Central Asian gas away from Russia.
The current visit to Moscow is Islam Karimov's first foreign trip since his reelection for another seven-year term in 2007. Karimov has ruled the energy-rich Central Asian state since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. He was also leader of the Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan during Soviet times.
The Kremlin official said Karimov and Putin planned to issue a joint statement and sign an economic cooperation programme for 2008-2012, as well as a series of agreements.
Bilateral trade in the first 11 months of 2007 reached around US$2.9 billion, up 40%, year on year. Russia accounts for 30% of Uzbekistan's foreign trade and for over 40% of foreign investment in the Central Asian state, which is Russia's fourth largest trade partner among ex-Soviet republics.
Putin and Karimov will also focus on ongoing violence in Afghanistan, the major source for drugs smuggled into former Soviet Central Asian states and further on to Russia, the Kremlin source said.
"Measures to ensure stability and security in Central Asia and to step up bilateral cooperation in countering challenges and threats posed by international terrorism, cross-border organized crime and drug traffic will be a central issue on the agenda," he said.
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