China's Hu Jintao and Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov signed the deal in Beijing, where Niyazov is on a six-day official visit. Details of the agreement were not immediately available, but Niyazov has said Turkmenistan is prepared to deliver 30-40 billion cubic meters of gas to China per year.
Turkmenistan has huge oil and natural gas reserves, and China is increasingly looking abroad to fulfill its massive energy needs. China recently signed a similar energy cooperation deal with Kazakhstan. Russia has also announced plans to build gas and oil pipelines to China.
Hu and Niyazov are expected to sign a number of other agreements, including one covering cooperation in fighting separatism, extremism and terrorism.
Niyazov arrived in Beijing on April 2. He began the official portion of his visit by presenting the second volume of his book "Rukhnama" (Spirituality) to the People's University of China.
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Russia's rising appetite for Central Asian gas is a direct result of the shifting fortunes of Gazprom, the state-run Russian company that controls lucrative exports. The company's total gas production has flatlined at around 550 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year. With major fields yielding less as they age, Gazprom has chosen to maintain its all-important gas balance by purchasing gas on the side -- from independent producers in Russia and from Russia's Central Asian neighbors -- instead of investing in the lengthy and costly development of untapped Arctic fields...(more)