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Turkmenistan open oil, gas to Russia

Turkmenistan is capitalizing on its revamped friendship with Russia as oil deal talks with two Russian firms move forward.

A month after the Kremlin convinced Turkmenistan to forego US overtures for a gas pipeline to bypass Russia, media reports have surfaced that Russian private firm LUKoil has agreed to develop three major fields in Turkmenistan. A deal with Russia's TNK-BP could also be under way. The details of the deals haven't been made public. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov agreed to terms to pipe natural gas along the Caspian Sea shores. The United States was luring Turkmenistan to pipe the gas under the sea, cutting Russia from the deal. Both pipelines would send the gas to Western markets, primarily Europe, Kazinform cites UPI.

Turkmenistan has more than 500 million barrels of proven oil reserves and more than 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration, the data arm of the US Energy Department. Berdymukhammedov is looking to turn around the past investment climate created by longtime leader Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December. He vowed to „create the most favorable climate,” The Moscow Times reports. LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov said Turkmenistan granted the company the rights to three fields in the Caspian Sea. „During my meeting with the president I received the go ahead to start work on these fields,” said Alekperov, RIA Novosti reported. „We hope that we can move forward on the project, we are fully ready to develop Turkmenistan's rich deposits.” The deal was announced in brief Tuesday, as TNK-BP officials were meeting with the Turkmen leader, The Times reported. (