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    MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian gas giant Gazprom will take part in the development of gas and oil deposits off Turkmenistan's Caspian coast. The agreement to the effect was reached Friday between Gazprom Board Chairman Alexei Miller and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Gazprom's PR department reports in a press release.

    A joint commission will now be formed to work on the particulars of the deal, it says.

    At their meeting today, Messrs. Miller and Niyazov reportedly discussed issues relating to the implementation of a 2003 agreement on cooperation in the gas industry and of a contract for the supply of Turkmen natural gas to Russia within the framework of that agreement.

    Over 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas have been purchased from Turkmenistan since the beginning of 2004, and the target for this year's supplies is expected to be met in full. Gazprom fulfills all of its obligations on Turkmen gas transit, the press release says.

    The two officials also discussed the pre-design and pre-investment stages of a program for renovation, expansion and construction of facilities as part of the Central Asia-Center pipeline network, spanning Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

    Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Niyazov, Miller announced that this next fall, officials of Gazprom and of the Turkmen government would hold a joint conference in Moscow to analyze the current state and future prospects of bilateral cooperation in the oil & gas sector.

    Russia and Turkmenistan signed their agreement on cooperation in the gas industry on April 10, 2003. Parallel to that, Gazexport (a Gazprom subsidiary) and Turkmenistan's Turkmenneftegaz Inc. struck a deal for the supply of Turkmen gas for the above agreement's validity term, that is, through 2028.

    Under this contract, Turkmenneftegaz shall supply 5 to 6 billion cubic meters of gas this year. Gas supplies from Turkmenistan shall grow to 10 billion cubic meters in 2006 and reach 60-70 billion in 2007. And starting in 2009, Turkmen gas imports shall amount to an annual 70-to-80 billion cubic meters.

    About 55 billion cubic meters of gas are now produced in Turkmenistan annually. Ten to twelve billion goes to satisfy domestic needs while the remaining amount is sold off abroad.

    Turkmen gas is transported to foreign countries through the Central Asia-Center pipeline network. In keeping with intergovernmental agreements, Gazprom arranges the transit of Turkmen gas exports to Ukraine via Russia. The Russian corporation also operates the transportation of Turkmen gas via the territory of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

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