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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Asian Grouping Renews Call to Create Oil and Gas Club

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- An alliance led by Russia and China renewed its call on Friday to tie regional oil and gas producers into an "energy club," an idea likely to irritate the West in its fight for a firmer footing in the region.

In the past few years, Moscow and Beijing have been actively using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as a tool to ensure common positions in energy-rich ex-Soviet Central Asia.

"Our working groups ... are actively discussing setting up an energy club. It's a Russian initiative," Deputy Industry and Energy Minister Ivan Materov told reporters on the sidelines of the SCO's sixth prime minister-level meeting, in the Uzbek capital. "It will be an advisory body. Its members will discuss matters of energy development and cooperation."

Materov said the union could start functioning as soon as next year but gave no other details on the plan, originally proposed at an SCO meeting at the end of last year.

Central Asia has been at the center of a growing global energy competition, as Western nations vie with other key players like Iran, India and China for energy contracts.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov urged member states to speed up work on the energy bloc. "We have already started work on forming this nongovernmental advisory body, but we would like to see our ministries work on it more energetically," he said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, speaking at the same conference, agreed: "We need to step up support for our partners within the alliance as well as financial support for our projects."