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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Energy Tops Turkmen Agenda

Turkmenistan's president was to meet with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday for talks likely to revolve around guarantees for Russian purchases of natural gas.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov arrived in Moscow on Monday afternoon and held an informal meeting with Putin in the evening at the president's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow.

Tuesday's meeting will start at 1 p.m. in the Kremlin and be attended by senior Russian and Turkmen ministers as well as Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller; LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov; and Itera chairman Igor Makarov, Turkmen Embassy spokeswoman Maria Kolodina said.

Gazprom and Itera could not be reached for comment immediately, and a LUKoil spokesman declined to talk on the matter, saying only that Alekperov would not be in Moscow on Tuesday.

The two-day visit comes at Putin's invitation and is the second foreign trip by the new Turkmen president -- elected in February -- after a hajj to Saudi Arabia.

"Special attention will be given to the prospects for further cooperation in the strategic ... fuel and energy sphere," the Turkmen presidential press service said in a statement.

The Turkmen Embassy said it had no information about any agreements being signed.

But analysts said the two presidents might sign a wide-ranging pact on economic cooperation that would endorse an existing 25-year contract allowing Russia to buy Turkmen gas. That contract went into effect in 2003 under late Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Berdymukhammedov has promised to honor the contract, but Russia wants a written statement.

"It's important that some official document is signed," said Andrei Gromadin, an oil and gas analyst at MDM Bank. "It could be a document on mutual cooperation that would confirm the current terms of Turkmen gas supplies."

Russia bought 41 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas last year, a Kremlin source said, Interfax reported. It buys the gas at $100 per 1,000 cubic meters and resells most of it to Ukraine.

Russia will also likely press for more assurances that Turkmenistan -- if it agrees to bypass Russia in shipping some of its gas to Europe-- will honor the contract for gas sales to Russia, Gromadin said.

Russia and Turkmenistan will also talk about dividing the Caspian Sea among themselves and other littoral states, a measure that is important for construction of a pipeline on the seabed and for oil and gas exploration, Kolodina said.

As Berdymukhammedov left Ashgabat, deputy foreign ministers of the littoral states met in the Turkmen capital to discuss the legal status of the Caspian Sea at a session of a special working group.

n Berdymukhammedov has ordered construction of a seven-kilometer-long district in Ashgabat that will include a 220-meter skyscraper, an artificial lake, hotels, exhibition halls, restaurants and sports facilities, The Associated Press reported Monday. The cylinder-shaped skyscraper will rise on one of five islands of a 58-hectare artificial lake in the new district that will be built by 2011 by the Turkish Gap Inshat company.