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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Urges Turkmens to Diversify

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- The United States urged Turkmenistan on Tuesday to diversify its energy export routes and promised deeper cooperation with U.S. companies as Washington competes for influence in the gas-rich nation.

Daniel Sullivan, U.S. assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs, told reporters during a visit to the gas-rich country that Washington was ready to assist it in its transition toward a more liberalized economy.

"We believe that increased diversification of energy routes, buyers and suppliers are in Turkmenistan's long-term energy security interest," he said.

"Nations should never be left with only one option, one market, one trading partner, one vital infrastructure link."

The remarks appeared to be referring to Turkmenistan's reliance on Russia as its main conduit for natural gas exports.

The desert nation is Central Asia's top gas producer with annual exports of about 50 billion cubic meters to Russia as well as a small amount of gas to neighboring Iran.

"We are encouraging American companies to invest in Turkmenistan to help your country grow," Sullivan said.

At the same time Sullivan urged Turkmenistan to do more to fight corruption and improve its investment climate.

"To attract private businesses, Turkmenistan needs to do its part to establish an economic environment that can attract world-class American companies by undertaking reforms that increase transparency, rule of law and protection of property," he said.