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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian, Turkmen Leaders Postpone Pipeline Accord

RIA-NOVOSTITurkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, left, and President Dmitry Medvedev at a welcoming ceremony Wednesday in the Kremlin. The two postponed the signing of a key gas accord.
President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov pledged friendship and cooperation in a meeting Wednesday in Moscow, but there was little in the way of concrete agreements between Russia and gas-rich Turkmenistan.

The two leaders discussed cooperation on telecommunications and agriculture and extended invitations to one another to attend agricultural forums to be held this year in St. Petersburg and the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.

They also signed an agreement to build direct railway and ferry links throughout towns in the Astrakhan region, which borders the Caspian Sea.

While the two leaders discussed the importance of reliable gas deliveries, the signing of an accord on the East-West gas pipeline was postponed until their next meeting, said Sergei Prikhodko, an aide to Medvedev.

The link, which Prikhodko said could cost $1 billion to build, is widely seen as a potential challenge to the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline, which seeks to bring natural gas from Central Asia to Europe, bypassing Russia.

The date of the next meeting was not announced.

The topic of natural gas deliveries has been a sensitive one for Russia in recent months. The country broke off talks with Ukraine on Tuesday after Kiev angered the Kremlin by asking the European Union to modernize its pipeline network, which carries 80 percent of Russian gas supplies to Europe.

The spat revived fears of a repeat of January's gas dispute between the two countries, when major European customers were left without Russian gas for two weeks in the dead of winter.

Russia and Turkmenistan had a trade volume of $6.9 billion dollars last year, $6 billion of which came from natural gas exports.