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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chavez Calls on Turkmenistan To Join Gas Exporters Forum

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday urged Turkmenistan, holder of the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, to join efforts to create a global grouping of gas exporters.

The grouping of 11 countries, an extension of an informal body involving Russia, Iran and Qatar, has aroused concern in the United States and the European Union, which worry such an organization could manipulate supply.

Past meetings of the Gas Exporting Countries’ Forum have prompted suggestions it could develop along the lines of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

But a June gathering of ministers from the GECF, whose members control more than three-quarters of the world’s gas reserves, yielded few collective ideas on how to tighten the market.

“Have you joined the gas OPEC?” Chavez asked Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov at a meeting in Ashgabat.

When Berdymukhammedov replied that Turkmenistan had not, Chavez said, “Please join.”

Berdymukhammedov gave no direct response.

Turkmenistan, which has enough reserves to supply the European Union’s gas needs for 16 years, will play a crucial role in determining future gas flows to Western consumers.

The country, which has never commented on the “gas OPEC” idea, traditionally sells most of its gas via Russia’s pipelines. Sales have been halted since a pipeline blast in April that Ashgabat says was Russia’s fault.

The dispute has left Turkmenistan without much-needed hard currency earnings, and Ashgabat has expressed interest in diversifying gas exports.

Chavez is scheduled to visit Moscow on Wednesday.