( RIA Novosti ) - The presidents of Russia and Turkmenistan reaffirmed Friday their intent to step up energy cooperation and confirmed a long-term contract to supply Central Asian gas to Russia at $100 per cubic meter.
Vladimir Putin is in Turkmenistan in a bid to safeguard Russian control of the ex-Soviet state's natural gas exports.
Putin is pushing for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan along the Kazakh and Russian Caspian coast, a rival project to U.S. and European proposals to build a pipeline under the Caspian Sea, which would carry gas to southern Europe bypassing Russia, the sole buyer of Turkmen gas which resells it elsewhere.
Putin and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov will be joined Saturday by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, where Putin secured pledges not to reroute oil supplies away from Russia and oversaw major uranium and gas deals Thursday.
Putin's Central Asian tour dealt a blow to an energy summit in Poland May 11-13 aimed at reducing energy dependence on Russia, as Nazarbayev, its key participant, pulled out from the forum also being attended by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Lithuania.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin confirmed Thursday the presidents would discuss Caspian gas supplies Saturday, but refused to comment on its possible outcome.
"The issue is on the agenda, let us wait [for the Saturday summit's results] optimistically," he said.
This is Putin's second meeting with Berdymukhammedov since he became president of the reclusive Central Asian state in February.
"The heads of state attach priority to implementing the April 10, 2003 agreement on cooperation in the gas industry, which envisions long-term natural gas supplies from Turkmenistan to Russia and other joint projects in the sphere," the presidents said in a joint statement after the talks.
Receiving the Turkmen leader in Moscow in late April, Putin tried to secure guarantees on the 2003 gas contract stretching into 2028 and another deal until 2009 on supplies of 162 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia at $100 per cubic meter, two-and-a-half times lower than gas prices for Europe. The deals were signed under Berdymukhammedov's predecessor.
Russia bought over 41 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas in 2006. In the first quarter this year, it has purchased about 11.2 billion of the 50 billion cubic meters planned for 2007.