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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 May 2007, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Analysis: Russian pipeline deal
Map showing region of Caspian gas pipeline
Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have reached a landmark gas pipeline deal that will strengthen Moscow's control over Central Asia's energy export routes. The BBC's regional analyst, Ian MacWilliam, examines what this means for Moscow.

On the face of it, this pipeline deal seems to be all in Russia's favour.

It means that for the foreseeable future, most gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan will be exported via Russia.

Moscow already buys Turkmen gas at less

than market prices, enabling it to export its own vast gas resources to Europe more profitably.

The Central Asians know that keeping the Kremlin happy will make their own lives easier.

The Turkmen and Kazakh leaders both grew up under the Soviet Union and they will have noticed Moscow's furious reaction in past months when Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine angered the Kremlin.

But for the Central Asians, the Caspian pipeline to Russia is the best offer on the table.

Washington and the EU have been backing a plan to build a pipeline westward under the Caspian Sea which would allow gas exports to Europe free of Russian control.

But that plan is still little more than an idea and it would take years to find financial backing.

Turkmenistan's new President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has said the Western-backed plan is still on the agenda, but energy experts say it is still not even clear just how much gas Turkmenistan has, and therefore how viable a trans-Caspian pipeline would be.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, by contrast, has said that work will start on the Russian pipeline by next year and it will mean that Turkmenistan can export more gas.

The Central Asians will plan to diversify their export routes in the coming years as gas and oil production increases.

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