Russia and Turkmenistan will soon sign a final agreement on a new natural gas pipeline, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said on Friday, ending months of uncertainty surrounding the project.
The Moscow-backed Caspian Gas Pipeline, designed to connect Central Asian gas reserves with global markets through Russian territory, has been delayed due to a pricing dispute.
"We have agreed to sign the deal on the Caspian Gas Pipeline in the near future in order to speed up its construction," Zubkov told reporters after talks with Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
Speaking alongside Zubkov, Berdymukhamedov added: "We have always said Russia is a great superpower, that we are strategic partners."
The leaders said nothing about the outcome of the pricing disagreement.
Russia and Central Asia's top gas supplier had been due to finalize the deal in September. The proposed pipeline would have a capacity of 10 billion to 20 billion cubic meters a year.
The Russia-backed Caspian Gas Pipeline is a rival project to the Nabucco pipeline, proposed by the European Union partly as a means to lessen its reliance on Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom.
Competition between the West, China and Russia for control over Turkmen gas has intensified since the December death of Turkmenistan's absolute ruler Saparmurat Niyazov, who showed little interest in energy diplomacy during his 21-year rule.
Zubkov said Russia and Turkmenistan, along with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, were working on a separate agreement to upgrade an existing gas pipeline from Central Asia to Russia, a key export route for Turkmen and Uzbek gas.
Turkmenistan, which currently exports most of its gas through Russia, is also working on a pipeline to China. Some analysts have questioned Turkmenistan's ability to go ahead with so many projects at once.