China's Xi calls for greater cooperation with Turkmenistan on natural gas

Adds details and background

BEIJING, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday he wants more cooperation with Turkmenistan on energy, Chinese state television reported.

Turkmenistan, a Central Asian nation of six million people, is China's single largest supplier of piped natural gas.

"Natural gas cooperation is the cornerstone of the China-Turkmenistan relationship," Xi told Turkmenistan's President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, who is in Beijing on a two-day visit.

Chinese media reports of their meetings did not give any specific details of future energy cooperation between the two countries.

Both leaders had also discussed energy cooperation when they met last September on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Uzbekistan.

China has been buying more Turkmen gas. For the first 11 months of 2022, China's imports of Turkmen gas were valued at $9.3 billion, up from $6.79 billion in the whole of 2021, according to Chinese customs data.

Turkmen gas is pumped to as far as China's eastern coast via three trunklines spanning 1,833 kilometers (1,139 miles) and passing through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Both countries are pushing ahead with a planned fourth pipeline - the 1,000-km D line which also links Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan - which will eventually lift the annual supply capacity from Central Asia to 85 billion cubic meters a year from the current 55 bcm, Chinese state media have reported.

At Friday's meeting both leaders agreed to elevate bilateral ties to a "comprehensive strategic partnership".

This would place Turkmenistan in the same diplomatic category as about 30 other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Australia and Venezuela.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Beijing newsroom; Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gareth Jones)


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