China opens new Caspian gas pipeline

Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Astana Dec. 13 to unveil the Kazakh section of a 7,000-kilometer (4,300-mile) natural gas pipeline joining Central Asia to China. Hu was joined by Kazakhstan‘s President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the inauguration, where the two leaders together pressed a symbolic button to open the 1,833-kilometer Kazakh section. Nazarbayev said: “This is a grand construction project that will in time resurrect the ancient Silk Route.” Hu is next due to head to a commissioning ceremony in Turkmenistan, where the pipeline actually begins. He is expected to be joined there by President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, the fourth country involved in the project.

The pipeline, which begins at a Turkmenistan gas field being developed by the China National Petroleum Corporation, concludes in Xinjiang in western China. This is Kazakhstan’s first export route that does not go through Russia. The Kazakh segment cost $6.7 billion and was completed within two years. Most of the finance came from the state-run China Development Bank. The entire pipeline is set to be completed by 2013. (Xinhua, Dec. 14; BBC News, Dec. 13; )

See our last posts on Central Asian pipeline wars.

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