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BBC News: Georgia in gas deal with Turkey

Monday, 25 December 2006, 09:25 GMT

Georgia plans to buy 800 million cubic metres of gas from Turkey next year, almost half of its needs, Georgian Energy Minister Nika Gilauri says.

The price it will pay for the gas under this deal has not been disclosed.

Georgian officials have made clear their desire to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian gas.

But the BBC’s Matthew Collin in Tbilisi says Georgians cannot be certain they will be receiving gas from other sources until a deal has been signed.

Last week, Georgia agreed to buy a little more than half of the gas it will need next year from Russia, even though Gazprom had doubled its price.

The Georgian prime minister said he had been forced to accept the deal as Gazprom had threatened to cut off supplies otherwise.

There was a similar complaint last week from Azerbaijan, where President Ilham Aliyev responded to his prices for Russian gas being doubled by threatening to reduce the amount of Russian gas he buys, or even to stop buying it altogether.

He may in fact be in a position to do this one day, as the gas which Turkey is to sell to Georgia will come from the huge new Shah Deniz field just coming on stream in the Caspian Sea, off the coast of Azerbaijan.

Russia has faced repeated charges of bullying its former Soviet neighbours who rely on it for their energy supplies.

A year ago, it halted all supplies to Ukraine in a dispute that was ostensibly about prices, but which many observers felt in fact reflected political differences.

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