Japan, Turkmenistan sign deals worth $18 bn
Japan and Turkmenistan on Friday signed a raft of energy and other deals worth more than $18 billion during a Japanese leader's first-ever official visit to the reclusive country, AFP reports.
Ex-Soviet Turkmenistan, which has a population of more than five million people, sits atop the world's fourth-largest reserves of natural gas.
Accompanied by representatives of dozens of firms, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on a week-long tour to five Central Asian states.
"Ten joint documents accounting for more than $18 billion were signed today as a result of the Turkmen-Japanese business forum," said the office of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
Among the top agreements was a deal for Japanese engineering firm JGC and several other companies to construct a plant linked to natural gas fields.
The deals also foresee cooperation in the chemicals industry as well as the construction of power stations.
"Government bodies and private companies of Japan, as a united team, will work as much as possible with Turkmenistan with the goal of reaching a new milestone in its industrial development with the active use of natural gas," said Abe.
Berdymukhamedov said in August that Japanese and Korean companies had expressed interest in investing in an ambitious 1,800-kilometre-long (1,118 miles) pipeline carrying gas from Turkmenistan to energy-hungry India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Observers say the influence of Asia's powerhouse China has been growing in Central Asia as Russia's has declined, with Beijing becoming the ex-Soviet region's leading trading partner.