Rising energy prices are a boon to this oil-and-gas-dependent economy. Under a new agreement with Gazprom, gas exports to Russia rose sharply in the first half of this year, leading to a 14-percent rise in gross domestic product, following a 16-percent rise in calendar 1999 over 1998. But virtually all Turkmen gas goes to Russia, which uses the supply to free up its own gas production for export to markets in the West. Direct access to Western markets is the touchstone of Turkmen policy. President Saparmurat Niazov may yet come around to support a trans-Caspian link to a Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that would connect Turkmen fields to Western markets via Afghanistan, Georgia, and Turkey. A route through Afghanistan to Pakistan and the subcontinent is no more than a gleam in the eye and a line on a map, but with support from Uzbekistan the gleam is just a little brighter now than it was a month ago.
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