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ASHGABAT (TCA) — Next year, Russia's natural-gas giant Gazprom is going to resume imports of natural gas from Turkmenistan, the company’s chief executive has said.

In an interview with Turkmenistan's state television channel during a visit to Ashgabat on October 9, Gazprom's Chief Executive Aleksey Miller said he expects purchases which had been suspended three years ago due to price disputes to resume starting from January 1, 2019.

"We are talking about the resumption of purchases of Turkmen gas by Gazprom in the very near future — from January 1, 2019," Miller said, adding that details of the new deal still must be finalized.

Russia was once the leading importer of Turkmen gas until it was displaced by China around the beginning of the decade, RFE/RL reported.

Relatively cheap imports of gas from Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries enabled Russia to boost its exports to Europe.

In 2015, Gazprom announced its intention to cut imports of Turkmen gas to 4 billion cubic meters per year, down from the 10 billion level that it had been importing since 2010.

The move was followed by a complete cessation of purchases announced at the beginning of 2016, putting significant pressure on Turkmenistan's economy, which is highly dependent on hydrocarbons as a source of hard currency.

Gas deliveries to China from Turkmenistan along the Central Asia-China pipeline are currently between 30 and 40 billion cubic meters a year.

A large part of the revenues from Turkmenistan's sales to China are believed to be used to pay off debt on the pipeline link, which also traverses neighboring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and was financed by Beijing.

Turkmenistan sits on the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas.

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