TURKMENABAT, Turkmenistan, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Chinese and regional leaders hailed the Monday opening of a 1,138-mile pipeline to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to China as a political breakthrough.
Chinese President Hu Jintao joined the leaders of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for the inauguration of a pipeline to deliver gas from Turkmenistan to China.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov hailed the opening of the pipeline as a political breakthrough, the BBC reports.
"This project has not only commercial or economic value," he told the Chinese president. "It is also political."
The pipeline starts at the Turkmen border with Uzbekistan and then through Kazakhstan to the Xinjiang region in northwest China. A second leg of the pipeline goes into operation in 2010.
Berdimuhamedov said in September that his country would begin operating the gas pipeline to China by the end of the year. It has the capacity to pump some 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas per year.
Turkmenistan had supplied most of its gas to Russia, though that relationship soured in April following a pipeline explosion that Ashgabat blamed on Russian energy giant Gazprom.