Gazprom's Chief Executive Alexey Miller said he expected purchases dogged by price disputes to resume at the beginning of next year

Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) (AFP) - Russia’s Gazprom may resume in 2019 imports of gas from Turkmenistan that it stopped three years ago, the energy giant’s chief said during a visit to the Turkmen capital for talks Tuesday.

In an interview with Turkmenistan’s state television channel, Gazprom’s Chief Executive Alexey Miller said he expected purchases dogged by price disputes to resume at the beginning of next year.

“We are talking about the resumption of purchases of Turkmen gas by Gazprom in the very near future - from January 1, 2019,” Miller said, stressing that details of the new deal were yet to be finalised.

Russia was once the leading importer of Turkmen gas until it was displaced by China around the beginning of the decade.

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 metres (bcm) per year down from 10 bcm since 2010.

The move was followed by a complete cessation of purchases announced at the beginning of 2016, which compounded pressure on Turkmenistan’s economy strongly 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 bcm annually.

The republic that sits on the world’s fourth largest reserves exported similar volumes to Russia before they dropped dramatically following a mysterious pipeline explosion that occurred amidst a price dispute in 2009.

Nevertheless, 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 neighbours Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and was financed by Beijing.