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Turkmenistan plans military base in gas and oil hotspot

Debates over the inland Caspian Sea’s lucrative hydrocarbon resources may be intensified after the president of Turkmenistan announced the country will build a naval base there.

President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov made televised remarks to top security officials in which he said the base will be established to help “effectively fight smugglers, terrorists and any other forces”.

Rich hydrocarbon fields in the Caspian Sea area have been coveted by shoreline nations since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan have all competed for rights to exploit the area, with Turkmenistan currently engaged in dispute with Azerbaijan over several gas and oil fields.

The base, at the port city of Turkmenbashi, will host both naval and coast guard personnel, and is seen as a signal that Turkmenistan will protect its interests.

The country’s coast guard consists of 16 patrol boats and 700 servicemen on the Caspian Sea, and Berdymukhamedov said the base will have a number of cutters and two ships armed with missiles.

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