The FINANCIAL — Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov will pay his first official visit to France on February 1, the ex-Soviet republic's Foreign Ministry said, according to RIA Novosti.
Berdymukhamedov will meet with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy and hold talks with France's government officials and senators during his stay in Paris.
A range of bilateral agreements intended to "provide a strong impulse to the further development and strengthening of friendship and cooperation between Turkmenistan and France" are expected to be signed during the talks.
Experts say the two presidents are likely to focus on the development of trade and economic cooperation, including in the energy sector.
A Turkmen-French business forum will take place in Paris during Berdymukhamedov's stay in the French capital.
Diplomatic relations between France and the former Soviet state were established in 1992. Speaking at a government session on Friday, the Turkmen leader said "today, Turkmenistan and France show mutual interest and readiness for strengthening and widening traditional cooperation," which he described as having "huge potential."
The European Union considers Turkmenistan a possible key supplier of natural gas for the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, due to bring Caspian gas via the Balkans to Central Europe and reduce the EU's dependence on Russian gas.
Berdymukhamedov has said the development of cooperation with the European Union was among the Turkmen government's top priorities.
Turkmenistan is making tremendous efforts to bring its energy resources to global markets.
The Turkmenistan-China natural gas pipeline, planned to pump up to 40 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas to China annually over the next 30 years, started operating in mid-December 2009. Another gas pipeline, linking Turkmenistan with Iran, was inaugurated in early January.
In late November 2009, the Turkmen leader visited Italy for energy talks, which resulted in a range of bilateral cooperation agreements, including a protocol of intent signed by Italian oil and gas group Eni and Turkmenistan's state hydrocarbon resources agency.