Ashgabat: China has become the largest importer of natural gas from Turkmenistan, as follows from what was stated at meeting between Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and the special envoy of the People's Republic of China, Chen Zhili.

With a large Chinese delegation Chen visited Ashgabat for celebrations on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Turkmen national television said.

"China pays special attention to the development of all-round relations with Turkmenistan, which it regards as a true friend and a long-term and reliable partner," Chen said, as she delivered to the Turkmen president a message of greeting from China's leader Hu Jintao.

"China was one of the first states to have established diplomatic relations with Turkmenistan in the early days of its independence," Berdymukhamedov said at the meeting, adding that over the past twenty years "vast experience was accumulated of successful partnership in various industries, in particular, in energy production."

"There is every condition for the further development and expansion of that strategic partnership meeting the interests of both states," the Turkmen president said.

Turkmen has exported gas to China since December 2009, when the first line of the longest pipeline (over 7,000 kilometers) across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China went operational.

In 2011, 17 billion cubic meters of gas was to be supplied to China, which is more than the declared amounts of Russia (10.5 billion cubic meters) and of Iran.

At the end of the November 2001 official visit the Turkmen president paid to China an agreement was signed to increase the annual mount of gas from the earlier contracted 40 billion cubic meters to 65 billion cubic meters.