China's Xi meets Turkmen president ahead of G20: Xinhua

BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Turkmenistan's leader on Tuesday as he started a trip to Central Asia ahead of a G20 summit in Russia.

Xi met President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to discuss "furthering ties and cooperation", the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese leader had departed earlier Tuesday on a tour expected to see energy deals and talks on slowing growth.

From Turkmenistan, Xi will head to a meeting of Group of 20 world leaders in St Petersburg on Thursday, then stop by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Xinhua and the China Daily newspaper said.

The central Asian countries were once all part of the Soviet Union, but China - which has a huge demand for energy - is increasingly influential in the area.

In Central Asia, Xi is set to sign agreements on oil, natural gas, transport and investment, the China Daily cited vice-minister of foreign affairs Cheng Guoping as saying.

China has imported 60 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Central Asia since 2009, it said.

Xi will join G20 leaders in St Petersburg beginning Thursday, where one focus will be slowing growth in China and the other major BRICS emerging markets - Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.

China's economy grew at an annualised 7.5 per cent from April to June, down from 7.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

Late next week in Kyrgyzstan, Xi will meet counterparts from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which is led by China and Russia and includes the four Central Asian nations he will visit.

The grouping, set up to counterbalance US and NATO influence in the area, focuses on regional issues including anti-terrorism.