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China's Hu seeks gas breakthrough in Russia
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) June 16, 2011

Chinese President Hu Jintao was Thursday to meet Russian counterpart Dmitry Mevdvedev in search of a breakthrough in stalled negotiations on a mega-contract for Russia to pump gas to China.

Medvedev and Hu were set later in the day to hold talks in the Kremlin and sign a number of agreements but negotiations between Russian gas giant Gazprom and China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) have still not been completed.

"The talks are continuing," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told AFP. "There are a lot of issues there, including the price."

Russia and China had hoped to finish the talks with an eye to finalising the firm contract so it could be triumphantly signed on Hu's visit, which will also see him attend a major investor forum in Saint Petersburg this week.

A senior Russian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier this month that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's powerful deputy in charge of energy, Igor Sechin, was "optimistic" about the deal.

Gazprom and CNPC signed a framework agreement in 2009 which could eventually see 70 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas sent to China every year but negotiations became mired in differences over pricing.

Russian and Chinese officials said in late May that the two sides still had to find common ground on price.

Russia has in recent years sought to align itself more closely with China as it seeks to unlock new energy markets in Asia.

It said last year it hoped to clinch the gas deal with China by mid-2011, with first deliveries to start in 2015.

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