Medvedev eyes energy, regional cooperation on Hanoi visit

29th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev will visit Hanoi this weekend to agree the construction of Vietnam's first nuclear power plant, one of the deals aimed at reviving ties with the Soviet-era Communist ally.

The several-billion-euro nuclear deal will be among several agreements to be signed during the Sunday visit, when Medvedev is set to meet President Nguyen Minh Triet and pay respects at the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.

Ties with Vietnam date back to the Soviet era when the communist Soviet Union became Vietnam's main benefactor during the 1980s after the Vietnam War ended in 1975

After the Soviet collapse in 1991 Vietnam was left without the Soviet Union's ideological, economic and military support and ties have long remained only a shadow of Cold War levels.

Medvedev, with a throng of business people in tow, will seek to capitalise on Soviet-era relations to expand his country's foothold in the southeast Asian state.

In Hanoi, Russia will have to compete with Western powers such as the United States, which is also in nuclear talks with Vietnam, analysts say.

"The current visit is aimed at taking the Russian-Vietnamese strategic partnership to an entirely different level," Medvedev's foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko told reporters at the Kremlin.

In addition to the nuclear power deal, the two countries will express political support for plans by Russian oil company TNK-BP to acquire the Vietnamese assets of its troubled part-owner British Petroleum.

TNK-BP, whose executive director German Khan will be part of Medvedev's delegation, has said it will acquire from BP a 35-percent stake in an upstream offshore gas production block.

"The governments of both countries, Vietnam and Russia, support this," Prikhodko said.

Other deals to be signed include agreements on cooperation in energy, hydro-electric power, customs and on protection of intellectual property in the military sphere.

"An extensive range of bilateral agreements has been prepared for the Vietnam visit," the aide said, adding that talks will also focus on military, trade and banking cooperation. He said he was unaware of any firm arms deals to be inked during the weekend visit.

The two countries will also discuss shipping logistics but Moscow has no intention of rebuilding a naval base the Soviet Union once had in Cam Ranh Bay, Prikhodko said.

Analysts speak of an increasing demand for nuclear energy and Russia is locked in a global race with competitors like the United States, Japan and France to clinch lucrative contracts worldwide.

Prikhodko said Moscow was willing to provide a loan to help Hanoi finance the nuclear plant's construction.

He did not provide further details but an official with the state nuclear corporation Rosatom told AFP that the negotiations centred around a two-unit power plant whose construction is estimated at around four billion euros (5.6 billion dollars).

"Together with the infrastructure it will be a bit more," the official said on condition of anonymity ahead of the signing.

For the construction to start, the countries would have to sign a firm contract, the official added, saying it was too early to discuss the timeframe.

A large delegation of top officials and businesspeople including chief of Rosoboronexport arms exporter Anatoly Isaikin, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Vladimir Vysotsky, and representatives of several arms makers will accompany Medvedev to the country.

On Saturday, the Kremlin chief will attend a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

At the event, the Kremlin leader will participate in the second Russia-ASEAN summit, which will focus on increasing regional cooperation in trade, energy, hi-tech and space, among other areas.

The first such summit was in Kuala Lumpur in 2005.

© 2010 AFP

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