Russia, China to wrap up gas talks by June 10: officials
Russia and China hope to finish talks on a crucial gas deal by June 10 in order to allow its signature during a visit later in the month by Chinese President Hu Jintao, officials said Tuesday.
Russian gas giant Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) "were given until 10 June to finish talks and prepare a range of commercial contracts for signing," the Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin as saying after talks with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.
Chinese energy minister Liu Tienan added that Tuesday's energy talks with the Russians were successful and the two countries were working hard to finalise the deal before June 10.
"It looks like everyone wants it," he told reporters in a separate briefing. "The final result depends on our efforts. Principal agreement has today been reached regarding both financial issues and issues of principal matters," he said without elaborating.
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.
Officials said Tuesday that they still had to find common ground on price.
"One small step remains for us until this last goal of ours," Liu, the Chinese energy minister, said without elaborating.
Chinese officials said last November that differences between the two sides were 100 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres.
Russia hopes the contracts will be finalised before the upcoming visit to Russia of China's Hu, who's scheduled to attend an investor forum in Saint Petersburg to be held June 16-18.
"We are expecting that we will sign the range of contracts during the visit of the Chinese president to Russia," Sechin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Overall, speaking of Tuesday's talks, Liu said energy was a key part of bilateral cooperation, adding: "Today we've achieved huge results."
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.
© 2011 AFP