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25 Jan, 2008 12:14

Russia and Serbia sign energy deal

The Presidents of Russia and Serbia have signed a major oil and gas agreement. The deal gives Russia's state-owned Gazprom control of Serbia's major energy company.

Belgrade agreed to the deal on Tuesday, allowing Gazprom to buy a controlling 51 per cent stake in Serbia's major oil and gas company NIS.

The South Stream pipeline will be a new gas delivery route to Western Europe.

The agreement also allows Russia to build a huge underground gas storage facility in the north of Serbia.

Vladimir Putin believes the meeting with the Serbian President is a significant event in relations between Russia and Serbia.

“We are pleased that relations between our countries are developing very actively. Over the last six years trade between our countries has grown six times. I’m sure that this meeting will become a significant event and will give a push to our economic ties,” Putin said. 

“After signing these documents, Serbia becomes one of the major transit hubs for the delivery of Russian energy to the South of Europe. The system is long-lasting, reliable and highly effective.  It is most important in the strengthening of energy provision for both Serbia and the whole European continent,” he added.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic believes the deal secures long-term energy stability in the Balkans.

Kosovo mentioned

The leaders of Russia and Serbia also discussed Kosovo at talks in the Kremlin. Both sides oppose independence for the province unless Belgrade and Pristina agree to it, a position opposed to that of Washington and Brussels.

Serbian President Boris Tadic thanked President Putin for Moscow's support on Kosovo. Serbia will not give up its interests in relation to Kosovo, Serbian President Boris Tadic said. 

Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia was opposed to independence for the Serbian province and that Belgrade could count on Moscow as a reliable partner.