Russia, Venezuela vow energy policy cooperation
July 22, 2008
BARVIKHA, Russia (AFP) — Leading oil and gas producers Russia and Venezuela
will coordinate energy policies, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said
Tuesday after meeting his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez.
The talks at Medvedev's residence outside Moscow included discussion of arms
deals and resulted in an agreement for three Russian companies -- Gazprom,
Lukoil and TNK-BP -- to work in the energy-rich Orinoco Belt in Venezuela.
"Russia and Venezuela are oil and gas powers and energy security depends on
our combined actions. We will work on coordination but our cooperation is not
aimed against third countries," Medvedev said after the talks.
Medvedev, a former chairman of Russian gas giant Gazprom, added that a
proposal to create a group of leading gas producers that would mirror the
Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was "not closed."
In an apparent defence of leading energy exporters amid record-high prices,
Medvedev also said that "prices should be fair but that does not mean that
there can be agreements on prices that are imposed on third countries."
Chavez's visit to Russia is the first leg of a European tour that will take
in Belarus, Portugal and Spain. In Spain, Chavez has said he will hug King
Juan Carlos following a spat last year in which the king told him to shut up.
Upon arrival in Moscow on Tuesday, Chavez was quoted by the RIA Novosti news
agency as saying: "Russia and Venezuela must become strategic allies in the
oil sphere and in military-technical cooperation.
"This will guarantee the sovereignty of Venezuela because we are now
threatened by the United States," he added.
After the talks with Medvedev, Chavez stressed military ties were
"particularly important" as Russia's state arms export monopoly said a document laying
out a "legal basis" for future arms deals had been drawn up.
"I watch the rebirth of Russia with great respect and great love," Chavez
said at the beginning of his meeting. He also relayed warm greetings from his
ally, veteran Cuban leader Fidel Castro to Medvedev.
Chavez met the head of the Rosoboronexport arms export monopoly Sergei
Chemezov and Medvedev's still-powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,
a fellow critic with Chavez of the United States.
"We expect the signing of a range of contracts" in the arms sector, a member
of the Venezuelan delegation was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
He added that the purchases could include Russian tanks and submarines.
Earlier, a Russian arms industry source told Interfax that Venezuela was
planning to buy 20 Tor-M1 air defence systems and three submarines for a total
value of one billion dollars (630 million euros).
Moscow and Caracas have already signed four billion dollars (2.5 billion
euros) worth of arms contracts in recent years including Kalashnikov assault
rifles and military helicopters, Rosoboronexport said.
The Kommersant daily said Tuesday that a complicating factor in talks could
be Venezuela's relationship with its neighbour Colombia, which accuses Chavez
of aiding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group.
At Tuesday's meeting with Medevdev, Chavez stressed his agreement with
Russia's outlook on global affairs by passing on a message from Fidel Castro.
"Fidel and many other friends in Latin America have asked me to greet you,"
Chavez, a leftist firebrand who has been a fierce critic of US President
George W. Bush, told Medvedev during their meeting.
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