Abbas seeks $1-billion Gaza deal with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, greets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Yuri Kochetkov, Pool)

MOSCOW: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sought on Thursday to secure a billion-dollar Gaza energy deal during talks with Russian leaders aimed at restoring warmer ties between the two Soviet-era allies.

Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were due to sign an intergovernmental agreement that reports said included a $1.0-billion (730-million-euro) natural gas project in the Gaza section of the Mediterranean Sea.

The state ITAR-TASS news agency said Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom hoped to produce 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas at the site.

The report added that Russia's Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

It was not immediately clear how far negotiations on the two deals had progressed or when the projects might be launched.

Moscow has been a close Palestinian ally since the Soviet era. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also called for the establishment of east Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas began his Moscow visit by holding talks with Putin at which he called Russia a "great power" that deserved to play a more prominent role the volatile Middle East region.

"We are glad that Russia is an active and influential player on the international arena," Russian news agencies quoted Abbas as telling the Kremlin chief at his suburban Moscow residence.

"We are in favour of Russia playing a central role in the Middle East because it is a great power."

Russia has more recently developed close ties with Israel but has seen its role in stuttering Middle East peace negotiations largely overtaken by the United States.

Abbas was also due on Friday to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.





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