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Croatia Steps Up Talks With Gazprom on South Stream

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia has intensified talks with Russia to join the South Stream gas pipeline project, a new transport link for Russian gas to Europe, the economy ministry said Monday.

“Croatia is interested to join the South Stream pipeline and is now holding intensive talks with the Russian side. At the moment, the talks are in a stage where we cannot provide any detailed information,” the ministry said in a statement.

Gazprom and the Italian energy group Eni are key partners in the project to build a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to supply gas to southern Europe.

The project is seen as strategically important by European countries keen to ensure safety of gas supplies by bypassing Ukraine, which has had rough relations with Russia.

Russia has already signed an agreement on the South Stream pipeline with five countries — Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece and Slovenia. The pipeline from Russia to Italy will skirt Ukraine.

The row between Moscow and Kiev at the start of this year disrupted gas supplies to a number of European countries, including Croatia.

France’s power group EDF agreed with Russia last week to take a stake in the project, thus joining the push to build the new pipeline.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor tentatively expects to visit Russia in the next two months. Her talks are likely to focus primarily on improving economic ties, in particular in the energy field.

The European Union candidate country consumes some 3.2 billion cubic meters of gas annually and covers some 60 percent from its own resources. The remaining 40 percent is imported from Russia.

Zagreb is also planning to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in the northern Adriatic to extend its sources of gas supply to northern Africa.

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