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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wen, Putin open talks in China

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese leaders opened two days of meetings on Tuesday aimed at boosting relations amid strains over declining military sales and stalled talks over energy deals.

Mr. Putin said after a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that political relations between the countries were good, but hinted that tough negotiations over a massive natural gas deal still had a distance to go.

“Those who sell always want to sell at a higher price, while those who buy want to buy at a lower price. We need to reach a compromise which will satisfy both sides,” Mr. Putin told reporters. He is to meet President Hu Jintao on Wednesday.

Mr. Putin’s two-day visit follows his recent announcement that he plans to swap jobs next year with President Dmitry Medvedev, returning to the top position he held for eight years. Many observers say that transition could see Russia turning eastward after years of close ties with the West under Mr. Medvedev.

One area of cooperation in which China and Russia appear closer is international policy. Last week, both vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on pro-reform protesters that has killed nearly 3,000 people since March.

The vetoes drew heavy criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Russia and China are also seen as key to how the G-20 group responds to renewed fears that the global economy is headed toward a new recession.

Bilaterally, the two have worked to overcome mutual distrust from the Cold War and have increased two-way trade volume to $35.9 billion in the first half of the year, up 39.6 per cent from the same period last year, according to official Chinese figures.

Efforts to finalise the natural gas deal have stalled mainly because of pricing disagreements. Russia is eager to link gas prices to oil prices as it does in Europe, but China says that is too expensive.

Comprehensive partnership

Mr. Wen told reporters China wanted to push ahead a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Russia that would safeguard world stability and development.

Russian and Chinese officials say deals worth $7 billion are to be signed during the visit in fields ranging from mining to biotechnology and space exploration.

The sides are looking for even more cross-border investment, and on the eve of Mr. Putin’s visit, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan called for more financial cooperation and accelerated construction of cross-border highways, railways, bridges, power grids, telecommunications links, and oil and gas pipelines.


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