Russia, Bolivia pledge stronger ties, focus on energy

February 17th, 2009 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Feb 17 (RIA Novosti) Russia and Bolivia have pledged to strengthen their ties with a focus on cooperation in natural gas production and transportation.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who held discussion with his visiting Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales in the Kremlin Monday, announced that Russia wants a “strategic” energy project with Bolivia, which holds Latin America’s second largest gas reserves, until 2030.

“We are talking about Russia providing help to our friends in Bolivia in hydrocarbon production and construction of a gas pipeline network on Bolivian territory,” Medvedev said in a joint news conference with Morales.

Medvedev said energy giant Gazprom, which has signed cooperation documents with Bolivia’s state-run oil and gas firm YPFB, “is in effect getting down to practical work” in the Latin American country.

Gazprom, which is increasingly looking to the Latin American markets, and France’s Total signed an agreement with Bolivia on the joint exploration and production of gas in the country in mid-September. Experts estimate investment could reach $4.5 billion.

Morales nationalised the country’s gas industry in 2006 as part of reforms aimed at redirecting revenues to education, health and social programmes.

In their joint statement, Medvedev and Morales said that they had instructed their energy ministries with signing an agreement on energy cooperation in the near future.

Late last year, Medvedev said Russia was ready to take part in a project to build a gas pipeline linking Bolivia and Argentina. The two countries have signed a contract to build a $1.5 billion pipeline to quadruple Bolivian gas supplies to its southern neighbour.

Morales, the first Bolivian leader to visit Moscow, said he looked to Russian investment in the region. He also said the regional nations “welcome Russia’s return to Latin America in any form”.

Medvedev called the visit “historic” and urged more proactive cooperation with Bolivia and other Latin American nations. The Russian leader toured Latin America in November, and the presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua and Cuba visited Russia late last and early this year.

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