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Kremlin lauds ties with energy-hungry China

Praise for Beijing comes as Russia backs down on European gas ambitions.

By Daniel J. Graeber

MOSCOW, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The growing relationship between Russia and China in the new century is supported in part on energy agreements, Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday.

"The course of Russian-Chinese relations takes into account core interests of the two nations and we have no plans to change it," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a Tuesday interview with state-backed news agency Sputnik, formerly RIA Novosti.

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Lavrov last month said developing a foreign policy vision that emphasizes ties in the Asia-Pacific is a national priority for the Kremlin.

A Russian economy hobbled by a reliance on Europe as a destination for oil and natural gas, whose exports account for more than half of Russian revenues, has pivoted toward energy-hungry Asia-Pacific.

Western powers have sanctioned the Russian energy sector in response to Moscow's reaction to political upheaval in Ukraine in November, which resulted in the former Soviet republic drawing closer to the European Union.

The Russian currency is now trading at historic lows against the U.S. dollar as the nation's economy teeters on the brink of recession.

Lavrov said bilateral ties with China are at new heights, based in large part on what he said was a sound level of strategic interaction and trust.

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"The reason for such successful development is rooted in the fact that it is based on the mutual consideration of interests, mutual respect, equality and non-interference in internal affairs," he said.

The Kremlin recently cast doubt over the fate of the long-planned South Stream natural gas pipeline for Europe, which would've moved Russian natural gas around sensitive territory in Ukraine.

In May, Russian gas company Gazprom signed a 30-year sales agreement with China that calls for 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year through the so-called Power of Siberia pipeline.

The foreign minister said the Russian economic focus on China was supported by "about fifty agreements" signed in November between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Lavrov said "new horizons" in energy are coming into view through proposed liquefied natural gas supplies for the Chinese market.

A sales contract for the purchase of LNG from a project on the Far North peninsula of Yamal was signed this year between China National Petroleum Corp. and Russian energy company Novatek.

"Obviously, if the relationship among other countries resembled the Russian-Chinese, it would only benefit international stability and security," the foreign minister said.

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