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  Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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Russia's president and Italy's prime minister met Tuesday in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi
Russia's president and Italy's prime minister met Tuesday in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi to discuss energy cooperation, bilateral trade and mutual investment. "There are significant perspectives in the fuel and energy sector," Vladimir Putin said after the meeting with Romano Prodi. "I am sure that our recent agreements on the export of Russian energy resources to Italy will create extra security guarantees for suppliers, as well as for consumers. They also fully meet the principles set out in the Energy Charter," the president said. Russia, which supplies more than a quarter of the EU's oil and gas, has been actively trying to strengthen its image as a reliable energy supplier since a dispute with Belarus earlier in the month which caused a three-day suspension of Russian crude piped via Belarus to several European Union states. During a similar dispute with Ukraine a year ago, several EU countries including Italy experienced a shortfall in natural gas supplies. Since the standoff with Belarus, Putin has also held talks in Sochi with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Energy cooperation projects between Russia and Italy include a consortium of Russian utility company ESN and Italy's ENEL, which jointly manages the Russia's North-West Thermal Power Plant, and a strategic partnership agreement between Russian energy giant Gazprom and Italy's ENI signed last November. The Russian leader noted that in 2006, trade with Italy grew rapidly, gaining 28% year-on-year to reach about $30 billion. "Our investment cooperation has strengthened significantly, and turned into two-way traffic - Russian companies have begun investing more actively in the Italian economy. One of the priority areas of bilateral work is the sphere of high technology," he said. Outside the energy sector, the past two years have seen the launch of several joint Russian-Italian investment projects. Russian steelmaker Severstal acquired a controlling stake in Italian metals giant Lucchini in the spring of 2005. In the summer of that year, Russia's Evraz bought 75% in the Italian sheet metal producer Palini e Bartoli. In February 2006, AFK Sistema signed an agreement on the purchase of shares in the defense electronics company Finmeccanica. Putin also said Moscow and Rome's positions on international issues coincide. The leaders discussed the situations in the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the controversial Iranian nuclear issue. Prodi told the news conference: "We must step up efforts to resolve these issues. There are numerous conflicts in the world today, and it is time to tackle them." Earlier during the talks, the Italian premier said: "the world needs powerful measures to ensure peace in regions where there is no peace. There is great demand for strong and intelligent solutions." The current meeting between Putin and Prodi is the third in seven months.
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