Ahead of next week's visit to China by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Beijing says it expects a breakthrough in stalled negotiations with Moscow for a massive natural gas project.
Deputy Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said at a briefing yesterday about Putin's visit to Beijing that both sides were working to finalise the supply deal, which was expected to be on Putin's agenda.
'I believe there will be a new breakthrough [in gas talks] ... with both sides sharing the risks and benefits,' Cheng said, declining to elaborate on the negotiations or say whether the deal could be signed next week.
Before Putin's visit, scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday next week, Then on Friday, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan is set to meet with his Russian counterpart in Beijing.
China and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006, when they agreed to construct two pipelines that would transport 68 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Russia to China over 30 years.
Under the supply plan, nearly half of the gas would be delivered from western Siberia to northwestern China, and the other half would come from eastern Siberia.
Russian energy company Gazprom signed an agreement with China National Petroleum Corporation in 2010 to supply 30 billion cubic metres of gas annually. But negotiations have been bogged down by disagreements over pricing and amid competition from other gas sources in China.
When Vice-Premier Li Keqiang visited Moscow last month, Beijing proposed a new natural gas co-operation model, according to Liu Tienan, head of the National Energy Administration.
The China visit is the first foreign trip by Putin since being sworn in as Russia's president this month, after he decided to skip the recent Group of Eight summit in the United States.
Russia's ambassador to China, Sergey Razov, said during yesterday's briefing that there were no 'thorny issues' between the two countries.
Putin will meet President Hu Jintao while attending the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) summit in Beijing. They are expected to sign a declaration to deepen trade and security ties.
The six member states of the SCO are expected to approve their first comprehensive strategic plan at the summit, which will likely adopt Afghanistan as an observer and Turkey as a dialogue partner.
Cheng said the SCO would also seek to develop transport links by building a land route linking St Petersburg with Lianyungang in Jiangsu province, and by establishing a development bank.