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Russia, Serbia Sign LNG Cooperation Deal

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Russian state gas company Gazprom and Serbia’s Ministry of Mining and Energy have signed an agreement on the construction of natural gas (LNG) stations in the Balkan country, SEE News reports.

“Serbia and Gazprom will aim to provide LNG that will be produced in the country to ensure the supply of areas that are not covered by the gas pipeline network,” Serbian energy minister Aleksander Antic said after a meeting with Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller last week.  He added that alternative gasification will be among the main priorities of bilateral energy cooperation.

“The parties discussed the current status of their joint projects, in particular the ongoing construction of the Pancevo TPP, which is due to be brought onstream next year. The meeting participants also examined the possibility of building new gas-fired power plants in Serbia, as well as issues related to the development of a small-scale LNG market in the country,” the two sides said in a statement.

Antic told the Serbian press that Gazprom Neft, the Russian company’s oil arm, was also showing interest in the construction of a Serbian petrochemical plant. “We will continue discussions about possibilities of the process being defined through a strategic partnership,” the energy minister said.

In March, the Serbian government said it was considering the construction of four LNG-powered plants in the cities of Kragujevac, Nis, Belgrade and Novi Sad, as well as natural gas stations in western Serbia.

Antic has confirmed that the linear portion of the pipelines, which will transport Russian gas from Bulgaria to Hungary through TurkStream, will be completed by the end of 2019.

The twin-pipeline will have a maximum capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters (1.1 trillion cubic feet) a year. The first leg will deliver Russian gas under the Black Sea to Turkey for local consumption by January 1, 2020. The second leg is expected to carry gas to Southern and Central Europe, but its route has not been determined yet.

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Court in Gibraltar Extends Iranian Tanker’s Detention for 30 Days

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A court in Gibraltar has extended the detention of an Iranian oil tanker for 30 days, AFP reported, citing Gibraltar’s attorney general. According to the agency, the order authorising the detention of the tanker can be extended for up to 90 days.

“We look forward to continuing to work constructively and positively with officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to facilitate the release of the Grace 1 pursuant to the satisfaction of all legal requirements,” Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the territory’s parliament, as quoted by AFP.

On 4 July, the supertanker Grace 1 was detained off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory of Gibraltar on suspicions of it carrying oil to Syria for refinement.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt discussed the issue earlier this week, with Mr Zarif urging London to release the tanker. He also stressed that Tehran would continue its oil exports under any circumstances. Mr Hunt, for his part, said that the Grace 1 would be released once Iran gives guarantees about its destination.

The tanker’s four crew members were freed on bail earlier this month after being questioned.

The situation in the Gulf has remained tense since the US tightened the sanctions it reimposed on the Iranian oil sector after quitting the 2015 nuclear deal.

A series of incidents, including attacks on oil tankers, took place in the Gulf of Oman in May and June. Washington has blamed the attacks on Tehran, but the latter has denied all the accusations.

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Russia in Confidential Consultations with the Netherlands on MH17 Crash

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Russia is having confidential consultations with the Netherlands on MH17 flight that was downed over Donbass in July 2014, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said on Friday.

“Such consultations are underway, but we agreed that the process will have a confidential character,” the diplomat said.

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Links Between Russia and EU’s Right-Wing Parties Cause for Concern, Says Merkel

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Relations between Moscow and EU’s right-wing political parties are a cause for concern, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday during a press conference in Berlin.

“Some questions arise here,” she stated. “We have constantly monitored the very strong support that right-leaning parties have received from Russia in one way or the other.” “This is a cause for concern,” Merkel stressed.

The German chancellor also mentioned the scandal regarding the alleged financing of Italy’s Lega party by Russia, noting that the Italian side must investigate the allegations in detail.

Milan’s prosecution launched a case based on the publications on the US BuzzFeed website and in the Italian L’Espresso weekly news magazine shedding light on the alleged financing Lega was receiving from Russia, qualifying the case as international corruption.

The main suspect in the case is one of the associates of Italy’s Deputy PM Matteo Salvini, head of th-e Lombardy-Russia Association Gianluca Savoini. According to the prosecution, his voice can be heard on the BuzzFeed published audio recording of an alleged conversation with Russian entrepreneurs with ties to the Kremlin, during which a possible oil supply contract was discussed. The party could have received the deal dividends amounting to $65 mln.

Both Salvini and Savoini have denied the allegations.

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