Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Moscow and Beijing are close to resolving a long-running dispute about the price of Russian natural gas to be exported to China's energy-hungry economy.
In an interview with Chinese media published Wednesday as he ended a two-day visit to Beijing, Putin said pricing negotiations between Russian gas giant Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation are "close to the final stage."
China is the world's top energy consumer, while Russia is the biggest energy producer. The two neighbors reached an initial deal on Russian gas deliveries in 2009, but have failed to agree on pricing, with Russia pushing for a higher fee and China demanding a lower one.
The Chinese foreign ministry said Wednesday the state-owned energy companies of both nations will continue to negotiate in accordance with principles of fairness, friendliness and mutual accommodation.
Putin also said Russian cooperation with China should be much broader than the gas industry. He said both nations should make hi-tech cooperation a priority in industries such as aircraft manufacturing, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
Chinese President Hu Jintao praised the Russian prime minister as an "old friend" of China as they met on Wednesday. In a separate meeting with Chinese National People's Congress leader Wu Bangguo, Putin said relations with China affect the wellbeing of Russian citizens.
Putin began the Beijing visit by meeting his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on Tuesday. The two leaders pledged to expand bilateral trade from $70 billion this year to $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.