BERLIN, July 2. /TASS/. Russia "always viewed Europe as its strategic partner," particularly in the energy sphere, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday in an interview with German Handelsblatt.
"Russia has always been a reliable supplier of energy resources for Europe," Novak said. "We intend now to broaden this cooperation on account of new gas pipelines," the minister added referring to plans of building two more lines of the Nord Stream gas pipeline [Nord Stream-2].
"We never had a plan of turning away from Europe," the minister said. "We have already planned long ago to increase the capacity of gas supplies across the Baltic Sea. This is primarily because we expect gas consumption will grow in Europe," he said. "Nord Stream-2 will be another step in diversification of supply routes," Novak added.
"Europe will ultimately need more gas because it is rational from the ecological point of view," the Russian minister said.
TASS reported earlier Gazprom might double direct gas supplies to Europe across the Baltic Sea by building two new lines with capacity of 55 bln cubic meters a year. Gazprom, E.ON, Shell and OMV signed a memorandum of intentions to cooperate in development of the natural gas transportation infrastructure to ensure direct supplies of Russian gas to European consumers on June 18. Companies will establish a joint venture for implementation of the project in the nearest future.
"Certainly, this is a priority" for Russia, Novak said in respect of gas supplies to China. "The demand for energy resources is growing along with the economic growth in countries of the Asia-Pacific Rim. The economic upturn in Asia provides a major chance for the Eastern Russia we would like to use," the minister said.
"Nevertheless, Europe and Asia are parallel priorities for Russia and not the opposites," Novak added.