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Russian, Serbian Presidents Emerge From Meeting With Talk Of Gas Deal, 'Tactical' Weapons


Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in Sochi on November 25.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic have left a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi talking up weapons sales and the prospect of a crucial gas deal for Belgrade.

Vucic has publicly pleaded with the Russian side to offer "favorable" pricing on a new 10-year natural-gas deal to replace the current agreement that expires at the end of this year.

The two men did not appear to achieve a clear breakthrough on November 25, but Putin professed optimism.

"I think we will be able to agree [on a new contract], we will assign our business entities to finish this work," Putin reportedly told Vucic. "In any case, we will find a solution that will definitely be acceptable for our Serbian friends."

Vucic is said to be requesting 3 billion cubic meters of gas a year in any new deal, but the sides have so far disagreed over the amount that market rates should factor into the price.

Serbia, a candidate country for EU accession although progress is mired in delays, is also one of Russia's closest European allies.

The two cooperate on weapons deals in addition to political and diplomatic support from Moscow for Belgrade's refusal to recognize the independence of former province Kosovo.

Vucic has sought to maintain constructive relations with Moscow while aggressively courting China and avoiding irrevocably harming relations with the European Union.

Vucic left the Sochi meeting boasting of military-technical cooperation with Russia.

He alluded to the early arrival of tactical weapons and said he "prayed that certain things arrive in Serbia more quickly," without specifying.

"There will be other important major things of strategic interest for Serbia in the future, and not in the distant future," Vucic said.

"So we will have the first things before the end of the year in Serbia," Vucic said, according to Serbian Pink TV. "These are not strategic, but tactical things are very important." It said he cited anti-tank weapons in particular.

With reporting by Reuters
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