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    Energy sector openness must be reciprocal arrangement - Putin

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    Foreign companies are welcome to work in Russia's energy sector, but Russia expects foreign countries to reciprocate, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

    SOCHI, May 25 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign companies are welcome to work in Russia's energy sector, but Russia expects foreign countries to reciprocate, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

    Access to markets has been a thorny issue in recent weeks, with Russian companies claiming they are being discriminated against on access to foreign markets, and foreign companies saying Russia should open up its energy industry to foreign competition.

    "But we must agree on reciprocal steps," Putin said following a Russia-EU summit in the southern resort town of Sochi. He added that Europe shared this understanding.

    "They have called for us to look for such solutions together, and I think we will find a solution," Putin said, adding that many Russian energy companies already had foreign capital involvement.

    "Nobody can accuse us of isolationist policies," he said.

    European officials have urged Russia to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty, signed in The Hague in December 1991 as a mechanism laying down terms of energy cooperation across Europe. In 2003, 51 European and Asian states joined the charter, while 17 countries and 10 international organizations have observer status.

    Russia has signed but not ratified the treaty, as Europe has demanded access for Central Asian states and other countries to its pipelines, which Moscow says will make their natural gas 50% cheaper than Russia's when it arrives in Europe.

    Putin said the Energy Charter meant free access to production and transportation infrastructure, but added: "The question is what will we get in return? We ask where your deposits and pipelines are. If [Europe] does not have any, then we have to look for other areas of cooperation."

    Putin cited partnership with Germany's BASF - one of two German companies involved in the North European Gas Pipeline - as an example of constructive collaboration.

    "We have let them into production, and they gave us access to their pipelines, which were not trunk pipelines," he said. "We must agree on reciprocal movements."

    Russian energy giant Gazprom, BASF and E.ON are partners in the $10.5-billion NEGP project to supply Western Europe with gas via a pipeline leading from Russia to Germany across the floor of the Baltic Sea.

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