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    Russia could up gas supplies to Turkey by 1.7 bln cu m - official

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    Russia expects to increase natural gas supplies to Turkey to 25.5 billion cubic meters this year, up by 1.7 billion on 2008, a Kremlin official said on Thursday.

    MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia expects to increase natural gas supplies to Turkey to 25.5 billion cubic meters this year, up by 1.7 billion on 2008, a Kremlin official said on Thursday.

    "We are continuing cooperation in the energy sphere," an unidentified Kremlin official said ahead of Turkish President Abdullah Gul's arrival on Thursday for a four-day visit to Russia. "Russian gas supplies to Turkey in 2008 amounted to 23.8 billion cu m. A rise in supplies to 25.5 billion cu m is expected in 2009."

    Turkey receives about 65% of its gas from Russia, which is pumped via Ukraine and the Blue Stream pipeline that passes directly from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea.

    Russian supplies via Ukraine halted in early January amid a pricing and debt dispute with the ex-Soviet state. Russia is pushing for new routes to bring energy resources to Europe bypassing Ukraine, including South Stream gas pipeline to be built in the Black Sea's Turkish-controlled waters.

    The official said brisk trade and business contacts were a driving force in bilateral relations. He said mutual trade exceeded $30 billion last year.

    He highlighted a major presence of cost-efficient Turkish construction firms on the Russian market and large tourist flows from Russia to Turkey.

    He said construction contracts worth a total of over $20 billion had been signed in the past 10 years, and more than 2.5 million Russians vacationed in Turkey in 2008 alone.

    The Kremlin official said military-technological and hi-tech spheres were also of interest for the two countries.

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