02:20 GMT +312 November 2019
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    The logo of the Eastern Economic Forum on the territory of the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island, Vladivostok

    First Day of Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s Vladivostok

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    A number of major deals were signed between heads of Russian and foreign companies and important meetings were held between prominent politicians during the first day of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) on Russky Island off Russia’s Vladivostok on Friday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The major agreements reached during the day include a joint Russia-China investment fund worth $500 million.

    On the fields of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    The EEF, scheduled to last through Saturday, is expected to attract some 2,500 participants, from countries including China, Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam, Australia, the United States and Singapore.

    Signed deals and deal announcement

    Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co, which already has a share in the Sakhalin-2 oil-and-gas project, announced on Friday its readiness to invest over $1 billion in the Sakhalin-3 project.

    "[We want to invest] over $1 billion for sure, it is a large project," Mitsui Moscow General Director and Chief Regional Representative of Mitsui in CIS countries Meguro Hiroshi stressed, adding that Mitsui has been expressing interest in the Sakhalin-3 project for several years.

    The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and China's Inventis Investment Holdings signed a deal establishing a joint fund worth $500 million.

    The deal, signed by the entities' CEOs Kirill Dmitriev and Kwek Ping Yong on the sidelines of the Forum, stipulates that the joint fund will invest in agriculture, transport, retail and tourism projects.

    Energy agreements

    Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Friday it held talks with South Korea's Kogas on increasing Russian liquefied natural gas supplies to South Korea.

    "During the talks, partnership matters in the energy field were considered. There were talks of Russian LNG deliveries from the Sakhalin-2 project. In particular, the sides discussed prospects of increasing gas supplies to Korea after the commissioning of the LNG plant's third production line," Gazprom said in a statement.

    UK oil and gas giant British Petroleum (BP) Executive Director Robert Dudley, speaking at the EEF, highlighted the importance of the Russian Far East and the Asia Pacific region for international energy companies.

    "I think the key reasons why this Far East region is significant and important to our company and other international companies is that we see the Asia Pacific and the whole of Asia; we also think about India when we look on the map of the region," Dudley said on Friday at the "Energy Cooperation within the Asia-Pacific Region: Building Bridges" session of the EEF.

    He stressed that long-term planning is crucial in the assessment of the importance of certain regions for the energy business.

    Russia's oil giant Rosneft reached cooperation agreement with Thailand's largest energy company PTT, setting the ground for cooperation in both upstream and downstream operations. The also parties confirmed their intention to sign a long-term contract to supply crude oil and other feedstocks to the Thai company in the near future, according to Rosneft.

    Putin, Abe discuss Kurils, cooperation

    Earlier in the day, Abe arrived on the Russky Island to participate in the forum and meet with the Russian leader.

    According to the Kremlin, Abe's visit to the EEF signifies Tokyo's interest in developing trade and economic cooperation with Moscow.

    "As a neighbor, Japan is ready to make every effort for the development of Japanese-Russian cooperation in the region," Abe said at the meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the forum.

    Putin, in turn, said that Moscow is carefully considering Tokyo's cooperation proposals made during Japanese prime minister's May visit to Sochi.

    Abe presented a bilateral economic plan during his visit to Russia's southern city of Sochi in May.

    "We have restarted work on the foreign ministers' level. We are carefully examining your proposals, which you brought forward during the Sochi visit," Putin told Abe during the meeting on the sidelines of the EEF.

    He added that he held a meeting with the representatives of the Japanese business working in Russia, including Far East.

    "It is very important to boost the bilateral contacts on the political level," the president said.

    According to Putin, Russia is ready to develop sea port infrastructure with Japan to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the country, if needed.

    "As for port capacities of the Far East, you know that 70 percent of the total LNG output produced on Sakhalin… is exported to the Japanese market. We are aware of Japan's needs, we understand the problems related to nuclear power, we are ready for cooperation, including developments projects, if required, to promote sea ports facilities, because LNG transportation has its specific aspects and requires additional investment," Putin said, as he met with potential investors at the EEF.

    The meeting in Vladivostok is set to be followed by the Russian president’s visit to Tokyo in December, according to Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov. The scheduled visit was confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after the meeting.

    Japanese public television later cited government sources in naming December 15 as the expected date of Putin's visit.

    After the meeting, Lavrov said that a number of major joint Russian-Japanese projects are ready to be implemented. The sides agreed to continue discussing some of the projects discussed on Friday during Putin's visit to Japan, according to the minister.

    The two countries are also getting closer to lifting sanctions-linked restrictions imposed on Japanese investors with regards to investing in Russia and discussed Japanese banks making investments in Russian projects.

    "I think that we have substantially advanced in specifying plans which were discussed as far back as Sochi…The participation of large Japanese banks in financing projects, mainly Arctic ones, was discussed," Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said.

    The two leaders also discussed signing a formal peace treaty after over 70 years since the end of World War II.

    Japan and Russia have never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II due to a disagreement over four islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan the Northern Territories. The disputed islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, were claimed by Soviet forces at the end of the war.

    "Our leaders discussed the issues of the peace treaty in accordance with agreements reached on May 6 in Sochi. There were two deputy foreign ministerial consultations. The sides discussed issues in accordance with President Putin’s and Prime Minister Abe’s orders given in Sochi," Lavrov told reporters.

    Consultations will continue and the results will be announced during Putin's visit to Japan, he added, noting that Tokyo has indicated its readiness to discuss the joint development of the islands, as well as increasing cultural ties in the area.

    Eurasian Diamond Center

    Russia’s ALROSA group of diamond mining companies on Friday officially opened the Eurasian Diamond Center, a project aiming to unite firms from different countries dealing with diamonds under the same roof, for operations in Russia’s Far East city of Vladivostok.

    The opening ceremony, held in the framework of the Eastern Economic Forum, was attended by ALROSA President Andrey Zharkov and Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, who is also the plenipotentiary presidential representative in the Far Eastern Federal District.

    "Today we officially open the Eurasian Diamond Center. We already have the first resident [India’s diamond cutting firm Shree Ramkrishna Export Private ltd.], that will soon open production in the center. A foundation for the creation of a diamond cluster has been laid," Zharkov said at the opening ceremony.

    Trutnev in turn congratulated ALROSA and promised to provide the necessary support for the project.

    Region's political alliences

    The forum, bringing together various representatives of the Asia-Pacific region, comes amid US-Australian tensions over Canberra’s alleged bid to tighten cooperation with China.

    US Army Assistant Chief of Staff Colonel Tom Hanson said on Thursday that Australia must choose between a stronger US alliance or closer ties with China, and called on the Australian government to take a tougher stance against Chinese South China Sea claims.

    Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in response to Hanson's comments that the US role in the region was more important than ever, but said that Canberra would try to balance relationships between the United States and China, which is Australia’s largest trading partner, "with deft diplomacy, consistency and pragmatism."

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