Algeria receives Russia FM Sergei Lavrov as EU continues search for alternative gas

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited gas-producing ally Algeria for talks Tuesday as Europe jockeys to secure alternative energy supplies in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Algeria is a major gas supplier to Europe, providing 11 percent of its imports, compared with 47 percent from Russia.

Algiers abstained when the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution in March demanding Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine.

"We very much appreciate Algeria's considered, objective and balanced position on the Ukrainian question," Lavrov told journalists after meeting his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Italy, Spain and other European Union member countries have looked to Algeria as they seek to cut their dependence on Russian oil and gas.

But Algeria -- anxious to consolidate its longstanding alliance with Russia -- has repeatedly stressed that it lacks the capacity to meet such demand in the short-term.

Asked about Algeria's gas deliveries, Lavrov said that Russia, Algeria and other gas exporters "believe we should respect deals that have already been reached".

Moscow's top diplomat said trade between the two countries had hit $3 billion last year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

"Many Russian companies are interested in carrying out joint ventures with Algerian companies" particularly in energy and pharmaceuticals, he said.

Lavrov added that the two sides had discussed "bolstering military and technical cooperation".

His visit is the first since January 2019 and comes as the two countries mark the 60th anniversary of their establishment of diplomatic relations.

Lavrov also laid a wreath at a memorial to fighters killed during Algeria's war for independence from France, according to state media.

Asked about a suggestion by the European Union's top diplomat that frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves could be seized to pay for Ukraine's post-war reconstruction, Lavrov decried "a theft that they're not even trying to hide".

Josep Borrell had made the suggestion in an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held telephone talks with his Algerian counterpart last month on "coordination within OPEC+ as well the situation in Ukraine", Russia's TASS news agency said.

OPEC+ is a forum that brings together the OPEC oil cartel with allied producers led by Russia in managing output and prices.

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