Budapest — Hungary will seek to increase the amount of gas it receives from Russia at talks with President Vladimir Putin next week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
Hungary, a member of the European Union and NATO, agreed a new long-term gas supply agreement with Russia’s Gazprom in August.
Moscow and the West are locked in a tense standoff over Ukraine amid a build-up of Russian forces along the country’s eastern border as NATO reinforcing its presence in eastern Europe.
Orban, who faces what is expected to be a close-fought election on April 3, has dismissed calls from a unified opposition to cancel his visit to Moscow, scheduled for Tuesday.
“I would like to increase the amount of gas to be delivered … from the levels agreed in the Russian-Hungarian gas contract,” Orban told public radio.
The 15-year agreement, which delivers 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year to Hungary on routes avoiding neighbouring Ukraine, took effect in October with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a briefing later on Friday that he had proposed to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak to increase the annual Russian gas shipments via Serbia by 1 billion cubic metres and Orban would discuss this with President Putin on Tuesday.
Hungary’s gas reserves were 43% filled, based on Jan. 15 Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (MEKH) data. It said that, combined with expected further imports, would cover 90% of Hungary’s expected remaining winter gas needs.
Orban said he would also discuss European security with Putin, adding that Hungary was interested in a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine standoff.
“Of course Hungary is a member of NATO and the EU, so before each such meeting I consult and co-ordinate with our western allies,” Orban said, adding that he would hold further talks with Western leaders in the coming days.
Szijjarto said the United States has approached Hungary about a temporary deployment of U.S. troops in the country, and the Hungarian Defence Ministry was conducting talks on this issue. He did not provide any more details.
- Reuters (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs, additional reporting by Anita Komuves; editing by Jason Neely, John Stonestreet and David Evans)
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