Argentine President Seeks Closer Ties

APMedvedev giving Fernandez the thumbs up after presenting her with a new fur hat at the Kremlin on Wednesday.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez called for a closer partnership with Russia at Kremlin talks on Wednesday, becoming the latest Latin American leader seeking to deepen ties with Moscow.

"We must deepen our political dialogue, our cooperation on the international arena, because above all Russia and Argentina are convinced ... of the need to build a world based on multipolar principles," Fernandez told President Dmitry Medvedev.

After talks, Medvedev and Fernandez signed a joint declaration "to build a strategic partnership," according to a copy distributed by the Kremlin.

Russia estimates that bilateral trade with Argentina has risen fourfold over the past five years to about $1.5 billion a year, with Argentina exporting agricultural products and Russia exporting fuel and fertilizers.

Fernandez's visit to Moscow comes weeks after Medvedev toured Brazil, Peru and Venezuela.

Alongside Wednesday's meeting, LUKoil signed a preliminary accord to sell oil products to Energia Argentina as it expands in Latin America. LUKoil said it planned to sell diesel and fuel oil to Enersa, as the state-run explorer is known in Venezuela, and use transit routes and storage belonging to refiner Pobater. It already has exploration projects in Colombia and Venezuela.

Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said Wednesday that Gazprom was in talks over the construction of a gas pipeline that would link Bolivia and Argentina, Interfax reported. "Gazprom is already actively cooperating with Argentina and is ready to work with Bolivia on promising but hard-to-access sites," he said.

Fernandez met Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and Kommersant said Argentina might be interested in buying Russian arms.

(Reuters, Bloomberg, MT)