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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hungary Hints at Using 2 Pipelines

Itar-TassPutin meeting with Gyurcsany at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence on Thursday.
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Moscow Region -- Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said Thursday that his country needed to diversify its gas supplies and hinted that it might cooperate with Gazprom and Nabucco pipelines.

"Why shouldn't we receive half from one source and the other [half] from the other?" Gyurcsany said on Ekho Moskvy radio after talks with President Vladimir Putin.

"But no decision has been made yet because neither project exists in its final version," he said.

The prime minister met with Putin at the presidential Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow earlier in the day. Kremlin aides did not disclose what was discussed during the closed-door talks, thought to have focused on gas and trade.

Hungary, which depends on Russia for the bulk of its gas supplies, has been considering joining Gazprom's Blue Stream pipeline or the European Union pipeline known as Nabucco. On the eve of Gyurcsany's visit, European Union diplomats said they expected the prime minister to commit to Nabucco, Reuters reported.

The Gazprom-backed line runs under the Black Sea to Turkey. The Nabucco pipeline, aimed at reducing dependency on Russian gas, has faced numerous delays.

Gyurcsany said last week that he considered the extension of the Gazprom pipeline a more realistic project.

He did not touch on the issue of gas supplies in front of the reporters Thursday. Putin, however, said Russia had a lot to offer to Hungary in terms of gas supplies. "In the gas sphere, we haven't had any problems whatsoever. We have big plans in gas as well as in transportation," he said.

The outcome of the talks was not immediately clear. Putin's foreign aide Sergei Prikhodko, walking past reporters before the talks, declined to comment.

"[Gyurcsany] is pursuing an utterly pragmatic line," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. He said the prime minister was setting himself against the leadership of East European countries like Poland, "the leader of the pro-American block," that are willing to pass up economic opportunities for ideological reasons.

Alehander Rahr, an analyst with the Berlin-based Korber Center for Russia and CIS Affairs, said Russia was offering Hungary the chance to become a European hub for Russian gas, something that Poland and later Germany have declined.

Gyurcsany's one-day visit has created a storm at home. The Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hirlap reported Thursday that a senior lawmaker suspected Gyurcsany had made a secret pact with Putin on extending the Russian pipeline.

Janusz Bugajski, an analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Russia was looking to divide Europe, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Rahr dismissed the notion as too politicized, saying: "Russia may try to divide, but first of all you need to be stupid enough to be divided."

Going into talks, Gyurcsany praised the pragmatic, pro-business approach between the two nations. "I think the principle that we've followed from the very beginning -- less about the past, more about the present and future -- has born fruit. And less about politics and more business," he said.

Trade turnover between Russia and Hungary rose by one-third to more than $8 billion last year, the Kremlin said.

Gyurcsany told Putin he was glad that the existing trade imbalance in Hungary's favor did not bother Russia. Later Thursday, Gyurcsany told Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov that Russia was now Hungary's third-largest trading partner and could become the second-largest partner next year.

Putin's meeting with Gyurcsany was initially scheduled to take place in the Kremlin but was moved at the last minute to Novo-Ogaryovo. When a Hungarian reporter asked a Kremlin spokesman whether the change represented a special relationship between Putin and Gyurcsany, the spokesman said only, "Earlier it [Novo-Ogaryovo] was considered to be more prestigious."