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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President to Talk Energy in Balkans

President Vladimir Putin will leave for Croatia on Sunday to attend a conference on energy cooperation in southeastern Europe, a region that could become a major oil and gas transit hub.

Putin, who is paying his first official visit to Croatia, is expected to trumpet Russia as a reliable fuel supplier to 10 Balkan presidents.

The summit, called by Croatian President Stjepan Mesic, will bring together the leaders of Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.

In March, Russia, Greece and Bulgaria signed a deal to build an oil pipeline circumventing the congested Bosporus Straits. Greece earlier this month proposed that Gazprom lay a gas pipeline along the same route.

The European Union also hopes to diversify its gas supplies by focusing on southeastern Europe. The region could host a stretch of the Nabucco pipeline that, if built, would carry gas from Central Asia to Austria.

"This is a region with the potential to transform itself into a significant energy hub," the Croatian president's office stated on its web site. Danijela Barisic, chief of the Croatian presidential press service, said by telephone from Zagreb that the leaders would not discuss any specific pipelines or deals.

Putin will promote Russia as a dependable energy partner, seeking to cement its success in reaching the Burgas-Alexandroupolis deal, which will connect Bulgarian and Greek ports with an oil pipeline, said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs.

Transneft, which in 2002 hoped to revamp the region's Adria pipeline to extend the Druzhba oil pipeline to a deepwater Croatian port, lost interest in the deal, company spokesman Sergei Grigoryev said.

Putin, whose visit will come two weeks after U.S. President George W. Bush traveled to Albania, could also use the opportunity to warn against Kosovo's independence, Lukyanov said. While in Albania, Bush offered his support to the possibility of Kosovo gaining independent status.