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Italian FM in Algeria for energy talks to compensate for drop in Russian supplies

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Italy’s foreign minister visited Algeria on Monday for talks on increasing gas supplies from the North African country to compensate for a possible drop in Russian supplies over the Ukraine conflict.

Luigi Di Maio tweeted that he would meet with his Algerian counterpart and top officials to “discuss strengthening bilateral cooperation, in particular to address European energy security needs, in the light of the conflict in Ukraine.”

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Russia last week invaded its pro-Western neighbor, prompting international outrage and causing the United States and its allies to impose sanctions on Moscow.

Algerian state energy giant Sonatrach said on Sunday it was ready to increase gas supplies to Europe, notably via the Transmed pipeline linking Algeria to Italy.

Sonatrach is “a reliable gas supplier for the European market and is willing to support its long-term partners in the event of difficult situations,” chief executive Toufik Hakkar was quoted as saying in the daily Liberte.

Hakkar said Europe is the “natural market of choice” for Algerian gas, which accounts for about 11 percent of Europe’s gas imports.

Di Maio was accompanied by a delegation, including Claudio Descalzi, head of Italian energy giant Eni, which is a partner of Sonatrach in Algeria.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has called for Italy to move quickly to diversify its sources of energy to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

Italy imports around 95 percent of the gas it uses, and around 45 percent of that comes from Russia, Draghi said, adding that supplies could be increased from Algeria but also Azerbaijan, Tunisia, and Libya.

Read more: Germany takes steps to halt Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia

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