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Italy's Prime Minister signs deal for more gas from Algeria in bid to reduce reliance on Russia

Algerian presidency, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, right, shakes hands with Italian Premier Mario Draghi in Algiers   -  
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Italian Premier Mario Draghi has secured a deal for more natural gas imports across a Mediterranean pipeline from Algeria.

It's the latest push by a European Union nation to reduce dependence on Russian energy following its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is Italy's biggest supplier of natural gas, representing 40 per cent of total imports, followed by Algeria, which provides some 21 billion cubic meters of gas via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline.

After meeting with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Draghi said that an agreement to intensify bilateral cooperation in the energy sector along with the deal to export more gas to Italy is significant for the "strategic goal" of quickly replacing Russian energy.

"Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, I announced that Italy would move with the utmost speed to reduce dependence on Russian gas," he said.

"Our governments have signed a declaration of intent on bilateral cooperation in the energy sector. On top of this, is the agreement between Eni and Sonatrach to increase the export of gas to Italy," he added.

The Italian premier was invited to the country by President Tebboune to discuss "reinforcing relations of cooperation between the two countries".

Draghi said last week that Italy would "follow the decisions of the European Union" on new sanctions against Russia, including a possible gas embargo.

Italian energy giant ENI's chief executive Claudio Descalzi visited Algeria in February with Italy's foreign minister in a bid to increase supplies from the North African country.

Algerian state hydrocarbons firm Sonatrach said at the time it was ready to increase gas supplies to Europe, notably via the Transmed pipeline linking Algeria to Italy.

Its CEO Toufik Hakkar said Europe is the "natural market of choice" for Algerian gas, which accounts for about 11 per cent of Europe's gas imports.

The new deal between ENI and Sonatrach would add up to 9 billion cubic meters of gas from Algeria, just eclipsing Russia's current 29 billion cubic meters a year.

The increased flows will start in the fall, ENI said in a statement.

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