Hungary in talks to buy Azeri gas from late-2023 -minister

BUDAPEST, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Hungarian state-owned energy group MVM is in talks with Azerbaijan’s state energy firm SOCAR on starting gas imports via Southern Europe from the end of 2023, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday.

During a visit to Moscow on Tuesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sought to expand the import-reliant European Union member’s long-term gas contract with Russia. President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to provide an additional one billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Hungary’s gas reserves were 43% filled, based on Jan. 15 Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (MEKH) data. It said that, combined with expected further imports, would cover 90% of Hungary’s expected remaining winter gas needs.

MEKH said Hungary’s gas consumption reached a five-year high in December amid extreme volatility in European gas markets.

“We are in talks about buying natural gas from Azerbaijan via Southern Europe from the end of next year,” Szijjarto told a news conference with his Azeri counterpart.

“Azerbaijan is the only realistic source of diversification of European gas supplies today,” Szijjarto said, adding that MVM and SOCAR were in talks about the parameters of the gas import contract.

Hungary’s 15-year agreement with Russia delivers 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year to Hungary on routes avoiding neighbouring Ukraine. The deal took effect in October with an option to modify purchased quantities after 10 years. (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs Editing by Bernadette Baum)