MOSCOW, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed the hope on Friday that his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi would help Russia strengthen its ties with the European Union (EU).
Russia enjoys favorable relations with Italy and "hopes for similar relations with all EU countries," Putin told reporters in the Black Sea resort of Sochi after talks with Berlusconi.
Putin said Russia would do everything to improve Russia-EU ties and hoped that the Italian prime minister would help beef up the relationship, the Interfax news agency reported.
Berlusconi said he believed that the EU needs Russia as much as Russia needs the EU and promised to do his best for better EU-Russia relations.
The heads of government also attended the signing ceremony of documents on building the South Stream pipeline to pump natural gas from Russia to the Balkans and onto Western Europe.
Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom signed deals on Friday with transit states Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Italy to push forward the South Stream, which is a rival project to the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline to bring gas from Central Asia and the Caspian to Europe bypassing Russia.